All is Calm...(or is it?)

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    One Christmas season many years ago, I was so overwhelmed by all the things needing to get done, that I just decided I didn’t have the energy or time or even desire to do my usual decorating. So I made the decision to bag it, and wondered to myself how long it would be before anyone would notice. A few days went by, and finally at dinner, one of the boys asked, "Mom, when are you going to put up the Christmas decorations?", to which I replied "I’m not," and kept on eating my salad. Stunned Silence.

Greg, good man that he is, somehow sensed that this was a time to tread very carefully . . . . (could it have been the set of my jaw?) I decided this was a great time to educate my family that all the things they get used to Mom doing in December are all EXTRA things thrown in on TOP OF normal life. And what are those EXTRA things? Well, to name a few: shopping, wrapping, cleaning the house, baking, decorating the house, planning menus, grocery-shopping, attending rehearsals, progams and parties, cleaning the house again, getting ready for out-of-town relatives, etc., And did I mention putting up the tree and sending Christmas cards?

For instance, to decorate our house for the season, inside and out, takes me two full days. I don’t know if that sounds absurd to someone else, but the fact remains, I know it takes me two 10-12 hour days. Long story, but that dinner conversation ended with everyone saying they were very willing - - yea, eager! - - to help.

We got our calendars out that night and figured out what days would work for decorating, and when the date came, had a good time together hauling boxes up & down from the attic. In fact, both boys took ownership of certain aspects, and for many years, that was "their" area to decorate.

This was only one of many changes that we have made through the years – all in a determined attempt to keep our sanity and to lower the stress of the season. Here’s a few agreements Greg and I have made:

1) We talk ahead of time about schedule and put activities on the calendar: tree-decorating night, walking-the-streets-in-Leavenworth night, shopping etc. When the boys were young, we marked several nights in December as everyone stay-at-home nights, with favorite Christmas music playing and all of us working on home-made presents or playing a game.

2) We come to an agreement about how many outside invitations we will accept. We don’t just say "Yes!" or "Sure!" to everything. It is OK to say no to some (if not many) things.

3) We agree that our individual schedules cannot stay normal, and then expect to just add the December schedule ON TOP of it. We make adjustments, and help each other. For instance, typical meal preparation takes a chunk of time, but if we need that time for other things, than the "fast-food" choice makes more sense (which also means we have to factor that decision into the December food budget).

Greg has taught for years that one of the best ways to reduce conflict and stress is for a husband and wife to make Agreements in different areas of marriage. This becomes so obvious at Christmas! So my hope for you is that as you prepare to enter this blessed season of our Savior’s birth, you will intentionally reduce conflict and stress by discussing plans with each other and coming to agreement.

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