As I type this, a very heavy snow is blanketing our yard. They called off school already yesterday evening in anticipation of the Nor’Easter set to hit us. Six to sixteen inches, the Weather Channel said, which just made me laugh because, really? That’s a crazy range!
Anyway, for now, the children and I are happy in our home and, irony of all ironies, though the snow is falling madly, we don’t even have our heat on because the past two days were SO mild, it got comfortable in here and has stayed that way. I reckon I should kick it on “just in case” in a bit here but, for now, it makes me giggle to be comfy with no heat while a “winter” storm carries on outside my window.
In the meantime, here’s the meal plan for the week!
B–Cereal, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)
Brunch– Ham, Egg, & Cheese skillets over fried potatoes
D–Taco Rice, Corn
B–PB Toast, Pineapple, Milk
D–Homemade Hamburger Helper, Green Beans
B–Frosted Mini Wheats, Bananas, Milk
D–Burgers, Baked Beans, Salad
B–Egg Sandwiches, Pineapple, Milk
D–Garlic, Rosemary, & Asiago Chicken Legs, Mixed Veggies
B–Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Skillets over Fried Potatoes
D–HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! (I’m making the rolls.)
B–Cinnamon Rolls, Fruit
D–Large Cheese Pizza, Medium Veggie Pizza
B–Eggs Benedict (I lazed around in bed so long last Saturday that this didn’t get made– hopefully I’ll get it done to fuel up my boy before his 5K!)
D–Poor Man’s Chicken Parm, Broccoli
And that should do it!
Let me be straight with you all–
I have happily lived most of my life without any need whatsoever for a devotional.
Okay, well, that might be too broad a statement. Perhaps it is more accurate to say, I have happily lived most of my life without any perceived need for a devotional and that has worked out just fine for me. Yes, that’s better.
Anyway, that’s the pure and simple truth. I am one who is happy to reach for the Bible if I want to look something up. I frequently pull up the readings for the day. I definitey have a whole array of prayers in my arsenal and fall back at least weekly on the rosary.
I’m not anti-devotional in any way. It’s just not been a constant part of my life.
But you know what?
There are two very notable times when I really, really, REALLY felt I needed a daily devotional and, because of that, I both had and used one.
The first was when I was in college. College was kind of tough. Freed from my parents’ home where church was just a given, I had a whole boatload of freedom. My tiny liberal arts school was cool with you whether you were a bible-thumpin’ Jesus-lover or a flower-weaving pagan. I loved that about it, honestly, but I also felt a stronger need for focus on Scripture than perhaps ever before. And so, my Baptist roommate Lyza and I dug deep into a devotional for young Christian women (even though she didn’t think I was a “real Christian”) and that filled a huge need for me.
The second time I found myself desperately craving the direction and organization of a daily devotional was when I had really tiny kids. In a new state with a four-year-old, three-year-old, and six-month old, I was lonely, busy, and struggling to feel super connected to the church. The first thing I wrote on my Christmas list that year was a devotional book and I cried grateful tears when my parents got it for me. That book lived in my nightstand and I eagerly reached for its pages early each morning. I needed a voice to encourage me, to challenge me, and to somehow let me know that I wasn’t alone in this whole (sometimes lonely) journey.
I don’t recall the name of that devotional book I read when I had tinies, but I know it helped. I would encourage those of you in a season of parenting– whether it’s with babies, toddlers, or beyond– that is stretching and challenging you, to find a collection of daily devotions that helps you get that connected “oh yeah, I’m not alone” feeling.
Not sure where to find such a thing? Well, happily enough, there are lots of great options out there. You can probably find something that’ll work in a local bookstore or on Amazon. But, if you’d like a suggestion from me, I’d encourage you to check out Parenting Parables.
Parenting Parables is a collection of daily scripture, story, and reflection to help guide you through the challenging days of raising souls. It’s a big, demanding job and it’s one my friend Jessie well understands.
Through anecdotes from her own life and raw, honest experience-sharing, Jessie challenges us to consider what Jesus sees in us and asks of us. Her daily reflections are presented not as teacher-to-student, but as friend-t0-friend. The tone is that of a warm heart-to-heart, not a preachy request.
