Holiday Traditions | Personalized Books | I See Me | MomCave LIVE

Holiday Traditions Personalized Books for Kids as Christmas Gifts Photo of Children's Author Maia Haag from I See Me Books MomCaveTV

Every family has its own list of holiday traditions. Some are touching, some are silly, and some aren’t such a great idea. In this episode of MomCave LIVE, Jen talks with children’s book author and founder of I See Me Books, Maia Haag, all about holiday traditions.

Traditions at Christmas- Holiday Books With Maia Haag- Mom CaveTV Live

Jen of MomCaveTV:  

Welcome to Momcave LIVE, where we may have lost our minds, but we haven’t lost our sense of humor. I’ve certainly lost my mind. I’m Jen. I’m happy to be here doing live, which we haven’t done in a while. And we have a special guest today, which is, tada. They’re going to show her in 3..2..1.. Maia Haag. From “I See Me!” books. Maia is here, because she is going to talk with us about holiday traditions. So first of all, Maia is the co-founder of “I See Me!” books, which are personalized books. They’re awesome. We’ve had a few in our family. And they have a new one coming out for Christmas that we’ll talk about. Maia, I assume you’re a mom. Yes?

Maia: I’m a mom of three. Yeah.

Jen: I knew there were yes, multiple children.

Maia: Mom three times over. 

Jen: So do you have any, like, what’s your biggest holiday tradition that you do in your family?

Family Holiday Tradition: Santa always drops a Present on our roof by mistake

Maia: We have two big ones. I would say one is Santa always drops a present on our roof, by mistake, with his sleigh and so every Christmas morning the kids run out. And my husband uses a rake and there’s snow on the roof because we live in Minnesota. We have to find the present on the roof and rake it down. And it always bounces off the driveway, so it can’t be anything too electronic, and it’s soggy because it’s been sitting in the snow.

Jen: It’s something that can’t really get wet, right?

Maia: So that’s one of our holiday traditions. And the other one that we’ve had for literally… I have pictures going back to when our kids were toddlers, is we read “The Night Before Christmas” as a family each Christmas Eve. I’m the photographer, my husband sits there with the kids around him. There’s usually a dog in the scene with two cats that are jumping around. He reads “The Night Before Christmas” to the three of them. And I take pictures.

Jen: That’s lovely! Michaela is watching and she said that is such a creative tradition! I’m assuming she’s talking about the roof. Amazing. So do you have a collection of these pictures? Year by year like where you can look at them all next to each other?

Maia : You know, I recently went in and pulled all the ones from all the different years and it’s really fun watching it. And what’s actually quite entertaining is the pictures look idyllic, it’s a snapshot in time when everyone’s smiling and looking at the book. But usually what’s going on is the brothers are bothering the sister or you know, there’s always the memories that are not exactly always captured in the picture. Yeah, it’s good, it’s really fun seeing it over all the years.

Jen: So, I like the roof thing. I think that’s creative. How do you get on the roof?

Maia: It’s just thrown up there the night before. And then literally, we just have a long long rake that we use to pull it down. And there’s also one more holiday tradition. Santa generally is pretty messy when he comes down the chimney. And so there’s always a little bit of ash that’s coming out from the edge of the fireplace and there’s always a silver button. Every year he loses a silver button from his red jacket. And so the kids have these collections of red and silver bell buttons that he’s lost.

Jen: That’s so sweet. Yeah, I like making the evidence, that’s a fun thing for me. And even though both of my children don’t really truly believe in Santa anymore, I will continue to make evidence. 

The Haag Family Night Before Christmas Book Holiday Traditions

Maia: Yes exactly. For sure. Now is the tradition of it all. 

Jen: It’s fun. It’s fun for Mom so we do it. So this is one of the latest things you have this season at “I See Me!” And can you tell us a little bit about this book?

Maia: Yes. Okay, so this is the Haag family’s “Night Before Christmas.” And so we make it with your family’s name on it. So as I mentioned, my family has been reading the traditional non-personalized version of this for years and then we thought well, let’s make it personalized for your family. And so now it’s even more special. So, in the book, you have your last name here, and you select the skin tone of Santa that you want light, medium, or dark. And then in the story, you have the family’s last name and all the names of the family members. Here, the last name is on the fireplace and the kids are in bed dreaming about Christmas, and it has all the names of the family members.

