Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Work Home and Family - Busy Mom TIps #3: Holiday Trips, Gatherings and Meals

Turkey day is TOMORROW!  Are you ready? 

We head out of state to the in-laws this weekend.  John's wonderful, huge family.  His parents, 8 siblings, 3-in-laws, 4 nephews, 1 niece, 5 dogs, and random cousins, aunts, uncles and friends as well. 

It's a super busy time and we enjoy it.  Most of the time.

We're heading out after I get done teaching today - which means we won't get on the road until about 8pm.  We'll get in around midnight and hit the ground running tomorrow morning. 

Here are some of the busy mom tips I use to keep us sane and happy while running around like the proverbial chicken with it's head cut off:

Get a hotel room.  Seriously.  If it is at all within your budget and you have to travel, stay at a hotel.  While Aunt Matilda may be terribly mortified that you are, it gives you a place to 'recover' in peace and you don't have to worry about offending sister Sue because you stayed with brother Joe (our original reason for getting a room).  And you don't have to worry about your kids keeping your in-laws up all night (you won't ever see those people next door again, really - ask me how I know!).  We've also found that hotels are relatively empty over a holiday and you can always ask to be put in a room away from the bulk of the other guests.

Cater that meal.  When the 5th and 6th grand kids arrived, my sister-in-law had a brilliant idea - rent a room at a hall and cater the meal!  She found a community room in city hall for a very reasonable price and then had a grocery store cater the meal for an even more reasonable price.  Total cost about $200 for the whole thing!  Including turkey, ham, corn, carrots, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy plus 2 pumpkin pies.  Paper plates, silverware and napkins included.  We had to supply drinks and anything additional we wanted.   We (the collective we) brought fruit salad and sugar cookies.  And with 5 'sets' of adults, the cost per family came to about $40.  With the teenagers contributing $10 each, we ended up paying about $30 each.  Not bad at all.  And no dishes to wash. Love that!

Or at least have a potluck.  Seriously.  With a family as big as ours, who has room in their kitchen to cook everything?  Mom and Dad used to do the turkey and a ham.  Everyone else brought something.  Those of us coming in from out of town picked up a fruit tray, a veggie tray or bread at a local grocery store.  Worked well and no one had too much work to do!  Now we just get it catered. :)

Make it casual.  Wear jeans or sweats and t-shirts or sweatshirts.  Seriously.  You're eating for crying out loud!  And you're going to eat more than you should (come on, you know it!).  Why be uncomfortable to boot?

Plan for your trip.  John has a standing appointment for getting our car serviced the week before Thanksgiving. We stock up on bottled water, pretzels, juice boxes, and popcorn on sale, starting in mid-October.  We have our stops pre-planned (3 - one each hour).  We have our alternative route for bad weather or really late night driving - when two of our stops are closed.

Pack light.  My MIL has a washer and dryer and she loves to do laundry.  The hotel we stay at has a coin laundry as well.  I don't need to pack 20 changes of clothes.  I pack one outfit for each day for each of us and one extra each for the kids.  We re-wear our jeans anyway, so that means I usually bring one pair and wear one pair.  I double my workout wear as pajamas (bonus, I can just roll out of bed and go!). I wear one set of earrings and a necklace and that's it.  Yes, I know the other necklace would look better with this sweater, but who cares?  We do bring 2 sets of swimsuits each since the kids love to swim because who wants to wear a cold and previously wet swimsuit?

Make sure you're all on the same page.  Dinner on Thursday or Friday or Saturday?  Everyone going to a movie on Saturday afternoon?  Grandma taking the kids to the city tree lighting on Friday night?  A rousing game of spoons on Thursday?  A trip to the water park?  Whatever it is, make sure that everyone has an idea of what's going on.  It avoids hurt feelings, extra craziness and the "I left my swimsuit in Minnesota" trip to the department store. 

Know what to expect.  Aunt Gurdie always make a comment about your weight?  Uncle Joe always tell the same joke over and over again?  Sister Lou always insist that everyone come to her house for mediocre pie?  Expect it.  Plan for it.  Come up with a witty comeback in advance.  Or offer to help make the pie (or at least offer to bring ice cream!).  I come from the world's most organized family when it comes to family gatherings (we're not organized for anything else), and John's family is, well, not.  Now that I've come to expect that, life is much better! 

Finally - remember what this holiday is about.
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. 
It is a time to be thankful for our families - no matter how difficult it is to be with them, there are many in this world with no one. 
It is a time to be thankful for being able to travel - there are those who wish they could and can't.
It is a time to be thankful for our health - if you are even rrelatively healthy, you're better off than many.
It is a time to be thankful for food on the table (whatever it is) - my husband and children packed 384 baskets full of food for those without last Saturday.
It is a time to be thankful for the Grace of God - without which we would be lost.

My in-laws are not always easy to get along with but the time with them is precious and my children need a relationship with John's side of the family. My in-laws are a family that is rich in unconditional love and that means I can enjoy the time with my MIL taking my kids to McDonald's for 3 meals a day for 4 days, my SIL's rude remarks about this that or the other, and the constant chaos that comes with having 28 people in the same (small) space for 4 days. 

How do you plan for the holidays?  I'd love to hear!

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Lea