I hope you had a wonderful, peaceful, loving holiday season surrounded by those who matter most to you.
As we find ourselves on the other side of the Christmas season, I think today was the first day of returning to "normal". Not that it feels normal yet in the least. I'm not sure any of us know what day of the week it is yet, and our home is still in a messy, unsettled state. There are things to be put away, furniture to re-arrange now that our Christmas tree is put away, and likely some purging as we consider the items we've lost interest in or grown out of to make way for the new things that entered our lives.
While I haven't spent a lot of time reflecting on the year that was, I have spent a wee bit of time thinking about Christmas 2013. I'm happy to say that it feels like we got it right this year, after 10 plus years of trying to figure it out. Yes, that fine balance between too much and not enough has been elusive, on all fronts - presents, food, activities, family, friends...while I know we weren't perfect, and I suspect that the unpredictability of life will continue to make perfection elusive (which is perhaps a good thing), it did a feel good holiday nonetheless.
Yes, now is a good time to sit back and think about what to replicate next year so that we can work to get it "just right" in future years. Indeed, perhaps some holiday magic can stick around for those times when life feels a little too stressful, and we're in need of some tricks to rebalance ourselves.
I know I spent a lot more time planning this year. Yes, I made lists of presents to be handmade and purchased before we'd even celebrated Hallowe'en. I made menus and grocery lists weeks before the meals would actually be prepared and served. There were lists of things to be packed to take to activities. And also dreams and plans for the traditions we wanted to create for our little ones. Now that I write it down and see it on paper, it looks crazy, and perhaps it is. In the end though, it allowed me to be out of the "what are we going to do" frozen feeling of panic and in the "this is the plan, let's get it done" mindset of action.
I think I also chose projects that were reasonable to complete. While I think every year has an "opus" present (last year it was farmyard wall hangings with handmade animals for the littlest ones, this year it was the felted cloche for my sister-in-law), this year the projects were easy - knit hats, crocheted chainmail hoods, freezer-paper stenciled t-shirts (instructions in The Creative Family), pajama bottoms, a cowl (instructions in The Rhythm of Family), hand-dyed playsilks (instructions in the kindergarten curriculum at Lavender's Blue Homeschool). They were all things that I could make in the evenings, or enlist help with (the t-shirts and the playsilks come to mind). And the mantra of "reasonable" worked its way into everything we did. Yes, we've done baking every year, but two types of cookies were reasonable for this year. Yes, we've made gift baskets in the past, but this year most of the items were canned in the summer. Yes, we've brought potluck items to family celebrations in the past, but this year we relied on the ease of the slow-cooker or brought pantry staples like pickles or made recipes with ingredients we could source straight from our cold storage or freezer - tasty, simple food.
I think the From Hectic to Harmonious Holiday Challenge helped to on a subtle level too. It forced me to be intentional about not only how we chose to spent our time, but the quality of our time together. It was a daily reminder that presence in the moment, with an air of calm lingering over our activities was far more important than what we actually did together. It was a reminder to walk through the days with grace, and to share peaceful experiences with my children. I think that on some level, doing the Challenge opened up the space for me to let things go. I think I learned how to truly let things go - how to resolutely come to the conclusion something was not going to happen or was not worth doing and then not giving it another thought.
So, there you have it...four learnings that can be applied to every day and achieving balance when things can quickly spiral out of control. Devise a plan in advance, make the plan reasonable, and know that how you execute the plan is just as important as the plan itself. If something on the plan just isn't fitting, let it go, and all will be well.
And with that, I'll be working out a plan for what homeschooling will look like in our house this winter. Happy 2014 everyone!