We also prioritize being outside.
For instance, last summer we tent camped with our two young boys, then ages one and four, throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts for 18 days.
Before our youngest son, Grey, turned one, he had slept outside under the stars 13 times. He's gone white water rafting a handful of times.
Two years ago for our oldest son Avie's birthday, we went camping for two nights beside a lake, all bundled together in our large tent. On another birthday, we had a river swimming party.
With the two guiding principles of (1) keeping things simple and (2) spending time together in nature, the decision to go camping on Christmas Eve came easily.
It happened like this:
One morning mid-December, I said to my husband, Eric, "Let's go camping on Christmas Eve!" In his agreeable, always-up-for-an-adventure way, he nodded in agreement and smiled. Then we made it happen!
We've camped at least 20 times with our kids, and before that, an innumerable amount, which made packing and planning swift and easy. With our systems and methods already established, we were organized and ready to go in half a day.
After mass ended, we ran to the vehicle with Avie cheering, "time to go camping!!!" Eric drove the hour to our campsite while the boys and I sat in the back of our 2005 Toyota Sienna mini van and ate roasted Brussels sprouts, broccoli, grass-fed beef burgers and all-beef hotdogs.
With dinner out of the way upon our 7 p.m. arrival, we began decorating.
We all slept in (it was glorious) until 8:30 a.m. Avie peered out the window to the sight of gifts underneath our Christmas alter. "Dad, go get them!" Soon, Grey was buried in tissue paper, and both were squealing with delight at their new art supplies, Avie's school supplies, organic, edible gingerbread house making ingredients (graham crackers, freeze dried fruit, icing ingredients and chocolate chips), one toy each and some clothes.
Waking up to the sun bathing us all through the windows of the van...
the crispness of the 20-degree morning....
the purity of joy the holiday brings to little ones' hearts...
It was splendidly simple, refreshing, full of love.
And an experience to remember.
1. It limited the amount of gifts that arrived on Christmas morning to that which fit in half the cargo box on top of our mini van. All presents were loaded in a large black outdoor trash bag and then placed into the cargo box.
2. Togetherness was emphasized. I savor the sweetness of spending time away from distractions so that we can be totally in the moment with one another. With zero cell phone service at our primitive campsite on Big Run creek, part of Maryland's Savage River State Forest, we relied on each other and nature for entertainment. We took a night hike, threw sticks in the creek, climbed over rocks and snuggled tightly together on our mini van when temperatures dropped below 30 degrees.
3. Traditions and holiday spirit rang forth and stayed true. Even at home, we wait to put up a Christmas tree and decorations until Christmas Eve. At the campsite, I pointed out a leaf-less, short shrub, saying, "Should we use that as our tree?" Avie shouted, "YES!!! I love it!" Easy to please, amen!
Additionally, throughout December, we limit conversations revolving around what Santa is bringing, who wants what, and I hardly mention the big guy's name, which leads to a few wonderful things... Avie does not talk about Santa excessively, materialism in minimized, the "expectant child" syndrome does not take hold, and the true spirit of the holiday rings forth in our home and at Christmas mass.
We can't wait to do it again!!!
Merry Christmas to all of you and your families.
<3 May your hearts be filled by nature and time spent together with loved ones <3
Brynn and her family, Eric, Avie and Grey