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To young families at Christmas

Published December 25, 2015 by joypatton

IMG_0710For all the moms who are just beginning families: be intentional about the traditions you begin. They will be the things your kids remember, and it becomes very sweet as your kids get older and take over.

I remember one of the first Christmases we had as a little family. I tried to do all the things my family did and all the things everyone else said we should do. From big meals to Santa to Elf on the Shelf. I was exhausted at the end. So I decided to start some new traditions. The only rule was that it had to be easy for me. Yes, it sounds selfish, but going into Christmas with an exhausted mom is no fun either.

Fifteen years into making our family, I wanted to share some of the ones that have stuck, and the payoff is good.

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Joy, Hope and Faith in 2009.

Christmas Eve – I remember coming home from Christmas Eve service after getting everyone dressed. I wanted a big meal, but I didn’t want to make it at the end of the day. So I started doing a pot roast in the crock pot. All you have to do it warm rolls when you get home, and you have a great meal. This year was ingenious because I used stew meat instead of a roast. Delicious! (See the recipe below) After dinner, everyone opens one gift: a pair of PJ’s. Everyone has a new look for Christmas morning, and the little ones satisfy the urge to open a gift.

Overnight Breakfast Casserole – What I love about this one is that you make everything the night before and let it sit in the fridge. On Christmas morning, I just wake up and put it in the oven while we open gifts. This is one of my kids’ favorite traditions. My oldest told me this morning, “This casserole is the only reason I get up on Christmas morning now that I’m a teen.” The best part is that this morning I got an extra hour of sleep because my 13-year-old helped me make it last night, and I told him he could start baking it in the morning. I got out of bed, and it was all ready to go. Merry Christmas to me! (See the recipe below.)

Kids Giving Gifts – One of my favorite traditions is having my kids buy each other gifts. I used to think everyone did this, but I have found out that it’s not very common. When we do our Christmas budget, I include enough for each kid to buy each of their siblings a $10 gift. It helps them to think about each other and keeps them focused on others…a little. This Christmas we used our Citicard Thank You points from my husband’s business card to buy gifts on Amazon. All the kids made wish lists, and shopping was really easy. Each kid sat with me at the computer and picked out gifts for each other. When they came, they helped wrap them. It was so sweet to watch Faith’s face light up as she watched her big brother open the gift she picked out for him.

I love this because it teaches my children how to give good gifts and think of others. This year we didn’t have enough money in the budget for them to buy gifts for mom and dad, but my oldest used some of his own money to get gifts for Andrew and me. They were things we actually wanted. He has learned to watch and listen to see what people need. He has learned that giving gifts is as satisfying as getting them.

As far as Santa and Elf on the Shelf, I’ve tried to avoid them, partly because we didn’t do either one in my family of origin. I don’t like that Santa gets credit for the best gifts, and an Elf that goes around the house and makes more messes for me to clean up is insanity defined.

We dabbled in Santa with my boys, but when they figured it out, we decided not to attempt it with the girls. However Faith, my six-year-old drug me back into it this year and her older sister Hope (age 8) played along with her. They each got one gift from Santa, and the stockings were filled after the kids went to bed.

I’ve learned that inviting some close friends over for Christmas dinner in the evening is just right because by that time we are tired of each other, and we prefer to travel to Ohio at Thanksgiving so that we can have our own family traditions for Christmas at our house. Last night we had our own little candle-lighting service. My boys instinctively started humming “Silent Night” because that’s what we always sing at church.

From left to right: Faith, Hope, Kyle and Connor

It’s so rewarding as a mom to watch these traditions become a part of the fabric of our family. The kids did most of the decorating this year because the decorations always go in the same spot, and they know where to put them. When I am old and tired, they will carry on. When they start their own families, our traditions will help them enjoy the holiday as parents.

I’ve seen the reward of being intentional about these things. As a young mom, sometimes you wonder if the day will ever come. I’m here to tell you that it will. When it does, it’s very sweet and fulfilling to a momma’s heart.

 

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Summer Survival

Published May 7, 2012 by joypatton

The count down has begun to the last day of school.  While the kids are thrilled, honestly I’m on the verge of an anxiety attack every time I think about it.  Some moms love having time to spend with their kids without routines and schedules.  Personally, it totally freaks me out.  I am a Type-A mom with four kids ranging from preteen to preschool and those routines and schedules are how I survive.  If I don’t start the day with a plan, they come up with one and start bombarding me with questions.  This school year I’ve been blessed to have 16 kid-free hours in a week, and over the summer that number goes to zero.  At my core, I’m an introvert who needs time alone to think and recharge, not to mention alone time to write, make phone calls or go grocery shopping.  So basically summer scares the crap out of me.

