Tell me if this sounds familiar….It’s 11:45 p.m. you are just drifting off to sleep when a thought pops into your brain. You spring from your bed yelling “I forgot to move the @#%$ing elf!” You shuffle groggily out of your room, grab the Elf On The Shelf from it’s current boring spot on the mantle, move it to another boring spot and return to bed. Our elf does not throw glitter-filled hot tub parties with Barbie and all her friends. Our elf is tired.
This holiday season, while I probably cannot escape the dreaded Elf, I want to focus on gratitude and making memories with our girls. Here are five things I’m planning.
1. Use a family recipe tied to a memory for cookie exchanges or gifts.
This year, if you get cookies from me you’re getting Grandma Lela’s chocolate cherry cookies. My grandma was so proud of her cooking and her beautiful handwriting. I have her original recipe card, so this year I’m going to make her cookies and include a little note with a photo and a copy of her hand-written recipe.
2. Record an interview with an older family member
Speaking of grandmas, they are not around forever. I now cherish videos of my own grandparents interacting with my children. Whip out your phone and ask your family member to read a favorite holiday story or recount their own memories of past holidays. For a twenty first century spin, record an interview using the free NPR StoryCorps app. Read more about StoryCorps and the free app here.
3. Join the reverse advent calendar trend.
Instead of giving your kids advent calendars filled with candy or tiny plastic toys, (How I hate tiny plastic toys!!) start with an empty box. Some posts I’ve seen suggested using wine boxes with the dividers in them, but we’re not fancy enough to buy that much wine at one time. Any box or basket will do. Each day you put one item in the box. A few days before Christmas you donate all of your collected items. You could choose to support a local food bank, animal shelter or other charity. You could also send old toys on to new children who will love them!
4. Put your Elf (and kids!) to work.
Instead of engaging in questionable behavior with Barbies, have your Elf bring a different challenge each day. I tried this last year and started out making cute gold glitter cards, then realized that the elf couldn’t just switch to a Sharpie, and I gave up. I’ve discovered this fabulous site called Over The Moon with free printables. See the one about “Clean out mommy’s car”? That’s my favorite.
5. Highlight a tradition that has nothing to do with gifts.
Even when we try to focus on giving rather than receiving, we still spend a lot of time focused on gifts and money. Start or expand upon a tradition to remind you and your kids about the real meaning of your holiday. Light a fire and sit down together. Ask each family member to read a Bible story or other religious holiday text. Add other stories like “The Gift of the Magi” or “The Night Before Christmas.” Check out this great site from iMom for 10 free classic christmas stories.
My husband and I started our own holiday tradition before we had kids. We choose a night very close to Christmas, make big travel mugs of hot chocolate and drive around looking at lights and listening to Christmas music. It’s one of my favorite parts of the holidays.
In Ohio, the ground was almost always covered in snow. I’ll let you know if the experience is the same in Arkansas!