31 December 2015

2016 Goals

Simply put…

Shiraz In My Sippy Cup: 2016 Goals. #HappyNewYears #2016Goals #Resolutions
{Copyright: Shiraz In My Sippy Cup}

I love how the New Year brings each of us a clean slate, a chance to do things differently and be better, all with hope, enthusiasm and excitement.

I set goals for myself all year so I don’t really believe in resolutions per se, but I am a huge advocate for continued life-long self-improvement. Instead of getting lost and wrapped up in a demanding “to do” list, I’d rather just try my best to focus on the moment in 2016. Besides, someone once said that, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Why would I want to miss out on my life?

Do you have any goals for 2016? Share them with me! I'd love to hear!

Happy New Year, friends! May joy, peace and prosperity be yours for the upcoming year. 

29 December 2015

Year End Review: Shiraz In My Sippy Cup's Best Posts of 2015

It’s hard to believe that by this time next week, 2016 will be in full swing. This year has been quite amazing for my little space on the Web. I’ve been able to grow as a writer and blogger, met so many more great blog friends, developed several beneficial contacts and partnerships and even been published on several media sites including BlogHer and The Huffington Post. Indeed, 2015 has been pretty damn great for Shiraz.

Along those same lines, this year has given me an opportunity to really stretch and reach and be creative with regards to writing content for all of you and I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve hit on all types of topics, everything from working mom issues, to parenting and a lot of honest talk sprinkled in, and I really tried my best to stick to the purpose of this blog: to keep the talk on parenting, life and kiddos real. I hope I’ve accomplished this for all of you.

I thought it would be fun to look back through my posts for 2015 to see which reader favorites are and to revisit the posts that were my own personal favorites. It’s a really fun, eclectic mix of topics that I know you will all enjoy. Thank you for being a part of my journey this year. It’s been an honor and a privilege to share my life, thoughts and writing with you. Make sure to also check out my ‘Best Of’ page here on the blog where you can find additional writing, stories and articles.

Reader Favorites

My Personal Favorites

What would your favorite post be? Here’s to a great 2016!

28 December 2015

Madeline's Birth Story

When my mother gave birth to me, it was on a warm June morning, 39 years ago at 5:31 a.m. I was in the Frank Breech position, often known as the most difficult and dangerous position for a baby to be born. Growing up, my mother would jokingly tell everyone that I was born ass first and have been showing my butt ever since. To make matters worse, my mother had also just lost her husband (my biological father) two months before my birth. To say that my birth was traumatic, sad and lonely would be a huge understatement. She had no husband and I had no father. For months after my birth, my mother struggled with depression. Fortunately with the love and help of her parents and sister, she was able to pull through. 

Fast forward 39 years, and that breech baby (yours truly) was preparing to have a baby of her own. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I lived with a constant nagging fear in the back of my mind that I needed to prepare myself for some challenges during childbirth. Knowing my mother's birth history with me, I was always concerned about how our daughter would be brought into the world. If I'm honest with myself, I think I always knew that we would have to make some hard decisions about Madeline's birth. Call it mother's intuition, but as we sat through each of our labor and delivery classes, I would quietly say to myself and sometimes to Michael, "I just know I'm going to have to have a C-Section."

I was right.

I was 42 weeks pregnant when the doctor finally decided that I had to be induced so we packed our bags and off to the hospital we went. Because Madeline was being a stubborn baby, I had to have Pitocin and they also used that bar with a string to soften my uterus. Nothing worked. I was in labor for 32 hours and was at 7 cm dilated when the doctor ceremoniously announced that I would need to have a C-Section. She felt that given as long as it took for me to get to 7 cm, she didn't know how much longer I could go {looking back on this, I wish I would have insisted on waiting a little longer. I regret that.} I was devastated. I remember thinking how much of a failure I already felt as a mom and I didn't even have my child in my arms yet. I couldn't even deliver my own child - what kind of a mother was I? The doctor pretty much did not give me any options. It was a C-Section and nothing else. I was helpless and unable to do anything about it: no options, no thinking it over and no control over the birth of my own child. Feeling helpless as a mom is probably the most frustrating and upsetting feeling ever known to man.

