No, we are not running around the house naked – although I admit, you will see an occasional naked baby bottom streaking through the house! The title refers to today’s blog post, written as part of the Carnival of Natural Mothering
November 5, 2013: Incorporating Natural Into the Holidays
As we approach the holiday season, it is easy to get swept up in preparations and anticipation. How do you bring your natural lifestyle into the holidays with you? Whether it’s eco-friendly party prep, special treats that are also healthy, traditions that involve aspects of nature, or the natural techniques you use to stay calm and focused during the busy months ahead, we would love to read your stories and suggestions that focus on all that relates to a natural lifestyle during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
Ahh – the holidays. I am fascinated that the season of celebrating “holy days” is also the time when we can get the most frazzled, the most frustrated, and the most hurried. It is pretty much exactly the opposite of keeping things sacred and holy!
The most important thing I try to remember is the “reason for the season”. Is it really important to have the best looking and tasting food, the prettiest house, the most presents; if along the way you have forgotten to be kind to others, most importantly, your children? For a lot of us, striving for perfection layers on added stress, guilt and pressure. By extension, we lash out at the little people who are still needing our attention outside of our huge lists of things we need to do to: shopping, cleaning, preparing, hosting…those lists go on and on and on.
There are several things I have learned along the way that help me to be more intentional and peaceful during the season of hustle and bustle.
1. Breathe. That simple act can make a simple and profound difference. Before I don my cape, I aim to take five deep breaths as I start the day, reflecting on the intention of that day. I no longer carve out time for a full yoga practice in the morning…now I simply use the deep breathing techniques I learned, and I review my mantras. I want to be sure that Peaceful Mama shows up for my kids this day, not the Crazy Mama who yells her way across the day.
2. Flower Essences. I can’t say enough about these amazing Lotus Wei elixirs. We discovered them a few years ago and we will be forever customers. I keep them next to our bathroom sink so that I can breathe in peace, love and joy every time I wash my hands. A.Ma.Zing.
3. Simplify. I read an article this summer that talked about what kiddos remember the most about summer vacation: ice cream and the beach. What?! That’s easy! It’s so easy to discount the simple things while we focus on “going” and “doing”.
I think this concept of simplicity is perfect to apply to the holiday season as well. Sit down with your partner and identify what it is you want your children to remember about the holidays. Better yet, ask them what their favorite part of the season is, and see if you can incorporate it as often as possible into your days.
Things to consider if you want to simplify your list – how many events will you attend in a weekend? How can you plan your days so that you do things with your children, instead of for your children? Do you have family traditions you want them to learn, and if so, how do they become a part of them instead of having them done to them?
4. Let Go. Things are transient…I don’t know if our children will remember how perfect I made things. I know they remember that I was frazzled and stressed through the holidays. Instead of trying to do it all, we pinpoint and do the meaningful things that grow us as a person and as a family.
5. Have Fun. When I listen to our children, it seems to me that we have forgotten one important aspect of childhood: they are in it for the fun. Nothing gives me greater joy than hearing their laughter, or hearing their excitement at all the beauty of the holiday season. So while we write our lists, do our shopping, make our meals, I try to be mindful that all they want to do is have a good day. In my mind, a “good day” means feeling loved, sharing a laugh, and having fun. I would rather not get it all done, and instead put “doing” off for another day so we all enjoy the “living”.
So what does that look like in action?
The breathing and the flower essences mean that I turn down my volume. When I get stressed, I get loud, and that only serves to scare our children. That is definitely not what I want them to remember about the holiday season!! Being mindful of my intention to “make memories” instead of “doing things” helps me to focus on the big picture of wanting the holidays to be full of peace and joy. To me, this mindset is more in-line with the promise and the hope that was delivered in the manger in Bethlehem.
It also means we take time to read holiday stories, sing holiday songs, and make holiday cookies. We choose to spend time with our children, each other as partners, and our family. I think when most of us look back, what stands out is the time with our loved ones, not the gifts they gave us, or the meals that they cooked. We strive to make the prep time as important as the actual event we are preparing for.
For us, this meant letting go of hosting two holiday parties every season. We cut our guest list to make the one event we do host more meaningful. Instead of staying up all night on Thanksgiving night, we hire someone to do our decorating now, and it gets done over a 3-4 day period. That lets me sleep, which is a much better choice in the long run. If we couldn’t afford to hire someone, we would do less. We made that choice with our outside decorating – now we do our own lights, again over more time and with a less ambitious approach. Less is more, right? And, it is so fun to have our kiddos showcase “their” section of the yard they decorated.
As they get older, we invite the children to help inside the house as well, and they take ownership of that holiday tradition with pride. We use artificial trees, which saves a tree. We use them until they are “Charlie Brown” style to be mindful of the environmental cost of production. Again, we are not striving for perfection. To them, it is all wonderful and beautiful. Letting them place ornaments and other decor where they can see them and enjoy them has become more important than having the perfect show house.
Another “natural” choice we make is to give edible gifts. Again, the goal is to reduce “stuff”. Here is a gift everyone enjoys, and food can be wrapped creatively without adding to the mounds of packaging that will be thrown out or recycled. If we don’t make the treats ourselves, we shop local at a farmer’s market for yummy treats to give to teachers, friends, family, or as hostess gifts.
We also go “au natural” through the holidays by giving back. Although we all enjoy giving gifts, we also incorporate a charity into every season. This was a tradition started by our families that we are passing on to our children. We read through the holiday gift catalog from organizations like Heifer International or World Vision. We read about parts of the world where people do not live like we do, and the kiddos choose gifts from those catalogs to give to their grandparents, who are in a phase of life where they are paring down. I think we will start doing this for them to choose gifts for each other as well – we are all toyed out over here!