Christmas Traditions

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10 Christmas Traditions for Normal People

Last year Stephanie shared some of her Christmas traditions and this year I’m giving you mine!

My parents divorced when I was a kid so I don’t have many traditions that were the same year after year. As the years have gone on, new traditions have started and some old ones have fallen away- the great thing about traditions is you can start new ones whenever and if one just isn’t working for you, drop it.

I’m not a huge fan of intense, borderline crazy, sorts of traditions. Like, Elf of the Shelf will never be my jam. If you love spending 30 nights of your year cooking up all that insanity, bless your heart. I like not doing that. So get ready for some totally normal ideas for Christmas traditions that are manageable and probably won’t give you creepy little side-eyes nightmares.

1. Polar Express Party

A few years ago we started inviting our local family over for a really low-key holiday party. We do a pot-luck breakfast with casseroles, sweet rolls, fruit, milk and juices. The rule is EVERYONE has to wear jammies and bring pillows and blankets. After brinner (breakfast for dinner) we watch Polar Express and I make a big batch of homemade hot cocoa. It isn’t anything big but we love getting all the little kiddos together and spending a night in, celebrating with people we love!

Christmas Traditions

2. Helping a Family in Need

This is one of our FAVORITE traditions, especially the kids! Around Thanksgiving I start a discussion up with the kids about all the things we have- warm beds, a home, cars that work well, stable employment, good teachers, nice neighbors, etc. We also talk about how some families don’t have all the things we do and that the holidays can be a sad time because they don’t have extra money for gifts or a nice dinner. Then we find an angel tree and each of the kids picks out a child or two to shop for. When we go shopping we don’t mix in our other holiday shopping. We focus just on the names and what they would like. The kids really get into shopping for their child, taking time to choose the perfect gift. I love seeing them light up as they serve another person.

Several years ago, probably 5 or so, Noa chose a boy named “JoJo” from a tree. He wanted a red fire truck. Noa often brings him up during the holidays, wondering about him and hoping that he is having a good Christmas this year. These are sweet memories he will always have and I hope it has helped him learn more about being kind.

3. Holiday Movie Nights

We LOVE to cuddle up on the couches and watch all our favorite holiday movies. If it’s Friday or Saturday night and we don’t have to be anywhere you can bet we are all in our jammies, snuggled up together watching one of our favorite holiday movies:

Home Alone + Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
A Christmas Story
Polar Express
The Holiday
The Santa Clause
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Frosty the Snowman
Christmas with the Kranks
Just Friends

4. Not Mailing Christmas Cards

Every year. I print the pictures, buy the cards, address them, even, and I never get around to mailing them. I have now given up. Mama wants an assistant for Christmas.

5. Decorating the Tree

We usually put up our tree a few days after Thanksgiving. We turn on our DVD of a fire + Christmas Music, make homemade hot cocoa, and get our tree looking good! We have a huge collection of Hallmark ornaments from Luke’s mom and grandma that date back to the year he was born and the kids get them every year, too! It’s so fun to pull them out!

Christmas Traditions

6. Reading Luke 2

I hear Linus every time we read it but I love the message and it’s another way to be reminded that Christmas isn’t consumerism.

7. A Fancy Dinner

Luke and I love to cook. Our Christmas dinner is usually a prime rib and all sorts of yummy sides to go with it! There is just something so warm and cozy about spending a few hours in the kitchen together while the kids play with their new gifts. Eating the dinner is pretty freaking awesome, too!

Christmas Traditions

8. Going to the Movies

We rarely see full-priced movies at the theater but we like to splurge at Christmas-time and go to a movie the kids are dying to see.

9. Seeing a Live Performance

We don’t do this one every year but we love introducing the kids to a play or other holiday themed performance during the holidays. If you live anywhere near Salt Lake City, Utah, or are visiting family or going skiing, you should check out Hale Center Theater’s A Christmas Carol. You won’t be disappointed!!

10. Holiday Shopping/Christmas Lights

In Utah we loved to go see the Lights at Temple Square and do some shopping at City Creek. The Salt Lake Temple has an amazing display of lights and nativities. If you go on a night with warmer than normal temperatures be prepared for a CROWD!

This year we are excited to attend the Festival of Lights at the Washington, D.C. Temple. There are also a few other displays I’ve heard of that I’m excited to try!

Christmas Traditions

What are some of YOUR favorite holiday traditions? giveaway

**this post contains affiliate links

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So, when Sadie was born, I started looking for some sort of baby book. I didn’t want the typical fill-in-the-blank book.I wanted something a little bit more personal. I eventually found one on I decided to buy one of their baby journals. It was completely customizeable and I was able to upload pictures and quotes that I liked. I wrote in it at least once a week for the first year of Sadie’s life. I wrote down things that happened, how I felt about being a new mom, recorded major events, etc. This book is one of my most prized possessions. One day I hope she will love it as much as I do.

Fast forward two years, we were approached by Minted to do a giveaway and I was ecstatic. I ended up ordering another one of their notebooks, except this one was a planner (I LOVE IT! I can’t wait to show you how I used it in another post!). I also had the opportunity to try out some of their personalized wrapping paper.

