I See You

I see you. You, the mom putting out the picture of happiness. Radiating happiness. The mom that everyone thinks has her sh*t together. The mom who seemingly does it all. Mrs. Cleaver, caring for her husband, children, and home.

The mom who is the look of happy perfection and yet is crying out inside.

I see you. You, the mom crying silently in the car on the way home. The mom crying to herself, exhausted from being the one thread that holds everything together. The mom who gives until she has nothing left to give because she has no other choice.

The mom who wants so desperately to be there for everyone else, to be that happy bubbly person that she knows she is, but loses sight of her own needs in the process.

I see you. I see you because I am you.

It’s a hard thing to share. I’m the kind of person who loves to be that “light in the darkness”. I love to live a life full of happiness, who doesn’t? I love to lift others help, help them find those little positive moments, to be that person who is there for them when they need it. I don’t like to focus on the hard times, or talk about how the past month was a tough one, when I am now feeling better and things are looking up. I don’t want to bring those times up (aside from the random in the moment posting about them), because I don’t want to return to them. I don’t want to bring that back into my headspace, but if we don’t then we won’t learn for the next time. If we don’t share, others won’t know. I think it is equally important to share when times are good and when times are…well not so good.

Life is full of ups and downs for everyone and it is important to remember that even the people who look like they have their sh*t together still have their hard days too.

I also feel a lot of guilt when talking about what “hard times” looks like to me. I know that I am incredibly blessed to be able to stay home with my children, to have a roof over my head, to have food on my table, to not have to overly stress about our budget (although we do have one), to not have to worry about every little thing. I recognize that I am incredibly blessed to be able to travel with my family, show our kids the world beyond our town. I’m blessed to have a loving and caring husband (or partner if that’s your case), who will help our whenever and however he can.

I know that I am incredibly blessed in this life (although that doesn’t negate the hard work that I put in and have put in), but that doesn’t mean that I do not have hard times. Hard times look different to everyone, just like anything else in life. It is important not to downplay or minimize someone else’s hart times just because they look different than ours.

In August, my hard times specifically related to being mentally over exhausted. Our July and August have been non stop on the “doing things”, “people” and “noise” fronts and I just couldn’t catch a break to have an hour or two to myself. We talk about self-care (something I will be talking about this month) and how important it is, but sometimes we forget. I preach it, but wasn’t getting a chance to take my own advice. It’s a season of life and this past month has taught me a couple of things.

Also, in this time period, my husband’s work picked up quite a bit, he was in and out a little bit more (and had a long trip at the start of the month) and our boys reacted to that. Andrew became extremely clingy (to be expected), freaking out if I disappeared from his site for more than a minute. Again, a season of life and something that we are working on with him.

I say all this now, share all this now, because I’ve been really bad at sharing it in the moment. I hit a patch of about a week when I just retreated. Outwardly I was still that same person, but when we weren’t around others I hid inside. I carried on as best I could, but often times would end up crying at night, from being so tired, so worn thin. Feeling like the worn thread holding a piece of rope together.

I didn’t share in the moment for two reasons, both of which have been stated here. I don’t like feeling like this- no one does. I don’t want to bring myself down even more and bring others down. I also felt that guild and shame. I didn’t want to put my “not so important” problems above others who have what I would consider “real problems” (which, as I’ve stated above is utterly ridiculous). I retreated so far that I really just didn’t want to talk at all.

I don’t know what actually pulled me out to be honest. I cried. A lot. I wrote in my journal. A lot. I tried to “unpack” the things that were really bothering me. What was really getting me into this low spot. And, if I really think about it, it was probably a combination of things that just happened at the same time and reminded me of the good things. Then, I focused on those good things and over the process of a couple days started to feel better.

So, what’s the point of this whole post? It’s basically just me saying I see you. I see you, in the happy times, in the hard times and all the times in between. I see you and I want to help you. Tell me, talk to me; talk it out, write it out, cry it out, whatever you need to do.

Travel/Hiking/Getting Out With Kids

I’ve been getting a couple of questions, getting some comments, and hearing remarks from other families about how great it is when you have kids that are “easy” travelers, love to be outside, don’t mind walking/hiking. Most of these are in a tone of surprise, some have further questions, and I have heard a couple people say that they wouldn’t travel as much because they do have kids.

