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There is just something about Christmas with kids that makes the world feel magical again—like, even though you have moved beyond the whole believing in Santa thing yourself (because, hello adulthood,) the impossible still just might be possible through the eyes of your young children.
This whole experience was amplified for me when I had my first child. It was as though overnight I suddenly went from being a bit of a Christmas grinch to someone who went all out in order to create/capture/solicit/squeeze every last freaking bit of Christmas magic humanly possible out of this holiday for my baby her very first year.
That first Christmas, I turned into a bit of a crazy person. I decorated every surface imaginable with wintery, straight-off-of-Pinterest decor. I took my daughter to every holiday excursion I possibly could (11-month-olds are totally cultured enough to appreciate The Nutcracker, right?). I had everything planned out to a tee.
I'm pretty sure my husband thought I had gone temporarily insane, because this was such a far departure from the person I had been during the holidays up to this point in life. There was just something about this first Christmas with our daughter that made me want to collect every little bit of magic I could find for her.
Now, this is where the story goes south, and I doubt it will be much of a surprise since there is no possible way that any form of Christmas reality could ever live up to the level of Christmas hype I had created in my head.
On Christmas Eve, our plans for the evening got cancelled at the last minute and my husband and I ended up getting in a fight over it. It wasn't that big of a deal in retrospect, but at the time it felt like Christmas was completely ruined. I got upset and which then turned into full-on flipping out during which I decided that Christmas was going to be cancelled altogether.
It's so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays and feel like you have to make everything perfect, but that's not where real Christmas magic lies.
We spent our Christmas Eve eating terrible box pasta for dinner while I sobbed uncontrollably and took down every bit of Christmas decoration in our house. The only thing left standing was the tree (which I would've taken down also, but it happened to be raining.) It was full-on crazy mode.
When we went to bed, I told my husband that I would be returning all of our Christmas presents and that we weren't celebrating Christmas anymore. I realize this might seem completely ridiculous, but it seemed like a completely legitimate thing to have an emotional breakdown over at the time.
Christmas morning we got up and went about our day with business as usual. We ate cold cereal and I told our families not to come over and I pulled out my laptop to start blogging, because I was determined to make this a day like any other in a follow-through of my proclamation of non-celebration.
Around noon, my husband had a come-to-Jesus talk with me and made me see just how ridiculous I was being. We did finally end up opening gifts, but I didn't take a single photo. There were no Instagrams, no Snapchats, and no other documentation of our firstborn's first Christmas aside from a quick video of her opening her stocking. There are no photos of our happy family wearing matching Christmas jammies and my daughter never even got to wear the Christmas dress I painstakingly chose for her. It didn't matter though. All that mattered was that we were together celebrating the day as a family.
It's so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays and feel like you have to make everything perfect, but that's not where real Christmas magic lies. I had to learn the hard way that Christmas isn't about "creating" magical moments. It's about the real moments that happen in between all the rushing about—the simple moments spent with the people I love.
Even though that first family Christmas was a complete and total fail, it wasn't a complete waste, because it taught me a very valuable lesson about managing expectations and focusing in on the things that are really important. I learned that things don't have to be perfect to be wonderful and Christmas is no exception.