So this is Christmas, 2018

I was grumpy all day Christmas Eve.

The kids were acting like children, how dare they. They were overly excited and a little tired and do you know what excited, tired children do? They take the cushions off the couch even though their mother told them not to. They ping pong between being silly and bickering. They cannot think of anything to do to pass the time, so they follow their mother around the house, clipping at her heels.

I blamed my grumpiness on being tired, but I know that tiredness is not unique for me, so if I’m honest, the reason I was grumpy was because I had a lot to do. And my kids would not leave me alone and give me time to do the things I wanted to do. Is it too much to ask for children to be seen and not heard? To play independently without making a mess? To be thankful for all of my hard work? ON CHRISTMAS EVE????

Halfway through the day I cut my to do list in half and decided it was ok if things didn’t get done. If productivity was the problem, I could do something about that. The kids would never remember this as The Christmas Mom Didn’t Make Chocolate-Covered Pretzels.

We made it to our church’s Christmas Eve service, and as if to remind me that these days are special, Anna took her first steps as worship began.

And so this is Christmas…

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First steps during the Christmas Eve service. ✨

A post shared by Amanda Krieger (@amandaleighvt) on

On the way home, Tom asked me if I remembered that incredible, magical feeling you got as a kid at Christmastime. “Do you have that?” he asked. “Because all I feel is tired.”

Did he seriously want Grumpy Mom to answer that?

We got home and the kids put out a plate of cookies for Santa. David had spent all of December telling me that he knows that Santa isn’t real, but he scrambled to help with cookies and to draw a map from the our fireplace to the tree, just in case Santa couldn’t find it.

And then Christmas morning; it was magical and full of joy — for the adults and the kids.

Reading the Christmas story before opening presents

The first look at the tree

Do you have a gift-giving strategy for your kids? Some people give three gifts, because that’s how many Jesus received. Some give something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.

We don’t have a strategy, I just sort of buy what feels right. Last year I was pretty minimal, and I will admit, it wasn’t my favorite Christmas. This year we did a little more. We didn’t go over the top, but I tried to add a few fun, Christmas-morning gifts — the kind with flashing lights and sounds. The type of gift that kids only get on Christmas morning, because the 364 other days of the year, parents roll their eyes and say no, because that will break and we don’t have anywhere to put it anyway.

Minimalism is so trendy right now, but I don’t mind telling you — more was better. We seem to have hit our sweet spot with gifts. Turns out Christmas is just another one of those things you have to figure out as a parent.

But then that’s where this post will come to a screeching halt and turn a 180, because I’m willing to admit that I haven’t figured out Christmas, not at all.

Through all of Advent, in the back of my mind was the insurmountable task of delighting my children with presents but also helping them understand that presents aren’t the focus of Christmas. See that tree? The one with lights and decorations? That we put in the middle of our house, circled with everything you’ve ever wanted? That’s not the celebration.

This, too, is something you have to figure out as a parent.

This Advent I’ve been meditating on the reason for Christmas. I don’t just mean the birth of Christ, I mean the reason he had to be born — to die. Jesus had to be born to rescue sinners who could not help themselves. If it were not for my sin, the incarnation would not have to happen. The joy of Christmas is that we need a savior, and he has come.

And so we rejoice with a shower of treats and toys, and we tell the kids that the affections of this world are all just shadows that serve the purpose of pointing us to the goodness and glory of God. These things give us a glimpse of God’s majesty and they are good gifts until we begin to worship them instead of worshiping God. We tell kids, we tell ourselves.

This season I’m thankful for grace as we figure it out. This season can be confusing — for kids, for adults, for caregivers trying to foster God-centered excitement and expectancy that outshines presents.

Our kids will not remember The Christmas Mom Didn’t Make Chocolate Covered Pretzels. They probably won’t even remember the year they got fewer (or more) presents. But they will remember that the excitement of Christmas is made complete in the birth of our Savior, in his life, in his resurrection.

How does your family rejoice in Jesus’ birth at Christmas time? Not just intentions, but now that Christmas is over, what worked for you and for your kids?


  1. Gayle Ann January 1, 2019

    Her steps will always be remembered in Christmas memories forever. How special!

    Several families at church have a birthday cake for Baby Jesus, which, I think helps highlight what is being celebrated. .

    But, the BEST idea, I think, is in The Frugal Gourmet’s Christmas cookbook. It was written when his children were young. Each night, at dinner in December, they discussed some part of the nativity, and he matched the food. So, when they discussed angels, he had angel hair pasta and angel food cake. When they discussed the donkeys, he had a dish he called haystacks. I thought it was such a special thing to do, and a great activity for kids. As a rule, they like anything with food, and remember it. But, it could be done for any holiday. I buy copies whenever I see them out, and gift them to friends with kids. Even if they don’t want to make the dishes, and I think most don’t, it gives ideas. Sort of combining a family devotion with dinner, and the food makes it memorable.

    I subbed in pre-school Sunday School, and made the Wilton Noah’s Ark cake, and decorated it, for each child in the class. I then shopped for animals, and when you look, there are a lot. Gummi worms, bears, animal crackers, fish for the water…. We read the story of Noah, and then, they put animals into the ark. I let them put in what they wanted, and they loved it. The next Sunday, several mothers told me their children retold the story each time they had cake.

    I know what your husband means, and I didn’t have it this year either. I missed it. It just didn’t seem like Christmas. Maybe because it seemed more like early spring than winter.

    You always have such nice pictures. A few years ago, I read a tip about pictures I really liked. The woman made a collages form the Christmas cards, and framed the family pictures. They were then packed away, She did the same with pictures from other holidays. The pictures were then part of the decorations, and packed up when the holiday was over, and displayed every year during the appropriate holiday. She displayed the pictures, without getting overwhelmed in them. She said that when she switched them, such as Thanksgiving for Christmas, Halloween, etc., her children always revisited the memories of past holidays. The year was also worked into the design, and it solved the problem of what to do with the cards that are photos, which people never know if they should toss or save. I liked it because it shows the kids growing, past Halloween costumes, and memories generally found in the photo album, not displayed. But, think about 6 years of Halloween costumes, 8 years of Christmas… I just thought it was a great idea. And, with a 60% off at JoAnn’s or Michael’s, the poster frames are cheap.

    Enjoy New Year’s Day!

    Gayle Ann

  2. Erin D January 28, 2019

    I, too, have struggled with Christmas expectations, experiences, and gifting. I’ll let you in on a little secret – I don’t really even like Christmas that much anymore. Easter is by far my favorite holiday. I’ll take a warmish day in April with the flowers and trees in bloom, a ham dinner with our friends and/or family, filling an Easter basket that literally only takes one trip to Target to knock out, and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection any day over Christmas. Every Christmas night when Hunter and I are putting the boys to bed I always think to myself, “we did it – we survived another Christmas!” Maybe it will get better as we get older and wiser, but I think Christmas in this day and age is riddled with too much pressure and presents and not enough intention and presence :-/ We will do our best to be countercultural but we will always feel the dissonance of fitting in with the norm and also pointing our kids to Jesus. If you find the silver bullet, I’m dying to know 😉


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