Sunday, December 28, 2014

(Surviving and Enjoying) Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas, everyone! Did you all survive another holiday season? We did!

Every year, I find that I *do* the holidays a little bit better. I think that I can now deal with the Christmas season fairly well and without getting too stressed. For the most part, we keep it low-key, maintain a steady and (mostly) non-frantic schedule, and really enjoy our time together.

Things only get crazy within, say, three or so days of Christmas. That's when our schedule goes insane, my stress levels skyrocket, and I tend to really break down. I must regretfully admit that I don't handle the combination of high levels of activity and loaded to-do lists very gracefully.

This year, I actually did pretty well. I only had one stressed-out crazy day during Christmas week. But that one was a corker! The children were being difficult (combination of post-sugar crashes and extreme adrenalin), the house was a mess, the floor was covered in fake Christmas tree needles, and I was floundering about desperately trying to deal with a three-foot-long to-do list, discipline cranky children, and prepare for shortly-arriving guests. Baby's therapist showed up in the middle of everything (I had completely forgotten our appointment), and things went quickly from bad to worse. By the end of the morning, I wondering why on earth I had let myself in for any of it! I spent the rest of the morning morosely writing a mental blog post titled "Why We Will Never Celebrate Christmas Again."

Thankfully, things improved from there. My husband took the children out to lunch, giving me a chance to straighten the house and finally get something to eat. Our houseguests arrived and cheered everyone up, and they were also very helpful with the children and the kitchen work. Our schedule stayed sane, even with mail-ordered gifts that arrived at the last second (5:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve night). We even made it to church on Christmas Eve - AND all of the children sat quietly through it!

Sandals in December - one of the big perks of Arizona living!

Christmas was a success - even considering the fact that I ended up with some sort of nasty stomach bug on Christmas night. (Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a nice case of midnight gastroenteritis.)

All in all, Christmas isn't so bad.

In all seriousness, Christmas was a lot of fun, and we all enjoyed it.

With his new froggy. 

Don't you love the "smile for the camera" pose?

Our newest received the sweetest little gown set that makes her look just like a Pilgrim baby. We kept her in it all day just for the joy of it!

Additionally, I received a super-surprise - a Christmas gift from my husband! We don't exchange Christmas gifts, as a rule, but this time he ordered a special gift to surprise me. This is the Cecily's Fall Chiffon in Victorian Floral from Garlands of Grace. I love it!

The sweet ladies at Garlands of Grace were super-helpful - my husband emailed them a picture of me, and they gave him purchase suggestions based on that. They are very sweet, and we highly recommend both their company and their products!

All in all, the season was a success. We survived, and enjoyed ourselves.

I still have things to learn. And things to improve. Especially since overdosing on Christmas cookies and eggnog is not really a legitimate option for reducing holiday-caused stress and anxiety.

(Or is it?)

I find that every year I improve in how I handle the holidays. Each year I still fall flat on my face in some way or other, but I am learning more and more how to keep the holidays emotionally and practically healthy.

In fact, I considered writing a "How to Simplify Your Christmas" post - but then remembered that I already did. (And not just once, but twice!) Thus, instead of writing a new post, I actually re-read my own posts to remind myself how to keep Christmas simple!

This year, we made even more improvements. Are you anxious to hear about them? I knew you were! And because I refuse to disappoint, here they are!

Stockings for Children Only - We do super-simple stockings. Each stocking contains three things only - an orange, a bag of nuts, and a bag of candy. The children enjoy it, and we don't have to go crazy finding stocking stuffers. In the past, I insisted on doing stockings for everyone - children and adults alike. But I finally realized the truth of the matter - while the children loved the stockings, the adults were only being polite. This year I cut out doing stockings for adults, and did them only for the children. It was much simpler, much faster, much easier - and the adults didn't care. Why did I take so long to think of this?

Simplified Christmas Menu - Like many people, we tend to go all out for Christmas dinner - and end up really overdoing it. This really adds to stress levels! This year we kept it simple, and it was much saner. On Christmas day, we had hardly anything to do! It was lovely! Every single dish was made or purchased in advance, and on Christmas Day we had only to heat things up. Here is this year's menu:

Harvest Potatoes
Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole
Steamed Green Beans and Mushrooms
Rolls, storebought
Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin Cheesecake (I cut the sugar in half)

Finding Christmas Traditions (And Keeping Them!) - I find that it's not really necessary to come up with new things crafts and projects each year. One or two - yes, possibly. But on the whole, keeping constant traditions is both easier on me and more meaningful for the children. I hope to post a list of our Christmas traditions sometime soon, even though it's a bit late.

