12 Days of Christmas – Sweet Memories

We took down our Christmas tree today.  I didn’t realize until today that it lasted all 12 days of Christmas.

Our real Fraser Fir was nick named Mr. FFR (fluffy, Fraser) by my kids, and yes, we name our trees.  It’s a thing…maybe just our thing? Anyway, Mr. FFR really lasted a long time.  Sure the needles were falling, but he really looked full and beautiful adorned with lights and ornaments until the very end.

Just look:

mr ffr 2018

Our tree in 2018

Every Christmas Tree Tells a Story

I couldn’t help but feel a little sentimental taking down the tree with so many stories behind the decorations on our tree year after year.  Our grandparents and parents gave us so many beautiful ornaments from little on, and some of them have become our daughter’s favorites. My dad handmade wooden sled ornaments years ago.  My mom made both the angel that tops our tree and the tree skirt at the bottom.

cat-by-christmas-tree

Big Sumo Kitty loves sitting on the tree skirt my mom made.

Ornaments remind me of places we’ve lived or traveled – two more recent ones from the Grand Canyon and South Dakota.

There’s ornaments from Germany and Austria to remember my high school foreign exchange program and my semester abroad in Vienna. There’s a hang gliding Santa that my best friend gave me because I went paragliding in Switzerland.

One plastic orb holds freeze dried flowers from my wedding bouquet.

Another high heel ornament reminds me of our favorite girls’ nights with my sister, cousin and aunt.

Each one of us have ornaments from the year we were born – mine and Daddy O’s looking a little more well-loved than our kids’ numerous baby ornaments.

This tree is our life as a family.  It’s adorned with a whole lot of love through many years.

And then there’s  the ornaments and gifts that our kids have made.  Each year more ornament crafts make their way from backpacks and onto our tree.  Today, I have to confess, that some of the ones in bad shape (sticker, foam type) went in the garbage! Many, however, are part of our annual holiday decor.

christmas crafts from kids go mama o

Most recent craft – top left: hand print trees, reindeer painting (2018, Little Brother), reindeer flower pot (2017 Big Sister), hand print tree (Little Brother), ribbon tree (2017 Big Sister).

While most of these projects were made at school, I remember Big Sister making the reindeer flower pot craft in our basement inside of a patio furniture box that transformed into a “workshop / fort” for our her.  She had glue, paint, pipe cleaners and the flower pots all assembled in her work station down there.  In the end, she gave me, Daddy O. and her brother each a reindeer flower pot.  They turned out adorable, and we were proud of her for putting so much effort into these gifts.

The hand prints are getting bigger through the years, and I can’t help but wonder when they’ll stop doing these hand print crafts.  At seven and nine, my kiddos are growing up for sure, but still firmly believe in the magic of Christmas.  Big Sister wrote a letter to Santa for our elf Fred to deliver to him. Elf on the Shelf proved to be an amazing way to motivate the kids to get out of bed in the month of December. It was really fun and very sweet.

Here was a new event that Big Sister created at grandma and grandpa’s house this year:

jingle bell sing along

Big Sister’s first concert for family

What will next year hold for our family? How much longer will these sweet traditions last?  I can’t predict for sure.

And while some traditions fade away (and I may will be a little sad), I hope we’ll find a way to make new family traditions. Until that day comes, I’m just going to soak up and savor all of the sweetness and joy that this parenting gig can hold.

This is what I found on the back of Little Brother’s hand print craft:

thank you for being my mama

A sweet note just for me

 

 

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When does a House Feel like Home?

As I’ve mentioned before, we have moved within the last year. I even wrote about songs for house hunting back over summer. We found our now house last winter, but didn’t close and move until almost summertime. Since then, we have did our share of “breaking it in” and making it our own through painting, a lot of cleaning, hosting cook outs, a backyard camp-out, dinners, lunches, and birthday parties. With each event, we’ve had to look for that one thing that we only use occasionally (which box is that in, now?), and we’ve been able to figure out what works best in our new space.

Now with the  holidays quickly approaching, we have decorated our house and it truly feels like home. No other holiday holds so many memories of loved ones and special traditions than Christmas.

I’ve had the chance to re-arrange and play around with our existing holiday decor and find some new pieces for our new home. In our last home we didn’t have a fireplace or mantle, so I hung our stockings on a bookshelf or on the side of an entertainment center. In our new home, I am so happy to have our stockings hung up on the mantle. I took a recent selfie with my kids in front of the fireplace.

go-mama-o-selfie-and-christmas-stockings

Yay – all dressed in red and posing so cute in front of the fireplace.

It was really special putting up our tree and decorating it as a family. The kids helped put on the ornaments so quickly and only minor adjustments were needed. So many ornaments tell our families collective story, from baby 1st Christmas ornaments, to ornaments of our grandparents who live on in our hearts. The ornaments on the tree are so very personal – and so at home in our house. Our cat even approves and has assumed her usual place hanging out under the tree.

cat-by-christmas-tree

Good kitty!

