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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The year in review...bye bye 2013

The highlight of the year was the marriage of my youngest daughter to the love of her life.
How time flies!

Camping with family
A seasoned camper at one year old...
94 year old veteran shoots off his cannon every 4th of July
Cannons are LOUD!
Hiking the mountains above Provo, UT
Beautiful view while hiking
Lots of hikes
5K run in Tacoma, WA
New member of the family (see puppy)  Puppy is now LARGE!
New Vitamix means lots of smoothies!
Emerald City ComiCon...My famous nephew and his son
One of the booths at ComiCon...Love it!
Gardening floors!
Fall fun!
So sweet family moved out of state!  Miss them!  

So we now say good bye to 2013.  I wonder what 2014 will bring.  Wishing you all a happy and joyous new year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Surviving Christmas

If you add up cold winter weather, financial woes, cooped up hyper children, husbands home on vacation from work, increased demands for your time, and unrealistic expectations, it's no wonder depression, or the "holiday blues" is so common among women (Moms in particular).

You're not alone if you don't feel all warm and fuzzy this time of year.  You're busy enough juggling being a wife, a mom, maybe an employee, and all the other roles you fill on a daily basis.  While your children and husband are "vacationing", you still have to shop for meals, do the laundry, keep the house clean, and (maybe) chase after babies and toddlers.  Where is the time for baking holiday cookies, decorating, hosting and attending parties, gift buying and wrapping, preparing huge feasts and entertaining?  And if you are able to sit down for a minute, the loneliness for loved ones far away and memories of simpler times, sink in and the tears flow.

Well, let me tell you that as much as you'd like to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head, it's not the best thing for you to do.  Dwelling on things you don't (or can't) have is only going to make things worse.  I know.  Been there, done that.  Some things you just can't change, no matter how much you wish you could.  But there ARE things you can do to get through the holiday and maybe even enjoy it.  It all centers around YOU.  Sigh, that's the answer for everything, isn't it?

1. Can you recognize when you are feeling down?  Recognizing and taking action is the first step.  Acknowledge that you're having a hard time.
2. After acknowledging your feelings, don't focus on them.  You can choose what you are going to do with that information...wallow in it or set it aside.
3. Recognize that your perceptions might be skewed.  It's so easy to pick out negative memories to reinforce your depressed mood.  It's possible to focus on positive thoughts and feelings instead.  Again, you have control over which thoughts you choose to dwell on.
4. Get active!  Get off your behind and do something physical.  Take a walk, do some of that housework, exercise at the gym, anything positive.  Try to find something to do outdoors.  Our bodies need sunshine and fresh air.
5. Take care of yourself.  Are you eating too many treats and goodies?  Try to eat as healthy as possible.  Are you getting enough sleep?  Your body needs adequate rest.  Give yourself some quiet time (if possible).
6. Look for ways to serve others.  There are people who need a little love and kindness.  Help them.  Visit the elderly and brighten their day.  Do something anonymous for a neighbor or struggling friend. 
7. If nothing seems to help and you just can's shake that depressed feeling, give yourself permission to see a doctor.  Sometimes there are physical reasons for depression that can be addressed and treated.  There's nothing wrong with that.

You're not alone if you are feeling anything but joyous this time of year.  It's ok.  Be kind to yourself.  Surround yourself with the people and things you love.  Remember always that you are in control of your thoughts and feelings and what you do with them.  Choose wisely.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Simplifying Christmas - Part 6 - It's about YOU

Simplifying's all about things, right?  Wrong.  It's about attitude.  It's about choosing to accept the people in your life.  (Yes, all of them!)  It's about accepting the circumstances you are currently in.  It's about letting go of the past.  It's about finding joy regardless of...anything.

Nowhere is this more more important than in dealing with relatives.  You might feel like you are being forced to interact with people you don't like, who are mean to you, who are obnoxious, whatever.  You might be perfectly right.  But that doesn't change the fact that they are your family...either yours or your spouses.  If they are as bad as you think, you probably don't interact with them often throughout the rest of the year.  It's only that obligatory Christmas get-together that you dread. 

Why don't you try something different this year.  Knowing that this relative drives you crazy, knowing that you only have to deal with him/her once or twice a year, knowing that this particular activity can have the potential of ruining your entire Christmas season...try being the mature adult and choose to not let them get to you.  It IS possible.  It isn't easy.  But do you really want them having such power over you?  Don't give it to them.  Let it go.  Choose to enjoy yourself.  If you have to, find something (socially acceptable) to occupy your time while helping in the kitchen, playing with the kids, visiting with someone you enjoy, or even knitting!  Don't ignore them but don't focus on them either.  Don't look for reasons why you don't like them.  Maybe even try to find something positive about them. 

