traditions

Are You Mom Enough?

Last month our writers shared some of their holiday traditions and plans for the upcoming season. In November, we continue our conversation about holidays. How do we juggle visitors, travel with small children, eat well amidst all that delicious food and most importantly, take time to just BREATHE? This time of year can very quickly become stressful, so we hope our writers' words this month will give you a few moments to slow down, think about how you're spending your energy and encourage you during this busy, but wonderful time of year. ~TMC  We all remember the Time Magazine article with this title that was discussing the “freakishness” of attachment parenting trends.  Well, I’m here to ask, “Are you mom enough?”  My question pertains to something totally different, though.  I want to know if you are mom enough to know when you need to take a break.

I find it very difficult to admit when I am in need of a break.  I feel like I go, go, go until burn-out is too quickly approaching.  I’m talking about all forms of burn-out, not just parenting burn-out.  This is a great fault of mine.  I think this is probably a commonly dormant trait for females that gets ignited sometime between conception and birth.

It is very easy to overextend ourselves in the less busy times of the year, but even more so in the holiday season.  With the holidays just around the corner, I highly recommend getting a plan in motion so that burn-out is less likely.

If your baby is 6 months or under, this is probably not the year to invite your 60-member family to your house to demonstrate your Martha Stewart-like cooking skills for Thanksgiving day.  This may be the year to opt out of your family's Black Friday 2am rat race tradition and choose the more peaceful Cyber Monday for Christmas shopping.  While these may be exaggerations, planning this year to be a more peaceful holiday season so that burn-out does not occur may be just what the doctor ordered for you and your family.

So ask yourself this, “Am I mom enough to take care of ME, so that I can take care of my family?”  Plan a little peaceful time during the peaceful season.  Take a walk by yourself.  Enjoy a chapter in a book, or even a whole book.  Drink a latte.  Go on a weekend getaway.

This is supposed to be the time of year that you cuddle everyone a little closer, create life-long memories, start establishing traditions and enjoy your family.  Taking that break and refusing to allow burn-out will only make that time even more precious.

Kan Traditions

With the changing leaves and falling temperatures, there's no doubt that fall is here! As mothers, we always try to stay a step ahead of the chaos and this month we're taking some time to share our thoughts on holiday celebrations, family traditions and maybe some new ideas about how to enjoy the upcoming season. So grab that cup of cinnamon-spiced coffee, prop your feet up on a pumpkin and enjoy what our writers have to say this month. ~TMC My husband and I have enjoyed establishing our family and getting to talk about different traditions we bring from each side, as well as what new traditions we want to begin with our children.  There are two main activities we have decided to make a part of every Christmas celebration.

1. The Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar

The Advent Calendar is something that neither of our families ever used growing up, but Andy and I have enjoyed making it a part of our Christmas the last two years.  There are so many you can choose from.  I opted for making ours.  I sewed 24 draw-string fabric pouches to allow myself plenty of variety.  I also made 24 magnets with different Bible passages that together tell the Christmas story.  Every year, I also buy 24 little treats.  So far, I’ve only used candy, but since Gabriel will be old enough to enjoy opening the pouches this year, I’m also going to include little gifts for him—stickers, balls, homemade treats.  Every morning, starting December 1st, we go to the basket with the pouches.  We take the pouch for the day, open it, read the passage from the Christmas Story, place it on the fridge, and enjoy the little “treat.” It’s a very small part of our day, but it’s a neat way to make the Christmas joy last longer.  We enjoy a little gift each day, while remembering the greatest gift in our lives, as well as so many blessings we can’t even name them.  I hope this is something we continue every year with Gabriel—that he will look forward to that anticipation that is so precious in children, and that we as adults tend to forget sometimes.  Hope is a beautiful virtue that we can instill in our children, and when we hope in truth, it will never disappoint.