When all is said and done, only you know if you’re in a season where your heart is crying out for the support and structure of a daily devotional. Some of you will read this and you’ll just know that this is something that would be helpful. Others will think, “that’s cool, but I’m good.”
If Parenting Parables IS something you’d be interested in, you can click here to visit Jessie Weaver. to grab your own copy.
Important stuff you should know:
- The price is $2.99.
- Any profits made will be donated to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, a local food pantry and homeless ministry.
- Right now the book is only available as a PDF, but Jessie is working on getting it formatted for Kindle. In the meantime, you can put a PDF on your Kindle simply by plugging the Kindle into your computer and dragging the PDF file into the Kindle folder.
I know everyone prefers the nice, clear table shots, showing all the food. I’ll be honest– it was “feels like 8 degrees” yesterday and I was in a hurry. I’ll still list everything out for you, though– promise. Fair enough?
Alrighty, let’s go shopping!
1 qt. vanilla Greek yogurt– $2.48 (Will my kids EAT plain yogurt? Sure. But they eat this faster and sometimes that’s important in the morning!)
8 oz. sharp cheddar– $1.89
8 oz. swiss cheese– $1.89
1# shredded mozz– $3.69
small cup raspberry Greek yogurt– $.75 (for me, for my lunch while subbing tomorrow)
2 gallons milk– $2.59 e.
2# butter– $2.29 e.
2 dozen eggs– $1.65 e.
2.5# chicken legs– $2.69
1# ground turkey– $1.89
1# honey ham– $3.29
2 cans organic tomato paste– $.44 e.
1 can petit diced tomatoes– $.41
2 cans organic tomato sauce– $.55 e.
2 bags frozen peas– $.89 e.
2 bags frozen broccoli florets– $.99
2 6-packs organic applesauce cups– $.99 e.
3# carrots– $1.29
1 pineapple– $1.29
10# potatoes– $2.99
2.6# bananas– $1.14
2# macaroni– $1.49
1# penne– $.89
1# orrechiette– $1.29
bread Crumbs– $.89
3# long grain rice– $1.49
english muffins– $.99
wheat bread– $.99
burger buns– $.89
5# flour– $1.49
shredded wheat cereal– $1.99
3 cans spaghetti rings– $.59 e. (MY guilty pleasure)
2L Coke– $1.05 (+ $.05 deposit)
apple juice– $1.39
white cake mix– $.99 (for cookies & cream cupcakes for the altar servers)
baked beans– $1.39
12 oz. dark fair trade coffee– $4.99
12 oz. mocha mint coffee– $4.99
12 oz. gingerbread coffee– $4.99
2# brown sugar– $.99
artichoke and garlic salsa– $1.99 (my sister LOVES this stuff, so I’ll take it along at Thanksgiving)
cheese puffs– $.79
2 bags nacho chips– $1.19 e. (for my man!)
chocolate sandwich cookies– $1.69 (for cookies & cream cupcakes)
shortbread cookies– $1.29 (game night treat)
So there you go! Any surprises? Any questions? Do you still enjoy seeing other people’s groceries? I know it had been awhile…
That’ll help a bit. Still, groceries aren’t cheap, but I carry on with trying to make the best of it. It helps immensely that my piggy children are all huge fans of rice, beans, and eggs. So glad they’re not demanding!
The menu plan should have gone up yesterday, but there was a technical glich and I didn’t catch it until today! Yesterday was a bit of whirlwind with volunteering and parent/teacher conferences, so I wasn’t as on top of things as I should have been. Sorry!
Anywho, here’s the meal plan for the week!
B–Cereal, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)
Brunch– Ham, Egg, & Cheese on English Muffins, Bananas
D–Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s– it was our 13th anniversary! And it was lovely to not have to cook.
B–Jelly Toast w/ Apples, Almonds, Milk
D–Angelhair w/ Meat Sauce, Green Beans
B–Cinnamon Roll Bread, Apples, Milk
D–Chili Macaroni Soup, Garlic Bread w/ Cheese
B–Cereal, Raspberries, Blueberries, Milk
D–Cheesy Beans & Rice <– this wasn’t on the original plan, but I realized that I had SUCH a narrow window to feed them between gymnastics and karate that I wanted something simple that I know they will all eat very well!
