Friday, November 6, 2009

Re-evaluating the Holiday Crunch

Tonight, I stumbled merrily on to a blog that caught my eye. Right near the top she has a post about Frazzle Free Holidays, where the author, Karen Ehman, talks about how her family made the decision to pare down the Holiday season, in order to enjoy their time together better, and enjoy their holiday.

She talks about the things they decided to change, or give up, such as buying pre-baked, shaped sugar cookies to decorate, instead of making them from scratch. Or, how as a family, they decided which traditions they loved and wanted to keep, and which ones were better off passing into memory.

It really got me thinking, though, about how stressful the holiday season can be, even more so for parents who work, and only have evenings or weekends free. Between school concerts, work parties, family parties, shopping, wrapping, baking, crafting, snow days, decorating, and more, time is scarce.

This year, while perhaps not giving me more time, I've opted to make all the gifts for extended family. It will save me worrying over how much to spend, or finding something that won't just get tossed aside (my gifts are all going to be useful items). It will also save on our budget. I come from a decent sized family, and my husband's family is smaller, but still decent sized.

I have 3 siblings. 2 of them have significant others. Between all 3, I have 3 nieces and 1 nephew. I have 2 sets of parents, and countless aunts, uncles, and cousins. Not that we see or buy for all of them, but I do have a large family.

Nick has 1 sibling, 1 niece, several cousins, second cousins, two aunts, two uncles, and more. That side of the family does tend to buy gifts for everyone, no matter how small. I have one gift purchased, which I had picked up inexpensivly for an uncle, who was recently diagnosed with stage 3 Non-hodgkins Lymphoma. It was a small item, but something that is perfect for him. Everyone else will be getting homemade items, though.

One of the biggest stress moments, though, is getting to the Holiday Parties. Almost 3 years ago now, Nick got blessed with a great job opportunity. It allowed us to be in a better place financially, and cut out the major stress in both of our lives, as his last job was extremely stressing to both of us.

The downside (upside?) to the new job, is that it relocated us an hour from where we were living, which was near Nick's family. Where we are now, it's at least an hour drive in different directions to get to my family or his. It could be worse, of course.

That first year, I planned it out perfectly. We were set to drive up north first, enjoy a morning party, then drive west, enjoy an early evening party, then drive south east back home. Total driving time would have been close to 5 hours, but it would have gotten 2 of the 3 parties done at once. The 3rd party was my dad & step-mom, and they were coming to us that year.

All the driving done at once? Oh, I was so excited by the prospect, even if the idea of spending 5 hours in a car with a 5 year old, 8 year old, and 11 year old was not my idea of fun.

The morning arrived, and with it, one of the worst snow storms I'd seen in a long time. Even with plows going continuously, the highway was pretty much impassable. After driving just 2 miles in close to 20 minutes, I turned around at the next exit. We called, explained the problem, and agreed to reschedule.

Last year, we did not attempt an all at once visit. On the day when we were to drive up north, everything went great. Until about 20 miles south of our destination, when our upper radiator hose sprung a leak, and the van over heated. Thankfully, it did so right outside a rest stop, so I pulled us in, and we called for help.

Nick's uncle drove down, put antifreeze in it, and we drove to the next exit, where we got a container of antifreeze, and filled the van, then drove up to the party. By then, we had missed the food, the snacks were gone, and we were crabby. Did I mention that while it wasn't snowing, the wind was blowing at close to 30 MPH? It was frigid cold.

This year, I am hoping for a good day for our trip up north. That would simplify my holiday stress levels in large doses.

I think I've digressed just a bit from the start of this post. In the post I was reading, the author talked about making life easier during the holidays, by cutting out or simplifying projects that you want to do this year.

She also, thoughtfully, included a little questionnaire you can use to decide what things could be simplified for your family. She does make 1 fantastic point, however, in that the holiday should be about what is best for your family, and what works for you. Not what you see in a magazine, or in a movie, or even down the street. Make the holiday about what is best for your family, and they will remember them for years to come.

For those who missed the link, here it is again:

Frazzle-Free Holiday by Karen Ehman

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