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We took Christmas morning and reserved it just for us

Road trips and plane rides around the holidays were all our kids knew.

We took Christmas morning and reserved it just for us

When you think of your childhood Christmases, what comes to mind?


For me, I remember waking my parents up well before the sun, then creeping down the hall to see if Santa came to our house. My parents always teased us and said no opening presents until they had at least one sip of coffee. My sister and I patiently sat on the couch, staring at our loot, waiting until they gave us the green light to dig in.

We opened stockings first, followed by the big stuff. We spent the morning at home, as a family of four, and visited my grandparents later on in the afternoon where we saw aunts, uncles and cousins. We indulged in cookies and desserts and had the obligatory bite of Slovakian food my grandmother had cooked. It was a typical, traditional, good old American Christmas every year.

My children’s Christmas mornings, however, have looked quite a bit different. Not bad, but different.

Like many modern families, my three kids do not have all of their extended family within a half hour drive of their house.

We live in Kansas. One set of grandparents live in Illinois, along with many of their cousins. Another set of cousins live in Texas. We value the opportunity to spend holidays with our extended family and very much want those memories for our kids.

So what does that mean? We travel. Every. Single. Year.

It also means for the first few years of our kids’ lives that we woke up in someone else’s house on Christmas morning. And although our Christmases weren’t the traditional kind we grew up with, they were special and memorable and our kids loved them.

Road trips and plane rides around the holidays were all they knew. Santa always found us wherever we were and delivered their gifts. Year after year, this was our normal.

Until one year we looked at our kids and realized how fast they were growing up. How fleeting those early childhood years were when they all believed in the magic of Santa. We asked ourselves, what are OUR family traditions? And we had a hard time answering that question.

So a couple of years ago we made a promise.

We would still travel to see family around the holidays—as being with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins is an important and valuable part of our children’s lives. However...we vowed to spend those first few hours of Christmas morning together as a family of five—as ONLY a family of five—no matter what.

For the past 15 years, we’ve alternated Christmases—one year with my family, one year with my husband’s. That first year we decided to begin our new tradition, we were set to spend the holiday with my in-laws. But rather than waking up in their home on the morning of the 25th, we packed up the kids, the suitcases and presents, and moved into a hotel on Christmas Eve. The logistics were tricky—how would we hide the presents in the car? Where would we put them without a tree? Would we have enough room?

In the end, with the help of a kind bellhop willing to hide our kids’ gifts until they were asleep, we made it work. We brought a small artificial tree with us and we surrounded it with presents. It was cozy, and it was perfect. Because when the kids woke us up at 5:03 a.m., they saw that Santa had found us. Again.

The news of our new “rule” was a bit awkward as it made its way through the family. I think some feelings were hurt, and a few relatives were confused as to why this was so important to us. Why go through the hassle of moving to a hotel for the night when there is a comfortable guest room at Grandma’s?

But in the end, when everyone thought about their own Christmas mornings, the memories made with their own families—just Mom, Dad and the kids—opening presents in their pjs, sipping coffee, throwing wrapping paper around, ooh-ing and aah-ing as they saw what Santa had brought, everyone understood.

Our oldest child is nine and sadly has figured out the truth. Being a helpful big brother, he keeps the magic of Santa alive for his siblings and helps them find our Elf on the Shelf every morning.

He may still wake us up at 5:03 a.m. this year, but he knows the new Legends of Zelda video game he’ll open was bought at Target by Mom and Dad. We still have a couple years left with my younger kids, but it’s passing by so darn fast.

It won’t be long before they sleep in, even on Christmas, and the pitter-patter of feet early that morning is a sound of the past. For that reason, we decided to grab a hold of these last few years of true childhood and preserve whatever traditions we can. Whatever memories we can.

We took Christmas morning, and we made it ours. ?

In This Article

    An expectant mama's to-do list can feel endless… but here's the good news: A lot of those tasks are actually really exciting. Planning your baby registry is especially thrilling: You get a say in what gifts friends and family members will buy for your new addition!

