Tag Archives: traditions

Bring peace to the holiday tug of war

DSC01855I’ve posted this article a few times, usually after people start talking “holidays” or when I  hear Bing Crosby in TV commercials. I even got paid for it once when it was published in the print version of Valley Living for the Whole Family, Winter, 2011.

If you have a lot of family to plan your holidays around, this article may be helpful.

Holidays of yore

During many a holiday season – when I was in my 20s and a new mom – I spent an hour in the car getting to my mother-in-law’s house for Christmas Eve. On Christmas day, my husband and I would pack up the car and the toddler and drive to my mom’s house in the morning and then to my sister-in-law’s house in the afternoon.

Not the holiday I dreamed of

After the holiday, I was wiped out and angry. Every year I vowed next year would be different. I was not having the Christmas I truly wanted, and I was frustrated. But, I didn’t know how to talk to my spouse about my holiday dreams.

Why do we run run run?

But why do we do this? Why do we run run run during the holidays? According to Kim Leatherdale, a licensed counselor and therapist in Oldwick, New Jersey, women are naturally pleasers. We want everyone to be happy; we want everything to run smoothly. As a result, we rarely get to relax and enjoy the holiday. And we rarely have the opportunity to form our own family traditions. Many of us have not had the Christmas we dreamed about since we started our own family and succumbed to all the family pressure.DSC01721

The holidays are coming!

Talking about holiday dreams and preferences is not something most couples discuss before a relationship develops or even after you say the “I do’s.” But as the holidays approach, you hear little snippets about what others continue to take for granted. Your mother-in-law might hint about the menu for her Christmas brunch or you might overhear your mom on the phone with your sister planning the Christmas Eve dinner.

Talk now

Perhaps now is the time to discuss holiday plans with your spouse. Decide on a time to sit down and talk about it – just the two of you – before the invitations and expectations start to pile up.

Sit down with a checklist 

Communicate – According to Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Wexford, PA, don’t imagine that your spouse is a mind reader. Sit down and talk about what you liked and did not like about last year’s holiday and discuss what’s important and not important. Be willing to listen and compromise. Be open to each other’s ideas of how to handle the holidays, demanding relatives, and a demanding schedule. (Fifty percent of the responders to my survey said they felt pressure from a spouse more than anyone else.)

Start your own traditions – When you are living at home with mom and dad, that’s your “bubble.” Once you are married, that should be the most important relationship – you need to move your bubble to surround you and your spouse. According to Kim Leatherdale, if you want to start new traditions in your own home with your spouse, do it.

Tune in to the kids – Be aware of your children’s needs and desires, within reason. If your teen daughter wants to see her BFF on Christmas Day, allow an opportunity for that to happen. Invite the BFF to visit on Christmas Day and talk to her parents ahead of time.

Be aware of feelings – Leatherdale suggests you be aware of others’ feelings but don’t feel responsible for them. Understand that your mother-in-law may be upset with this new plan, but you are not responsible for making her happy – she is. And once you and your spouse decide on a plan, sit down with the families and discuss it together.

Take turns – Has the holiday schedule of visiting been a little lopsided? More time with one family or the other? Decide to take turns – this year we go to your mom’s house for Christmas Eve, next year we go to my mom’s for Christmas Eve. And every year we spend Christmas Day at home!

DSC01723De-stress the day – Wake up, grab the mug of coffee, relax and open gifts, and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”Ask visitors to drop in after 12:00 (or at a time designated by you), and ask them to bring a covered dish like a brunch casserole, a crock pot of chili, or a pan of lasagna or enchiladas. And why not use paper plates? You are de-stressing your holiday – don’t ratchet it back up by having to cook and clean up all day. If you must cook the big turkey, do just that and ask everyone else to bring the extras.

Recession adjustment – Are you feeling the pinch from recession or a lost income? Perhaps it’s time to start a tradition of having a family gift-giving pool or purchase gifts just for family members under a certain age. Or use this time to teach children compassion – collect the money usually used for gifts and make a contribution to a local charity. Or collect the kids’ old toys no longer used and give them to a homeless or women’s shelter.

Have a sourpuss?

I polled about 30 people – young and old, parents and children, husbands and wives. I found that a handful of responders had family members who sulked because they weren’t getting their own way. Again – you are not responsible for that person’s feelings. If it’s necessary to spend part of a day with that sulky person, have an out – plan to go for a walk or to the park for an hour or plan a visit to the local science center or museum (check ahead for holiday hours!).

