Monday, November 17, 2014

The Best Day

One of the very best days of my life was 8 years ago today.  

I got to marry this great guy.

The day was amazing.  Everything went smoothly.  The weather was unseasonably warm for November. The church and reception hall were filled with all of my favorite people.   It was an incredible celebration and we had the best time.

But your wedding is just a day.   It's what happens after that day that matters.  

What makes a good marriage is to be able to say that with all of the stresses, the monotony of the day to day routines, and all of the good and bad days, that you're still having the best time together. 

8 years, and 3 kids later, we are.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Favorites - 11/14

Another week down.  This is my very favorite time of year and I wish it would slow down!  I love all of the fun and the festivities, but all of the fun and festivities make it all go way too fast.

December is a crazy month.  On top of all of the things we all normally do every day (work, errands, keep up with the house and the laundry), there's Christmas.  In our house, in addition to Christmas, we have a birthday (and a birthday party to prep for) and usually a vacation to visit my family.  A huge holiday, a kid's birthday, and a vacation all in one month is a lot on top of daily life and work.  Usually by the time I get to Christmas Eve, I am completely exhausted.

Last year, when I was not working, I truly enjoyed the Christmas season.  I always enjoy it, but I really enjoyed it last year.  I finally had the time to slow down and just enjoy my family, rather than trying to juggle it all with working.

That experience make me think long and hard about how I want the holidays to be ever year.  I want the girls to think back to holidays and remember how fun it was, not how stressed and exhausted their mother was.  I want to have the time to sit and watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" with them without feeling like there are 1,000 other things I should be doing.  I want to have more fun and not only enjoy the fun, but be present.

So, I've been working really hard this month to get things done so that next month, I have more time for fun.  Here are my favorite tips for staying organized, and hopefully having more fun and less stress during the holidays.

ONE - Christmas Cards
Order them in early November.  My cards are ordered and are being delivered tomorrow.  There are so many deep discounts in early November.  Take advantage of them and get those cards out of the way early.  I plan to get them address, stuffed, stamped and ready to go next week.  Then, come December, I just have to pop them in the mailbox and I'm all set.

TWO - Lists
I make 2 super-detailed lists. 

The first list includes every single thing I need to buy.  Everything.  Every gift card.  Every toy.  Every little thing I need for wrapping (tape, bows, gift tags - whatever I'm out of).  Every think I need for baking.  All of it. That way, when I'm shopping, I know exactly what we need, and I don't have to make many trips to the stores for last minute things when we're busy and the stores are crowded.  I bring my list and pen with me when I'm shopping and cross things off as I buy them.

The second list includes every thing I want/need to do for Christmas.  I list it all - who I'm buying for (I include every single person including teachers, school aides, bus drivers, coaches, etc.), what needs to be wrapped, what I'm baking, the fun things we want to do, the movies we want to watch, the rooms I want to decorate.  It starts out so long, but I feel so accomplished as I get things done.  

THREE - Shopping
I LOVE Christmas shopping.  I really, truly, love it and look forward to it every year.  Do you know what I don't love?  Christmas shopping in December.  My goal is to avoid this:

One year I waited until December.  I found myself in crowded, hot stores, not being able to find exactly what I was looking for.  I was cranky and it was not fun.  I thought to myself, why am I turning something I love into a chore?

Ever since then I shop in November.  The sales are great.  There's a festive spirit in the air.  Fellow shoppers are happy and friendly, not stressed and crazed.  

I pick up some things here and there in September and October, but for the most part, I wait until "Shopping Weekend".

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, my girlfriend and I leave the kids home with the husbands and spend the entire day Christmas shopping.  It is the best day!  The stores are decorated, making it extra festive and fun.  This year, we decided to take on some more stores, so we're spending both Saturday and Sunday shopping.  Christmas shopping, kicking off the Christmas season, spending time with my best friend - it's so much fun!  I love our little Christmas shopping tradition.

I am also in the "I love Black Friday Shopping" camp.  I go out on Black Friday morning (not Thanksgiving night) and finish up all of my shopping.  My goal is to be finished with all of my Christmas shopping by the end of Thanksgiving weekend.

FOUR - Baking
I love to bake.  It's one of my very favorite parts of December.  The smells of certain cookies baking brings me right back to being a kid.  I bake a lot of different types of cookies and like to give them as gifts at work, make platters for Matt to bring to work, and surprise friends with deliveries of homemade cookies. 

The first week of December, I bake.  And bake and bake and bake.  I make at least 6 or 7 types of cookies, and usually double each recipe.  Once they are completely cool, I bag them in Ziploc freezer bags and stick them in the freezer.  

When we have somewhere to go,  I just pop some cookies out of the freezer, put them on a platter, and head to the party.  The cookies defrost by the time we get there, and they taste like I baked them that day. It is so great to be heading to a party, or get a last minute invitation to someone's house, and have something on hand to bring.  It saves so much time.

FIVE - Visiting Santa
Do you want to know when the best, least crowded time to visit Santa is?  On Black Friday night.  Seriously.

The first year I suggested this to my husband, his response was that he didn't want to go any where near a mall on Black Friday.  I convinced him to try it and it was awesome.  There was nobody visiting Santa.  We had him all to ourselves.  

I think the reason why is because everyone has been shopping all day (and all night for others), so by 6 or 7pm, everyone's done with the mall and back home, exhausted.  The no crowd, no wait visit with Santa on Black Friday night has worked for us every single year and it's such a fun way to kick off the Christmas fun.  

SIX - Schedule The Fun
It's always fun to be spontaneous, but I find that with 3 little kids and a hectic schedule, that's hard to do.  If there are things that I really don't want to miss, I schedule them into our calendar.  There's a local holiday light show that we never seem to have time for, so this year, I picked a date and bought the tickets.  We won't miss it this year!  I have a few favorite movies I like to watch with the kids.  I plan them out so we make sure we can sit down as a family and watch them together.  Christmas season flies by.  It's so easy to run out of time to do all of the things you want to do.  I like to schedule in the things that are most important to our family.

Linking up with Momfessionals.