403 | Christmas Traditions for the Family (Jessica Smartt with her sister, Julie!) | REPLAY

403 | Christmas Traditions for the Family (Jessica Smartt with her sister, Julie!) | REPLAY

Show Notes:

In this episode, Jessica chats with her sister, Julie, about making memories over the holidays. They cover food traditions, entertaining, Advent traditions, and centering your holiday around Jesus.

About Jessica

Jessica is a wife, homeschool mom of three, author, and blogger. She lives in sunny North Carolina on a big family farm with chickens, goats, cousins, and lots of mud.


Memory-Making Mom by Jessica Smartt

Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls

Jotham’s Journey by Arnold Ytreeide

One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham

Hallelujah: Advent Traditions by Cindy Rollins

Behold the Lamb by Andrew Peterson


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Homeschooling.mom | Instagram | Website

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Show Transcript:

Jessica Smartt Hi, this is Jessica Smartt joining you here today. I'm excited to share with you a little bit of what's on my heart and what I've been thinking about. Make sure that you check out my homeschool course: Homeschool Bootcamp. The link is in the show notes. And of course, it's always a great time for picking up a copy of one of my two books, Memory-Making Mom: Building Traditions That Breathe Life Into Your Home and Let Them Be Kids: Adventure, Innocence, Boredom, and Other Gifts Kids Need. Of the two, I would say pick up Memory-Making Mom as we're launching into the fall. Fall is a great time to make memories and I see some wonderful holidays coming up.

Jessica Smartt And on our show today, I brought on my sister, Julie, because she's my favorite person to talk about making memories and traditions and coming up with ideas and brainstorming. And Julie is married to her husband, Dan. She has three boys that she homeschools. She loves being in the kitchen, and she loves working out early in the morning and just mornings in general. So, that would be an opposite thing between the two of us, but I brought Julie on. I'm sure she's gonna do a great job, because when she was little, do you remember the karaoke machine?

Julie Yes I do.

Jessica Smartt Julie, when...we got a karaoke machine one year and Julie spent ridiculous amount of time up there with the microphone. Basically, recording podcasts before it was even a thing. So, you probably have more experience than I do, even.

Julie I don't know about that, but it was definitely a place to start.

Jessica Smartt Yes. So, well thanks for being here. So, yeah, we're gonna just kinda talk through some different tradition ideas of things that we love and obviously, we're gonna start at one of my favorite places to start, which is talking about food. And that's what Julie is really good at. Everything she makes is better than what I make, and even if she tells me exactly what to do, it just turns out way better the way that...however she made it. So, I don't know why that is, but, Julie's the food expert. So, what are some of your family's food related traditions, Julie, that you do, like, throughout the Christmas season?

Julie I mean, I guess, to start with, we always, growing up, had a Mom who loved to be in the kitchen. So, it was pretty easy for that to be something that...I mean, you too. We all really, at a young age, decided we liked, because she was an excellent cook. I mean, everything she made tasted good. And it wasn't just, like, the, you know, rose colored glasses of being a kid. She was...I mean, she's an excellent cook.

Jessica Smartt No, it's legitimately good. Yeah.

Julie Yeah, so, and, as far as Christmas and...we had a lot of things that she did that I carried with me, without even realizing how much I had loved them. Specifically, do you remember the cookies she used to make that were, like, five in one cookies?

Jessica Smartt Oh, yes. All the different flavors. It was like the thousand logs that were in the freezer. Those...

Julie Which, when you describe to people, it doesn't sound like it would be as good as it was.

Jessica Smartt Right.

Julie But it was like a shortbread cookie, mixed with a sugar cookie that she would add different flavors in and then freeze them. And she always did that kind of at the start of Christmas to get ready, like, to give gifts and, you know, have some for us too. But, that is one of the first memories...whenever I think of Christmas, I'm always thinking of those five in one cookies.

Jessica Smartt Have you made those? I haven't made those, actually.

Julie The recipe doesn't taste like hers. I did try it, but it wasn't...I haven't...I mean, that's a...

