Apartment Living with 2 Kids

These are some things we have come up with to make it work (because it has to!) to house a family of 4-two kids under age 3-in an apartment. It is a 2-bedroom apartment and since we cannot let the 3 year old safely room-share with his sister-we share a room with the baby! I know a lot of people like to do that or feel it is safer anyways (Considered to be a SIDS protective factor.) Anyways if you may be in this situation-this post is for you! This may apply to small houses as well.

1)First of all, getting rid of UNNECESSARY FURNITURE would be the best way to start. This is not where we started, but since its so large and you can do this before move-in day if possible, it’s a good starting point.

2)Make use of a MINI STORAGE if you can afford it. If you start your family in an apartment to begin with , you may not have to do this but because we started in a house (long story) and furnished it, we had large furniture that made it cramped when adding two children playing, crawling, etc. We opted to put our larger seating (couch) in storage and keep the love seat and recliner as well as computer chair out.

3)GET RID OF anything you don’t need, or don’t need as many of. We were able to keep some things at our parents’ houses in attics and sheds (high chairs we didn’t need yet, strollers, etc.) I am planning on doing a toy cleanse to get rid of things that are essentially duplicates or things my first child has outgrown that i anticipate my second will get as gifts anyways or that are just not necessary. I really want to separate out the battery operated toys to where I control when they come out of the closet, but that’s another story entirely haha

4) Get all the compact baby items you can! (or if your kids are a little older, then get compact kids’ items.) So this would be space-saving high chairs (we are just keeping our old one but we started in a house), maybe a potty ring instead of separate potty chair (we love the Cushie Tushie!), fold-up changing pad, etc.

5)Change the purpose os some furniture you already have or combined purposes. We have a nightstand that we turned into a changing station in our room that we share with our baby, for example. We moved our kids’ dresser into their closet recently as well. If you can do some under the bed storage, that would be great, too. We didn’t do much of that.

6) Keep your stroller or infant car seats in your car. If you had a house or just one child in an apartment, you may have been used to bringing the car seat or stroller inside after each outing or walk, but those take up so much space that it’s just easier to leave it in the car. Yeah, the strollers get in the way somewhat for grocery trips but you could work around it or just leave it at home if you know you need the trunk space for shopping.

7)If you have lots of decorations or fancy china, just pack it away. For most people, this season of life with babies and preschoolers is probably not one in which you are doing lots of entertaining that requires nicer dishes-and your kids would just break them anyway-so that’s a nonessential that doesn’t have to be kept in the cabinets.

8) SPACE SAVER BAGS are awesome for off-season or outgrown clothes.
9) If you do have an upstairs and downstairs, having TWO OF EVERYTHING (just about) is just a must for me.Two or more diaper storage/changing stations, two sets of toothbrushes (not as necessary, but helpful for a pre-K kiddo or toddler), kids’ books, a few kids toys at least (and baby!) , maybe multiple diaper pails or wetbags for each floor (right now we don’t since we are on one floor most of the time especially on weekends. Thinking about keeping little trash bags upstairs so they can just be carried down when done upstairs. Two booties are a lot of booty to change. πŸ˜‰ ) Blankets and burp cloths on both floors is also so helpful!

10) Gotta make it an even ten..o I’ll share that while they aren’t much to look at, the large plastic shelves meant for garages really is what we use to keep blankets, dvds, video games controllers, books, and office supplies on downstairs. oh and some toys. πŸ˜‰ We have one upstairs for medicine (no med cabinet at this apartment), blankets, and my husband’s scrubs.

Katelynn’s Birth Story-A Second Birth vs. First Birth

Katelynn is not only our Rainbow Baby but also our almost Christmas baby..she was born just a few days after Christmas and I’m glad it ended up that way. Even though I know she will always probably feel her birthday is always a little in the shadow of Christmas, at least it is afterward and not the day of (although I’m sure that can be fun for others and we would have made it work.)