2. Get a gift, give a gift.

Gifts

Another tradition that we hope to establish once Gabriel becomes more understanding of his possessions is to have him choose a toy to give away at every birthday and Christmas.  We hope to find an orphanage, toy drive, or other donation means by which our children can learn the joy of giving to others in need.  For adults, we have so many means by which to give—finances, time, a meal from our kitchen.  For children, they really only have the gifts they receive as a means to give in return.  We hope to encourage our children to choose one gift to give away every holiday.  We would love to even encourage sacrificial giving—maybe even a favorite toy, or one that we know a child in need would really enjoy.  We hope this will help balance the mentality of only “getting.” This will also help cut out all that accumulation as well J.

We’re still adding to our list of traditions!  What ways are you intentional during the holiday season?

Christmas Tree Hunting

With the changing leaves and falling temperatures, there's no doubt that fall is here! As mothers, we always try to stay a step ahead of the chaos and this month we're taking some time to share our thoughts on holiday celebrations, family traditions and maybe some new ideas about how to enjoy the upcoming season. So grab that cup of cinnamon-spiced coffee, prop your feet up on a pumpkin and enjoy what our writers have to say this month. ~TMC

For as long as I’ve known them, my husband’s family has had the tradition of gathering together the day after Thanksgiving to go Christmas tree hunting. That is, to go to a tree farm and cut down their own Christmas tree. The word family in this instance includes his parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I have always looked forward to this day, even when we were dating! Since we've been married it's been fun watching our group grow. We now have new cousins, a brother and sisters-in-laws and a nephew to add to the list (as well as our own children). Instead of cutting one tree for the Guelzo family as in years' past, he and his three siblings are cutting their own tree for their own families and children. In more recent years, we have added eating breakfast together to our yearly ritual, as well as frequenting the same location, Piney Mountain Christmas Tree Farm in Appomattox, VA.

It's been fun traveling down memory lane looking through some of our old photos.

(See how many times I've worn the same white scarf!)

2006

Our second year as a married couple. As you can see, my husband was still in shock that

he was able to snag me as his wife.

2007

At our favorite breakfast joint, "Granny Bee's", also located in Appomattox.

It is said that Ben Franklin wrote, "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterwards."

Seems Jeremiah is taking this advice one step further.

2008

Our first year that we would be displaying our tree in our house, not apartment. Our last year with no children.

We would find out we were pregnant with our son a month or so later.

2009

With our son, Ian, who was just shy of three months old.

2010

We thought we had fun before, but having Ian able to help pick out our tree that year was the best!

2011

Last year I was 16 weeks pregnant with our sweet daughter, Miriam. At this point, we weren't even aware we were having a girl.

I am so excited to be able to carry on this tradition with our children over the years (and hopefully grandchildren too!) Singing Christmas songs in the car on the way up; the smell of pine once we arrive; "oooing and ahhhhing" over everyone's picks; having a tummy full of hashbrowns, eggs, grits and coffee; the laughter and hugs and smiles and reminiscing about years' past. I can't wait to see what the hunt of 2012 will bring!

Consider Your Holidays

With the changing leaves and falling temperatures, there's no doubt that fall is here! As mothers, we always try to stay a step ahead of the chaos and this month we're taking some time to share our thoughts on holiday celebrations, family traditions and maybe some new ideas about how to enjoy the upcoming season. So grab that cup of cinnamon-spiced coffee, prop your feet up on a pumpkin and enjoy what our writers have to say this month. ~TMC  

The holidays can be such a hectic time and we as mothers shoulder much of the responsibility for decorating, baking, shopping, costume-making, hostessing, among many other things. We are goaded by commercials and sale papers to buy, buy, buy to make the perfect house and have happy children. We walk into stores and are bombarded by sales encouraging us to buy generic gifts that no one needs or just one more cute decoration we never knew we needed. We spend money we don’t have, use time we don’t have and end up feeling burnt out and unable to really enjoy and rest.

 

I would encourage you to think about all the things you tend to do for various holidays. Then think about what each of those holidays actually means to you. What you are trying to communicate to your family through all the activities you do? Does decorating make you feel invigorated and your family feel blessed? Then do it! Is it a burden to you that makes you feel overwhelmed? Then don’t feel obligated to do it or do less. Does the idea of making another Thanksgiving turkey give you a panic attack? Then ditch it and make something you enjoy making that your family enjoys eating!