Madeline was born on July 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm. I briefly saw her over the drape for a few seconds when the doctor held her up for me to see and Michael brought her to me for about a hot second before I started experiencing the most excruciating pain of my life - my anesthesia had worn off and I had hot spots. I could feel everything going on with my body; the shifting and resetting of my intestines, the stitching, the tugging and pulling, all of it. There was no time to lose. The anesthesiologist put a mask over my face and in no time flat was 100% knocked out. 

Because I was knocked out and because I’m extremely sensitive to medicine as it is, I didn't wake up coherent until around 4 a.m. the next morning. I went in and out of consciousness but I wasn’t fully awake until the next morning. My daughter was nowhere to be found in our room. I called for the nurse and asked to have my baby brought to me but was told "No" and that "I needed to sleep more" and they would bring her to me when the morning shift came in. Well, that wasn't until 7 a.m. and because I had been knocked out for around 17 hours at that point, I wasn’t able to have the skin to skin contact I so desperately wanted after Madeline's birth. I knew that immediate bonding after birth was very important for both her and me. I didn't coherently get to see and hold my daughter until the next morning - 17 hours after she was born. I didn't even find out until after the fact {because I was knocked out} that Madeline had jaundice and that's why she had been taken to the nursery overnight. I missed the first cleaning bath, the opportunity to breastfeed within the first hour after birth, those first few finger grasps and the general quiet time to just sit and hold my child and bond after labor, and while there are pictures that were taken of us as a family in the recovery room, I don't remember any of it. 

What angered me even more about my hospital stay was the complete lack of concern of the nurses and lactation specialists on call that could have cared less that my child was having a problem breastfeeding. Maddy was having a very hard time learning how to latch on {a problem I fully believe that stemmed from her not being able to breastfeed right after birth} and with me being a new mom, I certainly had no clue how to teach her. I remember sitting in my hospital bed balling my eyes out because I wanted so desperately to simply be able to feed my child and not being able to do so made me feel helpless. I kept getting the brush off of, "Oh honey, it just takes time for them to learn" with absolutely no help or direction whatsoever. Because of this, we were forced into having to supplement with formula in order for Maddy to get the nutrition she needed and while I’m a total advocate for formula feeding, my hope and wish at that point was that she could have been breastfed.

To add insult to injury, the next few months that followed after we left the hospital were a nightmare. I was unable to breastfeed at home {even after consulting endlessly with a private lactation specialist} and then my PPD kicked in on overdrive. I felt like a disaster as a mother. I wasn't able to deliver my baby the way I felt I should have. I wasn't able to breastfeed. I wasn't able to be emotionally stable for myself, let alone my child. I truly felt like a failure.

In dealing with overcoming the disappointment I felt from Madeline's birth, the common platitude I keep hearing from women discussing C-Sections is, "The goal is to deliver a healthy baby in a safe and controlled environment. As long as that is accomplished, count your blessings, be grateful and move on." Or you also hear, "Count your blessings that we have such wonderful medical advances to be able to deliver babies via C-Section. A lot of women in other countries don't have this advantage" and while yes, to some extent I get this and I understand the sentiment behind what is being said and am very grateful for a healthy child, there is a huge part of me that couldn't disagree more with those comments because I think a woman and child's birth experience is so much more than that. For anyone to condense, boil down and wrap up a mother's birth experience in an "It could have been worse, count your blessings" package is short-sighted.

I’m a mother bringing a child into this world. A life. Another human being - my child. Never in the history of a woman's life will she do anything more important than bringing her child into the world period, bottom line. In doing so, there are certain expectations and milestones we all expect to experience during this time and when they don't happen, it leaves a huge hole in your heart. I think what made the hole worse for me was the fact that Michael and I pretty much knew after I got pregnant that Madeline would be our only child so knowing that I would never have another chance to experience a child's birth again - to reclaim those lost moments - was a very bitter pill to swallow. 

