Letting Things Go Over The Holidays

by cv harquail on December 26, 2015

Some of the glitter garland I made for our tree. Some of the glitter garland I made for our tree.

My inbox barrages me with contradictory messages.

I’ve gotten a slew of emails trying to inspire me to up my game for the New Year.  They want to help me with making resolutions, finding my words of the year, buying a new planner, setting an editorial calendar, changing my relationship with food, finding my inner courage, and so on.

Many of these seem appealing. Who wouldn’t want to be leaner, braver, more organized, more wonderful each passing year?

I’ve also gotten emails with subject lines like “Holiday Survival Tips”, “Why It’s Never Enough”, “Live What Matters”, and “May You Find The Truth You Seek”.

Yeah, I want to do all that too.

But, honestly, the push-me-pull-you of these messages feels more like clamor than like offers of help.  And these are all emails from people whose work I admire, whose ideas I use, whose writing in find inspiring. There are so many messages, such a bombardment of perspectives, such a din of good advice that I don’t even want to come close to the keyboard, much less sit down and write something of my own. Or figure out how to get the captions right under these photos.

This is me, just minutes before the first of our 18 guests arrived for out  formal, sit-down dinner party last Saturday night. This is me, just minutes before the first of our 18 guests arrived for our formal, sit-down dinner party last Saturday night.


And then I’ve gotten the most direct message of all:  My energy has been pulled into the real time, physical space occupied by my children, my DH, my visiting MIL, my next door neighbor, my poker book club, my PTA fundraising commitments. You name it, they’ve all been asking for me. And I have been responding.

I think, as Martha Stewart aka my holiday inspiration angel would say, this is “A Good Thing®”.

It means, though, that I haven’t been here to keep an eye on comments from that lonely Au Pair, that frustrated Host Mom, that LC whose cluster lost another great Au Pair due to miscommunications… And, I never shared the link to The Funny Nanny’s Holiday Gift Guide (much less posted the one I made from all my favorite Etsy shops).

I’m not the only one who’s let some things go, even let some important things go, to be able to focus on The Most Important Things®. Amirite? Please tell me I’m right.

How do you take it easy on yourself, when you let some important things go? 

Me on Shadow, the adorable pony I didn’t get for Christmas. But that’s okay, I’m a grown up. I can handle that kind of disappointment. Yep.



Didi December 27, 2015 at 3:58 am

Thank you for posting The Gift Guide! Hope all of you host parents and au pairs had great Christmas!

IntellectualMom December 29, 2015 at 11:57 pm

Thanks for the gift guide – lots of nice ideas. About taking it easy on myself, I have a daily ritual: I allow myself as much 70% dark chocolate as I want every night, try to fit in some stretching/yoga before bed, and take at least a few minutes every night to read and soak in a bubble bath. Yoga taught me how to work very hard and then completely let go in quick succession. It’s a good life lesson! Thanks for the supportive advice all year long and happy holidays!

WarmStateMomma December 30, 2015 at 11:16 am

I finally learned that making too many plans just stresses me out and it’s better to just say, “nope, we can’t make that event” than to try to do everything. I blame my kids’ schedules, my husband’s schedule, or just offer no explanation. Sometimes the kids “get sick” and we bail on an office party.

We focused this year on celebrating in ways that take no planning/prep: taking walks around the neighborhood with hot cocoa to look at Christmas lights, reading Christmas-themed books, including the kids and AP in the annual Christmas cookie baking, etc. And just about every gift was either homemade or ordered online because I avoid crowded stores at all costs. We had the time and the energy then for the spontaneous plans our AP made for the family (seeing a play and to a Christmas lights event).

It was a magical Christmas for us, our 1 and 3 yo daughters (who just had their birthdays a few days before Christmas) and our AP (her first Christmas ever!). I wish everyone a very happy new year, filled with special memories.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 30, 2015 at 10:43 pm

Christmas is for the kids, which is why moms are always stressed out. That being said, I’ll add some things to the Funny Nanny’s list for you all to consider next year: 1) warm pajamas, especially if you life in the upper half of the country – and a must if you’re in the northern section! 2) fleece-lined moccasins (c’mon, what could be more American than soft sheepy slippers!) 3) a beach towel with her name (sure, no one really needs a beach towel in December – but in the summer it puts a stop to the kids using the one that she’s claimed as “hers”) 4) a tote bag with her initials or nickname (especially if you live in a part of the country where every plastic bag comes with a fee) 5) a Christmas ornament that represents your city – a famous landmark, perhaps and 6) a sweater in what I’ve learned is her favorite color on deep sale at Macy’s (no matter how much I think she’d look better in another color!).

