Keeping the Thanks in Thanksgiving & Our Tablescape

It’s one of our favorite weeks of the year, but also one of the most chaotic as we make plans to visit with both sides of our family as well as time with extended family!  Holidays in general invite a lot of unwanted stress into our lives as we work hard to please everyone, but it’s totally up to us to decide how to handle it.  We can lose our minds and our ability to deal with stresses or we can go with the flow and just enjoy the day.

Placesetting-for-Thanksgiving

It’s easy to let stress consume us  and ruin our holiday, but y’all, it doesn’t have to be that way!

Have you ever noticed when you sweat and stress over the small things, that our thankfulness slips away and we find ourselves unhappy and dreading the special times coming up?

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Over the years, I’ve worked really hard to learn to go with the flow and find gratitude even when little stresses are piling up.  While I am a perfectionist when entertaining, I have discovered perfection is pretty difficult to achieve. In learning to “let it be,” I’ve also learned to find the joy in the little things and savor those fleeting moments of quality family time.

Pumpkin-Topiary

I know I’m not the only person to struggle with the little things that can suck the joy and thankfulness right out of our holiday time, so I asked the question on Facebook; “what issues are you often faced with over the holidays?”  I was surprised by the common theme throughout the comments… pleasing everyone else.

People pleasing and comparison are two of the worst things we can allow into our lives at anytime, but especially during the holidays.

This morning I’m going to attempt to offer a few solutions and ways to not detest or stress about the holidays ahead, just go with the flow and keep the thanks in Thanksgiving!

Tableseeting-Thanksgiving

**First and foremost, stay true to yourself.  I know it sounds like a weird thing to say, but whether you host at your home or travel anywhere for the holiday, unapologetically be yourself.  I wasted so many years worrying about what people would think of my way of doing things, that the holidays were not fun at all.

If it makes you happy to set a table with china and all the trimmings do it without wondering if someone thinks you are putting on “airs”.  I set the table all year-long, and dress it up pretty for just my family, so why would the holidays be any different?

Go all out if it makes you happy!

On the other hand, if you are a super casual person, who cares if you put out paper plates?  Guess what?!  You can eat on them just as well and don’t have near the mess to deal with!

Never, ever try to be someone or something that you are not.

And remember, there is always that one person who just enjoys being critical, judgemental and jealous, so let them be miserable by themselves, while you are in your element enjoying yourself!

Thanksgiving-Tablescape

**The great hosting debate.  Every family at one time or another is faced with the question of when and where to have Thanksgiving.

 I’m up for celebrating the holidays as many days as possible if it means spending time with my loved ones.  It’s OK to be thankful on multiple days, not just on the 4th Thursday of November.   If the family is up to it, extend the holiday and celebrate two or even three days in a row!  It’s all about family time, not the “day”.  It’s the same thing with Christmas; Audley and I have traveled with our children and been gone nearly every Christmas in our 23 years together.  Santa has visited our house on the 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th over the years, whichever works best to be flexible for the family.

Sometimes where to have the family celebration is a source of contention. It’s been easy for us over the years as we have always let the senior most members of the family who want to host (my parents) do it!  I can cook in Momma’s kitchen as easily as my own. There will come a day when we can’t get together at their house, so I treasure every moment.

In families with brothers and sisters all wanting to host, there are a couple of solutions.  First, let whoever has the less stressful household (older children, more space, less stress in cleaning, etc…) take on the task and offer to help out.  Secondly, try alternating each year if everyone wants to host.  Talk it out and be flexible.  It’s not about one person, it’s about the family and the quality of time you have together. Third, if everyone in both families insists on doing it all on Thanksgiving Day, put on your stretchy pants, embrace the situations and go with the flow if you are able to attend both.  And finally, don’t be afraid to say “NO.”  Sometimes your sanity and the peace in your own home is more important than pleasing everyone else.

We teach our children to compromise, get along, and balance life so be the example and show them how to continue it as an adult!

Thanksgiving

**The joys of children…. We love our children, but there are days we wish could just duck tape them to the wall and leave them while we do everything on our “to-do” list.

{I can neither confirm nor deny this ever taking place!}

Believe me, I know and have totally been there!

With four underfoot getting ready to host for the holidays presented enough stress on its own that I wanted to say forget it a million times, but I always managed because I wanted the kids to have memories to carry with them into adulthood.

Y’all, it goes by so fast.

There are days you want to hide in a corner, twirling you hair and sucking your own thumb, but one day they will be grown and your youngest child will enlist in the Marine Corps. and you’ll realize 2017 will be the last Thanksgiving you may have him home for the holiday.

Thanksgiving-Placesetting

Here are a few ways to work with small children and still make hosting the holidays work:

*Ask a preteen or even teenage neighbor to entertain them while you do what needs to be handled.  The $15 or $20 you spend on that time will be well worth it!

*Give your kiddos one area in which to play, watch TV, etc… and prepare other spaces for your company.  FYI, bedroom doors shut.  Pull the door closed to the playroom or the bedroom when your guests arrive and just leave the mess in it.

*Find age appropriate “chores” your kiddos can help with.  Mine learned to set the table as early as four.  Give them a diagram, let them help, and even laugh when they put their own spin on a table-setting   You can also allow a smaller child place rolls on a pan, bring you things from the refrigerator, or put up smaller dishes when you are washing.  It’s a great time to use as a teaching moment as well as a time to bond.

*And finally, don’t be afraid to delegate and not take it all on yourself.  Spouses are usually glad to step up to help, whether entertaining kids or peeling potatoes!  Ask your guests to bring a dish: dessert, casserole, vegetables.  Don’t be afraid to ask, most understand the challenges of balancing life with small children.

Holiday-Table

**Finally, keep in mind life is not a Hallmark channel movie.  Yes, we have expectations for the holidays, but leave yourself open for anything to happen. Wipe the tears and let it go.

There will be a time when your roast turkey worthy of a magazine cover hits the floor because you used a foil roasting pan instead of the heavy-duty pan to cut down on scrubbing dishes.

There will be a time when the rolls are burned to a crisp and the pumpkin pies are filled too much and flow over into the bottom of the oven setting off the smoke alarm.

There will come a time when not everyone in the family is on the same page for the holiday gathering and you have to make other plans.

There will be a time when you finally unpack the box of serving pieces from your last move and you realize your favorite platter that has been used for 15 of your 23 Thanksgivings broke during transition.

There will be a time when lunch is served at 3:00 pm instead of noon because you overslept and didn’t get the ham in the oven.

There will be a time when there are no more vacation days so everything is crammed into one day.

There will be a time that those large family gatherings become small.  Don’t let that change your attitude and excitement over the holidays, but make it special and memorable for all who do join you.

Thanksgiving Table

Life happens (not always the way we pictured it) and it’s up to us to make sure we don’t let it steal our joy and be thankful for the little things that keep us on our toes during the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving week y’all!  I hope your celebrations are full of thankfulness and joy, and not so stressed.

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