It has taken time but over the last two and a half years, I've learned to fill the hole in my heart with my daughter's love, laughter and tenacity for life instead of having regret, sadness and disappointment for how her life started. Children have a miraculous way of healing us as parents and Madeline shows me every day that the work I'm doing now as her mother far outweighs what I was or wasn't able to do for her as her mother when she was born. I've allowed myself the time I needed to grieve in losing those first special moments with her. I think that is a very important part of the process of getting over the disappointment of a hard birth.

I am a strong, capable woman who made it through some dark and stormy months at first as a new mom and I know that what lies ahead for me, my daughter and our family far outweighs anything I left behind when I walked out of those hospital doors. I know now that when I look at my scar, I can be proud of the woman who gave life to another instead of feeling ashamed of the method by which it all had to happen. I’m starting to accept that while this is my story, it doesn't have to be what defines me as a woman but more importantly, as a mother. 

21 December 2015

Currently in December...

EXCITED FOR: STAR WARS!!! We have tickets to see the movie tomorrow and it can’t get here fast enough. No spoilers, please!  

CELEBRATING: All things Christmas, of course! We are in full Christmas mode around these parts and this time next week, we’ll be on the road headed to Atlanta to be with my family for the big day. If you’re looking for some last minute ideas to celebrate the season, check out my amazing homemade stove top Christmaspotpourri, my Christmas Wassail recipe or my 10 creative ways to give back toothers this Christmas.

ENJOYING: A great glass of Francis Coppola 2013 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon. We were supposed to go to a Christmas get together on Saturday night and bought the bottle for our guests but about halfway into our drive there, we were told the people we were meeting up with were going home sick SOOOO that wonderful little bottle came back home with us and I’ve been enjoying it ever since. It’s delicious!

PLANNING: Lots of great posts for the blog in 2016, our trip to Atlanta for Christmas and some personal goals and milestones for the New Year. I have a feeling 2016 will be a great year!

LOVING: All the adorable pictures of everyone’s kids during the holidays. Instagram is so much fun to pop in on this time of year. Keep ‘em coming!

EATING: Far too many chocolate covered cherries. These little bites of heaven are my weakness during the holidays, y’all and then I stupidly proceed to get on the scale and have a meltdown because I’m not losing any weight. #truestory 

TAKING IN: Every drop of my blissful, care-free 18 day Christmas vacation. The school I work for is closed from the 23rd to January 4th so I decided to take today and tomorrow off as well and I’m soaking up every lovely second of this break. It also helps that Chickie is in school for part of it so I’m able to get a much needed break. As much as I love to work and be a mom, I admit having some “me time” is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

REMINISCING: Of Christmas celebrations of the past. It’s a bittersweet time. I love having our daughter to celebrate Christmas with but I miss my loved ones who are no longer with us. I’m happy to have so many wonderful memories to look back on and cherish.

LISTENING: To Christmas music. Duh! 

THINKING: Of so many friends who are suffering great loss right now. I know of so many friends who have lost loved ones and children to illness or accident or that are going through some really severe hardships right now and it makes my heart hurt. Please say a prayer for those broken in spirit right now. It will mean more to them than you will ever know.

WANTING: To have my car paid off! I’m so close to accomplishing this that it’s driving me crazy. I can’t wait to put that money towards other bills and savings and be rid of it. The best kind of car is a paid for car!

APPRECIATING: This life I’ve been given. It’s not always glamorous, perfect or what I thought it would be but it’s mine, and I’m thankful. I have health, income, family, a healthy and happy daughter, and all my needs met. Really, what more could one person ask for?

What’s been going on currently in your life?

17 December 2015

My Christmas Wassail Recipe

My Christmas Wassail Recipe  #Christmas #ChristmasDrinks #Wassail #Holidays

One of my most favorite Christmas traditions is enjoying a warm and delicious mug of Wassail.