Katelynn’s birth story is so different than Ethan’s birth story (also told by his dad here for many reasons. First of all, it was characteristically faster and easier in a lot of ways as a second birth. In the weeks leading up to Katelynn’s birth I had some contractions but was still at 1cm at my previous appointment. Two nights before her birth I hardly slept with no particular reason, then the night before I had a great night of sleep! The morning before she was born was a Sunday and I had some light bleeding so I thought she might arrive in a day or so. Then I had some mild contractions but I wasn’t sure if I was really starting labor or it was more random contractions. I went ahead to church and the mild contractions continued but I went on with making my grocery list then ALMOST went to the grocerty store then after talking to my husband, I decided not to go. Just after that I had some more bleeding so I called the medical exchange to see if they thought that wa okay. They said

pic by her HP fan daddy. picture property of betterthanexpected321.wordpress.com

pic by her HP fan daddy. picture property of betterthanexpected321.wordpress.com

probably so, but since you’ve had it twice today, go ahead and come in to get checked. We called my parents to drop Ethan off at their house on the way up to Labor and Delivery and we were hardly two blocks before my contractions started hurting more and taking my breath away. Ryan started driving faster and I remember grabbing the “sissy bar” as my dad called it when I was a kid (and what others know it as the “oh #!%!” bar” as he whipped the truck into my parents driveway. HE turned on his emergency flashers on the interstate and he said “yea, you’re in labor” and I had to agree with that!


They monitored me at Labor and Delivery and said I was at a 3 and if I progressed to a 4 they’d keep me but otherwise they would reassess the situation. The doctor never did come in to give her opinion and I started hurting really intensely while watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the tv in the room. I thought they would never check on me again and I wonder if the nurse heard me from the hall say “When is someone going to check on me?! I could be at a 5 for all they know!” because she came in 30 seconds later to check me and said I was at a 4. So the plan was for me to be admitted and finally I was and opted to walk to the room. I told the nurse once admitted that yes, I do want an epidural and thought awesome, I’m going to get it sooner than I did last time (because I didn’t realize I was in labor and thought the pain was some problem so I didn’t show up to outpatient until i was at a 6! And it took a LOT of laboring and sleeplessness to get there with my first baby.)

So here we were again watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows , just in a different room, and it became kind of weird to watch as the pain intensified. The soundtrack from the movie seemed even more epic and motivating. Ryan looked at a loss and said “I wish I could do something to help. What do you want me to do?” and really there was nothing. I don’t even get the whole hold your partner’s hand or squeeze them to death because for a while there I was content with his moral support and clutching the bedrails sort of like I was steering the hospital bed. In between contractions, it even made me laugh a little. I was NOT laughing when I was in labor with Ethan because it lasted so long, mostly at home (the early part with no epidural) and I was so frustrated because I thought the pain would not go away for weeks as I didn’t know what it was!) This time I knew exactly what was going on and just dealth with contractions as they came and worsened…and worsened. The anesthesiologist was still not around and I was concerned that I might be rapidly progressing as these things often do with subsequent babies. The nurse apologized and said there were some emergency c sections and finally she checked me and suer enough I had been moving along but I could still get an epidural.

I started hurting more, and I started rocking from side to side as “driving the hospital bed” was not enough anymore to keep me grounded and under control. As I rocked and moaned (in a controlled, patterned action) I realized this was the same thing I remember doing when in labor with Ethan at home, rocking on our guest bed. (I wandered from beds to couches ro recliners throughout the 2 nights-mainly 1-where I was in earlier labor with Ethan.) AS time went on and I still didn’t have an epidural underway or yet in sight, I was hurting a lot and not much was keeping me feeling in control of the pain-it wasn’t out of control yet, but I was getting pretty worn out so the nurse offered something to make them more bearable as I waited. She said “it will make you feel like you’ve had a few too many margaritas.” I wasn’t sure how that felt becaue I’d only had sips of this and that, then drank a MIke’s Hard LEmonade and kept asking my friend “Am I drinking it too fast?” Yep, I’m that girl. πŸ˜‰ My husband videoed me because I was being ridiculous immediately (Strong stuff!) and was laughing uncontrollably about absolutely nothing between some contractions. I remember the contractions still hurt, but I was distracted and I’m sure kind of numb. On the part of the movie where Voldemort threatens to kill everyone if they hide Harry Potter to protect him, I was giggling as a contraction ended and said “Well THAT’S what you want to hear when you’re in labor!” After Ryan videoed me I asked “Well wait…am I gonna be acting all stupid when Katelynn is born?” and Ryan teased me and said “well, yeah” and then quickly said “I’m just kidding” when he saw my crestfallen face. Then I said “oh good, I was about to cry if that was true!” then actually started crying! I was a mess. The nurse’s eyes got big when she came in and saw my immediate goofiness and it cracked me up. By the time that was wearing off the epidural was finally ready to be placed. ** Just like the first labor, the epidural made me more nervous than anything but all went well. The nurse said to let her know when I started feeling more intense pressure and I wasn’t sure how much I was “supposed” to feel. I don’t remember feeling much at all with Ethan’s birth but it was probably about the same and I was just much more exhausted going in to the hospital with Ethan. I got a tight 8 hours sleep the night before Katelynn’s birth! After feeling prolonged pressure, they checked me one last time and I was at a 10-ready to push!

