This is the Day I Spend Quality, Holiday Time With My Kids.

A few years ago, I had hired a babysitter so I could go Christmas shopping without kids tugging at my sweater begging for cocoa while I shopped.  And it was nice and peaceful, but after a few hours, I realized that Christmas planning was stealing me away from Christmas with my family.  I had sent my kids off with my husband so I could decorate the house in peace.  And I had hired a babysitter so I could go to the Christmas tree lighting in peace.  And I had sent my kids to my mom’s house so I could do some baking in peace.  And all that peace brought me a lot of quiet and very little time with my family. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll almost certainly hire a babysitter to help me while I shop this year (shopping with a one-year-old is a nightmare as you moms of toddlers can certainly attest), I’m also going to make sure I reserve time every day during the holidays to just be with my family and even more, I’m letting my six-year-old and my five-year-old help with the baking, the decorating and the shopping.  I know there’s a good chance my decorations won’t be Pottery Barn perfect and my Christmas cookies won’t be elegantly decorated, but I also know that the time spent together will be cherished.  By all of...

This is the Day I Start One Non-Materialistic Tradition

I think a lot of the reason that Christmas tends to turn into a consumer-driven mess for so many of us is that so many of our Christmas traditions are centered around gifts, gifts, gifts.  And so this year, I’ve made it my goal to really focus on some of our family’s fun (and not gift-related) traditions. For example, several years ago, my church community group started an Advent tradition.  Every Sunday night between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we gather our families together in one of our houses to celebrate Advent.  The host family usually has a hot pot of soup in the Crockpot and we share a simple meal and then a couple of guys bust out their guitars and we all sing Christmas carols together.  We finish the evening by reading a part of the Christmas story together.  It’s a tradition that even my young kids enjoy and something that brings our whole family (and group of friends) closer to the true meaning of the season. There are so many fun ways to get into the holiday spirit without spending a fortune or getting wrapped up in materialistic pursuits.  And by focusing on these fun family traditions, kids start to see that Christmas is a whole lot more than Santa and presents.  Here are a few ideas: –       Volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter.  Dress in your best Christmas sweaters and show your kids the joy of serving. –       Stroll around your neighborhood—or if it’s too cold, drive—and look at the lights. –       Decorate from the great outdoors.  Even if you live in the city like...

This is the Day I Swear Off Homemade

I wish I were crafty enough to knit a gorgeous scarf or bake perfect loaves of cinnamon bread for everyone on my list, but after my “handmade mug incident of ’04” I learned that handmade gifts (or should I say Erin’s handmade gifts) never turn out the way I expect them to.  If you’re a crafty diva who can sew a skirt in an hour, then by all means, go for it.  But if you’re like me and making gifts causes more stress than buying gifts (which, by the way, does not make Christmas simple or fun) then I want to invite you to share in my new mantra:  I will think hard to find personal and sentimental gifts but I will not under any circumstances even consider making a single gift this year. It is possible to find personal and inexpensive gifts without making them yourself.  For example, my son loves Shel Silverstein poems so I’m going to pay a friend (who is crafty enough to pull it off) to write a few of my son’s favorite poems onto wooden signs that he can hang in his room.  And I’ve already rounded up a variety of favorite coffee blends that are hand roasted at the coffee shop where we have shared many long conversations.  Both gifts are un-mess-up-able, yet personal and inexpensive. What creative ways are you gifting this year?...

This is the Day I Buy Gifts That Build Lives Instead of Destroy Them

My friend Rachel said something to me a last year that really resonated:  “Don’t look for the best deals for you, but instead, the best deals for everyone.”  So, yes, scoring a supercute dress for your daughter for $9.99 may be a good deal for you, but before you buy, think about who is getting hurt by your purchases.  Is there a child in China who had to stitch that dress together for hours on end making pennies per hour?  Or was the cotton harvested by slave labor? Sadly many popular and thriving American companies sell products that hurt people—especially children—in other parts of the world.  And while it’s easy to push the problem out of our minds as something that is too big for us to solve, I want to remind you that as Christians and citizens of the world, it’s our call to make sure that the orphans, the widows, the poor and the immigrants are treated fairly. I know I can’t change the poverty, slavery and disparity in this world singlehandedly, but I can certainly buy products that were made by people who were paid a fair wage.  And who were working in fair conditions. And so, this Christmas, I’m going to buy gifts that I know come from companies that utilize fair practices.  There are hundreds of companies that do exactly that—Google “fair trade products” or you can also find a comprehensive list at www.toactjustly.com/shopping.  And while it may cost me a little more, I know that shopping fair trade makes sure that I’m getting a great deal for everyone involved....

This is the Day I Plan a (Sort Of) Simple Christmas

It seems like everyone is seeking simplicity these days. In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop eavesdropping on (I mean, overhearing) the two women next to me discussing how they are going to simplify Christmas this year.  One of them is going to adopt a two-gifts-per-kid policy.  One practical gift and one fun gift.  The other one is planning to make things like soup-mix-in-a-jar and reindeer shaped brownies off of Pinterest for all of her friends.  Both great ideas.  In theory. But theory aside, I don’t like simple.  I want to like simple.  I want to be the mom who keeps things peaceful and simple and joyful for my kids during the frantic holiday season.  But there’s just something about the hustle and bustle and sparkles and lights that makes Christmas Christmas. And there’s something about seeing my kids racing down the stairs, squealing as they see piles and piles of presents under the Christmas tree that makes me want to buy them big piles of presents to go under the tree. I love the parties. I love the glitz. I love wearing snowflake-shaped earrings and sparkly red tops and decking my halls with enough tinsel to make my five-year-old daughter swoon.  I love presents.  I love shopping.  I love baking piles of gingerbread cookies and delivering them to my neighbors in adorable (and far-from-simple) Christmas tins. But I’m also a Christian and regardless of my tinsel-loving tendencies, I want Jesus to be central focus of Christmas.  For me and for my kids.  And I hate to admit this (even to myself) but there...
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