The 1st Day: Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Friends!

Oh, there has never been such a time as this! I hope this day is filled with so much love and joy that your heart practically bursts. I pray that your loved ones find unity, even in matters that always seems to divide. I pray that all the wishes in your heart, no matter how big or small, are acknowledged by those who cherish you. I pray that you can pull your loved ones close, smell their hair and feel their skin and soak up the reverent moments you have with them. I pray that you can articulate all the words you feel for them. The wonderful reasons why you adore them. I pray that if you are far away from the ones you love, you have the opportunity to take a moment, look up at the sky, and know that they are blanketed by the same good God above who loves you immensely. I pray that this holiday marks a turning point into the best year of your life yet. May this day be cozy, silly, sweet and most of all - memorable. I really do wish that for you.

I want to thank you for reading along with me over the course of this year. It's been a stellar journey and all your encouragement and support has been so appreciated - more than you will ever know. I hope this blog continues to be a little corner that you visit every now and again for a bit of inspiration and a good laugh. I am going to be taking a few weeks off from the blog to enjoy some much needed time with my little family. You can still find me here, probably over-exposing my joyful antics. I look forward to even more fun & rewarding content here on the blog in the new year. See you in mid-January!

All Photos by Rachel Koontz.

From our little family to yours, Merry Christmas!

The 2nd Day: Christmas Eve & All its Traditions.

Christmas Eve & All its Traditions.

I love Christmas Eve especially. Everything grows quiet and simultaneously loud, too. People gather to their homes, the cold roads begin to empty, twilight approaches and homes are filled with the warmth of family love. And probably some family drama too, let's be honest. But mostly family love. And laughter. And delicious FOOD. And everyone gets the chance to enjoy each other (and roll their eyes a little bit) and laugh about old times, quotes favorite family movie lines, tell old stories that have most likely been shared before. It's a wondrous, familiar, delicious time. And yet it's always new and exciting, because each year brings it's particularly fresh changes. Like for us. This year we have a baby for Christmas.

What are your family traditions? I wanted to share a bit about ours because I always enjoy hearing about what other people do with this particularly special holiday time. We cozy up, snack on delicious appetizers (tonight mom has baked brie and crudites on hand, yum), munch while we make the actual meal (ribs!) and then we will relax around the fire and have family time. We might play a game. We might break out the guitars and have a jam session. We might all pile up on the couches in the family room and watch an old movie (or argue for 30 minutes over who wants to watch The Hobbit, who wants to watch The Holiday, and who wants to watch BOTH). We will most definitely be wrapping those last-moment gifts. In years past, we would always go Christmas caroling in our community, but with a new baby this year, we want to stay home and keep him warm. And do our best to adhere to a reasonable bedtime (I say it like its only for him, but its for me too :)

A word on Christmas sleep: I used to try my hardest to stay up reeeeeeally late on Christmas eve in order to wake up a bit later on Christmas morning. I was one of those kids who would leap out of bed at 4:30am, wake everyone up to OPEN PRESENTS OPEN PRESENTS OPEN PRESENTS, and end up ticking everyone off. So I had to learn the hard lesson of not to bothering mom and dad before 7am. And lets be honest, my sisters too. They were such teenagers, even before their time. Just wanted to keep snoozing. However, this year, I will fight the urge to not be a Scroogy-sleeper myself. I'm just coveting all the Zzz's I can get, especially with Stevie taking some time off for the holiday!

Tomorrow will begin with hot cinnamon buns, gathering in the living room with a fire blazing, and my dad's bible taking center stage. We will sip my parent's preferred coffee (this year they're on an Illy kick), while we listen to my dad re-read the story of Jesus' miraculous birth and His gift to the world. We will discuss it. What it must have felt like to be Mary, probably 16-ish and pregnant, carrying that baby around with no clue on how to explain what was happening to her. What it must have been like to be Joseph, whom the bible calls a "righteous man", marrying her in light of the scandal of her condition. What it must have been like for the Magi, searching the skies every night, following a star throughout the land, in hopes of meeting the most treasured baby ever born. THE STORY IS BONKERS. We will also act out the manger scene with our animal noises. And then my dad will call us all blasphemers and close the book. Look people, I gave birth this year. If there had been some sheep and cows hanging around my hospital room, I'm pretty sure I would have started throwing some punches (and probably wheezing a bit, too.) Whew. So there's that part of the morning.

Then we will DO PRESENTS. And this year - take turns holding Everett while we do so! After presents we will enjoy my parents' infamous eggs benedict. It's the one time a year they cook something together in a planned fashion, and it is so scrumptious, we always beg them to make it more often. But its our special Christmas breakfast. And my little sister will lick the hollandaise sauce out of the bowl. She will. And she will be horrified that I just shared that on the Internet. But she weighs like 10 ounces so who even cares.