There is not much to say here-it lasted all of 12 minutes! They had my feet bent up in stirrups which was a MUCH more comfortable and natural way to push than lying flat like they had me at the first hospital. They just told me when it was time to push and I did-I had a better sense of what muscles to use, probably, and had done core exercises prior to getting pregnant. (Afterward a nurse said to not do those in first trimester and I never revisited them but continued my rehabilitative hip and knee exercises.) So I think all of those things played a role in how well the pushing went! Credit goes to the good hospital staff and supportive husband as well! With Ethan’s birth, I pushed somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour-still not bad, but I do think having done it before plus the better positioning and MUCH more energy reserves from a good night’s sleep and shorter labor helped.

The only thing the doctor who examined Katelynn had concerns about was her hip being loose and said its possible she will need a corrective harness for 6 months. He said this can happen quite often if the baby is lying in the womb at an odd angle.

Everything about Katelynn’s birth was fast and thankfully, easy for the most part! While I know there are so many different complicttions and frustrating labor stories that come with any child, the main difference in our surprise diagnosis birth story (Ethan’s) and Katelynn’s was after the babies arrived, of course. I will list them numerically then probably make it a separate post.

A note of caution: I had no knowledge about Staydol, other than knowing other people who had it in the past. (But didn’t worry about it because my husband is an RN and I’m just not generally one to question doctors and nurses especially if it’s something really routine like labor pain management-I’m not saying they wouldn’t tell me, I just didn’t care about asking! HOWEVER-Something to consider ahead of time is if you are offered a pain medication before and epidural, maybe think through if it will affect how still you sit when the epidural needle is being inserted. I remember being concerned that I was going to wiggle too much because I still had those drugs in my system and I did feel a little wiggly and it was hard for me to concentrate. My inhibitions were in that in between stage of having to focus pretty hard to make sure I didn’t say something stupid to the anesthesiologist like “well hey, you’re a handsome one. Much younger than the last one though…I hope you’re experienced enough.” Since I did feel like it was hard to focus on verbal directions and stay still (although not THAT hard, mind you), the incident popped into my head when I was suffering pretty horrible postpartum headaches the first week after Katelynn’s birth. (I couldn’t even sleep for a while some parts of some nights-and I was SO exhausted.) I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe I was wiggly (I don’t think I really was-Ryan and the staff probably would’ve said something.) I do remember there being a few different times the needle had to be inserted and I’m 95% sure the painful headaches were only hormone related because the epidural headaches sound MUCH worse after consulting with a bunch of women including my mother. I say all this, however, to share the possibility of drugs and movement during epidural placement that might happen, I imagine (since they do tell you to stay still, after all.) I wondered if it was the same exact stage of labor I had been in at home and thought hmmm maybe I’m a 6 now? Finally I was checked again soon before the epidural-yep, I was at a 6! So even though I showed up at a 3, I didn’t actually get this epidural any sooner than with my first baby. Oh well, some people are lucky to make it to the hospital with baby #2, right?

Review for “Born This Way” reality show-episode 1

I really enjoyed the first episode-the variance of characters with Down Syndrome as well as the parents and starting to hear tidbits of their philosophies on parenting which I’m sure we will see more about as the show progresses. I used to be a bit scared in Ethan’s first year to hear much or think much on him being an adult, but I want and need to think about it. I especially would like to see more about the community center for people with disabilities as I don’t know much about what they are like. I did work for a company that included this service, but I worked at the developmental preschool associated with it.

