Everything we have been doing is good, but we realize that we can't do everything. :) We began our "intentional journey" this fall by dropping several activities that I loved for the kids...piano lessons and choir. It still makes me a little sad, but the girls are still taking an instrument for free in the band at school, and the freedom this has added to our schedules and the extra family time has been more than worth it. We also went down to one sport for the year with all the kids. We have chosen soccer because all the kids enjoy playing, their Daddy helps coach them, and we all go together! I don'k know what next fall will look like, and there may be more cuts still to come in the near future, but we will see.
As far as family traditions go, the holiday season is the best for getting these started. We have some that we already participate in and love, and some we have heard about this year that we have decided to implement in the coming year. These are all things which are fun and thoughtful and I hope will make memories for us and our children for years to come!
- Wrapping: A friend of ours has older children...high school age. Since they do not believe in Santa anymore, she wraps the presents as she gets them and places them under the tree. However, to keep some of the mystery alive and keep the kids guessing, she uses a different role of wrapping paper for each child. Each child's gifts are wrapped in their own special paper. There are no names on the presents and none of the children know which wrapping paper is theirs. This keeps them guessing right up to Christmas morning!
- Candle: Since my husband and his brother were children, my mother-in-law has always done a Christmas candle, and she continues the tradition today now with my children. After the Christmas story is read, we pass around a lit candle, from youngest to oldest. Each person, as they hold the candle, shares about some struggles or thanksgivings they have had from the year, and their hopes and prayers for the new year to come.
- Cards and Photos: A tradition we have picked up from my mom involves the Christmas cards and photos we receive each year. Mom would hang them all on the back of the front door and the wall. After Christmas was over, and the decorations were taken down, all the cards and photos went into a basket by the living room couch. Beginning with the new year, each night at family devotions or prayers, we would take turns drawing out a card or photo (one per night) and then we would say a special prayer for that family! This should take you all the way through January and maybe into February, depending on how many cards and photos you receive!
- Thankful Jar: This year I saw a photo on Pinterest and decided we are definitely going to do this. You can make it your own as far as decorations, which holiday you use it for, etc. We are going to start January 1st and go all year long. As the year goes by, we will all write down miracles that happen to the family, special things we are thankful for, etc. On New Year's Eve, 2013, while we are trying to stay up till midnight, we will pull out our "thankful jar" and take turns reading about God's goodness to our family during the previous year! Then, we will keep all the slips of paper and store them in a ziploc bag in a decorative box or container labeled with the year! Can't wait to try this one!
- Gift Giving: My husband started a tradition when we were first married. Every year, 12 days before Christmas, he would give me a candle for each day leading up to Christmas. Now that we have children, we have transferred the 12 days to them. Each day of the 12 days, we either give them a small gift, take them to a movie, make a craft at home, etc., or we make a gift or do something for someone else, like take cookies to a neighbor, rake their leaves, or something fun like that. This is something the kids have really enjoyed and looked forward to.
- Food and Story: I heard a Contemporary Christian music artist share a tradition of his on the radio this week. He said when they woke up on Christmas morning their Mom had a huge breakfast cooked and they would sit around the table and eat together and listen as their Dad read the Christmas story. Of course with all the decorated packages lying on the livingroom floor, he said the kids were dying to get in there to open presents. However, now that he is older and has a family of his own, he said that those breakfasts and times around the table on Christmas morning are some of his fondest memories and he is so grateful to his parents for providing that time!