My No-Stress Christmas To-Do List




Okay, maybe "no-stress" is a bit ambitious, but my goal is to keep my Christmas to-do's as low-key as possible this year!  Here are a few things I would like to squeeze in.  If they get done before Christmas, that's great, but I also love the idea of celebrating the whole yuletide this year and extending the fun activities beyond the 25th too.  So if some of this doesn't get done, we're just going to celebrate Christmas until January!

1. Gingerbread House.  The kids all requested a gingerbread house this year, so I want to make sure that happens.  Derek put the structure together last night, and we're hoping to get to the decorating this week!

2. Christmas Cards.  I addressed cards to all the critical people, like family, and I'm just going to keep this low pressure and either 1) write a few addresses here and there as I have time or 2) just focus on returning cards to people who send them to me.  

3. Baking.  There really isn't any way to simplify the work of baking, so my goal is just to do one type of cookie a couple times a week until Christmas, and then freeze them.  I've already got ginger cookies in the freezer.

4. Finish our stack of Christmas books.  I rented a whole stack of Christmas picture books from the library,and we are slowly working our way through them!  The kids are so excited every time I pull one out.  We also got this adorable book from Tommy Nelson to add to our permanent collection!





Christmas Blessings has a different Christmas poem on each page, and my plan is to pick this up this week and read one poem a day to the kids.   The poems are sweet celebrations of different aspects of Christmas.  I think my littler ones will especially like this book, because the illustrations are so cute, and it would be fun (and easy) to even memorize one of these poems with the kids!  I also love how so many of the poems point in some way back to the reason we celebrate Christmas as Christians, which is to remember what Christ has done for us through His birth, and later his death and resurrection! This book is a great starting point for reminding little ones of that.

5. Wrap Presents.  I have a couple presents left to wrap for my extended family, but I'm happy to report that Derek and I knocked out most of the present-wrapping before Georgie arrived!  So there is not much left to do here.

6. Advent.  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law make doing advent with the kids so easy, so this one is more for me to remember to do my own advent devotionals each day!  As I wrote last week, I have to make time for focusing on Jesus at Christmas, or I start to resent all the Christmas to-do's instead of celebrating the joy of His birth.

Notice one thing that is not on the list is shopping!  I am very happy to have all of that done early this year, but if you are still struggling for some gift ideas, I've got a post on Tommy Nelson idea with gift ideas for boys that will last!  Read and tell me what you think. 

What do you have left to do before Christmas?

Note: I received a copy of Christmas Blessings for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Finding Christmas Joy As A Grown-Up




The kids have been asking me every day how many days are left until Christmas.  I have to say, it brings back memories of my childhood, when it felt like Christmas would take so long to arrive.  The anticipation was almost too much!  Ah, childhood.  We made paper chains the other day for the countdown, so I haven't had to answer the questions as often.

I've mentioned before how Christmas is usually filled with more stress than joy for me as an adult, but this year feels different.  After six years of Christmas as a mom, nine years of Christmas as a married lady, this year I finally feel like I'm figuring it out.

Being due with our fifth baby so close to the Christmas season definitely has had something to do with it I think.  Not only did I get started on Christmas to-do's earlier, but I have overall put less pressure one myself to do everything this year, and I feel the difference.   So, I have to write down what is working for me, so hopefully repeating it next year will bring about the same results of less stress, more joy!  

Buy presents early.  

I bought all of the presents early this year because I wanted to finish all my shopping before Georgiana was born.  I don't think I realized how much stress present shopping causes me when I save it for December.  It has been so nice to not be out and about so much so far this year, and I feel less stressed about finances since most of the purchases are already made.

Do all the Christmasy things as soon as I feel like it.  

