It's been snowing here all day. Schools are shut down. I've used today to really give some thought about HHP and how it worked this year and what I can do to improve for next year. The week before Christmas was busy with a visit to my parents, 2 Christmas concerts, 2 appointments at the dentist, 1 appointment at the orthodontist and 1 appointment at the oral surgeon. (I had three teens getting their wisdom teeth out this past Tuesday.) When I first added these dental appointments to my calendar two weeks before Christmas, I was real nervous. That peaceful week that I dreamed of having looked as if it was quickly changing into chaos. I was ready to throw a pity party for myself. Then as I went through the list of things to do, I realized that it wasn't really chaos. It just was going to be different than I wanted. This realization was all because of the years of doing HHP and the encouragement of each of you over the years. The last thing I had to do that week was go to the oral surgeon appointment that was 2:30 pm on Friday, Dec. 22nd. As soon as I got home from the appointment, I felt like it was going to be Christmas. All the "mom" things were done for the week, I was now "party planner." I put on the Christmas music and got to work for our Christmas Eve dinner. It was an enjoyable three days straight of Christmas celebrations. We started on Christmas Eve with a buffet dinner at our house. Christmas dinner was another buffet at my brother's house. The next night was a Christmas sit down dinner at my sister-in-law's house. What Worked Doing as much ahead of time as possible. This is the first December in ages where I felt rested the week before Christmas. I didn't run around like a chicken without a head. I've set a date of December 17th to have the cards in the mail, gifts bought and gifts wrapped. If I'm waiting on an address and it isn't available by the 17th, I've given myself permission to not send the card. If a gift isn't bought by the 17th, then I've given myself permission not to feel guilty about it. If gifts aren't wrapped by the 17th because it is back ordered, then I've given myself permission to use a gift bag when it does arrive. Getting to bed at a decent hour, exercising and eating healthy. This can be really hard but I worked hard at getting this done. I went to bed at a decent hour the week before Christmas. It was important to me to exercise and eat healthy. I wanted to stay healthy for Christmas. This helped me to feel like I could tackle the week of dental/medical appoints. Making meals in October/November to use in December. We had number of Christmas concerts to be at since my girls play instruments. It was helpful on those nights and the week when we had dental/medical appointments. Dividing cookies into bags for parties before freezing them. We have 4 parties we're hosting and 2 we attended this Christmas. We divided the cookies up according to the parties and froze them in freezer bags. It has made the cookies last longer since no one wants to raid the freezer all the way down the basement. Buying stocking stuffers early in the fall. I bought practical items and wrapped them up in October. Then I put them into individual bags with the names written on them. On Christmas Eve, I was able to give the bags to my husband and he filled them with no problem. Buying all the same gifts for service staff/teachers, etc. iI bought these in October and then wrapped them then too. I usually do this around Thanksgiving. This year, I was done early and it was such a relief. Sitting down around Halloween and writing in dates/snow dates to get the tree, go shopping, Christmas concerts, cookie baking, etc. That really helped us when events popped up. We already knew that in order to say yes, we would have to say no to the tree, concerts, etc. Writing in a weekly time to myself to take care of me. I really liked doing this! I looked at each week of November and December and figured out the best time. I either read a book with a hot beverage or I watched a Christmas movie. Cutting back on food. Per last year's notes, I did cut back on the amount of food in the house. I bought lots of raw vegetables to snack on and made salads to eat. We had some cheese and dips but I did not go overboard on the amount. That has helped a great deal in limiting the over eating. In addition to the soda and water that is in the cooler, we also added seltzer water. That was a nice surprise for many. Keeping a stash of "Christmas week only" supplies out of everyone's eyesight. I quickly realized by Thanksgiving that some of my extra supplies of things like tissues were disappearing. I'd buy a three pack of tissues and then two weeks later there was nothing on the shelf. (Schools were asking for tissues. My children were taking them to school but they didn't tell me. ) My husband got to the point that he said, "Wait, don't say it. 'I just bought tissues last week. How could we be out of them?'" From then on, anything that I was concerned about having on hand Christmas week was kept on a shelves out of sight in our basement. What Didn't Work Not delivering a number of gifts. People were out the week before Christmas. This happens every year but this year seems worse. I even tried to drop off the gifts a week early but they never showed up. Then there was the story that the police were notifying people that gifts for the trash guys and the recycling guys were being stolen in the early morning hours. It's quite discouraging. I'm seriously considering giving "thankful gifts" at Thanksgiving. The gifts would have a Thanksgiving/fall motif. Chances are that almost everyone would be around then and not taking time off to go Christmas shopping. Wrapping a large amount of gifts in December. There were a number of items that I couldn't get in a store on Black Friday so I bought them online. Up until that point, I was happy with the way I tried to stay on top of the wrapping. However, I wasn't ready for all the boxes that started to arrive a week or so later. I want to be more aware of the number of items that need to be wrapped and figuring out a time to get them done in December. Being distracted while wrapping gifts. "Santa" did a few binge wrapping sessions in early December. "Santa" thought he was putting on gift tag labels as he finished wrapping each gift. Apparently, Santa didn't. He must have been tapping into the spiked eggnog early. On Christmas morning, three gifts got mixed up. Santa will have to remember to check each box for a label after wrapping. Share what worked/didn't work with HHP this year!