Complications from divorce

After a divorce, you need to be even more flexible. Add to that a new blended family or additional in-laws. I celebrated many holidays and birthdays a week before or a few days after the actual date on the calendar. I would remind myself that it’s not the date that’s important, it’s the people I spend time with. Don’t push and pull your parents or children into knots just so you can have the same Christmas morning that you’ve had for the last twenty years.

Holiday dreams

Communication and a little forethought is all you need to plan a holiday dream. And may all your holiday dreams come true.



Filed under Personal Articles, Special Events

A Thanksgiving Tradition – Family, By Jessica Messinger

My brother and sister-in-law live minutes from the Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory, Ben and Jerry’s factory, The Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, and The Cabot Cheese Factory.

In our home, the anticipation of Thanksgiving can be felt as early as July 5th, when our children begin to ask, “Are we going to Vermont this year?” I should mention here that part of the fun visiting my brother is his house is too small for our family of six (and with my parents, we’re a family of eight).

My brother uses his business contacts to get us a suite at the local Windjammer Hotel. Though the novelty of staying in the hotel every year has sort of worn off, the Windjammer has a pool, a gazillion TV channels (some of them are French), a fabulous restaurant, and warm chocolate chip cookies when we come back at night – as if we could eat anything more after our Thanksgiving feast.

My brother and sister-in-law’s house is a place of magical wonder. My brother is a professional photographer, and he has his own photos lining the hallways. The living room has indoor potted ferns, a pocket door, and comfy places to sit. The kitchen is thoroughly modern, with every attention to detail focused on storage, ease of food preparation, and flexibility of working space. The pots and pans hang from the ceiling on a hooked rack. The vintage breadbox from our grandparents’ house gives it the final panache.

I think last year was the first year I had ever been through the front door. Part of the magic of the house is that we usually park in back and come in through the door to the kitchen. Though their house is not large like some houses in our family (in fact, it is pretty much a two-floor apartment), the first thing you notice when you come in the back door at Thanksgiving is the smell of delicious food cooking.

I don’t think our feet touch the kitchen floor as we float through, wafted along by the odors of baking ham, turkey, and roast beef. The feast meats are juicy and herbed to perfection. I don’t know what my sister-in-law’s secrets are, but she creates amazing culinary masterpieces. Of course our Thanksgiving dinner also has a green salad, potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and rolls.

My brother has a man cave downstairs with a big television, lots of movies, and a computer with a large screen, so there are places for everyone to go depending on their preferences. Some converse in the living room, others watch football or movies in the man cave and others “help out” in the kitchen and keep the cook company.

Son Calvin

We will miss our yearly trip to my brother and sister-in-law’s house this year. They are coming here to New York to spend Thanksgiving with us. It will be different because we’re not in Vermont, our son is currently serving a church mission in Canada, and my sisters can’t make it with their families. But family time is precious no matter where, or how, you spend it.


P.S. Here’s my favorite recipe for Cranberry Sauce:

Chunky Apple & Cranberry Sauce

(Dec. 2000, Good Housekeeping)

Prep:  15 minutes plus chilling

Cook:  about 20 minutes

Makes: about 5 cups

2 Tbsp. margarine or butter

2 pounds Golden Delicious apples (about 4 large), peeled, cored, and cut into

1/2-inch dice

1/4 tsp. ground cardamom or allspice

1 bag (12 ounces) cranberries (3 cups)

3/4 cup sugar

1-1/4 cup water

1.  In nonstick 12-inch skillet (I used a large saucepan), melt margarine over medium heat.  Add apples and cardamom, and cook 10 minutes or until apples are tender-crisp, stirring occasionally.

2.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Stir in cranberries, sugar, and 1-1/4 cups water; heat to boiling.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, about 6 to 8 minutes or until most cranberries pop and mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally.  Spoon sauce into serving bowl; cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours.

*Each 1/4 cup: About 70 calories, 0 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 1 g total fat (0 g saturated), 2 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 15 mg sodium.


Jessica Messinger has a BA in English with a minor in French from Brigham Young University. She lives with her husband Todd and their four children in upstate New York. They live in a teeny house with a yellow lab, Bailey, and a black cat, Midnight. Stinky Feet is Jessica’s first children’s book. She has a lot of ideas for more children’s books and hopes to have enough time to write them all.

Check out Jessica’s children’s book Stinky Feet via CreateSpace, on Facebook, or on her blog. You can buy Stinky Feet on Amazon here.


Calvin’s photo by Shirin Cannon


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events