I don’t know how much all the young adults represent a cross-section of actual individuals with Down Syndrome, but from what I can tell from my little personal experience in having discussions with adults with Down Syndrome, they mostly seem to have adequate if not great speech skills. That is the biggest thing that seems to be hard and an obstacle for us, as Ryan and I were discussing right now. We want to have conversations with our son and seeing the adults carry on complex conversations is reassuring to us that Ethan will get there, too.

Something else I found interesting is that the one who was struggling with being associated with the word “Down Syndrome” (Elena) was the one whose mother admitted struggling to accept the diagnosis for a very, very long time especially because her Asian culture (not certain where exactly she was from-Japan I believe) was less accepting of such diagnoses than the U.S. I think our kids notice more than we think of what causes stress for us. I am in no way bashing that family, just making an observation.

I will be interested to see how the show, parents, etc. handles the young adults’ dating/sexual/marriage lifestyles. There are so many different components to consider with parenting any child and especially one with special needs. The show gave some future clips to indicate this will be discussed in future episodes. I’m so thankful that regardless of how some families handle it and whether it is how we would handle it-it gives food for thought and allows us to think through scenarios before we reach that stage. I’m all about being prepared and while I love reading and researching, there is something about watching a show that helps me learn and think through things (kind of like videos you watch in school-at the risk of making it sound like a boring task. The show is anything but boring so far!)

To end my little review, I’ll throw out my favorite quote from the first episode: “I feel like I’m the Matt Damon of the bunch.” haha Check it out! I watched it free on aetv.com

3rd Trimester to Do List

I thought about just doing this on my google documents but thought it might turn into a fun and helpful post. When I think about 11 weeks and some-odd days remaining to my second-born’s due date and about making any sort of “to do list”, I imagine a chicken running around in circles..the chicken being me, I suppose. (which I LOVE making to do lists…its really a coping mechanism for my ADHD..) There is something about having a second child that is just making me NOT feel ready. I posted some differences between nesting for this pregnancy and the pregnancy with my firstborn before. Comments people have made and plain old common sense has made me realize how much of an undertaking going from one to two children will be. Some other differences include the fact that we haven’t really done anything much to prep for this baby, so it feels like its creeping up on me quickly. We live in an apartment, so we aren’t preparing a room for her, and most major things like rocking chairs are already here.

At the halfway mark with Ms. K

At the halfway mark with Ms. K

I haven’t bought clothes or anything yet because I like to wait until after baby showers (and my friend is giving one) to see what else I need to get so I don’t have duplicates.

So here we are…less than 12 weeks out and I can hardly believe another baby is coming. We HAVE done some organizing and space-saving and turned the bedside table into a changing table so..CHECK. So what else to do..?

1)Make a registry, if you wish- CHECK! (Its my second, but there are some things we will need that we don’t already have. She needs clothes, obviously, that aren’t boy clothes and is being born at a different time of year than kid #1. Even if you have the same gender two times in a row, you may want to register for clothes for subsequent babies so family and friends who ask will know which clothing items are needed. People may think you don’t need them because they are wearing hand-me-downs, but babies are born at different times and different sizes SO you may have to buy an entirely new wardrobe for your second or third boy, for example.

2) Make sure you have enough maternity clothes to get you through the season in which you will give birth. Don’t want to be doing that when you are getting really uncomfortable at the end, and made even more uncomfortable by wearing clothes that don’t fit. My mom likes getting me maternity clothes so that helped a bunch. (Thanks, mom!) CHECK!

3) Once you have essential items, WASH and ORGANIZE THEM…

4) Get your child a pediatrician. I thought I had this all squared away, but since I have two kids to consider now and one with a different insurance for special needs (kid #1), this has been a tad tricky. A doctor said she would take both of my kids and now I am being told differently by a secretary because of Ethan’s secondary insurance, so I am needing to call ASAP again and try a different approach with the same clinic before I move on to another one. In our case, we want a new clinic for my firstborn anyways and we want our kids to go to the same place so that we can tote them both when they inevitably are both sick at the same time!

5) Pre-register at the hospital (I’ll be honest-don’t even remember WHEN you do this, but judging by my sister who is just a little over a month ahead of me on her pregnancy due date…I think its soon. They will want to know which doctor you pick so yea..I need to get cracking on cracking down with those doctors’ offices who are sending me mixed signals..grrr.)

6) TDAAP/Whooping cough shot and flu shot (depending on time of year I suppose)-I got a flu shot first time I was pregnant I believe, but this is news to me to have pregnant women being recommended to get whooping cough shot. I talked to my OB office about it and they plan to give it to me this week.

