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Surviving the holidays: Start early and learn to say ‘no’

Today I want to talk about the holidays and the expectations they puts on us mamas. The holidays when family comes together to celebrate and spend quality time, but sometimes that gets lost in the busyness of the season.

This year, let’s remember to slow down and enjoy it.

For my family, this time of year starts getting busy around Halloween and doesn’t slow down again until after the New Year. That is a long time to be running yourself ragged and doing everything to make the season special for everyone else.

I hate getting so rushed with things to do last-minute for the holidays that I don’t even enjoy them with my family. So, I have two major rules that I try to follow each year.

The first rule is getting things done early. Starting in October with Halloween, I get my kids’ costumes early. As soon as they tell me what they want to be, I’m looking for the costumes. That way I don’t forgetting to get them or run this risk of it not being in stock.

I have this philosophy with every holiday. For Thanksgiving, I plan my family visits well in advance so I know where we are going and when. I haven’t had to cook for a Thanksgiving meal yet, but if I did, it would be helpful knowing what I was bringing to each meal, as well.

For Christmas, I like to start shopping for presents in October or November. This way I can pick up gifts casually throughout those weeks and not have to spend all my money or time on last-minute shopping. This also helps give you time to get the perfect gifts for your family members.

With the gift-shopping happening early, it gives me more time to wrap presents and put together anything that needs to be built.

We just hide all the presents in the garage, where the kids don’t go, so that isn’t an issue.

If preparing for the holidays early is always my first rule, m y second rule is knowing when to say no and focus on my little family.

The holidays can get overwhelming fast, especially when you are traveling to see other family in another city or state. So, knowing when to say no has been a really important lesson for us.

I love trying to see each and every family member on my side and my husband’s side, but living three hours away makes that hard sometimes. Now that the kids are getting older, we want to spend Christmas Day at home and do all the visiting before the holidays. It makes for a busy few days, but we had to find what was important to us and stick with that schedule.

Because we want to be home on Christmas, we are willing to be busy a few days beforehand to make sure we visit everyone. So, we split our families up and try to spend as much time with each as possible, because time together is really the best gift to give.

The most important thing to me is to enjoy my family and extended family during the holidays and not worry about all the little things.

So, preparing ahead of time and scheduling our holiday season is what works for me. I hope this helps fellow mamas out there.

ANN BURNS is a Morgantown native, raising two young children with her husband, Drake. She writes weekly columns for The Dominion Post. Contact her at