Sunday, November 11, 2012

How to Survive Your First Holiday With the In-Laws

It's the middle of November, and the holiday season is just around the corner. Department stores have had their Christmas inventory out since August, Thanksgiving plans are already set in stone, and those of us who are in college are beginning to experience pre-mature graying due to the stress of our upcoming final exams.

And for you newlyweds (or those of you with a new fiance/significant other/etc), you also may be preparing to celebrate a holiday with your darling spouse's family for the first time.

Last year, Justin and I spent Thanksgiving with his family, and Christmas with mine, so thankfully, we've already got that milestone under our belt! So I thought, with some help from a few wise friends (thank you, ladies!), I'd put together a few tips and tricks to surviving that first slightly awkward holiday with the "other side" of the family.

If you'll be a guest...

This may be the first time you'll be with his family while they're all together, and it's probably safe to say that there's going to be at least a few relatives you haven't met yet in attendance. And on top of all that, you don't have the comfort of experiencing it on your own turf. It's okay to be a little bit terrified. Just take a deep breath, and some of this advice, to heart:

"I think a big thing is just forcing yourself to keep calm. After all, it takes two people for an un-enjoyable moment or conversation to be a big fight." -Nikki, Pennsylvania

Keep calm. Easier said than done, but good advice, none-the-less. Thanksgiving last year was terrifying for me. I suffer from pretty severe social anxiety (due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder...but that's for another post), and my husband has a big family. Mine may be twice as loud, but they're mine, and there's half as many. Being in a completely new environment with completely new people was very trying for me.

Look to your spouse if you start to feel overwhelmed. You may feel all alone in the crowd, but your spouse is your link to everyone else in the room. Just make sure that if you're feeling shy, that your spouse is going to take initiative by making introductions, etc.

And when it comes to those touchy topics that always seem to pop up during family dinners: STAY OUT OF THEM. You may have a great, insightful opinion about politics, or the Westboro Baptist Church, or global warming, but this is not the time to shine the spotlight on your platform. If you end up being incredibly insulted, let it go for the time being, address it with your spouse later, and move forward from there. Even if you end up dealing with some ridiculous irrationality, at least you know that you came out as the bigger person in the end.

"Never show up empty-handed." -Your Grandma

Bring a small dish of a holiday favorite of yours, or a bouquet of seasonal flowers. This small gesture not only makes you look super sweet, but shows the host (and your spouse's family) that this is important to you. Showing genuine interest and enthusiasm towards the festivities is a great way to keep yourself under a flattering light. I can't tell you how many times a simple floral arrangement or a batch of cookies have helped cool down the ice for me or a friend in awkward family holiday situations.

"Don't ignore the kids!" -Ellie, California (yes this is me :p)

It may seem silly and frivolous, but this one is perhaps one of the easiest ways to ensure the celebration goes smoothly!

You can bet that at Thanksgiving, I was on the floor playing Tic-Tac-Toe with Justin's five-year-old cousin, Derek. Because of how uncomfortable I was meeting so many new people at once, I had something to do with myself between random bursts of small talk while waiting for dinner to start.

At Christmas, my nephew Zach, and my niece Allison, instantly took to their (at the time) future Uncle Justin.

Justin was incredible with those two little barnacles. Even though they hung all over him the entire day, he was extremely good natured about it. He entertained them, kept them out of the kitchen, and even helped them sing Christmas carols to all of the parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents at dinner. You can bet he earned major points with my sister and the rest of my family for that!

If you'll be hosting... 

You've got the home field, so use it to your advantage!

"Don't over-dramatize the little stuff...make it a fun, loving holiday." -Lillian, Iowa

Another one that's easier said than done, but if you want to keep your sanity, don't write this one off as a "Yeah, I know".

The centerpieces, the place settings, the presentation are all extremely important (and if I didn't acknowledge that, my mother, the Queen of Hostesses, would be on a plane to California to set me straight faster than you can say "napkin rings"), but as a hostess, what's most important is making sure that everyone is enjoying themselves. If you've got snacks (or a grazing table, as my family calls it) and a good conversation area, you're already off to a good start. So give the roots of your hair have a break from all the pulling!

"Remember to incorporate your own traditions!" -Lauren, Massachusetts

Whether or not family from "your side" will be present, don't feel like you can't celebrate your own traditions that make the holiday just a little more special to you. And if you decide to use any family traditions your in-laws aren't familiar with, you'll end up with your own personal unique and original factor without even trying!

That being said...

"I will have family from both sides coming. I decided to get recipes from both sides. I will make some from each side, and also make one or two that are unique to our house." -Laura, New Mexico

Try to come up with a way to let everyone who wants to be involved, be involved. Be it by sharing recipes, incorporating multiple traditions from both you and your spouse's sides, or being willing to delegate tasks to those willing and able when you're starting to feel a bit worn out.

