I started this while sipping a not-too-sweet nog latte and finishing blackberry jam toast at Mythical Coffee where they were playing just right jazzy Christmas music. I spent time updating my Christmas spreadsheet and my Christmas notes for next year (what worked well, what not to forget, what we enjoyed, etc.), very enjoyable admin tasks.
Reflecting on A Calm Christmas
Recently, I finished re-listening to the audiobook A Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year by Beth Kempton which I first read last year. I love the gentle guidance in this book for connecting to what matters to you during the holidays as well as the reflections on the emotions around Christmas and the new year. I could see myself re-listening every year in early December. (For library users, the audiobook is available on Hoopla which means there's no wait.)
I'm inspired to think about how we could simplify some of our holiday to-dos next year in order to find more calm and connection. In my reflecting I realized I feel caught between seemingly conflicting values around the holidays. On the one hand, I wish I had hours of uncommitted time to bake, to have slow days with our family, and to linger by the tree with coffee and a book. At the same time I also value fostering connection by gifting, going to gatherings, and hosting friends and family. I often feel so full of gratitude this time of year that I want to take time to recognize everyone in my life who I feel thankful for - the staff at my Orange Theory gym! My hair stylist! The staff at our favorite children's urgent care where we visit at least once a year! The library staff! The garbage and recycling truck driver! I will think, "Yes, this is one more task and another $15 but it could really make this person feel seen and appreciated. Isn't that worth it?" I find it hard to know whether to value my desire for being less busy and spending less or my value of gratitude and community. They definitely don't have to be mutually exclusive but sometimes they feel that way this time of year. For example, I could write a thoughtful card in lieu of a small gift and in some cases I do that. But it's still one more task on my list.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Perhaps I need to reframe some things or implement different strategies. One of those strategies might be working on accepting that the first two weeks of December feel especially full with holiday prep. And maybe, the idea I keep coming back to which is probably the most true, my life will feel significantly calmer when we don't have a toddler.
Elf Days + Christmas task update
For the past several years I've blocked out a couple of "Elf Days" on my calendar during the second week of December. When I was working full time I would take vacation days to make these happen. During my Elf Days I work on taking care of as many Christmas tasks as possible while enjoying myself as much as possible, such as by watching a Christmas movie while wrapping or taking time to get a coffee and read in the middle of the day.
This year my Elf Days happened over my three work days last week while Maeve was in daycare. During that time I got several things done and am feeling pretty good about finishing up gifting and wrapping soon. Less ideal is that I had things scheduled, like a dermatology appointment and a dentist appointment, on each of those days so my time did not feel as luxurious as I'd like. Next year I will try to keep these days completely open!
Here's my running Christmas task list and what I've completed so far:
- Christmas cards - mailed!
- Teacher gifts - delivered!
- This year I prepped nine teacher gifts: one for each of the boy's classroom teachers plus two additional teachers they have in special areas who go above and beyond, and five gifts for Maeve's three teachers and the two front desk staff.
- I stuck with my standard gift of a Mrs. Meyer's seasonal hand soap (I love the Iowa Pine scent) and a dishtowel from Target. I love the Hearth and Hand flour sack towels or the seasonal Wondershop towels, both at Target.
- Each gift also includes a card written to each teacher, or collectively to Maeve's daycare teachers, expressing gratitude.
- Favorite things gifts - done!
- I'm attending two favorite things parties this holiday and I bought and wrapped my gifts last week. I also figured out what I'll be bringing to eat or drink to share.
- For my book club party we each bring one favorite thing gift up to $20. For the other party we bring three identical favorite thing gifts up to $15 individually. I'll share what I am bringing in a future post so as not to spoil the surprise for anyone.
- Family/friend gifting - in progress
- We are just about done with all shopping for the kids which feels good. Chris and I had a day date last weekend and did some stocking stuffer shopping, some of it at two local businesses which felt good.
- I shipped gifts to the friends we exchange gifts with last week.
- I had the idea to send end-of-semester care packages to two of my nieces and I purchased, boxed, and shipped those this week. I remember getting care packages at college and loved it! I was inspired by this recent blog post on Em for Marvelous – thanks Em!
- Chris takes care of all gifting for his side of the family and I think he's done shopping.
- I finished all gifts for my side of the family during our October trip to Austin and left the wrapped gifts at my parents' house. That was a great high five to my future self.
- I'm nearly done with shopping for Chris. I just need to run one more errand and get a gift box.
- Cooking and baking - in progress
- This past weekend I made gingerbread cookie dough for our family cookie baking.
- I've purchased sprinkles and food coloring for decorating icing.
- I'm on the fence about making Christmas pimiento cheese! But am leaning towards making it, maybe later this week.
- I'd also love to make two quiches to freeze ahead for Christmas morning, and maybe one more batch of cookie dough just to have on hand for the holidays.
- Hosting Jingle All the Way to School - in progress
- Last year we hosted neighbors on the morning of the last day of school before the holidays for hot chocolate, coffee, and cookies. Then when all biked with the kids to school while playing Christmas music. It was really fun! With feeling so busy I was on the fence about hosting again but I think I got the nudge I needed to go for it.
- I bought cookies and muffin mixes at Trader Joe's to serve. I'll make a big batch of hot chocolate in a borrowed crock pot, and will order a large carafe of coffee from Starbucks. Last year we hosted in our garage which made things easy. If it's not too chilly we'll plan to do that again.
- I started a digital invitation and just need to send it out today.
Looking forward to...
I'm looking forward to two holiday parties this week including my December book club + favorite things party which is one of my favorite events of the entire year. I'm also looking forward to my birthday next week (39!!). We're taking the boys to see A Christmas Carol for the first time that day. Hopefully as a gift to their dear mom they'll wear the button-up shirts I bought them and maybe style their long, thick hair just a bit. I always look forward to Christmas Eve and hosting family. I'm planning to re-recreate my cheese plate spread from last year which also featured kid-friendly veggie sausages wrapped in crescent rolls which were a hit. Oh and I make a gingerbread house cake and someone gets the special honor of dusting it with powdered sugar snow. Lots of good things!
Wishing you a cozy December, and I hope that you find peace and calm where you can.