I know it’s too late now, because Christmas has come and gone – but do give your AP a Christmas stocking. Sure, she’s not a kid, but it’s a fun tradition. I put in some blank note cards (comes in handy for thank yous to those family members who remember that she’s an important part of our family), chapstick, Purell (Oh, Santa must know you handle dirty children!), skin lotion (for when the heat comes on), favorite teas, little jam pots, chocolates, maple sugar candy (sure it comes from Canada, but as someone who grew up in the northern rim, it says winter to me), candy or chocolates from her country (should they be part of her tradition), and a gift card to iTunes or the like. Now that I have a typically developing teenager, he gets more or less the same. I find it much harder to stuff a stocking for the child with special needs who functions at the high infant/low toddler level.

You may disagree, but at this point in my life I don’t want to stuff a stocking with cheap crap that will break within an hour. Child #2 received sausages, chocolates, ribbon candy, a Japanese soda bottle (the one you slam to release the gas) and his favorite bourbon pecans (okay, he’s a teenage foodie, so it’s fun to buy for him).

Thoughtful gifts don’t just hold for Christmas. Talk to your AP. Learn her likes and dislikes. Throughout the year you’ll want to reward her with little gifts for going above and beyond! There will be the birthday and the going away gifts, too!

As for me. Christmas is over – actually we’re a two-religion family, so I call December Hanu-mas! Now it’s time for me to chill. I worked hard over the holidays, but New Year’s Eve weekend is quiet for me. I’m done staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve – time to relax, take long walks, catch up on reading, and save money by eating at home!

WarmStateMomma December 31, 2015 at 12:19 pm

More stocking stuffers:

nail polish
Starbucks cards
socks (funky ones, expensive athletic ones, whatever she would like)
fancy pens
T-shirts for your local sports team (Amazon had stylish women’s shirts for our city’s NBA team for only $6!), state, whatever

Also – the White House sells a unique ornament every year. It’s around $20 and they will ship internationally. We’ve had them sent to Tokyo – the shipping was super fast and saved me a trip to the post office. This might be a good one for former APs.

In the summer, Old Navy sells American flag shirts that all my APs happen to have bought for themselves. If your AP arrives in the fall, you could buy it in July and add to her welcome basket.

We will likely spend NYE consoling our chicken-dog while the neighbors set off fireworks.

German Au-Pair January 1, 2016 at 10:03 pm

Even though it’s too late now and I don’t know if you know this already , but it’s actually most helpful for animals of any kind to NOT console them. I stay with the cat to keep an eye on her and our former dog was peed herself every year on NYE but you’re supposed to act as if nothing was wrong and just offer guidance through a normal day. When you actively comfort an animal by petting and talking to it in this “poor baby”-voice you are confirming that there IS something wrong and validating their fear. Also, giving treats while they’re showing signs of fear rewards them for their behavior which will effectively enhance their fear.

WarmStateMomma January 4, 2016 at 11:40 am

Thanks, German AP! I did not know about that. If we don’t comfort him, he will desperately seek comfort from the AP, baby, anyone. And 80 pounds of muscled desperation is more than we want directed at the AP or kids. Perhaps we should try crating him during fireworks or thunderstorms….

I hope you had a fun NYE!

Returning HM January 4, 2016 at 11:52 am

WarmStateMomma, I volunteer in dog rescue so work with all kinds of dogs in all kinds of situations, and I don’t agree with the advice not to comfort. In fact, I think if you crated your dog at a time that he was scared, he would then have negative associations with the crate. In your situation, we DO comfort and DO try to lessen our dogs’ anxieties. During fireworks, try the Thundershirt (it looks weird but really works!), try melatonin (ask your vet first), try a spray or two of lavender scent, and of course use rescue remedy. But by all means, cuddle and pet and calm all you want. Our big lab (rescue) spent storm nights on top of us in bed, and he only calmed down when I not only snuggled him but also SANG to him.

This is probably along the lines of don’t-go-to-your-baby-when-she-cries vs cuddle-your-baby-when-she-cries advice. You have to do what works for you and your approach to “mothering” your pets, but I can say after having had nearly 20 foster dogs come through my house as well as three adopted rescue dogs, for us, cuddling and calming works to soothe the dogs, and they are able to withstand more from feeling secure in their own homes.

Happy New Year to all.

WarmStateMomma January 4, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Thanks for the other view, Returning HM. We use the ThunderShirt to keep him from shedding all over the house, but it doesn’t provide him with any relief from anxiety. We haven’t crated our dogs since they were being house-trained except for post-op recoveries. We’ve tried anti-anxiety prescriptions, but they have the reverse effect – the vet said it was like a bad acid trip. Fentanyl (again, a post-op Rx) makes him psychotic and a danger to himself. He would never intentionally hurt anyone, but he is pretty strong for a lab and can be oblivious to others in his path as he barrels around the house.

Singing and lavender certainly can’t make it worse! I will remember to try those next time.

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