Minutes after clearing this year's Thanksgiving table I was ready to snap into Christmas mode. I love the holidays, and I'm one of those obnoxious people who doesn't think you can start playing Christmas music too early. ("Jingle Bells" while trick-or-treating? Why not?) As I packed up the insane amount of leftovers, my mind was buzzing with the things I needed to do. Buy a tree! Buy new decorations for the tree! Buy presents for the kids, the teachers, the family…!
Buy, buy, buy. I cringed that the verb was dominating my Christmas to-do list, and it wasn't even December yet. Don't get me wrong; I love giving (and receiving) gifts. My plans were typical of my approach to the holidays; I had "stuff" and running to too many events at the forefront. But I was missing a deliberate effort to create time with my family. Experiences. Opportunities for memories my children would cherish. Looking back on my childhood, I remember magical moments with my family more than I remember specific gifts. I want my kids to have these kinds of memories, too, and not just a solid lesson in materialism.
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Hell, kids aside, what was missing from my planning was a chance to spend time with my husband, beyond a high-five and an ass slap as we traded off the kids so one of us could dash to the store before collapsing next to each other exhausted at night. Whatever happened to the romance of the season? I decided to reclaim it.
I took a step back and decided that this year, I was going to focus on choosing joy and creating memories for my family. Easier said than done, but I've been on a mission. I started with changing my approach to our advent calendar. I love having an Advent calender each year, so I didn't want to scrap it completely. The countdown allows my kids a taste of the Christmas magic every day, and prevents them from asking "HOWMANYMOREDAYSUNTILCHRISTMAS??" every time they're riding the sugar high known as the Christmas Spirit. So far so good, right?
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As I planned out my calendar, I looked to see what others were doing. The Internet (and Pinterest!) were abuzz with great ideas. Mini-gift boxes! 25 days of ornaments! A piece of chocolate a day! Christmas stuff! Stuff! STUFFF!!! These and the cardboard boxes filled with candy didn't jive with my mission statement.
So I created my own, an Advent calendar with an experience a day, rather than a toy or piece of candy. Many of the activities are really simple, but I think that's OK. Simple can be special, and sometimes the humblest of experiences is the perfect backdrop for a wonderful memory. My children are counting down to Christmas by taking turns choosing the Christmas book we will read as a family. They get to choose a Christmas card for a family to pray for. We're baking cookies together, going on walks to see lights, hanging fake mistletoe and making smooching an athletic event (which jingles The Husband's bells, of course).