B–Eggs, Toast, Apples
D–Rotini w/ Cheese & Spinach
B–Cereal, Apples, Milk (quick & easy because, guess what? I’m working outside the home that day for the first time in, oh, 9 1/2 years!)
D–I have no idea what the kids will be eating– they’re spending the night with my parents while we go out to celebrate our anniversary!
D–Pizza & a Movie Night (moved from Friday night!)
And that should do it! It’s definitely not a complicated plan, but it still sounds tasty to me.
(some information reposted from a piece originally written in 2010)
My name is JessieLeigh.
I was raised in a comfortable, upper middle-class home.
I have a college degree.
I am happily married.
I have always been healthy.
I do not use drugs, drink heavily, or participate in “risky” behaviors.
I sought prenatal care at the start of my pregnancies.
My blood pressure, sugar levels, and weight have never wavered.
Prematurity can affect anyone. It has no prejudice. And its consequences can be devastating. I am one of the lucky ones… my little girl’s story is one of great triumph. Still, that came with a world of worry and challenges.
No one knows the reason I went into labor at only 23 weeks gestation. No one could ever find a single cause for C’s prematurity. I was lucky to have a full-term birth prior to that one and even more grateful to have had one since. But my life will forever be changed and touched by the premature baby I brought into the world…
Today I’m joining forces with many others to Fight for Preemies. Won’t you please take just a couple minutes and visit the March of Dimes website? There is a wealth of information there… from what causes premature birth to statistical rates to how your state ranks to how you can help.
Today, November 17, we unite to Fight for Preemies. Won’t you join us?
So, how many of you have read a blog or two since, oh, I don’t know, about 2007 or so? It doesn’t matter if you still read it, but did you ever read blog posts “back in the day”?
Well, a whole lot has changed. Off the top of my head, here are a few things:
- Everything was MUCH less image driven. There was a time that you could publish a recipe post without a photo and no one would balk. Scouts honor.
- People would comment. This one is HUGE. Commenting is what drove blogs. People would comment, bloggers would comment back, there was lots of reciprocity going on and, honestly, it was fun and very different from the current scene. This is why, though I have far more readers now than I did in 2008, if you compared the number of comments, you’d never guess it.
- Chatty, personal posts and tone were pretty normal and typically welcomed. Lists of random facts were common. “Tagging” additional bloggers you wanted to play along was routine. These things are rare now. Maybe for a special birthday or something (e.g. “35 Little Known Things in Honor of Turning 35.”) But you won’t see it very often…
Anyway, though I try hard to move along with the times and, though I’m always lagging a touch behind, I’ve learned to be fairly competent at Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, I’m always up for a little nostalgia, too!
So, going back retro-’08 style, I’m copying my friend Jilly’s format here, and jumping onboard (though I admit I’m just a wee bit hurt I wasn’t actually TAGGED in the post. )
- Name – Jessica Leigh (or, of course, JessieLeigh)
- Location – Connecticut
- Hometown – I lived a BUNCH of places, but I was born just outside of Chicago.
- Current Occupation – mom, blogger, wanna-be proofreader, catechist, and brand new substitute teacher!
- Past Occupation – teller manager
- My style – sundresses & flip-flops in the summer/ leggings, short dresses, & boots in the winter (I’m no fashion guru, for sure!)
- Typical “Uniform” – Oh, crud. See? I’m dumb about fashion. I answered this one already because I don’t know how to describe style. Oops!
- Favorite coffee – BLACK. Always. And plenty of it. Rich and dark, but not super strong– black coffee drinkers know that super strong coffee is bitter.
- Favorite food splurge – fancy cheese and fresh berries
- Favorite splurge – fun nail polish, junky marshmallow cereal, lunch dates with my husband
- Favorite music – I have a real weakness for the old crooners– Nat, Dean, Bing, Frank, etc.
- ALWAYS in my kitchen – tortillas, cheese, pasta, tomatoes, eggs
- Travel outside of the USA – Hmmm… let’s see. Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Costa Rica, Panama, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Grand Cayman, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Curacao, Honduras, and maybe a couple islands I’m forgetting.
- Dream vacation – World cruise– take me everywhere, baby!!!
- Favorite weather – high 70s, wildly sunny. I LOVE THE LIGHT.
