Holiday traditions

cutout sugar cookies Better homes and gardens

The cutout cookies we made.

Today was a day of accomplishing tasks and finding time to relax. This morning I did some work and then headed over to my mom’s to make cut out sugar cookies with my girls. The girls slept over at their grandmother’s house and it sounded like they slept in for once. I slept in too, which for me is anything past 6 a.m. Despite Jazzmin staring at me as if she was going to explode, I lingered in bed until 8 a.m.

For the cookie making, I rolled out the dough and then Jordan and I used my unique assortment of cutters to make cookies. We made shapes like bunnies, ninjas, reindeer, hockey sticks, cardinals, footballs, and snowmen. The usual sort of holiday cookies for my family. πŸ˜‰

cookie cutter demo

Jordan helping make the cookies.

After lunch and cookie making, it was time to pose for the traditional holiday family photo. We really only started doing pictures of all of us again last year, Β but it’s a tradition nonetheless. My family isn’t very big but we’re close-knit, sarcastic, unique, and lovable. Thanks to my skills with the 10-second camera timer, we managed to get a couple good pictures. We even got one with my mother’s cat, Romeo in it!

family photo by xmas tree

My two darling daughters. =)

family photo

Me, my daughters, my mom, my oldest brother, and Romeo the cat.

When the girls and I returned home this afternoon, I finished up the rest of my college work for the term and did a little bit of freelance work. After that, it was time to relax and just enjoy being together. The holidays have passed quickly as usual, but I’ve been doing my best to savor every moment and I think that’s the most important holiday tradition of all.

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Warm and Glowing

Vintage plastic Santa and newer fiber optic tree

Vintage plastic Santa and newer fiber optic tree with my bigger tree in the background

Jaycie loved coming home to the little Christmas tree all assembled and lit up. She and Jordan are looking forward to putting the ornaments on the tree this weekend and helping me put more holiday decorations up. I wanted to have a few more decorations up before I get my girls tomorrow but I had some work to do this morning and then tidying this afternoon first.

Keeping my kitchen clean is an ongoing project. I get it all tidied with everything put away but it quickly falls into disarray as I bake and cook during the week. Not to mention that every flat surface is covered with the girls’ daily excess of school papers and mail odds and ends. This afternoon and evening I worked at putting everything back where it belonged and sorting through papers before tucking them away in their various files. After that I battled the mountain of my daughters’ clean laundry until every item was in its appropriate drawer and I could see the surface of my bed again.

My chores complete, I shared some peanut butter toast with Jazzmin and took a welcome break. When my hunger was sated, I went into the basement and pulled out some of my favorite holiday decorations. There’s the light up plastic Santa in his sleigh being pulled by a reindeer that’s been in my family since I was little, perhaps longer. I remember coming home from school to my childhood home and seeing that lit up by the front door, it always made me feel all warm and fuzzy. I also put up my little fiber optic tree that was new last year to replace the one I’d had for 10 years that finally broke. Lastly for the night was the Christmas banner I hung up on the outside of my front door.

I had tons of colored lights last year but they’ve somehow vanished this year which is both peculiar and frustrating. I love stringing holiday lights all over my house and I still need to put some up in my kitchen to complete the colorful glow. Looks like I’ll be picking up a few more strings tomorrow when I’m out. The girls and I are going to see the movie Frozen with my mom and then it’s back home for holiday cookie baking and Chex Mix making. I got some new ninja shaped cookie cutters this year and Jaycie’s excited about making those and biting their heads off. She’s a cutie but a little imp sometimes…

All in all, I’m proud of myself and know that I’m making progress with my holiday decorating. I’d like to get it all done before I leave for my next New England trip this coming Wednesday but we shall see. I know my girls will be happy with whatever we get done and I’ll know I’ve made it another warm and glowing holiday experience for them.

While I was writing this I was listening to holiday music on Pandora and they’ve been playing all the songs my mom used to play on her record player around the holidays, featuring artists like Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams and Nat King Cole. It’s not quite the same without the record pop and hiss but the music still fills me with contentment, joy and the urge to lay under the tree and look up through the branches and colored lights. Added to that music is Jazz’s snoring as she snuggles on the couch with me and the warmth I feel isn’t all from being under a fuzzy blanket and furry dog, it comes from my happy heart.

A Slower Pace

My small, old but reliable, fake holiday tree

My small, old but reliable, fake holiday tree

For the past three years I worked as a secretary in an office. Before that I’d spent almost a decade as a stay at home mother to my two daughters. I loved being home with my babies and watching them grow into adorable little girls. No matter what age they are, they’ll always be my little girls. Going back to work outside the home was a difficult but necessary responsibility and it served its purpose. The moment I was finally able to leave the office world and assume the life of a full-time writer, I regained something I’d been dearly missing: more time with my girls.

This holiday season is the first in three years where I don’t have to ask for permission to take time off to be with my girls. I can write when I don’t have them and savor the warmth and togetherness of the season when I do have them. That truly is the best Christmas gift ever and one I look forward to enjoying for years to come! They have two weeks off of school for Christmas and New Year’s this year and we’ll all be sleeping in, baking cookies and playing with toys until we pass out happily in our beds.

Monday I told Jaycie that we could put my little Christmas tree up but the evening proved too busy for that to happen. The next morning as Jaycie was getting ready to go out for the bus she said “We didn’t put the tree up.” That girl doesn’t miss a detail! I told her we’d fix that and out we went to get her on the bus.

As I’d completed my current writing assignments for the day, I decided I’d put the tree up before the girls came back home and surprise them. I bought my little fake tree many years ago, I believe it was before I even got married. If it were a human, it’d be of age to drive this year. It’s only 5 feet tall, isn’t lighted and all the branches have to be set in their little notches and fluffed out but it’s held up really well! I’ve become an expert at putting it up and spreading out the branches just right to fit into tight spaces like its current spot in my home. Once it’s assembled, I string the lights around it and plug it in. I usually put the star on right away too but I still haven’t dug that out of the basement. When I was all done, I was quite pleased with my work.

This weekend the girls and I will be decorating the tree with various homemade and Hallmark ornaments until it’s impossible to see any gaps in the branches. I know a fake tree isn’t for everyone but it works for me because it’s easy to put up, doesn’t drop needles all over the place and isn’t viewed as a water bowl by the cats. Last year was Jazzmin’s first Christmas with us and she didn’t quite know what to think of the lighted tree inside by her crate. This years she’s used to it and I like to think she enjoys its glow when she naps in her crate in the evening. There’s just something about my little tree and colored holiday lights strung around that warms my heart. It helps me appreciate a slower pace when so many other people are rushing around this time of year.