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December 2012 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Manhattan Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family

Tips to keep smiling amidst the holiday rush

Are you excited about the holidays, but dreading the end-of-year rush?

If so, you are not alone. Most parents approach the season with equal parts excitement and trepidation, which can lead to difficulties with decision making from moment to moment. That’s why I’ve created this list of 21 reminders to help you preserve your family’s good cheer all the way through the most wonderful time of the year.

• Go for good enough. If you have an idea in your mind of the “perfect” holiday, you may be disappointed when your imperfect brood can’t uphold your image. Aim for “good enough” instead. You’ll smile more if you can let unimportant things — like slightly burnt cookies, lights that won’t blink in unison, and late holiday cards — slide.

• Just hit delete. If you think your holiday schedule is grossly overloaded, call a family meeting and vote on what to scratch off of your joint to-do list. Decide what you don’t want to do first. Then, decide what matters most to each family member. A one-gift-per-family-member tradition might be a sanity-saving plan that sticks.

• Call in fresh recruits. Even if you don’t normally hire a housecleaner, you probably could use some help now. Why not call in a cleaning service in mid December and in mid January to bookend the holidays, even if you don’t use one the rest of the year? Consider it a holiday present to yourself.

• Hum your favorite tunes. Haul out your seasonal music early before you tire of the omnipresent Muzak that is sure to come. Load up your smartphone or iPod and carry headphones in your purse to jolly things up when you are ticking chores and errands off of your to-do list. If your old faves are getting overplayed, jazz up your playlist with some fresh downloads or albums. (See sidebar.)

• Shop the plan. First, the plan: write down the names of everyone you truly want to give to and what you think they would like. Then, shop: keep the list in your wallet to jog your memory when hunting down a gift for each person you cherish. For store shopping, pay cash, so you won’t overspend. For online shopping, search for coupons before ordering and act early for cheaper shipping.

• Sip your way to heaven. When you are having a hectic day, take a time-out. Warm up or buy an extra-hot cup of chai tea with a spritz of whipped cream on top. The spices will put you back in touch with your senses, and the warmth will spread through your belly and soothe your frazzled cheer.

• Get bazaar. Take the whole family to a local holiday craft bazaar. Look for gifts for teachers and other folks who enrich your family life. Give each child a spending limit and enjoy interacting with the vendors. Plan to spend a couple of hours browsing, so you can soak up all the creative energy.

• Take 30. Line up winter reads from the library or download them onto your e-reader. Encourage the whole family to take 30 minutes a day to relax and read. Collections of short stories or essays are good choices for moms with very young or multiple children. This is a great way for everyone to decompress after a busy day.

• Bring Mother Nature inside. Pine cones, holly, evergreen boughs, twigs, and poinsettias all remind us that there is life hibernating underneath that blanket of snow or wicked frost. Gather reminders of the season from your backyard or local garden shop and decorate the front hall, mantle, and stairway. Remember: simple is as merry as ornate.

• Huggy holidays. Use “Happy holidays!” as an excuse to hug your loved ones often. Every time you feel stressed, hug or get hugged. Your holiday stress will melt away.

• Stay healthy. Put holiday-scented soaps by every sink and encourage plenty of hand washing. Install a bottle of hand sanitizer next to every box of tissues. Chase every “Ah-choo!” away. (But stock up on cold medicines, just in case, to avoid midnight trips to the market.)

• Lighten up. Twinkling lights create a comforting mood. Don’t limit shimmery lights to the tree and outdoor eves. If it sounds fun, bring some sparkle into the kid’s bedrooms, as well as yours.

• Take a deep breath. Bring some uplifting scents into your cleaning routine. Check out the Mrs. Meyers brand of earth-friendly cleaning supplies. Your home and laundry will smell winter wonderful.

• Enjoy spreading cheer. Save the annual holiday letter composing and Christmas card address labeling for when you can carve out time to relax and enjoy the process. And don’t try to do it all yourself. Break the job down into steps and enlist the whole family. Remember: taking everything on without helpers is naughty, not nice.

• Question tradition. Traditions are wonderful, but let’s face it — sometimes even the fondest can become tired. So, if you don’t feel like tromping around all afternoon hunting for the most splendiferous evergreen on the tree farm or frying the most perfect potato latkes, buy a pre-cut tree at your local grocery store or pick up latkes at the deli instead. Use saved time to enjoy tree trimming or dreidel playing instead.

• Create classic memories. Play hooky from holiday prep for the day and go ice-skating or frolic in the snow with your kids. Drink hot chocolate. Take lots of family photos. Build a fire. Goof off. Enjoy the grins.

• Save it for a heat wave. If you are really feeling a time crunch, don’t donate time to help the less fortunate during holiday time. Give time later during a less hectic time of year. There are people in need throughout every season, after all.

• Sock it to ’em. Don’t wait until the temperature hits zero to stock up on slippers and socks. You’ll keep your heating bills down and your kids smiling if everyone in your brood has warm tootsies as the mercury plunges.

• Hit the hay harder. There’s less light during the winter. Take advantage of it and put the kids to bed an hour earlier than normal. There’s the extra hour you need to keep some hustle in your holiday muscle, or at least wrap some presents without interruption.

• Pop plenty of corn. Line up holiday movie classics in your mail-order DVD queue. Watch some with the kids and some with your honey in the wee hours. See sidebar for movie ideas.

• Deck the bathroom. Hang up some scented pomanders. Bring in lots of little candles (beyond the reach of little hands, of course). Look for winter-scented bath indulges in juniper, cedar, or musk. Sink into a bubble bath wonderland. Forget your name for 10 minutes.

You’ll feel more holly jolly if you can get calm and stay centered all holiday season long. Happy holy days!

Christina Katz is a freelance writer who adores the holidays. Her latest book is “The Writer’s Workout” from Writer’s Digest Books.

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