As you go through the story, there are different places for example, the names of the family members are on the tags on the gifts that Santa is bringing. So it’s just really fun because the kids hear the names all throughout the book, and it keeps them really engaged. And it brings down the number of times that the brothers are bothering the sisters.

Jen: Anything to keep the kids from fighting!

That’s so neat. Anytime my kids have had a personalized book, it’s like they’re just so surprised! How did my name get in here? I had an idea about one of your family’s holiday traditions, the buttons, the silver buttons, when your kids are all grown and they go off to have homes of their own, they could take the collection of buttons and you could string them together and it can be a Christmas tree ornament or something. 

Maia: Oh, that’s a great idea! Yes, or they could use them for their own Santa who keeps losing it.

Holiday Traditions with The Christmas Shoes

Jen: Because there are so many buttons, right? Jessica commented, “a tradition I have with my kids is we put candy canes on the tree to show that Santa has been there.” Oh, that’s me. Good. And then do you guys eat the candy canes? And how many candy canes a day are the children allowed to have? My kids are always wondering about that. So I stopped putting anything edible on our tree because it was disappearing?

One of the holiday traditions that we have is my grandmother was obsessed with Christmas. And she would do the ugly Christmas sweater thing. She didn’t think it was ugly. She had Christmas everything right? So she even had this pair of shoes that were her Christmas Shoes. And when she passed away, we found the Christmas Shoes, of course, and no one knew what to do with these shoes. Nobody had the heart to throw them away. So I, my aunt or my cousin had this idea that the Christmas Shoes each year would go live with a different family. And we would put them under the tree. It’d be like she was with us. And we put them under the tree, then that family takes a picture. And we have a little album that all pictures are in the family. 

Black Velvet Christmas Shoes on Display Holiday Traditions MomCaveTV


Oh, that’s very neat. That’s very cool.

Jen: It makes me cry a little. My son was very confused. The first year that we had the shoes, I think he was three. And he was like, “They’re not new shoes, they’re obviously smelly shoes under the tree!”

Maia: I really like that. I have one other holiday tradition that is big. If there’s a bigger present for the year, we always do a treasure hunt for it in the house to make it bigger. And what’s fun is that our kids have taken on this tradition. And so they do treasure hunts for gifts that they’re giving to each other or to us. It can be a little gift, but they make it fun with the treasure hunt. So, the Christmas rush goes on forever. Because you know you’ve got these various treasure hunts that are built in throughout the gift opening process.

Jen: Oh, that’s great. Yeah, I like it when you get to the age where like they’re not waking up at 5am Right? You haven’t had your coffee yet.

Maia: Yes, exactly. 

What are your holiday traditions?

Jen: Jessica says, “of course they eat all of the candy canes in one day.” If you’re gonna do it go big!

So I think there should be some sort of holiday tradition where on Christmas Eve when the parents are preparing everything it always ends up that there’s one thing that has to be put together and you think it’s not going to be tough but it’s totally frustrating and then you’re really tired and everybody gets grumpy. I feel like there has to be a tradition to make that part fun. Yeah, so a certain Christmas cocktail or spiked eggnog. Just something to help you put this thing together!

Maia: It’s inevitable even now when the kids are a little older, we’re never as well organized as we think we’re gonna be.

Jen: I know. I know. We all try. Michaela says, “We buy a new snow globe every year grandmother started it.” That’s sweet, neat, love that. Do you display them all year or do they only come out at Christmas? Maia, do you do a lot of Christmas decorating in your house?

Christmas Decorations

Maia: I would say we’re a medium level when it comes to that. I mean, my husband goes pretty crazy with the lights outside. And then we have these decorations that we pull out year after year after year that are sort of THE Christmas decorations that come out. I sometimes add a couple of things here and there but we’re not like some families that really do every room. Yeah, we do a couple of rooms, and forget some others.

Jen: Yeah, I grew up in a family like that for many generations. Everyone else is like that. But I’m too lazy to do that. I love Christmas, it’s my favorite thing ever, and I love the decorations. But I found myself as I was starting to put them out thinking, “I’m gonna have to put this back like very soon. I’m going to  have to do the opposite of this.” And so I definitely pared down at that point. And now I do have less.