- Pet Peeves – egregious grammatical errors, icy roads, parents who don’t understand drop-off/pick-up lines, perpetuators of “the Mommy Wars”
- What makes me smile – sunshine, giggling children, singing, old people, witnessing good in the world (and it happens a LOT if you’re looking!)
- Favorite date – Any kind of food (except Indian– I don’t like Indian food!), followed a long walk hand-in-hand, playing a game, and flirting madly the whole entire time.
- Cats or Dogs - CATS. I don’t really dislike dogs, but I find them to be WAY too much work.
- Inspired by – the saints (as in St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Anne, etc.– not the football team!), special education teachers, the majesty of the ocean, and the wonder of my children
- Obsessions – cheese, hot marriages, sparkly things, icy bone-dry white wine
- Quiet or Loud? Probably quiet, but I can enjoy loud, fun gatherings.
- Morning or Evening? Morning. Oh, heavens, MORNING. I’m useless in the evening for much more than folding laundry while watching a show.
- Black or White? Black, though my husband ALWAYS compliments me when I wear white, so I should probably try to do that more.
- Peanuts or Popcorn. Peanuts. And not those honey-roasted things. (Gag.) I like straight-up dry-roasted salted peanuts.
Wanna play? Blog it if you’ve got one, or feel free to tell me a few things about YOU in the comments!
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. That makes this a good time to talk a little bit about preemie stuff. I get asked frequently how people can help support preemie mom and dads, so I’m going out on a limb and sharing some ideas you may never have thought of.
Even if you haven’t given birth prematurely yourself, the odds are very good you know someone who has. Maybe it was your cousin or your neighbor or your sister-in-law. Maybe your child’s teacher had a baby way too soon. Maybe someone from your church. No matter who you are or where you live, prematurity has likely touched you in some way, shape, or form.
Quite often, I get asked questions about the best ways to support preemie moms and dads. “What can I do? What should I bring? What should I say? What’s actually helpful?”
These are all excellent questions, and I’ve addressed most of them in the past. Today, I want to talk about a typically overlooked way to support preemie parents in a beautiful way:
Honor Varying Choices and Methods
So, what do you mean by that, JL? What does that even mean? I just wanted to make a casserole or something…
Well, honestly, one of the kindest and simplest things you can do is sometimes just shut your mouth. And here’s what I mean by that.
Don’t criticize c-sections.
I get it. The c-section rate in this country is too high. Many could perhaps have been avoided. There exists a handful of moms out there who schedule c-sections for their own convenience and no other reason. It’s “not natural.” It’s “not best for mom and baby.”
I GET IT.
But here’s the thing– every birth is unique. From the mama to the baby to the doctor/midwife to the setting to the timing to the you-name-it, there are just a boatload of variables happening. No matter how knowledgable you feel like you are, you simply can’t know that a certain birthing method was the right choice. So, that, right there, would be a pretty good reason to just keep quiet.
But, if that’s not sufficient, let me be very blunt with you– the preemie mom is already beating herself up more than you can imagine. She is wondering what she did wrong. She is fretting that it’s her fault. She is going through all the hormonal upheaval any new mom faces coupled with crippling guilt and upset. The odds are pretty good that this isn’t how she planned her birth to go. She may very well have imagined soft music, unmedicated labor, and a supportive coach, but, instead, got an OR, blinding lights, and terrifying statistics. Being told her birth method is inferior? Is unnecessary cruelty.
“Oh, but we don’t mean that! We’re not talking to THAT mom… we know there are rare circumstances where it might be necessary. We’re talking to all those OTHER moms…”
Look. I honestly don’t think the majority of people fault me for my classic c-section at 23w6d gestation. I mean– seriously. A vaginal birth would have been traumatic on a 1 lb 5 oz baby. But, when I hear the scathing, judgmental remarks? It still hurts. A lot.
Those “other moms”? The ones who demand scheduled c-sections to avoid any labor and to pick their baby’s arrival date? They don’t actually care what you have to say about it! You can list all the reasons traditional birth is better until the cows come home and they will remain steadfast in their choice and they’ll happily ignore you.
The moms who hear you? Are often the moms who desperately wish it could have been different for them. But, instead of feeling like their stories are important and valid, they’re made to feel inferior.