Because I’m a control freak planner type, I need to come up with a loose working plan for the summer to help me feel better.  One that allows for some routines, some goals, some semblance of order.  Because we are trying to be debt free by the end of the year, we aren’t doing any camps (only VBS) and no family vacation.  I don’t want to just survive the summer.  I’d like to find ways to help my kids thrive and grow.  I’ve had some ideas for summer survival I thought I would share just in case you are freaking out too.

1. Don’t throw chores out the window.  Maintaining order in our home is essential for keeping the peace.  I have basic chores that the kids need to do every day, often, but not always, before we get to the fun stuff.  They have to make their beds, pick up their floors, empty their “cubes” (the place I put all their stuff I find in the rest of the house), eat breakfast and get dressed.  The three older ones (age 12, 9 and 5) can do these things pretty independently without my help.  I also like to leave the house with the “Hot Spots” (see flylady.net) picked up.  If you feel guilty making your kids work in the summer, get over it.  It’s good for them!  It helps keep them from getting bored and gives them something productive to do, which is good for their self-esteem.  I’ve also learned I need to keep some extra chores in my back pocket for “attitude correction.”

2.  Have a library day.  Most libraries have summer reading reward programs.  This year I want each of us to set a goal for how many books we could read over the summer.  Notice I included myself, which is very brave because I don’t have a lot of time to read.  However this is very important for my boys to help keep their academic parts of their brains open for business.  I might find a workbook for my daughter to work through before she starts kindergarten.  We will probably pick one day a week to go to  the library to pick out books and videos.

3.  Field-trip Fridays.  I’ve had this idea for a while, but honestly am still trying to get it to work.  The idea is that on Fridays we go somewhere fun.  Sometimes free and sometimes costing a little money.  Then I invite my friends to join us with their kids.  That way everyone, including me, has someone to hang out with.  Maybe we could even have a big enough group to get group discounts.  Some of my ideas so far: Adventure Science Center, Nashville Zoo, sprinkler park in Smyrna, Bi-Centennial Park in downtown Nashville, the Parthenon,  the Nashville library, Hatcher Dairy Farm, Discovery Center at Murfee Spring.  Any other suggestions?

4.  Bible Club. We did this a couple of years ago on the Fruits of the Spirit, and my kids still talk about it.  This year I thought we would focus on the “One Another” verses.  Basically I get together with a couple other moms, and we each pick a verse to build a lesson around.  Each lesson has a Bible story, an activity and a craft.  Then we each take a week to host and teach.  The challenging thing is that we have school age kids and preschoolers, but somehow we make it work.  I will probably ask my oldest to help “teach.”  Each week we will memorize a “one another” verse.  For example, “Through love serve one another.”  (Galatians 5:13)  Then throughout the week any time we catch them serving someone, they earn a letter of the word.  The goal is that by the end of the week, they will have earned all five letters of the word “serve.”  I’m thinking of putting the letter beads on a safety pin that they can string on a necklace.  I don’t know about your house, but our house could use some focused attention on how we treat one another.  We’ll see if I can find any other crazy moms to join in on this one or if I’ll try it on my own.

5.  Service projects.  When I think about not doing camps because of our budget, I can get that mom-guilt for not having “enough” money to let my kids do fun things.  So I would like to find some opportunities to expose my kids to ways they can serve others that don’t cost money.  We can “give our lives away” for free.  I’m looking for opportunities in downtown Nashville or in a Hispanic church close to our house.   I’ve also thought about finding a “widow” who needs some help.  I’m not quite sure what this looks like or if I’ll be able to include my three-year-old, but my eyes are open.

Writing all of this down helps me feel more excited about the summer.  It doesn’t feel like I’m jumping into a black hole where every day is a free-for-all.  Yes, we will still have some days that are like that.  But every day will be different, and I don’t mind being flexible in the summer…honest.  Plus I’m really excited to have two small groups going through From Ice Queen to Princess.  It means I’ll have at least one night out with the ladies each week and something for me to work on.  Monday mornings will be laid back and slow at our house, so that I can have time to blog.  I’ll keep you posted on how many of these ideas actually happen as the summer goes on.  (I know all my type-B friends are laughing at me right now.)  I hope these ideas get your creative juices flowing about what you could do with your kids this summer.

How you are planning to not only survive, but thrive, this summer?  

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