Jesse Tree

 

Build in time to be with your family and friends to reflect on what each holiday really means to you. Find activities that point your children to the meaning of the holiday and encourages giving and generosity and a focus on others. Last year our family began using a Jesse tree as an advent activity. Each day for the month leading up to Christmas, we read a different Bible passage related to the coming of Christ and hung an ornament on the tree that stands for that passage. It was a great way to keep us centered on the true meaning and doing it each day provided a built in time for reflection, a moment of rest, as well as time together.

 

Simplifying your holiday activities to ones that really mean something to you and are a blessing to your family help to make the time more meaningful, reflective and restful—as it is meant to be!

Holiday Traditions: Books Provided, Just Add Hot Chocolate and Cozy Blanket

With the changing leaves and falling temperatures, there's no doubt that fall is here! As mothers, we always try to stay a step ahead of the chaos and this month we're taking some time to share our thoughts on holiday celebrations, family traditions and maybe some new ideas about how to enjoy the upcoming season. So grab that cup of cinnamon-spiced coffee, prop your feet up on a pumpkin and enjoy what our writers have to say this month. ~TMC I love this time of year.  November and December are two of my favorite months.  Cold enough to snuggle up, but not the bitter cold of January and February.  Lots of family time.  Mounting excitement from our three-year-old.  Holiday parties with friends.

It all catches up with me in January and I spend that entire month recovering, but that's something I'll worry about then.

In our house, books are a part of our daily lives, but I also have seasonal books that only come out at certain times of the year.  I keep a box of books in our living room that are rotated about once a month, and as certain holidays come up, I pull the corresponding books out of hiding and we read them during that season.  Once the season is over, those books go away for another year.  Today, I thought I'd share some of our favorite books for the upcoming season.

Fall/Halloween:

If you have not yet discovered Tad Hills and his Duck and Goose books (available in both board book and hardcover format), you're in for a treat.  These adorable friends are well-loved in our house, and my preschooler can recite Duck and Goose Find A Pumpkin by heart.  Following the theme of "it's always in the last place you look", Duck and Goose search all over for the perfect pumpkin.  Except, of course, the one place they're most likely to find one.  Once you meet these two, you're going to want to run out and gather every book you can get your hands on.

You might already be familiar with the Five Little Pumpkins poem, but I particularly like this version, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.  Available in board book format, the illustrations show ghosts, and jack-o-lanterns, and witches, but in a manner that is almost cute, and not scary to little ones.   This is another book that my preschooler can recite.  She particularly likes the ghostly "Woooooo" of the wind and enthusiastically clapping her hands together while yelling, "And OUT went the lights!".  Because, after all, a good book MUST contain shouting.

Thanksgiving:

For a fun twist on a classical story, try I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Pie by Alison Jackson, illustrated by Judy Schachner.  This elderly relative travels to Thanksgiving dinner with her pie contribution.  But she's so ravenous that the pie is gone before she even reaches the house.  So then she needs cider to wash it down.  And then a roll.  And then...well, you know how the story goes.  This version is truly giggle-inducing.

This next book might not be appropriate for the preschool set, but add it to your collection as a classic for future years.  Molly's Pilgrim is not a new book, in fact it was first published in 1983.  Based on author Barbara Cohen's real family history, this is the tale of Molly, a Jewish, Russian immigrant who struggles to participate in the Thanksgiving discussions of her third grade classroom.  When the class is given the assignment of creating a pilgrim, Molly goes to her mother for help, but her mother's interpretation just embarrasses Molly even more.  This story goes beyond Thanksgiving to discuss bullying, confidence, and acceptance.

Christmas/Hannukah:

There are so many Christmas books out there, it's just about impossible to select one. The one I want to share is one that you may not be familiar with, but is one of the most moving, beautifully illustrated picture books for the Christmas season that I think I've ever read.  Angela and the Baby Jesus, written by Frank McCourt of Angela's Ashes fame, and illustrated by the award-winning Loren Long, revisits McCourt's mother, Angela, this time as a child.  The young Angela is distressed by the thought of the baby Jesus, resting in the village church's nativity, freezing in the winter night.  So she steals him (of course!), and takes him home to warm and care for him.  What follows is a story of family ties, faith, and Christmas forgiveness.  Simultaneously touching and humorous (and did I mention amazingly illustrated?), you will find yourself reading this book even when the children are not around.