7) Discuss with doctor when to come to the hospital for labor pains, etc.
8) Finish up knitting projects (or whatever projects you may have.)
9) Get Christmas shopping done early! (because my baby is due early January)
10) Get a big brother present for baby #2 to “give” Ethan.
11) Stock up on household toiletries (and freezer bags!) and cleaning supplies to avoid lots of running to the store.
12) Do lots of meal planning, focusing on easy meals and freezer meals (and cook some freezer meals so that will be ready to toss in the crockpot during extra sleepy days!)

You Know You’re a Cloth Diaper Momma When..

1) You have to find different pants for your kid to wear when they’re wearing disposables because there’s not that extra “fluff” to hold the pants up! (Also how you know your a skinny boy’s momma πŸ˜‰ )
2) You are accustomed to tossing poops in the toilet, even when you are using a disposable and have a diaper pail or genie available (It just makes sense! Doesn’t smell as bad to flush them.)
3) You’re used to your kid’s cutesy printed cloth diapers so when they wear a disposable you think oh..how sad and not fashionable. haha

Slogan we are using on t shirts this year (World Down Syndrome Day, etc.)

Slogan we are using on t shirts this year (World Down Syndrome Day, etc.)

4) You get used to sunning diapers and end up doing it for other articles of clothing for stain removal, etc.
5) Your jaw drops when you go on vacation and need to stock up on disposable diapers. Holy COW, the grocery bill just went up!
6) You do a Matrix move to save a disposable from falling on the ground in a public restroom because HECK no, that diaper actually cost me money and we get only one use out of it!
7) The concept of keeping track of how many diapers are in the household or “running out” just doesn’t register because if you cloth diaper, the diapers are always there for you. (not counting being behind on diaper laundry. I only owned 22-24 diapers. Not one of those diaper collectors who have insane amounts . πŸ˜‰ )
8) You’ve matched a diaper for an occasion (Its a zoo diaper, and we’re going to the zoo…okay, quick picture of that diaper change.)

You Know You’ve Spent a Lot of Time in the Hospital When..

A lot of these could apply to if you or a parent or other loved one is in the hospital, but mine is mostly geared toward things you will notice or become accustomed to if you have a child in the hospital.

1) You start to grab a jacket (even in summer), snacks, and water on the way out the door to the emergency room. Hey, you’ve done it before-you know whether a minute to grab those is going to make a difference. And you know how cold the ER is along with wait time.

2) You don’t need reassurances anymore about procedures like X Rays, feeding tube placements,or respiratory treatments because you’ve seen it all already.

Ethan and his Dad hanging out on one of Ethan's shorter, less dramatic hospitalizations (aspiration pneumonia, one night)

Ethan and his Dad hanging out on one of Ethan’s shorter, less dramatic hospitalizations (aspiration pneumonia, one night)

3)During said procedures, you go ahead and volunteer to hold your child’s limbs in place so the procedure can be done quickly and correctly without extra kicking from your kid interfering.

4) Instead of calling for a nurse for everything, you try to spot oxygen adhesive dots or IV tape and try to do it yourself before you call (if its in an open public area. Not advocating for rifling through the nurses’ personal workspaces lol)

5) You’ve had just about everything they will ever serve in the hospital cafeteria and know what is tolerable and what is just gross.

First time to hold him after heart surgery. He was there 7 days.

First time to hold him after heart surgery. He was there 7 days.

6) You have made it into at least one public service announcement or brochure for the hospital.

7) People on various units see you and say, “Now you look really familiar” or “Your child’s name is so familiar…you’ve been here before, haven’t you?” Or depending on the staff or unit, they don’t even have to think-they just run up to you betweeen patients and say, “Hey! OH, he’s grown so much! What are you guys in for again?” Or “sorry I haven’t said hi, its just been so busy. But I wanted to come over and see you guys!” Its nice to be reunited, yet Β its also like “oh my…our lives.”

8) You are able to direct lost parents around te hospital better than some staff because you have been to nearly every unit as well as almost every speciality outpatient clinic in the hospital.

9)You can help other parents compare notes on who is best at finding tiny veins for blood draws and which doctors are reliable (or not).