Let me say this, in the grand scheme of things traveling with kids is easy.

That’s putting it lightly. It’s obviously not “easy” and it is a little bit more complicated than if it was just you or you and your significant other, but it is definitely not as hard as people seem to think it is. Kids are not a reason not to travel. Let me say that again- kids are not a reason not to travel. In fact, they are a really good reason to travel.

This is going to be a post in two parts, the first talking about how we started and managed to travel/hike/get out with our two boys and the second will touch on the good reason about traveling with your kids.

When we had Colton we did a fair amount of day trips, getting out on the weekend and exploring our area. We did two long distance trips a year, one to see family and the other to a new location every year (both of which we drove to). We also did one long haul flight when he was a little over a year and a half.

Honestly, there has been no special secret to traveling with him, or with Andrew. We’ve just done it.

Has he had meltdowns? Yes, in fact he had the worst meltdown in a Dunkin Donuts in Berlin. Did it suck? Yes. Did people stare? Eh kind of (as much as they ever have in any other circumstance). Did it end? Yes. Did we quickly finish our food and head out, yes. It wasn’t an end to the trip, it didn’t change our enjoyment of the trip overall and it definitely didn’t change our minds to traveling in the future.

Yes, on the whole we have relatively easy going, up for anything kids, BUT I’ve found that kids are willing to go along on a good amount of things if you are wiling to take them. We do a variety of things on our vacations, some things with the kids in mind (Tiergarten in Berlin), some things with Mom and Dad involved (Mozart’s Birthplace in Salzburg). We make sure that we combine things throughout the day of kid friendly and mom/dad. We make sure that meals are as close to the same time when we are out as when we are home.

I’ve also found, specifically when it comes to hiking, being active, and being outside (also just being away from screens), kids follow their parents lead. Lately Colton, currently 3 ½ years old, has taking to walking almost 90% of our hikes. We recently did a “light/mild” hike through some Castle Ruins. We ended up walking almost 2 ½ miles that day and he walked almost all of that.

We’ve had some really long days while traveling. Walking, riding various forms of public transport, and while we’ve had moments of meltdowns (to be expected either way), they’ve both adapted really well to this sort of go, go, go. If anything I think they enjoy it, seeing all sorts of different, new things. They nap when they need to whether that is in a little umbrella stroller or on our shoulders and are generally really good on the fly.

Our weekly walks (once or twice a week) go about 1 ¾ mile and he walks all of it without being asked to be carried. Even Andrew at 2 years old is walking a good amount of these walks we do. We have always been outdoorsy, always chosen to walk a lot, hike, be outside as much as possible and I think that is a lot of why our kids are that way as well.

Basically what I’m saying (if this makes any sense), is to just go with it. Get out, experience the world, have a positive mindset about it and your kids will follow that. They model their behavior off of you as their guide, so if you are open to these new experiences, so are they.

Quickly I want to touch on WHY traveling is so good and important for our children. The first is that it teaches them a level of independence. Of learning how to handle new environments, new places, and new experiences. It also shows them that there are other places in our world. The world is a wide and wonderous place full of different people, cultures, and traditions. I think it is incredibly important to teach and show our children as many of these as possible. Our children should know more than what they grow up in, they should know of the world and if you can do that for them in some way, that is invaluable towards their future and their lives. I can touch on this in a separate post if you’d like.

And that is how/why we travel with our kids. Ultimately it comes down to just doing it. If you are wondering how to travel with your kids, more practical tips/or things that we take with us, let me know below and I’ll talk about that in another post!

Motherhood and You

Motherhood is all consuming, a never-ending cycle of care, but don’t let it consume you. Don’t simply become “mom”, don’t lose yourself, who you are, in caring for your children. Don’t cling to them as they start to grow up and grow away. Being a mom may be the most important hat you wear, or title you receive, (however you want to think of that), but it is not solely who/what you are.

All too often, starting almost immediately after birth, we become consumed by being a mom. By taking care of a little human being that depends solely on us for EVERYTHING (daunting, so daunting), by trying to be everything for this little being, and all too often we lose who we are in the process. We become so wrapped up in that “mom” role that we don’t take care of ourselves (a post for another day), we don’t take care of our significant other, we don’t take care of our friendships.