Okay, don’t think I am weird, but I love wrapping presents. It’s my favorite part of the holidays. So, when I had the chance to personalize my own… I almost died. Here’s what I chose. It has motivated me to get my Christmas shopping done early just so I can wrap up all of my gifts. Like I said… don’t think I’m weird.

So, here it is, folks. is offering one of you lucky readers $75 credit to their site. Jaw-drop. That means you can order Christmas cards, stationary, planners, invites or score some of this amazing wrapping paper! Go crazy! Order whatever you want! The only catch is… you have to show me what you get so we can swoon over it together. Mmmmm k?

We have another giveaway just for our Facebook followers so be sure to check our page out! And don’t miss our Younique 3D Fiber Lash giveaway here!!

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I was compensated for this post with free product. However, I love this stuff! I wouldn’t post about it if I didn’t recommend it. 

7 tips to get the most out of your holidays

holiday title


Christmas is my favorite time of the year!  I love smelling wassail, seeing Christmas trees in windows, holiday music… it’s just the best!  Sometimes though, I don’t feel that get enough out of the season.  I look forward to it all year long, and then when it comes, I get so caught up in all the STUFF I have to do, that I forget to simplify and enjoy.  Here are 7 tips to help you get the most out of your holidays!

1. Define what Christmas means to you.

This is one of the most important things you can do this season.  What does Christmas mean to you?  Is it a beautifully decorated home?  Is it a real tree?  A fake tree? Tons of presents? A few smaller gifts? Nativity scenes? Traditions?  Extended family? Immediate family? Service? Church? What role does Christ play? Take a minute and think about it.  If you want to, write it down.  Once you have figured out what Christmas means to you, it makes it sooo much easier to figure out how to get the most out of it.

2. Create a holiday bucket list.

Once you have defined Christmas, you will be able to figure out what you want to get out of the season.  Don’t regret not doing certain things once the season is past.   Instead, make a list early on of all the things you want to do this holiday season.  Maybe you love the festival of trees, or temple square.  Maybe you want to have a Christmas movie marathon or a hot chocolate party.  This is a great time to schedule in family traditions or decide to try some new ones! Whatever your favorites are, make a list.  Don’t make it too overwhelming, but if there is something you want to do.. Plan it!  Pencil them in on a calendar!  The weekends go SO FAST in November and December.  Use them wisely!

3. Make a budget and stick to it.

Gifts have become such a central part of Christmas—aka—the most stressful.  So many of us feel the need to top last year’s Christmas.  Just make it a little bit bigger, a little bit better… and then come January we cringe when we realize how much we actually spent.  Sound like you?  It DEFINITELY sounds like me.  This year, we were determined to change our spending habits when it came to Christmas.  The solution?  Start with a budget.  Figure out how much you want to spend TOTAL on Christmas.  Next, make a list of all the people you would like to give a gift to.  Then, figure out how you want to budget for each person.  Maybe you want to spend $20 on parents and $40 on all of your neighbors…. Whatever it is…. Write it down!  And as you buy things, record it.  Make a game of it!  If you spend less than your allotted amount, you win!  Figure out something fun to do with the left over money!  It will make you more conscious of how much you are spending and give you some incentive to stay within budget.

4. Make gifts more meaningful.

Instead of buying more STUFF for your loved ones…. Try and buy memories.  Event tickets, dance lessons, crochet needles and a lesson from you, a trip, pictures or hand written stories from kids are all great ideas!   Not only will it not end up broken or stepped on, but it will bring you closer to them!  If you plan ahead and put some thought into it, it can also be a great way to save money on some amazing gifts!  Check out 10 ‘experience’ gifts that won’t become clutter for more ideas.

5. Get it done early!

Make a deadline to have all of your shopping done by.  Mine is December 7th! I want everything put up, bought and wrapped by then so that I don’t have to worry about it anymore.  Then, I am free to enjoy hot chocolate, movies, English toffee, parties and Christmas lights without worrying about things that still need to be done. I know a few people that are awesome enough to do Christmas shopping all year long… I’m not that proficient.  But seriously, kids shouldn’t be the only one to enjoy the holidays!  Get all the stressful stuff out of the way first so you can sit in front of your beautifully lit tree in fuzzy socks, listening to Bing Crosby, and not have a care in the world! Obviously you know what I’ll be doing come December 7th…

6. Christmas cards…. In February!

I love Christmas cards! I love hearing what friends and family are up to and I especially love the pictures.  As far as sending them goes…. I am awful.  I have always been awful at sending thank you cards (sorry to all those who sent wedding gifts) and letters. I always write them… I just never send them.  I don’t know why.  It’s not rocket science to walk something out to the mail box.  Christmas cards are no exception.  I always have the intention of getting them done and out well before Christmas.  Does it ever happen? No.  And then I feel this pang of guilt as I look at everyone else’s.  Solution?  Don’t send Christmas cards.  Send Valentine’s Day cards or St. Patrick’s Day cards or Christmas in July cards.  Take some of the pressure off!  People want to see and hear about your family… but they don’t care if the card comes in December or June! Surprise your relatives with a family card in a different month! Take one MAJOR thing off of your to-do list and leave it for another time of the year.

