Friday, December 28, 2012


It was Nell's first Christmas.

It snowed a little on Christmas Day.

And my heart was full to bursting all day as I held my little girl in her Christmassy plaid pajamas.

I told people I didn't want anything for Christmas this year, and I really meant it.  I would have been totally okay with doing a gift-free Christmas.  Frankly, our financial situation has been a little bleak lately, and even the things I 'need' right now are things I can get by without.  My life just feels perfectly full with my family and plenty of love to go around.  Nonetheless, we did end up with some very special gifts under the tree on Christmas Day.

I wanted to keep this Christmas simple.  Maybe that's not what most mothers do for their kids' first Christmases, but that's what I wanted.  There have been years when I put pressure on myself to make everyone happy at Christmas, to make perfect meals and have plenty of gifts and keep smiles on faces.  This year I tried to let all that go.  Nell won't remember this Christmas, and honestly, yesterday I know she liked having a mother whose stress level was low more than she would have liked having more presents or a more perfectly cleaned and decorated house.  She needed a mother who didn't stand in the kitchen all day working on dinner, but sat down and played with her or held her close.

Keeping Christmas simple.  It's something I actually find easy to do in some ways.  We've all talked openly about gifts on my side of the family, and agreed that handmade is something we love and value, that phone calls are more important than money spent, and that gifts arriving late is something we understand and don't mind in the least.  (Good thing, because once again this year I'm sending mine out late!)

I don't think I walked into the North Shore Mall all December.  I did go into the (much less busy) Liberty Tree Mall area on Christmas Eve, as my resolutions faltered and I began to worry because I didn't have stocking stuffers for Nathan or his brother Andrew.  I walked back out with only a few small purchases.  I got them each some dress socks, which they needed, and a few little candies to eat.  I eschewed the idea of wasting money on little junky trinkets that would just get thrown away after a couple of days.

I guess it being Nell's first Christmas made me stop and think hard, more than ever before, about how we want to do Christmas in our home.  How to celebrate Advent.  How to keep stress levels low and keep days merry and bright.  How to make it about Jesus, and about loving the people and the things He would love.

Throughout the day, I intentionally decided not to get so caught up in capturing the moments that I missed the moments.  And, as it turned out, I left Nell in her Christmas PJs all day and never worried about dressing her in one of her red dresses (it's ok, she did wear them last Sunday and then on Christmas Eve).  I didn't spend time staging perfect Christmas photos on white blankets in front of the tree, which I had thought about doing.

I gave Nathan a couple of ties, a scarf, and this print, which, haha, he is going to love hanging somewhere that is not our living room.

We gave Andrew this sweater and framed print of a horn.

Nathan did his shopping for me this year at an antique store.  Not one of those expensive and swanky antique stores, but the nice little shops that are every few blocks in Essex.  He found me several things, including front and back pieces of a broken violin, for displaying decoratively in the music room.  I love it.

We interspersed Nell's gifts between nap times and nursing sessions, and we enjoyed watching her play with ribbons and paper.  

In addition to the three little things I got her (a bath toy, a book, and a small toy), Nell received gifts from her grandparents on both sides, from students of mine, from her Uncle Andrew, and from her godparents.  She is one lucky and loved little girl!

It felt a little surreal writing "from: Mom and Dad" on her packages, and thinking of all the years of seeing "from: Mom and Dad" on my own gifts as a kid.  Wait... I'm a Mom?!

{Couldn't find our gift tags anywhere on Christmas Eve when I was wrapping gifts, so a marker on the wrapping paper had to do.}

I haven't finished sewing her Christmas stocking yet, but it'll be ready for next Christmas, for sure.

And I didn't finish the pixie hat I'm working on crocheting for her, but I guess she won't know the difference between a Christmas hat and a January hat.

I'm sitting here today, after Christmas, and reflecting on how we kept things affordable this year.  And we had a special Christmas that I'll always remember: Nell's first, my first as her Mama with her outside of me, our first as a family of three.

I guess I'm proud of myself for not going overboard for Nell's first Christmas.  But I still have a lot of thinking to do about how we'll keep Christmas in our household each year, the traditions and the meals and the ways we'll balance time and money and handmade and store bought.

To keep things simple, to keep our focus in the right place, but to have plenty of that Christmas magic.  That's what I want to be able to do for Nell.


  1. Great post, Sarah. I think that three gifts for each person at Christmas is a perfect number. Jesus got three gifts from the wiseman, so it has to be enough for us! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  2. Your daughter is freaking ADORABLE. Favorite quote from this whole post: "I guess it being Nell's first Christmas made me stop and think hard, more than ever before, about how we want to do Christmas in our home. How to celebrate Advent. How to keep stress levels low and keep days merry and bright. How to make it about Jesus, and about loving the people and the things He would love."

    That's exactly what we're pondering, as we'll find ourselves in yours and Nathan's position next year. We're thinking maybe just the three presents thing? Maybe to be opened on Boxing Day? ay, moms and dads have to make so many decisions!

    btw, you are the queen of crafty making all those gifts for your family- definitely an inspiration for me next year :)

  3. I love the plaid PJs! Of course, your daughter is adorable no matter what she is wearing... she just sets off everything she's in to good advantage. :-)

    It sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas, and a thoughtful one as well. There's a lot of thought that goes into parenting, isn't there! Trying to decide on traditions, what kind of family culture you want to have and figuring out how to get there... It is a challenge, but such a privilege too.

    I remember how strange it felt to write "Love, Mom and Dad" on those first Christmas presents too. Definitely surreal! Reminds me of how I had to get used to writing my name all over again once I got married. And now it seems so strange to see my maiden name!

  4. I also found it surreal to be writing "Love Mummy and Daddy" on the few gifts we gave Ian this year. Sooooo strange...but I love it so much!!