10) You aren’t phased by holding a baby with cords. It doesn’t scare you or make you nervous, but still are annoyed by it. Its always annoying. That hasn’t changed for me . πŸ˜‰


“Have Yourself A Meaningful Christmas”

Something I have thought about before having kids is to pass on some meaning to the holidays we celebrate-and Christmas most often comes to mind because it is such a well-loved and widely celebrated holiday that it has its own “season”, really. “Christmas Season!” Granted, it is mostly December, although every year it’s prepared for earlier and earlier. Just like my parents did in a lot of ways, I want to make sure we as parents take advantage of the Christmas Season (and other holidays, which I will get to as well) to really teach our kids, in a fun way, what is most important about the holiday.

A little more discussion on Christmas first; then I’ll give a neat little list for some ideas I’ve seen and thought of that maybe you could use with your family as well if you would like to teach some Christian (and in our case, Protestant) meanings of Christmas.

I just love the simplicity and peace of this pic :) we just had the camera on the tripod.

I just love the simplicity and peace of this pic πŸ™‚ we just had the camera on the tripod.

Thoughts on Christmas
So, here are the issues and reasons I feel its best to be intentional about imparting some meaning to our children for Christmas. Not surprising to many, Christmas has more and more become about giving amazing, exciting, and expensive gifts. You can even see signs at the bank for making a “Christmas Savings Account” which really makes me want to gag. Don’t feel judged if you have one of those. If you find it easier to have a savings for Christmas gifts to make it happen, regardless of it being hundreds or thousands you set aside-I just find that the fact those exist and are advertised year-round highlights how much we really focus on gift-giving as a country (as many other countries do, I’m sure.) Also, an unfortunate thing I’ve noticed is that all the fun things we do with kids during the Christmas season really have nothing to do with Jesus or grace-and I know that can be hard because it’s not as in the here and now in a tangible way. Are we, even us churchgoing Sunday School-teacher types-really, truly trying our best to make those lessons tangible? I think we could do better as a whole. Mostly, kids probably think of Christmas Eve as being exciting because of Santa or cookies, or maybe an early present to open; then “oh, lets all go to a dark, quiet, Christmas Eve service and fall asleep on the adults from boredom and sugar crash because that’s what we have to do.”

What if we did some fun things that at least have a hint of the meaning of Christmas so that they’re tangible and easy for kids to learn and remember? And fun for the adults as well? Here are some ideas I’ve had or borrowed:

1)Happy Birthday Jesus Party-This is something my parents did-maybe not every year, but enough that I remember it and enjoyed it. It was probably celebrated before or even after Christmas. The picture I’ve seen shows my sister and I dressed for dance class, so it probably wasn’t even the week of Christmas. And that’s really okay. If travel and commonplace traditions make it so you find little time left for these things (although you could consider cutting what you can out if it’s interfering with a meaningful celebration..), you can do it beforehand. The anticipation of Christmas is all part of Christmas, too! In some ways, no matter what you come up with-the unbeatable tradition of gift exchange is probably going to win out for excitement with our kids, so why not let them look forward to the Happy Birthday Jesus party at an earlier time so it can be enjoyed without kids looking over their shoulders at their presents under the tree? I think one of the big points is to not let Christ be like the vegetables you have to eat before you have dessert, but let Christ have His own place in your children’s lives where they can see Him as exciting, joyful, and fun!

You may notice the Nativity as well as that Santa bowing to Jesus thing I mention elsewhere in the blog post.

You may notice the Nativity as well as that Santa bowing to Jesus thing I mention elsewhere in the blog post.

On a year-round scale, I think our children’s pastor and others I’ve seen out there do a fantastic job in these more modern times of making Jesus something more vibrant and fun for kids. Music, games, and talking about real-life application has taken the place (although not entirely so it loses its narrative meaning) of the quiet, flannel board discussions. I still like the flannel boards, so don’t get me wrong, Sunday school teachers a generation before me! I just like the added emphasis on making church fun for kids and discussing applications a lot.