7. Don’t stress!

Take a deep breath! Make a to-do list and don’t stress! Make sure to take lots of baths, eat lots of chocolate and don’t stress the small stuff!  If your wrap jobs aren’t perfect, if you burn your peanut brittle, if you forget to leave cookies out for Santa…. It’s all good! Your kids will still love you, your husband will still love you and so will I.  Cut yourself some slack and get out there and REALLY enjoy the holidays this year!!

What tips and tricks do you have to enjoy the holidays??



10 ‘experience’ gifts that won’t become clutter

Around here we like to give experiences as gifts because we aren’t ‘stuff’ kind of people and we have no more room for anymore ‘stuff’ even if we were.  Here’s a list of ideas that your kids can’t break, fight over, and that will last longer than 25 minutes:

1. zoo pass

(don’t mind my terrible red-eye edit job…I could have fixed it but I didn’t because I’m lazy)

2. skating rink date
3. lessons (art, dance, karate, guitar, swim, etc.)

4. children’s museum pass

5. ski pass
6. fun center date (like Chuck E. Cheese)
7. aquarium pass

8. gift card for their favorite restaurant
9. water park pass
10. summer movie club

Hooray!  No busted toys…no finding new homes in obscure places…and you’ll have some fun memories!

holidays 2012-13

We went out of town for the holidays.  The trip was INSANE.  Despite almost everything going wrong, we came home with some sweet memories.  I’ll start with the good:

-We got to hang out with my husband’s parents, siblings, and all their kids for 2 weeks

-I got so sing the big kids to sleep a few times and took requests ;)
-I won a game of croquet
-My nephew (4) was so excited to open his Secret Santa gift.  He got the paper off and screamed, “A BOX!!! I LOVE BOXES!!”  Then when he discovered it was a Spiderman Mask he yelled, “I got this!  This came from the BOX!!”  He had been drawing his own Spiderman masks and taping them to his face all week so this gift was perfect.
-I learned that my father-in-law puts mayonaisse on his steamed broccoli and makes peanut butter and jelly…and butter sandwiches
-The grown-ups helped the kids make gingerbread houses and trains

-We took over Target in an elaborate, sneaky, speedy Alo Family Secret Santa shopping trip

And then there was the not so good:

-Hollis started puking the night before we left.  Every 10 minutes.  For 6 hours.

-Luke started about 30 minutes after she stopped.
-Luke missed our cross-country flight so I had to get 3 kids, 3 car seats, 1 stroller, and 8 pieces of luggage from Utah to North Carolina.  By myself.  I did this with 20 minutes notice and with 1.5 hours of sleep because I had to hold Hollis the whole time she was sick and then I had to finish packing and cleaning alone while Luke was sick.  Did I mention how terrified I was that I was going to get the bug next, mid-flight/s?  Because I was and I cried.  I was this close to cancelling the whole trip.
-Luke arrived a few hours after us after spending $50 to change his flight. And he drove to the airport which added a big old parking fee.
-The next day was going well until Isca said, “I’m gonna throw up.”  Then she threw up.  In my face.  And all over the kitchen and both of us.
-Then grandma got it.
-Then grandpa got it.
-Several days later the youngest kid (2 months) got RSV.
-Then 2 of the kids had head lice.
-Then we tried to fly home.  Our flight got delayed by 4 hours so we missed our connection.  We decided to try again the next day.  They had already sent our car seats.  We had to borrow questionable ‘airport’ seats.
-We flew home.  Hollis was coughing and sounded like death.
-Went to the dr. to find that Hollis and Isca both had RSV and Hollis had a double ear infection.
-2 other kids got RSV.
-Stayed inside for one week doing nothing but snuggle and care for the sick girlies, do laundry, spray every surface with Lysol, unpack, search for lice, chug Airborne, and pray like crazy.

It was intense.

Here are some photos from the trip…

These babies are 3 months apart…and they love to hate each other ;)
The obligatory Christmas morning shot
Lazy Hollis on Christmas morning, eating cheerios out of my hand
She loves me more ;)
Mom! It’s the right size!
Santa knows what Hollis’ favorite snacks are ;)
Dad got Noa art lessons…
Isca loved the Hello Kitty necklace from Noa
Somebody LOVES Christmas
She broke at least 4 ornaments that I’m aware of
I creepily snapped this of my niece while she napped with her momma
The sad thing is that this is how my husband really looks after he skips a day shaving
This is why I quit cake decorating class…
Isca got help from a professional…Grandpa is a designer!  She’s also a perfectionist ;)

I was hoping to do a few posts about our trip but with all the sickness, we stayed at grandpa and grandma’s!

I hope your holidays were fun, too, and much less dramatic!

Rad Mom Cool Kid

Rad Mom Cool Kid