Simplify Your Season: Slow Your Schedule During the Holidays

This is part two of a seven part series.  See part one here.

It’s the middle of November, and I can feel the stress in the air as I talk with other moms.  The holidays are upon us.  The to-do lists are never-ending.  There are cookies to bake, recitals to attend, sporting events to watch, school parties to plan, gifts to buy, service projects to make, and on and on.   Add those to the regular day-to-day activities like keeping up the house, feeding the kids, and just living life, and it’s really no wonder we feel squeezed for time.

In past years, I have felt the stress, too.  Running here, there, and everywhere led me to a hard crash when January rolled around.  It just wasn’t fun…or healthy.  Here are a few tips that have helped me have a more sane holiday season!

Slow Your Schedule

Five Ways to Slow Your Schedule During the Holidays

1)  Remember your priorities

The very first way to simplify your season is to set priorities.  (We talked more about how to do that in the first post in the series here.)  When you actually sit down and make a list of what’s important to you and your family during these months, you can look at your schedule to see if what is on the calendar truly fits those priorities.

2)  Keep open space on your calendar.

Ahhh….white space.  I love the feeling of open, empty spots on the calendar, and I’m choosing to be intentional about keeping them on the schedule this holiday season.  This was, in fact, one of the main reasons I think my “Simplify Your Season” experiment actually worked last year.

Our culture tends to think busy = productive, and we fill up our time with meetings, activities, and events.  Especially during the holiday season, there are many wonderful ways we could spend our time–but we truly can’t do everything.  And it’s okay!!  We need to choose the best from the good.  The “best” for my family will probably look different from your best, and again, it goes back to our priorities.

(Now, it’s easy to say we want to keep open space on our calendar, but it is much harder to do!  My secret weapon?  Check out #3 below!!! )

3)  Learn to say no.

Oh, this is such a hard one for many of us!  This is probably a generalization, but overall I think many women have trouble saying no.  I know it has been true for me and true for many friends and acquaintances.

Two things have helped me say no without guilt.  First, I evaluate the opportunity in light of my mission and priorities.  Second, I don’t say yes or no right away (unless it’s very clear to me that I can’t or don’t want to do it).  I like to ask my husband to see what he thinks–he’s pretty wise about seeing ramifications of a commitment I sometimes miss.  Taking extra time also means I don’t wind up in over my head (which means less stress for all of us)!

4)  Make time for a MWG/MWM every day and once a week.

My MWG/MWM is essential for my sanity!  MWG/MWM is just my abbreviation for “Meet with God, Meet with Me”.  Every morning, I take time to read my Bible, pray, check the calendar, sketch in to-dos, and get things pulled out for our evening dinner.  (I also like to exercise during this time, and I’d love for you to join our Strong Healthy Mom Challenge!)

Once a week during the weekend, I plan out my menu and sketch out the week’s goals and plans.  It helps me know the direction we’re headed and simply plan ahead for smoother days!

5)  Adjust as you go.

We all know life throws curveballs constantly–and keeping a super strict schedule sets us up for frustration when things don’t go as planned.  I prefer to use a more “flowing” approach with rhythm and routine to our days (instead of a minute by minute schedule).  Being able to adjust easily, modify your expectations, and follow the Spirit’s lead is so helpful when it comes to slowing down your schedule.  Often our best memories are made in the “unplanned” moments of life!

Cute FREE Calendar Printables

 

Bonus Tip:

I love keeping a calendar where everyone in the family can see it.  I personally am using this Orange Circle Studio “Do It All” calendar on my refrigerator this year.  If you’ve never done this before, it’s so helpful to see what’s coming up and how jam-packed (or not) your schedule really has become.  I have free printables for November and December that you can print out and hang up if you want to give it a try.

How do you keep your schedule in check during the holidays?!!

God’s Little Explorers: Week 11 (F is for Fire + The Fiery Furnace)

Each Thursday, I will be reposting our lessons from last year.  If you want to follow along with us, we’d love to have you!

Considering purchasing the complete download of God’s Little Explorers?  You can find out the top 10 differences between the weekly free preschool lesson plans and the complete download here.

 

Welcome!  Here are this week’s lesson plans.  You can find the printable plans at the bottom of the post.  If you’d like to know more about God’s Little Explorers Preschool Curriculum, head over here.  Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments or send me an email!  Also, if you find any errors, please feel free to let me know.  This is a work-in-progress!!

God’s Little Explorers Week 11

  • Theme:  ”f” is for Fire
  • Bible Story:  The Fiery Furnace
  • Bible Verse:  “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.” (Daniel 3:17)
  • Letter:  f
  • Number:  6

Here are a few activities we did:

We did several activities with tissue paper.  One of them was outlining the number six!


This photo cracks me up!  We made “fire” to use to act out the story of the fiery furnace….she’s really scared, right?!!  Can you tell we have a little drama around our house most days…  :)

We did this simple fire experiment to learn about oxygen and fire.

Fire safety and having an escape route is something really important to us, because my in-laws house was destroyed in a fire and just a few weeks ago, one of our friends lost his house in a fire.  I set off the alarm and the girls had to practice what they would do if they heard it.   (We meet out to the side of our house by a tree in our yard.) We also practiced “Stop-Drop-and-Roll”.

We played “Don’t Touch, Get Help.”

Kitchen skills are important for preschoolers to develop, so I always let the girls cut-up olives when we have them.  Depending on your comfort level and your child’s skill level, you may or may not want to try this! We use the dullest butter knife we have–and, of course, I supervise!

We didn’t get to it, but the last time we did a fire safety unit, we made these fire truck snacks.

