Christmas of Experiences :: We Aren’t Giving Our Son “Things” This Year


It’s less than 3 months before Christmas, and I’m DONE.

Nope, I am not one of those who hits sales all year or stock piles a locked closet with goodies that I bought in January, and the presents are not sitting in layaway. The only thing I have left to do is figure out how to wrap them.

Concert Lover

Last year, we decided that this never ending cycle of begging for things, earning them or getting them for presents, then the inevitable purge around Thanksgiving to “make room for new things that Santa brings” was getting old. We decided that it was going to be a Christmas of Experiences, and that tradition will continue this year.

What is a Christmas of Experiences?

A Christmas of Experiences is about giving gifts of experiences, rather than things. Now of course there have to be some “things” under the tree, but most “things” are related to the experiences. Our first time doing a Christmas of Experiences kind of happened by accident. There were so many events that we wanted to attend in 2017, we just started making plans, booking hotel rooms, and buying tickets.

Christmas of 2017 Experiences

Mardi Gras 2018: Our family has a place in New Orleans, so it’s like our second home. Our first adventure of 2017 was

NOLA Mardi Gras 2018

a week in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. (Insert gasps of horror here.) Ok, so let me explain… Mardi Gras in New Orleans has two sides. The Girls Gone Wild side and the Family Mardi Gras side. We leave on the Thursday before Mardi Gras and bring our lawn chairs, clothes for all seasons, and a sturdy wagon. We hit as many parades as we can from Thursday to Fat Tuesday, catching glitter shoes from Muses, rolls of toilet paper and plungers from Tucks, and hand painted coconuts from Zulu. Our week is filled with the sounds of kids playing together in the neutral ground, to bands from all over tuning up their instruments before their five-mile march around the big easy. We play hard and eat big!

St. Patrick’s Day Parade: There is little better than the Irish Channel Parade rolling down Magazine street! We spent a weekend celebrating our Irish heritage and enjoying catching potatoes, carrots, cabbages, boxes of Lucky Charms cereal, and Irish Spring soap while dancing about to the bagpipes.

His 3rd Irish Channel Parade

Concerts: We had three big names on the agenda for 2017: Adam, Taylor and Ed! We saw Maroon 5 in June and it was spectacular. My husband took me to see Taylor Swift last month (because my 7 year old was too cool to take me), and the family will spend Halloween with Ed Sheeran.

Thanksgiving: We spend Thanksgiving each year in the Big Easy, it’s a fabulous way to get away from the traditional Thanksgiving, and start some new traditions. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen preparing turkey and dressing, we eat fresh seafood and turducken at Red Fish Grill and spend the afternoon watching the parade roll through, as you know there is always a parade to watch somewhere!

Stay tuned for our Christmas 2018 Experiences (and don’t tell Quinn!) and helpful hints for how you can plan a Christmas of Experiences of your own.



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Lauren Rhodes Braden is a native of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where she resides with her husband, Eric and her son, Quinn. She has perfected the art of balancing better than most trained circus acts. She is a mother of one, and recently completed her J.D. at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is co-owner of Braden Valladares, LLC, a mediation and arbitration firm. An alum of Ocean Springs High School (2001), Ole Miss (B.S. in Criminal Justice 2006), Delta State University (M.S. in Criminal Justice 2008), and Mitchell Hamline School of Law (J.D. 2018), Lauren plans to take the Mississippi bar exam as well as the Louisiana Bar Exam to move Braden Valladares, LLC into an all-inclusive legal services practice in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, specializing in areas of litigation such as family law, juvenile law, elder law, adoptions, guardianships, conservatorships, and dispute resolution such as mediation and arbitration. She is one of the first incoming classes of the new hybrid J.D. program at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, allowing her to meet her Docket Divas and future law partners, and blog about their journey through raising families, attending law school, continuing to work full-time, and still maintaining shreds of sanity. Lauren has written for all court levels in Mississippi, the U.S. Federal District Court, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and most recently the United States Supreme Court. As a non-traditional mom, Lauren brings a fresh perspective of being a career focused mom, encouraging moms to go back to school or focus on their careers while still being an attentive, fun, and loving mom. Additionally, Lauren was raised in a multi-generational home and has chosen the same path, as her mom plays a very important role in their small nuclear family, making sure that Quinn makes it to hip hop class on time and ensuring that there is a hot meal on the table- cooking was never Lauren’s strong suit (along with cleaning… laundry…. outdoor projects….etc.) When not having dance parties around the house or attending concerts, Lauren and the family can be found in their second home, New Orleans. They enjoy shopping the local markets and stores, attending festivals, eating all of the amazing food the city has to offer, and parading like fools! Her philosophy as a mom is to live and enjoy the moments- both big and small, and to not take life or parenting too seriously. She has been known to blast Taylor Swift and sing to the top of her lungs as a solution to having to listen to a whiny kid, and rescue a giant hundred-pound dog on a random Monday after a tough day at work. It’s a good thing she is a juggler, because at the Braden house, it’s always a circus!