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The Season of Giving

 

I recall in my last post writing that Thanksgiving and Christmas are one magical, beautiful holiday season rolled in to one. Although I don’t disagree with that statement– I love this time of year- this year has been one of the hardest ones for me. You see, I have been spending most of it alone.

In the beginning of November, my husband was handed this wonderful work opportunity that just couldn’t be passed up. He was chosen as one of the select few (in a very large company) to support a program out in New York City for two months. New York City during Christmas time! Isn’t that just dreamy? And so off he went. We knew it would be a big sacrifice for both of us, but the pros seemed to outweigh the cons. 

While these 2 months apart have certainly been hard, it is manageable. You kind of get in a routine and just figure it out- no sweat! But it can be lonely. It can be exhausting having a two year old and only having a break once she is sound asleep in bed. And at the end of the night, I have a strong appreciation for those mothers that have to do it alone all the time. They are super moms!

This time of year has been so fun at our house in many aspects- our daughter loves our Christmas tree and all the twinkly lights. We love reading Christmas stories and singing “Jingle Bells.” We’ve even tried our hand making chocolates and goodies to deliver to our neighbors. But it is also kind of hilarious all the stuff that has happened since my husband has been gone- the stomach flu, fevers, runny noses, and most recently, I fell down the stairs in my garage and hurt my foot really badly. Now I am wearing a boot for 10 days! Just this morning, my dog starting limping around the house, and I thought, “Seriously, what next?!” I’m in serious count down mode until Friday, when my husband gets to come home for Christmas. 

And just when I was in the depths of a little pity party for myself, someone left a beautiful pine wreath on my doorstep. I don’t know who left it, but whoever it was, they had a serious intuition that I needed a little cheering up. I brought it inside, and now my house smells just like Christmastime. I love it! To me, this was a perfect reminder of what Christmas is all about. It is about giving, about sharing goodness and love. This put everything into perspective for me- this attitude of giving and serving others is the reason why I love Christmas the most. And sure, this 2 month business trip has been difficult, but my husband gets to come home for Christmas. And you better believe we are going to pack in all the fun festivities while he is here. I have such a good, simple life. 

How do you give this holiday season? What are you doing to brighten someone’s day?

This article was written by Jamie.

Elf Magic

It won’t be much longer before my oldest son finds out the truth behind Santa. He is seven and my younger son is almost five and they both still believe. They are at that magical age where the holidays are so much fun through their eyes.

One of their favorite Christmas traditions is the month long visit from our Elf on the Shelf, Stiller. (He received his name in honor of Ben Stiller’s elf character in the Elmo’s Christmas Countdown movie.) He arrives at our house on the morning of December 1st and says goodbye on December 24th. I make the effort to bring Stiller to “life” for 24 days because of the happiness it brings to my kids. They wake up every morning asking if they can go find Stiller. I love to hear them call out with excitement when they find out what he is doing. That is the magic that Stiller brings to me. 

This is the third year that Stiller has come to visit our family. I’ve been documenting his visits with nightly photos that I post on Instagram. The lighting is usually less than perfect and I take most of the photos with my iPhone, but at least I’m capturing all of the things that he does for the boys. It is so much fun to look back over the years to see all of these photos.

Some people find this to be too much work and hassle, but a little planning and some inspiration will make it fun and easy.

  • Pinterest has tons of Elf on the Shelf ideas. That is where I get my inspiration and lots of free elf printables.
  • Search the hashtag #elfontheshelf on Instagram for even more ideas.
  • I set a nightly reminder alarm on my phone to move Stiller. This has saved me more than a few times!

Embrace the Elf on the Shelf magic and think about how much fun this would be if you were a little kid. Want to see what else Stiller gets into this month? Follow me on Instagram @tracylarsen and search the hashtag #StillerTheElf.

 

This article was written by Tracy Larsen.

replacing pride with grace

Ten years ago we only had one child. She was easy going, well behaved, and shared with other children. I would dress her in precious outfits with her hair pulled nicely in a bow. Our house stayed clean and we were usually on time wherever we went.

As a young mother, I never really understood when I saw mothers with multiple children. They often seemed to be barely hanging on. They told stories that I didn’t quite understand. I remember wondering how they let their children leave their homes dressed in many of the outfits I would see. I didn’t understand how their children could “act” the way they did. I thought I had it all together. I thought things would never change for us.

I now see how prideful I was and how sinful my thoughts were. I am honestly quite embarrassed as I think back on those years.

Now, we have three children. I have laundry that is never caught up. I feel like we are never on time. I often go to bed exhausted with dirty dishes in the sink. Baths sometimes get skipped and the clothing battles with our youngest aren’t worth the fight.

I have learned so much since we had our third child. Her strong willed nature and her flair for fashion have taught me many lessons. I no longer wonder how a mother can let her child leave the house wearing a glittery Elsa dress and crazy red boots. I no longer wonder why a child’s hair is a mess and face is juice stained red. I no longer wonder why a child is having a tantrum in the checkout aisle. I no longer wonder why a family shows up late for a dinner invitation. I no longer see messes in the homes I go into. I have learned that the people I see daily all have a story. Every family has a story. Each person has their own story that I deeply want to know.

 I see so much beauty I didn’t see before. I see mothers who love their children and are doing their best to care for them. I see mothers giving their children freedom to make their own choices. I see houses that are lived and loved in. I see children, who are slowly learning how to interact with others, but still in need of guidance and love. I see families that are doing their best to fulfill commitments; even if they are 15 minutes late. I see grace overflowing. Yes, grace is what I see now.

Ten years later, I see the world differently. I am grateful I can humbly see we are not a perfect family and I am not the mother who has it all together. I am a mother in need of God’s grace and love daily.I am a mother who loves my family and is doing the best I can. And I am a mother who still has so much to learn.