“I want to ride a snowmobile,” he said to me on the phone one day before Christmas. “It’s one of the things I’ve had on my bucket list and I’m afraid if I don’t do it now I’ll never get the chance.” My dad has always been the one who creates opportunities for his family to have adventures together. Kayaking, riding ATV’s in the desert, horseback riding, going off the beaten path (like WAY off the beaten path); these are the things that give him joy especially when he gets to experience it with his favorite people.
When my son was just a little boy, he didn’t simply enjoy trains. He was completely obsessed with them. If we happened to be driving near one he would rattle off the names of each and every car he saw. “Tank car, tank car, hopper car, gondola car, boxcar, boxcar, boxcar, engine.” I spent most of my days down on the floor of our family room helping him construct elaborate tracks for his wooden trains and still feel proud to this day of my ability to figure out how to make everything connect without any breaks in the tracks. Heaven forbid Thomas the Tank Engine should fall off into the abyss!
Never were the trains more magical to all of us than at Christmastime. So, the year that he was 3 1/2, I planned a very special day for my very special train-loving boy. I spent a little bit of time researching and discovered that all throughout our downtown there were train displays set up in various shops. And I found out that in the rotunda of our capitol building the pièce de résistance was a model train which wound its way through a replica of our city.
The chosen day dawned and I informed my son that we were going on a Christmas adventure. At one stop, a kind store clerk moved furniture out of the way so that he could get right up close to the train in the window. At the post office, an employee knew a fellow train-lover when he saw one and, in between helping customers, made the train which wound its way above our heads go back and forth over and over again. Everywhere we went, people saw the wonder in the eyes of that three year old boy and happily added to his excitement. After a quick stop for a sugary treat, we arrived at our final destination. As we entered the two-story, marble covered rotunda of the capitol building with it’s enormous Christmas trees and glittering lights, my son’s eyes locked onto the train display front and center. He patiently waited his turn to push the button to make the train go around the snow-covered village and I fought back tears as I vowed to never forget that moment.
Now, twelve years later, I ask my fifteen year old if he remembers that day. “Vaguely”, he says, much to my chagrin. And I realize why I instinctively knew that I needed to pause and really soak it all up. Because, here we are in the throes of the tween and teen years in our household and I’m pretty sure no one would be jumping up and down with excitement over a day spent looking for train sets around town.
So, what do we do now? How do we make the holiday season special for our older kids when the magic and wonder of the younger years is gone?
Well, I asked this exact question on Facebook recently and received some pretty amazing responses! So I decided to put them all together in one spot and share them with you here.
- Keep as many of the old traditions alive as possible ~ They may roll their eyes when you suggest watching ‘The Polar Express’ or show about the same attention to detail in decorating the tree as they did when they were toddlers (some of them still want to put ALL of the ornaments on one branch!) but I promise you that, deep down in their hearts, your teens and young adults still appreciate your family traditions. With so much change happening in their lives, these moments provide them with a sense of continuity and a reminder that some things will never change.
- Go on a Christmas Scavenger Hunt ~ Divide into teams and head out on a scavenger hunt which will take you around town to various landmarks. Create clues based on song lyrics and require each team to sing the song once they’ve solved the clue and video it for proof. Meet back up at a coffee shop or bakery and watch the videos together!
- Have a Gingerbread House Competition ~ Encourage your teens/young adults to invite some friends to your home and give each of them a gingerbread house kit. Put on music, provide the hot cocoa/coffee and watch the creativity unfold.
- Volunteer Together ~ This is the perfect opportunity to let the older kids in your life do some research and determine where they would like to offer their time and resources to those in need. Not only will you be helping others, but the very act of serving together will be a bonding experience for you as a family and create memories to last a lifetime.
