10 Holiday Survival Tips

So, I took my monthly trip to Sam’s Club this week. I typically head there once or twice a month to stock up on all the staple items we need each month for our family of six. I buy the same things every month. And, usually everything I pick up will last us about three weeks. It’s a pretty standard list and I take only the four month old with me. This week, we found Sam’s Club to be in the holiday swing of things. The Christmas music was playing and all of the toys and Christmas trees were prominently displayed. It got me thinking about how much time we spend preparing for Christmas. It is over a month away, which should make us all feel like we have plenty of time to prepare, but often it gives us a sense of anxiety.
I’d like focus my “Holiday Survival Tips” on preparing for Christmas through the Advent season.
First of all, what is Advent? According to wikipedia, Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming“) is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.
Growing up, I was raised in a Christian home and we attended a large Baptist Church. My family did a lot together to prepare for Christmas. And, really, we did a lot of activities during the Advent season. However, I don’t remember learning about or focusing on Advent in our church community. In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing of Advent until I became an adult.
As an adult, we’ve found our church home in the Presbyterian denomination. One of the things I have treasured the most and learned from our churches is the importance of Advent. Christmas doesn’t just come upon us. We have time and can be very thoughtful about preparing for Christmas. I love being able to make Advent a focus in our home with our children. It is a wonderful gift to give them.
For me, personally, the best way to survive the Holidays is to focus on the true the meaning of Christmas. What does Christmas mean to you? How can you make that the focus this Christmas and Advent?
1. Celebrate Advent.
Take the time to prepare for Christmas. Slow down and enjoy the little moments that make the holidays such a special and memorable time for you and your children. Create special memories. It’s the little details that will stay with you and your children for a lifetime.  
2. Have a nightly activity you do with your children throughout Advent.
Advent begins Sunday, November 28th this year. So, you have nearly a month of preparation time. We have an Advent Calendar made out of felt and shaped like a Christmas tree. Each night we gather at the dinner table and our children take turns taking a gift out of a pocket on the Christmas tree calendar. The children really look forward to their turn and they are filled with anticipation wondering what gift will be in the pocket. We build on this anticipation. And, we also read a scripture or scriptures. We choose verses from the gospels that are leading to the story of Jesus’ birth.
3. Set up a nativity scene in your home and use it daily as a teaching tool.
We have several nativity scenes. One is the Little People version from fisher price and one is a fancier one. Let Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wisemen travel throughout your home during Advent. You can coordinate this with the scriptures you are reading together nightly with your family. And have the baby Jesus appear on Christmas morning. Our children LOVED this last Christmas!
4. Bake cookies together as a family for your neighbors and friends.
Last year we bought cute Christmas boxes at Tuesday morning and filled them with homemade chocolate chip cookies. We delivered them to the doorsteps of neighbors on our street and throughout our neighborhood. We included notes wishing them a Merry Christmas. It is a wonderful way to show the Love of Christ to our neighbors and to get to know them a little better.
5. Make a list of the gifts you need to buy for your family and friends and stick to it.
It can be overwhelming to shop at this time of year. And, it is so much easier when we keep it simple and know what we are looking for. Don’t get distracted!
6. Decorate early.
Our children find the Christmas tree to be magical. They love it and look forward to it’s return every year. I find that having Christmas decorations up soon after Thanksgiving makes for a very relaxing Advent season. I love the way my house feels and smells and looks when it is decorated for Christmas. It is just a really special time. And, the sooner I get to enjoy it with my family, the better!
7. It’s okay to say “no.”
Our pastor said something this week that really stuck with me. He said that we have true freedom in life when we have the ability to say “no.” It’s the saying “yes” to too many things, often unhealthy things that can lead to a life of bondage. We can’t do everything we are asked to do. During this holiday season, think about what is best for your family. And, say “no.” You can’t attend every party, bake cookies for every event, or sing in every Christmas production in your city! Seriously, say “no!” It’s okay!
8. Take the time to gather precious photos for your Christmas Cards.
We have had a new baby four out of the last six years. So, with a newborn, we’ve taken newborn pictures and included the whole family. These make for great family photos for our Christmas Cards. Sometimes we’ve included only one photo and as you’ll see below, sometimes we’ve included multiple photos in our cards.
9. Share your love of the season with your friends and family by sending holiday cards.
This is the easiest and most treasured way we get to share our faith with so many people that we come in contact with throughout the year. We share a little bit of what we’ve been up to throughout the year and we get to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

10. Most importantly for us as parents during this Advent season, is to teach our children that the focus shouldn’t be inward on ourselves but outward- on what has been done for us- the gift of Jesus. And on what we can do for others. How can we show the love of Christmas this season?

