Friday, December 24, 2010

Traditions ... TRADITIONS!

I love the song from Fiddler on the Roof sung by Tevia about traditions.  That is what I was thinking when I wrote the title of this blog post.  So, it is 5:30 in the morning and I am awake again.  Because I am a freak like that.  So why not blog, right?  Especially since I found something really great at Pottery Barn Kids that I wanted to tell you about.  It is called "Your Birthday Book".

Image from but available for cheaper on Amazon.
When I was growing up, each of the kids in my family had a "School Book" that was given to us by my aunts.  Once a year, we would update our books with the school photo from that year, a record of our height and weight, and information like the name of our teacher, our favorite subjects, the names of our friends, where we went on field trips, what we wanted to be when we grew up, etc.  It was such a great tradition and I love having the book now.  I was just looking through it the other day and bragging to Paul about how my 1st through 3rd grade report cards say things like "Amy excels at logical thinking and reasoning."  That was in Nebraska where we didn't just get letter grades, but our teachers actually made comments about our performance.  Once I moved to California in 4th grade, the teachers just awarded A's and moved on.

Anyway, the Birthday Book is so, so awesome because it is meant to be updated every year on or around the child's birthday.  It asks things like who came to the birthday party, what were some of the child's favorite gifts, what does the child want to be when he or she grows up, etc.  But it has other fun pages with "exclusive interviews" that change questions over the years but are more journal focused and include thought provoking little gems like asking a 5 year old about what was the last thing that made him/her sad or asking a 7 year old what makes him/her really, really happy.  When the child turns 10 you are supposed to ask them what the top five things are that they think about all the time.  There are also funny questions like asking a 6 year old how much the family car costs, who is the tallest person they know, and how tall do they think that person is.  I asked my niece Elizabeth these questions last night and she told me after some thinking that her mom is the tallest person she knows, that she is either 10 or 89 tall after Paul prompted her that her mom would be so many feet and inches tall, and she guessed that their family car cost $100 million dollars (but she might have just been being silly by that point).  I will stop going on about all the great things in this book, but you get the picture, I'm sure. 

Another reason I really love this book is because in our adoption education, I have learned that no matter what, at some point in the adopted child's life they will experience a sense of loss - a sense of "my life would have been different if my birthmom had not placed me for adoption."  And they will feel a loss of history - of family and past, etc.  And although that cannot be replaced for the adopted child, I want to make sure that our children have a history and I think that books recording a childhood that they may only have vague memories of might be a way of developing that sense of self.  The Birthday Book does a great job of that.  There is also a "The Grandparent Book" that I found in BYU bookstore by the same author and publisher which has wonderful questions for grandparents to help get their history down for your children.