    But it can also feel a bit overwhelming to make sense of all the gear on the market. That's why we suggest mentally dividing your registry into two categories: items you need to prepare for your baby's arrival and items that sure would be nice to have.

    Here at Motherly, our editors have dozens of kids and years of parenting experience among us, so we know our way around the essentials. We also know how mama-friendly the registry-building experience is with Target, especially thanks to their recently upgraded registry and introduction of Year of Benefits. Just by creating your baby registry with Target, you'll snag a kit with $120 in discounts and samples. The savings keep coming: You'll also get two 15% off coupons to buy unpurchased items from your registry for up to a year after your baby's expected arrival. Change your mind about anything? The Year of Benefits allows for returns or exchanges for a full year. And as of August 2020, those who also sign up for Target Circle when creating a baby registry will also get the retailer's Year of Exclusive Deals, which includes ongoing discounts on baby essentials for a full year.

    Here are 10 items we agree deserve a spot in the "need" category on your registry, mama.


    A crib to grow with your baby

    Delta Children Farmhouse 6-in-1 Convertible Crib

    First-time mamas are likely creating nursery spaces for the first time, and that can get expensive. Adding a quality crib to Target registry gives friends and family members the option to join forces to make a large purchase through group gifting.

    $269.99

    A safe + convenient car seat

    Safety 1st OnBoard 35 LT Infant Car Seat

    The list of non-negotiable baby essentials is pretty short, but it definitely includes a car seat. In fact, most hospitals will not allow you to leave after delivery until a car seat check is performed. We recommend an infant seat, which can easily snap into a base in your car.

    $99.99

    A traveling nursery station

    Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

    It's hard to beat a good playard when it comes to longevity. This item can be baby's sleeping place when they're sharing a room with you for the first months. Down the line, it can function as a roving diaper change station. And when you travel, it makes a great safe space for your little one to sleep and play.

    $99.99

    A swing for some backup help

    4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

    A dependable swing can be a real lifesaver for new parents when they need their hands free (or just a minute to themselves). Because many babies are opinionated about these things, we appreciate that the mamaRoo has multiple modes of motion and soothing sounds.

    $219.99

    An easy-to-clean high chair

    Ingenuity SmartClean Trio Elite 3-in-1 High Chair - Slate

    Our best registry advice? Think ahead. It really won't be long before your child is ready for those first bites of solid food, at which point you'll need a high chair. We like one that transitions to a booster seat atop an existing dining room chair.

    $99.99

    A diaper bag to share

    Eddie Bauer Backpack - Gray/Tan

    When you're a mom, you're usually toting diapers, wipes, clothing changes, bottles, snacks, toys and more. You need a great bag to stash it all, and if you're anything like us, you'll choose a backpack style for comfort and functionality. Bonus: This gender neutral option can easily be passed off to your partner.

    $64.99

    A hygienic spot for all those diaper changes

    Munchkin Secure Grip Waterproof Diaper Changing Pad 16X31"

    We can confidently predict there will be a lot of diaper changes in your future. Do yourself a favor by registering for two comfortable, wipeable changing pads: one to keep in the nursery and another to stash elsewhere in your house.

    $29.99

    A way to keep an eye on your baby at night

    Infant Optics Video Baby Monitor DXR-8

    Feeling peace of mind while your baby sleeps in another room truly is priceless.That's why we advocate for a quality video monitor that will allow you to keep tabs on your snoozing sweetheart.

    $165.99

    A comfortable carrier to free up your hands

    Petunia Pickle Bottom for Moby Wrap Baby Carrier, Strolling in Salvador

    A wrap carrier may be about as low-tech as baby items come, but trust us, this product stands the test of time. Great for use around the house or while running errands, this is one item you'll appreciate so much.

    $39.99

    A full set of bottles + cleaning supplies

    Dr. Brown's Options+ Complete Baby Bottle Gift Set

    Whether you plan to work in an office or stay at home, breastfeed or formula feed, bottles are a valuable tool. To make your life as simple as possible, it's nice to have an easy-to-clean set that is designed to work through the first year.

    $39.99

    Target's baby registry is easy to create from the comfort of your own home. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with the Year of Benefits featuring exclusive deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

    This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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