divorce, grief

The Major Deal with a Minor Holiday

I love pizza even though the gluten in the crust and the lactose in the cheese usually make me feel sick. It’s a special treat nonetheless. But it’s not special enough to make up for the fact that it’s my Labor Day picnic-for-one meal. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a few slices of pizza.

So what’s the big deal about a not-always-so-big holiday? It highlights the fact that I’m alone. Again. Just let me wallow in the pit of loneliness for a little while without trying to get me to see the bright side of the situation. That strategy minimizes my feelings.

Everywhere I look on social media, pictures of families together on special outings crop up. My friends are with their families. Extended families are enjoying time together. The grocery store checkout lines are crowded with people buying last-minute bar-b-que items.

The real problem is that my family–the only family I have close by–is with their other family. They’re together, and I’m not. I don’t begrudge my children time with their father’s extended family. I don’t. Except maybe in a tiny way when it means knowing I’m not welcome in a place I used to be called daughter and sister.

While Labor Day might not seem as big a deal as, say, Christmas or Thanksgiving, I’m still sad at the loss of family traditions. And that’s what makes a minor holiday a major deal.

 

 

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New Year’s Resolutions

If you’re anything like me, you’ve made resolutions to lose weight, do devotions daily, be nicer to your family, and have a home-cooked meal on the table every night by 5:30. While there’s nothing wrong with those resolutions, if you’re anything like me, you’ve already broken at least one of them–and it’s only two days into the new year.

Instead, let’s resolve this year to let go of the mom/wife/friend guilt we carry around. Just think how much lighter we’d be without all of that extra baggage! When our resolutions go out the window with the leftover Christmas fudge, resolve to be make more healthy choices the next time. When we hit the snooze alarm one too many times to complete our devotions before the kids clamor for breakfast, resolve to sneak in a little quiet time later in the day instead of giving up. Let’s resolve that the occasional drive-through meal doesn’t mean the end of our home dinners resolutions.

Deal? I’m in for less personal guilt, how ’bout you?

P.S. – If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to be more organized, stick around.  🙂

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Thank You Notes are Always in Style

  Is it just me, or are thank you notes (the paper kind you hold in your hand) becoming obsolete? Are they following the dwindling number of friendly letters and Christmas letters and cards that used to stuff our mailboxes? Well, my mum (she’s Canadian, but I thought the southern phrase more apropos for the title) taught me to acknowledge every gift with a handwritten thank you note. If your techno-kids balk, here are some inspirations to help reinstate the good old-fashioned thank you note.

1. Don’t restrict Thanksgiving to a single day or month. On the contrary, the fact that Thanksgiving comes exactly a month before the day when kids get overloaded with new toys, books, and electronic gadgets should prime them for even more thankfulness.

2. Someone—grandparent, aunt, sibling, parent—took the time to pick out a special gift for each child in your home. The least a child can do in return is to take the time to handwrite note acknowledging appreciation for the gift and for the thought that went into its purchase.

3. Yes, grandparents know that little Jimmy just loved the Tonka truck, but writing a thank you note is kind of like saying “I love you.” You know it, but it’s still nice to hear frequently.

4. The Bible leads the way in encouraging thankful attitudes. “Offer to God thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14a NJKV). “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4, NKJV). “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20 NKJV).

5. You can count writing thank you notes as a school project! Just look at all the subjects you’ll cover: grammar (proper letter forms and written grammar), handwriting, art (if they design their own), spelling, and etiquette (it is good manners to write thank you notes).

6. Let’s face it: the kids will be looking for something to do in between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The novelty of the new toys will wear off about two days after they’re opened and writing thank you notes can help fill in the time gap before you’re ready to jump back into formal lessons in January.

7. Many children enjoy designing their own cards or drawing pictures. The recipients will enjoy seeing those pictures and cards on their refrigerators. This works especially well with children who are too young to write complete sentences; they can draw pictures of themselves playing with their new toys.

How many ways can you say thank you? Shukran Gazillan, Thoinks, Moite! Wado, Xie_Xie, Merci, Danke sehr, Mahalo, Köszönöm, Grazie, Cheers, Salamat, Spasiba, Tapadh Leat, Gracias a todos, Tesekkurler, Thanks y’all! (Other languages courtesy of e-Tailers Digest.)


