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Bring on the Madness! How to Embrace the Holidays

The other day I found myself saying, “Life is insane right now. I just need to make it through the holidays…” Wait. WHAT?! Stop. I love Christmas. LOVE. IT. The decorations. The smell. (Balsam & Cedar anyone?) The traditions. Cheesy movies. The music. It’s my favorite time of year. So why on earth would I want to just “survive” it? Yes, having small children makes life busy. (The messes, tantrums, and the why are you not napping?!?!) But it also makes the holidays that much more exciting: “Look Mom!! Santa ate all the cookies!!!”

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So just like I am embracing the madness that is my current stage of life, I want to enjoy every bit of magic this holiday season has to offer. Today I’m sharing some tips for not just surviving—but for thriving:

Take photos (and I don’t just mean with Santa).

We’re a military family. This means that, on average, we have the same set-up for the holidays for three consecutive years. Figuring out where to put the tree, the nativity, the nutcrackers, and snow globes takes a lot of time and effort! Plus, I have mom brain (what did I come upstairs for?), so there is no way I’m going to remember what I put where from year to year. The answer? I take pictures and save them in a file on my computer (Christmas Decorations) for easy reference on next December 1st. Okay, I admit it. I’ll totally cave and have them up the day after Thanksgiving. 

 

Have a Standard Operating Procedure for the holidays.

Again, we’re a military family. I’ve adopted some of the lingo. But seriously? For us, the holiday foods are part of the tradition. My Thanksgiving menu remains unchanging. This year, when creating your menu and grocery list, type it up, make an excel spreadsheet, and save it so that you can reference it next year. You can thank me later.

Put all your recipes in one spot (a Pinterest board, a binder, or—if you’re feeling ambitious—copy and paste those puppies into your own Shutterfly cookbook). If you always host a house full of people for several meals? Add those to the list as well! That way, you have all the necessary ingredients for your holiday feast – and also for the chili and French toast bake. Added bonus: If your list is detailed enough, you may not have to be the one doing the shopping. 

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Ask yourself this question.

Every year, — between the William Sonoma emails, the Real Simple tablescapes, the Glamour party outfits, and the Parent’s crafts — I feel pressure to have the “perfect” holiday. Then, when I’m sitting on the couch in my yoga pants when that ball drops (instead of in a slinky cocktail dress sipping Champagne and lighting sparklers), I feel just a little let down. Magazines are not real life. And if they are, #Isuckat that too.

So when it comes to all the holiday “musts,” ask yourself: Will doing [this] bring me, my spouse, or my children joy? If the answer is “no”? Don’t do it! (Exceptions include the laundry, dishes, and the company holiday party.) Tablescapes are not my thing, but I love to bake and decorate cookies with my son. It brings me joy to spend time with him and to share these gifts with our friends and neighbors. If you dread making cookies or little pumpkin bread loafs? Don’t do it! Instead, spend your precious free time doing something that does make you happy! Go for a drive and see the holiday lights, make those tree branch Christmas ornaments you saw on Pinterest, or watch that holiday movie. Heck, go take a nap! Make it merry your way. 

 

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Schedule your fun.

I don’t know where this year went. I know this holiday season will be a blur, and my calendar is already filling up. But there are certain things I have to do at Christmas time. We have to decorate the tree as a family (Traaaaaadition! Tradition!) We have to attend mass. And when we live in Nashville? We have to see the Lights at Opryland. Now, these are easy wickets to hit. But with two kids in the mix and a crazy work schedule? It’s not as easy as it used to be. So we set aside time and/or put it on the calendar. That way I’m not trying to attach a hotel tour to a shopping trip and letting a pre-schooler’s melt-down ruin my holiday magic.

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Remember, you get to.

It’s easy to get stressed out and frustrated by all the holiday obligations. For every joyful moment there are also groceries and house guests and “just put on your shoes and get in the car now!” So when I’m facing that stack of dishes or looking at all the presents that need to be wrapped (And you know that happens at 10 p.m. because the child just would. Not. Go. To. BED!), I try to remember how lucky I am to be able to afford the food and gifts for my family. How blessed I am to have family that wants to share the holidays with me. And really? They don’t care about all that “perfect” anyway.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. May it be full of madness and moments to cherish.

From my goldfish and lego-strewn floor to yours — Happy Holidays!

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