Back in the 90s what my parents did wsa fun and simple: a Christmas themed table cloth, a manger scene, and a Betty Crocker box cake, and some Juicy Juice. We did a Happy Birthday Jesus party lst year on Christmas morning at our apartment before we went to my parents’ house. Our son was two at the time, but he doesn’t like sweets and it was morning when we chose to do it. What we did instead was let him open his stocking stuffers from us and eat some of his yogurt bites (which to him is as wonderful as cake to the rest of us). We blew up balloons, put the manger scene on the table, and sang happy birthday next to a sign that I made in about 30 seconds on printer paper. No, he can’t read yet, but he probably gets that it signified something and that way he can see pictures and know what was going on there later when he can read. AFter that, my husband read a short summary of the Christmas story from Ethan’s precious moments Christmas treasury book. I may have led us in singing one of the songs in the book too-can’t remember. I felt it got off to a great start!

2) Songs-You can easily get hold of fun, upbeat renditions of Christmas songs that actually include Christ from Christian kids music , to Signing Time Christmas DVD, to Jars of Clay’s Little Drummer Boy song (for the teens, maybe). Putting a little thought into your playlist while you put up the tree can be an easy way to mix in some Christian with some secular holiday favorites.

3) Get creative and mix it up with your usual traditions-We were given some cookie cutters that included the usual gingerbread and snowmen, but also crosses, stars, and little mini chapels. You can talk to your kid about the shapes you’re making and talk about favorite Christmas stories, both secular and Biblical.

4)Go through light displays that also include Nativity themes-or visit a “living Nativity” some Churches do this for a free ministry. Some have plays and you can even pet the animals that are part of the Nativity scene. That is a VERY tangible and fun thing for young kids.

Ethan was stacking ornaments on top of each other. Love that he is old enough to take part in the decorating!

Ethan was stacking ornaments on top of each other. Love that he is old enough to take part in the decorating!

5)Get the Little People Nativity for young kids. They can act out what they’re learning.

6)Movies-Although I haven’t seen all that’s out there, or even many for that matter-depending on the age of your kids you can get a realistic or more cartoon, Veggie-Tale style story of Christmas and related principles. Make a fun family movie night of it and talk about what you watched. It might sound or feel dorky to plan it, especially a discussion part, but its important to getting your kids to learn and talk about it.

7)ADvent Wreath-My parents got an advent wreath in Germany when they lived there, and I think it’s a big tradition there. You light a candle and read a portion of the Christmas story on nights leading up to Christmas. It may not be flashy or seem as “fun” but it Is tangible and memorable-so that’s a lot of what you are going for here.

8)BAlance out the priorities of what you talk about in anticipation of Christmas. This is where some Christians who all want a meaningful Christmas get divided-Santa or no Santa? How much Santa? How hard do we try to make the kids believe Santa’s for Real? It’s a personal choice, but I will say I think the more you go on about Santa, the less time and priority there is for Christ-to me is as simple as that. I’ve worked with kids in daycare, therapy, and teaching settings and I’ve heard several kids equate Santa with God. Well, why not? If Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good and so does God, are they really all that different? Some 4 year olds and even 2nd graders have had some really strange theology going on in their heads because of the whole Santa-God confusion. My kids may even have that confusion just from all they hear about Santa outside the home. For various reasons, we just rean’t going to tell them Santa will get them gifts or be good, Santa’s watching. This post isn’t really about that, so if you’re curious you can comment or message me if you know me personally to ask.

What I will say, though, is this: the message of being good or bad to get something is in direct opposition to the message of Christmas-God’s son coming to give GRACE-an undeserved gift. Pushing both messages are kind of confusing and weird to us, and really just not worth our time. We have year-round plans in place for discipline and rewards. Don’t feel sorry for my kids-they will get presents. The tags will say “from mom and dad”, etc. They will know the gifts are being given to reflect that Christ received gifts and He is the ultimate Gift that we do not deserve. So our kids will not get more or less gifts at Christmas based on how they acted from October to December.

Also, they can watch all the Rudolph and Santa movies they want-I don’t care. We already own them, Ethan got them as gifts last year. Ethan wore a Santa apron to make Christmas cookies last year, which inluded Frosty (big fan of that guy-He makes no demands lol) and Santa. Just to show you I’m not so on the fringe of society that you can’t take my tips seriously.