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful Advent season.

For the past several years we’ve used tinyprints.com for our family Christmas Card. The card examples from 2008 and 2009 are pictured above.

Tiny Prints provides stylish, modern and unique stationery from photo cards to personalized greeting cards to thank you cards and business cards. Offering exclusive designs from the nation’s top designers, easy card personalization, a powerful preview engine and top-notch customer service and paper quality, their designs have been lauded by numerous television networks, publications and celebrities. With Tiny Prints by your side the Holidays will be a cinch! They offer adorable Thanksgiving Cards, Christmas Cards, Hanukkah Cards, and even New Years Cards. All fully customizable and personalizable.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Tiny Prints blogging program, making me eligible to get a $75 Tiny Prints gift certificate! For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

10 Tips for Planning a Unique Baby Shower

We love babies around here. Well, I suppose that is just a little obvious considering we’ve had four of them in the last 5 years! Each baby is unique and has his or her own special way from the very beginning. Which is why, each baby shower should be unique for momma and baby. We’ve been so blessed that even though we have additional children, our friends and family have always felt like doing something special for each baby.  Even the fourth baby had a unique baby shower- a girl’s dinner and cupcake party!

My very favorite site for all of our paper needs is Tiny Prints. I’ve used the site for announcements for our baby girl’s arrival, thank you notes, and invitations for every kind of party. To see their huge selection of unique, quality invites follow this link: Invites from TinyPrints

Here are a few simple tips from me, El Momma on planning a very special baby shower.

1. Think about the momma. What are her likes and dislikes? Is this her first baby? Talk to her about what she may have loved about other showers either for her or friends so that you may be able to incorporate these ideas into her special day.
2. Think about baby. In our family, with 4 children, it is important to us that they each know how special they are to us. So, we like to plan big celebrations for all of them and when they get jealous of something we are doing for baby we can gently remind them of what was done for them and we can often direct their attention to the book about it!
3. Decide on a theme and think about details. Details really make all of the difference in planning a great party.
4. Picking out your invitation can help when determining your theme. For example, I really love this invite from tiny prints :Chrysanthemum Classic Invite
It incorporates pink chrysanthemums. Flowers represent new life and pink is perfect for a party to celebrate a baby girl. You can even use the chrysanthemums throughout your party planning.
5. I think planning a party for a smaller guest list is more intimate and really gives the momma time to be able to visit with all of her guests one-on-one.
6. Be sure to send out your invitations 3 to 4 weeks before the party, especially if your guest list is small (under 20.) You want your guests to know that it is important for them to join you in this celebration of baby and momma.
7. You’ve chosen invitations. Now, to make your party even more memorable, choose some special party favors. Tiny Prints has favors that coordinate with their invitations. Chrysanthemum Mints
For our daughter’s shower we gave everyone prayer candles and asked them to light them when she was born.
8. Incorporate your theme throughout the party. In our example, we used the Chrysanthemum Invites as our theme inspiration. You can use Chrysanthemums as table decorations throughout the party. They bloom in the fall, so if you are planning a shower soon for a baby girl, Chrysanthemums would be perfect.

Give your cake or cupcake decorator a copy of the invitation so they can match the flowers on all of the cake/cupcake decorations. Coordinate your napkins and plates with the pink flower theme.
9. Have nametags for your guests that incorporate the theme- in our case, each can have a pink flower and ask your guests to each make a prediction of what they think the baby will do when he or she grows up and put that on the bottom of their nametag. It is a great icebreaker. Then, when momma is opening baby gifts, guests can go around the room and tell their answer and why. It makes for some really cute stories and memories.
10. Finally, don’t forget the stylish thank you cards. In our day and age, it is so easy to send a text or email, but a handwritten note is still the most unique and special way to communicate when you are not face to face. Matching Photo Thank You Cards These photo cards match the invites I chose. It would be really great to be able to purchase these for the momma. Perhaps after the baby is born, so that the photo can be of baby or as in the sample of momma and her beautiful baby bump. Either way, it is something that guests will love receiving and will treasure having.  
Baby showers are such wonderful celebrations. Take lots of pictures and enjoy every moment. Time really does go by so quickly!
I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Tiny Prints blogging program, making me eligible to get a Tiny Prints gift code worth $50, plus 25 FREE Tiny Prints greeting cards–a total gift value of $149.75! For more information on how you can participate, click here.