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Traditions

Autumn has fallen upon us with force. Halloween decorations have been long put away and thoughts of Thanksgiving meals are upon us; followed quickly by Christmas lights, gifts and carols.

'Tis The Season

My family will soon pack up the minivan to drive 'over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go!' A long-weekend with my parents, siblings and nieces and nephews. But that is just a piece of the 'Thankgiving Tradition'. Some years we do Thanksgiving with my husband's family which involves his grandmother and all of her siblings and their families. It's a HUGE gathering!

As an Air Force Brat there were years that my family spent too far away to visit extended family, a 20 hour drive one way for a four day weekend with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins didn't make sense; or I can remember Dad being on alert over the weekend so we couldn't leave the base. Sometimes Thanksgiving was just us, or a dinner with a crew of airmen that couldn't make it home. Sometimes it involved a trip to the dining facilities where Dad and Mom would help serve the single service-members a Thanksgiving meal. Thanksgiving meals are sometimes shared with friends that have become family. (Be sure to invite 'new friends' over as well. If someone has recently PCSed into the area find out what they are doing and invite them into your fold. What a great way to meet new people!)

In many ways Thanksgiving 'tradition' is an oxymoron for the military-family - EXCEPT that it involves time with folks that we care about, people that we want to be with, and time spent being thankful for what we do have.

Planning

Our family is growing. The latest addition is my beautiful baby-boy born in August. My brothers have children and one has twins due after Christmas. We are no longer a family of five gathering around the Thanksgiving table but a family of 15! Plus, this year one of my dad's brothers and family will be joining us for a grand total of 22. That's a lot of cooking for my mom. As I grow up (I'm still doing it at 36!) I'm learning to enjoy cooking, too. So I found some recipes that looked good and told my mom I wanted to try them. I have picked up the necessary ingredients and put them in a bag to bring with us 'over the river and through the woods'. It takes a bit off of her plate and puts me in the heart of action as well. What can you do to help with festivities? If you are hosting have you delegated? If the stress of planning and making a big meal is spread out among many it makes it more fun!

Another point is there is more to Thanksgiving than the food. There is family and friends. Perhaps you can organize (or delegate) some things for the kids to do to keep them out of the kitchen and pulling on Mom's 'apron-strings'! What about after dinner, plan something for the whole group to do; a nature walk, a tour of the town for out of towners, perhaps a fun game to enjoy each others' company. Everyone can be involved in the planning and it helps build anticipation for a day of Thansgiving!

Around the bend comes December

After the Thanksgiving leftovers are all done, the turkey, pilgrim and other autumn decorations are put away, around the bend comes Christmas, Hannukah and other traditional holidays. December can be one of the most stress-filled months of the year. But it is not supposed to be. It is supposed to be about family, blessings and small gifts of joy.

A few ways to take some of the stress out for this year:

Budgeting
>> The Three Wise Men
>> If you need some budgeting help be sure to check-out: MilitaryAvenue.com Resources: Money & The Military

Weight-gain
>> This Holiday Season Focus on Friends and Family, not Food

A little /too much/ merriment?
>> Have a Merry (but Safe!) Holiday Season

Start a New Tradition to keep your mind off a deployment or time away from those you love
>> "Elf on a Shelf" - A New Christmas Tradition
>> Here are some more great traditions from military-families: What are your Holiday Traditions?

I hope that as this season of thanksgiving and friends & family descends upon us that you will take the time to remember what it all is really about. The moment it becomes more about stress and less about joy you need to take a step back and see how to change directions! Over the river and through the woods is a great direction for our family!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

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