Then Stevie and I will pack our things and prepare for round 2: heading to his parent's house! To do "Christmas Eve" and "Christmas Morning" all over again! We are so super duper blessed. Both our families love to celebrate so well, and we gladly soak up the double Christmas fun. His family celebrates so similarly to mine, but there are a few fun twists. They like to make fresh-squeezed orange juice, all run up the stairs together on "your mark, get set, GO!" to pounce on the presents, and then begin opening one by one. It's just hilarious and chaotic and comfortable and so fun. We will still be celebrating with family and extended family and relatives until Saturday, when things will finally wane into a sleepy post-Christmas-adrenaline stupor. Oh the stupor. I'm hoping Everett really allows us to nap then. It's some of the most wonderful napping done all year long.

So that's what's happening in our neck of the woods! What are some of your Christmas traditions? Any of this sound similar to how you and your loved ones celebrate?

Enjoy your Christmas Eve immensely. I hope you get to gather the ones you love tightly in your arms and squeeze them and kiss them frantically. Because if there were ever such a time to do so, that time is tonight! XOX.

The 3rd Day: Memories of Christmas Past.

Memories of Christmas Past.

I'm just gonna go ahead and admit that this is my FAVORITE post of all the countdown to Christmas posts this year. One of the benefits of moving back home has been going through my mom's old photo albums and digging up the hilarious/precious/atrocious photos of the past. When I was growing up, my parents were really good about photographing Christmas especially, because it was SUCH a big deal in our family. They worked really hard to give us beautiful, outrageous Christmases. I was a blessed little girl. I wanted to share some of the photos from these past Christmases of my life, because, well, they are pretty awesome. And looking through these photos really does spark the memory of the moment.

My second Christmas. Despite what the pillow states.

Can we talk about my parents here. THOSE GLASSES. Warby Parker would be proud.

I don't think the cookies were my gift. And yet.


My family holds a high value for bath robes. Clearly, that indoctrination started early.

Also, my sister is wearing pearls. SUCH A GIRL FAMILY.

I can't ever remember my mom having her nails painted like this. That phase must have ended with the 80's.

The year I was in a kid's choir and our Christmas special was ON TV. Little did I know, it would be the peak of my fame.

The year I got my American Girl doll. I begged for that thing for a full year. I especially love my little sister's face, because she was anticipating it almost as much as me. PRICELESS.

The year me and my younger sis knew all our gifts.

Can you tell? I mean, we knew ALL OF THEM. Such little fakers.

Christmas Future.

I mean, this just makes me smile. Being a new parent this year, I am inspired all the more to capture the important moments that Everett is experiencing. In just two days he will be celebrating his FIRST Christmas and we will be on our own parental journey of continuing the tradition of over-photographing, probably over-gifting, and overly-enjoying the joy of surprising kids on Christmas. Hip hip hooray, the day is almost here!

The 4th Day: Holiday Survival Guide

Holiday Survival Guide

Holiday Survival Guide by oykristen // 1. Comfy Clothes // 2. Google Drive // 3. Trifecta of Beverages // 4. Sleep 5. Crossing something off "The Long List" // 6. GET OFF PINTEREST //

Holiday Survival Guide.

Oh Monday. Why hello to you.

It's a terrible thing, but this is usually the "crunch" time of the holiday season where it sets in: the intense stress. It's the Monday before Christmas. I have the 4th day (and later, the 3rd day) of Christmas posts for you today. And I'm have flashbacks to the scenes of frantic, anxiety-laden Whoville shoppers in Jim Carry's version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". How will we ever get it all done. How how how. Is that question playing a little dance in your mind today? I bet it started late last night... Sunday nights tend to bring on the worries of the week. 

I've been thinking a lot about how to combat stress, how to enjoy the season, and how to not be consumed by, well, all the consumption. It's a challenge. But there are a few things that have helped me over the past few weeks, and I wanted to share them with you in case they're helpful in this last stretch before Christmas arrives.

1. Comfy Clothes.

All day every day. If you're going to get a LOT accomplished in a little time, it's time to strap on your sneakers and approach the day with the mind of an athlete. This is going to take some strength and endurance, might as well dress the part. And if you're like me, you will be wrangling some kind of baby while you're attempting to pick up last minute gifts, wrap presents, whip something up in the kitchen, all while trying to remember if you have actually brushed your teeth yet today. You don't need to do any of these things in style. You need to do them in comfort.

