Merry Christmas from Mitchell's Journey to you!
Below are a collection of Christmas traditions, thoughts and activities we hope bless your holiday.
8 Ways To Make Lasting Christmas Memories
Christmas was Mitchell's favorite holiday. He loved it on every level ... for giving and getting gifts, for serving others, the warmth of family time and so much more. Here are eight things we have done as a family that have made our memories of the holiday both lasting and deeply satisfying. No matter where you are in life, today is a great time to start.
Read Christmas Books as a Family
With so many forms of entertainment these days, the magic of reading books would seem to be in jeopardy. Yet there is more magic that comes from the words of a book and our imagination than all the special effects on earth.
Some of our favorite holiday traditions have been to read Christmas books and allow those touching stories play out in the theater of our minds.
HERE ARE A FEW WE RECOMMEND
- A Charlie Brown Christmas
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- A Christmas Wish
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
See below for more book recommendations.
Home Movies & Photo Albums
When I was a young child we used to watch our old 8 mm family films on Christmas Eve. I remember sitting by a roaring fire in my Christmas pajamas while our family laughed as at old, grainy footage of a time long gone.
By spending time as a family enjoying old memories, we were reminded that the best gifts we could ever hope for weren't under the Christmas tree, but sitting around it.
Try to watch home videos as a family.
If you can prepare some old video footage or photos in advance, you will be surprised how much your children will enjoy seeing themselves when they were younger - or when you were a child.
You're never too old, or too young, to serve people in secret.
In fact, anonymous acts of service often brings a joy to your heart that lasts far longer than anything you can buy with money.
This Christmas, try to do one or more of the following:
- Search for a family who may be struggling and drop a box of gifts at their doorstep.
- Find a way to pay one of a utility bill of someone in need.
- Leave a note in someone's mail box with an observation about something you admire about them.
There are so many ways to serve others. The important part is doing something specula for someone, unnoticed.
Local Holiday Performances
If available in your area, find local Christmas plays or performances to attend.
High School plays, musical performances and other theatrical presentations are all ways to support your community.
You can also search your city's listings to see if there are any special performances you might attend.
As you invest your time enjoying various art forms for the holiday, you will find yourself being swept up in the best parts of the season.
Some of our favorite plays are:
- The Christmas Story
- The Nutcracker
- A Christmas Carol
12 Days of Christmas
During Mitchell's last Christmas, two separate families decided to give Mitch a 12 Days of Christmas surprise at our doorstep each night.
Little Mitch had so much fun learning about the new surprises. Each gift was thoughtful and had a special meaning to our family.
It wasn't just the gift that was special, it was the special care they took to be thoughtful that made it amazing for our family. As you think of families you might serve in this way, take a close look at their family dynamic and try to give them gifts that celebrate their family and create bonds between them.
Candy Making as A Family
Make candy as a family! You'll be surprised how fun it can be. Don't worry about making a mess - just have fun doing it and let your kids express themselves. If you don't do candy, make cookies - but experiment. Try something you haven't done before.
Take photos while you're at it. You'll thank yourself later.
Here are 17 Recipes you can try.
Laura-Ashley's favorite caramel popcorn recipe on Christmas Eve in 2014.
Play In the Snow
Seriously. Play. In the snow.
- Make snow caves.
- Build jumps for sleighs.
- When you go sledding, bring hot chocolate with you. There are new vacuum-sealed thermoses (Yeti & Takeya) that can keep hot chocolate piping hot for 12 hours.
- If you can, bring a bluetooth speaker and play Christmas music in the background. It really adds to the experience.
For Mitchell's last Christmas, we made a special effort to play in the snow - and looking back, we're so glad we did.
Be sure to take photos of your snow play, too.
[If you live in a warm climate, improvise and just play outside.]
With all of the fun an exciting ways to celebrate Christmas, remembering the reason for the holiday in the first place is the most important thing of all. Take time to connect to the spiritual aspects of Christmas and the Savior's sacrifice.
There is nothing wrong with the commercial aspects of Christmas, like Santa & sleigh bells, just remember the reason for the season.