I used to feel like I had to save all the Christmas activities until December, and that they had to be made into a big production.  This year I am spacing things out a little more and doing all the Christmas things as the mood strikes.  Example: Christmas cookies.  If I feel like baking Christmas cookies with the kids early in December, we'll just bake whenever the mood strikes and freeze them for later.  If we feel like wrapping presents and listening to Christmas music in November, why not?  It's more fun to do Christmasy things when we feel like it, instead of "saving" the Christmas fun to the point of procrastination and then getting stressed out when we have to squeeze it all in.

Take the family picture early.  

I'm continuing my strategy of taking a family Christmas picture before our actual Christmas gatherings.  If I get everyone dressed up in their Christmas clothes and get some good pictures on a low-stress day, then I don't feel like I have to try to wrangle everyone together for a family picture on days when we are actually going somewhere.  I can just enjoy being present and not worry about it, since I know we already got a good picture of the family at Christmas.

Cut out the non-essentials.  

I don't know why it took me so long to realize that I don't have to do all the Christmas things.  I'm learning to be a little more particular about what we choose to participate in at Christmas time, because it's a lot easier for me to enjoy the Christmas season if we have more days when we aren't doing anything specific.  When we all have more room to breathe, the Christmas fun happens more naturally, and it's a lot less stressful on me.  

I also think one of the reasons I have had a hard time enjoying Christmas is because I rush around so much, trying to make everything perfect, and I don't allow myself to have time to just relax and reflect on why we are celebrating in the first place.  Having a newborn this year has given me the perfect excuse not to do things. I am enjoying Christmas so much more since deciding to say no and allowing myself enough mental rest to reflect on our Savior.  Which brings me to my last point.

Prioritize Advent.  

It's tragic really, how often I let this get overlooked in previous years in favor of all the more commercial aspects of Christmas.  I think having the shopping done before the season started has really given me the space I needed to focus less on things and more on our Savior.  He is the reason our family celebrates Christmas in the first place, after all.  

I am doing this advent devotional, and listening to my favorite Christ-focused Christmas songs, and I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on why He came (to seek and save sinners) and my part in that (the great commission).  Of course I did advent stuff in years past, but I think the fact that so much of my other Christmas prep is already done this year has left me more space to keep advent in the "because I want to category", instead of the "I have to do this or my kids won't remember that Christmas is about Jesus" category.  I am convicted that I even let the Lord get relegated to the "have to" category during Christmas.  If other things have to take a backseat for our family to have the time and space it takes to focus on Jesus, well, that's what we'll do!  It's as it should be, even especially at Christmas time.  

As I've guarded my time a little more this year, and given more of it to the Lord, I feel the joy that I've been missing in years past coming back a little.  It makes sense.  He is the only true source of Christmas joy, after all.  Everything else ends up being a disappointment eventually, but in the gift of Jesus's birth and sacrifice for us - that's where the joy is.  

And it only took me nine Christmases as an adult to figure that out.


















Do you do anything to guard your time at Christmas?  How do you make sure the focus stays on Jesus during Christmas season?

A Snuggly Blur - Georgie's First Month



The last month has been a bit of a blur.  A snuggle-filled, exciting, exhausting blur of cuteness.

Growth

I like to think Georgie hasn't grown much at all since she was born, but I know that's not really true.  Pajamas and outfits that were roomy a month ago actually fit her now, and she's too big for a couple of her sleepers, so I know she's grown.  But when she's tucked into her little car seat she looks so tiny.  She's small enough that people are still asking when she was born, so that's comforting.

We're still squeaking by in newborn diapers, mainly because I am determined to use up our stash before letting her outgrow them (and size one diapers do actually seem big).  She passed her birth weight at her two weeks appointment, weighing in at 8 lbs, 10 oz, so I know she must be even bigger now.



Eating

She's been nursing like a champ, and I think overall this has been the easiest postpartum stage I've had so far.  Not only was recovery so easy (no bad cramping, and I didn't even tear a little bit), but Georgie and I got the hang of nursing really quickly too.  I've had no issues with breastfeeding her at all, which is a relief!

