I started working Christmases at The Backpacker, my family’s business, when I was 11 years old. The Backpacker is in the increasingly rare category of small family business where you walk in and are greeted by the owner who invites you into the back for coffee and spends an hour helping you pick out a gift for your wife. I worked wrapping gifts, a free service that they still offer, until I was old enough to work the cash register. Every Black Friday, my little brother and I joined my dad, my older brother, two of my uncles and four of my cousins plus a few other friends to start the Christmas craze. Working with my family will always be one of my most treasured memories. The fun, the sense of belonging, the work ethic . . . so much good went on in my life during this time at the store. We worked Saturdays and every day once school was out for Christmas break. I have done this every single year since, except for 2. Now, at 36, I am no longer headed to the store everyday. It is bittersweet.
This will be my first Christmas to be fully present with my family. Normally, I am working more days and longer hours. Normally, I’m scrambling to find childcare. Normally, I’m rushing all Christmas “fun” activities like making cookies and going to see the lights at the park. Not this year. This year we are going to do ALL the Christmas stuff. We’re going to sing all the songs at the top of our lungs in the car, play all the board games, drink all the hot chocolate, wear all the cozy jammies while watching all the Christmas movies. If anyone has any kid appropriate Christmas movie suggestions, send them my way.
The kids are out of school in a couple days. I’m trying to finish my Christmas shopping, meal planning and general plans for the break done so that I can enjoy this time with them. Being so busy this time of year has taught me the importance of planning. In the past, if I didn’t plan, Christmas was a disaster.
Here are a few pictures from the Christmas Parade in downtown Charleston and from our trip to see the lights at James Island County Park.
I started journaling more regularly a few months ago and it’s been a game changer. I don’t do it everyday but I try to do it about 5 times per week. I journal thoughts, prayers, problems and of course “to do” lists, lots of “to do” lists. The biggest thing this practice has helped with is to be more present with my family and myself by making conscious efforts to do things for/with them. I ask myself questions like- What can I do for my kids . . . my husband . . . my self today? And set intentions like – work hard this morning so when the kids get home you can relax and enjoy them. Obviously, I do stuff for my kids and hubs every day (like all day) but I would like to do more for them than just make their food, wash their clothes and handle their most immediate needs. I’d like to have conversations with them and really listen. I’d like to create opportunities to do projects and play games together. A few weeks ago I asked Fleet if he wanted to help me make pancakes. Afterward, he thanked me for showing him how. Heart melted. Anyway, I’m not great at all this, but I’m trying.
The Holidays and Weight Gain
Last week at the gym the instructor was warning us against the false advertising related to the weight we are all going to gain over Thanksgiving and Christmas. You hear so often about the 5-10 pounds that everyone gains over the holiday and the necessity of getting it off after Christmas. She was basically saying, “don’t buy into the hype.” She said, “The real numbers are that less than 20% of the population gains less than 1 pound over the holidays.” Now, I didn’t fact check this or ask her resources but I am choosing to believe this. It makes since and self-fulfilling prophecy and all that.
Someone that I follow on Instagram recently posted about the financial strap she feels during the holidays. She pointed out that this is something that people rarely talk about but that many of us feel. I’m in that boat. December is a slow time of year for Luke and we have many people to buy for. Of course, I am grateful to have so many people that I want to give gifts but I definitely have limited resources. I’m torn between wishing that I could buy my kids everything they want and knowing that even if I could, it wouldn’t be a good idea.
Last year we started the WANT, NEED, WEAR, READ gift idea. Each child (except baby) also gets a Santa gift and their stocking. This forces me to be thoughtful with each of their gifts. For example, I put a lot of thought into what book to get them. I research age appropriate books on topics they might be interested in. Here is what that looks like for us:
One of our kids is getting the following – Skateboard (santa), hotwheels track and cars (want), new art supplies (need), gamecock t-shirt (wear), Wonder (book) plus lots of little stocking goodies. (Side note – the boys want chocolate because they say that I never share mine with them!)
Do you have any tips for creating a great Christmas for your kids on a limited budget?
I’ve been holding on to these for a while. And of course, I wish I could remember everything because they say the funniest stuff all the time.
On Thanksgiving, when we were going around the table saying what we were grateful for, Elle said cheese.
Same day, Fleet told me that my cheesecake was “pretty good for homemade.”
I recently caught Elle rubbing a glue stick under her arms like deodorant.
Charlie Mac spits up a good bit. I’ve tried to “normalize” this for the other kids by saying things like, “It’s just milk.” Lil Luke says to me in a total matter of fact voice, “Yes, it’s just like milk but more disgusting.”
Charlie Mac has totally regressed on his sleeping patterns over the last couple of weeks. He went from sleeping pretty consistently from 8:30pm (feed at 10pm then straight back to bed) til about 4-5am to waking up anytime between midnight and 2am. It has been like having a newborn again. I’ve been in that crazy state of sleep exhaustion where you feel dazed all day long. So, I spent some time getting serious about his schedule- researching and follow as strict a regime as possible with 3 other kids but little changed. I’m not positive about what is going on with him but I have a suspicion that he is hungry. I’ve struggled with milk supply in the past, usually popping up between 4-5 months. So, I’ve started him on solids and started offering formula after a couple of his feeds. I also noticed yesterday that he had a tooth pop through so that could be another issue as well. Anyway, he has had longer stretches of sleep the last two nights so I am hoping that the extra food is doing the trick.
Otherwise, he is perfect. He’s the happiest little guy.
5 days til Christmas and I am probably signing off until after the Holiday. I hope you all have a wonderful, peaceful time.
And I’ll leave you with this . . .