- Go Christmas Light Hunting ~ Take the typical ‘driving around in the car looking at lights’ tradition up a notch by turning it into a game. Print or write out little cards with the words “thank you for lighting the town” and take them with you as you drive through the neighborhoods. Each person gets to pick out their favorite houses, run up and ring the doorbell and leave the card to surprise the homeowner with the sweet note of praise.
- Have an Amaryllis Bulb Race ~ Each person gets their own potted amaryllis bulb with their name on it and then the race is on to see who’s flower is the tallest on Christmas Day. The best part of this idea is that not only is there some friendly competition but you’ll be adding beauty to your home too.
- Create a Family Ornament at a Ceramic Store ~ Now that you’re past the days where the very idea of going into a ceramic store with your kids made you break into a cold sweat you seize this opportunity as parents of older kids to get creative together. Pick out an ornament that represents your family and let each person take part in putting their own stamp on it. Write your names and the date on the back and try not to cry as you hang it on the tree each year.
- Work on a Challenging Puzzle ~ Breaks from school and work are all well and good until everyone starts getting a bit restless and the cabin fever sets in. This is when a large puzzle can become your saving grace! Pick a spot in your home where you can leave the puzzle pieces out (coffee tables are great for this!) and just watch as everyone gravitates to it.
- Encourage Anonymous Giving ~ While volunteering together gives you the opportunity to actually see how you are impacting others, anonymous giving builds character in an entirely different way. Not getting credit for the act is a good reminder that we serve and give not because we want credit for it but because the greatest reward is simply knowing we’ve been able to help someone and holding that feeling in our hearts.
- Pass the Baking/Cooking Baton ~ Now is the perfect time to give yourself a break during this busyness of the season and let your teens/young adults plan meals and tackle some of the holiday baking. Encourage them to look up recipes, do the shopping and cook/bake for the family. Not only does this help prepare them for life outside of your home but it gives you a much-needed rest. That’s a win/win for sure!
Every stage of parenting has it’s really amazing parts and it’s really hard parts. I freely admit to grieving a bit over the fact that my kids have gotten older and the days of playing with train tracks and being invited to imaginary tea parties are long gone. But, one thing I’ve realized is that we need to embrace each new stage and that there is still so much fun to be had! In fact, these years ahead of us with teens and young adults leaves so much more room to experience the magic and wonder of the season in brand new ways. We can stay up later, drink coffee together, watch non-cartoon movies and get to know each other as individuals and build a relationship that goes beyond just parent/child.
It’s all about choosing to be intentional and creating an environment where they know they can always just be themselves and that their friends are always welcome.
So, what would YOU add to this list? I’d love to hear some of the ways that you have celebrated the holiday season with your teens or young adults.
And I want to say a BIG thank you to all of my fellow mamas who helped me come up with this list of fantastic and fun ideas!
Much love to you all,
A few years ago, in a blog post about fall decor, I casually mentioned that every October I set out a pair of paper bag pumpkins (say that five times fast!) crafted by my children when they were each in kindergarten, respectively.
In one of the comments left for me, a curious member of our community here told me that she would love to actually see those paper bag pumpkins. I think she might have felt, like so many of us do, that while we enjoy all of the photos of beautiful home decor, there tends to be a lack of reality. In fact, I had this confirmed to me when I shared my fall tour with you recently and everyone overwhelmingly declared that they would welcome a little less staging and a lot more real-life.
Dear Hallmark channel,
It’s that time of the year again! You’ve announced your holiday movie lineup and the angels sang and snow began to fall and visions of sugar plums danced in my head. Okay, so that all happened in my mind’s eye but I definitely felt my heart go pitter-patter as I scanned the list of new releases. All over Facebook there are giddy posts from friends who eagerly anticipate this annual tradition and can’t wait for the chance to escape to worlds where people get stranded in little towns where Santa just happens to have his actual workshop and there won’t be any gifts for the children if the main character doesn’t come to the rescue.
