Monday, November 30, 2015

Surviving the Holidays with a House Full of Gifted!

With a family peopled by half introverts and half extroverts, our family has always had mixed needs at the holidays.  In general, we manage to spread the activity over multiple days.  My husband's family takes Christmas morning and evening, with a nice long nap (and a little food prep) in between.  Scheduling downtime throughout our holidays has been our lifesaver for many years.

Mornings used to start very early, at the crack of dawn, with stockings only.  The kids could see over the balcony to the tree and presents below, but nary a stockinged foot could touch the downstairs floor until the 'rents were up.  Stockings full of little gifts and gadgets delay the inevitable while allowing those sleepy parents (us!) a few extra minutes of sleep.

Christmas brunch is at the house with the youngest kids who can't just be strapped into an infant seat.  For many years, that meant our house; now we head out to my sister-in-law's home for a lazy morning of Uncle Brad's homemade eggs Benedict, Aunt Kim's fruit salad, and our monkey bread. Did I mention it's a lazy morning?  We all show up in our PJs!  Holiday sleep pants, t-shirts and slippers grace our Christmas morning photos.  There's time later for dress up, but for the morning, everyone's relaxed and comfy.

After opening the presents from cousins, aunts & uncles and grandparents, everyone heads home for a food-coma-induced nap.  Yes, a nap, in the middle of Christmas day.  I highly recommend it!  This nap / time to play quietly with gifts gives our over-intense kids and their sleep-deprived parents a break before the family dinner.

Gingerbread churchDinner doesn't vary much from year to year, and that works well for this bunch.  Last year we added a pescetarian entree to the beef tenderloin entree for our eldest niece, our future pastry chef and pescetarian (most of the time). But from the sparkling grape juice to the Christmas cookies made at home and at Grammy's in the preceding weeks, consistency creates comfort for intense gifted kids.

Speaking of traditions, we sneak one of our holiday traditions in the weekend before Christmas... Gingerbread Houses! Extended family and friends get together to create our personal masterpieces and enjoy our traditional pre-Christmas meal, Hot Cheese Monkey.  Check out our Holiday Traditions.

The week between Christmas and New Year's includes more family gatherings, on both of my sides.  The highlight here is "Pollyanna."  None of the kids seem familiar with the old movie of the same name, but they all know what Pollyanna means.  In my large Irish family, families with birth-18yo kids exchange names, and instead of purchasing dozens of tiny gifts (there are 22 of us, just at my generation!), we only purchase one present per child we have in Pollyanna.

And once kids are too old for Pollyanna, there's the Yankee Swap!  My kids are both over 18 now and seem to look forward to Yankee Swap more than they enjoyed the Pollyanna gift exchange.  If you'd like to participate, bring a small wrapped gift.  Everyone draws a number; number 1 is the best because you get to go first and last, and in order, everyone picks a present to open.  The catch is, you can pick something from the pile, or steal something that's already been opened. Each gift can be stolen up to two times. It's fun to see which presents are popular (The Math Behind The Simpsons, who would have guessed!) and which you're 'stuck with." If the present is clothing, you must put it on immediately. It's fun to watch aunts, uncles and cousins parading in the passed-down-year-after-year red union suit.  Just remember, wrapping can fool you... as it did the proud owner of a 20-pound bottle of dill pickles last year!

Like other family events, downtime is scheduled into Pollyanna, and a large, loving, calm Irish Setter is a great thing to curl up with on the floor of the rec room.

For our family, the key to surviving the holidays is a combination of family, traditions, and downtime, with a cat or dog thrown in for good cuddling.  Happy Holidays!

This blog is part of Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop: Surviving the Holidays.  Click here to read all the great blogs in the hop this month, and enjoy lots of great ways to de-stress the holidays, no matter what you celebrate!


  1. Carolyn, Thanks for sharing what holidays have been like for you. What a lovely time it seems for your family. How did you find a "calm" Irish Setter, though? The beloved Irisher I had as a child was quite the wild one. Have a good holiday!

  2. A Yankee Swap where you have to wear the wearables? Oh my, that would certainly add joy and merriment to the season. Thanks for sharing bits of your family's holiday traditions.

  3. A Yankee Swap where you have to wear the wearables? Oh my, that would certainly add joy and merriment to the season. Thanks for sharing bits of your family's holiday traditions.