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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

IT IS CHRISTMASTIME AGAIN!




I put it in all caps, just in case you didn't know.:)

We have always had certain traditions that are related to Christmas, and during the Month of December, there are certain things that we do that are the same each year.

We always put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, and drink Hot Cocoa, even if it isn't cold outside, and watch Miracle on 34th Street. (the old one with Natalie Woods)

Sometime during the early part of the month, we go and pick out 1 new ornament each to add to the tree. Last year we found a "backgammon game" ornament. That was mine. :)
The girls picked out bird ornaments. Daddy got a tool box ornament.

We also bake cookies to hang on the tree and the kids eat them off. :) One of my favorite memories was when Marcus was 2. I baked cookie ornaments and hung them on the tree. He apparently figured out they were edible and licked the icing on all the lower ornaments and we got ants that year. I had to put ant bait under the tree skirt to get rid of them. LOL

Establishing memories and habits at Christmas is so important for family. It doesn't cost a lot. You could have a habit of Mall Wandering on Black Friday, just for the fun of it. You don't have to buy anything. But letting the kids see the crowds, or go and see Santa, not to ask for anything or get a picture, but just to say hi, is a fun thing to do.

When Joseph was 3, he discovered Santa. We were taking a stroll at the local mall to see all the decorations. He was fascinated with Santa, and this Santa was a really great one. Real beard, real glasses and so kind and jolly. I never lied to the kids and told them Santa would do anything for them, but Santa is a part of our culture, and he is around at Christmas. So, I asked Joe, "do you want to visit with Santa?"
Those huge brown eyes said YES! So we waited in line. He sat on Santa's lap and told him all about his cars, and his daddy's truck, and all about his toys, and then he hopped off and said, "Merry Christmas". That was it. He didn't ask for anything, didn't get a picture (we didn't have the money for that luxury back then) and he was happy. We went to visit Santa about 3 times that year, and the Santa just loved Joe.
It cracked him up that he didn't ever ask for anything. He just wanted to talk.

When our girlies came into our home, they came with no memorable traditions and different memories of past Christmases; some very traumatic.
It would have been unrealistic to expect them to have a "Merry Christmas" and just take in all the fun. Especially for Sarah and Anna. It was also important to avoid the words, "In our family we do this, or in this family we do that".... That kind of wording can make a child feel "outside the family" or remind them of not always being here. Their own past memories will let them remember they weren't always here, we don't need to remind them.
When the girls were first at home, the Christmas tree represented the past to them. In fact, the first year we had Christmas with Sarah I called around to find out what had gone on the year before, as she was really upset with the tree. I received the information needed to help me to help her through the season. I actually thought about not having a tree anymore, as both girls just reacted so sadly to it and it made all those memories flood back.

But after discussing it with my level headed husband Mike, we figured it would be best to help them through it, as you really can't avoid Christmas Trees at Christmas.
It is up to us to help them build new special memories to replace the old ones, and to establish new family habits that the children will embrace. We have old traditions AND new traditions. Comfort foods have been added. I had never eaten beets before, but they are now a permenant comfort food in our home and they are served liberally at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The girlies like them baked like potatoes with butter and salt. I have also developed a liking for beet salad.

It might be a little soon to say, but I actually think that for the first time, this year, we are there. This is Anna's 6th Christmas with us. Sarah's 5th and Erika's 3rd. They were excited about putting the tree up. They were excited about finding their old ornaments. They were excited about finding the old movie we were planning to watch and Anna checked the refrigerator to make sure there was whipped cream for the Hot Cocoa.
Every year has gotten better and smoother than the one before and the most exciting thing is the kids memories are of Christmas's past.... the ones that have passed by here. That is such an awesome thing to hear them chatter and giggle about what happened last year and the year before; remembering who came to visit and who is going to come this year. I love seeing them pour over magazines and ads and envision what they might get for Christmas.
Erika has come a long way from asking for a comb. :)

Tis the season to be joyful, thankful and happy. Happy because of what the Lord has done in our lives. Happy because the girlies are happy. I feel true joy seeing them shine and flutter about with festive little hearts.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be making messes in the kitchen that will make me tired. And if I were to get lazy, I would probably tell them, "mom will do it", but that isn't what will make a memory for them. So they will mix and pour and make messes and make mistakes and get stuff all over the floor and we will clean it up, taste that cookie dough decorate the cookies, hang them on the tree, give them for gifts, and create another memory in their memory boxes to pull out at another time, continuing to help those past traumas lose their power and fade into the past.

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