As I mentioned in my post, A Time of Patience, we have enjoyed lighting the advent wreath during family dinners. With the first real snowfall, we even managed to light a fire. Once it was going, we hung out together, playing games and reading. It was peaceful and cozy – very homey.

christmas-decor-go-mama-o

Top – Our advent wreath centerpiece, enjoying Christmas lights on our tree, and our first fire in our fireplace. 

All of these decorations and moments that we have shared as a family as we prepare for Christmas and the coming of the New Year have solidified the feeling of being home. As the song says, “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” and I couldn’t agree more.

It’s good to be home.

 

A Time of Patience

I was reminded of my New Year’s Resolution over the weekend, when patience was the topic of Sunday’s homily at church. Back in January, I wrote about my mantra of “Less Hurry. Less Worry” and this passage (from a presentation I attended last year) is especially relevant for this time of year:

Life is a series of sprints and there’s a lot of rushing around. Downtime is a necessary time to re-charge to be able to bring energy to each “sprint” or challenge you may face.

We are all rushing and hurrying like crazy in preparation for the holidays. There is a lot of sprinting and stress that takes much of the joy away from this season. Similarly, I feel like there has been a lot of sprinting going on this week, re-grouping after being out of town for Thanksgiving and even just hitting the save button on this post SEVERAL times before having a bigger chunk of time to come back to it. It’s a whole lot of hurry, hurry, hurry. And all that hurrying can make me feel impatient!

Am I More Patient this Year?

Overall throughout the last year, I feel less hurried and at times more patient. However, I probably should ask my family if they would agree with that statement. I still can feel a tendency to over-multi-task instead of focusing on what’s most important at this one point in time. Being conscious of un-productive multi-tasking is the first step, right?

Some patience has been learned through schedule changes as of late. My husband has changed jobs and increased his commute, leaving me to fly solo with the kids in the morning. Instead of thinking he’s around to help (or not), I know it’s all me, so I have become more patient with my kids in the morning. Truthfully, we’ve also had several months of the school year under our belt, so they are also more adjusted to the weekly school routine too. Together we can help each other in the mornings.

The Waiting REALLY is the Hardest Part

As was mentioned in church on Sunday, patience is desperately needed this time of year. Our deacon showed pictures of holiday travel with LONG lines. Shopping on Black Friday or any holiday shopping can bring a LONG line. There’s a lot of waiting, and we all hate that, right?!

Today while waiting in line at a craft store, I was amused by a mom with two kids in front of me for a few reasons. First, I remember those days of shopping with a toddler and an infant all too well (see The BEST Line(s) to get out of a toy store). Now I am just the “older” mom whose kids are now in school (well, some of the time, anyway)! I sometimes share, “I know what you’re going through” lines of encouragement because I too remember those kind people who did the same to me a few years back. This conversation was just last year! Second, the older toddler was saying “bye, bye.”  When I observed her more closely, she was pointing at things and saying, “buy, buy!”  I laughed out loud and commented on this to her mom. Too funny, right? In this moment of waiting and being patient, I was able to engage with the party in front of me instead of being grumpy and sitting on my smartphone.

Ways to be more Patient to Make Waiting Easier

One phrase that comes up in this season of Advent is “waiting in joyful anticipation,” and I am reminded of the symbols and traditions that we use to help us wait – things like Advent calendars, Christmas Countdowns, or lighting candles on the Advent Wreath. This year we are lighting candles on a salt dough wreath that my daughter made in her religious education class. She feels so proud of it, and there is something very special about lighting a candle and enjoying a family dinner together. It makes us slow down a bit, and we look forward to lighting the next candle. Each day in December, we’ll change the Christmas countdown. Each week we’ll light another candle, helping us track the passage of time, which makes the waiting for Christmas a bit easier.

Is the season trying your patience? How do you handle waiting this time of year? Best wishes for some time to slow down, relax, and reflect this December!

Childproof Christmas Decor and Crafts

As I decorated this Christmas, I broke out the same Scrap Fabric Tree that is now 2 years old! It’s hard to believe it survived a few holidays and being in storage. These were some easy crafts to make with little kids.  Enjoy!

At 15 months old, my son is just at that age where we really need to watch him to make sure he doesn’t get into something he shouldn’t.  He really is quite good, but we had a few incidents with him pulling down our Christmas stockings (and holders) that were placed on a bookshelf, where he routinely will pull books off of the shelf to “read.” This led me to re-do some of our Christmas decorating to make it more childproof.  First and foremost, I moved the stockings up to higher ground.