These things start to fall to the wayside, and it isn’t until we are a couple years in (or longer for some) that we realize that we don’t know who we are anymore. We have become a mom, the greatest blessing of all, but we’ve lost who we are in the process.

This is a normal thing that just about everyone experiences to varying levels. That isn’t to say that we can’t get back to who we are, or avoid this entirely, I’m just saying that this is a normal thing to go through. In fact, even the most prepared parents (the ones who swear that parenthood won’t change them) go through a level of this. It’s a natural instinct when we have a child that our world changes to revolve around this baby and it’s a very sweet time in our lives (postpartum depression/anxiety/and other issues aside). That doesn’t mean that it lasts forever. Our children will grow, they will mature, they will become independent and need us as parents less and less. That change is why it is important not to lose who you are when you become a parent.

How do we handle this? How do we allow motherhood/parenthood to take over our lives, and still maintain who we are?

Little things. What do you like to do in your free time? What did you like to do before you became a parent to relax?

Did you like to exercise? Find a gym that has childcare. Have your significant other take over the parenting duties for a few hours while you hit up a workout.

Did you like to read, write, watch TV, YouTube, etc.? Great! Naptime and after Bedtime are great opportunities to do these! (In fact, I squeeze a lot of my reading time during naptime and after the kids go to bed).

Did you like to shop or explore new areas? Perfect, you can do that with baby OR if you want baby free time, have your significant other or family watch the baby while you get a little break.

The main takeaway from this is not to have time away from your child, although that is needed too, but to find time within your day to do what works for YOU. What makes YOU happy. So much of motherhood is spent tending to others (and not just your own children, being a mom turns you into everyone’s mom) and it is easy to lose ourselves in that. So so easy to be swept away taking care of everyone and everything else.

If that is what fills you up and makes you happy, perfect! Do more of that. BUT don’t forget to take a little breath for yourself.

Big things. Find time for you and your significant other to have a little time together at the very least once a month. Take care of that relationship or it will fall to the wayside. Check in with each other throughout the day, send that sweet little text. Have a moment while the baby is napping. Hire a babysitter when baby is a little older to get much needed date nights in (no matter what those actually look like).

Everyone says that one day your children will go up and leave and then what will be left is you and your significant other. This is true, but what is more important is the example that you are setting for your children. From the get-go, our children learn from us. They see what a stable relationship and family looks like from us, so water your own marriage and your children will see how to water their own (when that time comes).

Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page as situations arise so that you can be a cohesive unit. Parenthood can help your marriage thrive and grow into new heights, or it can fall to the wayside. More than likely it will ebb and flow between both (again, completely natural), but the continual watering will help everything stay on a balance to continue to go towards success and happiness.

Ultimately, motherhood is a phase of life. For those of us who are mom’s (in any form) it is an all-encompassing blessing. It never ends and takes a lot of who we are. BUT it doesn’t have to be solely who we are. We were somebody before we were “mom” and while being mom takes precedence, don’t say goodbye to who you are. She is still there, and she should be able to shine as well.

A Week In Our Life

Good morning! We’ve semi settled into our lives here in Germany and, while we don’t have a house as of yet, we do have a bit of a routine to our weeks. I didn’t want to do a morning or evening (or even Day In The Life) routine as it is bound to change when we get a house and I can do much more before the boys wake up, but I did want to share a little insight into what our week looks like.

We try to get out of the hotel at least 3-4 mornings during the week. The weekends are spent outside the hotel as well, either exploring somewhere new or running errands that need done. I find that the biggest thing for our boys right now is being out and about. In the hotel they don’t really have access to all of their toys, are limited to what activities they can do, how loud they can be, etc. and tend to get stir crazy really quickly. Thankfully the community here has quite a few options, and we have found places to go. I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible for you 🙂

One of the things that we keep in mind is that 4 day weekends typically (but by no means always) fall on a Friday-Monday schedule. When I was trying to break our week down, I purposefully kept Friday-Monday open with MY schedule (of writing and chores) so that I don’t feel so cramped when we go travelling on long weekends. It seems a little crazy (and maybe it is) as what I do can be so flexible, but in my mind if I have my own schedule for getting things done, it makes everything a little smoother. And then everything actually gets done. Some of our long weekends fall on a Thursday-Sunday or Saturday-Tuesday and we just adjust and make it work.

