here, but better late than never I suppose. We (L and I) are new to the Christmas traditions thing. Being a blended family, we haven't had a lot of time to develop our own traditions and favorite Christmas things. While the kids were still growing up it was mostly trying to keep up what they were used to doing. That meant that L would oftentimes go to his parents' house on Christmas Eve with his boys, and I would go to my parents' house with my kids. Not really satisfactory, but you do what you need to do. We tried alternating years, but that never seemed to work very well either. Finally, after becoming grandparents and having the babies become toddlers, we decided that it was time to break away from each others' old traditions and establish our own. Our own parents haven't been too thrilled with this, but we felt it was what we needed to do to try to strengthen our own family bonds. We're able to concentrate on our own children and grandchildren instead of having our attention divided among a lot of brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. It just feels better to try to do things the way we want to, instead of bending to what we've always done.
The main problem, however, has been to try to come up with traditions of our own. I've watched other families (including a lot of you blogging friends!) to try to come up with ideas that feel right for us. L is a quiet man - and that's an understatement. His boys are quiet young men. My children are not. They're loud and silly and opinionated. They quote movie lines uncontrollably. I think they're incredibly funny and a lot of fun. They sometimes make my husband's eyes roll back in his head, and he heads upstairs to his office retreat where its nice and quiet. His boys, by contrast, make me nervous. They don't talk a lot, so I feel the need to talk a lot and very fast to fill a void that really doesn't need to be filled because no one is nervous about the silence except me. It's an exercise in extremes on the rare occasions when they mix company. Like on Christmas Eve this year.
As luck would have it we now have these wonderful grandchildren that take our attention off of ourselves. Instead of sitting around stiffly and hoping everyone mingles, we can concentrate on the little ones and have a wonderful time. This year Lexi and Matthew will be spending Christmas Eve with us, along with their parents Rex and Ronna, and also Uncle Scott and Aunt Ashley (or Ash-a-ley as they say it). I wanted to have an evening that would start some new traditions, instead of the old lets-eat-dinner-watch-a-movie-and-leave-early routine.
I've planned a more formal dinner than we usually have: ham, scalloped potatoes, winter salad and, of course, green bean casserole. That's a carry-over from my mom. We always had a nice dinner together, even when the kids were small, using good dishes and pretty things. I think it makes the evening more special. After dinner, we'll play games. L and I are not game players, but we are going to become game players. I bought Carroms, Apples to Apples, and Uno. We can all play together, and all be involved. (No retreating up to the office!) Before games, I've planned a special activity for Lexi and Matthew: a search for Christmas treasure.
Basically, it's a series of rhymes I wrote which provide clues to finding different symbols of Christmas - a star, candy canes, a gift, and finally a clue to the Christmas treasure, which is baby Jesus in the nativity set. I'll have placed some gold foil wrapped chocolate coins in the manger with baby Jesus (the "treasure" - I hope that's not sacreligious!) and that will be the prize at the end of the hunt. Lexi loves games, and I think she'll have fun figuring out the clues. Matthew will follow along for the fun. I thought we could have a brief reading of the Christmas story and the kids can place the nativity figurines in the set according to the story. I keep hoping that one year we'll have more grandkids here and we can have a live reenactment of the Christmas story. It's a little hard with only two.
After that, we'll play some games, and the kids can watch a Christmas movie - Polar Express or The Santa Clause. They can open their gifts from us, and we'll have cookies and hot chocolate.
Boy, typing it all out makes it seem like it's not so much - but I've been really doing a lot of planning and preparing for it! I hope it's something that everyone will think is fun, and that they'll look forward to each year. And we can build on it. The Christmas treasure hunt is short and simple this year. As they get older it can become more elaborate.
I've baked and shopped and wrapped and planned. L is excited to have some traditions of our own too. He loves the grandkids and is excited for them to come. I've checked my list of things to do, and rechecked. I think we're ready. Now all we need is our crazy mix of kids and those two sweet little ones, Lexi and Matthew. Merry Christmas to all - have a wonderful time with your families, and if you happen to think about me briefly, send up a little prayer that we here are bonding and establishing some real family memories and traditions. It's been a journey to get to this point.