Jessica Smartt There's like a cherry, there, like, coconut...I remember the cinnamon sugar, which I liked. What else was there?

Julie Yeah. There was one with pecans, which I don't do that, but...and lemon, maybe. Or plain. Yeah, that they were so...

Jessica Smartt I totally remember those. Yeah.

Julie But...so, another thing that, as kids, we always did that was just one of my favorite things ever, and I'm sure you remember, was the Christmas Eve appetizer tradition.

Jessica Smartt Yes, and I have reproduced that for our family, and I think you probably have too. And what's cool is, you know, we have allergies in our family. You have allergies in your family. We did not, growing up, but I feel like, any family could do a twist on that. Like, it's so super easy, so we don't have the same appetizers that we had growing up, but we still are carrying on the tradition, and that's what's kind of cool about it.

Julie Right, and it depends, too, like, what your crowd is like, because the first few years of marriage, I mean, I did the same thing and it was much more labor intensive and, like, time consuming things that, like, I remember I used to make this sliced pears that you put, like, a piece of crispy pancetta and goat cheese and honey and fresh thyme. Do you remember those? Like, little appetizer bites, or, like...fresh candied cranberries. Like, on brie. I mean, very fancy kind of stuff, but with kids, it looks different, but it's the same idea. Like, the kid-friendly ??? which is, you know, just a gourmet lunchable. And I know, like, read, white, and green vegetable boards. Or, like, mini sandwiches cut with Christmas cookie cutters. All the kinda of stuff that anybody can just customize for...

Jessica Smartt Didn't we do, like, a Santa made out of strawberries and marshmallows and chocolate chips or something?

Julie Yes, you just basically, like, it's a grape is the very top, and then the strawberry and then marshmallow's, like, the Santa beard, I guess. But, just don't try to make those in advance cause the marshmallow gets pretty gross when mixed with...

Jessica Smartt So, Christmas Eve was something I wanted to...that was actually my favorite holiday, Christmas Eve. I just...the expectation of it, and I've so many warm memories from being a kid. But there's so many different ways you can celebrate food on Christmas Eve. And I had done some research at one point. Our cousins do the...it has a different name, but it's, like, the feast of the seven fishes. And so they do, like, seven different seafood...I think. Right? Seven different...

Julie Yes. And I believe that their Dad was raised Catholic, and I think it goes along a little bit with...I should have read more about it, but they...I mean, it's something...it's not, just, like, fish sticks and salmon fritters...

Jessica Smartt Oh no, no. It's next level. Yeah. So, there's that, and then I...we, at our last homeschool co-op, one of the kids shared that they always do Chinese takeout, which is, like, no work for mom, but it was, like, such a special memory to them. I mean, obviously she wouldn't wanna have takeout every meal, Christmas, but, you know, that was just their special thing of Christmas Eve. So, you can do that. And then, have you ever done the shepherd's feast? We did that, not Christmas Eve, but a couple days before.

Julie I haven't done...I've heard of it, but we haven't done it in our home.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. So, you can do, like, it's just kinda of along the lines of an appetizer thing, but it's, like, really simple foods. Well, you can either do, like, soup and bread, like a simple feast, or you can do, like, bread, little meat, cold cheeses, fruit and nuts, kinda thing. Just kinda like a hurried, like, what the shepherds would have eaten and that's kind of a fun thing too. So, is there any other...

Julie ...my meals in December, so that would be...

Jessica Smartt Right. Yeah. There ya go. So, that's Chris...and then, what about Christmas morning? What do you guys usually eat on Christmas morning?

Julie Well, we have...I honestly think it's...because it's my favorite thing...but, I have a recipe I use. A Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls. Which, it doesn't matter what your allergies are, you can modify that recipe. Cause I don't use all the milk she calls for and all the butter. Sometimes I just do coconut milk and ???, but I make them ahead, like, a week or more ahead, and I freeze them so that on Christmas morning, all I have to do is stick a pan of bacon in the oven, grab the cinnamon rolls to warm them up, and serve them and just whip up some fresh frosting.

Jessica Smartt Now that's a good idea.