Sleeping

Everyone always asks how she sleeps, and I'd say she's tied with Clarice so far for being our best sleeper.  She went 6-7 hours at night almost immediately when we brought her home from the hospital, and did her first 8 hour stretch before she was two weeks old (!).  I wasn't really sure whether to count it since she slept from 7:00 PM to 3:00 PM, but it was still amazing.  Around four weeks old she slept through the night for real, and we've had several nights since when she slept from 8PM to 6 or 7AM!  

The trick with sleeping is to get her to actually go to sleep.  Usually one or two nights a week she will just refuse to fall asleep until after 11:00 at night, and that has been the cause of most of our sleep deprivation.  It usually happens after we threw her schedule off by being gone all day, since if she is in her carseat she is usually sleeping.  I'm a little concerned that Decembers really going to throw her off since it's such an on-the-go month with Christmas festivities, but we'll see.  If we have more time at home where she can be awake during the day, she usually goes down pretty easily.



Firsts

We celebrated her first Thanksgiving, Georgie's first holiday on the outside!  She had her first bath after her cord finally fell off and healed up (that was a longer process). I also may have gotten a first smile out of her the other night, but it was so fleeting and she hasn't done it again, so I'm not sure whether to count it.



Personality

There is only so much personality that can develop in the first month, but still, it's been interesting to get to know her better since she has been born!  She's fairly easy-going, but like most babies, she likes to be held.  She likes her swing, but she'll get upset if we leave her in it too long.  The carseat appears to be her favorite place for a nap, or possibly the couch if we are all still in the room with her.  She loves her wubbanub, and it's so cute to watch her sit there going at her pacifier with her big baby  eyes peaking out above the green rubber (I think her eyes will be brown).  Sometimes when I pull it away suddenly (or when I end a nursing session early), she'll keep her lips in a pucker and smack her tongue and lips for a few seconds, and it's just about the cutest thing in the world.

I have started to suspect that maybe she is "highly sensitive", meaning that she is more sensitive to sensory stimuli than some of my babies have been.  She likes white noise but is upset by sudden louder noises, she jerks her head whenever we kiss her face (I'm trying not to take offense), and she wails if her diaper is even a tiny bit dirty.  Her favorite outfit is this fluffy, extremely soft sleeper - whenever we put her in it she just lays there with her eyes wide open and doesn't make a peep.  We think it's because that sleeper is basically like being wrapped in a cloud, which is probably pretty calming.  I'm curious to see if her reactions to these kinds of things change as she gets bigger!  Thankfully snuggles with me have the same effect as the cloud sleeper, so I take full advantage of that.



---

My Sweet Georgie Bea,

Darling, you are a month old already!  How'd you grow so fast?  (I reserve the right to say that every month.)  Sweet Girl, after surprising us and arriving earlier than expected, you have settled right into our family and routines.  The kids all love you and often ask to hold you.  I admit though that I'm reluctant to hand you over sometimes because I want to hold you myself!  You are a good little snuggler, which is a pleasant surprise because when you were still in my belly your constant kicking made me think you would be too active for much snuggling. I'm so glad I was wrong.  One of my favorite things in the world is to hold you while you're sleeping, and rub your little fingers and toes, and touch your impossibly soft hair.  I think sometimes about how at the beginning of this year I had no idea I'd be holding you at the end, and I am just so filled with gratitude to God for giving you to me.  I already can't imagine not having you here.  I love you, Georgie Bea, my girl "who brings happiness".  What a blessing you are.

Love you always,

Mama


A Commentary On Postpartum Shopping



Postpartum Shopping, how do I loathe thee!  Let me count the ways.

Do you remember on What Not To Wear, how Stacy and Clinton found that mom of x-number of kids who got all frumpy, and during the wardrobe trashing session they found that she was still wearing maternity pants when her child was two or three years old?  For the first time I understand that lady, and I fear I could become her.

Right now I have exactly three pairs of jeans that fit me.  One of pair are really no longer flattering on me and generally not fit to be seen in public.  One pair fits wonderfully (thank goodness) and are a wide-leg bootcut.  One pair are my skinny maternity jeans.