Did you know you can schedule these ideas to a calendar? Give it a try.
In Search of Christmas
I wanted to write some kind of narrative but the words have not come. I have struggled to find them and my mind has been strangely blank. It occurred to me that perhaps words are not meant for this video – that it should be up to the viewer to discover its meaning and message. The only thing I present is the title: In Search of Christmas.
When I asked this man if I could pay him for his time he said he has a nephew with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and asked that we send whatever money we would have paid him to the fight against DMD. Mitchell's Journey is going to do just that. For any so inclined to honor this good man's wishes, here is a link to PPMD's page in honor of our fallen son.
Our Family Hot Chocolate Recipe
One of Mitchell’s all-time-favorite treats was hot chocolate. When it snowed around the holidays he always asked me to make my ‘famous hot chocolate’ (at least Mitch thought it was famous) so he could sit by the window and watch the snow fall and enjoy a warm treat. Our family has many good memories surrounding this activity – so I thought we’d share it with all of you.
There is nothing original about this recipe, in fact, I’m sure Pinterest is filled with a hundred thousand variations. But this was our simple recipe and it was something Mitch loved. Some of you might like it, too.
It's fairly Simple to make:
- Warm milk to a boil over the stove.
- Add chocolate shavings (Mitch really liked Lindt Milk Chocolate)
- He would often take candy bars and use a cheese grater to make the shavings
- Generally, 3 ounces of chocolate for every 2 cups of milk works well.
- Slowly stir chocolate shavings into simmering milk and whisk until completely dissolved
- Add chocolate to preferred taste
- Whipped cream, with a puff of cinnamon and sprinkled graham cracker crumbs on top always made it feel extra special. Sometimes Mitch even wanted crushed candy cane on top.
As with so many things in life, what we do is often less important in life than how we do it. Having hot chocolate was fun, but making it together as a family made both a treat and a memory. And memories are sweeter and last much longer.
Our Favorite Christmas Books
These are some of our favorite family reads each year. Click on each image to read more details about each book.
Did you know that Mitchell's Journey Foundation is on Amazon Smile? That means whatever you purchase through Amazon Smile, Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase directly to our non-profit and help Mitchell's Journey help many more individuals and families. You can register to support Mitchell's Journey here.
Do you have a book recommendation? Tell us about it!
Some of Mitchell's favorite holiday movies.
Speaking of movies, here is a tender Christmas story that touched our hearts.
Great Gifts for Family & Kids
I have been so surprised how much our children seem to like photo albums - especially albums that include them. Each year, even to this day, Natalie makes a photo album with Shutterfly for each child that summarizes the previous year. She has found it easiest to build the books throughout the year - taking the photos for each month and building the books in sequence. That way, November isn't overwhelming. We have found it best to order your books the best of December to ensure a Christmas delivery.
Previous Christmas Videos
2014 Christmas Video
In the two years leading up to Mitchell's death, he would come up to me and say, "Dad, can I help you make a Christmas video?" He didn't know how to make graphics or edit video, so he would just sit next to me and talk while I put things together. Mitch would help direct the flow and wanted each video to end with a magic Christmas tree. I miss him being my co-pilot.
At approximately 1:40 you will see clips and photos of Mitchell's last Christmas and the wonderful things people did to lift his heart and let him know he was loved. After that short piece on Mitch the video shifts attention to a much larger contemplation (3:30). It begins with the concept of darkness and grief and remembering to look past the darkness and to the heavens. For the heavens are vast and they are deep ... and many secrets do they keep. If we can scarcely comprehend the heavens we CAN see, perhaps we could have faith in the heaven we cannot yet see.
2013 Christmas Video
This year without someone very close to our heart we think upon Christmas differently.
2012 Christmas Video
2011 Christmas Video
May we always remember the gift of family, friendship and love.
2005 Christmas Interview With Mitch
I stumbled across this audio file earlier this morning and put some photos and animation to it. It was recorded 5 months after Mitchell's diagnosis. Christmas was this little boy's favorite holiday.
This holiday, as we consider the gifts give one another, we will remember the gifts that matter ought not be wrapped in paper, but wrapped in love.