I was introduced to Wassail a few years ago by my friend Melissa who brought it as a treat for an office holiday potluck. I immediately fell in love with the hot beverage, got the recipe and have made it every year since. Actually, I like to enjoy this drink during all the cold winter months but especially during the Christmas holiday. I turn on my Christmas music, decorate our home, cook and bake and in the evening, snuggle up on the sofa with nothing but the lights from the tree to keep me company. It's fabulous, and it will make your entire home smell like the holidays.

Here's What You'll Need:
8 cups apple cider
2 cups orange juice
2 cups pineapple juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
12 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup sugar

Here's How You'll Make It:
You can combine these ingredients in a crock pot, dutch oven or large stock pot. I prefer to use a dutch oven because it is the perfect pot for this batch size.

First, combine all your liquids.
Then add the cinnamon sticks, cloves and sugar.
Bring to a bubble, stir and reduce heat to simmer, uncovered. 
Keep burner on simmer and enjoy.

This hot beverage is the perfect cure for a cold winter night or is a great companion to a good book or movie. Snuggle up on your sofa with a mug and enjoy! 

16 December 2015

Mommy Confessions: I Found My First Gray Hair

So first off, WTF. Seriously body, WTF?

I’m not even 40 yet. Almost, but no. No, no, no. This shouldn’t be happening. You owe me a really great explanation for this shit. One minute, I’m a care-free, fully brunette babe and the next minute – BAM!


And we’re not even talking about a few little sprigs here and there, no. That would have been too easy. We’re talking long, fully formed gray grandma hairs. Finding gray hairs is like having your life flash right before your eyes: Old, crazy cat lady complaining about my arthritis and bursitis.

Okay, so it’s not that bad (yet) but finding out I had a gray hair was a shock to my system. It probably had more to do with the fact that Michael found it first. We were walking down the driveway and out of the middle of nowhere he yells, “Oh my God! Hold still!” while digging through my hair like a capuchin monkey. I think what got me more was the look of excitement and relief on his face as if to say, “Thank God, I’m no longer alone!” It was almost like he found a pot of fucking gold sitting right on top of my skull and couldn’t wait to show me.

“YOU HAVE A GRAY HAIR,” he screams as he plucks and dangles the proof of my far-gone youth in my face.

There it was, right in front of my face. I glanced over to look at Michael and in an instant, his expression turned from enthusiastic to that universally recognized look of pity. You know the face. It’s the face we give to dogs with only three legs or when a bride gets left at the altar but in usual Courtney form, I brushed it off. I’m 39 and fucking fabulous!

But honestly, I didn’t brush it off. It’s been eating away at me ever since.

…I bet that’s just a very blonde hair.
…But I’m a brunette. I don’t have blonde hair.
…It looks really, really gray. Maybe I should keep plucking?
…Wait, don’t pluck! A million more will grow back in its place.
…What am I so worried about? Lots of people have gray hair!
…Like grandmas.

I’m going to admit that I wasn’t prepared for this. I figured I had at least another decade to go before I had to start shopping for hair color and accept old lady jokes. I could lie and offer those fake, bullshit platitudes we always hear like, “Growing old is a privilege not everyone gets” or “Embrace those wrinkles and gray hairs. They’ve made you who you are.”

Fuck that.

I mean, who really believes that shit? Yes, I’m thankful for every day that the good Lord allows me to wake up but what woman really accepts gray hair as a sign of feeling thankful for another day on Earth?

Lies. All lies.

So for now, I’m going to live in blissful ignorance. Besides, the dog has really gray hair. I’m sure it was his.

15 December 2015

10 Creative Ways to Give Back to Others This Christmas

Christmas is an exciting time of year, especially when you have children. It’s so much fun to celebrate the holiday through their eyes and experience the magic of Christmas as a child yourself all over again. Having said this, I also think with all our joyful celebrations, we can easily lose sight of the true meaning of the holiday season.