And that's it.

I might be able to get away with the one pair of wide-leg jeans until I can squeeze back into my regular pants again, but the problem is that this doesn't work with a lot of my wardrobe.  I basically learned how to dress in part from What Not To Wear, and I remember all the tips for how to pick flattering clothes that hide the not-so-favorite parts of your body.  Well, after five kids, let's just say my stomach will never be the same, and I'm okay with that.  I do have skinny arms and thinner legs, so what I usually do is wear skinny pants, and long shirts with a flowy or semi-loose fit through the torso.  Then I do a handy little half-tuck into the front of my pants, or a nice knot on the side of the shirt, and wholla!  I camouflage that little post baby-flab around the middle.  

For this look to work though, I need a good pair of skinny jeans.  A lot of my looser-fitting shirts are too voluminous to wear with my one pair of wider-legged jeans.  And you might remember that my only pair of skinny jeans that currently fit are maternity pants, which aside from being maternity pants, are not so good for tucking.

I will not be that lady who wears maternity pants too long.  Stacy and Clinton are echoing in my brain.

So, last Friday I packed up all five kids and headed to the mall.  I needed to make a return anyway, and I thought, why not see if I can find a pair of skinny jeans while I'm there?  It should be easy!  In and out.

I probably should have recorded some Instagram Story videos for you all while I was out, because it's been a while since I shopped like that, and I have thoughts.  Here is what I would have said if I had been shopping with a good friend by my side.

1. First, we stop at the front of JCPenny to return a sweater I decided I didn't want.  We have to wait a while because the line is long and there are only two store clerks.  I spot some velvet ribbon choker necklaces next to the line, which catch my eye.  I pick one up and turn it around and realize there is no necklace clasp in the back.  It is literally just a velvet ribbon tied onto a piece of cardboard for $7. Let's just put aside the fact that I could buy the exact same piece of ribbon at Joann's for a dollar and take note of the fact that this is a very dangerous style.  Yes, let's just tell young girls that it's a good idea to tie something around their neck in such a way that any psychotic adolescent or serial killer could just give a good yank and choke her to death!  Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?  I don't even tie my scarves around my neck in a way that would make it easier for some stranger to choke me.  Safety first.  You never know when you might come across a psychopath. 

2.  We make the return and head to the back of the store, where the brand that looks most like my style resides.  I look around and grab a few pairs of skinny jeans.  Plus, you know, a sweater or two.  We head to the dressing room, and I have the kids sit right outside the door.  Note to self: bring the iPad loaded with a movie next time.  I hand them my phone so they can play a game instead.

3. I forgot how awful postpartum jeans shopping is for my self esteem.  On the plus side, I only have to go one size up from my previous size.

4. I try on about 10 pairs of jeans three different times, while calling out every 60 seconds or so to make sure none of my children have wandered off.  If there is one thing I picked up from Stacy and Clinton, it's to dress the body you have, not the body you want or think you might have someday, but that's kind of hard to do when you know that you're going to get skinnier as things shift back over the next few months.  I'm kicking myself again for getting rid of my size-too-big jeans that I wore after previous babies.  I should have hung onto those last year instead of purging my closet!  Then I wouldn't be here sucking air in to button a pair of pants because I know I should buy the tightest pair I can so I can get the most use out of them while losing the baby weight.

5.  When did low rise jeans go out of style?  Seriously, when?  I haven't had to buy jeans in a while, and it's like a whole new world.  All I can find are mid or high-rise jeans.  They are all hitting me right in the middle of the post-baby flab, which 1) is uncomfortable, and 2) is super unflattering.  Maybe if I wear a smoothing undergarment...

