Friday, December 21, 2018

Reading Your Way to Christmas: A Christmas Book Advent Tradition

Hi Friends!

If you're like me, you're super busy this time of year. Whether you're teaching in a classroom, doing therapy, or being the best stay at home mom you can be, life is busy, especially in the weeks leading up to Christmas. As much as I try, it's sometimes difficult to slow life down enough to find the joy in the season. I've been guilty of packing so many things into the month in an effort to "do all the things" that I've just ended up stressed out and exhausted.

In the last year or so, I've found freedom in saying NO. No to others and no to myself. Even though my intentions were good, I've found that when I let myself get pressured into saying yes to others or when I put pressure on my own self to do too much, I lose sight of the things that matter the most. As someone who is as Type A as they come, it's never been easy for me to say no. But I learned the hard way that I needed to learn how (especially with two little ones at home). And let me tell you a little secret about saying no: Once you do it a few times, it gets easier every time!

This is not to say that I never say yes, or that I quit doing a lot of things. But I basically quit doing anything extra that didn't give me joy. I still go all out decorating my house for Christmas, because it still brings me so much happiness. I still wrap elaborate packages for my kids and family to rip into and destroy in seconds, because wrapping gifts in front of the tree while binging on the Hallmark channel and drinking coffee is one of my favorite things to do before Christmas. But I stopped putting pressure on myself to bake all the things homemade, because I really don't love baking. I stopped making sure my house was cleaned to perfection because, well, that's just never going to happen while my roommates (a husband, two kids, two dogs, and a cat) live there with me. I stopped volunteering for everything that came my way. I learned that when I stretch myself too thin and give my best to everyone outside of my home, those who live in my home that matter the most don't get the best of me. They get the leftovers. And nine times out of ten, the leftovers are never as good as the fresh stuff.

Traditions are really important to me. But not only that, traditions are really important to children. They give a sense of belonging. A sense of security. They build memories, vocabulary, language skills and prior experience. In today's world, a quick search on google or Pinterest will bring up thousands of fun traditions if you're looking to start new ones (which I also think is important). While they all seem super fun, it's impossible to do them all. Instead of getting caught up in making sure you do all the Christmas things, choose a few that are most important to you. And if life happens and they aren't exactly the same every single year, don't sweat it. Sometimes when you change them up a little bit, the new version is even better than before!

One Christmas tradition we established with our little ones is the Christmas Book Advent. Each year at the end of November, I wrap 25 Christmas books and label them 1-25. I buy a new book or two each year, but most of the books are the kids' favorites from the previous years,= and even a book or two that were mine and my husband's when we were little. You can also check books out from the local library or borrow from your personal classroom library! Starting on December 1st, our kids open one book a night for us to read as a family under the Christmas tree. The last book (#25) is always a book about the birth of Jesus, and it's the first thing opened on Christmas morning. We read it first before we start opening presents.

My little ones get so excited to open a book each night. As my daughter (5) learns to read, she is able to practice reading some to us, and my son (1) is learning to sit and listen, while pointing out pictures on each page. The SLP in me loves passing on a love for reading in my children (with a few 'wh' questions thrown in there too), and the mom in me just loves the sweet simple time together as a family. It's one tradition that I hope never changes!

Sometimes, I use washi tape and simple numbered tags to mark the books. Other years, simply a fat crayon will do! If you'd like to use the gift tags, I have a FREE set for you HERE.

Whether this is a tradition you use in your home or not, I hope you're able to slow it down enough this season to find joy in the simple moments with family and friends. Getting everything in isn't what's important. It's the quality time, the laughter, the music, the simple traditions, the love, and the togetherness that you and your family will remember forever.

Are there any simple traditions you do year after year? I'd love to hear!!


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