Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Holiday Traditions (and Reducing Holiday Stress)

The Christmas spirit is alive and kicking at the Cotner-Bradford residence!

The Friday after Thanksgiving, we drove out to a Christmas tree farm in a small rural town to cut down our Christmas tree. The boys have been eagerly anticipating the experience for about a month. Tate was thrilled to ride on a tractor out into the field. We came home with a 9.5-foot tree (they always look smaller in the field than they do at home...).

We got the ornaments down from the storage area and started hanging them on the tree. As I had hoped, it was so fun to look at all the ornaments we had collected during our travels over the past two years: San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Lake Tahoe, Michigan, and Puerto Rico. My favorite part is that Henry is the one who reminds us to stop and purchase an ornament whenever we are traveling.

There were also a handful of ornaments that friends made for us or that the boys made at school. So fun! 

We only put up a few decorations, include a banner that says "Cherish," a table runner, a glass vase with ornaments, and a holiday countdown

We also pulled out all our Christmas books. Here are our favorites:
We're excited to start all the activities on our Holiday Countdown calendar. Here's what we have on our list: 
  • Drink eggnog
  • Drink hot chocolate
  • Visit the Zilker Tree
  • Visit 37th Street lights
  • Visit Christmas house at 1912 Crystal Shores 
  • Go ice-skating
  • Attend the Cherrywood Art Fair
  • Make bagged lunches and deliver them to homeless people on the street
  • Make a gingerbread house
  • Write a letter as a family to reminisce about the year
  • Make handmade holiday stamps
  • Make salt dough ornaments
  • Make gift-tags and cards
  • Cut down an evergreen tree (or buy a potted one and plant it after Christmas)
  • Decorate the tree
  • Make origami paper cranes
  • Wrap presents
  • Write little notes to colleagues and neighbors
  • Make baked goods for colleagues and neighbors
  • Deliver baked goods and notes
  • Decorate the house
  • Write cards to family
  • Make felt balls
  • Drink hot chocolate and play Scrabble
  • Watch a holiday movie
  • Have a pillow picnic under the tree
  • Ride bikes around the neighborhood to look at lights
  • Cut out snowflakes
  • Write a love letter
  • Collect branches and pine cones and spray paint them for decoration
  • Dance to holiday music
  • Read a book about Kwanzaa
  • Read a book about Hanukkah
  • Cover the house in candles
  • Hang mistletoe and kiss
  • Make a list of what we're thankful for
As I write all of this, I sort of want to delete it all. It sounds so sugary-sweet! It sounds like "Look at us! Look at how perfect our life is!" There's enough of that sentiment in the blogging and Pinterest world these days. I hate to contribute more to it. 

There are two things I want to share related to our sugary-sweet Christmas:
  1. Despite how sugary-sweet our Christmas traditions are, there is lots of stuff that is not perfect about our life! 
  2. I have to implement specific strategies to help keep the stress level down during the holidays. 
With regard to Topic #1: There's lots that is not so sugary-sweet in our lives right now! My job continues to be hard, and I'm struggling to figure out how to balance it with the demands of my family and my relationship with Matt. We are also struggling to coach Henry through tantrums when he doesn't get his way and even hitting and kicking behavior. 

With regard to Topic #2: So many of our Christmas traditions are things we just repeat every year, so I'm not stressed about scouring the internet to look for new ideas. For example, when I hung up our Holiday Countdown, I flipped through the cards to see what supplies we would need on hand in order to execute all the projects. Then I placed, a single order on Amazon for everything all at once. I also keep a special "Christmas List" within our meal planning system, so that when Christmas rolls around I can add those things to our general shopping list. It helps that I'm not making any special trips or scrambling to get supplies. 

I better stop here before I ramble on for hundreds of more words!

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Heather said...

Hi Sara,
Thank you so much as always for the inspiring holiday ideas. You have contributed to my library list for this Christmas! Even more so though I appreciate your honesty about the challenges of parenting. I have a son who will be four this weekend. He is a delight....until there is a tantrum. My husband and I spend a lot of energy and time trying to intentionally parent our son in a way that makes sense to us. I have even reduced my workload to be there for our little guy. But sometimes it is very, very hard.

Take care and happy holidays to you and your family!


Mary Blakley said...

Hi Sara,

You have some lovely ideas on your list. Many of them could also be done in January or February, if you are looking to reduce stress. I'm teaching and single parenting this year while my partner attends college in another city, and I've found it helpful to strike things off my list that are going to create more stress than joy. I normally host a "Muppet Christmas Carol" party, but it's too much to handle this year, so we'll watch it in a more low-key fashion. I'm also keeping other things as simple as possible (baking and making ornaments) and have streamlined our charitable activities (big donation to one organization, plus my daughter picks, buys, and donates one toy to Toy Mountain). Cozy simplicity is my aim this season!

Sara E. Cotner said...

That sounds lovely and perfect, Mary!

Yes, Heather, we can commiserate together!

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