Julie And we always do berries with, like, the...cause the kids like to dip them in the extra frosting. I mean, it's Christmas morning. And then we drink orange juice out of fancy...not mimosa glass, but you know what I mean. Like, fancy glasses. So. And it ends up being ideal for Christmas morning if you can find whatever works for your family and your diet. Something that you can make ahead. There's nothing worse than being like, okay, presents are open. Who's hungry? It'll be an hour and a half. I mean, you know. Or, the opposite's too. Sometimes, for us, we eat breakfast before we open any presents. We just do stocking first and then, you know, eat our breakfast, and come back. But it helps it be a slower pace, cause you're not, like, trying to get in the kitchen, whip up an egg strata or something.

Jessica Smartt Right. Well, and I like your idea of making it a week before, because I have done the night before, like, done an egg thing and done cinnamon rolls the night before. It didn't even dawn on me to freeze them. But I don't really like being busy on Christmas Eve either. So.

Julie Well, and that's kind of...she, on her website, has the instructions for how to freeze them. How to make 'em ahead and freeze them. And, I mean, it's very...I have done it...when I say a dozen times, I'm not exaggerating, so I have done it. It's fool proof, and she lays it all out just how to do it. So. It's a great...I mean, and, if you're cinnamon roll people. If you're not, any baked good, and you know this, but any baked good that you make, if you freeze it when it's fresh, when you whip it out on Christmas morning, it'll taste fresh. So...

Jessica Smartt Yeah. Just reheat it a little bit. Yeah, that's a great idea. I've done...we've done cinnamon coffee cake, like strudel coffee cake. Streusel? Strudel?

Julie I think there's both.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. I don't know. It's like a sweet. And we've added blueberries to it, and that's good. And I do...I love egg...I know you don't like egg... but I like having, like, a Christmas, like an egg casserole or quiche or something. But those aren't, like, too, too much work. You could make that the night before and then just kinda heat the slices up. So, what about Christmas dinner? What do you guys usually make on Christmas dinner?

Julie Well, we...I love making bread, so I always make homemade rolls, and I do the exact same thing with them that I do with the cinnamon rolls. I make them in advance and then I freeze them and take them out, you know, to brush with butter. And we don't typically do this, but on Christmas Eve, I will cook them before the meal and like, let people snack on them. Usually, I would never do that. Cause I would be like, oh you'll spoil your dinner. But, so I let them eat warm rolls. We usually do red meat. Occasionally we've done ham, but the last five, maybe six years, we've done ground steak with, like, mashed potatoes and broccoli. One of the main reasons I have three boys and my husband from the Midwest, they all like steak. I don't really eat red meat, but it's a good excuse to have on Christmas.

Jessica Smartt Right. And you...so you're in North Carolina. Obviously, we're in North Carolina. That we have the luxury of being able to grill out, but I've also done the Pioneer Woman's...another plug for her... the pot roast. And it is, like, hardly any work, but so good. And it just cooks...like, you literally, like... a rainy day.

Julie We did that on a rainy Christmas, and it does cook up amazing.

Jessica Smartt Yeah! It's so good. So, okay, those are some good food traditions. So, you know, I know your family celebrates advent like we do. What are some things that you kinda do throughout advent? I have said one of my favorite things is to do an advent bucket list, because, I think that's a good way to, you know, every year it can change. If...one year, if your kids are a little bit older, you may have different things on the bucket list. Or it'll be a twist on something, you know? But, I like to kinda do that, but are there other things that you have kinda running throughout advent that your family always does?

Julie Yeah, we have several. We do something similar to your bucket list, we call an advent activity calendar.

Jessica Smartt That's probably better, cause I think bucket list is, like, you kick the bucket. I don't really know that that fits.

Julie It's probably not the best choice. But, I, we, what we did, and we haven't done this every year. We have done it, like, you know, five out of the last seven, but we would give an envelope, either in the day or the morning, and night, depending on what the activity or even or treat was, and some of those, like your bucket list, double as kinda like an act of kindness sort of thing that you can do toward a neighbor. And some of them also include recipes or things that we make or do together in the kitchen. So, an example is like, I love...have you ever made homemade chocolate bark?