Our Basic Layout is: M/F unscheduled time, T/W Playgroup, Th Library. Read on for the specifics J

Monday:

IMG_6250Monday’s are fairly wide open, we usually head out for a walk to our little park down the road and spend about an hour or two walking/playing/soaking up some sunshine. When it is raining/snowing/can’t head outside, we will hop in the car and head over to some of the stores to walk around. Basically Monday morning is an unscheduled morning that we try to spend out and about. During the boys afternoon nap I’ll tidy and do some reading.IMG_2870

 

 

Tuesday:

Tuesday mornings are spent at playgroup. The boys have LOVED going to playgroup since the first day we went and I love that they get a chance to play with a whole bunch of toys (that we didn’t even have in our actual home), play with other kids, and run/scream as much as

 

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they want. It’s a great way to burn some energy of AND help them develop in ways that they haven’t been able to before now. It’s also nice for me to be able to get to talk to other adults and just relax for a minute. During the boys afternoon nap I generally work on writing and blogging things. I check emails, write or schedule blog posts, review my stats, etc. I basically consider it a “working afternoon”

 

 

 

Wednesday:

Another playgroup morning. After playgroup we will usually run to the grocery store or shopping store to pick up anything that we need. We also typically get lunch out and just have a little mid week treat. During naptime I have another “working afternoon”.

Thursday:

Thursday mornings might be my favorite morning of the whole week. It is storytime/library morning. It’s a little bit of a later start than Tuesday and Wednesday, and it involves soaking up books. What more could you ask for? Colton is starting to really get into books and reading and will finally sit still for story time, so this has become a fun morning for him. It’s a good balance to the two previous mornings of running around with loads of energy. Andrew is a bit more hit and miss with story time (just due to his age and the fact that he’d rather be running right now, he will get there eventually J), but he loves the coloring after the stories. We also usually pick out some books to take home and read, both for the boys and myself. During naptime I usually handle anything that I hadn’t gotten to on Tuesday or Wednesday. This is also when I just do some personal/life admin, journal, handle any paperwork that needs to be handled, etc. I am hopeful that once we get a house and I start working on my actual podcast, that this will be a podcast recording day.

Friday:

Friday is the only weekday that we stay at the hotel. We will try and head down for the community breakfast in the mornings, or I’ll make something special in our room, and then we come back up for a morning of snuggles and cartoons. I find that we do need to have one day where we aren’t doing anything to just relax and not be going all the time. It helps the boys and myself. If the weather is nice, we may head out for a walk, but on the whole we just try to take it easy. This follows during naptime as I will do a little tidying/life admin and then read.

So that is a little bit about what our weeks look like! This is something that won’t really change when we get a house, like my morning/evening routines will change. I still am struggling a little bit with having the newfound free time that I have, but I am slowly starting to get used to the idea of filling what I fill and being able to have a little freedom with the rest. When we get a house and I am able to actually have a full SAHM routine, I’ll talk about how my day is structured/mornings and such in more detail.

 

 

 

 

Hotel Living With Two Toddlers

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about something that I’ve referenced before, but felt deserved it’s own blog post and that is living in a hotel with two {very active} toddlers.

One of the things that we knew ahead of our move was that we were going to be in a hotel for quite some time. This wasn’t a breaker for us, just something that we tried to prepare for ahead of time as best we can. Knowledge is power and preparation is key for this type of situation. We weren’t really able to prepare the boys though and honestly we didn’t know what we were actually walking into with our room set up.

I’ll start by saying that we are lucky. At this point we actually have a little one bedroom/one bath apartment style set up, with separate living room and bedroom areas. This allows us to have our own “space” separate from everything else when we need a little breather (which does happen). I don’t want to trivialize what this has been like at this point, but I do feel like it is important to acknowledge that we have had a better option than some of the other families.

We have two very active, very loud little boys. They love to run, wrestle, and create as much noise as possible. We’ve never had a problem with this and have generally let them explore and create and play as they want to (realistically, within reason so no one gets hurt or anything). They thrive on being able to have the room to run in circles or sing a song or heck, even just play with their own toys.

We packed several of their toys in their luggage and have purchased a couple of items, but the vast majority of their toys are still in transit with the rest of our household goods and we wont get any of them until we get a house. So they get a little bored playing with the same games and toys (which I realize may make them sound incredibly spoiled which they are not, but boredom is a factor at times here).