Let’s stop that already.
Honoring different birthing methods supports the parents who work so hard to bring healthy babies into the world.
Stop freaking out about formula.
Again, I get it. Breastfeeding is better for both mom and baby. I know this. I agree. I absolutely loved nursing my daughter and, while I didn’t love it even a tiny bit, I dutifully pumped for my other daughter so she’d still get breastmilk. That worked for us. And that’s wonderful.
But, here’s the thing– in too many cases, babies are born early not because there’s anything wrong with the baby. They’re born too soon because something’s gone wrong with mama.
Blood pressure soars. Edema sets in. Kidneys fail.
Bad stuff, people.
Hopefully, once the baby is delivered, the mother’s health starts to improve. Even so, it may very well take a few days. And sometimes? That’s enough to completely derail all well-intentioned breastfeeding plans.
Do you need me to tell you about the woman who lived down the hall at the Ronald McDonald House who would sob in the bathroom after pumping for 45 minutes and producing only 5 mL? She’d finally gotten back on her feet after dealing with the horror that is HELLP Syndrome and that’s all she could do.
“But of course, that’s not what we mean! We’re not talking about those women who try so hard. We’re talking about those horrible mamas who DON’T EVEN TRY.”
I know. I do know this. But, again, let me let you in on a little secret. As one of those mamas who “didn’t even try” and just fed my first baby formula? I honestly didn’t care very much about your opinion. I had made up my mind and I was good with it. The people who actually take pause and focus on your words? Are those who probably didn’t have that same choice. So, basically, here’s what happens when you start listing all the reasons formula is horrible:
- You’re going to get a whole lot of “Amen, Sister!”s from those other moms who believe in and were able to breastfeed.
- You’re going to have a large population who doesn’t give a flying fig what you think.
- And you’re going to have a group that does care what you think and feels like junk because of your words.
I’m guessing this is not the intent of most “lactivists”, but it is often the sad result.
If you want to make a difference, speak out against the marketing of formula. Let your voices be heard when it comes to all the ads and mailings and hospital freebies. Be critical of the manufacturers, if you must, but not the mothers.
Honoring various feeding methods and choices allows parents who truly are doing the very best they can feel validated and accepted.
At the end of the day, one of the best ways you can support preemie parents is by ensuring you don’t make them feel lousier than they may already feel. Like you, the parents of babies born way too soon are doing their very best and trying so hard to provide the best start for their babies. You can honor that by honoring different methods and choices.
What the heck happened to the prices of meat and butter, anyway? Landsakes, it’s terrifying out there! Okay, so it’s not THAT bad, but, still, butter is easily twice what it was this time last year and meat prices around here are enough to make me cringe. I could mope around about that. Or I could increase the budget significantly. Or I could leave the budget, but bust it every month. Or I could just choose to eat lower quality food.
Or, I can just put my chin up and resolve to make those ingredients stretch further in our meals. I’m going with that plan.
So, here’s the meal plan for the week:
B–Cereal, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)
Brunch– Cinnamon Roll Bread, Turkey & Cheese Roll-Ups, Bananas
D–Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s
B–PB Toast w/ Apples, Milk
D–Turkey & Rice Burritos
B–Egg Wraps, Grapefruit
D--Peanut Noodles w/ Chicken, Broccoli, & Carrots
B–Berry Muffins, Apples, Milk
D–Cheesy Beans & Rice
B–Berry Muffins, Eggs, Milk
D–Chicken Parm Soup, Italian Cheese Bread
B–Cereal, Apples, Milk
D–Lg. Pepperoni Pizza, Med. Mushroom & Onion Pizza
B–Scr. Eggs w/ Broccoli & Cheese, Baked Donuts
D–Carnitas Soft Tacos w/ Spanish Rice
And that should do it! Meat is still making an appearance on our menu– it’s just getting a little help from pasta, rice, and beans.
“I like your hoodie, Mrs. S.,” she said, eyeing the black velour, “Is it new?”
I smiled, thanked her, “Nope, it’s not new. I’ve had it awhile.”
“Oh, well, I’d wear it,” she said, then turned back to the neighbor boy.
Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on sixth grade girls, but I will tell you this much– that’s a rare compliment, right there. So I took it. Gratefully.
And I looked down at the hoodie I wore.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
You know how sometimes you hear a song and you’re instantly transported back in time?
You know how sometimes you smell a scent and memories surge to the forefront of your mind, unbidden?
You know how the taste of a certain recipe can resurrect stories and experiences long-thought forgotten?
I touched the fabric, ran a finger down the zipper, twisted the satin pull, and felt myself spin back in time, the memories of donning this particular garment over and over, day after day surging over me.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Truth? This hoodie is a maternity hoodie. It’s from Old Navy. I opened it alone in a hospital room, the Christmas of 2005. I should have been five months pregnant. Instead, I had just given birth to a teeny tiny baby girl who was fighting for life in the NICU, while I recovered from major surgery.
I hadn’t expected to be having a baby so soon. I hadn’t planned on signing on to stay in our state’s capital city for over 100 nights. I certainly hadn’t planned to no longer be pregant after Christmas when I’d been due on April 15th.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I’d arrived at the hospital in regular clothes. I carried C. in such a bizarre way. I had gained all of 4 1/2 pounds at that point and I always joke that it was all in my chest. I was still in regular old size 8 jeans, but I had ballooned up to 32G bra.
Ironically enough, the only time I wore maternity clothes during that pregnancy was AFTER I gave birth, rather than before. My c-section left me tender and sore and I couldn’t bear having clothes cling or touch my skin. Maternity jeans and tops became my best friends in the months following C’s unexpected arrival.
And I wore that hoodie nearly constantly.
I remember, vividly, rising in the still-dark morn, reaching for the familiar velvety softness. I would wrap it around my nightgown for night feedings of my 11-month old and night pumpings for my newborn. I would throw it on over random knit tops, yanking my hair into a knot, and yawning my way down to find breakfast. I would burrow in it while walking the chilly, windy sidewalks over to the hospital. And I washed it, over and over and over again, in the little Ronald McDonald House laundry room, each time hoping whatever random detergent happened to be in there wouldn’t irritate anyone’s skin.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I don’t think I’ve worn this hoodie for three years, to be honest. I stumbled upon it on the top shelf of my closet and thought it would work fine with my vampy black nails and bright teal leggings. So I wore it.
It’s not new, dear sixth grader. In fact– far from it. It is a garment that manages to stay in my closet not for its newness or trendiness or fabulous fit. It lives on in my wardrobe because it’s earned its place.
Because memories can add beauty to even the mundane.
The Halloween buckets still grace the sideboard in my dining room, yet all the online chiiter chatter is about Christmas. There’s a part of me that really objects to that, to be honest, but the reality is– planning early can be super helpful in alleviating stress later on. For that reason, I’m dipping my toe in the topic today.
Around here, like in so many homes, we have November, December, and January birthdays and anniversaries on top of Christmas. This does not make us unique. The fact that we have a child with a birthday ON Christmas Eve adds a few logistic and planning challenges, but I am well aware that we all have our own individual obstacles to overcome.
The following tips are simple, but important. They are things that should absolutely be common sense but, despite having a reputation for being logical and practical, I somehow failed to fully grasp until I was well into my 30s. I have many people in my life who still seem to run in circles and some of that could likely be eased by just incorporating these little strategies. So here goes:
Be wildly organized.
I know this flies in the face of some people’s natures. I know some people are not natural list-makers or budget-followers. I really want to respect individual strengths and challenges but, no matter what your opinion on spreadsheets, I’m still going to encourage you to find an organization method that works for you.
Me? I have a spreadsheet in Google drive that helps me keep track of birthdays and Christmas gifts for the entire extended family. That works for me. I can keep tabs on everything from how much we spent to whether or not we still need to buy a birthday card. I thrive with that sort of resource and, since I spend a lot of time on the computer each day, it’s pretty simple for me to keep it updated.
That may not work for you, however. You might prefer a paper and pencil list. You might have a household notebook in which you like to store such details. Or, perhaps, you’d do best to just designate a closet or a big rubbermaid tub somewhere and just put everything in that spot. That last option sounds like chaos to a personality type like mine but, for some, just keeping things all in one spot is a big organizational achievement. Find what works for YOU and then be consistent.
