I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel some end-of-year stress going on. Every year, once September hits, I feel like I’ve boarded a speed train to the end of December. While there’s a lot to love about this time of year (Boot weather! Pumpkins! Fall colors!), these -ber months are so jam-packed with activity that I often forget to enjoy the season in my attempts to keep my head above water.
I was talking about this with my therapist a few weeks ago—how I want to make the most of these last few months of the year, without feeling overwhelmed by it all. We came up with a few solutions, the main ones being 1) prioritizing self care (sleep, daily time with God, exercise, good nutrition, regular journaling, plenty of alone time), and 2) letting go of anything “extra” that doesn’t align with my values. We also decided it could be helpful for me to compile a list of everything that I want to or “need to” do in the coming months. The list would include all of the fun activities and traditions I want to be sure to do, as well as some of those pesky to-do items that are so abundant this time of year.
As I sat down to make my list, I thought it might be helpful for me to share it here on the blog. Selfishly, I’m doing it because it’s always nice when I can kill two birds with one stone by turning my real life into blog content; I also like knowing this list will be here to refer to throughout this season, and in years to come when the September craziness hits and I need some reminders of how to manage my life. But I’m also blogging this to inspire you to make your own similar list (if it’s something that is helpful for you) and possibly give you some new ideas for how to tackle this season. Earlier this year I compiled a list of the habits, routines, and tools that were working for me. I heard from quite a few of you that it was helpful to read what works for someone else, so I’m hoping this list will be just as beneficial.
I’ve decided to follow a timeline format with this list. Under each month’s heading, I’ve listed out my To-Do’s for the month, as well as Traditions and Activities I want our family to enjoy during each season. September has (obviously) already passed, but this list includes my to-do’s from last month to serve as my reminders when NEXT September rolls around!
- Schedule annual family photo shoot for early October.
- Schedule hair and makeup appointments for myself for photo day (and possibly hair appointments for my boys).
- Find coordinating outfits for family photos. (Tip: start with my outfit and build from there, since I’m the hardest to shop for.)
- Purchase Halloween costumes.
- Get Charleston’s and my Christmas lists to my mother-in-law. (She likes to start shopping early.)
- Buy pumpkins from HEB (cheaper than the pumpkin patch).
- Decorate the house for fall.
- Move Charleston’s Halloween books from his closet to his open bookshelves.
- Buy Halloween candy to pass out to Trick-or-Treaters.
- Make list of Christmas gifts to buy, and start recording gift ideas in Santa’s Bag app.
- Make list of Christmas card recipients (based off of last year’s list, found in Evernote).
- Collect any needed addresses for Christmas cards.
- Order Christmas cards from Shutterfly.
- Order photo gifts from Shutterfly (including an annual ornament with a picture of Charleston).
- Begin packing and planning meals for November camping trip.
- Buy any needed warm clothes for camping in the mountains in late November.
ACTIVITIES & TRADITIONS:
- Visit the pumpkin patch.
- Carve/paint pumpkins on Halloween Eve.
- Attend at least one Halloween party or festival.
- Trick-or-Treating at City Hall on Halloween afternoon.
- Trick-or-Treating around the neighborhood on Halloween night.
- Family pictures in our Halloween outfits.
- Change out Charleston’s Halloween books for his Thanksgiving books.
- Buy, write, and send Thanksgiving cards to immediate family.
- Address and stamp Christmas cards.
- Add one Christmas card to our family memory box and frame one Christmas card to add to our collection (we frame our card each year, and keep the current card on display for a year; the rest come out at Christmas and are displayed together).
- Begin (hopefully finish) Christmas shopping. (For immediate family, buy gifts for each of four categories—something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read—plus stocking stuffers and a Santa gift for Charleston, and a book and pajamas to give on Christmas Eve.)
- Purchase annual family Christmas ornament. (Each year we get an ornament to reflect an event from the year; this year we’ll be getting a labradoodle ornament to commemorate Arlo’s becoming part of our family.)
- Buy Arlo a Christmas stocking.
- Stock up on Christmas wrapping paper, bows, and labels.
- Schedule visit with Santa.
- Buy chocolate Advent calendar for Charleston.
- Order candles for our Advent wreath.
- Create gift guides for the blog.
- Mail out Christmas cards by November 30.
ACTIVITIES & TRADITIONS:
- Friends camping trip the first weekend in November.
- Trip home to California for Thanksgiving week, including Thanksgiving dinner with Luke’s extended family.
- Write one thing we’re thankful for on our Gratitude Pumpkin every day. (This is a new tradition this year.)
- Have each family member write in our family gratitude journal on Thanksgiving day.
- Thanksgiving weekend at Forest Home family camp with my parents and brother.
- Change out Charleston’s Thanksgiving books for Christmas books.
- Buy a live Christmas tree the first day of December.
- Buy a live Christmas wreath and poinsettias at Costco.
- Decorate the house for Christmas.
- Wrap Christmas gifts.
- Buy and wrap Luke’s anniversary gift. (Our anniversary is December 28.)
- Take pictures of Christmas cards we receive; recored received-cards in Evernote list.
- Record all gifts given and received in Evernote lists.
- Begin thinking about next year’s word and goals.
- Begin making plans for Charleston’s birthday (in January); send out party invitations.
- Purchase next year’s Day Planner and wall calendars.
- Compile list of what I’ve learned this year, and the year’s highlights.
- Compile list of favorite books of the year.
- Write my annual letter to Luke in our “couple journal” on our anniversary day. (Ten years this December!)
- Send out thank you notes for Christmas gifts by December 30.
- Begin working on Chatbooks album of 2018 photos.
ACTIVITIES & TRADITIONS:
- Read from Family Advent Book and light our Advent candles every day in December.
- Add to Advent Magnet Tree every day in December.
- Personal Advent-themed devotions each night in December. (I’m doing the She Reads Truth Advent guide this year.)
- Open chocolate Advent calendar each day in December.
- Watch ALL the Christmas movies, read ALL the Christmas books, and listen to as much Christmas music as possible.
- Take process-pictures of our tree being decorated, including a family picture of us putting up this year’s ornament.
- Visit/pictures with Santa; add this year’s picture to our collection of framed Santa pictures.
- Write a letter to Santa.
- Drive around town looking at Christmas lights.
- Attend our city tree lighting.
- Attend Christmas Stroll in Georgetown.
- Polar Express train ride. (Hopefully a new tradition this year.)
- Participate in a Christmas-themed service activity. (Also new this year.)
- Attend the Zilker Trail of Lights (weather permitting).
- Attend a Christmas show or movie at the theater.
- Donate a Christmas gift to a charity organization.
- Decorate a gingerbread house.
- Bake Christmas cookies and deliver them to neighbors.
- Attend a Christmas Eve candlelight church service.
- Christmas Eve gift of pajamas and a book for Charleston.
- Put out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.
- Christmas morning gifts with Charleston and Luke, and Christmas afternoon with Luke’s parents.
Wow, that list seems long, but having it all written out makes me feel so much better about the coming months. I’d love to hear what works for you these fall months: what are your favorite traditions? What are your tips for surviving the season?