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. ?

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.


Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.


Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.


Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!


Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.


Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.


'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."


Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.


Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.


Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!


Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.


Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.


Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.


Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.


Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this


Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

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