 

We also practiced sweeping.  A little broom seems to be the trick to getting my girls to participate!

Finally, we got our boxes ready and dropped them off for Operation Christmas Child!

 

More ideas:

  • Visit your local fire station.

Resources:

Find more resources for the whole curriculum here.

God’s Little Explorers: Week 11

F is for Fire + Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace

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Simplify Your Season: Seven Ways to Stress Less and Enjoy the Holidays

Simplify Your Season

Several years ago, I noticed something.

I hated DISLIKED November and December.  I dreaded them….I dreaded the holidays. 

Always running behind.  Frazzled.  Forgetful. 

It was so stressful.

I knew it was time for a change.  I wanted to find the magic in the season again.  Even more, I wanted my family to experience a peaceful season–not a season where mom lost her sanity for extended periods of time!  I say that in a silly way, but the truth is I felt completely out-of-control and unable to make healthy decisions.  Instead, I was just going along…adding activities and events and gifts and Pinterest ideas at an astounding rate.  I wanted to keep up with everyone else.  I wanted to make the most perfect, yummy treats, complete Christmas bucket lists, buy amazing gifts, and accomplish mile-long to-do lists.  It was exhausting and, quite honestly, unnecessary.

I knew it had to stop, so last year, I decided to run a “Simplify Your Season” experiment on myself.  I wanted to see if it was actually possible to SLOW the season down and savor it.  Last year was a beautiful season for us.  I remember sitting back and watching as friends and family filled up their schedules.  They were frazzled and exhausted, and for once in my life, I wasn’t!  Instead we chose to be extremely INTENTIONAL.  I can truthfully say it worked.  It really worked!

Over the course of the next two weeks, I will be sharing with you the seven ways we simplified our season last year…and some cute printables, too!  Today, we’re going to jump right in with number one.

Holiday Priority sheet

Download your FREE Holiday Planning Family Priorities Sheet.  If you have Adobe Reader installed, you should be able to edit the fields!

1) Simplify Your Season by Setting Priorities

The very first way to simplify your season is to simply be intentional and decide what is important to your family.

I can hear some of you asking, “But what does that mean?  What does that look like?”

First, I want you to think about your past holiday seasons.  Grab a notebook and answer some questions:

  • What was wonderful about them?
  • What was terrible?
  • What do you want to keep?
  • What do you want to change?
  • When you come to January 1, 2015 and look back over the past two months, what do you want to be able to say about the holiday season of 2014?

Next, I want you to look over your answers.  Decide what is most important to you and your family this holiday season, and figure out how you’ll keep those priorities at the forefront of the next two months.  I would suggest writing them down and keeping them where you will look at them daily.  When an opportunity presents itself, you can look at those priorities and use them to make decisions about how best to spend time and money.

Here is an example of our priorities this year:

1)  Remember and celebrate our most precious gift of the Saviour.

2)  Spend time with family

3)  Make memories with our favorite traditions.

4)  Serve others in a tangible way.

Remember, in this season, you don’t have to do it all!  In fact, let’s journey together and cut our to-do lists in half, say no when something doesn’t fit our priorities, and let our season be imperfect–but intentional!

Simplify Your Season!!

Coming up in the series:

Slow Your Schedule

Simplify Your Home Management

Shop for Gifts

Save Your Sanity

Serve Others

Savor the Season

Sweet and Salty Fall Snack Mix

Monthly contributor post from Jen at The Purposeful Mom:

sweetsalty

Kettle corn is one of my favorite things to eat–I love the sweet and salty taste combined! Today I have a recipe for you that you can easily prepare with your kids that gives you that same taste combination! Sweet and Salty Fall Snack Mix is a perfect treat for eating at home, sending to school for snack time or giving as a simple gift.

This recipe is versatile. You can add different foods to suit your taste,use more or less of the syrup mixture and substitute chocolate covered pretzels or another ingredient for the candy corn to make it a Christmas treat or DIY gift!

Have your kids help you, but of course, use care when the oven is involved! :)

Sweet & Salty Fall Snack Mix

Ingredients:

  • 9 cups corn cereal squares
  • 4 cup popped popcorn
  • 1 1/2 cups dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup or honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups fall colored M&Ms
  • 3/4 package of Brach’s Autumn Mix (candy corn, harvest corn, puffed pumpkins)

Instructions

Heat oven to 250F and spray or grease a large roasting pan or jelly roll pans.

Mix together popped popcorn, cereal and peanuts in a bowl. Pour into prepared pan.

Combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup or honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, constantly stirring. Once it comes to a boil, allow it to boil for about 5 minutes without stirring.

Remove from the stove and stir in the vanilla, salt (see note) and baking soda. Pour this over the cereal mixture and stir.

Bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so. As it cools, stir the mixture to break it apart. After it is completely cool, mix in the M&Ms and Autumn Mix. Stays fresh for about a week!

**Just as a note, I’ve had this with and without the added salt. Try the mix completely finished without the salt first, it may be salty enough anyway depending on what ingredients you use.

Optional mix-ins: Switch things up by using chocolate chips or red and green baking morsels instead of M&Ms, or bugles instead of corn cereal squares. Really anything  you want can be used to make this delicious snack. Enjoy!

Jenn ThorsonJenn is a daughter of the King, happily married to her college sweetheart and mom to four wonderfully spunky children. She spends her time taking care of her home and family, coaching a speech team, blogging and dreaming up more ideas than there are hours in the day. She shares her thoughts on staying debt free, raising children of character and living a life of intentional faith one day at a time at The Purposeful Mom.

Jenn is also the author of God’s Word in My Heart: A Scripture Learning Guide with Memory Verses.