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A Peek Into Our Lives This Past Week (+ Christmas movies!)

Welcome to my weekly post where we take a break from money-related posts and I share about what I’m loving right now and give you a little peek into our life from the past week.

This year was rough as a mom. Really rough.

I told a friend earlier this week over lunch, “I feel like I’ve been in a war this year — fighting for my kids. And I have the battle scars from it.”

My kids have hurt others. They have been very hurt by others. And I’ve been hurt as a mom by words that have been spoken about my kids and my parenting — to my face and behind my back.

There’s so much more that I will share someday, when it’s the right time and my kids are older. But for now, suffice it to say that I’ve walked through some situations with my kids and dealt with some things that I never expected I’d be walking through or dealing with.

But through all the ups and downs and hurts and heartaches, I’m grateful. Not that my kids have struggled, but because all of this shook me out of my parenting ruts and taught me to parent in a brand-new way.

I’ve leaned into my kids and loved and listened like never before. I’ve slowed down the pace of my life to have much more space to just BE with them — to get to know them in a whole new way.

We’re closer than ever before. We have more honesty in our relationships than ever before. And I love my kids more deeply and fiercely than I ever have.

I’m so proud of my kids for how they have grown this year and the strength and wisdom I see in them as a result of what we’ve walked through. And I’m excited to see what 2018 brings for them!

As I mentioned last week, not only did we decide to enroll Kaitlynn in a little school starting in January (which she’s excited about!), but Kathrynne also recently made the decision to switch schools — in the middle of the year. Which is a pretty big decision for an almost-13-year-old!

It was a decision that was made with much thought, many conversations, and understanding that it was a big risk and big jump into the unknown.

It would mean leaving behind everything that was safe and known. Leaving behind her best friends. And willingly choosing to start all over again as the new girl.

But she knew that she wasn’t thriving at the school she was at. She was constantly stressed and anxious with the intense and rigorous workload at the school she was at and it was stealing her joy, causing her to have panic attacks, and keeping her up into the wee hours of morning. And as the semester went on, I saw it crushing her.

While a really rigorous academic load is great for some kids, it was too much for her personality and capacity right now. So we started talking about other options, including switching to a school with a completely different style of teaching. We told her that it was ultimately her decision… because either way, there’d be really hard things. Stay and be pretty downright miserable. Or switch schools and start all over again — not knowing how it will go.

We’re so proud of her for how she has processed through this with us and how she’s prayerfully and thoughtfully made this decision.

The unknown is scary. You have no idea where it will lead. But it could also be the gateway to amazing things you could have never dreamed of!

(Quote paraphrased from Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengtson.)

You know what one of the best decisions I ever made was? To be okay if Christmas looks very different at our house each year.

Every year, we all talk about our expectations for Christmas as a family. Each person gets to give their input on 1-2 activities they really want to make happen in December. And we choose a few Advent activities to engage in as a family. And that’s that.

It means that our Decembers stay quiet and simple and they are filled with the few things that are most important to each of us.

This year, in addition to a few Christmas parties, we’re doing a family advent countdown and the kids each have their own fun advent calendar, we’re blasting the Christmas music almost (my choice!), we’re making some homemade gifts, we’re each picking a Christmas movie to watch as a family almost every night leading up to Christmas, and we’re leaving today to take a special family trip just the 5 of us for the next few days to some place the kids have never been to before (our family gift this year).

We might also do Christmas cookie decorating and Gingerbread houses. Or we might not. Those weren’t super high on people’s lists. And we might do a few other things. Or we might not.

This December, we’re especially focusing on leaning in and spending time together, because January is bringing some pretty big changes for us (new schools, no more homeschooling, a new routine, and closing on a new house).

It might not look like the way others are celebrating and it might not be fancy, but it’s suiting us well this year. And I think that’s good enough!

What We’ve Been Watching

We are trying to watch one Christmas movie every night (as mentioned above), so we’ve watched some fun Christmas movies this week: Home Alone 1 and Home Alone 2, Christmas With the Kranks, and Jingle All the Way 2. We also watched Despicable Me 3 (because one child couldn’t come up with a Christmas movie they wanted to watch this week!).

