It’s Not Too Early….

….to start preparing for Christmas.

I’ll confess, I don’t love to shop, especially under pressure, and even more so, when I am buying gifts for eleven children and other family members. Over the years I’ve developed a few strategies that I am passing along if you are interested.

Start Early:

Several years ago I began following and although I didn’t embrace all of her ideas, there are phrases and routines that have stuck with me. Three years ago I followed her Cruising Through the Holidays plan. The basic idea is that all of the work of Christmas preparation is completed by Dec. 1st so you can enjoy the holiday rather than be in a frenzied rush up to the last minute. She offers a free Holiday Control Journal that can be downloaded from her site and has proven to be useful to me. I’ve customized it to be a notebook that is more specific to my family. Each year in October I review my notes from the previous year and begin planning for the upcoming Christmas.

One of the best aspects of the notebook is the list I make at the end of each Christmas season which tells me what I need to purchase for the current year. This year my list says: Christmas ornaments for 2008 already purchased, To buy: 1 roll of wrapping paper (I already have the rest), candy canes, wide ribbon, new white lights, and advent candles.

I keep a page with gift ideas for each member of the family, then as I purchase items, I check them off and put the amount spent in a column.

We also have a family meeting to discuss what is important to each person during the Christmas season. One child likes to make special coconut candies, another may want to host a caroling party, and somebody else might want to plan a day to go snowboarding. We also set dates to get our tree and decorate so none of the older kids with busy schedules miss it.

Keep Gift-giving Simple

In the last few years, as the kids have grown in both age and number, we have settled on a tradition of two gifts per child from Mom and Dad, a stocking with small gifts, and a gift exchange among the siblings. It still takes hours to open gifts since we take turns and watch each gift being opened.

Give Classic Gifts

Last year I wrote a long post about our favorite toys which you can read HERE if you like. For the most part we give gifts that we expect will be enjoyed for many years. Sweet Pea has a collection of P.G. Wodehouse books that she has been adding to little by little each year. The boys often get backpacking gear, tools, books or things related to playing music. Some years Mimi asks for books, especially poetry. Most of all, we try to give gifts that will be enjoyed for a long time.

Create Your Own Traditions

Our traditions include giving each child a new Christmas ornament each year. They love unpacking each one and remembering it as we decorate the tree. My Mom did this for me and my sisters when we were growing up so by the time we were married, we had enough ornaments to decorate our own trees. Best of all, she still gives me an ornament each year – one of my favorites has a glaze made from Mount Saint Helens ash given to me the year after it erupted.

Another tradition is opening stockings first on Christmas morning, then having breakfast and reading the story of Christ’s birth before opening gifts. It makes for a long and lovely Christmas morning.

Our most loved and enduring traditions revolve around the dinner table and Advent. There were years when I wanted to have an advent wreath, but didn’t actually do it because I didn’t have my pink, purple, and white candles, but since starting my notebook, I’ve been prepared. . At the end of dinner we read the daily advent reading and light the candles. Sometimes we sing a related hymn such as, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. We end the meal with our well-loved Advent wall hanging which has handcrafted felt pieces that are added one each night to the advent wall hanging until little by little the scene is filled in. The kids have loved this for 20 years.

I could write more, but I am out of time. I realized a few days ago that I really need to go back and write about our trip to Ethiopia. Fortunately we did keep notes that I can refer to and I have many photos to share.

And just in case you aren’t inspired to begin your Christmas preparations – I am already done shopping for Honeybee, Dimples, Boo, and Eby and it feels great! Only seven to go.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Michael and Michelle
    October 9, 2008

    We are like minded…..I have started listening to Christmas music and we took out our daughter’s Christmas tree for her room tonight. We were going to put our Christmas tree up yesterday but got some “not so good” news on the adoption, so I kinda didn’t feel like putting the tree up anymore. My tree is up before November most years.
    I had to smile when I saw your post and told my husband that somebody else thinks like me:)


  2. thecurryseven
    October 9, 2008

    Our ways of celebrating Christmas are remarkably similar. Our Christmas morning is done in the same order and we open gifts one at a time. I do all the prep for Christmas before the beginning of Advent, but no actual celebrating…music, decorations, etc. can happen until after advent.

    I love the idea of the family meeting to find out what is most important to each person. I always worry a bit that someone will get lost in the shuffle. This would help.

  3. Audrey
    October 9, 2008

    Oh wow! Am I inspired! I am going to get started on this tomorrow. Working at a church, things get a bit hectic around Christmas. Thanks for the tips – I am committed to making this a less stressful – more focused on Jesus – season. Thanks a bundle!

  4. Matthew and Amanda
    October 9, 2008

    I’m impressed! Not many people could get me in the holiday spirit in October! Is it too early to break out the tree?!?!


  5. Rachel
    October 10, 2008

    Funny Lisa, I have not even begun and am overwhelmed with my family of 6! That includes Brant and I! Thank you for inspiring me…I would love to have that weight off my shoulders before we sart Advent!

  6. Caroline
    October 11, 2008

    Oh I am happy to see that there is anotherperson in the world who stars preparing for Christmas in October! I also give our children each an ornament for the tree every year. They love to put them in the tree!

  7. darci
    October 11, 2008

    what a smart woman you are! WE also give a Christmas ornament each year..we started that our first married Christmas. 🙂 It actually snowed here yesterday (sob) so it might help my spirits to dig out the Christmas music. 🙂

  8. Jen
    October 16, 2008

    Wow, so many great ideas. I will have to go back and read more thoroughly. I actually feel like you posted it at just the right time. Not too soon and not so late that the season is too far underway to make changes. Thank you.


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