Second, I created a kid-friendly tree out of felt. I probably spent less than $4 on several sheets of felt from Wal-mart.  I just made it up as I went along, gluing pieces of felt to a paper grocery bag (probably could have cut it closer to the tree’s branches), and cut up ornaments while practicing shapes with my 3 year old.

Childproof Felt Christmas Tree

Childproof Felt Christmas Tree – so easy to make & was fun for them to play with. (Though I was the one putting the ornaments back on constantly!)

I have been taking down some of our everyday pictures hanging on our walls, and replacing it with holiday decor. This was another project I did with my daughter, gluing scraps of fabric to scrapbook paper.  An avid quilting relative gave us these scraps, and Christmas time was the perfect inspiration for this project!

Scrap Fabric Tree picture

Scrap Fabric Tree picture – still hangs up 2 years later in our home!

Last, but not least, we ended up with a smaller Christmas tree than last year, so we had many more leftover ornaments that did not have a place on our tree this year.  I saw this pin and was inspired to display some of my own ornaments on our chandelier.

Chandelier decor with pretty ornaments

Chandelier decor with pretty ornaments

I also have made some of my own cardboard Christmas trees that are not nearly as beautiful as the ones on the link I provided.  They ARE, however, a lot of fun for my 3 year old, who uses them as pretend trumpets!  Here is another link to a Christmas tree project that I thought looked cool. The framed ornaments also looked like something worth trying, but I haven’t found the right materials yet.  If you have any childproof or child-friendly crafts, please share! Happy decorating & happy crafting!

My Weapon Against Holiday Busyness – Advance Planning!

As I have mentioned before, I am type-A leaning, so I value efficiency, organization, and planning. With my daughter in 4 year old kindergarten, our lives have certainly adopted a quicker pace week in and week out.  To stay ahead and not get overwhelmed, I always try to think ahead. I’m that person buying Christmas presents in July, picking up birthday party favors weeks in advance, and recording important dates and to-do’s in my planner.

My weapon against holiday busyness IS simple – Advance Planning!

As many of you have noticed, the holidays are ALREADY upon us. I’ve seen a mix of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in stores lately.  YIKES! I do have a few gifts in hand, so I don’t expect to have a hectic, last-minute shopping season, which is SO not my style. Daddy O., on the other hand, is a different story, but that’s his deal!

Similarly, I often start looking at holiday card options this time of year.  I enjoy trying to find a good family picture to share in our annual holiday card. I love the old-fashioned tradition of sending and receiving cards.  It’s something that social media just can’t replace.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover a new holiday card source this year.  It’s a site called Minted. What I love is that it is an independent design community, so think small, talented, independent designers who have their works voted on and sold through Minted. This means my card won’t be like every other one I receive.  It will be unique!

This quick video is a cool intro to Minted.  Many moms (either working or staying at home) are also designers, pursuing their passion and submitting their work to the design challenges on Minted.  This community of designers (similar to the blogosphere) delivers beautiful, award winning design.

Moms pursuing their passions – hmm…sounds familiar. And yes, I’d like to support that community!  I bought my daughter’s Halloween costume from Etsy (an Elsa dress), and it seems that Minted is a sort of Etsy of cards, art, and decor.

The number of choices is a bit overwhelming, but I managed to find a few favorites.

Minted Watercolor Bunting Holiday Card

Love this Watercolor Bunting at the top of the card! There is also a gold foil, shiny option.

Being a proud Sconnie, or Wisconsin native, I like the idea of this card, but I don’t like that Wisconsin was covered up.  Daddy O. and I did, however, once call Pittsburgh home.  This COULD have been our card then when it was just the two of us! There is also a West Coast version of this card, but I think Wisconsin was covered up in that one too.  Bummer – this option is not for us.

Minted Holiday Map Holiday Card

Fun way to show off where you live in a holiday card.

I was drawn to the fun lettering on these cards.

I am not sure what family pictures I have to include in this year’s card, so I may have to get creative with multiple photos on one card.  Here were some multiple photo options that caught my eye:

Minted Holiday Collage Photo Card

A card with multiple pictures may work best for our family.

My family isn’t too big on super heros, but I someday we may be.  When that is the case, we’ll use a card like this:

Minted Comic Book Holiday Card

You could really have fun with this card’s comic book style!

Certainly professional photographers’ pictures are far superior to my own snapshots, and I’m having a little picture envy just looking at all these lovely cards used on the site.  In the spirit of advance planning, here are some tips on how to get a great family picture for holiday cards by Heather Lee on Julep. She recommends having pictures taken now and having a photo card in mind, so the photographer can compose the shot correctly.  Good tips!

For our own card, I’ll try my best to snap some good pictures within the next few weeks or use what we have.  I think these two cards are my top holiday card contenders:

Next step – playing on Minted with some of these cards and my pictures.  Stay tuned to see which pictures and what card I choose!

This was a sponsored post, but the opinions expressed were my own. Photography by Minted.