I am going to brag a bit here. I had the BEST Christmases growing up. I simply cannot imagine more festive, cheerful, joyous occasions than the ones I grew up with.
Yes, I was blessed- but I was also a naive adolescent, immune to the intricacies and logistics of the holiday season.
If you have the same lustrous view of your holidays past as I do and long for the days of ‘yore, it is time to snap out of it. I can’t tell you how much every fiber of my 32 year old self wants to recreate those carefree, magical moments that I recall. I have to say I felt like a total and utter failure thus far, until I realized that it was an illusion. Was my mom incredibly stressed out at times? Probably. Did someone offend another relative? I’d bet on it. Were people disappointed/anxious/exhausted/drunk? More than likely.
But I didn’t know, did I? I think our job as parents is to create a loving environment for our children- not necessarily shield them from disappointment, but create some fond memories and teach them life lessons along the way.
Here is my to do list for this season and how I plan to make this holiday a happier one:
1. Think about who the event/activity/food is for.
When visiting Santa, are you doing it for the kids or for yourself? Last year, I dressed my 1 year old up to the nines, dragged him down to 900 Michigan Avenue, and tried to plop him on Santa’s lap. Scene: him, frantically clawing at me to get away from the weirdo with a beard who wanted to take him away from mom. I had no qualms about hopping into the photo with him because, well, it was for me not him!
2. Things were never perfect- perfection is just an illusion and a point of view.
That perfect figure you once had? I bet you didn’t appreciate it at the time. That perfect dinner party you hosted? Umm…yeah, someone might have thought your main dish was disgusting, although YOU thought it was perfect (See? Point of view!). Life isn’t perfect, so don’t strive for it.
3. Manage your expectations- make sure they are realistic.
I have had illusions of grandeur at more than a few times in my life. I
remember last Christmas at my aunt’s house- I was beyond excited to
participate in all my family games and traditions. We host a “white elephant” gift exchange where everyone brings the most ridiculous item from home that they can find, wrap it up and we all take turns picking and swapping. We also divide up into teams and play games like Minute to Win It while donning cheezy matching t-shirts or hats. It rocks. BUT…last year a I had a toddler. A VERY active, VERY needy toddler. If I had gone into the evening even considering that I wouldn’t get to fully participate in our family shenanigans, I don’t think I would have been thrown into the pit of disappointment.
4. Spread the responsibility.
If you have been to one of my parties, you know I love to make all my own food, mostly from scratch. I will be in the kitchen ALL day, cooking, decorating and stressing. I am going to be totally honest- I haven’t asked people to bring a dish to pass because I adore planning a coordinated, themed menu (ummm….I make a Power Point for each party….shh….I’m not crazy). BUT? I am usually so busy I can’t enjoy everything I created, and everyone I invited. My resolution? Divvy it up and focus on one WOW factor, like signature drink or to die for dessert. This is my newest creation:
Chocolate Maple Bacon Cupcakes
10 slices thick cut bacon, cooked until crispy
1 box high quality chocolate cupcake mix
3 large eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup water
1 tsp maple extract
mix, eggs, butter, water and maple extract to a large mixing bowl. Mix
on low for 1 minute, then high for 1 minute. Fold in about 10 slices of
crumbled bacon. Add to paper liner-filled cupcake pans and bake at 350
for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
5 slices thick cut bacon, cooked until crispy
1 cup milk chocolate chips
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 sticks softened
1 tsp maple extract
chocolate chips in the microwave. Beat confectioner’s sugar, butter and
milk in a separate bowl until smooth. Beat in melted chocolate and
maple extract. Put frosting into a decorating bag fitted with a
specialty tip; frost cooked cupcakes. Sprinkle with crumbled chopped
5. Find a way to create a feeling, mood or atmosphere.
Whether it be music, food, candles, or even a crackling cocktail (Candy Cane Pop Rock-rimmed martini, anyone?) get yourself in the mood. Find at least ONE thing that gives you that warm glow. Repeat.
6. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness…or at least acceptance.
Ahh…this is top on my list, but I listed it last because I have struggled SO much with it. There is one person each year that I seem to need to forgive or just plain accept. Some years that person is me- forgive myself for not being enough, not doing enough. This year, it is someone else. I have had a grudge against this person for too long, and it just feels…icky. Yes, icky. I am going to accept them as a gift to myself (Not saying it will be easy or even possible, just that I will try).
How will YOU create a happy holiday season this year?