Still on our list (we haven’t watched these before, so I can’t speak to whether they are worth watching or not): White Christmas (yes, can you believe, I’ve NEVER seen this one!), Holiday Inn, The Christmas Card, Christmas Grace, Christmas Oranges, and Christmas in Connecticut.

Do you have any great Christmas movies to recommend that we should add to our list to watch?

What I’ve Been Reading

This week, I finished reading Missional Motherhood — a book that my mom gave me for my birthday. I’ve slowly been reading through it over the last few months and found it very inspiring and thought-provoking. One of the quotes from it that really stuck with me was: “What we always talk about reveals what is important to us. What we say and write reveals what we place our hope in.”

I also read through Home Management. It was a good refresher as I think about tweaking some of our routines and household chores for 2018.

{See my Reading Goals for 2017. Also, see the 76 books I’ve read so far in 2017 here.}

What I’ve Been Working On

As we get closer to the end of December, I’ve been working on planning for 2018 — reviewing my goals from 2017, thinking through goals for 2018, mulling over my word of the year for 2018, planning for a fun new online live coaching and accountability group I’m launching in January (4 Weeks to a More Productive Life! More details coming soon!), and thinking through what worked and what didn’t work for blogging last year and some changes I’ll be making as a result.

For those who love these types of posts and have been asking about them, I’ve been working on them and plan to start sharing them — one per day — after Christmas. So stayed tuned for when I’ll be sharing my goals, a recap of last year’s goals, my word of the year for 2018 (I’m really excited about it!), the January accountability group/live coaching, my top 10 books from 2017, what I’m planning to read in 2018, and the blogging changes!

Links You Should Check Out:

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  • Denise says:

    I love The Christmas Card! I hope you guys do too! Another one I like is Little Women. While not completely a Christmas movie, it does have some good Christmas scenes! And it has ice skating!

  • Marianne says:

    No A Christmas Story?!? That’s the best Christmas movie!

    White Christmas is good too, hope you all enjoy it.

  • Melani says:

    I hope you enjoy White Christmas and Christmas in Connecticut! I’ve not seen the newer version, but the 1940’s version of Christmas in Connecticut is one of my favorites. I also really love The Muppet Christmas Carol.

  • Meagan says:

    Have you seen The Bishop’s Wife- 1948 version? That’s a good one!

  • Kara Comer says:

    Good for you, Crystal. I love your honesty in all things.
    White Christmas is one of my favorites and yes, the ‘40’s versions of Christmas in Connecticut, Holiday Inn and the Bishop’s Wife are the very best. Our family watches them all several times a year. Crystal – if you don’t mind emailing me your address I’d like to send you a Christmas Card. My last address for you is outdated.

  • Angela C says:

    Thank you for the reminder that it’s ok for Christmas to look different from year to year. I’m in my last few terms of on online bachelor’s program and have spent most of the last 3 weeks sick so we have done a lot less this year than we usually do. Most of the time I’m good with that but it’s good to have the reminder for those moments when I feel bad about our bare bones Christmas. Our favorite Christmas movie is Arthur Christmas. We watch it every year and would recommend it to anyone!

  • Roseanna says:

    White Christmas is our favorite and I think that you will enjoy it! Holiday Inn is good but be aware that there a few scenes that are not socially appropriate in today’s world…most notably, Lincoln’s Birthday (President’s Day was still divided). The characters perform in blackface so you could either fast forward or use it as a springboard to discuss it with your kids. We also love It’s A Wonderful Life. Keep Christmas any way that works for your family, and enjoy the season!

  • Jessica says:

    A Muppet Christmas Carol, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer (claymation), Frosty the Snowman, Miracle on 34th Street, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, White Christmas, Elf, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Santa Clause, The Family Man, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, While You Were Sleeping… I love Christmas movies! 🙂

  • Sara Cunningham says:

    The Muppet Christmas Carol is the only version of A Christmas Carol I like. I’m actually watching it right now! It’s funny, has music and doesn’t get too dark like I think some of them get.

    • Thanks so much for the suggestion!

      • Carrie says:

        Yes, the Muppet Christmas Carol is so much fun…I love the music. 🙂 I think you will enjoy White Christmas; such a great movie!! I always tear up at the end, even though I’ve seen it probably at least 10-15 times. Have you seen It’s a Wonderful Life? That’s probably my all-time favorite Christmas movie. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!! I just love that picture of your family. 🙂

    • Emily C says:

      Oh but the version of Christmas Carol with George C. Scott is incredibly well done! That’s our favorite.

