‘Tis the season to be jolly! And very busy and maybe just a little stressed. I love making holiday memories and carrying out family traditions, but this December, I will be seven months pregnant with two toddler boys rockin’ around the Christmas tree. Between prepping a nursery and decking the halls, I’m in desperate need of help. I asked around and discovered several tips to make my season merry, and because it is the season of giving, my gift to you is this list of holiday hacks to get you through the New Year!
It’s easy to stress over finding the perfect gift for loved ones, but here are a few gift tips that will have you being present, instead of worrying about what you need to buy:
- Spread out your shopping over the weeks prior to Christmas to ease the stress. Plan ahead for next year: If you see something unique (or at a great price) during summer, go ahead and buy it, then store it.
- Keep a small stockpile of “just in case” presents (wine, candles, chocolates, nice soaps and lotions, gift cards, etc.). There is nothing worse than realizing you forgot to get your child’s teacher a gift … and tomorrow is the last day before holiday break!
- Buy online. For me, a day spent shopping around town for multiple presents sounds like a nightmare before Christmas. Local mom Stephanie Buechel speaks from experience. “Shop online and wrap when it comes in! I did that last year and it was great!”
ADD A BOW ON TOP
If you buy a lot of presents, you’ll have a lot of wrapping to do. You don’t have to make an all-day affair of wrapping that mountain of presents come mid-December, though! Plan ahead with these hacks:
- Wrap it the day you buy it. Taking three minutes to wrap one gift once the kiddos are asleep is far less stressful than making a day of wrapping 20 presents. Just make sure to use gift tags to you know who the present is for!
- Rachael Van Hulle, mother of three, says, “We ‘build’ all the toys before Christmas morning so we’re not trying to get all the toys out of boxes and batteries installed the morning of.” While the box says ‘some assembly required,’ and the instructions make it look so easy to put together, we all know it’s trickier than that. You have to find the right screwdriver and batteries, then follow 16 steps in the right order. Wouldn’t you rather watch your kids play with their toys, instead of getting frustrated while assembling them?
- I have attempted many cutesy crafts, only to end up with Pinterest fails, but grandparents love kiddie crafts. Keep it simple, or consider wrapping loved ones’ gifts with butcher paper, and let your kids decorate them!
Most local attractions have wonderful themed events that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Then there are cherished home traditions like baking and decorating cookies. Check out these time-budgeting tips to make the most of your calendar days:
- Make a list of activities you would like to enjoy with your family, then rank them from “must-do” to “if we have time.” Put the must-do activities on your calendar first, and fill in the rest of the weekend days with tentative activities you would like to do if you have time. Local mom Katie Taylor uses this time-budgeting method and says, “When time runs out, it’s the things I felt were least important left on the list and it allows me to feel good about where I put my time.”
- Know that it’s OK to say, “No.” It’s hard to turn down an invitation, especially if you feel like it hurts someone’s feelings. However, there are only four full weekends in December. If you preserve weekends for something special for your family, spend quality time with extended family during weekday evenings. Beech Acres Parenting Coach Sharon James suggests, “Let people know what your schedule is like: ‘I have two weekends in December that I am able to keep open. The other weekends I cannot make plans. Which of those two weekends will work for you?’ Be very clear what the boundaries are.”
Hosting a holiday feast is a rewarding experience. Everyone is gathered around the table with delicious dishes. Stories are told, laughs are had … but somewhere the cook is happy to be sitting down for a minute, exhausted from marathon cooking all day.
- Be prepared. A few days before your get-together, check your pantry to make sure you have necessary ingredients; cut vegetables and store them in airtight containers. you can also cook dishes that freeze and heat up well in advance.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Many guests will gladly prepare a side dish or dessert. It’s always fun to see what yummy dishes are brought for a potluck dinner.
- Hang copies of recipes on your cabinets with painter’s tape. Your recipe pages will stay clean, and you will easily be able to check measurements and cooking instructions.
- Too many cooks in the kitchen can be less than jolly. If someone offers to help, delegate a task out of the kitchen. Grandmas can wrangle up the grandkids to color, or even help set the table.
Sharon Janes, Parent Coach & Mediator at Beech Acres on how to thrive and not just survive during the holidays
Fun at family functions: Seek out those you are most comfortable with and try to keep conversations at a minimum with those that push your buttons. Consider activities that limit conversations such as playing games or watching movies that will keep the more serious and troubling kinds of conversations at bay. Most importantly, enjoy the moment that you are with family who made time and took the effort to come together. In a few months, you will either laugh at the things that drove you crazy or be grateful for the time you had together.
Balancing the holidays with toddlers: Barter with a friend to exchange sitting so that you are not taking your toddler on the extra errands that will happen this time of year. Try to keep to their regular meal and bedtimes so their routine is not disrupted. Be mindful of the change in their schedule and habits and balance the excitement with naps and downtime. Get them outside for fresh air so that everyone is not crazy with cabin fever. Balance sweets with healthier food choices.
Including teens: Teens are happy to be out of school. They do not have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads — their vision is more like sleeping in late, hanging out with friends, getting ‘stuff’ to open and then hanging out friends to see what they got. Hang a calendar for all to see about all that’s being planned so everyone knows what is going on and provide reminders to pay attention to it. Make sure that there are non-negotiable events listed alongside negotiable ones. Ask for their input: Instead of you planning an event, ask them to find something that the family will enjoy and have them plan it. Consider surprising your teen and a friend with something special that you know they will enjoy with a friend tagging along. This is their time to enjoy time off from their ‘job’ too.