6.  I try on the most promising pair of denim again and sit down for a second.  That's when I remember why I always buy low-rise jeans.  My stomach pooches out where the jeans should be sucking it in, and there is a funny wrinkle in the crotch.  No.  Oh no.  It's the return of the 1980's style mom jean!  Who decided bringing back high-rise jeans was a good idea?  Because these are all basically high-rise jeans to me, even the "mid-rise" jeans.  High-rise is the new mid-rise, and I've never met a pair of high-rise jeans that didn't look funny on me when I sit down.  Is this the best we can do now?  Haven't we grown beyond 80's jeans as a society?  What is happening!

7.  I chuck all the jeans and decide to try another store.  Maybe H&M.  That's where I got my (great) pair of maternity pants after all.  Why can't I just wear my maternity pants again?  Oh yeah, Stacy and Clinton come back to remind me.  I head across the mall with my brood trailing behind me.  Georgie is thankfully sleeping like an angel through all this.

8. H&M has the same problem.  I grab a pair of "shaping" "mid-rise" jeans that look suspiciously like the high-rise denim I just left behind.  Then I find one pair of low-rise pants buried in the racks.  Hooray!  Off to the dressing room.

9. All duds.  Not only do we have the same funny-looking-when-I-sit problem, but I realize H&M's target audience (at least for jeans) may be slightly younger than me now (scary), and the difference between jeans geared toward juniors and jeans geared toward misses are how they make your derriere look.  I don't want to draw undo attention to my derriere, thank you.  So even the low-rise pants are a no.

10.  I realize that the aforementioned "mid-rise" skinny jeans at JCPenney may be my best bet after all.  They were better than the H&M jeans, and they were cheap since JCPenney was having a big 60% off sale.

11.  I buy the JCPenney jeans.  They are only transition jeans after all. 



On the plus side, I found four tops and a skirt (remember, 60% off!) on my quest to find ONE pair of jeans.  Insert sigh.  At least my top half will look good.  Cross your fingers for me that I can actually fit into my collection of low-rise jeans at some point in the future (or tell me where you've bought flattering jeans recently!), because otherwise the future of denim is looking pretty bleak for me.

Georgiana On The Inside


It's hard sometimes, looking back on a pregnancy and knowing it was probably your last.  My fifth pregnancy seemed a little surreal from the start, when I was surprised by the news of it, and as my belly started to get bigger, and as she kicked her little feet against my belly.  I had a hard time believing that I was really getting to do this again, grow a little life one more time.  I tried to hang on to all the details so I could remember every second, but it all went by way too fast.

I am so grateful for the accessibility of pictures now, because as I hold my beautiful, squirming, dark-haired Georgiana Bea, I can still look back at these maternity pictures too and remember that she used to be so tiny, tucked away in my belly.  This same little girl who I will get to know better and better, who I get to watch grow on the outside now - she is the same little one who grew my belly for nine months, the same one who I saw flickering on an ultrasound when she was no bigger than an aspen leaf, the same little one who turned that second line pink.

What a miracle life is, and I am so thankful that the Lord worked it out so that we could have a part in it, from shaking hands holding a pregnancy test to tiny hands holding my finger to everything the future holds for my little girl.























Thanks to my dear friend, Danae, for taking our maternity pictures again!  I was so excited we got to do it in the fall this time.  Dream maternity session during my favorite season?  Check.

Sweater Weather Musings




You know how I never really got to finish my memory-keeping series in October, since Georgie was born sooner than expected?  Well, one of the things I was going to observe about that challenge of writing for 30 days is that somewhere along the way I've made blogging way too hard on myself.  

Back in the day I used to just type something up and post it, and there was something really freeing about not having to make every post completely perfect before sharing it.  It also seemed that those on-the-fly posts were the ones that recorded things that I would genuinely be interested in remembering later.  They are more enjoyable to write and relatable to read, and they are surprisingly quick to pound out on the keyboard.  

There is something to be said for "quality over quantity", but then, there is something to be said for just quantity too.  I've found over the years that the more I write, the more I want to write, and the more ideas I have for what to write.  So maybe every post doesn't necessarily have to be ground-breaking or perfectly polished.  Maybe it's sometimes valuable to quit tinkering with an idea until it loses it's life and just put something out there, even while it's still rough around the edges.

