Shortcut Girl’s Guide to the Holidays

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Whether it’s a shortcut or just a friendly reminder to take a breath and enjoy the holly-jolly-yes-by-golly holiday time, I thought I’d put together a post of things to remember from Thanksgiving through New Years. I pretend to have a lot of wisdom and advice in this post– but like most things, I’m still figuring this all out myself- holiday after holiday.

1. Free shipping is your friend

Online shopping can be convenient, but the shipping costs make the trip to the store a lot cheaper. So, going for the free shipping is always a good idea. On Amazon, place your orders in $25 incrememnts in order to get super saving shipping (free). For Target, order an extra item to make $50 for free shipping and return it later. Wal-Mart has something just as good as free shipping— in store and site to store pickup. You can ship items from orders online to the store for free and can also have items pulled from their inventory to pick up that day. All you do is show up to the layaway section to get your items. Best thing is— items are boxed up from their shipping to hide from little eyes you might have shopping with you.

2. These are a few of my favorite things

Sometimes it’s not the little kids we have to worry about having meltdowns, it’s the big kids (er, adults) too. We all have those things we perceive as dealbreakers. Holiday time is no different. Whether it is the grandmother breakfast you have arranged or the great Victorian stroll in your town, make your kids and spouse/siginificant other aware that these things are your favorite things. No one wants to see you crying in your hot apple cider because your Christmas decorating soirée went awry.

3. Wrap Party

I love to wrap and look upon the task with great anticipation. When we were young and childless, my friend Stephanie and I used to go shopping and then wrap everything that night over wine and snacks. It’s still one of my favorite things, but now I have to be much more selective when I do it. I try not to do it too early but I also like to “wrap as I go” so it’s not too much of a job at the end. I have never done this but have always fantasized about having friends and family over one day (during nap time) to wrap their Christmas items. I like it so much and find it pretty relaxing. There is nothing, to me, like listening to Christmas music or watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation during a big wrap fest. That’s the holiday to me. Feeling wrapping overwhelmed? Enlist your girlfriends, sister in laws, husbands, brothers, sisters, children. Break out the bubbly and listen to some Mariah Carey. Celebrate every part of Christmas, even the chore-y parts of it.

4. Holiday Journaling

When I open the Christmas decorations every year, my new favorite thing to discover is the Christmas journal I created three years ago. I keep family Christmas cards, favorite memories, special gifts and special traditions in the journal. It’s nice because you rediscover and relive your holidays each year and it also helps me remember the little things we have created since becoming a family. It’s a great place for reflection and will help us to clue the kids in on all the crazy things we did around the holidays before they could remember. I hope to let the kids write their own memories in there someday.

5. Don’t be afraid of new traditions

Being a kid who didn’t grow up with a ton of traditions, I am always excited to make them with my family. Excited may be an understatement. I get giddy for tradition like that Target lady gets about, well, Target. One thing my family always did Christmas morn was have bagels and cream cheese during a present “break” (This was the hardest part of Christmas morning for me as a kid, but I relished in the “we’re not done yet!” part of the ritual). We still keep this tradition at each Christmas only Michael has placed his own twist on it with incorporating lox (much to my Mom’s disgust:) Whatever tradition you are honoring or trying to honor, don’t limit yourself. New traditions can be invented every year, and even if you never repeat them- you can always give them a good shutout in your holiday journal:)

6. Give
Starting Black Friday, you and every other American are going to be swamped with advertisements asking you to buy, gift, wrap and surprise your loved ones with tons of stuff. Take the time this holiday to show each other and especially your children, nieces, nephews, neighbors the value of giving to those who are less fortunate. Whether its making a personal goal not to pass a Salvation Army kettle without digging in your pockets, or adopting an unfortunate family, I guarantee the feeling you get from that will trump your disgust in the Black Friday craziness.

7. Little Miss Homemade
You might not be able to sew a stitch or find Pinterest something like a gallery d’arts de overwhelming. But doing a homemade gift or treat for any event of the Christmas season will make you feel good right down to your toes. Take a picture of it, repin the crap out of it, brag to all your co-workers. It’s The holiday, after all. You’re an old fashioned kind of girl, and dammit, you deserve recognition.

8. Find the magic
Find your favorite little person and drive around looking at Christmas lights. Visit Santa at the mall, take a ride on the Polar Express, do a sled ride through your backyard. Read: do everything you did when you were a kid and then some. Not the things that cost money or were about gifts- the things that made you get butterflies in your stomach. That’s what the holidays are for.

9. Don’t get the blues

With the economy, the loss of loved ones or just missing your brother in Texas, it’s easy to get the holiday blues. Combat the blues with acting in that person’s memory, sending a card or video to someone who you think might need it or placing a phone call/ Face time Christmas morn. This time of year is emotionally charged and sometimes can make us get a little melancholy. One good idea is emailing someone “the 12 days of you” and give them something each day in the proper numeration that tells them you are thinking of them. It’s sure to lift your spirits and theirs too.

10. Celebrate your mate

One thing I know I can be guilty of three years into having children is forgetting that Michael is a big part of Christmas too. He really showed me up last year and had a video slideshow ready to go Christmas morning. It made me cry happy, happy tears. One of my favorite memories for the memory book. Make a special date or set aside a time to celebrate and chat with your special someone without the troop of in laws surrounding. Sometimes it’s just sipping egg nog and looking at the pretty lights, sometimes it’s wrapping gifts together (see #3). Whatever it is, just make sure you remember and appreciate each other. No gazing in each other’s eyes required.

11. Recycle

We’re not talking about your fruitcake boxes here people, we’re talking toys for the kiddos. The thing I have really gotten excited about the past couple years is using old hand me down toys or used toys as gifts for the holidays. It’s thrifty, it’s a great shortcut (no staying up until midnight putting things together!) and it’s just a great relief to you when it comes to the question, “Will they even play with it?” They may not, but based on the awesome price and the fact that you didn’t have to trample anyone at Black Friday for the deal, haven’t you already cut some corners? Plus, you can just put it on Craigslist or another local swap site next year! Gently loved toys are better if recycled, haven’t you seen Toy Story?

12. Music and Food

If nothing else, there are certain treats and tunes you MUST indulge in at holiday time. My Mom’s peanut butter chocolate candies are one and All I Want for Christmas is You is another. It’s just the holiday law.

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