Jessica Smartt No.

Julie Well, that's a thing that the kids, like, absolutely loved. You literally just melt chocolate, put it on some parchment paper and put stuff on top. But you would have thought that they were in, like, Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. I mean, it...

Jessica Smartt What did you put? Like, candy canes?

Julie We did... they had them. They decided against it. They did cranberries, little pieces of apricot. I put some coconut on mine. They didn't want the coconut. Little mini chips. I mean, it was half cranberries, if I'm being honest, but, Rice Crispies. They just thought it was...

Jessica Smartt That is a great idea. I will try that.

Julie Yeah, and obviously, if you don't have food allergies, you could put all kinds of nuts or coconuts or add some peanut butter chips or toffees and...

Jessica Smartt And premade things.

Julie Yeah. Anything like that. But it, I mean it was really fun. We also have, I mean, you do this as well, but we have gingerbread houses that we decorate and we always do them out of graham crackers, cause it's cheaper. But the beginners in my family, like, do it on a little coffee creamer or like a half and half carton, and they kinda built it around it.

Jessica Smartt Ah, that's a good idea.

Julie The more experienced people can do it from scratch, but, it really is good. Because then they get a win. Otherwise, you're like, kinda glues up the other and it doesn't look like the picture and...so.

Jessica Smartt What do you use for your glue?

Julie Well, we do just powdered sugar water. And you can surprise...you can get it pretty strong, so.

Jessica Smartt Oh, that's good.

Julie And also, it's, you know, you can get that pretty cheap as well. The other kind of advent thing that we do in our family is the book calendar. And I know I've told you about this. I feel like maybe you gave me a shoutout in a book somewhere. My one claim to fame.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, I think I did. Are you talking about how you wrap up all the books?

Julie Yes.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. I love that.

Julie Well, the first year we did that, which I always, like, have one or two things that I really stick to. And this was one of them. And the first year I did it, I just had a three year old and a...well, I don't know, maybe he was four months old. But I bought about five to ten Christmas books. My mother in law bought a few. And then the rest, I got from the library. And I did wrap up the library books too, you know, they were overdue by the time I returned them, but, I had it so that each day, they would open up a book. And the first year was basic. Like, I numbered the books, we opened them in order. You know, we went through it. But the second year, you know, I started adding some Christmas DVDs. Then I like, a few years in, I decided, well, I'm gonna make a list of what number is each book is, so that then I can kinda pick a book based on, like, the kid's mood, or what we had time for. Cause some of the books are longer chapter books, that you wanna open, you know, a week before, so you have time to read it. Then I did start adding little things to it, like last year, we had Christmas puzzles included in it. You know, two of them. And I have, a few years back, I decided to start adding our family Christmas ornament into the pile, so that we could put it on the tree during...

Jessica Smartt So, it, the gifts are number...you wrap whatever it is up, the gifts are numbered, and you'll say, like, I want ya to open number seven today, kinda thing?

Julie Correct. And...

Jessica Smartt Yeah. That's a great way...yeah. I did...mine was nowhere near as advanced as yours. I've just been wrapping the books. And I feel like I need to invest in...it's a good idea to do the library, although i always feel like they're checked out by the time I get around to it. But I should probably just, like, buy a couple new ones every year. Do you do the ones...and I don't remember how you say his last name. I'll link it in the show notes. But it's like Arnold Yetree or something. And they're like Jotham's Journey. Bartholomew's...

Julie ...about those. So last year was the first year that we introduced those, cause I...that...one of the books that I think I shared this with you. The One Wintery Night. That's one of the ones that...

Jessica Smartt Oh, I love that one. Yeah, that takes us, maybe, like, five days to read.

Julie Yeah, it does. And that's one that my husband likes to read, so I'll make sure I do that on a night when I know he'll not have meetings and he'll be able to be home to read that with them before bed. But we also, I mean, I got a few classics like the Winnie the Pooh Christmas, that's, like, an old school...I had to buy it on eBay. Because I remember somebody reading it to me when I was little. We do a Christmas carol and it's longer. But we kind of incorporate that as part of our school reading, cause it, I mean, just a great book.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. That is a good idea. Do you do the...which version do you do?

