Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas (New) Traditions

Only four short weeks until Christmas Day!  Isn't it exciting?!!

(Some of you just glanced up at the posting date to see if this is from last year.  Some of you simply shook your head in a pitying sort of way, "She's finally lost it!"  And others had to go back and read the opening line again to see what I'm talking about.)

"It's Eleven Days, Sheri!  December 25th is only eleven days away!"

You're right.  But Christmas Day for the Hawley/Schreck/Smith/McGhee Clan will take place four weeks from now on January 16th.  That's when we'll finally have everyone back in town and nothing on the church calendar.

Odd, I know.  But it's just how we manage the chaos of our lives.  Smiths in North Carolina.  Schrecks in New York.  McGhees making the rounds in Polk County.

Usually, I'm just fine with that.  But this year, we have grandchildren who know a lot more about what's going on.  Being around them is like celebrating Christmas for the very first time.

That's why Frank and I decided to try out a New Christmas Tradition.  (I realize that it takes a few years for an activity to actually qualify for "tradition," but ya gotta start somewhere!)

It has fallen my lot to come up with many of the activities we now call "Tradition."  Through the years, I've pitched my ideas to Frank and he (the more creative one) has helped them become reality. 

Some of those ideas we had to let fall by the wayside because they proved pretty much impossible to implement. But don't let failure stop you from trying new things with your family.  If it turns into a fiasco, slap the title "Made a Memory" on that photo and roll on to the next idea!

(There is a marvelous book by Gloria Gaither entitled Making Memories.  A great resource for those of us who want tradition but didn't inherit it or aren't so creative.  Don't have an idea?  Borrow one!)

So, back to our new tradition testing.

My dear friend, Deborah Stephens, had shared an idea with me years ago when her grandson was just three.  She chose a favorite kids' movie and made an evening of it with pizza and  popcorn and pj's and hot chocolate. 

I wanted to adopt her idea but I knew our oldest three would never sit still long enough for an entire movie.  (Spencer is 4; Abby is 3; Noah is 2)  So I pulled in the creative part of our marriage for help.

My little dream quickly escalated with Frank's help.  We chose a shorter video, added some outside time,  a craft and food.  The parents were notified of our plan.  And on the designated day, Noni and Poppa prepared by...........taking a nap!

We had everything in place before we drove to pick them up at John and Joy's house.  The evening was open only to Noni, Poppa and the three oldest babies.  Must confess, I was so excited!

Poppa directed the outdoor part (sidewalk chalk on our driveway) while I put pizza in the oven.  You'll be happy to know that oranges and grapes rounded out my menu.

They came inside to eat and that's when I first caught on to what I had gotten myself into.  The two boys spotted the nativity set we'd positioned on the coffee table.  Made for chubby hands.  Hard plastic to weather lots of rearranging.  Bright colors for interest.

Please remember that I did not raise little boys.  I raised three, mostly passive, little girls.

I didn't know that anything in the hands of a little boy, immediately becomes a weapon.  From the kitchen I could hear Spencer and Noah bombing the stable by using the camel, and two of the wise men.  At first I just reminded myself that this set is made for children to play with. 

But when they began backing up from the table and trying to see who could hit Baby Jesus with the angel, I couldn't take it anymore.  "Okay, boys!  Let's stop that and come wash your hands. Noah, put the donkey and cart back on the table.  No, Abby.  You can't ride on the toy cart.  Yes, I see that your toe fits.  But you still can't ride it.  Spencer, Joseph isn't in an airplane.  He walked to Bethlehem."

And so it went!

I found out that Noah will NOT eat warm pizza.  It has to be room temperature.  Abby will stuff her mouth completely full if you don't cut the pieces just right.  And Spencer only likes the cheese.  He doesn't care for pizza crust.  At all!

Fortunately, they cleaned out both bowls of fruit without chocking.  So, I counted it a win and we moved on. 

Next on the agenda was gingerbread house decorating.  (Because Poppa and I didn't trust our own skills, we assembled all four houses the night before.  Assembly included one decorated house so the kids knew the objective.)

The squeals of delight as we poured all the brightly colored candies on the table were magnificent! 

Abby decorated her house systematically.  Collecting all the items she planned to use, then commencing to embellish the small brown house.  Spencer took the "More is More" approach.  He covered nearly every inch of his personal real estate.  Noah mostly ate everything we tried adding to his humble abode. 

After hands and mouths were scrubbed clean, we put them on the couch and announced we had an early present for each one.  More squealing!  More grinning by Noni and Poppa!

On our signal, they tore into the wrapped packages and quickly discovered that each had a new pair of Christmas pajamas inside.  A big moose on Noah's pjs said, "Merry Chrismoose!"  Pink and sparkly pjs (of course) for Abby. Red and black checked "big boy" pjs for Spencer.

Noah danced around a minute then starting pulling at his clothes wanting to change.  Just as we hoped!  Soon all three were sporting their new Christmas pajamas.  By this time, the sugar had hit and we needed a counter for it quickly.

Poppa got the cartoon ready and I delivered big bowls of popcorn and cups of decaffeinated hot tea for everyone.  They sat for almost the entire video.  Snuggled up with either Poppa or Noni.  Munching the popcorn.  "Accidentally" dropping pieces for Gracie.

By the time the video ended, we were ready to pack them up and take them back to John and Joy's house.  Locating shoes and bears and passies for all three was a chore.  Wrangling little bodies while attempting to put on the shoes was exhausting!  And WHO created the latches on those car seats?!  A rocket scientist??!!

Frank and I drove home in relative silence.  I straightened the nativity only to discover that Joseph and the camel are A.W.O.L.  The gingerbread houses will be on display tonight for family dinner but probably aren't edible any longer. 

I think we may have a new tradition.  And the evening definitely merited our benchmark phrase, "A lovely time was had by all!"


  1. Sheri - I can't imagine you doing all those things with little ones so young all in one night! I also do the ginger bread houses except we now do them with graham crackers and even my next to youngest (age 4) can do her own now. They always want to know when we have it on the calendar. We also did the making of angels with their hands - you paint their hands and then put on paper - started that when they were a year old but it takes at least 2 of you to be able to supervise but the older kids love to paint the younger kids hands and feet. I've always said Christmas is whatever day you can all be together. For the first time in 4 years my sweet nephew and family will be here - he is military with 2 of the four in Afghanistan so we are considering ourselves double blessed this year. Have a Merry Christmas. Becky PS _ the other Becky will try to absorb all the baby sugars but there will be plenty left for you. I am so happy she will have them with them for the holidays

    1. First, Thank You for the military service of your family! Second, please describe in more detail the "hand angels" you made. Sounds adorable but as you know, I'm not naturally crafty. :-) Merry Christmas, Becky!

  2. Hmmm. WHAT have I gotten myself into? We may be sending them back a few days early. (Ha. Like THAT would ever happen!) :-)

    Enjoyed reading about the grandparent-ly adventures. It's true--traditions are one of the best building blocks of Christmas memories.

    1. Yep! There's your little warning flag! LOL Sending much love your way this very day!

  3. What fun!! This sounds like something they will always remember and look forward to each year. I want to do something like that with my grandchildren too, but the oldest isn't three yet. I think I will wait until next year and start it with the two oldest. I'm leaning towards the gingerbread house idea since I have never done one but have always wanted to. :) Merry Christmas!!