And now, in the spirit of traditions and history and Christmas - since it IS Christmas Eve after all - here are some of my favorite holiday traditions that may be on the unusual side:
  • Sleeping "in the crack" with my sisters.  This doesn't happen anymore, but every Christmas Eve my sisters and I would pile into my bed (which had a trundle bed that made it king size) and chatter about how excited we were for Christmas morning.  I loved this because I was the big sister and I knew what was going on but could still get carried away with the magic of their belief.  We continued this tradition until the year I got married to Paul.  Jennie and I always made Jessica sleep in the crack between the trundle beds, which was the most uncomfortable spot.  She was the littlest and complained about having to sleep in the crack every year, but secretly I think she loved it.  I'm pretty sure we took turns sleeping in the crack though because I have distinct memories of how annoying it was to be stuck in the middle. 
  • Sneaking out to see what Santa brought.  I have always been a terrible sleeper on Christmas Eve.  Even now I still wake up all night long wondering if it is morning yet.  My parents always left the Christmas tree lights on all night on Christmas Eve and I would invariably sneak out of bed around 3 in the morning to see the presents under the tree and the toys that Santa had left.  Santa always wrapped some things and left others unwrapped and I loved having the preview of Christmas morning all to myself.  It was a secret, magical Christmas experience that I shared with no one else.  My sisters always made me promise that I would wake them up so that they could sneak downstairs with me, and sometimes I would, but only after I had made a trip by myself.  Some years I would boss them and tell them that they were not allowed to sneak down but that I would generously go fetch them a glass of water.  One year when I was maybe 12 my parents absolutely forbade me to sneak down in the middle of the night and told me that if I did, there would be no presents for anyone.  At 3 a.m. when I made my trip, there were no new presents from Santa.  I could not believe it.  I went back at 4 - nothing.  At 5 I started getting really worried.  Finally, at 6 when I knew that my brothers and sisters wouldn't sleep in much longer, I went into my parents room and told them with serious concern that there were no presents downstairs.  They asked me groggily how I knew that and I admitted that I had peeked but that my sin shouldn't affect my siblings receiving of presents.  I was pretty upset by that point.  My parents made me go back to my room where my sisters were and when they finally let us go downstairs at probably 7, there were presents for everyone, even me.  It was such a relief.
  • My dad's Christmas Eve shopping.  It is not that my parents ever put off shopping for Christmas.  In fact, my mom was always really good about shopping early and we still love shopping together and finding sales or special surprises for everyone.  Incidentally, this is why I want girls - even now I try on things for my sisters and we make adjustments for sizes and they do the same for me.  But almost invariably on Christmas Eve my dad would come into the kitchen where my mom and sisters and I were usually baking something and say that he didn't think there were enough presents.  This was always after days of him saying that there were already too many presents under the tree and that we were all spoiled.  So while the girls finished up the cookies and watched a Christmas movie, my mom and dad would hit the stores for last minute surprises.  It isn't so much the extra presents that I love about this tradition (although that is an awesome bonus) as the feeling of being at home with my sisters while knowing that our parents were out together planning special things for us.  I'm willing to wager that this is one of their favorite traditions too whether they admit it or not.
  • The yearly game of present roulette.  There were five kids in my family and it seems like each of us always wanted to be the one who had the last present to open.  This is not the same thing as having the most presents, it is just that there was something magic about the very last present.  We were forever hiding our own presents behind chair legs or underneath discarded paper in the hopes of fooling each other.  Paul has taken up this tradition and is amazingly good at the what-are-you-talking-about-all-my-presents-have-been-opened deception necessary to successfully pull off a win. 
  • The post-unwrapping fashion show.  After eating a good breakfast (which was a tradition itself) and cleaning up the living room, we always had a fashion show for my parents (and aunts and grandparents if they were in town) where we tried on the clothes, shoes and jewelry that we had received.  There was much oohing and aahing and frequent use of the word "cute."  I tried to get my niece Emma to say "cute" the other day so she would be ready for Christmas, but she is only one and pretty much only knows "dog."  Next year though.
There are other traditions too of course.  Opening pajamas on Christmas Eve, reading the Nativity story and/or watching "White Christmas," going through stockings first before touching any other presents are other things that we do each year for example.  But these non-tradition organic traditions that just sort of evolved are really my very favorites.  Do you have any of these less-typical types of traditions in your family?


  1. I loved this post. We do have awesome traditions. I'll never forget the Christmas Renita and Becky were asleep on the pull out couch and you snuck down to see if you'd gotten the Barbie, wasn't it? And Becky woke up. So funny. I'll miss you tonight.

  2. I love the Traditions song too! And yours all sound like so much fun. I like the birthday book idea too.

    My dad used to go out on Christmas Eve too, but he'd go by himself and buy all of the frivolous things we didn't really need and have them gift wrapped, so on Christmas morning his gifts were always the prettiest and most exciting!

  3. I love traditions! I need to have a talk with Nathaniel about this post because I always want to start traditions but he's not into it. Of course, it looks like a lot of these traditions happened spontaneously, which is probably best.

    What was your Christmas breakfast? I need to know.

  4. I love the ideas of these books! My youngest sister is adopted & my mom made her a laminated (back before sweet snapfish books) book about her adoption, with pages for her birth parents, about our family before we found her & how she completed our family. She's 11 now & still loves her adoption book. I wish you the best on your adoption journey. Good Luck!

    From your friend Heather's Friend.


Your turn...