Merry + bright: 9 ways for mothers to have a happier holiday

Simplify simplify simplify.

Merry + bright: 9 ways for mothers to have a happier holiday

With an overblown, all-out, retail-fueled holiday frenzy at one extreme and an all-natural, homemade Christmas worthy of Little House on the Prairie at the other, I’m guessing most of us have a holiday that lies somewhere in the middle. If you find yourself struggling to balance a desire for simplicity and sharing deep lessons with the urge to make the holidays memorable, fun and festive, you are not alone. Here are nine ways to simplify the holiday season — just enough.

1. Set intentions.

Try to sum up the holiday experience you want to have in one or two words. For instance, “playful” or “meaningful grace.” Use this easily remembered word or phrase as a litmus test when deciding which holiday activities and traditions to pursue.

2. Create small, special moments each day … they add up!

Indulge in hot cocoa at breakfast, light candles and sit around the tree in the evening, read a special holiday story, listen to music from The Nutcracker and dance around the living room. Often these little, everyday moments are what end up being the most memorable.

3. Think of ways to simplify a tradition.

Instead of ditching a popular holiday tradition altogether, think of a way to scale it back a bit, so it’s easier (read: more enjoyable) for you. For example, bake three of your family’s favorite kinds of cookies instead of 10 or turn your holiday party into a potluck.

4. Set limits on gift giving.

There are so many ways to do this, and many of them are actually fun!

  • Give local. Perfect if you want to avoid the mall. Sticking with shopping at local small businesses can be a fun self-imposed limit and will benefit your community to boot.
  • Give vintage. There is so much cool old stuff out there! Think vintage records and a turntable for a music-obsessed teen or a lovely china platter for your mother-in-law.
  • Give handmade. Either made by you or purchased from a crafter online or at a local shop.
  • Give experiences. Or even better, shared experiences. Try tickets to the symphony, a museum or zoo membership, cooking classes or (for a free option) a day of sledding.
  • Give gifts that give back.Choose gifts for which part or all of the purchase price goes to a charitable organization. It feels good knowing the gifts you are giving are actually helping people or the planet.
  • Give a certain number of gifts per person. This can be helpful to rein things in, especially in households with kids. If you’ve given with wild abandon in the past, maybe cut back gradually, with fewer (but carefully chosen) gifts this year.
  • Give gifts under a certain dollar amount. Decide on a realistic budget for all of your gift shopping, figure out how much to spend per person, and stick to it.

5. Fill stockings with consumable and needed items — that is, stuff you would buy anyway.

Gifts in stockings, if you participate in this tradition, are meant to be fun surprises. But for many tired and shopped-out parents, filling stockings with tons of trinkets at the last minute can feel like a burden.

Starting last year, I adopted the tradition of filling stockings with only things that are needed — and it’s working beautifully so far. Think crayons, watercolor sets and silly underwear for kids; hand cream, pretty postage stamps and socks for grown-ups.

6. Remove visual chaos.

Regularly remove packaging, shopping bags and glossy catalogs instead of letting them pile up. These are visual reminders of your holiday to-do list, and they have no business junking up your house. Being mindful about TV watching and screen time can also go a long way toward keeping the home feeling like a haven.

7. Try on a new tradition for size.

Feel like shaking things up a little this year? On the theory that lots of little moments can be more meaningful than one big blowout event, for December try adopting a daily tradition that gets at the spirit of the season. Here are some ideas:

  • Daily giving. Popping a few quarters into a stranger’s parking meter, shoveling snow from your neighbor’s walkway, volunteering at the animal shelter, donating to the food bank — it all counts!
  • Daily gratitude. Start each day by quietly thinking (or writing down) one thing you are thankful for in your life. If you have kids, by all means get them involved, too.
  • Daily moment of silence. Each evening after dinner, turn down the lights and sit quietly, either by candlelight at the dinner table or next to the Christmas tree, for one minute.

8. Breathe.

Which is another way of saying stay in the moment. The stress of the holidays usually comes not so much from our experiences, but from that running commentary in our head listing the many things we feel we ought to be doing.

The next time you find yourself getting wound up about the holidays, breathe. Realize that what’s really important is to simply enjoy what’s going on around you right now, in all its imperfect glory.

9. Take some time out.

Put on some nonholiday music for a change and do something you usually love but have let slip during the busyness of the holidays: Take a walk, read or just take a nap. It doesn’t have to be all festivities all the time!

Original story by Laura Gaskill for Houzz

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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