Julie I'm assuming it's an abridged version. But it's not a picture book. It's a, you know, I...

Jessica Smartt It's a chapter book. That was gonna be one of my other questions, was, how you do school in December, cause I know some people completely take off. Do you kinda do an abbreviated, or what do you do?

Julie I kind of use school as a what we need for the day. If there's a day where I have to do something, like get something ready to take to a friend, or clean the house cause we have company coming, I will give them a little bit more of their busy work. Their math. Some of their writing worksheets. Their vocabulary. Things like that that help me free up my time a little bit. But, I don't have a curriculum, like a schedule of what we have to accomplish in December. Anything we get done is just a bonus. I don't, I mean, I almost...my husband's birthday is November 28th. So it's like, basically, the, you know, the day after Thanksgiving. And it's nice for us to be very flexible. The kids and I. From that point on. You know, just kind of have a loose year until New Year's.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. I would say we're the same. I probably do three weeks in December of kind of like our basic stuff. Like, we'll still do...they'll still read and do, like, our basic science, history, math. But, for the extra stuff and for morning time, I always try to add a lot to it. And then it also be a little more loose on, like, you know, if we don't get it done, like you said. But for our morning time, did you do the Cindy Rawlings hallelujah?

Julie No, I actually did not do that.

Jessica Smartt It's so good. It goes along with Handle's Messiah. And every day, you listen to a part, and she has it, like, super organized on her...she has a YouTube channel and it, like, tells you what to listen to each day. And she has, like, files. So it's pretty easy to find. And then you answer...you read, like, a passage that corresponds with the Messiah. So, I loved that and then, we'll do other, like you said, like, advent-ish kinda books or activities. So...

Julie I also don't sleep on the, like, letting them read the books like the Grinch that Stole Christmas. The Night Before Christmas. It's not all solely centered around Jesus's birth. And I know, I realize that that some people, you know, that's controversial. But it's still, I mean, our morning times are pretty heavy on, like, the Gospel of Christmas, not just the Santa behind it. So.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. I...we are the same. I like to enjoy some of the, like, wintery kind of stuff too. Just kind of like not centered...

Julie ...It's cause it's so lighthearted, and like you said, I mean, there's so much excitement, and as a kid, all those little characters play...I mean, they get stuck in their memory. The Berenstein Bears with their, like, Christmas...you know. So, we do a lot of that. But, we also, like I said, movies. And that also is something that, like, we typically watch movies during the day, but I will let them watch a Christmas movie during the day, if it's, like, a, you know, rainy. We don't get snow, but, rainy.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. Definitely. We always have a couple on there too.

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Julie It is funny that that's why you have to give your kids so many little things. Cause you don't know what's gonna stick in their memories. So, during the Christmas season, I mean, we literally...it's not overkill, because it's Jesus's birth. It's pretty deserving. But we flood it with all kinds of stuff. I mean, this...

Jessica Smartt Right. One thing that helped. I talk about this in the book, but do you do all of your shopping in November? Cause our friend, Paige, told me about that and I never forgot it. And the year she told me, I think it was, like, November 20th or something. And I remember thinking, I am going to spend the next ten days doing all my Christmas shopping so that...and I remember her words. She said, we...I do all my shopping and my wrapping in November, and then we can just focus on Jesus in December. And the gifts is so much stress to me, that I remember thinking, why did I never think of that before? So I will do most of my...I haven't been as great with the wrapping. But that's more fun, so I don't really mind if I have that kind of saved, you know, for December. But, I love shopping in November.

Julie I do a lot of shopping for my kids and my husband and my family, but every year, and hopefully COVID doesn't make it so that this doesn't happen, but, my mom, or our mom, actually takes my boys Christmas shopping for each other.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, that's such a great idea.