I think the hardest thing for the boys has been that they can’t just play as they please. We are trying very hard to keep our noise level down as best we can (considering we are at the top floor of our little building) and while I know that at times kids will just kids and others will be understanding, I also want to be understanding towards them. I know that not everyone wants to hear the pitter patter (or elephant thuds) of feet across their ceiling during the day. When they will, I encourage the boys to sit and draw/color, read a book (sort of), or watch a movie/tv show that they like to watch. They do get to wander around and be active, just in a quieter way.

The biggest help has been getting out as much as we can. We try to leave the apartment 3-4 weekdays in the mornings, whether its just going to a café or shops or going to a play group, and then we are out and about on the weekends. I try to leave one day to have a cosy day at home just to break up all the out and about stuff and to give them a bit of a break. I find that by doing this, they aren’t as “hyped up” on the days that we are in the hotel apartment and are more likely to take it easy.

Our boys are quite resilient and aside from a few rough days here and there have been doing remarkably well, but it’s not all sunshine and daisies. They do fight (A LOT), we do run into issues of noise (although most of that is just us being extra aware that we share walls) and sleep and there have been a couple of moments that we have just needed a little 10 minute break. I’m not going to lie and say that I haven’t just wanted to scream at moments. It hasn’t been “easy”, but with everything that we are experiencing, the memories that we are making, and this opportunity that we’ve been given has made it all worthwhile.

Travel Trips – Traveling with Toddlers

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Keeping those smiles strong!

Good morning! I figured this morning I would take a minute to talk about some of the things that I’ve learned over the past month about traveling with toddlers. If you’re new, we recently moved from the US to Germany, which included a total of 53 hours of travel (by the time we checked into our hotel) and I learned a lot. Some things I had already known would be a “thing” (rather they are kind of common sense), but others kind of took me by surprise.

Tip #1: Don’t lost your boarding pass, but don’t panic if you do. The most common sense tip on my list and the one that might not even matter anymore. This tip might actually be obsolete now in the commercial travel world with technology and smart phones becoming so much more a part of everything, but if you are given a paper boarding pass try your best to hold on to it. You can read all about my fun time losing mine HERE.

Tip #2: When packing your carryon bags, pack appropriately for TSA. When we packed up our carryon bags, we packed them with the knowledge of what we would need to take out per TSA regulations. Liquids in a plastic back in the outside pocket. Electronics right on the inside flap of the carryon (we dressed accordingly as well, but this is more natural than you think). Once we arrived at the gate we repacked our carryon bags to what we wanted while we were flying. By doing this, we not only saved a bunch of time in the TSA line, but we it actually made for a much smoother transition from the line, to the screening, to the gate.

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Andrew using his favorite bear as a pillow.

Tip #3: If you have a child (and are on an overnight flight), pack the blanket and stuffed animal they reach for the most. Another common sense tip, but one of the most valuable one’s I’m offering. We did not put our children into pajamas, and I didn’t really find it necessary (although it may be for some) but having the blankets and stuffed animals helped so much. Not only does it get cold on the planes, so the blankets are good for warmth, but it’s a comfort thing. I know I like to have a little bit of comfort and I figured kids would definitely appreciate it. Plus, it’s a good extra toy to have.

Tip #4: All About Food. Ok, so here are my thoughts on food (I’ll try to keep them short, straightforward, and to the point)…I packed a couple of things, snacks for the first flight for the kids and then purchased a couple of snacks and dinner at the airport. I know that the airport is going to charge more for food and won’t have as healthy of a selection, but the portion size for my children is a lot better and it means I’m not carrying a whole bag just devoted to food. If you are doing an overnight flight (especially if it is military), make sure you purchase extra because where you are going may not have a food option within reason. We found this out the hard way when we landed in Germany. Thankful for the little USO desk!