2. Google Drive.

This has been my saving grace over the past several years during the holiday season. This is where I keep a list of everything I've purchased and everything I still have yet to purchase for my loved ones. I keep a running total of every purchase (tape, wrapping paper, photos, Christmas card expenses, and yes, of course the gifts) so that I can stay on budget, and therefore, less stressed. Also, when my husband asks me (practically every other day) how we are doing on our budget, I can answer him with precision. It's less stressful to know exactly where I am measuring up on my budget so that I'm not shopping in the dark, so to speak. Aaaaaaand it's really awesome to be able to access this tool from my computer & phone, and share these documents with my hubby so that we're on the same page. I just have to remind myself to make a separate tab with his surprises listed (so that he can't see what I have in store for him on Christmas morning!)

3. Trifecta of Beverages.

My drinking method? I only drink three things in any given day. Water, coffee, and sometimes a glass of wine at night. Staying hydrated with H2O is a surefire way to keeping up energy throughout the day. The coffee is an obvious booster (unfortunately, the tribe of nursing mothers that I'm a part of can only caffeinate to a certain extent), and then if you really need to unwind and relax after that baby is (hopefully!) sound asleep - then imbibing in a glass of wine is a happy little reward.

4. Zzzz.

Listen to me, all of you blessed ones without newborns: get all the sleep you can!!! It's the best way to recharge so that your brain actually works when you need it to during the waking hours of the day. Getting good sleep is the best way to power through. And for those of you with newborns (like me), good luck. The challenge is a bit greater for us, simply because, we are missing out on a fundamental building block of our day - proper rest. Napping helps. But I won't encourage you to nap, because if one more person tells me that's what I should be doing, I might have to slap them. NAPPING ISN'T POSSIBLE RIGHT NOW. So stop telling me to do it. Maybe after the New Year.

5. Cross something off your list. Now do it again.

I know the list keeps lengthening. I know I know. But seriously, you've got to be able to make cuts in your to-do list. That extra baked good that you wanted to have for Christmas Eve? You don't need it. Don't spend your time on it. That extra party you got a last-minute invite to that you thought you'd "just stop by" for? You shouldn't go. All the excessive to-do's in the outlier margins of your mind - just say no. This is part of learning how to have self-control & guarding your time wisely so that you can offer the best of yourself to the most important people in your life. Also, it feels really good to just cross those unnecessary things off your list.


It's time to stop looking and idea-gathering. That time has ended. Stop looking at pictures of cute ways to wrap gifts, interesting new recipes to bake, and glittery outfit combinations. You ain't got time to fill your mind with more ideas. You have enough ideas. This week is time for executing what's already in your heart to do. So it's time to stop browsing Pinterest. Along with this is a call to ignore all the incoming emails from retailers trying to squeeze another dollar out of you. They don't have another special gift that you should buy. THAT EMAIL IS A HOAX. They want your money. They don't want to give you the Christmas spirit. You already have the Christmas spirit. These emails and those Pinterest searches will only make you think you need more of what you already have.

These next few days? They're for savoring. For laughing. For watching Christmas movies and joyfully wrapping gifts. Not frantically wrapping gifts, joyfully. And getting the last few things done that really matter to you. Enjoy the next few days leading up to Christmas!

The 5th Day: Resting.

"Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek his face continually. Remember His wonders which He has done." - Psalm 105:3-5


Spending time resting today. Being grateful for my family. Enjoying my people. Taking some deep breaths and putting a pause on everything else. All the gifts that need wrapping, they will go unwrapped. All the grocery shopping and baking that needs to be done - that can wait until another day. Today I am grateful to have my husband back home after a week-long work trip. And to be honest, I am having more fun watching him play with my little boy than anything else. I know the holidays are a magical time, but they can also bring on a ton of stress & anxiety. If you are immune to those feelings around this time of year, you are an extremely rare person. I know that, for some, the holidays can be painful. Full of dark memories. Full of unwanted emotions. For some, the holidays are a reminder of what they don't have; who they don't have.

I hope that today you can find some time to sit in a bit of silence, gaze at the world around you, and find something to be deeply thankful for. Because for me, I am sitting here, watching my own flesh and blood play together on the carpet, and I am a little undone about it. To be able to see my loved ones, interact with them, love them with my whole heart and touch them with my own two hands - I am experiencing what is absolute and priceless. To be able to touch my love, to be able to do that, I am the luckiest girl in the entire world. I may not have a fancy job or a big house or a zillion dollars in the bank or anything else that the world tells me is valuable - but I have what I am looking at, I have who is looking right back at me. I have today. I have the 5th day before Christmas. And I am a blessed woman.

I hope this Saturday before Christmas 2014 is a wonder for you today, my friends :)