(It’s a repost because I have to remind my own kids to write Christmas thank you notes every year, and I’m sure you do, too!)

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Merry CHRISTmas!

  About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancee, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: “Glory to God in the heavenly heights, peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. it turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

~ Luke 2:1-20, The Message

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Dealing with Chronic Illnesses Part 3: Dreading December

I’m over at Heart of the Matter Online today. Check out the rest of our wonderful writers!

December is my favorite month of the year because it includes my two favorite holidays: Jesus’ birthday and my birthday. I love the presents (giving as well as receiving), the wrapping, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the anticipation, the caroling, the baking, the planning, the partying—all of it. At least, December was my favorite month until I was diagnosed with two chronic illnesses that have left me overwhelmed and gasping for air with a regular schedule before even adding holiday duties. I hate that my favorite season has become a series of duties.
So, what’s a mom to do? Cancel Christmas? Not likely! Go full bore and pay a heavy health price in January? Not a good idea. How ’bout a balance that falls somewhere in the middle? The following measures can help us experience a more peaceful nativity.
Ten Steps to a dread-proof December, even with a chronic illness:
Think about what really matters. What’s at the top of your list that you just can’t give up during the holidays?
Make a list of the top five items on your what-really-matters list and brainstorm ways to make those happen this year.
Let go of the rest. Yes, I know that’s the hardest part!
Delegate everything possible. The cookies will be just as good if your 13-year-old makes them.    
Simplify the decorations, the baking, the gifts, and most of all your expectations.
Be happy with what gets done and try not to focus on what’s left undone.
Pace yourself. Don’t try to complete your entire list in one afternoon just because you start off feeling great.
Take naps.
Rest often.
Remember the real reason for the season: Jesus. Nothing else really matters.
Now, all I have to do is follow my own advice, and I can return to enjoying my favorite season instead of dreading December!

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FREE Holiday 2010 Digital Supplement

This FREE 176-page digital magazine is packed with all new content for 2010 and takes you around the world to explore Christmas in other lands. Inside you’ll discover festive ideas, fun crafts, special recipes, and activity pages for your children.
Plus, as a special bonus, we’ve included articles full of homeschooling advice and encouragement from our 2010 Fall Schoolhouse Expo speakers.
Click here to get your totally FREE copy from TOS!

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Homeschooling Through and Around the Holidays

Deck the halls with boughs of school books, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.

‘Tis the season to be busy, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.

Don we now our anxious faces, fa la la la la la la.

Sing of lapbooks, handmade orn’ments, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.

See the piles of laundry ’round you, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.

Strike the doorbell, chase the toddler, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.

Follow me for every minute, fa la la la la la la.

While we sing of wistful summer, fa-la-la-la-la la la la la.

Is it possible to homeschool sanely and still celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas? Yes! How? My two best tips are to make lists, and to start planning early.
I do try to make the kids’ workloads a bit lighter starting about mid-November through the end of December. Many curricula have only thirty-two or thirty-four weeks of lessons, so instead of starting later or finishing earlier in the school year with these subjects, we opt not to do them around the holidays. Instead, we make sure that we focus on the vital subjects with 180 lessons. Of course, we don’t do any school on Thanksgiving Day (if we do school at all that week, it’s only a few days). And, we take off completely for two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Day.
If you school year round or use unit studies instead of packaged curricula, this might be a good time to check out some of the fun, holiday-themed unit studies instead of wallowing in the rocket science lessons. Many, many unit studies are available detailing the history of the first Thanksgiving, holiday traditions around the world, and more. This way, you can still check off a day of school, but have fun and relax some at the same time.
I make sure my lesson plans are done right after Thanksgiving so that my children know what to expect. All the parties, cookie baking, decorating, and shopping trips are good incentives for the kids to finish their schoolwork early. As far as housecleaning and other chores go, we do things the same way we do the rest of the year: everyone has assigned chores. A few things do get left undone, but even the very organized homeschool mom can’t do everything (sshhh!).