So all that to say, that's what I'm doing today.  Just putting things out there, because after taking it easy the last month (having a baby and all that), I need a little quantity over quality to get this blog running again.

Snow And Christmas Cards

It's supposed to snow again today, so I'm breaking out the winter mug and sweaters again!  We have had unseasonably warm weather the last couple weeks, and I'm kind of over it.  It's winter, darn it!  It should be cold enough for me to wear a sweater, and I want some pre-Christmas snow.  Every year I try to get everyone dressed up in their Christmas clothes before the actual holiday so I can take a family Christmas photo - then I don't have to worry about trying to capture a family photo amidst all the presents and chaos of the Christmas gatherings.  It's nice if my little Christmas family photo happens on a day when it snows (like the last couple years), so I'm anxiously awaiting some cooler weather.

Speaking of Christmas, on the agenda today is ordering some Christmas cards!  Receiving Christmas cards is one of my favorite parts of December, so I really wanted to try to send some out even in a year when we have a newborn.  I did not get address labels written before baby like I was hoping, so I think I'm just going to send a reciprocal card out for each one I get in the mail, for the sake of ease and spreading out the work load.  So if you want a Christmas card from me, send one my way!

How's It Going With Five?

We have settled into something of a rhythm for our at-home days over the last couple weeks, which mostly consists of feeding the baby and goofing off.  I did some schoolwork with the kids last week and probably felt way more accomplished than was warranted.  Today I am hoping to make some pumpkin bars. Pumpkin bars were supposed to happen last week before Thanksgiving, but they just didn't.  I've found a lot of things being migrated forward on my to-do lists lately.  I also hope to watch Hallmark Christmas movies and perhaps read some Christmas books from the enormous stack that I picked up from the library.  (It really is enormous.  I was in pain carrying them to the car with my already-injured shoulder.) 

Speaking of my shoulder, I don't know what is going on with it!  I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I slept on my neck wrong and my shoulder and neck were hurting.  I had a chiropractic visit that seemed to help, but I slept funny again last week and now I seem to have full-on tendonitis.  I decided I didn't care if my blood was too thin and I've been taking ibuprofen because it's really the only way I can make it through the day.  I can't lift things up from the floor, raise my arm above my head, or turn my head to the right without a jolt of pain through my shoulder blade.  I really am not sure what to do about it either, aside from ibuprofen, ice, and hoping it heals quickly.  I'm drinking ginger tea because I read that it helps with inflammation.  It's not terribly convenient to have shoulder pain when you have a newborn and two other children who occasionally like to be picked up.

Books

(Some affiliate links here, to help me buy more books...)

The first couple weeks with Georgie I went through the first four seasons of Cheers during nursing sessions, and then I finally decided that maybe there was a better way to spend all this time than watching a show that was on television before I was born (though it's very interesting to see the hair styles that were fashionable back then).  So I've been trying to read more, but it's hard to land on the right type of book during this phase.  I either want non-ficiotn that gives me something to think about without straining my brain too much (because you know, sleep deprivation), or fiction that keeps me turning the pages but without much cussing or other smut that makes me feel yucky while feeding my sweet innocent baby.  Suggestions?  So far I am working through Okay For Now, The Austen Escape, The Vanishing American Adult, and World Religions And Cults Volume Two. (That last one was written from a  Christian perspective, and very interesting, and only $3 for Kindle today!)

Thanksgiving



I should say something about Thanksgiving, shouldn't I?  We had a great dinner with Derek's mom and dad.  The kids ate hardly anything, Georgie got lots of grandparent time, and we played Yahtzee. I lost both rounds and was the only person to not get a Yahtzee.  When I was pregnant with Georgie I won almost every single game Derek and I played.  It was uncanny.  I joked that the baby must be lucky, and indeed, it seems since she is no longer on the inside the luck has left me.  Rats.

What have you all been doing, reading, watching lately?  







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