The Christmas Book Basket

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It happened so unintentionally, our holiday book basket we put by the Christmas tree each year.

When our oldest was just a tot and into ALL THE THINGS, we decided not to even attempt putting gifts under the tree until Christmas morning. It really helped keep everyone a little more sane.

So, instead, I opted to put a few of the holiday books we had in a basket and placed it by the tree.

The next year I did the same thing, and just like that, it became a tradition!

Now, however, I’m a bit more intentional about it and the books that go into it. We like to add one or two books each year, or rotate them out, depending on the year and ages of the kiddos.

When little bitty, more board books made their way into the basket. It’s definitely not a “put all the super cherished books you don’t want mucked up” in kinda basket. The last thing you want to do is add books in that you’ll stress about…nah, this is a meant to be read and re read many times, pulled in and out of basket multiple times and, occasionally, a torn page that gets taped up kinda thing.

This year, I’ve actually added a few more non board books, since we’re mostly past the tearing all the pages stage….mostly. Hopefully.

One of the main things I love about this, is it encourages “reading” and discovering of new things and learning more about the winter season and holidays.

I love how the youngest kiddos will just wander over, sit down and start reading. Sometimes the basket gets picked up and carried around the house, but usually finds it’s way back by the tree and I will occasionally catch a glimpse of 3 out of 4 kiddos just sitting and reading and looking at the pictures.

These are some of our favorites:

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger

God Gave Us Christmas

The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale

One Shining Star: A Christmas Counting Book

Another thing I love, is the family time it helps to create and reminds us to focus on a little more around, what can be, a very busy time.

It’s definitely become a loved tradition and one the bigger kids have looked forward to each year. And as the littlest ones become more familiar with it, I’m hoping it stays a well loved tradition.

What are some of your most loved holiday traditions?

Keeping It Simple At Christmas

The holidays are literally around the corner. And here I am, once again, feeling a little behind and slightly overwhelmed at ALL THE THINGS that need attending to.

And last year at this time, with twin infants, and all the to-do’s and parties and holiday things and shopping and choir performances and all the in betweens…by the end of the holiday season I felt defeated and utterly exhausted. And I’m thinking that is simply not how it’s supposed to be. At least not to that extent.

So I vowed to take it all back this year. To take Christmas and family time back and make it a priority.

Not that all the get togethers aren’t fun, but sometimes {most times} it’s just TOO much.

Last year we decided not to get a tree. Which was hard, but with the babies being so little, and the two older ones with so many things on their own calendars, and then us deciding we’d be putting the house up for sale in the new year, we chose to forego the crazy and try to just enjoy the time we could.

And it was still slightly chaotic.

And this year will have it’s fair share once again of chaos, but I am determined to keep it in check. I am embracing the simple and being OK with saying NO.

And not having to explain myself. I don’t need to apologize for choosing family time and less chaos over all things sparkly with frosting on top.

{although, frosting is tasty}

This year, we are getting a tree. It’s a tradition we love and my big kids really missed it last year. In anticipation of it, I bought some “shatter proof” ornaments on sale last season and have them ready and waiting to be used this year.

Funny thing is, Christmas trees and toddlers don’t exactly mix. And I am just hoping to keep my youngest son from shattering the “shatter proof” ornaments. If they survive him, then I will be thoroughly impressed with their “shatter proof” claims!

Taking it all back. That is the plan.

The other day, my husband and I sat down and talked about what we REALLY want out of the season. What is the MOST important to us, and to our kids. And then we chatted with our oldest two about things. What do THEY want out of this. What are some of their favorite traditions and maybe something they’d like to add? Or take away?

I think it’s important to include them in the planning. We have a slightly unique set up with two kiddos in elementary school, and then twin toddlers who are pretty clueless to all the “traditions” for now. But, some things might not mesh too well with the twinnies schedule, but we cannot discount what the older two would like either.

It’s definitely a balance we are striving for this year. And it’s not going to be easy.

We also have to consider our oldest daughter and her special needs that don’t always allow for certain events or locations that the rest of us enjoy. Large crowds and loud noise and looong lines…NO THANK YOU.

We’d all be tearing our hair out. It wouldn’t be fun for any of us.

So, we have to evaluate all the things and decide which ones are worth it and which ones we can do without. And making sure everyone gets to do something they really enjoy, even if that means a smaller scale activity of it.

Like I said, it’s a balance.

I think it’s also OKAY to re-evaluate year to year….especially when your kiddos are younger. And I am learning to be OKAY myself with letting things change. What was once fun to the under 5 crowd, maybe not be to the over 10 crowd. And that’s okay. Some traditions are long term and awesome, and others have their time and it might not be but for a short time.

So, we wrote a list. This year, things that matter the most to us are:

-Advent {this is a long-term one that we all love}
-a REAL christmas tree
-decorating outside
-SIMPLE decorations inside {twin toddlers= SIMPLE}
-going to see christmas lights
-cookie decorating
-hot chocolate and favorite holiday movies
-baked french toast for Christmas morning {hubby’s request}
-opening Christmas cards as a family
-simple holiday crafts {oldest child’s request}
-Christmas Eve service at church, followed by simple dinner at home and FAMILY time
-stocking “hope notes” {a long-term tradition we’ve done for several years now}
-baking Russian tea cookies and making peirogies (and some other simple things) for New Years celebration {for my oldest daughter}

It’s enough. And simple and family focused. This is just a rough list, but it works for us. We might add to it or change it up a bit, depending on how things are going.

{Oh, and there will definitely be random dance parties to our favorite Christmas tunes}

But, I like this list. And there are still some holiday performances and get togethers tossed in there, but it’s more manageable this year. At least that is what I am hoping!

What are some of your absolute favorite holiday traditions and memories?

Choosing Family Time

Yesterday I chose to take a day off blogging. I know, I KNOW. It’s supposed to be 31 posts in 31 days….

But, sometimes? Sometimes a mama needs to close the laptop, tuck away her phone, and just focus on family time.

I love family time.

And it was Sunday. Sundays are pretty amazingly busy days for us.

Overwhelming, but the good kind. We’re in the middle of doing a church plant in our area and preparing for our first official Sunday this next week…our LAUNCH! It’s exciting and there’s been much to do to prepare behind the scenes.

It’s such an exciting time. And, with exciting times, comes exhausted kiddos.

So, I took a break. My kids needed mom. I needed to snuggle my kids and visit the local pumpkin patch {more on that later this week…}

So, a break I took. And I’ll be back at the blogging again tomorrow. Until then, You’ll find me snuggled up on the sofa watching Doctor Who with my oldest and my husband.

{yes, we’re total geeks}