In as much as I love doing things with and for my daughter during Christmas, it’s extremely important to me that she understands the season is about more than Santa, gifts and Christmas movies. I’ve often thought that the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to instill and develop a child’s philanthropic mindset while cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

With this in mind, I’ve come up with a list of ten things you can do for others to give back during the Christmas season. Finding ways to practice kindness doesn’t have to be a blown out production. Kindness comes in many different shapes, sizes and forms. Here are some ideas to help your children, at any age, understand the true spirit of Christmas so they can apply it in their own lives for a lifetime.

10 Creative Ways to Give Back to Others This Christmas. #Christmas #Charity #RandomActsofKindness

Mail a Christmas card to Safyre. If you haven’t read Safyre’s story, check it out. Two years ago, Safyre’s family was killed in a house fire that was believed to be arson. She lost her entire family, including her father who used his own body to shield Safyre from the flames. This year for Christmas, the only wish this sweet girl has is to receive Christmas cards from all over the world. How easy it is to either make her a card or pick one up and mail it? Super easy!

Mail your cards to:
P.O. Box 6126
Schenectady NY 12306 

Toys for Tots. I’m a huge fan of the Marine Corp’s annual Toys for Tots toy drive. Every year, we take Maddy to the toy store, let her pick out a gift and then have her donate it to Toys for Tots. I always like to explain to her that not every child is as fortunate as her so it’s important that we help to give others a nice Christmas. It also helps her to develop a sense of empathy and a heart to serve others.

Leave a homemade treat with a kind note for your mailman in the mailbox. These men and women provide such a thankless service every day regardless of weather conditions, traffic and more. Let them know you appreciate what they do for you.

Spend time with the elderly, especially those home-bound or in assisted living. Help an elderly neighbor with Christmas decorations, grocery shopping, yard maintenance or simply spend some time with them talking and being a companion. This will mean more to them then you will ever know.

Be a Dollar Store angel. Leave 10 {or any desired amount} of $1 bills in random spots in the dollar store. If you’re feeling extra kind, leave the 0.07 cents for tax. Imagine how happy the single mother shopping for her kids will be or the child who wants a toy but mommy and daddy are hesitant to buy one because of their tight budget. It sounds like so little to us but it makes such a HUGE difference in the lives of others who really need it.

Remember children in the hospital or in hospice care. Make small gift baskets for kids who are in the hospital and deliver them with your children.

Be kind to someone you dislike. Our children are always watching and listening. What do you think they see and hear when they look at you?

Cleanout! Use this time of the year to collect your child’s old books that they no longer read and donate them to a children’s center, shelter or local library. You can also do this with clothing, shoes and other necessities. 

Donate your time to new or exhausted parents. Offer your time to stressed or tired parents for free babysitting. Bring your own kids along as playmates and helpers! Imagine being a new parent and having the chance to get out for a few hours to do a little {peaceful} Christmas shopping, have a quiet coffee break or simply get some much needed errands done. This simple act of kindness means so much to parents who desperately need a break.

Donate the spare change in your car to The Salvation Army bell ringers. We all have ungodly amounts of change laying around, especially in our cars. Put those coins to good use and donate them! Grab a few coins every time you come across a bell ringer and toss them into the bucket. It may seem like very little but all that money adds up quick.

These are just a few ideas to get you started and really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things we can do to help spread kindness and joy to others during the holiday season. What ideas do you have to share? I would love to hear them! 

14 December 2015

Our Visit with Santa

Meeting Santa can be hit or miss for us. For weeks starting in November, I talked to Maddy about going to see Santa and for the most part, she was very receptive and excited however, I tried to not get my hopes up because I’ve seen how this whole scenario has gone down over the years.

Let’s recap, shall we?

In 2011, she was only five months old. I thought for sure that she would be freaked out by the sight of Santa but true to form, she proved me wrong. I plopped her on Santa’s lap and she let out the biggest laugh and smile that I’d ever seen…

2012 came and went and alas, we did not get a picture this year. I honestly don’t remember why.

