Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Chaos.....Making Memories

"Keep Christmas with you all through the year. When Christmas is over, you can keep it near." - lyrics from the movie Elmo Saves Christmas. The movie that my girls and I have watched over and over every holiday season that no one would watch with me last year. Me....heartbroken. That moment stopped me in my tracks. I knew what their refusal meant, but did not want to face it. Yes Virginia, my daughters are growing up. Way too fast, and hard as I may try to slow the process down, time presses on, and I wonder if I am creating enough happy memories to outweigh the chaos of our busy lives and what seems to be constant bickering in the Ballard house.
As I look back upon my childhood in general, especially the Christmases, it just seemed more magical and special than it appears to be for kids today. Maybe I have romanticized the past and made it better than it was but I still have that nagging feeling that my girls are missing something. I remember the excitement my sister Beth and I felt when the Toy land was opened upstairs at Ruth's Variety Store. All year we would shop for supplies on the first floor and  knowing the toy land was just one floor above me was so intriguing. Perhaps our kids are constantly exposed to toys 24/7 via Toys R Us and Wal Mart and they don't experience the anticipation we had from waiting all year. I can also recall doing most of our shopping in the big city of Burkesville such as the year mom, Beth, and I drove Papa John's old white Ford pickup to J's Discount and sneaked home the cabinet stereo for daddy. In the years that passed mama would play Elvis' Blue Christmas from that stereo as we decorated the tree that daddy had cut down from Papa John's farm and the aroma of cedar filled our little home in Waterview. I can visualize the special decorations mama would place throughout the house-many she still uses. Among my favorites were the big Santa candle that sat on the kitchen table, the white sleigh and reindeer placed upon the desk, and the silver bells she would hang in the hallways. Magic. After the house was fully decorated and lit up, we would pile into the Oldsmobile and drive up and down highway 90 to see what it looked like from the road. I need to do that with my girls, minus the Oldsmobile, of course.
Times were much different then and I realize I sound 100 years old as I type those words. I remember there being time to attend family gatherings with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents on both sides of our family. Now my daughters have cousins they don't even know and the last family reunion I attended I was ashamed of myself for knowing so few people, their names, and who their parents were. My own sister and I see very little of each other due to hectic work schedules and the activities of our kids. I do wish we could put time in a bottle just to slow it down a little. To go back to simpler ways and a slower pace. That's my grown-up Christmas wish. Yet another reason I am thankful for my job that allows me 15 days of time to bake, cook, visit, and enjoy the holidays as I think they were meant to be. Time to reflect and plan and see what really matters in life.
Here are a few traditions I have started and/or carried on from my childhood to try to recapture the magic for my girls. Nothing radical here. Just my way of trying to hang on to the past and creating special times so my girls can say more than "Boy we sure did argue a lot!" when they reminisce upon their childhood.
Baking Cookies. As most ladies and moms, I cook and bake a lot over the holidays, but not like mama did. Mom made everything from scratch and everything she baked looked so much prettier and tasted better than mine, but I am trying to improve each year until maybe I get it right. A special time the girls look forward to is making Santa's cookies fresh on Christmas Eve each year, always picking out the best ones for his plate of cookies. Which by the way, Santa always makes a mess and Micah concludes he must be in a hurry to deliver presents and we shouldn't be mad.

Leaving Reindeer Food, carrots, and water for the reindeer. Before bedtime on Christmas Eve Hannah and Micah scatter reindeer food in the front yard and place the carrots and water by the front door. The next morning they look to see if the supplies are gone, and usually they find one of the reindeer's sleigh bells where they stop for a snack. That brings almost as much excitement as the presents under the tree. Notice, I said-almost ;)

New Christmas Pajamas/Pictures Around the Tree. Looking back at my mom's Christmas photos, there are more dorky pictures of Beth and myself than I care to admit, but I have decided that tradition must be carried on. Every year, before Christmas Hannah and Micah get a new pair of jammies or gowns to wear on Christmas Eve. Hey, we must look our best for the man in the red suit! And why not make it a Kodak moment as well?

New Ornaments each year.  Each holiday season the girls pick out an ornament they like with their names and the year written on it. Those are the ones they want to hang first each year, and each Christmas Hannah has to explain (brag) to Micah about how she has more. I know eventually I will have to part with these precious items but for now I will enjoy looking at them on my tree. One of my favorites shown below was from last Christmas and came from Avon. The girls wrote their own name and date on it. The ball opens up and they write their Christmas wish (not toys/gifts) and place inside. We also purchase an ornament if we can find one wherever we vacation.

Sometimes trying to build those picture perfect memories can be frustrating and well, stressful, to say the least. We put so much pressure on ourselves that we can easily get lost in the moment and miss some of the magic. I stumbled across this website last month that will help with this issue: http://www.scarymommy.com/. It is a hilarious site where real moms post (anonomysly thank goodness) their frustrations with families, children, jobs etc. If your tinsel starts to get tangled, it's worth checking out to reassure all of us that Norman Rockwell paintings were just that-snapshots. Not real life.
Again, these are simple things, but they make me happy and hopefully do the same for my daughters. What are some of your family Christmas traditions? I'd love to read them and maybe introduce them to my crew. As we prepare for this special time of year, I want to thank you for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts with me. I hope I have brought some laughter into your life and wish each and everyone of you the very Merriest of Christmases.
Much love,

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