That covers school, but what about the holiday stuff? I love lists! I make lists of my lists (yes, really). Here are a few of the lists that preserve my sanity during November and December: I keep a running list in my BlackBerry (a small notebook would also work) of every person for whom I regularly buy gifts. As I hear hints or think of gift ideas, I make a note of it. I check off the item after I’ve bought it, but leave it on my list so that I remember I have it. This works for birthday presents as well as Christmas gifts. Throughout the year, I buy gifts for family and friends as I see things that would be appropriate. Since none of our family lives close by, all of their gifts are bought and wrapped early in the fall. All the rest of the gifts are bought by the first week in December. I usually wait until the weekend before Christmas to wrap the gifts because I don’t like to put them under the tree too early, but it’s written in my planner.

People who receive our annual Christmas letters/cards/pictures (depending on the year) are on a master database on my laptop. Every year, I update the list for cards received and sent the previous year and who we’ll be sending cards to, then I print it out to check off names as new cards roll in. In early November, I print out address labels for the cards (I update my computer’s address book as needed through the year). By the end of the month, I’ve written the letter or pulled out the cards I bought at the after-Christmas sale the previous year. The cards are in the mail the first week of December. 

As soon as I know when we’ll be hosting family and friends for various events throughout November and December, I make sure those events make it onto the calendar. Then I start planning my menus for each meal. Menu lists and the calendar are updated daily, and the food/necessity shopping lists are updated as needed.

We need to remember to slow down long enough to be thankful for our many blessings and to celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas season. Two of our favorite traditions are taking time to read the Christmas story from Luke and singing some traditional Christmas carols around the piano.


From our homeschool family to yours, may you have a blessed Thanksgiving and Christmas season!

This article originally appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2010 edition of Home School Enrichment magazine, in my regular column, “The Organized Homeschool.”

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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Sidney Portier is not eating dinner at my house, neither is Ashton Kutcher. Actually, no one is coming to Thanksgiving dinner at my house this year; we’ll be driving across town to my sister-in-law’s house. Who’s coming to dinner at your house? Do you even know? Are you anxious for a tried-and-true method to hosting anyone without (too much) stress? Well then, read on!
1. Make a list of everyone coming and note how many adults (or adult appetites!) and how many children will be there. Make a note if you need to borrow chairs and/or a table and put it on your calendar for a few days before your dinner.

2. Make a complete list of food dishes that you want to serve. Ensure that you’ve planned a well-balanced, healthy meal in addition to all the extra goodies.

3. Assign side dishes and desserts to those coming. There’s no good reason that you should have to cook everything that’s served on your table.

4. On your meal list, mark those recipes that can be made ahead of time and then start on them in the two or three days before your event. Also make a note of approximately how long each dish takes to prepare and bake.

5. Make a separate grocery list for all of the recipes that you’re making. Be sure to add any paper products and decorations you need to purchase.

6. Buy a little bit at a time throughout the month (non-perishables) so that you don’t have an overflowing cart (and bill) the day before your dinner.

7. Start cleaning the weeks before (big stuff), so you just have visible, last-minute vacuuming and bathroom cleaning to do the week/day of (assign as much as possible to the kids).

8. Get up early (this is my least favorite part!) and check your list to see what needs to be prepared first, then work your way down the list. I like to count hours backwards from the time that I want to serve dinner to figure out what time I need to start each item.

9. After you get the main dish(es) cooking, set the table and set out serving bowls, platters, and utensils. We like to use fancy china, linen, and candles, but many people prefer the simplicity of using paper products. Make your decision in the weeks before Thanksgiving, not the morning of your dinner.

10. Next do the last-minute cleaning, then you’re ready to clean yourself up; just make sure you put an apron on for those last-minute preparations.

11. Relax and enjoy your company and your meal! Remember to go around the table and have everyone voice what he or she is most thankful for this year.

12. Accept proffered help (or request it) for the cleanup process. Many hands make light work.
See, having company over for dinner isn’t that scary once you break it down into manageable steps. Happy Thanksgiving!

This article is posted over at Heart of the Matter Online today!