July 12, 2020
I started writing this piece about three weeks ago, when the threat of coronavirus was still half a world away. Now, with shelter-in-place orders and the whole world tilted sideways, I’ve reconsidered if what I was writing was still relevant. I decided yes. Ultimately, this analysis of holiday decorations is really about controlling my immediate surroundings, as well as taking a more holistic, harmonious view of existence. And what is really more relevant right now?
I’m that kind of person who neurotically adheres to the idea of a place for everything and everything in its place – sometimes to a fault, I’ll admit. Holiday decorations in particular are strictly regimented in my world order. You know how sometimes you walk past someone’s house in early December, and you see pumpkins on the front step just below the freshly hung Christmas wreath? Or in late March, there could be a plastic snowman hanging out next to a yard flag decorated with chipper spring tulips, daffodils blooming all around? It happens in many houses for many reasons, so I’m not proclaiming judgement. More like marveling at my own neurosis, because in our house, it goes like this:
September through November, we have pumpkins of every shape, size, and color, inside and out. Most of them are from our garden, where they sprout and thrive from last year’s batch haphazardly thrown into the garden boxes. Because, oddly, there are some elements of life I’m just not regimented about at all. For Halloween week, we add some specific décor, which goes back away on November first. Then a few pilgrims and turkeys show up for the week of Thanksgiving. Then they retreat, I throw all the pumpkins into the garden (or have my kids do it if they need to burn off some steam), and Christmas arrives. On January first, I pack away Christmas and decorate with white lights, snowmen, pinecones, and a few “winter” evergreens. Then, finally, in March the whole place gets a break, a clean sweep until Easter week, when some rabbits and decorated eggs hop to it. And then nothing, until the whole process starts again with pumpkins in September.
Our house is smallish and, other than the pumpkins, my holiday mood-setters are smallish too, mostly antique, natural, or handmade. And they NEVER MEET. My Santa Clauses have never seen a jack-o-lantern, and the snowmen and Easter bunnies don’t socialize.
Except … that’s not entirely accurate. Out in the open, I would never mix them. But, most of these guys live in the front corner of my basement in their off seasons, residing there in perfect harmony. And even though I’m so particular about them not being together above ground, it brings me a certain kind of joy when I walk down to the basement and see them all there, a happy, mismatched greeting committee. My ragdoll snow girl sits next to the orange-faced friendly witch Claire requested at age six to balance out all the general scariness of Halloween. Behind these ladies, three ceramic jack-o-lanterns are happily lined up. If you look closely you can see that their smiles are really my kids’ names. A few Easter bunnies are nestled contentedly under the skinny, six-foot primitive Christmas/winter tree. Seeing all this holiday joy together in one place works its own kind of magic, a true reminder this different symbols are all really part of the same thing.
But there’s a time for togetherness and a time for separation, as we’re all so painfully aware right now. In these isolated days, we’re all searching and reaching for ways to control the small immediate details of daily existence. It’s helping me cope that I’ve always been this kind of organized. My mind can be so much more productive when my surroundings are in control. My holiday decoration regimen adds another layer, reminding me to be present in each season, to examine what each holiday represents, and what has changed or developed in our family and the world since the last time around. I think each season also comes with its own feeling of possibility, and at no time in my life has this perspective seemed more crucial than now, when I look forward to the next season with renewed hope for the rebalancing of the world.
About our Blogger:
Elizabeth Dougherty is a freelance writer in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Her blog, Plan Q, chronicles real, everyday experiences and viewpoints — funny, stressful, tearful, mundane — and how they all tie together to define our lives. She aims to make her readers laugh, cry, feel, think, and wonder. That’s what writing and reading do for her, and if she can pass on any of that, then all the twists and turns that whip her right past Plans A through P and land her at Plan Q are more than worth it! Visit Plan Q at www.elizabethdoughertyfreelancewriting.wordpress.com or connect with her on Facebook.
January 31, 2023
January 24, 2023
The team at NAPS helps you tackle the issue of early wakeups. *BONUS* NAPS is hosting a webinar on February 24th. Register here and use the extra-special code MAGICMERLIN and you can join the webinar FREE of charge!
The sound of cheery calls of “MAAAAMAAAAA” from the next room may be lovely at 7am. At 4am, or 5 am, not so much. Your baby may be up and ready to start the day, but you probably aren’t.
Answering the questions below may help you get there.
This might seem like an obvious question, but your baby’s sleep needs will change fast in the first few years of their lives. A quick look at the average nap number and duration might give you an idea:
Part of the reason you might be seeing earlier wakeups is that your baby has graduated from one nap cycle to the next.
We call this an “awake window,” and it can make a big difference. It might seem strange that your baby went to bed fine the night before, and you’re seeing a response to nap scheduling in the pre-dawn hours, but if your kiddo’s sleep is disrupted at night, it will impact the morning.
Black 0ut curtains can make a big difference here. Remember that our brains signal wakeup when the light changes. So if dawn is at 430am, and even a little bit of light comes into your baby’s room, their little brains will PING with wake up juice.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but a late bedtime can actually backfire on you. Overtired kids don’t sleep as well. If you made their bedtime later and it didn’t fix the problem, try an earlier bedtime and see if that helps. You might be surprised.
Try to make one change at a time; just one. Stick with that change for 3-5 days to see if it impacts things. (One night is usually not enough to see substantial change.) Be as consistent as you can with the change you made. For instance, if you decide to increase the space between bedtime and final nap wakeup, make sure to stick to the wakeup time you planned.
If your baby is waking up and chirping happily to themselves, feel free to leave them there for a little while. Let them get used to being alone in the crib. If you can, try to delay the start of the day by 5-10 minutes each day. This can make a big impact.
Everything else aside, remember that this is a short time in your kid’s life; as they get older, their sleep will become more regular, and so will yours. Don’t let yourself get too discouraged. Things are hard now, and you’re doing a great job.
January 10, 2023
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