Then 2013 rolled around and gave us this gem to remember always…

Last year in 2014, she was timid but agreed to get on Santa’s lap if mommy and daddy did too. When the photographer said, “Say cheese,” Chickie promptly stuck her tongue out. We keep it classy around these parts, friends.

This year, I couldn’t have asked for a better visit with Santa.

 Up until we went to visit the fat man in the red suit, she talked about how excited she was and even said, “Mommy, I’m not going to cry this year! I’m a big girl!” Knowing how she can be, I thought to myself, “We’ll see.”

True to form, she proved me wrong. As we stood in line, she seemed very much in awe of Santa and was still acting very brave. As we moved up in line, she started to become shyer and I thought to myself, “At any moment, this all could go south very quickly.”

But it didn’t.

Instead, she walked up to Santa bravely and smiled. Then got quiet and pretty much didn’t say a word. It was hands to mouth the entire time. To Santa’s credit, he was amazing. He was so gentle and inquisitive and really took his time with Maddy to make her feel comfortable and special.

She didn’t talk much, but it was such a great moment. She laughed here and there and I could really tell that despite her quiet and reserved demeanor, she loved her time with Santa. As we walked away, she proudly yelled, “See mama! I didn’t cry!”

Mission accomplished. Kid happy, parents not stressed and everyone made it out alive. 

How was your trip to see Santa?

07 December 2015

My Must Watch Christmas Movies

For me, there is nothing I enjoy more during the holiday season then plugging in the tree, lighting some candles, pouring a glass of wine or making a hot cup of tea and turning on my favorite Christmas movies.  

The holidays simply aren’t the same without these must have movies for me each and every year. The added bonus? Chickie is really enjoying most of these with me and it’s so much fun to experience my favorite movies all over again with her and through her excitement and joy of the season.  

My most favorite movies are an eclectic mix of both modern day and traditional and no matter what your preference is, there is certainly something for everyone in the family to enjoy.

Starting top left to the right and moving down… 

10 | Love Actually 

9 | The Family Stone 

8 | Elf 

7 | A Charlie Brown Christmas 

6 | The Holiday 

5 | A Christmas Story 

4 | A Christmas Carol {The original from 1938} 

3 | Miracle on 34th Street {The original from 1947} 

2 | Home Alone 

And last but certainly not least…my all-time FAVORITE Christmas movie everrrr…

What is a must watch Christmas movie for you and your family?

02 December 2015

Four Ways I'm A Scrooge And Why That's a Good Thing

I honestly can't remember the last time I made a Christmas list. Oh sure, I see things here and there throughout the year that I would love for Santa to bring me but I honestly can't remember the last Christmas where I felt the need to make a wish list or ask people for gifts. As an adult, it's a tradition of the holiday season that just makes me feel downright uncomfortable. I've always maintained that if I want something bad enough, I'll buy it myself. The idea of others putting themselves in mental, emotional and financial stress and strain for me leaves me with a very heavy feeling of anxiety, to say the least. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than when I get asked from family or friends, "What do you want for Christmas?" 

At this point, I’d rather scoop my eyes out with a spoon than answer that question. For me, gifts are just not a focus for me anymore during the holidays and now that I have my own daughter to raise, I don't want it to be the focus for her and our family either. There is so much more to the holidays than wasting ungodly amounts of time stressing out about the latest and greatest gadget, wasting time in traffic, fighting crowds and watching adults duke it out over toys, clothing and TV’s. No thanks.

Now, this isn't to say that I don't shop at all when it comes to gift giving, generosity, sharing and the spirit of the season but I will be honest and tell you this - my shopping list has one name and one name only – my daughter.

As much as I love my spouse, we go the whole year purchasing things for us; enjoying date nights, buying gifts for Birthdays and anniversaries, buying things for our home, traveling and long weekends and buying the occasional "thinking of you" items for each other. What more could two people possibly want or need? Absolutely nothing. 

There is something very freeing and liberating about the holidays when you make the conscience choice to not get caught up in the commercialism of it all and to some extent – be a Scrooge, tell people “No” and unapologetically remove the holiday stress and drama from your life.