Abandoning Things That Don't Work - There are certain things that land on our "to-do" list every year,  and every year are subsequently forgotten or put off. In other words, they don't work for our family... but the guilt trip is still there. This year I have taken the gigantic step of crossing those items off of our to-do list - if not forever, then at least for the foreseeable present. Here are some things that just never get done around here:
  • Jesse Tree activity
  • Baking a birthday cake for baby Jesus
  • Reading the super-long version of the Christmas story (that has to be done every day in December)

Embracing Online Shopping - I know, I know. "Shop local." But in this case, I'll leave the shopping locally to those of y'all who actually enjoy shopping. For me, it was an amazing blessing to be able to click "order now" on Amazon and have gifts show up on my doorstep. Of course, it still took me three-plus weeks to make up my order (online shopping is, alas, still shopping), but not having to go out was lovely.

Advent Wreaths With Jar Candles - This was an accidental discovery that became an instant hit! I didn't have long candles (or the desire to go shopping for them), so I used extra jar candles we had hanging about - and wow! It was wonderful not to have to clean up candle wax every day! I know this was minor, but it was such a blessing - and instantly became my preferred way to do Advent wreaths.

What ways did you find to simplify Christmas this year?

On another note, I was also thankful to hear that I'm not the only one who is easily overwhelmed by the holidays. It's always nice to know that one isn't alone, isn't it?

How to get enough time to write thank-you notes - hand the toddler a page of stickers and ignore the subsequent mess!

So, dear readers - how was your Christmas? I can't wait to read your blog posts and see your family pictures from this holiday season!

In the meantime, I'll be in the kitchen, moodily eating Christmas cookies while I deal with Facebook withdrawals. Yup, that's right. I'm trying again to get off of Facebook (you know, like last time). I'll let you all know how it goes this round.

Have a wonderful Christmas season, dear friends! Much love to you all!


  1. Merry Christmas to you!

    I so understand being overwhelmed by the holidays. Every October I start feeling rather ill at the thought of having to put on a happy face and do the many things that are expected of me through the long holiday season. I love the actual moments of joy we experience here and there, but much of the prep work and all of the extra hoopla that so many other people seem to enjoy just makes me want to crawl into a hole and cry.

    Like you, I've been "moodily eating Christmas cookies" in between bouts of productivity. I'm looking forward to the arrival of baby and the quiet of January--both excuses for saying no to outside commitments while my brain and body heal.

    I also wish I had the courage to simplify our Christmas stockings to the point that you have. You're smart to have done this while your kids are little and will be able to grow up with that tradition!

    And your baby girl looks absolutely beautiful in her new cap and gown.

    1. Wow, your first paragraph is SO me! Yes!!! "That feeling" really does surface in October. There's the positive joy of the season, and then there's the part where we "start feeling rather ill at the thought of having to put on a happy face and do the many things that are expected of me through the long holiday season" - YES, YES, YES. Oh, goodness. I think many of us are in this boat together.

      One of the best things about this Christmas season for us was, as you mentioned (though I forgot to include it in the post), the fact that we'd just had a baby. That gave me the excuse to say no to many outside commitments and much at-home busyness, and more importantly, the internal ability to do so without guilt. I think that many of us suffer from terrible guilt when we try to simplify Christmas - though we shouldn't!!

      It's definitely a work in progress.

      We'll have to encourage each other in the journey next Christmas season!! "Simplify without guilt!!" :)

  2. You're definitely not the only one who gets overwhelmed by the holidays! It didn't help that this year I had a newborn and a sick toddler… I was researching PPD because of how bad I was feeling, but then after a detox day (at home, mostly in bed, with no expectations, no people, no noise, etc.) I felt so completely better that I decided to blame the holiday stress instead. I hope in future years to be able to detach from my extended family's expectations and traditions enough to find something simple that works for me and brings us joy without all the stress.

    1. Kristina - absolutely to all points!!

      I have been blessed in that I my extended family really does not put any serious holiday obligations on our family - but I've read about many difficult situations where that does happen, and I can only imagine how difficult it can get. I hope that it gets easier with time!

      Much love from all of us! Next year we can all work on simplifying Christmas together!! :)



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