Today’s blog post is another glimpse into my world. My friends, clients, and blog mentors have encouraged me to continue to share a bit more of myself. Why? Because, when you hire Mod Organization, you are hiring me, and I am Mod. When I come into your space with you, or even if you’re not home, there is a level of trust that exists. By sharing more of myself with my readers, clients, and friends, I hope to show a bit more of what time with Mod can be like.
How is it December 14? The days are long, the years are short. It’s all true. But my reality is that today is December 14. Both of our college daughters (#2 and #3) are home for their winter break. In one week from today, our oldest daughter (#1) will move back home for just a few weeks before taking her nursing career to Colorado.
So much excitement! So much to get done.
Let’s throw in a few more things for fun: we are hosting a dinner party tonight for ten; seven rooms in our home are being painted on Tuesday; we are hosting 24-27 family members for a seated dinner on Christmas Day. But friends, this stuff actually doesn’t stress me out! I have the gift of hospitality, long planted in me through my mom, and who doesn’t love to get a refresh on rooms in your house with a coat of paint? It may seem like a lot on top of general holiday busyness, but I’m in great shape.
Here are some tips and quips about why I’m in great shape:
Please note that these have taken years and years to develop. Hopefully by sharing, I will save you some time in your holiday processes.
Yes, I send Christmas cards. I’ve pared down in the last couple of years but still send a lot of them out. Why? Because I love getting mail and I am a relational person who likes to be connected to people.
I sat down Thanksgiving weekend. #2 and #3 were home, #1 was working—God bless nurses! I pulled up the photos on my laptop and was in a bit of a panic because I didn’t intentionally take any photos of the three daughters together in the last year. Plus, there was no chance I had a family of five shot. So, I started scrolling, beginning in January. Nothing usable. Not a single pic. Until May! Woo hoo! Family wedding! I found a pic of the three girls and a pic of my husband and I. It will be a split screen card. I did run the pics past #2 and #3. In the past, I sent all three daughters a few options for them to choose from and let their opinion weigh in. THIS WAS A MISTAKE. It would cause endless stress because the three would never agree on one pic.
TIP #1: Don’t ask for the opinions of your family members when choosing photos for your Christmas card. Screen shot a close friend and leave it at that.
I plugged the two pics in a template from the card people. Then I tried two more templates. Then I asked for opinions.
TIP #2: Don’t try more than three templates or you will get dizzy. STOP asking for opinions. You’ve got this!
While I waited for the cards to be delivered, I updated addresses that I have typed into a label template from at least ten years ago. I don’t know how to switch it. I just cut and paste within the existing documents and hope for the best. It still works. I also print out return address labels and buy stamps. I am ready.
QUIP #1: This year I was called to purchase stamps of various winter birds. As I set up my assembly line to stuff the cards, and place labels and stamps on the cards, one theme stood out. I paid attention to the red cardinal stamp. Nine times out of ten, the cardinal was placed on the envelope of someone who endured a loss this year, or has gone through some great challenges in their life. If you don’t know the legend of the red cardinal, some people believe that when you see one, it’s someone from heaven coming to visit. I thought it was pretty neat that the stamps worked out the way they did. I caused me to stop and reflect on each card recipient and that made the process a little sweeter.
Oh I love to host!
QUIP #2: I was raised in the 1970’s by parents who hosted, and attended, a lot of parties. I would get so excited when my parents were the hosts! I think my mom enjoyed my excitement and she definitely put me to work. She taught me how to polish silver, arrange crackers on a tray, make paper napkins look ‘fancy’, clean an ashtray, set a table, make an appetizer, the list goes on and on. The year I got a Lite Brite for Christmas, I would create signs pointing guests to the bar set up in our kitchen. I loved the energy of these gatherings and was always proud to be a part of the process. I still am. I love to plan an event of any size.
TIP #3: Plan out the details of any size gathering you are hosting. I am a list maker because for me, it’s very satisfying to cross accomplished tasks off a list. I create a guest list, a list of who is bringing what, a grocery list specifically for what is needed for the party, and a list of events for the day of the party.
TIP #4: Set your table at least one day in advance of the party, but not more than two (things can get dusty). If you’re not doing a sit-down meal, take out all of the serving dishes and make sure everything is clean and ready to go.
By breaking down tasks to the days before the event, it eases the stress a bit. You’ll be free to enjoy the actual party if you’re not exhausted.
TIP #5: Cook anything you can in advance. If I know I will have a busy week before a party, I will intentionally cook a dinner that I am familiar with and is a crowd pleaser. Less stress results in more fun for me! Tonight’s menu is my mom’s beef stroganoff recipe, microwavable wild ride, and my guests are bringing appetizers, hot vegetable, dinner rolls, and a salad. My husband makes a crazy good cheesecake and tried a new recipe. He made it last night, to avoid the rush of pre-party craziness. Here is a link to the recipe:
TIP #6: Delegate! Ask guests to bring anything that will enhance your time together.
This year, for I believe the first year as a parent (23 years), I have got it under control!
I asked for wish lists from our daughters beforeThanksgiving. In our family, our young adult kids give us lists full of links to things they would like. In the past, I would wait and hope to find the items they wanted. That didn’t work very well. I have learned that they see items on sale and pop the link into their list. Those sale items sell out fast. This year, I was going to get it done.
TIP #7: I shopped Cyber Monday like a boss. I’ve never done this before. As I ordered each item, I would make a note on their list. I gave some of the items to grandparents and other relatives. I would note this on their list. As the item would come in the mail, I put an ‘x’ by it on the list. This helped me see what to keep my eyes out for in the mail, and what I already had.
One item, a candle for a niece, came shattered in the box. I immediately called the company and had a replacement within two days.
TIP #8: Do not wait to handle matters like this. It will pile up on you and make things harder than they need to be.
TIP #9: Wrap each and every gift as it arrives. Then place it under a tree.
I decorate with multiple Christmas trees. The living room tree gets all the gifts to give to extended family. The kitchen tree holds all the gifts we give to each other. The family room tree usually sits empty. But, here’s a secret… (if you are daughter #1, 2, or 3 stop reading) this year, all of the Santa gifts are under that tree. Already!! I wrapped in the dining room this year and was about to carry everything to their typical crawl space hiding spot and stopped myself. Why on earth would I do that? Our kids are 19, 21, and 23. There is still magic (at least I fervently hope there is), but that is a lot of extra work, especially late at night on Christmas Eve. I am so proud of myself for figuring this out! If you have young kids, I know this won’t work. I hope your hiding place is strong!
TIP #10: Wrap your gifts near the hiding place. Wrap them as soon as possible.
I can’t tell you how many years had us up until 2am wrapping, only to be awoken at 6am by eager children on Christmas morning.
QUIP #3: I grew up in a traditional bungalow home in the suburbs of Chicago. My brother and I had the only two bedrooms on the second floor. His room looked out onto our backyard, and the famous ‘shortcut’ that my dad and our backyard neighbor had paved to easily get between houses. One year, my brother was spying out of his window and discovered that our parents hid most of our presents, especially any big ones, at our backyard neighbor’s house. He saw my dad walking back and forth with the unwrapped gifts. I specifically remember him telling me what he discovered as I ran into his room. But then he forbade me from peeking with him. It infuriated me but now I think it was very sweet of him to want to save the surprise for me.
So many Christmas memories to share and it’s hard to pick just one. I’ve got to wrap this up because I’ve got some stroganoff to make!
I hope that as you celebrate whatever holidays you honor, that these times are filled with peace and the love of people you cherish.