I have always loved Christmas, and now that I have children, my holiday cheer has skyrocketed. Keith and I can’t wait to share all of the wonderful things about the holiday season with our boys.

In fact, Christmas is already in full swing in our house. We are already playing holiday tunes—the twins especially love “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”—and I’m nearly finished with my Christmas shopping. Last weekend, Keith took advantage of his four-day weekend and hung the lights on our house. (Don’t worry, they’re not lit yet.) And we just can’t wait to pick out and decorate our Christmas tree, put up our indoor decorations, watch all of our favorite holiday cartoons with Matt and Nate, and have all sorts of other holiday fun.

As we are planning all of that, though, we’re realizing just how challenging the holidays can be when you have little ones. For one, we are worried about the fate of our soon-to-be-purchased Christmas tree. Keith and I always get a real tree (you can’t beat that smell) and load it up with ornaments we’ve amassed together through the years—several of them rather delicate. And we plop it right in the middle of our living room.

But, like all kids their age, Matt and Nate are quite curious little fellows. Even with their 9 million toys in every corner of the house, they want to touch what they’re not allowed to touch. They open every drawer and door they’re not supposed to. If I leave my purse within arm’s reach, they dig my wallet out and dump its contents on the floor.

So, what exactly will they do when there’s a big tree full of shiny, sparkling ornaments right in the middle of their house? (I am having flashbacks to when my brother and I were little and we’d manage to knock over our Christmas tree at least twice every holiday season.)

Telling them not to touch the tree will only make them want to touch it more. I suppose we can hang all the non-breakable ornaments on the lowest branches. But even then, the thought of constantly having to re-hang them is exhausting. We are considering putting the tree in a corner of the living room where it would be blocked by the sofa and love seat. But that would cover half the tree and make us unable to put presents under it, which would take away a good deal of the fun.

In an attempt to preempt some of the problems, I bought the boys this toy Christmas tree. It has 24 ornaments they can take on and off and reposition to their hearts’ content. It even has two different tree toppers and a tree skirt. I plan to leave this tree right on our coffee table ottoman in the hopes that it might deter them from touching the real tree.

Another challenge is the fact that we spend Christmas in New York. Traveling with two feisty toddlers in tow is quite a hassle, to say the least, and never a fun thing for us or our fellow passengers. But what we’re even more worried about is how we will handle the whole Santa Claus thing on future Christmases. Right now, the boys are still too young to really know what’s going on. So, we’re having Christmas morning at our house before we leave for New York, and then they’ll open Grandma and Grandpa’s presents on the real Christmas morning at my parents’ house.

But starting next year, when the boys understand the concept of Santa Claus, how will we handle Christmas morning? Christmas mornings are something they will remember forever, like I do. Growing up, nothing beat the excitement of waking up in my own bed on Christmas morning, rushing to wake up my parents, and running downstairs to find all of my presents under the tree. So I would like the boys to sometimes experience Christmas morning in their own home. That’s a challenge as a military family, though, when you typically live far from loved ones and the place you grew up in. Once we get to DC in the summer of 2014, we’re hoping some of our relatives will spend some Christmases at our house.

But what about the years we do travel to New York? Will we just tell the boys that Santa Claus knows they’ll be at Grandma and Grandpa’s and will bring their presents there? If so, how will we then get their presents home? (This year, for instance, Santa is bringing them a train table—not exactly something you can check on a plane or stash in the car.) Or, should we tell them that Santa Claus comes early to visit the kids he knows will be away on Christmas Day? That seems like it will really take away the anticipation and excitement leading up to Christmas morning.

I know these are somewhat frivolous things to worry about when there are so many far worse things happening in the world. However, some of my most cherished memories are the holiday traditions my family has created for me since I was little. They are so important to me. I want Matt and Nate to grow up with their own traditions to pass down to their kids. I want them to one day feel the same warmth I feel when they think about their own childhood Christmases.

