Monday, December 19, 2016

Traditions: Simplify and Enjoy

With two young kids, 5 and 2, I have been grappling with the question: did I get them enough?  I started the Christmas season with a plan to buy a large Santa present for each of them and just a couple small gifts.  I thought I would do the four gifts that I had read about on Facebook last year, but when telling my friend my plan, I realized I only knew the first three gifts to give.  I knew it was something like: something they want, something they need, something to read and then, huh, no clue.  Even with an almost flawless gift giving plan, I still find myself doubting my choice to keep it simple.  And, it is not just with presents.  Honestly, if I did not have the expertise of mentor moms, speakers like Marti Boone and my own mother, I would be a mess through Christmas trying to do and buy everything.  Being overindulged, over-scheduled and overwhelmed is not the way I want my Christmases to be.  I realize now keeping Christmas simple, enjoying family traditions and remembering what Christmas is really about is the greatest gift I can give to my family.

Our guest speaker, Marti Boone, gave me an answer to my gift giving conundrum and that answer is the same one my mom has been saying to me the day my daughter was born.  Simplify.  It is just as exhausting for me to live my over-complicated life as it is for my mom to hear about it.  I already live a hectic life with a husband that travels for work a fourth of the year and two young kids; I am trying to make those unbearable moments into teachable moments.  As much as I am told to keep it simple, I find myself exhausted from over doing it.  It is easy for me to say I am only going to do the traditions that are important to my family, but actually following through takes self-control and not falling into the pressures around me.  I have to really think about my family’s needs and what we can and can’t do during the Christmas season and what is truly important for my family.  The tool that Marti shared has my name written all over it.  The simple T chart, with things I need to do on one side and things I want to do on the other side is exactly what I need to keep my family from being over-scheduled.  If I get to just one thing on the want side, it will be an added bonus.  It is the first way I am going to keep it simple. 

A second way to keep it simple is by focusing on Christmas as the season of giving and Christ our Savior being born.  By making traditions like going to church and sharing with others, our children will learn from us the true meaning of Christmas.  It is our job to teach our children that doing for others is the greatest gift.  Marti shared multiple ways to do this throughout the holiday season.   She suggested making goodies and sharing them around the neighborhood, visiting older people who may not have family around, and to consider giving to Angel Tree, an organization for kids who have a parent who is incarcerated.  By involving our kids in sharing we are teaching them that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Lastly, expect​ ​the​ ​unexpected during the holidays and in life in general.  Unlucky for my family, I experienced this first hand over Thanksgiving.  My daughter woke up with strep throat and we spent the day trying to get antibiotics for her.  It was not what I had envisioned, but we made the best of it.  I was glad that Thanksgiving was not at our house this year and my husband and I were able to make it work.  He went to Thanksgiving number one at our uncle’s house and I went to Thanksgiving number two at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  All the while, my son went to both and was a trooper even without his typical nap.  It all worked out, my daughter got better and I learned a valuable lesson: it is not in my control.  As much as I plan for this Christmas, things may not go according to plan and that is okay.   

Keeping it simple is not the only way I am enjoying this Christmas season.  As a relatively new mom, I am working on my family Christmas traditions.  I grew up in a family that has traditions and those traditions are what we remember as adults.  Off the top of my head, it was two Christmas trees (one for the kids and one for my mom), crab for Christmas eve, Christmas movies galore and candlelight service at church.  It has changed as we have gotten older, but those memories feel good and I want my children to reflect on their traditions when they are older.  One tradition I want to try (*and maybe you do, too) is Marti’s ginger cookies.  Her ginger cookies were the gift she sent to her son, Todd, when his ship docked in Virginia.  She was unable to deliver them herself, but her family friends were going there for Christmas and were able to surprise Todd.  Marti also shared a Christmas tree tradition and it had us in tears.  Her tree is not a Pinterest tree, instead her tree has ornaments that have been in her life for over forty years.  Not all of them are beautiful to the naked eye, but beautiful to the beholder.  One ornament was made by Joel, her son, in 1981 the day he invited Jesus into his life.  Another was a paper chain made by her and her brother.  Four months later her brother passed, and on her mother's tree the chain has hung for many years.  It is missing links, but it is a special memory that makes the tree complete.  This tradition is beautiful and I am glad it was shared with us. 

Ultimately, we all strive to have a loving, sharing, and caring Christmas.  Hearing from others about Christmas reminds us what we know is true in our hearts.  Christmas is about Jesus Christ being born.  My hope is that all of us can enjoy Christmas with our loved ones this year.  Merry Christmas.

“Let not our hearts be busy inns that have no room for Thee, But cradles for the Living Christ and His nativity”

*Big Soft Ginger Cookies
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
¾ c margarine, butter or shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
¼ c molasses
2 tbsp sugar
-Combine flour, ginger, soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; set aside
-In large bowl beat margarine, butter or shortening with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds to soften.  Gradually add the 1 cup sugar, beat till fluffy.  Add egg and molasses; beat well.  Stir dry ingredients into beaten mixture.
-Chill dough before shaping into balls.  Shape into 1 ½ -inch balls (1 heaping tablespoon of dough each).  Roll in the 2 tablespoons of sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 ½ inches apart.
-Bake in a 350° oven about 10 minutes or till light brown and still puffed.  (Do not overcook.)  Let stand for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  Cool.  Makes 24 three inch cookies.

- Amanda

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