Did you know that if something is very expensive the kids these days refer to as being so “Gucci”? Now, it doesn’t mean that it has to be the actual Gucci brand. According to my teenage son, it’s just a way to say that something costs a ridiculous amount of money and therefore must be very special. (I’m rolling my eyes as I type this.) Another word that is used regularly around here is ‘dope’. Don’t worry, this isn’t referring to drugs. It’s just another way of saying that something is ‘cool’, a slang word which has actually managed to stand the test of time.
There is a day, a moment, when summer really feels like ‘summer’. You’ve experienced that too, right? It’s the perfect temperature and you’re in the perfect place and all seems right with the world.
Well, this was that day. We were at the pool with friends, the kids were happily playing in the water and we moms were happily chatting and soaking up the sun. I was religiously applying sunscreen, staying hydrated, wearing my sun hat and going for the occasional dip in the water to cool off. But, it was hot. And getting hotter by the minute.
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Oh you guys, you are in for such a treat today! My dear friend Katie Reid wrote a book for all of us who are the doers. The women who like to get things done. We’re the checklist making, school party cupcakes at midnight baking, early morning before the rest of the family gets up waking, meals delivered to everyone in need taking, no rules breaking women…and we’re tired. Tired of all of the striving. But we’re also conflicted about how to marry our natural inclinations for doing with the call of receiving.
Based on the story of the time Jesus spent with Martha and Mary (Luke 10), in her newly released book, Made Like Martha, Katie beautifully captures this tension and offers an empathetic perspective, biblical truths and practical steps we can take to lead us to discovering the freedom to be who God created us to be.
And this week I’m SO thrilled to be helping her kick-off her mobile book club! If you haven’t had a chance to get the book, Katie has graciously provided all of chapter one for you for FREE! Just click here to begin reading.
In the summer of 1981, my parents moved us from Springfield, MO to Los Angeles, CA. At the time, my aunt and uncle were pastoring a church called the ‘Beach Fellowship’ and we began attending. Now, it wasn’t called that because it was simply close in proximity to the beach. No, this church literally gathered ON the beach. We went from wearing patent leather mary jane shoes in the ‘Bible belt’ to wearing swimsuits and flip-flops in the sand. To say this was quite a transition is the grossest of gross understatements.
One of my most favorite things to do this time of the year is to open up our windows and hear the birds chirping. Now, mind you, I don’t always enjoy hearing them REALLY early in the morning, but there is just something about their chirping that is so distinctively and cheerfully symbolic of these warmer days.
Recently, though, we began to notice more activity than usual. Our snowball tree was the object of great interest by two particular birds. They were flying in and out all day and we had no doubt about what was happening.
Sure enough, within a few days, a beautiful nest had taken shape. And soon after that, the mama robin could be seen perched upon the nest. When we would get close to the tree, she would be so very still. Hyper aware of our movements and so protective of her babies.
It became part of our daily ritual to check on the nest. We were always careful to keep our distance but we were just so anxious for the impending arrival of new life.
Recently I found myself seconds away from what was certain to become my most embarrassing moment of all time.
I was shopping for clothes and had determined that I was going to actually need to try on some items which is probably one of my least favorite things to do. I think I’d rather clean our bathrooms than try on clothes.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m finding some of the styles lately to be a tad perplexing. There are lots of missing parts or super puffy sleeves or dangly ribbons or super long backs on shirts with super short fronts. It’s all just a lot to take in. But, I decided that I would pick out some pieces I would normally shy away from and give them a try.
This was a mistake.
Raise your hand if you like being corrected?
Yep. That’s what I thought.
It’s never fun being on the receiving end of correction. That’s why I’ve put together some tips for how to do this with humility and grace AND preserve your relationship with the corrector. Yes, it IS possible!
And I would love to hear from you too! So, tell me…
Has there been a time when you found yourself on the receiving end of correction?
How did it make you feel?
What did the corrector do well?
What could they have done differently?
Thank you for joining me as we tackled this challenging topic!