I know that many of my military friends with older kids travel for the holidays, so I’d love to hear from you: How do you handle being away from home on Christmas morning? Where and when does Santa Claus leave presents for your children? And to all my mommy and daddy friends: How do you keep your little ones from destroying your Christmas tree?

To get you all in the holiday spirit, here are a couple of outtakes from the boys’ Christmas photo shoot. The photos were taken by Julie Pearson of Julie Pearson Photography. She is wonderful, and we highly recommend her. Enjoy!

Nate, didn’t I teach you any manners???
Matt’s ready to go sledding!
Finally, a decent family shot!

10 comments on “Christmas with Kids”

  1. What a treat to grow up with TWO Christmases! How many kids get to do that!? That’ll for SURE be a sweet tradition and memory for them all their lives. (And I think Santa knows where every kid is on Christmas morning… and he knows that he has to lhelp out Mommy and Daddy by leaving little things that can be packed or easily shipped when kids are away from their own home. That Santa is pretty smart!).

    • Ugh, I can totally see them snottily bragging to their friends one day: “Santa only visited you once? He visited us TWO times!” Ha! But you’re so right about it being a tradition in itself.

  2. Hello! We always sent presents ahead to the family we were visiting, and just planned for the cost of shipping those things home in boxes. Anything really big was from “Mom and Dad” and we’d keep that at home for early or late opening…like a train table. Maybe Santa leaves that once the kids are in the car and they find a surprise once they get home! As for the tree, we bought some plastic Sesame Street ornaments at Target and other felt ones, and they were all over the bottom row. And yes, I picked them up every night. But, they learned to be gentle and never knocked the tree over – we always had it in a corner, but not blocked by any furniture. All in all, not too bad, and yes – LOTS of fun!! Enjoy!

    • That’s a great idea about making the big stuff be from Mom and Dad! And boy, I sure was hoping to avoid the Sesame Street ornaments. 😉 We sort of have a snowman theme going on our tree, so maybe I can just get a bunch of non-breakable snowmen for the bottom. Thanks so much!

  3. Grandma and Grandpa will put all of the breakable and cherished heirloom ornaments on the top of the tree and leave the plastic and non breakable ones on the bottom for Mate and Nate (and Ava) to enjoy,
    We will also securely tie the tree to a hook installed in the woodwork (as we finally learned to do with you and Dan after 2 years of fallen Christmas trees). We also sent the bigger presents to your house and will have the smaller ones under the tree on Christmas day. Don’t worry, things always have a way of working out and I’m sure the boys will have wonderful Christmas memories when they grow up. I am so glad to know that you cherish the memories and traditions of your
    childhood and am sure the boys will too.

  4. Ahhh the age old military question. Where to celebrate the holidays. For us it’s easy right now because we can have Christmas here in ny and drive to nj later that day to celebrate with family. But in the event we live too far to do so we already agreed that Christmas would always be where our home was and we would do the traveling after the big day. As far as ornaments go I believe we didn’t put any down low when Sam was a crawler and the following year we just let her play with them. She was almost two at that point. We lost a couple balls that year but nothin too traumatic. You should enjoy your snowman themed tree this year because your kiddos are going to be begging for their own ornaments one day soon and if you’re a sucker like me all your classy Christmas decorations will be replaced with cheesy Plastic santas and giant inflatible snowmen. I now understand how in a few short years one can go from cool chic to Santa brooches and homemade clay ball necklaces. Which i am sure are somewhere in my near future:/

  5. I happened upon your blog and as a mom I remember a very rambunctious little boy of ours that could not leave the tree alone. I put the tree inside the play pen, and hung the stockings around the edge. Merry Christmas!

  6. Hi Jen,
    I love the family Christmas photo! Word of advice tie the real Christmas tree to something. Do not put breakable ornaments on your tree either. I don’t have children yet but remember I have nephews, nieces and little cousins that have done damage….lol. Don’t worry about Christmases in the future just enjoy the moments you have now. Always remember to tell the boys that Santa stops at everyone’s house and he knows where you’re gonna be. Can’t wait to see you guys next month.
    Love Josi

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