Creating our holiday traditions

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I don’t know about you, but every holiday season seems to whiz by in a tornado of full calendar days, overplayed Christmas music, too much sugar, and good intentions.  As my daughter gets older, we are trying to be more intentional about our holiday traditions.  It takes thought and planning to create your family’s unique traditions.  Each partner brings their own experiences and expectations to the table. One key to having a satisfying and meaningful holiday is to share what’s important to you both and decide what to carry on in your own family.

Last year it all went by so fast, and I felt like something was missing. So this year we’re trying to be more intentional and plan a few key things into the month.  A couple of weeks ago, the wife and I sat down and brainstormed up a list of holiday must-dos.  Things that help us feel the gratitude, splendor, and sugar rushes of this time of year.

There’s more on this list than we’ll ever get to in a month.  But it feels so good knowing all these ideas are in one place!  I know I’m probably not going to be facilitating making homemade play-doh after a busy day at work.  It’s okay!  Being realistic and keeping expectations flexible is key.

I thought I’d share some of our family activities in case you’re looking for inspiration:

Go pick out a tree together.  Decorate tree.  Write our letters to Santa.  Make cookies.  Go to zoo lights (or other local festivity).  Go to dinosaur show (or local choir, theatre, or other performance).  Go Xmas shopping with Mommy.  Go Xmas shopping with Mama.  Watch a holiday movie.  Wrap presents.  Make candies for neighbors.  Practice Christmas songs (Silent night, jingle bells).  Make hot cocoa with marshmallows.  Drive around to see Christmas lights.  Make festive play doh (glitter, scented).  Read seasonal books daily.  Shop for and prepare food bank donation together.  Call grandparents and sing a Christmas song. Make gingerbread house.  Put up Christmas decor/lights.  Eat dinner under the Christmas tree.  Go for a walk around the neighborhood to see lights.  Family game night!  Make/decorate ornaments.  Make or decorate our Christmas cards.  Play Christmas bingo.  Do holiday mad libs.  Put out treats for Santa and the reindeer.

Here’s a link to my holiday inspiration board on Pinterest for more ideas!

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So far the calendar has helped us structure our weekends to make sure we’re making time for the things we really want (and need) to do.  The weekdays have been filled in with simple pleasures that can mostly be accomplished any time that day.  Or the next day.  I even left some days blank so we can plan to be spontaneous!  Flexibility is key here, otherwise you may end up feeling like you’re failing and that’s not good!

That’s great, you say.  But how’s it really working out?

We invested in a beautiful handmade advent calendar from this shop.  There’s a pocket for each day with room for a small treat: chocolate, a sticker or toy, and a slip of paper with an activity.  I also made a master calendar of the month’s events, just to keep me feeling on top of things.

To give you an idea of how it’s working so far: it’s working beautifully, even when we forget about it completely.  G never forgets about the treat, and when there’s an activity she’s excited about, she won’t let us forget about it.  It’s good to see what activities float to the top as being important or exciting for each of us.  My idea of a great holiday isn’t the same as my wife’s or daughter’s.  I’m accepting that and letting go of what I thought might be fun but is not really important to me.

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{photos by miss G}

Last year I bought a gingerbread house kit and we never got around to using it.  I tossed it, along with a heavy dose of self-induced guilt, sometime in the summer.  Still regretting that, I had “scheduled” in Decorate a Gingerbread House for Sunday of this past weekend.  Had I not put it down on the calendar, we probably would have skipped it.  We were tired, and lazing around in pajamas sounded like a better use of time.  But once we got started and I saw the excitement and joy in my daughter’s eyes, I remembered why I wanted to do this in the first place.  Encouraging her to decorate the house however she liked (and eat all the candy she wanted) delighted all of us.

I want the whole holiday season to be a time we connect in extra ways.  A time of magic and joy, playfulness and togetherness.  We’re all busy; this season of life and this month will go by so quickly.  Taking some time to feel organized and thoughtful seems to be helping us find more meaningful moments together.

What activities are special to your family this time of year?

In Knitting as In Life

All that lovely snow I was mooning over last weekend wreaked havoc on holiday travel plans across the country, including ours.  Sweetie and I felt a little smug on Monday as we headed to the airport, clear skies and positive weather reports behind us.

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We checked in for our flight to find there was a 44 minute delay.  Okay, that’s manageable.  When you’re flying across the country, it’s best to set yourself up for success by not keeping track of every minute of every hour, otherwise it’s going to be a LONG journey.  But soon enough, 44 minutes had come and gone, and our flight was still not boarding.  Sweetie had a feeling that something was awry, and got in line at the counter to see what was happening.  Our flight was now something like 2 hours delayed, which meant we would never make our connecting flight in Minneapolis (you’ve heard that name in the news a lot this week, right?).  So the choice was: get on the plane and be stranded in an airport with no definite way out, try to find a new flight, or bag the trip altogether.

To make a long story short, we spent hours at the airport trying to find another way out West.  There were simply no available seats on any flights for days.  Days after Christmas, the very reason for our travel.  After about 4 hours of trying everything we could think of, we got our bags back and made the sad journey home to try and find another way.  The Internet unearthed a few seats, but at premium prices: $2000 for one coach ticket!

In the end, we made the impossible decision to cancel the trip.  My heart felt so heavy when I had to call my mom and sister and deliver the news.  They had been preparing for our arrival for weeks, and now we wouldn’t be there.  And to top it all off, my brother was stranded in Seattle with a closed airport and no way to get there either.  Christmas 08 was not what anyone expected it to be!

So Sweetie and I spent Christmas quietly at home.  There was good food, some movies, napping, and lots of knitting time.  It was relaxing but a little bit lonely.  Not only were we not with our family, but we were reminded that 2008 was such a rough year.  If everything had gone according to plan, we would have been in Idaho with my family and our nearly 2-month old baby.

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This year I am resolving not to make any resolutions or long term plans.  For too long I have been living my life within the parameters of trying to get pregnant, curtailing other plans  and opportunities because they conflicted with my doctor’s appointments or the possibility that I might be pregnant then.  Trips abroad.  A new job.  Decorating a knitting room that I had planned on making a nursery.  I am intending to live a little short-sighted for a while.  Time is hard to replace, and I feel like I have lost so much of it waiting.

That said, we are still planning on trying round 2 of IVF very soon.  I didn’t write about it the first time I went through it last January/February for myriad reasons.  This is a knitting blog.  It is an intensely personal experience.  I didn’t want to alienate or offend anyone.  But this time, after struggling through infertility, in-vitro fertilization, and miscarriage on my own, I feel ready to share and seek support.  So I will, from time to time, mention how things are going.  There may be some knitting of sharps container cosies or injection-site ice packs.  I am sharing this as a way of letting others know what the journey is like for me.  Knitting relates to this 100% for me, because without my knitting, without the ability to focus on something beautiful and creative and somewhat predictable, I would have completely lost it long ago.

I hope you will accompany me through the upcoming  year of knitting and real life.  Many of the same things we like to say about knitting apply to life: It’s not always easy, results may vary, but it’s always worth the effort.