There is so much good in your life.  You don't have time to focus on the negative.  It's in your power how you choose to be.  I don't know of too many people who consciously choose to be unhappy.  It's more of an unconscious reaction.  So, consciously choose to make this season a happy one.  It might be your best Christmas ever.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Simplifying Christmas - Part 5

I love the book "Skipping Christmas" by John Grishom.   Seriously, how many of you have ever wished that you could just hibernate through the whole winter and wake up in...maybe April or May?  Just think, no crowds of cranky people, no blowing your budget getting presents for people that you don't even know if they'll like, no gaining 15 pounds and feeling sick after eating all the treats and goodies, no whining, hyper children who are driving you crazy (well, that might happen year round anyway),  no suffering through events that you have no interest in, no staying up until 3 am wrapping presents only to be woken up two hours later by those same whining, hyper children...  The idea of taking a relaxing vacation to Hawaii sounds more appealing every year, doesn't it?

It may be hard to believe but there are actually people who enjoy making each Christmas season more elaborate and spectacular than the previous year. I am not one of those people.  Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and what it represents.  I love being with my family.  But I don't like the blatant commercialization bombarding me everywhere I turn, telling me (and my family) what we HAVE to have in order to be happy.  Our poor children are especially vulnerable.  The strains of , "I WANT, I WANT..." are far more common than the sounds of children merrily playing and singing Christmas carols.

Simplifying Christmas is just an attempt to bring a little sanity into a crazy time of year.   You (and your family) are in charge of how you celebrate one else.  Whether you have a simple, humble holiday or an elaborate one is all up to you.  And some years might be different than others, based on circumstances.  It really doesn't matter.  What DOES matter is how YOU treat it.  If Christmas makes you anxious and tense, no amount of money will "make the spirit bright."  If you act deprived and envious, no one will be happy.  Moms (and Dads) set the tone.  Be thankful for your blessings.  Reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  Focus on your family.  Enjoy the simple things of life.  Now THAT'S important!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Simplifying Christmas - Part 4 - Read aloud time

One of my family's favorite (and simplest) traditions at Christmastime was reading aloud a Christmas chapter book.  We'd usually start on December first and read throughout the month.  If the book was fairly long, I'd divide the number of pages by the number of days we had to read before Christmas and read that many pages each day.

Here are a few of the books we enjoyed...

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson.  Written in 1971, it's still a classic that all ages enjoy year after year.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.  There are so many variations of this book, as well as movie adaptations but nothing compares with the original by Dickens.  Fairly long and best for older children and teens.

The Birds' Christmas Carol, by Kate Douglas Wiggins.  This little book was written in 1888 and is a sweet story about a little girl named Carol.  Have tissue's a tear jerker.  :)

The 24 Days before Christmas, by Madeleine L'Engle.  My kids were big fans of The Wrinkle in Time books so they were excited to find this book by their beloved author.

The Gift of the Magi, by O Henry.  Another classic from long ago (1906), this tale of sacrifice and love is always appropriate this time of year.

And a list of Christmas stories to read aloud to the family is not complete without the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, found in the New Testament, Book of Luke.  This is a Christmas Eve favorite.

With all the crazy, hectic things going on, sitting down and reading with your children gathered around, is a simple, bonding experience that your children will remember long after they're grown.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Simplify Christmas - Part 3 - Breathe Deep!

With only about two weeks before Christmas, the malls and stores are super crowded, the shoppers are no longer in the "holiday spirit", the parking lots are jammed with irate drivers.  For most of us, we're in the middle of a winter freeze with icy roads and sidewalks.  Bundling up in layer upon layer of warm clothes, braving the treacherous road conditions to get that last Christmas present is no our idea of fun.  (I hope you aren't taking your kids with you on this excursion!)

What to do?  Take a deep breath and relax.  Before you walk out the door, tell yourself that the other shoppers are going to be insane, the poor cashiers are going to be exhausted, the parking lot is going to be full and you won't be able to find that Christmas present you went out of your way to get.  In other words, prepare for the worst experience and try to turn it into a positive one.

If you assume that people are going to be impatient, you are more likely to step aside for someone and let them go before you in a long line.  Open the door for someone.   Don't fight over a parking spot with a rude driver.  Try smiling and thanking the exhausted employees, instead of grabbing your purchases and hurrying on your way.  It's almost fun to try to change someone's day and be the one person who treats them like a real person.