IMG_1256Tip #5: Car seat Carrier.If you have young children, you know all about the fun that is car seats. Now, you can certainly carry the car seat on the plane and have your children strapped into it (that is the safer thing to do), but we did not do that. We gate checked our car seats and the children each had their own seat on the plane. This worked for us, but even before gate checking, we were concerned about the damage that could be done to our car seats. The last time we gate checked baby gear it was broken in transit and with us needing the car seats shortly after landing I was especially concerned that they not be damaged. Enter a car seat carrier. We purchased two and spent I think about $70-$80 total and they were more than worth that price. They had some points where the bag was dirty and the bottom of one showed a decent amount of wear & tear, but it was the bag, not the car seat itself. They both arrived completely intact with no damage. It also made it boat loads easier to transport the car seats both to the first ticket counter and from baggage claim to the second ticket counter.

Tip #5: For Military Specifically.If you are in the military, check out your USO. A lot of times they are before security, so definitely keep that in mind, but often times they will have snacks, comfy seats, and an enclosed space for kids to stretch their legs. The USO at Baltimore is especially nice, although it can get packed fast. We spent a little over an hour and a half out the USO just relaxing and letting the kids play. It definitely made a difference for us.

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This wasn’t even everything, but it made getting from claim to ticket counter much easier!

Tip #6: Another Military Move Specific Tip.If you are needing to transport all of your luggage from one place to another (and let’s be honest even if you are just unloading a vehicle or transferring flights we’ve all had to do it), do yourself a favor and pay for the luggage carousel. It may be a hassle getting all your luggage to magically balance (and they are definitely overpriced), but it is 100% worth it for the sanity of not trying to wheel all the bags, car seats, kids, pets, etc. through the airport.

Those are my tips! I know a lot of them are just common sense, but sometimes we can forget these things in the hustle of planning trips, moves, or just travel in general. I hope you enjoyed!

Christmas Eve Boxes

I’m really open about the fact that we don’t do a lot presents wide for Christmas (neither for ourselves or for our children). My husband and I “exchange” gifts every other year and we do around 4 gifts for the children. I talked about this last year (you can find my post HERE). I have always been someone who prefers to focus more on the traditions aspects. Things that we do/enjoy that we can continue to do as the years go on and we all grow older.

One of those things we have done for the past couple years (since having kids) is Christmas Eve Boxes. This isn’t a novel concept or anything really extraordinary, but it’s something light and fun that we have come to love year after year (or rather the now 3 years we’ve done it lol). The boxes are filled with just a couple items- items that they would have been receiving regardless, but now given with a small yearly tradition.

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The boxes are gift boxes (different every year) that they come out from nap (or quiet) time in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. The boxes contain a similar items every year:

Christmas Pajamas: They get a new set every year (I try to match them for all of us), and while these ones aren’t Santa centered I still felt like they were cute.

A Book: I think this might be my favorite part of the box. I really love the concept they have in Iceland of exchanging a book on Christmas Eve. The idea of staying up all night reading a book by candle and Christmas Tree/Decoration Light in Christmas pajamas just makes me sing with joy. My boys love and obsess over the books they get every year.

A Sweet Treat: (Not Pictured) This is typically chocolate or cookies and it’s a nice little treat to have. We don’t do too much candy or junk food in the house, so it makes the evening feel even more special that they get to have something fun.

One Last Thing: This year they’re getting a special little addition in their boxes that they don’t (or won’t in the future) typically get. Since we are moving and keeping Christmas small and these little guys were introduced this year, I figured it would be a fun little thing to add in. Those items are little baby Nifflers! If you don’t know this about me, I am a die hard Harry Potter fan, which extends to just about anything in the HP World/Universe. When Fantastic Beasts came out, I fell in love with the Niffler. He is hands down one of my favorites and now we’ve got little baby Nifflers with the second installment. Barnes & Nobles had these, so I figured I would scoop them up for the boys (and one for me as well since I’m secretly a kid at heart).

Outside the Box: The last thing isn’t really in their boxes, but is placed just above them and that is the movie that we will watch that evening. We watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas every year on Christmas Eve, but sometimes there may be a short film or TV Short Film (think Trolls Christmas from last year type thing) that we will watch in between as well. If there is that, it will be included with the box.

The boxes are fun for the boys as a little precursor to the fun that is in store and it’s also just everything that we need to have a cosy night at home. As they grow older I hope that we can continue this tradition on. I have also included the “adult” version of this…aka my own Christmas Jams and the book that I plan on reading Christmas Eve into Christmas Day.

Do you have any fun Christmas Eve traditions? Do you do the Christmas Eve Boxes?