Okay, this is a very divisive question. So I want everyone to answer in the comments but tinsel or NO tinsel?

Why we don’t do tinsel

Maia: We don’t do tinsel because we have pets and we had a year, many years ago where our cat had a car accident. She was fine in the end, but right before Christmas, we were in the animal hospital and we saw a lot of dogs coming in with tinsel in their stomachs and so we sort of learned that way that that can be a dangerous thing for pets.

Jen: It can. Yeah, Michaela is saying no tinsel. We used to have two cats. They’ve gone on to Cat Heaven. And we did have tinsel and I don’t want to gross anyone out…but tinsel came out the other end of the cat, detached. And so he’s running around…

Maia: Yeah. It can be really dangerous for their intestines.

Jen: That makes sense. And I’m personally not fond of tinsel. It’s a little…I don’t know, again, another thing I have to clean up but my husband loves it. So we have tinsel because we’ve made that compromise in our marriage that he has to have tinsel. What about, do you have any holiday traditions around food?

Maia: We have a Christmas meal that we make, the same Christmas meal every time. Prime Rib and sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top that are so sweet. But they’re really good. And green beans and popovers. So that’s what we do every year for our Christmas meal together. And then other than that, just sugar cookies that we make for Santa with some carrots on the plate. And that’s probably about it. I do love it-I really love the way that some families make a lot of cookies and treats for friends and neighbors. I think that’s such a great tradition.

Jen: Yeah, we love receiving them for sure.

Maia: Yeah, and one day, if I have a little more time, I could see myself doing that.

What’s your traditional Christmas meal?

Jen: You could someday! We don’t really have a traditional Christmas meal. It has to beef. Like my husband insists that he must have some sort of red meat.

Maia: So my husband’s from Iowa. It’s the same thing!

Jen: That beef definitely has to be involved. I grew up in Baltimore, where everything’s about seafood. And so I always want to have some sort of seafood involved. And I’m very excited because this year I’m hosting Christmas for the first time in a long time and I’m having family over and it’s a little pressure. It’s gonna be okay, it’s good. It’s casual just like my whole life is. We’ll do our best but there’s definitely going to be a lot of Old Bay seasoning and seafood involved. 

Michaela says “we always have lasagna.” Lasagna is great. That’s like the Italian Christmas dinner, it can be massive. I will never live up to that. My husband is Italian or Italian American. And so he grew up with where they do like courses and courses. There’s a fish course, a pasta course there’s… There are many courses and there’s a lot of pasta involved. And I could never live up to that. So I’m not even going to try. I’m going to stick with my seafood and my beef. 

Traditions As Legacy

Maia: So I do think that the traditions that we were talking about earlier are really really important almost no matter what they are, because it brings the family together to have these traditions and they carry it for their kids, it makes Christmas really special. You don’t want to give up on the believing Santa thing, because all the traditions are built around it. And so you just want to keep it going.

Jen: Yes, and your family with reading the story? Um, yes. We read The Night Before Christmas, leading up to Christmas, you know, several times every year too. And I think one of the most precious things to me is like, you start out reading it to your kids, because they can’t read and then as they learn to read they start reading it aloud or they read it to each other.

Maia: Yes. Maybe this year, we’ll have one of our kids read it instead of Alan, actually I like that. Usually, when we read it the night before Christmas, we also let them each open one small gift, and so it’s part of it also.

The Funny and Nontraditional

Jen: Nice, nice. Okay, now does anybody have a Christmas tradition to tell us about that is completely ridiculous, or that is not a traditional thing? I don’t think I have anything that’s too ridiculous. I mean, smelly old shoes under the tree is a little…. Just totally ridiculous. When I was a kid, my mom would do this thing, where you know, we had the little nativity set, and the baby Jesus wouldn’t be there until Christmas, or Christmas Eve, or something. She wouldn’t put the little baby Jesus out. But the funny part is, then she started one year saying like, Christmas Eve, we would sing Happy Birthday to the little baby Jesus.

Maia: It makes sense!