Julie So that is one thing that, like, and they also like to go with my husband, with Dan, to get presents for me and vice versa. They want me to take them. And I tried to do it on Amazon, but it's always, they like touching it, you know, feeling it, getting all the cold and flu germs from it. So, we tend to, like, do that maybe the week before Christmas. And that's the only Christmas shopping that we really do. Everything else I do online anyway. But, that's a really fun tradition and memory for them and my mom, so.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. Yeah, that's a great idea. So, let's talk about service, activities, or service projects. I know, you mentioned that. And do you have, like, a favorite thing that you do, service wise? I have one of our favorites that I'll share. Can I go ahead and share?

Julie Yeah. Please.

Jessica Smartt So, we do the candy caning in people's yard on December 6, I think, is Saint Nicholas Day. And so in honor of him and his acts of service, we take little plastic candy canes and jam them in someone's yard, like all over the yard, and then leave, like, a little note and, like, a gift card. And the kids, like, sneak up in the dark and do it. You know, trying to not let them see. So, it's like a super, like, adrenaline rush for them, ya know? And they just always wanna do it over and over. Do you have any other service traditions?

Julie Well, this is the first year that we don't actually live in a neighborhood, which is gonna change things a little bit. I'll have to actually leave the house and do things more.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. Drive.

Julie Right. I mean, I don't mind actually doing it. It's just, it's gonna have to be more intentional, so. But, we do two things. One, the kids and I always like to...we have a Christmas cactus that we have had for a long time and we love. My grandmother had one. My mom has, like a, whatever you call it. A branchling or a...whatever is an extension of that mother plant.

Jessica Smartt I do not know. But yes.

Julie But...so...and we like to go buy one and take it to a neighbor. And that's...we haven't...had an older neighbor that lived across the street. There was a couple that didn't have any children. And so, we would deliver a plant. You don't have to like it to eat it or anything. It's just, like, a Christmas cactus. And nobody doesn't like that. So, we would deliver those.

Jessica Smartt That is such a good idea. I don't think mine is healthy enough that I could...it would live with too many haircuts. But, that's...

Julie When it...there was the year where I had to go get, like, six new plants because nothing was surviving. But, that's one. And it's also...it's not very expensive. It doesn't take much effort, but it, I mean, it's meaningful and it's not gonna, like, you don't consume it and have it be gone in a day.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, that's so smart.

Julie So, and then, we also...I think this is an act of service because it is extremely time consuming, but we mail Christmas cards. And this is the thing, I...there are so many people that are not, like...and my Christmas cards, just so you know, they're not the trendy kind, where we were posed in a field with an old truck. They're whatever picture I've scraped together and looked best on Shutterfly.

Jessica Smartt Oh, they always look good!

Julie But I truly feel like it's an act of service to have...the kids help me, we fill them all out, and we mail them to all of our far-away friends and family. We give them to, you know, neighbors, our older neighbors, the mailman. You know, anybody that...and it's...don't discredit that that is an act of service.

Jessica Smartt No, I'm with you. I agree. And getting the kids involved in, like, the stamping, and all that. But...and then, I have some friends who, when they get a Christmas card, this is like next level, but whatever cards they got...or, I guess maybe they just go in order, I don't know. They will pray for one family at dinner when they get the card, and that's a cool twist too, of like, serving the people that give it to you. So, I always liked that idea.

Julie ...sends them out...the kids, too, it's like, well who is this person? Who is this person. And you're able to share a little bit of the history and can share if there's something that that couple or family or person is going through. You know. So. It's a good opportunity.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, that's a great idea. So, a lot of people have entertaining throughout the Christmas season. I remember one time, coming over to your house and I still, I have tried to find this puzzle and I can't. So if you can send me the link...but, you had gotten a Christmas puzzle that was like, I think they call it Family Style. So, it had, like, little pieces for whoever was old enough to put in little. And then the puzzle, like, blended at the other side, it had bigger pieces. And it was, like, this Christmas puzzle that you guys were doing with your in-laws or something. And I thought that was a really great activity. Do you remember what I'm talking about?

