Making the holiday season memorable (and more relaxed) + our Christmas Bucket List

by Melody on November 30, 2011

This is my absolute favorite time of year.  I love the holidays.  I love watching my kids learn and enjoy the holiday, the sights, smells, sounds, (mostly) joyful people, movies, music, food.  You name it.

I always thoroughly enjoy the holiday season, but generally get to the day after Christmas and can’t remember a darn thing we did over the month of December.  It flies by in a flurry of shopping, gift wrapping, parties and anything else you can cram in to your days.  I find myself wishing that I had done more fun, relaxing things with my kids or spent a night out with just my husband.

What I’ve found is that if it doesn’t make it on the calendar at the beginning of the month, it just doesn’t happen.

There’s part of me that wishes I was super crafty and could make an adorable Advent calendar with all sorts of fun projects, but I’ve decided to admit to myself that it’s just not me.  I feel far less stressed out and guilty when I don’t expect Martha Stewart crafts out of myself.  If you are the crafting type, check out Thrifty NW Mom and Simply Frugal Mom.

What’s working for me this year is to add all of our scheduled events to my Google calendar (which sends me updates, basically smacking me in the forehead so I don’t forget things).  I’m going to add the fun crafts, baking or other miscellaneous things we want to do to my new planner.  This way we aren’t tied down to a specific day to bake some magical cookie recipe, which would just cause me anxiety.  Generally, things don’t ever go as planned with a 3-year old and an 18-month old.

What I’m adding to my calendar and planner:

Pre-scheduled eventsI sat down and wrote out a list of all the things that were already scheduled for the month of December.  We have 3 parties so far (that I know of), my MOPS meetings, a MOPS girls night out and a few other things.  With this, I also think about lining up people to watch our kids when needed and what I’m going to wear to the different parties.  I also plan out any treats or appetizers I may need to make.

Events we want to attend – The next thing I did was add in things that aren’t exactly scheduled, but that we want to do as a family.  For example, we want to go Bill’s Berry Farm to get our tree and they are only open certain days.  We want to go see the reindeer at Beaver Bark Nursery and the Senske Light Show.  You could add church services/programs to this list as well or any other local events you want to attend.

Cooking and baking – I’m going to pick 4 or 5 new fun recipes to try this month and shoot for 1-2 per week.  I apologize in advance to my husband’s coworkers and our neighbors.  I love to bake, but quickly pass my goods off on everyone else so I won’t eat them all.  I’m also going to pick a few kid-friendly holiday dinner recipes to make this month.  Every year, we do a fun breakfast with just our little family and Christmas Eve dinner with my mother and sister-in-law.  I start planning those menus really early, so I can make sure to not spend the entire day in the kitchen.

Miscellaneous fun – These are going to be the activities that are pretty fluid.  I’m going to be ambitious and shoot for 1 or 2 fun crafts from Pinterest.  A few friends and I are going to try to schedule a little cookie decorating play date.  I’d also like to have a few fun holiday movie nights with our kids, which technically need to be scheduled.  Movie nights can’t happen on Sundays or Mondays, some Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays.  Anyone guess why?  For some fun “bucket list” ideas, check out Thrifty NW Mom.

Advent calendars – Instead of something adorable and crafty, we have $1 chocolate advent calendars from Rite Aid.  This is what I had as a kid and loved every single day of chocolate.  I figure my kids probably won’t resent me if I don’t come up with something more elaborate.

This may sound like a fairly micro-managed holiday season to some of you, but I’ve definitely found with young kids like ours, things generally have to be scheduled to be relaxed.  I have low expectations of the actual amount of stuff we are going to get done, but I also don’t want to stress out because I have forgotten about an event that was planned several months ago or something else important.  I like to know what to expect.  I’m really excited about doing things a little differently this year!

I’d love to hear how you manage your holiday season?  Are you a go-with-the-flow type person or more of a planner like me?  I’d also love to hear some of your favorite holiday traditions, recipes or crafts that you do with your kids or families!

For advice and tips on planning your holiday budget, read my post here.

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