And if all else fails...

Plenty of ladies suggested staying home together as a couple. For us personally, this isn't the first choice, but in some situations, it may be the right move for you!

If you've got too many family members from one too many corners of the world wanting you for more holidays then there are to go around, sometimes staying home for a year and starting your own traditions together is the way to go!


So whether you travel halfway across the world, or across the house to your own kitchen, I hope these tips can help make that first holiday go just a little more smoothly!

Have a great start to your holiday season!

What suggestions do you have for surviving the holidays with family, new and old?

Much love,

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Little Treat

...for all our mommy and soon-to-be-mommy friends. :)

This is our arrangement of the Irish lullaby, The Gartan Mother's Lullaby. It will be one among many songs performed at our junior recital in mid-April (Ellie on voice and flute, Justin on guitar, Sadie on howls...just kidding) at Concordia University Irvine, so if you're in the area, come join us as we make some music!

Sleep, O babe, for the red-bee hums
The silent twilight's fall:
Aibheall from the Grey Rock comes
To wrap the world in thrall.
A leanbhan O, my child, my joy,
My love and heart's-desire,
The crickets sing you lullaby
Beside the dying fire.
Dusk is drawn, and the Green Man's Thorn
Is wreathed in rings of fog:
Siabhra sails his boat till morn
Upon the Starry Bog.
A leanbhan O, the pale half moon
Hath brimmed her cusp in dew,
And weeps to hear the sad sleep-tune
I sing, O love, to you.
Faintly sweet doth the chapel bell
Ring o'er the valley dim:
Tearmann's peasant-voices swell
In fragrant evening hymn.
A leanbhan O, the low bell rings
My little lamb to rest
And angel-dreams, till morning sings
Its music in your breast.
Sleep, O babe, for the red-bee hums
The silent twilight's fall,
Aoibheall from the Grey Rock comes
To wrap the world in thrall.
A leanbhan O, my child, my joy,
My love and heart's-desire,
The crickets sing you lullaby
Beside the dying fire.

We look forward to singing this to our own children in the future, and we hope you (and your little ones!) enjoy it now!

Blessings and Sweet Dreams,
Justin and Ellie

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Election Day: How We Should Handle the Results

Congratulations! We made it to Election Day!

Too soon for congratulations, you say? Can't celebrate until your candidate wins, you say?

Sure you can!

You live in a country where you have a voice in choosing your leadership, instead of having it chosen by blood or by force (or by both), and today, you got to use that voice to take a stand on what you believe is right. That in and of itself is a reason to celebrate.

I'm not going to lie and tell everyone reading this that I'm being completely objective, or that my political views don't influence what I'm about to write in some way, because honestly, they do!

So, in case you are wondering, I am a registered Republican, with a lot Libertarian views, but I believe in certain causes from BOTH the Democratic and Republican parties, so long as they are implemented conservatively. If that makes sense. So there. That's where I stand. And no, I don't want to debate with you, but thanks. :)

Anyway, though, here's the deal: Someone is going to win, and someone is going to lose. People are going to cheer, and people are going to be devastated. However, at the end of this election, we will be preparing for the next presidential term, and whether President Obama remains in the White House, or Mitt Romney moves in, a Commander in Chief will be chosen.

When the results come in, whether you're thrilled or nauseated, the most important thing is that the man with the most votes will be our president. Just that fact alone, no matter what you agree or disagree with, means that as an American, you should respect and support his position as our president. No, you don't have to hold his hand and tell him that he's doing a great job if you don't agree with his choices, but if you want to, in good conscience, call yourself a true American, respect the fact that he is your president, whether you like it or not.

When the results come in, bickering, rioting, screaming, cursing, and ripping your hair out accomplishes nothing. Nothing good, anyway. Just more animosity and arguing, and let's face it: aren't we all a little sick of the constant debates flooding our social media newsfeeds, the television, and our daily conversations?

When the results come in, and you're this close to ripping somebody's throat out because of their ridiculous right-wing/left-wing/whatever-wing views, think about this: For all that passion you have for your cause, for all the love and devotion you have for your party and its platform, that person probably feels the same way about theirs. And even if they don't agree with you, don't you think its pretty epic that we live in a country that not only has so many dedicated and passionate people, but also that we live in a country where we can EXPRESS that dedication and passion?

Earlier tonight, Mike Huckabee said "Put your country before your party." That really resonated with me, and I hope it does with you, too. I challenge all of us, including myself, to take that statement to heart, and put our love for our freedom, our love for our blessings as United States citizens, our love for the U.S.A., above all of that.

Even if our political views clash, even if we can't always agree with each other, even if we're dying to gouge out someone's eyeballs with a spoon, it's our belief in, and love of our freedom that brought this country together in the first place

Because, after all, we are the United States of America.

Blessings to all of you, and God bless America.