Keep the holidays filled with joy and keep your sanity at the same time!

How many of us are filled with good intentions when it comes to the holiday season but either plan too much, forget what it was we really wanted to do, or wish we would have done just a little bit more? I've been all three of those people! 

There have been years where my to-do list for the holidays is a mile long and I stressed myself out trying to bake thirteen different types of cookies, attend six parties in a matter of a week, and make or buy gifts for everyone under the sun. Then there are years where I knew there was some really awesome thing I saw online the year before only to have no clue what it was by the time the season rolls around again. And then the years where the season flies by and I barely did anything but decorate the tree! 

During the holiday season we are trying to be more purposeful in our plans as a family. We have been taking a long look at all we could do and are making sure we are selective with what we actually do. We don't live near any of our family so this would mean traveling a minimum of 4 hours to be with them for a holiday. When there were significantly less children, or none at all, we had no problem making this trip and bouncing from family party to family party. Now that we have five kids to pack up and cart around the country we have chosen to be at home every Christmas morning. We like waking up in our own beds and letting our kids stay in pjs all day while enjoying their gifts. It's what works best for us.

I love baking. I could spend hours in the kitchen making all sorts of treats (as long as someone else could clean up!) but I also know that I have other things I want to do, a waistline that doesn't need so many treats, and a budget to stay in. I narrow myself down to about six types. I have a few "classics" that I make every year and then I try to throw in one or two new recipes if I find any. And I start my baking weeks ahead of time and freeze lots of it (I've actually already started!). This way I can bring cookies out when they are needed instead of leaving them on the counter where I feel they need to get eaten before they get stale. 

We aren't sticklers about cooking or eating a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Some years we stay home and other years we travel depending on our lives at that point. The last two years we stayed home because of the kids. Packing up the little ones was too much at that point. Now that they are a bit older we are venturing to Micah's side this year. But even when we stay home we don't make the "traditional" food. Last year we had ham instead of turkey and baked mac 'n' cheese on the side. 

Same goes for Christmas food. On Christmas Eve we eat appetizers and bite sized desserts while watching Christmas movies then we drive around and look at lights while snacking on cookies and hot cocoa. Last year for Christmas dinner we made an at home "Chinese buffet" with all sorts of options. The year before it was slow cooker French dip sandwiches and french fries (two month old twins played into that one) with molten lava cakes for dessert. I'm giddy to start my plan for this year!

Far too many people do things during the holiday season because they think they are "supposed to" or because of some tradition that they carried over but it holds no meaning for them. You are your own family and can start your own traditions! Your tradition could even be doing something different every single year! One of our only other hard and fast traditions is to read the story of Jesus' birth from Luke 2:1-21 before we start opening gifts. He's our best gift!

Maybe you don't know where to start in making holiday plans. Or you have so many ideas swirling around you aren't sure how to make them happen. I've created printable worksheets to help you put your ideas on paper and turn the ideas into a holiday season you will love. Go through the worksheets with your spouse (make an at home date of it!) and be sure to see what your kids ideas are as well. Narrow down each area to make sure it really includes what you really want - or don't want - to make this your best holiday season yet. 

holidayplanningworksheets.jpg

In the worksheets you will find spots to write down your ideal holiday season (realistic, obviously we can't all jet off to Paris to eat pastries under the Eiffel Tower or open gifts in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center), must haves and okay to skip events or activities, calendars to plan out the season, areas for meal and gift planning, and more! I'm excited to print this out and use it myself! I need to be able to track what works and what doesn't each year and as much as I do love tech and doing things in a paperless way I also really love paper and being able to flip from year to year or page to page for comparisons instead of document to document on a screen. 

If you want this planner in your hands all you need to do is fill in your first name and your email and you will be able to download it! If you don't have access to a printer right away it will also get sent to you in an email. By signing up you also agree to get the My Joy in Chaos Newsletter to stay up to date on new happenings around here! And if you are already a subscriber? Your planner is on it's way all on it's own :D