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How You Can Thrive This Holiday Season

I was at the end my proverbial rope.

It was the middle of December and I could not wait until it was January.

In fact, I was so stressed that I wanted to sleep for the next eleven days, but I knew that couldn’t happen. Apparently it would have been frowned upon by my husband and child. And potentially my mother, mother-in-law…well, you get the picture.

The holidays are full of joy for most, hard for those who may be spending them without a loved one, and stressful for all. The holiday season really begins in the middle of October, planning and preparing for Halloween, and lasts all the way through the New Year. If you don’t plan it well, instead of it being a joyful and fun time of year, it can be stressful and full of regret.

The holidays are full of joy for most and stressful for all. Click To Tweet

I finally got smart (well, smarter than I was at least) and decided to plan out our time. Starting in November, we have family birthdays, my best friends birthday, Thanksgiving, my birthday, my husband’s birthday,  Christmas parties (and holiday parties, not to be confused with Christmas parties), and New Year’s. And of course finding a time to meet with Santa (the kids, not me…maybe).

 
Instead of spending two months in pure chaos, I decided I was going to thrive this year.
Instead of spending two months in pure chaos, I decided I was going to thrive this year. Click To Tweet

Here is how you can thrive this holiday season:

Planning Traditions and Parties

First thing you need to do is pull up your calendar. I did this a couple of weeks ago and decided to make appointments for myself and our family. That is how I get everything else done, so why change a proven method? You will need to do the same.

First let’s start with Traditions…

Does your family have traditions? When I hear the word traditions I used to think it had to be something elaborate. Traditions are the things we do every year around specific events.

Since we got married and had kids, there are several things we have done each year that I had not really considered traditions, until last year. These are things we love to do and always cram them in. This year, I made a long list of the things we have done in the past and decided on a few we would do this year:

Baking for our neighbors

We don’t see our neighbors often and this is a fun way we can interact with them. My husband loves to make toffee and caramels while I love to make cookies. We have our oldest daughter help with the cookies, until she gets bored, but she loves handing the goodies to our neighbors!

Decorating sugar cookies

This one is for the kids. I like to make the cut out cookies and then give the kids everything they might need, or want, to decorate the cookies. We usually give these to family members (because grimy little fingers).

Santa

Yep, we go see Santa. In fact, this year we will be going on December 9th if anyone wants to come with us!

Walk Down Christmas Tree Lane (or the likes)

We have two awesome neighborhoods in our town that decorate their houses for the holidays. We grab coffee and hot chocolate, bundle up, and make an evening of it. It is so much fun to see the creativity and all the beautiful lights.

Action: Make a list of your favorite traditions and put them in your calendar.

Now let’s talk about Parties…

Parties, parties, and more parties seem to fill up the months of November and December. I make sure to know in advance when birthday parties or dinners are happening. My people are extremely important to me and I want to make sure they know it!

We have a couple of good friends who have Christmas parties. I make sure to find out the dates so we don’t plan something when they are happening.

My husband’s birthday is 4 days before Christmas so I always make sure to make his birthday a big deal and separate from any Christmas activities.

And of course my birthday, which I would celebrate all month long if I could, but apparently I have to share with my husband and Jesus.

Action: Between the traditions that are important to you and your family, and holiday parties, make sure you put them on the calendar. This gives you the opportunity to make sure you do not have too many events going on in a two week span, but ensures you give yourself some down time.

Learn to Say No

Boundaries are important even during the holiday season. You will be invited to events and others will place expectations on you that are unreasonable. I’m going to say this in the easiest way to be understood as possible…

Just. Say. No.

This season is busy and stressful enough. Often I wonder how I get through it. I learned this gem last year. If it doesn’t fit into my priorities, or if it adds to my stress, then I say no. You must know what your priorities are and be able to say no when it is going to cause undue stress on you.

Action: Know your priorities in advance so you can say no.

Don’t Wait to Buy or Make Presents

One year we waited until Christmas eve eve to buy my in-laws their gift. This was not intentional, as we knew what we were going to buy, but couldn’t find it. The day before we were to be at their house we went on hunt to find it. And we did, by 9 pm.

Make your list NOW of everyone that you want to bless by giving a gift to. If you are going to make it, plan a time now to make those items. If you are going shopping, plan a time for when you are going to go shopping.

With a little bit of forethought and planning, you won’t be scrambling to get gifts for your loved ones.

Action: Plan out your gifts now and get going!

In Conclusion…

The holidays can be stressful, but they don’t have to be. Put in the effort on the front end to plan out the next month. Your blood pressure and family will thank you.

Here’s to the Journey!

Stephanie_small (1)

Single Parenting: 7 Things I Learned Being a Single Parent for a Week

My husband was out of town for 108 hours and 15 minutes (but really, who was counting?) and he came through the door not a minute too soon. We have a 3 year old who is going on 16 and a 10 month old. Luckily, they both sleep through the night.

First of all, mad props to all of the single parents out there who have to do it all.

By themsleves.

Without much, or any help. Being a parent is hard work when you have a spouse to do it with, let alone having to do it all on your own.

By the end of the week, I wanted to lay in the fetal position crying until my husband got home. But I stayed strong, for the littles.

In the midst of my chaotic week, this quote from C.S. Lewis popped into my Facebook news feed.

CS Lewis quote

This helped put the day into perspective, but it was still a struggle!

Here are 7 things I learned being a single parent for a week:

  1. Prep, prep, and more prep.

On a normal week, we prep everything on Sunday, or as much as we can. We did this together as we normally do since my husband was not leaving until Monday morning. Each night, I found that to get out the door on time, I had to prep as much as I could the night before.

The one night I didn’t prep? I yelled at the 3 year old to hurry up. Drop off was quick. We were rushed. And I was a little late to work.

After that morning, you better believe I prepped for the next day even though I was exhausted.

  1. Practice Grace: Kids never listen when you need them to.

It is as though kids have this sixth sense. When you really need them to pay attention, when you really need them to do that one thing without objecting or putting up a fight…they do just that.

And I wasn’t kind one morning.

I apologized immediately (because you aren’t a good parent if you cannot admit when you are wrong) and remembered she is three. Three and she can dress herself and put her shoes on and get her own cereal for goodness sake.

After the 1st day (yep, you read that right), I realized I needed to slow my mind down and speak kindly to my girl.

  1. Plan extra time.

To get anything done.

Think it will take you 5 minutes? Wrong. Halfway through the week I realized that I need to give myself three times the amount of time I thought it would take. Then, when we were done with the task or out the door early, I felt accomplished.

  1. Exercise.

Just kidding. That didn’t happen.

All about survival people.

  1. Lower expectations.

This was both in terms of what I thought I could accomplish during the week and expectations of my kids. I decided half way through the week that if the kids were clean, fed, and safe, I was calling it a success.

  1. Be Consistent.

I tried to keep everything as consistent as possible. Morning and bed time routine the same, which seemed to help. It provided stability. Kids seem to thrive on a schedule and stability.

This includes consistency in disciplining too. My threenager decided to throw a fit over something every night. It would have been easy for me to change expectations of her (which are age appropriate).

  1. Lean on your Community.

I was lucky enough to have the support of my parents and friends during the week. This relieved some of the stress a couple of the evenings. I was thankful for the meals that were provided, even if the three year old threw a fit and wouldn’t eat.

In Conclusion…

Parenting is hard. Being a single parent is even harder. When all is said and done, it is about raising these little people to be loving, kind, and courageous.

What is one of your biggest parenting challenges?

Here’s to the Journey!

Stephanie_small (1)