Four Ways I'm a Scrooge And Why That's a Good Thing

We don't have, nor will we ever have, an Elf on the Shelf.
Put aside the fact that the Elf is a creepy little shit and you have to keep up with moving his creepy little ass on a nightly basis, I refuse to barter and bribe my child into good behaviors that she should already be practicing and let's be honest - that's how it gets used a majority of the time.

I don't give teacher gifts. 
My daughter's enrollment in day care which equals your steady paycheck is my thanks to you for a job well done. In addition, throughout the year, we donate snacks, food and personal time to the Maddy’s classroom and always contribute to the classroom supply fund as needed along with clothing drives, bake sales and book fundraisers. Because of this, I don't feel too bad not doing individualized gifts for teachers. I feel we do enough for our child’s teacher and facility during the year to help. Not doing teacher gifts isn't going to hurt anyone.

Going along the same lines, I will not participate in workplace Christmas activities. I could tell you that my reasoning behind this is to trim spending during the holidays and while that’s true to some extent, it’s not really the whole truth. Simply put, I don’t really feel the need to spend my hard-earned money on people I dislike and find zero interest in fellowshipping with. That may sound harsh but it’s the truth. If we were all telling the truth, you know you’ve felt this way, too.

It's pretty safe to say you'll never get a Christmas card from us.
Let’s get candid for a moment. When you receive a Christmas card, you have that initial, "Oh how cute!" moment but then what? It gets tossed in a pile with the others and thrown away a month later. I'm too cheap to spend any amount of time and money on things people are just simply going to trash, and don't even get me started on the dreaded "Look what we've done this year" letter. You will see no Pinterest-pressured holiday card from us. Furthermore, fighting the four-year-old to get a card-worthy picture simply isn’t worth it. I’d rather subject myself to listening to a lifetime of Frozen songs than deal with that.

In the end, I feel completely liberated and unburdened not to meet unrealistic expectations to make it "A Christmas they won't forget." You see the Pinterest boards with pin after pin of elaborate Christmas projects and gifts. You view the Instagram pictures of immaculately decorated homes. You get bombarded with the Target commercials portraying a perfect Christmas. Pressure, pressure, pressure. We bring it on ourselves and then wonder why and how we let another season go by without really and truly enjoying Christmas. 

But let me also make this crystal clear...

Kudos, high fives and shout outs to those of you who do all these things. To each their own. I've just personally found that for me, this is what works and what makes me feel less burdened and more connected with the spirit of the season and maybe you feel this way too. Maybe you've been thinking for a long time that your Christmas has become far too commercialized and that you’re focused on all the wrong things. You aren't alone. Many people feel this way and often wonder how to have less crazy and more calm and peace during the Christmas season.

So where do I find the joy in things that can't be bought?

·                     Time with my family that I only get to see a few times a year.
·                     Baking cookies and doing Christmas crafts with Chickie.
·                     Enjoying a fabulous Christmas meal and playing games afterwards.
·                     Listening to Christmas music while reading a good book by the lights of the tree.
·                     Making time to give to charity and volunteering for organizations.
·                     Watching classic Christmas movies like 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'Miracle on 34th Street.'
·                     Reading Christmas books with Chickie.
·                     Decorating the tree as a family.
·                     Making homemade holiday recipes that have been in my family for years.
·                     Enjoying the smell of homemade Christmas potpourri.
·                     Taking the time to do a complete clean out of mine and Chickie's clothing donating those items to a       women and children's shelter.
·                     Cleaning out gently used toys and donating them to an organization collecting for Christmas redistribution to needy children.
·                     Attending free concerts and fun Christmas events for Chickie.

To me, these are just some of my favorite ways to celebrate Christmas that can't be bought. To me, they are priceless. It may sound boring and antiquated to most but when it's all said and done, I can look back at the end of Christmas and truly feel the spirit of the season that will carry me over into the New Year and know that I soaked up every worthy minute offered to me and my family.