9)If you do choose to do Santa or Elf on the Shelf (which I’m sorry, but in my opinion is adding yet another distraction from Christ-and just more thing you have to keep up with as busy parents, but hey that’s just me..)then at least try to balance and make if meaningful rather than just a threat that the lifeless doll you bought at Wal-Mart for $20 is creepily judging them. Maybe just make it a reminder or a funny prank to find in the morning or something. (You have all seen the pictures of what those elves are up to at night, right? I mean the clean pictures! You can even make the kids do some kind of Scripture scavenger hunt or find the baby Jesus with the Elf having the note with clues…I don’t know. We aren’t doing Santa, so we sure as heck ain’t doing the dang Elf haha I’m just trying to throw some ideas out there! As far as Santa, you could again go historical and discuss St. Nicholas and what he did for the poor, and that he was a follower of Christ. I can go for that, personally. If you want to tell your kid Santa is bringing their gifts, though, you can discuss St. Nick and get creative in tying that all in with Christ in a way that isn’t confusing. You get to come up with that part yourself .

10) Do your own simple research and find the meaning that people forget in origins of Some Christmas traditions-leave the pagan ones alone (e.g., Christmas trees-but hey, I love trees.) For example, the 12 days of Christmas has roots in the earlier persecuted church symbols so they could celebrate Christ without it always being overt if in danger. Some of those things may be reserved for as your kids get older, but there can always be pieces they can understand more and more of each year. The point is to try and be intentional. If you have a piano or some other instruments in the family, make that something you all do after supper here and there throughout the season and discuss the origin of the songs. My dad read historical stuff to add meaning to holidays. There’s gotta be intention or your holidays WILL just look like a JcPenny commercial. Maybe that sounds wonderful to you because your gatherings look more like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but aim higher. Maybe putting all the pressure off the ONE day in the year when all the aunts, uncles, unresolved anger, and alcohol are all present. (Just going off Christmas Vacation Movie again there. ;)) It is your family-you make the holidays teachable in the way you see fit. I feel like some kind of Christmas Cheerleader here…

11) Decorations and signs-Visuals are great reminders and bring up the curiosity in children. We bought a Santa (gasp! yes a Santa) bowing at baby Jesus’ cradle not because we are big Santa people- if you read above, you know we aren’t-but because I think its a good reminder of what Christmas is about. We have talked about making ornaments with images that correlate to different prophecies that foretold Christ’s birth because that reminds us as well as kids, hopefully, that there was such a desperate need for Christ’s coming, death, and resurrection. We are so blessed because it is already here, but there was a longing for the King before Christ’s coming as an infant. It is also a great way to discuss (with older kids) how they could know Christ as indeed the Son of God (followed up by more fulfilled prophecies on the first Easter, of course.) We haven’t made this yet, but I wanted to mention that idea as well. Perhaps using those symbols in an advent calendar with little treats would also be nice.

12)I also mentioned somewhere else that you could have the kids find the baby Jesus for the manger scene, but since it was in the middle of talking about the Elf, I thought I’d mention it here. Some families do thi and I’m borrowing the idea-you basically do not put baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas Day so the kids anticipate and then see the tangible reminder that Christmas means “Christ is born.” A scavenger hunt would also be fun.

13)Don’t forget to connect the Christmas and EAster stories for kids and teens. If you just talk about baby Jesus rather than that Baby’s reason for coming- well, they may just forget the whole reason was He came and not give it a thought the entire Christmas season.

14)The thing that actually comes most quickly to people’s minds when thinking of a meangingful Christmas is probably doing things for the less fortunate. I think that is a good thing to do year-round and honestly I think you can even focus solely on this and ignore the part about Christ coming to redeem our souls-the physically poor as well. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good way to have a meaningful Christmas season, though! First of all, it is just nice to do obviously, and second of all it culd be a good witnessing opportunity. Finally, I think all of us in the family can benefit from the reminder that not only should we be grateful for what he gives us and to be good stewards of those provisions, but also we should remember that where there is physical need in teh world for food, clothes, etc., we have a spiritual need. Those deeper meangings are best understood by the preteen and teenaged children in your families, but kids of all ages can participate in acts of service for others.

I want us to also have meaningful Easters and my husband and I have also discussed celebrating Passover in a Messianic (Christian) fashion as well. I’ve been to a Messianic Jewish Seder, or Passover Meal, and they definitely have tangible ways to commemorate what God has done for His people-Jewish and Gentile-and seeing the symbolism that points to Christ is really something worth experiencing. The Jewish customs surrounding Passover are really good at helping children understand the meanings. So hopefully I can write about those sometime.