Our simplified Christmas...

...aka Letting the kids do as much as possible.

For years, my siblings and I have celebrated the "Johnson Family Christmas Observed" about a week before the real day. Our parents are enjoying the sunshine in Florida and we all have other family to visit on Christmas Day, so this has become a relaxing alternative to more craziness.

We are having it at my house tomorrow night with a Polar Express theme. We are wearing pajamas and robes, eating breakfast food, watching the movie and reading the book and planning simple train-themed projects for the kids.

Simplicity is at the core of our approach to the holiday season the last few years. We've cut back on the things that make this season crazy and do the things we enjoy. And let those who like a particular chore, do that themselves.

I love having a teenager who is helpful, most of the time especially when power tools are included. He gladly hung the surprise stars on our front porch for Dad the other day. Dh spent Sunday looking for a single star decoration and couldn't find one. I knew there were these LED-tube stars available and bought these at Target. They are the only decoration on the outside of our house, besides the door wreath.

The boys have been the ones to cart the decorations up from the basement, and yesterday took it upon themselves to trim off the base of the cut Blue Spruce on our porch and set it up in the living room. It is now partially decorated and with the all-important large train set up beneath it. They will finish the decorating today after school. It is always interesting to see which ornaments make the cut!

I've discovered it is best to let them tap into their own creativity instead of trying to lead them in projects. The paintings above, by my 7yo and his friend, are a good example. They took out the paints and paper themselves and went to town. When I tried to help them make rice-filled hot packs they showed very little interest in the actual process (but were very excited by the final results.)

Maybe it is because our boys are so far apart, ages 3 to 15, but group projects really don't work either. (A friend can't figure out why we don't have family game night. It ends in disaster if we all try to do something like that together, lol.
Baking is an example of that. I can only do it with one helper at a time. For the oldest, all I have to do is guide him to a recipe, give him a few suggestions and, occasionally, point out when I smell something burning. Last night, he baked both pumpkin and zucchini muffins, probably 100 of them. (One less thing to make me more harried!)


Here is an easy recipe for you, not to eat but to fill your house with the scents of the season without much expense or fuss.

Stove-top Fruit  Potpourri

* Apples or citrus fruit beyond their prime
* Dry spices like cinnamon, cloves, ginger,  all-spice or nutmeg
* Vanilla, lemon or orange extract
* Water to cover

Slice up the fruit, throw it in a pot and cover with water, then sprinkle whatever spices or extracts you have on hand or just want to try. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer for as long as you want the heavenly scent to waft through your house.


Letting the kids do as much as possible may not get us the "Better Homes & Garden" photo spread, but that doesn't matter. In all forms of art, the process is often more important than the final results. I think our kids will have happy memories because I haven't been crazy mom trying to make everything perfect. And because they contributed to the process.

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