The 12 Days of Getting Through the Holidays in a Mindful Way

As parents we have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. December is a full month of visits, errands, chores, schedules, and to-do lists. Let alone the fun and joy we are supposed to be having. It can be hard pressed to find time to relax and truly have fun over the holidays.

This year, i plan to be a bit more gentle to myself. Most of the presents are done, i’m eating chocolate every night, and my partner and i are busy elves in the our workshop from 8:30 – 11:00 each night. I actually like that part of my day as it’s a guaranteed time where i get to be crafty and creative, and not thinking about ANYthing else. I’m reminded that sewing and knitting are activities that i do for myself as much as for my kids – the act of sewing is so methodical and meditative. And i’m sure any readers who are knitters can agree to this as well.

In our family we do an Advent calendar where we fill each day with a fun or meaningful activity. Today, for example we are reading some new Winter and holiday books we picked up at the library. Yesterday was our kids’ Winter Concert at school so that was the Advent activity. Sounds easy enough, right? Since we are literally incorporating what we are doing in real life, i made the decision to make our Advent activities a bit more simple and streamlined. And still festive, so it’s a win-win.

I’ve been thinking about how to take pause each day so i can allow the holidays to linger. Similarly to how i wanted the summer to never end back in August. Since my Donut Donut is a seasonal thing, i noticed that my love for Hygge is a close second in the Winter months.

In honour of the 12 days tradition, i’m sharing something with you each day to help you bring some joy, laughter, happiness, fun and rest in a mindful way – to yourselves and not just the rascals we love so dearly. Today, for DAY ONE here are some sensual ways i bring hygge mindfully into my home for the holidays. Being mindful and incorporating hygge (Danish word for cozy) are great ways to slow down and take a moment to pause, and to breathe in what is literally right in front of you in the here and now.

Scent

We keep the Solstice tree up as long as possible – the smell of pine is such a relaxing and visceral response for me. The photo of the horses above is from the tree farm we got our tree farm at. While my kids were screaming in the car to go because we were NOT EXPECTING snow, i took a serene self-ful moment to myself. I also added 4 new candles to my evening ritual. I especially love these ones as there is a gift at the end of the candle. We also bake cookies for our neighbours each year for Solstice, and the smell of baked goods lingers for a few days.

Vision

Besides the aforementioned tree, we also add other festive decorations all over the house. The only rooms that are spared are the bedrooms. For me, i like the sacredness of my bedroom being grounded in itself. But, otherwise, i have fresh flowers, garlands, Nutcrackers, and other decorations all over. And i take pause to intentionally notice them, so that i’m not just rushing by each day.

My kids and i play a version of I Spy when we are out. I do it to help them understand mindfulness a bit better. When we are going to school, we look at the neighbourhood decorations. Our favourite version now is looking for 5 Santas, 4 pine trees, 3 holiday lights, 2 wreaths and 1 winter bird.

Sound

It could go without saying that holiday music can be the worst genre ever, but it also can bring up some sentimental and warm feelings. I did not grow up singing carols with my family, but music has always been a big part of my life. Now as an adult, there are definitely songs and artists that i can hear (and sing along with) daily. For me, Joni Mitchell’s River is a standard on my playlist.

Touch

I’m all about the fuzzy sweaters, warm beds, cozy blankets and scarves that this time of year calls for. Since i don’t have a fireplace at home, i jump at the chance when i can to feel the warm fire on my face. I guess that’s why i’m constantly knitting – i like that feeling in my hands too.

Taste

I have a rule to eat at least 1 chocolate each day, and this time of you the selection is bountiful, or limitless, depending on if you are a glass half-full gal like me. My kids live for hot cocoa, and we always add a few new teas to our repertoire. And stock up on warm adult drinks like port and hot toddies.

So, take a moment sometime today to see if you can connect with your 5 senses in a fun, festive and mindful way. Enjoy and take a moment to pause for yourself.

A Hallow’s Eve Exercise in Mindfulness

All Hallow’s Eve is my favourite holiday. I love it for more than the sweet little chocolates we get (though that counts a bit too). I love it because it honours community and being part of a village. What other day do we get to go to neighbours and get sweets from them? I also love it as we get to dress up and role play being a character that we admire or wish to become even for a day. I also love it as it celebrates magic, being brave, and has roots in Pagan spirituality and witchcraft – times before the patriarchy and medical model of care took over. But i digress.

What i really love is that kids teach us important lessons in mindfulness. Being able to see life through their eyes is a good reminder that staying in the present, being in the here and now moment is how we can take care of ourselves. It is also a great way to enjoy life and not let it slip away from us.

One of the rituals we do for All Hallow’s Eve is to carve the pumpkin a few days ahead of time. We brainstorm our ideas and we typically pick scenes or an image that resonates with us. It changes each year. This year, as my eldest is a diehard Harry Potter fan, that of course had to make an entry.

What i forgot was all the mess it makes. I was ready to see if my kids could carve their own pumpkins – thank goodness for child-friendly knives. So in my head i pictured we would all scoop out the seeds and insides of our own pumpkins and then work as a harmonious little team carving alongside each other. You can imagine where this is going.

