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Here we are on the cusp of the holiday season and I’m excited. I love holidays and time with my family. I love baking and singing and listening to Christmas music. As I’ve looked back over some holiday seasons that stand out to me, unfortunately what stands out the most are the stressed holidays. Like the year my friends and I decided to do a handmade Christmas. Did any of you get on that bandwagon? It was all over mom blogs in either 2007 or 2008. Now, if you love that kind of thing and couldn’t imagine doing Christmas any other way that’s great, but all I remember was being captive on the couch while I furiously embroidered stockings, sewed up felt pouches I made to hold chalk and little personalized chalkboards drying all over my kitchen. The morning I was supposed to gift them I realized that I hadn’t painted the backs of two chalkboards. I hadn’t spent much time with my kids because I was too busy and I mostly just felt frazzled and full of regret. Because spending time with my kids is the most fun part of anything for me. Considering that quality time is my love language it makes sense.

Last year I did so many great things. The holiday season started with Travis taking me on a birthday trip, then we raced home and my parents brought our kids home from Birmingham, then Travis’ brother and his family came for Thanksgiving and Travis and I were in the Christmas production at church, Chloe had two Christmas concerts plus parties, Halle had two Christmas productions and I don’t remember anything about shopping or baking. I did not come out of that season well. I remember crying a lot.

Now, if you’re reading this saying, “Um, yeah, that’s what the holidays are all about” then you and I are probably very different.

My mom will so completely knock herself out for the holidays that she zonks out on the couch at the end of the day, every day leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas. But she loves it. It’s her dream to have her entire family at her house on all of the holidays so she can cook for them. I prefer to sit in the living room and talk to my dad. It’s not because I’m lazy or don’t enjoy cooking, it’s because I love interacting with my family and talking to them (I’d talk to my mom but it’s best to stay out of her way when she’s cooking). I get to enjoy little moments that I’ll miss if I’m not paying attention. For instance, if Halle pretends to be a turkey and does a silly dance I want to see it. It’s the moments I enjoy. It’s the moments that make me happy. I’d eat takeout or a sandwich if it meant that I wouldn’t miss those moments.

For those of you that are having a heart attack right now at my mention of sandwiches on Thanksgiving, don’t fret. The meal is important to my family and we’ve never had sandwiches on Thanksgiving- unless they’re leftover turkey sandwiches that night.

My point is that I’m just now realizing what’s most important to me. Time. Moments. Hugs. Sitting in the living room talking to my husband or playing Wii games with the family. We’ll have all of the “stuff” of the holidays but I’m determined to not miss the most important things.

Some of my time is already obligated. Amanda and Daniel are coming here on the 22nd and I couldn’t be more excited. Good, home cooked food will be expected and much appreciated. I’ve found that Amanda’s love language is breakfast (though you won’t find that in the book). Nothing gets my college age, engaged kid out of bed faster than a stack of piping hot pancakes. And bacon. And sausage. And fruit. And all of the breakfast foods. I love cooking for her because even though she’s always appreciated it, she *really* appreciates it now that she’s on her own, living 700+ miles away.

The rest of my time though is pretty free. I’m not in a musical and I have time to spend with my kids and husband. I’ll have the opportunity to meet my family’s needs in a way that’s important to them. Halle is the most vocal about spending time together and she loves baking so we’ll do that together. Chloe has changed a bit in the last year or so and the thing  that is most important to her is one-on-one time with one parent at a time doing a specific thing. For instance, she loves watching super hero movies with Travis, while shopping is what she loves doing with me. It’s not the same if I take her to a super hero movie or if Travis were to take her shopping. Travis took her to see, Thor this past weekend so I’m pretty sure I get to go shopping with her now. Amanda lives far away so we’ll do the Nashville/Franklin experience with her. Downtown Franklin, Opry Mills, and we’ll see the lights at the Opryland Hotel. That’s not everyone’s experience but that’s what she loves to do. And Travis and I will make sure we get time alone. We love to Christmas shop together. And what will I do? Hmmm, I don’t know. I think that’s the point of this post. I so often take into account what everyone else loves or wants to do and since I really want to meet their needs I don’t really pay attention to what I want and need. Or I let it go. Until I start crying. Again.

So, I’ll make my own list and I’ll share it with Travis and he will absolutely insist that I do the things on it. Mostly because he wants me to take care of myself but also because if he can keep me from crying then it’s a win-win.

I’ve also made a bit of a mental list of how to get through this holiday season peacefully and I thought I’d share it with y’all.

Be Kind- It’s possible that the lady that almost ran you over with her shopping cart has and hour before her babysitter has to be home and it’s her only Christmas shopping day. Cut her some slack and be Jesus to her- even if she doesn’t realize you’re doing it.

Be Patient- That guy that cut you off in traffic might just be a jerk or he’s having a really bad day. Either way don’t let it ruin yours.

Be Loving- Because it’s what Jesus would do and it won’t cause a spike in your blood pressure.

Cut People Some Slack- Most of us are after the same thing at the same time. There will be be traffic. There will be crying babies. There will be frazzled parents. The item you want will be out of stock. It all just happens but if you cut people some slack they will appreciate it. And you might find that it makes you feel better too.

Smile- I remember once that I was in my car and was stopped at a traffic light. I was in a bad relationship, my life was a mess and I was miserable. Someone in the next car over smiled at me and it made my day. That was over 20 years ago and I still remember it. You might make someone’s day.

If you find yourself being irritable, grouchy, tired or the like take a break. Get some coffee, eat a scone, take a nap in your car (one of my dad’s favorite things) or get some lunch. Being grouchy isn’t fun for you or for your family.

Make a Plan- Hate crowds? You could shop online or shop during off times. I figured out a few years ago that Franklin doesn’t really wake up until 11am. Since the mall opens at 8 am  I can have 3 hours of shopping before the crowds get there. Or I’ll shop late. I’ve spent most of my life as a night owl but I’ve been going to bed and waking up earlier in my pursuit of peace so that might not be an option this year.

I’m looking forward to the next few weeks and I plan on enjoying them.

So, what about you? What’s your favorite part of the holidays? What’s your strategy for making your holiday season peaceful? I’d love to hear it.