Julie Yeah. We always have several, but those are the kind...I don't what they call it. Like, graduated pieces. But they go from, like, regular jigsaw, all the way to the ones that really are for kids that are, you know, five, six.

Jessica Smartt So, that's a great activity. What else do you like to do, or, like, do you have any, like, hacks for when you have company, to enter...you know, food, managing the food and all that?

Julie We always wait and make and decorate our sugar cookies with people, because it's one of those things where it's like they don't last very well. Ya can't layer 'em. So, you might as well do that and make that mess and, like, experience that as an activity. Everybody likes, you know, likes...

Jessica Smartt Yeah, that's a great idea.

Julie So, we like to take, if you're in a neighborhood, which, like I said, we won't be this year, but we like to take walks or drives and check out the Christmas lights. And for one thing, like, fresh air is so good. Even if it's cold and you have to bundle, which we have some years. I mean, it's so fun to see the Christmas lights at different times of the, you know, the day, as dusk is coming, and one thing we like to do is print out a little scavenger hunt sheet for the kids, so that they can have things they're looking for. I just encourage you to kinda drive in advance to see what's in the neighborhood.

Jessica Smartt Oh, yeah, that's a great idea.

Julie But there's nothing like havin' 'em lookin' for the, you know, the minion they're gonna find, but...

Jessica Smartt Right.

Julie That's hard to believe. They'll find a minion, don't worry, but... But we also like to watch classic Christmas movies with my, especially when my in-laws come. Like, White Christmas. The kids, like, yeah, there's some of it that's over their head, but it's so fun to watch those kind... It's a Wonderful Life or, my husband loves Holiday Inn, which, I don't know, I don't think it's all bad. I don't really get it.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. Fred Astaire, I think. I have not watched that...I haven't watched White Christmas with my kids, because it feels like that was a really long movie. It feels like it was four hours long. But maybe that's just in my imagination.

Julie I think my kids watched it three times last year. Because they...

Jessica Smartt Really?? Mine have never seen it.

Julie Well, I would give it a shot. I think they're old enough. And they liked the songs. Which is...

Jessica Smartt Huh. I'll give 'em a try. They're usually suspicious of anything with much romance, cause of, you know, two boys. But, maybe. They did tolerate the Princess Bride, so. And the other good one is, the Star, which is like a, I guess you would call it animated, that came out recently, and it was one, even, I think, on, like, Netflix and Amazon Prime for free. That one was actually pretty good.

Julie Yeah, it wasn't perfect, so screen it before you show your kids, you know. Cause there was some parts that some parents may not, you know, be appreciative of, but, for the overall, I would give it, you know, a four and a half out of five.

Jessica Smartt Aww, there ya go. Okay.

Julie But we also like to have Christmas music playing all the time.

Jessica Smartt Yes.

Julie And believe it or not, it's a good conversation starter when you have guests. We usually actually even play it on the tv so they can see the, like, scrolling, what song it is, who the artist is. Cause that makes for great conversation. And, like, the kids enjoy it too. And one of our favorites is Rend Collective's Christmas album. We also, JJ Heller has two.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, those are so good.

Julie Very good. Yes. And then, the kids like Alvin and the Chipmunks. But it's like a little...

Jessica Smartt Oh, those are terrible.

Julie Right...I'm like, you get one, and then we listen to six of mine, and then you can put one of yours...

Jessica Smartt Yeah. That's funny. And then, obviously, our family's favorite, I have to mention is the Andrew Peterson, Behold the Lamb. Have you guys listened to those?

Julie We have. Yeah.

Jessica Smartt They're so, so good. And this year, it's actually streaming live, and so, I'll put the tickets...I mean, the link, in there. It's such a fabulous...it retells, basically, the story from Creation to Jesus's coming, and his original music. And my kids have gotten so into it, and memorized a lot of the songs. And, so even though it's new, it's really, like, very well done. And that's the thing. Music is not a lot of work to put on. Like, you just press a button and have it playing. But that's a tradition too. And that really gets in your memory, and you know, then you remember, oh, we listened to those songs when Grandma and Grandpa came, or, you know, when we decorated our tree, we heard that album, or whatever. So, yeah. Music is a great idea. And that reminds me of another idea I was going to mention, that I have not gotten enough nerve to do. I think our other sister did this. Which would be fitting if she did, because she always does all the big things. But, I would like, at some point, to do a campout in front of the tree. Have you done that?