Jen: But it’s weird. I don’t know that anyone else in the world ever does that. My mom was like that she’s very funny and decided that was part of our tradition. So that’s great. What other kinds of books do you have for sale over at “I See Me!”

Personalized Books to Create Holiday Traditions

Maia: We have a lot of different books. They’re all personalized and they include your child’s name and sometimes other information that’s in the story. And we weave the child’s name not only into the story, but through the illustrations. I’ll share one book called “Good Night Little Barrett,” Barrett is the child’s name. And people give these a lot as a new baby gift once your child has just been born. This was illustrated by Mary Grandpre, who illustrated Harry Potter and has really phenomenal illustrations. And the child’s name is actually in the illustrations as you can see here. So it’s really a beautifully written sort of lyrical story. There’s the child’s name again, and the illustrations.

So “I See Me” we don’t just put the name into the story, we truly make the book for the child. And here you can see the mouse springing the letters on the flags, and depending on the number of letters in the child’s name, the number of mice change. I mean, “Good night Little Me” is really popular as a new baby gift. And then we have books that are personalized for kids where you can upload a photo of the child’s face, and the child becomes the astronaut or the fire man. So that’s really fun.

Engaging The Children

We have books that have your child as the avatar where you’re selecting the skin tone and hair color. The nice thing is it’s really important to us that we allow each child to be represented in the story to look like them. And so whether it’s through a photo representation or the avatar that looks like them, it really helps kids engage in the story when they can see themselves in the story.

And then in addition to all of our books that are for kids that go all the way from baby gifts up to about age eight range, we also have books now that involve your dog. So I wrote a book a couple years ago called “If My Dog Could Talk.” In this story, you select your, your breed that we have a lot of different dog breeds and you select the color of your breed. So if it’s a poodle, this will look like a poodle on the front, for example. Then in the story, it has all the family members names. It’s written from the perspective of the dog talking about what it’s like to be a member of the family. So it’s all written from your dog. It’s a pretty entertaining story that the kids get a kick out of.

Then this season, we just introduced a book called “How My Dog Saved Christmas,” which is really, really fun. And you can have one or two dogs in it, and the dogs are naughty and cause problems at Christmas. But then at the end of the story, they save the day, or either one or two dogs depending on your family, they save Christmas. So it’s really fun, because these books engage children to want to read, they see their names in it. And we get lots of stories about kids bringing our personalized books to kindergarten for their favorite “bring your book” and read it. Or kids want to read the books over and over again, because they have their names in them.

The Power of Personalized Books for Kids

Jen: That’s so great. I’m all about anything that first of all is special and something that they’ll remember forever, but also anything that gets kids reading. And you know, because we’re competing with all the time with the screens now. 

Maia: Yes, exactly. Jen, did you read to your kids when they were little?

Jen: Yes. I have to admit, though, I have two kids. The first thing that was great about it I read every night before but the second kid, I feel like she’s getting a little bit of the short end of the stick. Because now life is so busy that many nights it’s like, oh, shoot, it’s bedtime. Let’s go to bed. 

Maia: I have been guilty as a parent. Have you ever done it? Where if there’s too much text on the page, you read half of the text? And then they’re like, no, no, no. You missed some sentences. And then you go back and you have to read it. You know? Or if it’s a really long book, you can’t read the whole thing tonight.

Jen: Right! Your books are a good length. So luckily, they’re not too long to be a bedtime book. 

Maia: No. And they’re written in rhyme for the most part also, which makes it fun and lyrical, especially for young kids to hear that.

Jen: Yeah. And it helps with reading to learn to read things in rhyme actually helps them develop their reading skills. That’s exactly right. 

Maia: Yes, a lot of times people give our books not only for new baby gifts, as we’ve discussed, but at Christmas, sometimes grandparents will buy it for all the grandkids, because you don’t have to worry that they already have it and also buy them for their nieces and nephews. And then a lot of times a child will get one in the family and then the parents will end up getting one for the other kids because they wish that they had one too. So it’s a fun gift-giving product because it’s really fun for the giver. And then the child who receives it, loves it. And then it encourages reading, which is a really important part of why we do this.

Jen: Yeah, totally. It’s a great gift. This is an easy gift to think of. So thank you so much for telling us all about it!

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