For Hanukkah, one of my favorite books is The Miracle Jar: A Hanukkah Story by Audrey Penn (author of The Kissing Hand), illustrated by Lea Lyon.  This is the story of a poor family busily preparing for the arrival of Hanukkah.  When Mother shares her concern that there may not be enough oil to last through eight days of cooking, the children's spirits are dampened.  As the days go by, Father recalls the story of the miracle of the oil and the family watches their own oil disappear bit by bit, wondering if it will last to the final day.  While this is a story celebrating the Hanukkah holiday, it also has a universal theme of love and perseverance.

These books only scratch the surface.  My own collection for each season grows each year as I rediscover old classics and fall in love with new ones that I want my children to experience.  Please share your favorites! And enjoy the chance the colder weather offers to cuddle up on the couch.  Even if it only lasts for a few seconds.

Whose Traditions?

IMG_3010

With the changing leaves and falling temperatures, there's no doubt that fall is here! As mothers, we always try to stay a step ahead of the chaos and this month we're taking some time to share our thoughts on holiday celebrations, family traditions and maybe some new ideas about how to enjoy the upcoming season. So grab that cup of cinnamon-spiced coffee, prop your feet up on a pumpkin and enjoy what our writers have to say this month. ~TMC Can I share a secret with you? As self-centered as it sounds, I never really gave much thought to how my children would experience the holidays. I just assumed they would celebrate the same way I did. Yet as Halloween ushers in the holiday season, I am aware of just how different Miss E's experiences are going to be than mine. One of the reasons is: I didn't take into account my husband and his traditions.

Of course I started thinking about holiday traditions while we were dating. His family does Christmas differently than mine, not to mention Thanksgiving.

Yet it really wasn't until Halloween last year that I realized just how different our experiences were. Growing up, my family was very religious; church on Sunday, as well as, Tuesday, Thursday and any other day special services were held. Our church was very strict compared to some of the churches I've visited today. Women didn't wear pants. Jewelry, make-up, dancing and movie theater-attendance weren’t allowed. And Halloween, well Halloween was definitely a holiday we did not celebrate. I remember last year, I was pregnant and in between trick-or-treaters, my husband talked about what his family did. He talked about carving pumpkins with Miss E and what we would do for her first trick-or-treating. I usually have a plan, but in this I had no clue. I explained to J-man we didn't do Halloween in my house. I explained I only went trick-or-treating once as a child. Most of my childhood Halloweens were spent in church.

At first I was a little saddened by the thought that Miss wouldn’t get to celebrate her first holidays the same way I did. I remember Thanksgivings spent at the homes of family filled with lots of noise and even more food. Our big Christmas celebrations were held on Christmas Eve, with carols being sung and filled with family fun. Christmas mornings were filled with visits from my Abuelo and my cousins who lived upstairs, and the evenings spent at church watching, or participating in, the Christmas play. I think even though there are many things from my childhood I want to share with Miss E, I know that they aren’t all possible. Things like getting together with family for the holidays is not going to be as easy as it was for me growing up. Both our families live out of state. As I get a melancholy feeling at the holiday celebrations Miss E will not know, I remember that as my cousins, sister and I grew up, my family’s traditions changed. Their holidays are no longer spent the same way they were when I was young.

As I typed that last sentence I realized the important thing is that we, J-man, Miss E and I, are starting our own holiday traditions as a family. So this year, with Halloween quickly approaching, I can’t help but think how Miss E’s Halloweens will be filled with jack o’lanterns and costumes, and you know what I’m quite okay with the difference. I was even excited when my husband and I bought her first pumpkin carving set, since I'm sure pumpkin carving will become one of our family traditions. Are there traditions you followed as a child that you haven't carried on with your own children? Do you miss those traditions or are you happier with your new ones?