Julie Yes. That's always one of the activities on our advent calendar.

Jessica Smartt And at...the whole family? Or just the kids?

Julie Well, truthfully, I start there, but I don't end there.

Jessica Smartt Yeah.

Julie But yeah, we, I may not always take pictures of all the stuff I do and share it on Instagram, but I do do it.

Jessica Smartt Yeah.

Julie That was something that we enjoy doing too, because the kids, like, they're obsessed with the Christmas tree. Their only negative about the house we just moved into is that they can't see it from, like, their rooms, when they look over the balcony.

Jessica Smartt Awww.

Julie Sorry kids. But, so that's a, like, to get to sleep next to it all night, they absolutely love it.

Jessica Smartt Well, Julie, thank you so much. I think we've thrown out a lot of different ideas and at the end, I usually like to ask my guests a couple questions. So, I didn't tell you about this. But, I think you'll be okay with these questions. Will you answer my four questions?

Julie I will answer them.

Jessica Smartt Okay. The first one is are you an introvert or extrovert.

Julie I am an introvert with a lot of personality.

Jessica Smartt That's hilarious. Okay, the next one is if you and your husband are gonna watch a show when he kids are in bed, what would you watch.

Julie What would I fall asleep to? Probably something like, Parks and Rec or Community. Or the Office. Or … some sort of a comedy.

Jessica Smartt Yeah. That's good. Okay, so, what if someone were to walk in the door and say, I've brought you your favorite meal, what would they be holding? That's hard, but maybe one of them.

Julie It would probably be some sort of really labor-intensive salad, with like...have you ever had the Michael Kierello butternut squash bruschetta salad?

Jessica Smartt Well, yes. That's...it's called...it has a name. What is it called?

Julie ...panzanella...

Jessica Smartt Yes, there ya go. Yes. It is so good.

Julie And you have to have all the ingredients and rosemary and thyme, and fresh parmesan. But I would say, something like that. Well, it's also, you know, fall. So.

Jessica Smartt Yeah, that's a good one. Okay. And the next one is, what is a book, besides the Bible, that you think every Mom should read.

Julie So, besides, like, Let Them Be Kids? And Memory Making Moms?

Jessica Smartt Stop. I didn't make her say that, guys. Yeah, besides those. I already did an ad for those.

Julie Oh, right. Sorry. I actually, well the one that I'm reading right now, that I actually really do think is pretty impressive, is the Foundations that, you know, grace laced...I'm not sure...I'm sure you know which one she...

Jessica Smartt Oh, yeah. Ruth Simons.

Julie Yes. And it's a book for families. And we've been doing it with the boys, and this is, like, the first...I mean, it's right on my mind right now, so, but it's really good. And it makes for great conversation. And she doesn't dumb down the message to be for families. But it's really...I mean, it works. So..

Jessica Smartt Oh, that's awesome. I have been... yeah, I've been wanting that one. It looks so good. All of her books are just gorgeous.

Julie And it helps that they're that pretty. Cause it's like...I mean, I'm sure it's good inside too, but I'm like, I just want that new, whatever, advent series she's gonna do.

Jessica Smartt I know. Well, Julie, thanks for being on the show. This was so fun. I really appreciate it. And I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. Remember to grab a copy of Memory Making Mom for a lot more ideas. I have over 200 tradition ideas listed in the back. And, it's an entertaining read. So, Merry Christmas, everybody, and thanks for joining us.

Jessica Smartt Guys, thank you for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review and that’ll help other homeschooling parents find our community. And finally, don’t forget to tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of The Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. Hopefully

I will see you there. And don’t forget to check out my books: Memory Making Mom and Let Them Be Kids, and my Homeschool Bootcamp course. You can rock homeschooling and I can help. Check the show notes for all of those resources.

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