Feeling like you have some sense of order and a grasp of what you’ve already purchased is honestly the first step. None of us wants to overbuy OR miss someone on the list. Finding a way to organize your gifts and gift list will go a long way toward keeping the budget in check and helping to save your sanity.
Establish helpful traditions.
Here are some examples of holiday traditions that really, really help me:
- Every Thanksgiving, I’m in charge of making the bread and rolls. (My sister makes the pies.)
- Every Christmas Eve, we go to my sister’s house for dinner and family gift-exchange.
- Every Christmas morning, I make scrambled eggs with cheese and cinnamon rolls for a late breakfast.
- Every October, I order our wrapping paper through the kids’ fund raiser.
- Every year, the tree comes down on the Epiphany.
Why do those traditions help so much? Well, for a lot of reasons actually. Knowing what I’m in charge of making allows me to shop for ingredients early and, because I do it every year, I’m confident in both my recipes and timing. I know when to make the dough. I know what temp helps the rise. I know which basket is the perfect size. By now, the whole process moves like a well-oiled machine and that allows me to relax. Ditto for Christmas breakfast.
Going to my sister’s house every year helps me make plans. I know that I can be in full birthday mode at my house on Christmas Eve (for C.) and, when we get to my sis’s, the halls will be decked for Christmas. I know I’ll see my whole family then and, thus, I don’t feel any pressure on Christmas Day to run here, there, and everywhere.
Ordering that over-priced paper is kind of annoying, but it supports the school and ensures that I will have good-quality paper on-hand when I need it. For that reason, it’s a helpful tradition for me to have in place.
Helpful traditions are those that make things go smoothly. They are the things you do year-after-year that help you relax and know things are under-control. In some ways, these might be the “predictable” parts of the celebration, but, rather than feeling boring, they should feel comforting.
Abandon stressful tradtions.
I cannot emphasize this enough– don’t be afraid to let go of traditions that get in the way of enjoying the season. This is probably the hardest of these three lessons to learn, but it can be a real game-changer.
Here are some examples of traditions I’ve abandoned over the past couple of years:
- Every year, I would insist on hosting C’s friend birthday party BEFORE Christmas Eve.
- Every year, we would go the the Christmas Eve Mass.
- Every year, I would bake cupcakes thrice– for C’s friend party, for her actual birthday, and for her family party.
- Every year, I would insist on hosting all birthday parties at my house.
- Every year, we would set up the Christmas tree on the first Saturday in December.
Now, here’s the thing– there’s nothing wrong with any of those traditions. For some people, they might provide structure and be helpful. But, for ME, they were stifling and added stress.
Take, for example, going to Christmas Eve Mass. I always loved going to Christmas Eve Mass as a child, teen, college student, and beyond. It was a cherished tradition I looked forward to every year! Then I had a baby girl born ON Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve Mass is very crowded. Lots and lots of people have that tradition. To get seats, you need to get there early. To sit together as a FAMILY, you need to get there obscenely early. We would leave our house before 2PM to be there for the 4PM Mass. Then we would sit… and sit… and wait… and sit. This is how we spent our daughter’s birthday– cramming in “birthday stuff” in the morning and then sitting and waiting. Honestly? It wasn’t fun for us and it definitely wasn’t fun for her.
Last year, I broached the wild idea of going to Mass on Christmas morning instead. What if we bucked tradition and just went at 10AM the next day? And you know what? IT WAS AMAZING. We had such a joyful, relaxed holiday. Mass wasn’t crowded. People were happy and laidback. Our Christmas Eve baby didn’t spend hours of her birthday just sitting there, quietly waiting.
All those other traditions? They were okay, but it turns out they simply weren’t necessary. There were other times and other ways to do things and, by allowing myself that freedom, I was able to reclaim joy during the holidays.
Don’t cling to traditions that drag you down. If you’re dreading it? It’s probably not worth it. If it makes you edgy and overwhelmed? Try to find a new way to do it. If you only do it because of family or peer pressure? Find the strength to say “no” or adapt it to better fit with your idea of joyful.
So there you go. It may have taken me 35+ years to learn them, but there are my top three tips for making holiday planning easier.
And now it’s back to sneaking a little Halloween chocolate for with my coffee.