By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Christmas By December 1 January 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 8:26 pm
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I tried something new this year.  Several weeks before my friend Karen wrote this post about simplifying Christmas, she wrote about how she and several friends encouraged each other to finish their Christmas shopping, wrapping and cards by December 1.  When I read that, I knew immediately that it would be a great idea for me.  Since having kids (maybe before, but I can’t remember life before kids), I find myself stressed out every December.  By Christmas day, I am exhausted and overwhelmed, I haven’t cracked a Bible open in weeks, and I know I’ve been too consumed by all the work to spend time talking to my children about Christ’s birth.  Not exactly how I should be preparing my heart or my family to celebrate the birth of our Savior!

This December, I was going to visit my sister and newborn nephew for 5 days right before Christmas, so I had already gotten an early start.  When I read Karen’s December 1 goal, I kicked it into high gear and got it done.  Here’s my timeline:

  • Early October:  Asked for wish lists from family members
  • Mid-October:  Started shopping (was almost entirely done by mid-November), using and other sites with free shipping to save time
  • Late October:  Bought outfits for kids’ Christmas picture
  • Early November:  Took Christmas card picture, updated Christmas card address list
  • Mid-November:  Started wrapping gifts; wrote Christmas letter, got cards printed, got return address labels, stamps, etc.
  • Thanksgiving week:  Addressed Christmas cards, finished wrapping gifts
  • Weekend after Thanksgiving:  Decorated house, cards were ready to mail
  • December:  Talked about Advent with the kids, Christmas crafts with kids, baking, holiday gatherings, school parties, cleaning, travelled to Utah

As you can see, December was still pretty full.  It was a little more chaotic than I thought it would be, due in part to my pre-Christmas travels.  But I knew it would have been so much worse if my shopping, wrapping and cards hadn’t been done!

Next year, I’d like to do some baking in October and put things in the freezer.  This year, I found myself constantly running to the store because I had to bake something for one of several holiday gatherings.  My friend Lynette made multiple batches of cinnamon rolls, froze them, and pulled a pan out for each gathering.  Genius!  I’m not a good freezer girl, so I’m going to experiment between now and October and find some things that freeze well and can serve as my signature item next December.

If you found yourself overwhelmed and exhausted this Christmas, consider joining me for the December 1 Challenge 2010!  Make a timeline now so you are ready in October or September or whenever you need to start to give yourself time to enjoy Advent and prepare your heart to celebrate Christ’s birth.  I want that to be my purpose:  not to impress others with my organizational skills or be the first Christmas card you receive, but to make time for me and my family to mediate on the incarnation, the Word made flesh, God coming to earth to save His people from their sins.


My new summer schedule May 31, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 9:45 pm
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I recently read “Managers of Their Homes” by Steve and Teri Maxwell, which is a scheduling book for homeschooling moms (primarily those with several kids). Although I will only be homeschooling 3 days a week and don’t intend to ever have more than 3 children (never say never, right??), this book was very helpful to me. (Thank you, Lynette for recommending it. Has anyone noticed all the great recommendations I get from Lynette? I recommend that you get a Lynette in your life–someone who reads the newspaper every day and talks often with intelligent people and is full of useful and interesting information.)

One reason I wanted to read about developing a schedule for our family is that I feel that on days that we are at home, I tend to ignore my kids. That sounds awful, but it is true. They play reasonably well together, so I can get away with sitting on the computer, writing insightful blog posts, emailing friends, and updating my Facebook status, only emerging occasionally to referee their arguments and hand out snacks. Then all of a sudden, it is dinnertime and my kids haven’t been read to all day. So after reading the Maxwells’ advice, I sat down to make a schedule. I prayerfully considered all the things I want to accomplish in a day: teaching Christopher to do chores, reading to the kids, having Christopher read to me, coloring and doing crafts with them, playing outside, having time for family worship/Scripture memory/prayer, and spending individual time with each boy while the other one does something independently. Then I mapped out three schedules–one for days we go somewhere in the morning, one for days we go somewhere in the afternoon, and one for days we (gulp) stay home all day.

I am proud to say that implemented my schedule last week. It seemed like a good week to start, since it was a 4-day week, and I left town on Friday, so I really only had three days of the schedule. Are you dying to know how it went? I thought so.

Day One: Things went fairly well, except for when I set Christopher up to color and practice writing letters while I played with Will, and Will wanted to color instead of playing in his room with me. I think the concept of playing alone with Mommy was so new to him he didn’t understand what was happening. But once we got going with some puzzles, he had a great time. We got behind schedule in the afternoon, and things started getting a little hairy. But Daddy came home early and whisked the boys away on errands at 4:30, bringing the schedule to a mercifully early end.

Day Two: Beautiful. Of course, the kids were with a sitter all morning. Sure does make it easier!

Day Three: Made it through half of the day (the part where we were gone all morning) and abandoned the schedule for the afternoon in the interest of laundry, packing and errands before leaving town.

So it may not be the most successful start, but there is all kinds of time between now and Labor Day for improvement. I have noticed several advantages already. The primary one is that I have been getting up earlier. All four days last week, I was completely showered and dressed AND spent time with God before my kids got up. I am not a morning person, and so this is a big deal for me. Of course, it isn’t so hard to get up when the sun is shining and there are birds singing outside my window–the winter will be more challenging! Also, I’ve been more organized with my housework. I thought I wouldn’t get as much done because I’m spending more intentional time playing with my kids, but somehow the opposite has happened. Amazing! And even on the days that the schedule came unglued, I read to my kids and Christopher read to me. In just a week of dedicated reading time with Christopher, his reading skills have really taken off. I’m so proud of him!

If this is something you’d like to try and want more info, leave a comment and I’d be happy to email you my schedules. I think it will be great this summer to keep us from just wasting the time we have together, and it will be great when preschool starts back up so I can prioritize the things I want to accomplish with the kids.