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Christmas ornaments and simplifying the holidays

Each year, we pick a special ornament that represents something about the past year for Anna and Taylor.  This can be an ornament from the collection we already have, a small toy that belongs to them that we could hang on the tree, a handmade ornament or a new purchase to add to the collection. 

Taylor's special ornament collection 

This is one of my all time favorite ornaments in the kids' collections.  It was an ornament I had bought just because it was cute, and Taylor asked if it could be his ornament for 2013 last year. 
This little elf with shorts on and the little legs sticking out from the bottom was perfect to remember this season in which Taylor wears shorts 99% of the time.  

2014 ornament that we just added to our collection. 

2006 ornament 
2008 ornament to commemorate that Anna dressed up as Wonder Woman 
for Halloween and her birthday that year 

2009 ornament 
(because what's not to love about pink sparkles!) 

Hermione Lego in honor of our love for Harry Potter in 2011 and beyond 

2013 for Poppy joining our family last year 

2014 ornament for Anna being first chair in junior band 

We hung the ornaments on the bannister going up the stairs since we did not get a tree this year.  We were only going to be here at our house for 2 1/2 weeks before we head out of town so we decided to simplify, and I am so glad we did. 

In lieu of a Christmas tree, we pulled this out of the basement from the last few Christmases which is just a tomato cage with Christmas lights woven throughout, and it is adding the same twinkling glow that we've enjoyed from our trees in the past.  One whole box was left unpacked with fun ornaments, but we can save that for another year.   And to be honest, I have not missed it. In a month when I have had a lot of deadlines and projects to complete for work, it was simply one less thing to add to our lists and to the three ring circus that December can feel like, and this freedom is indeed a gift I'll gladly take for Christmas. 

Andi Saccoccio, one of the pastors at our church shared this last Sunday:
"What the church calendar tells us is the season for hope and expectation has become a season of frenzy and disappointment. Christmas hope has become as artificial as the lights we string up in our desperate attempt to regain some of the light that the shortened winter days have taken from us. And sadly our lives can feel most empty during the very season when we celebrate God’s desire to fill them." 

This post below from one of my favorite writers Brene Brown is so poignant for the holidays as we consider what traditions we put into place and what things we need to lay aside for the sake of our own sanity and our family's peace of mind.  We don't have to do things at all costs. It's okay to let some things go and enjoy the freedom that comes from those choices.  

I have a terrible memory from last Christmas that I’m planning to use as a touchstone to help us create a merrier holiday this year.
I was sitting at my kitchen table addressing 225 Christmas cards, Charlie was crying in his room because I told him that I couldn’t read “the reindeer book” to him until I finished the cards, and Ellen was upset and sitting alone in the dark living room because it was once again too late to start a “Polar Express” family movie night. I don’t remember the detail of Steve’s whereabouts, but I think he was out doing last-minute teacher gift shopping.
At some point the sulking and crying was too much so I stood up and yelled, “I’m sorry. I HAVE to finish these cards! They’re not going to address themselves! Everyone wants to send them but I’m the one who has to make it happen!”
The house got very quiet.
I wish I could tell you that wisdom washed over me and I put the cards away. I’d love to end the story by writing, “I gathered my children in my arms, we drank hot cocoa, and I read from one of our lovely Christmas books.”
Nope. I was like, “Thank God. It’s quiet.”
I remember telling myself, “Oh, well. The show must go on.”
And it did. The cards went out. The presents were wrapped. The cookies baked. We were at everyone’s houses as scheduled.
It was exhausting and I was just waiting for it to be over.
Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t the victim of this holiday circus, I was the ringmaster.
We live in a world where life can easily become pageantry, and the best performers make it look balletic and effortless. Of course, there’s no such thing as an effortless holiday show. If you sneak a peek behind most people’s red velvet curtains at holiday time, you’ll often see houses brimming with anxiety, maxed-out credit cards, crying children, and marriages that make the cold war look warm and fuzzy.
I’m convinced that the only way out of this is by cancelling the show. Not canceling the holiday, but giving up the show.
For us, that means making some changes. We do love our holiday cards, but this year we’ll make a party out of addressing envelopes and I won’t insist on doing it myself so it’s “right.” PS – If you’re on our list, your cards will arrive sometime between mid-December and Valentine’s Day.
After 20 years of drawing names at our big family holidays, we’ve decided to only buy for the kids and to keep the gifts small and meaningful. We’re also going strictly homemade (us or Etsy) for teacher and neighbor gifts. And, most importantly, we will make a list of all of the holiday family things that we want to do together and those will take priority.
Rathering than always insisting that, “The show must go on!” I’m going to ask these two questions: “Is this a part of us or part of the show?” and “Does it really need to go on?”  I think our holiday will be better for it.
When our lives become pageants, we become actors. When we become actors, we sacrifice authenticity. Without authenticity, we can’t cultivate love and connection. Without love and connection, we have nothing.
The phrase, “The Show Must Go On” originated in the 19th century with circuses. If an animal got loose or a performer was injured, the ringmaster and the band tried to keep things going so that the crowd would not panic.
This year there will be no band. No ringmaster. We’re going to say “yes” to small and quiet and “no” to the three-ring circus. That’s not to say that there won’t be panic and loose animals. That’s a given around here.

Joy to the world.... 
Merry Merry Christmas! 


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