Lesson One
Of course my son was disgusted by the mess of his pumpkin; he hates the feeling of slime and goo on him. Unless it’s fart sounding play doh and pretend slime of course. I noticed i had to bite back my anger for him not doing his work, and notice instead that i know that he doesn’t like this texture. I visited my Wise Mind and reminded myself that the point of this supposedly fun activity was to have Jack o Lanterns as a result. And that each of us play our part. My daughter, for instance, doesn’t mind getting dirty and her pumpkin in fact had hardly any insides to scoop out. My son kept us busy with a song and dance routine, and Harry Potter commentary.

Lesson Two
We typically take turns as parents to go out for the door-to-door aspect of the night. This year, it was my turn to, and in fact i love it more than giving out candies (as a side note, we give out these amazing local cookies and i just love them). Our street is a small side street that most people forget about. But we know our neighbours and our children are loved by them. The lesson here is to follow the kid’s lead wit where they want to go – follow their map. I realized there was a reason behind the madness of zig-zagging around the street. My kids want to visit all the neighbours they know first. Sweet gesture, and the reason escapes me. I tried to reason that we can just go up one side of the street and down the other. But at one point i had to remind myself that this night, and the tradition of Trick or Treating is about and for children, not this party pooper mom.

Lesson Three
Speaking of party poopers, we decided to treat (pun intended) the kids to a walk to a much busier and more fun street. So, we put our cookies in a bowl and all 4 of us went. It was already pushing close to bedtime for our youngest. So my partner started to remind them after every house that we had to go quickly and get back home. How do you rush a kid who is getting free candy, and walking on a street after dark? You don’t. My partner and i quickly bickered debated on the street that we had to remember that this one night is about the children. And yes bedtime would be messy, and probably the next day. But it is a wonderful reminder that staying in the present and witnessing the kids’ joy and excitement (over candy, being out after dark, costumes, being with neighbours) is a great lesson.

Bonus Lesson
And yes, we did pay for it the next day – a Halloween Hangover was surely felt at our place. How about yours? Even the Good Witch couldn’t help the kid’s sluggishness. I take that back, my son was happy as a clam to get a much hoped for book and Harry Potter Lego figures – he just took forever to get ready. My daughter (the younger of the two) was a beast. Was it worth it, yes oh yes it was. Case in point – here she is later that day with her new unicorn stuff the Good Witch got her. The lesson here is to notice your sleeping babe, enjoy the silence and beauty in the cuddles. And know that you played a role in that.

(the sunflower pumpkin at the top of this post is from my friend’s porch – i love everything to do with sunflowers as the represent resiliency, strength and beauty)

Vacations

IMG_2432
As today begins a new school year, summer break is officially over. This is a time for a big shift in routine, rhythm, and real life. While most of us as adults don’t have a break from ‘real life’ like our children do, summer still brings a slowness to life and a happier approach to daily living.

I like to think of September as an opportunity for change and renewal. It seems like a more realistic opportunity to make space for New Year’s resolutions and the pledges we make for change. Maybe I’m just being optimistic though: I like to think September as the new January.

One pledge i am working on is to hold on to the summer slowness as long as possible. Here’s why:

I was listening to a story on the news last week that shared new research about the vacations we take. It really sat with me. As I was able to go on a vacation with the family this summer, I truly relished the gift of being away from home and everyday life. It was a wonderful trip, though it came with stressors of heat waves, stitches (we’re all okay now), sibling arguments and spending over budget. What this new research shows is that it takes just about a week (or two if we are lucky) to get back to this so-called real life after we go away, or at least take a break from it. It also shows that it’s best to spread out our vacation time over the course of the year, so that we don’t use up all those great relaxed and happy feelings that come being on a break. The article further shares that people who do (and can and are privileged to) take vacation, are healthier both physically and mentally.

Of course, as a mama to 2 young children, my vacation time is not truly a break for me but rather a trip to a new place where i still have to cook, clean, pick up, tidy, and coordinate my kids daily lives. Sometimes a trip is actually more work than being at home as we don’t have the luxuries of our usual appliances, etc. So, it’s important to be mindful and intentional with what you need too. Maybe we can’t take a trip without our children – or you don’t want to – but in that time away, make a point to take time for yourself. Be it a long shower, reading in bed after the kids go to bed, morning walks, a quick get away in the canoe, and even turning the work of cooking in a leisury act.

It also helps to do things to savor the good memories from you summer vacation. This helps us reflect and stay mindful of the moments we hold dear. In our family, we keep a weekly Highlight Jar where we share things that happened in the week that made us happy. We do this each Sunday at dinner. We also make a communal art work that depicts something we cherish. This year, we are making a painting together where each of us share 1 thing from our trip that we loved. Other families I know make photo books just as summer is ending so that they can look at the books in the Fall and Winter, in order to stay connected to the good times of summer. And look at this sweet crafty idea, a new message in a bottle of sorts!

What will you do to help you stay mindful to the things you loved about this summer?