Advent, and Christmas are quickly approaching! Many will begin busying themselves with planning, list-making, shopping, baking and many other activities. While this time of year is fun in many ways it can also be a little overwhelming. For mothers we still have to carry on with our regularly scheduled programs while also making room for all the extra Holiday Specials. Laundry piles don’t magically disappear and mouths still have to be filled with food.
In order to survive the upcoming "Holiday" season, here are a few survival tips:
Get a simple 3-ring binder and designate it as, "Mom’s Holiday Play Book". Make sure your notebook has a lock and that only you have access to the key so it doesn’t become a new doodle pad for any budding young artists in the house.
Steal some notebook paper from your teenager or some extra printer paper and put that in the binder. Then print out a December calendar, three-hole punch it and put that in the front of the binder. Get some dividers and divide the binder into the following sections (in whatever order you prefer).
This is a good place to write out some goals for what you and your family hope to give and receive from this Advent and Christmas season. How will you and your family prepare for the coming of the Lord and how will you and your family receive Him? Write down a list of Advent and Christmas traditions you and your family have done in the past. Then, if you’d like, come up with some new ideas. Then, prayerfully, go back through that list, look at your calendar, and decide realistically what traditions you hope to maintain from years past and what new ones you’d like to add. Write down a list of materials and resources you will need for each tradition and decide where and when you will obtain these. Then mark down when these traditions will begin and end on your handy calendar so you don’t forget what you decided to do this year! This is also a good place to write down any decoration ideas for your home. Make a list of any materials you need to buy and add this to the master shopping list you’ll make in the Food section. Decide when and who will help with each decorating job.
On the first page in this section, write the names of your husband and children down the left side of the paper, leaving a few spaces in between. Then on the right side of the paper, across from each name, write down a list of gift ideas for each one. From here, you can narrow your list down according to any financial or personal restrictions. Save the gift idea ‘leftovers’ for grandparents and in-laws. If you have any coupons or know of special discounts available for each gift, make a note by it or in the margin. If you prefer, you could type this all up on your computer and include online links for each item and then print this, hole-punch it and stick it in your binder.
Do the same on separate pages for Family (Grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc), Friends, Co-workers, Neighbors, and don’t forget your parish pastor(s), school teachers and sports coaches.
After you decide what gifts you will give, make a shopping list on a separate page and decide where and when you will get each one. Mark your "Shopping Day" in the calendar you printed and put in the front of your binder. You could also designate a "Wrapping" day. Be sure to add any gift-wrapping items you’ll need in your Shopping List.
Go through your address book and decide how many Christmas cards or letters you’ll send out this year. You can also make a list of people you’d like to send cards or special Christmas letters to in this section of your binder. If you are super-organized you might already have your address list ready and if you are super-duper organized you probably even have your addresses in mailing-label format. Add mailing labels and Christmas cards to your gift shopping list and then print out your address labels and return-address labels. Stick these in the front pocket of your binder and set a "Christmas Card" day in your calendar.
On that day set everything out in an assembly line; cards, envelopes, labels, stamps, and pens for everyone’s autograph. Assign each child (and your husband!) a job; sticking on labels and stamps, stuffing the envelopes with signed cards or letters, and licking and sealing the envelopes closed.
Parties and Activities
Christmas is full of all sorts of exciting festivities. It’s fun to have fun but you have to know when to say yes and when to say no. Sit down with your family and write down a list of everything and anything that anyone is interested in doing. Then, go back through that list, and decide what you and your family can realistically attend or participate in. You could also let each family member pick one activity each or stick to one or two events the whole family can participate in together. Mark the dates you decide to keep on the calendar and remember that you might have to cross out snowboarding in the Alps this year but still need to keep the family wear-your-favorite-Christmas-sweater gift exchange in big red letters on the calendar.
Make a list of chores around the house that must be maintained even during this busy Advent and Christmas season. If your family already has a chore chart then keep this up and add in any extra jobs that need to be done like turning on the Christmas lights or watering the Christmas tree and sweeping up its needles. If your family does not have assigned ‘chores’, this might be a good time to start! There’s nothing like the incentive of Christmas gifts and goodies to get everyone excited about house chores!
This will undoubtedly be the biggest section in your binder. Advent and Christmas are about Jesus and giving and receiving but a big part of it is also about food-and lots of it! A well-planned meal menu is essential during this time of year to avoid stress, and time and money wasting. After you’ve marked up the calendar with your traditions and parties you plan to participate in, you can go through and write out when you will need dinner for your family, when you need to bring food to gathering, and what baked goods you need to bake.
Once you decide what meals and baked items you plan on making for the month, use this space to make a master grocery list for the month. With this list you can make one big shopping trip for the month and save short visits to the store for small items and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Catholic Culture offers great menu and recipe ideas to go along with the Advent and Christmas themes. Another great suggestion is to cook several meals ahead of time and put them in the freezer for later in the month. Once a month Mom and Mary Beth Lagerborg’s Once-A-Month Cooking cookbook are excellent resources for once-a-month freezer cooking.
Save some extra room in the back of your binder for making special notes. You could also use this space to keep a daily Advent/Christmas journal. When next year’s Advent and Christmas season begin, you can look through your journal and remember what worked and what didn’t and avoid any repetitious suffering.
Keep your "Holiday Play Book" in your kitchen or other work area. Review it frequently and if you start to feel panicked or overwhelmed half-way through the season, go back through each section and decide if something needs to be cut out or amended and remember to let Christ be your light at the end of the tunnel.
Copyright 2010 Erika Marie