  • Melissa says:

    Elf for sure! The kids giggle and giggle. 🙂 (I have three boys though- 9,8, and 6). 🙂 They also love Home Alone (all 3) because of all the pranks. Ha!

  • Jami Boys says:

    Since we found it a few years ago, I recommend The Ride: A Christmas Eve Parable to everyone! It’s a short movie with a huge message done in a really understated manner. I think you and your family will appreciate it.

  • Tia says:

    I absolutely HAVE to watch Holiday Inn, White Christmas, and The Family Stone (for a good cry and some great laughs) . Ive been missing your goal posts as well, they kept me focused on my own goals, I’m so happy you’re bringing them back 😊. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  • Heather says:

    DONT WATCH CHRISTMAS ORANGES!! It’s the worst Christmas movie ever. My sisters and I watched it one year and now we use it for a joke – “let’s watch Christmas Oranges”, we say to be funny because we never want to watch it again. I guess I don’t enjoy watching orphaned children abused in an orphanage for entertainment.

  • Your daughter is doing such a brave thing! What a great testament to your parenting and her resolve, despite the unknowns.

  • Maura says:

    After you watch White Christmas, check out this link:

    The description has some fun history about the movie.

  • Maura says:

    (I love your family photo!)

  • Staci says:

    We watched Arthur Christmas last night and it’s super cute. Also love Little Women and the Preachers Wife this time of year.

  • geri anne says:

    I enjoy your posts about your family and what’s going on with them, but you’ve now used the term “lean in” multiple times and I’m not quite sure what you mean by it…..Would love to know more!

    • It’s a term I use that just means to really pay attention, get down on their level, and really listen to what they are saying and trying to communicate. It’s just something that I use to remind me of how I want to parent.

  • Kirstin says:

    This year I’m watching Christmas in Connecticut (1945 version), While You Were Sleeping, Max Lucado’s The Christmas Candle, The Christmas Card, and The Note.

    The comment about Christmas Oranges is hilarious. I’ve thought about buying the DVD so many times.

  • Karen says:

    Our movies that *most* of the family (current children’s ages 7 to 19) enjoys watching every year are Holiday Inn, A White Christmas (these two are fun to watch one after the other), It’s a Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Carol (with George C Scott), and Bookie and the Secret Santa. Obviously, some of these appeal more to the younger children and some of these the the younger children do not even get to watch yet. We also all enjoy watching different performances of The Nutcracker and Celtic Women Christmas concerts.

  • Samantha says:

    Hi Crystal,
    You and your husband know your kids best. You pray for them, you see the things that they need to work on in their hearts, you listen for how the Lord is leading you to parent each child individually, you and your husband know what’s best for your family as a whole. Please tell your kids and yourself that your family knows better than “those people” and you don’t need to second guess yourselves or let others tear apart and make you feel guilty for your decisions! I’m a homeschooler and I’ve appreciated hearing your journey, but I’m your fan because you are honest and genuine and real. There’s no point in keeping your kids in a mold that doesn’t fit anymore and that God doesn’t have for them. I don’t know what’s been said or who is saying it (because you are so kind not to call them out), but unless they are close friends or close family, they don’t have a right to speak hurtful things because they are not in it daily with your family. My son (my oldest) is in 8th grade this year and we are praying all year about what the Lord has for this next step. And as I’ve stressed about academics and “doing enough to give him every opportunity post high school”, I’ve learned recently (again) that obedience is better than sacrifice. Pray, listen to your kids and your close confidants, and then obey the Lord, trusting that the Lord will lead your children down the right path because He knows their future and loves them more than we possibly can.

  • Regina says:

    Everyone has wonderful ideas! We love Muppet Christmas Carol, but my husband loves the Patrick Stewart version of A Christmas Carol. Holiday Inn is a favorite (love it more than White Christmas!), The Bishop’s Wife, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey (claymation about the donkey who carried Mary). I’ll also suggest The Shop Around the Corner which You’ve Got Mail gives a nod to for plot.

    Merry Christmas!

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