If the last present on your list is sold out, it does no good to get upset about it.  Either settle on something else, give an IOU, or go home and look online for it.  Either way, life will go on and everyone will be much happier if you don't stress about it.  You have no control over the weather or people around you but remember that you DO have control over you. 

To truly simplify shopping at this late date, forget going out at all, curl up before a warm fire with a mug of hot chocolate and shop online.  :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Safety Post...

Scarf not needed.  Zip up the coat and pull the hood up!
We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post for a special safety post...

While I was at the mall today, looking for Christmas gifts, I noticed that several stores sell fashion scarves for children.  Maybe I'm just paranoid but I think it's a really bad idea to let little kids wear something around their necks that could get pulled or caught on something.  They can choke or worse! 
Fashion is one thing but protecting our kids from possible harm is far more important!  It was only a few years ago that manufacturers had to modify drawstrings on coat hoods and sweatshirts to prevent just this kind of danger.  I can't imagine how anyone could think it's safe for kids to wear long, dangly scarves for fashion or protection from the cold.  Please don't let your kids wear them.

Thank you!  We will return to our regularly scheduled post tomorrow.  :)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Simplify Christmas - Part 2 - Scheduling

What's Christmas without the Christmas lights?!
FAMILY MEETING TIME!  That's the husband and kids together today, tomorrow or as soon as possible.  Get your family calendar and get to work!  There's no time to lose!

Part of the stress of the holiday season is all the activities that are planned during such a short period of time.  Office parties, school parties, family get-togethers, church activities and parties, neighborhood parties, parties with special friends, trips to see the Christmas lights, the annual production of The Nutcracker, the annual Messiah Sing-along, caroling, visiting care facilities, volunteering, the annual Cookie Exchange...I know I'm forgetting things but you get the idea.  Add the number of family members in your home and the list explodes faster than you can say, "Merry Christmas!"  To stay sane, you HAVE to get in control of your (and your family's) time.

Start by sitting everyone down (with a nice cup of hot cocoa and a plate of cookies) and begin writing every activity, party and obligation during the month of December on your family calendar.  Every member of the family needs to contribute.   What does your calendar look like now?  Probably pretty crazy!  Is it any wonder why you feel stressed this time of year? 

Now the hard part.  Prioritize the events.  Most likely, you'll find conflicting activities on one or more nights.  Talk about it.  Come up with a plan.  Work together as a family.  Some things lower on the priority list might have to be sacrificed for something more important.  Decide as a family how many and which activities you want to be participate in.  When cutting back though, make sure that everyone gets to do at least ONE of the special activities they added to the calendar. 

The purpose of this exercise is to make time for the things that are important for each member of the family and still have time for quality home time.  It's hard to have that quality time when you're running like crazy all over the city!  Take a little time now and the rest of the month will go smoother.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Simplify Christmas - Part 1

Not exactly "Martha" worthy but the kids love it  :)
The Christmas season is now in full force.  Are you dreaming of January yet?  Are you overwhelmed?  Are you wondering HOW you can simplify things without disappointing anyone or feeling like a cheapskate?   My next few posts are going to cover easy ways to simplify your Christmas.

Today you need to consider  SILENCING YOUR INNER MARTHA!  You know which Martha I mean...the queen of creativity and DIY, Martha Stewart.  I love looking through her magazines and seeing all the wonderful and beautiful decorating ideas she has.  It makes my humble efforts look even more...humble.  If I just added more twinkly lights or garlands or bows or candles, my home might just rival her magazine spread and everyone will feel all warm and fuzzy, basking in the joyous Christmas glow.  Let's face's just not going to happen.  And besides, with little children running around and pets eyeing the dangly, sparkly ornaments, your stress level is going to go through the roof, trying to keep such a beautiful presentation from being destroyed!  Is that the atmosphere you are striving for?  If not, what IS your goal?  Do you want a home that radiates love and warmth and belonging?  Do you want a place where people (including children!) feel comfortable and at home?  Then THAT should be your focus.  Even if it means having a smaller Christmas tree on a table so the baby (and puppy) can't knock it down or placing baby-proof ornaments on the lower branches and just accepting the fact that the lower part of the tree is baby's domain.  You get the idea.  Your decorating efforts should reflect the stage of life that you and your family are currently living.

My suggestion is to focus on the things that have the most impact and meaning.  If that's the tree, great!  If Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the nativity set, definitely set it up! If you all love the twinkly lights and candles, wonderful! (Just keep them high enough so little hands and paws can't get to them.)  As the years go by and kids grow, you can increase your decorations to the point where you can do absolutely anything!  In the meantime, enjoy whatever you have.  Christmas isn't about things anyway. Right?