Christmas time is busy for everyone but I feel like being military can make it even busier than the average person. You have what feels like a million events on base, which is a great thing, but scheduling can be a nightmare. Of course, there are added pressures since you are often too far away from family to visit; therefore adding to your to do list early on. As we were running around this weekend, getting presents and trying to hide them from the kids who were with us, I started to think about all the tasks military families have during Christmas so instead of the 12 Days of Christmas, I am doing the 12 Tasks of Christmas: Military Spouse Edition.
Task 1: Buy, package and ship family presents.
This is especially important as your first task if you are stationed overseas like we are. Mailing from an APO address means your package takes longer to arrive at its destination. It’s probably important to let your family members know that if they are sending presents to the kids or you then they need to mail it early as well. In a pinch you can ship priority mail but the cost is more. Our family has been known to wire transfer money to us so that we can go buy the kid’s presents locally which is probably the cheapest route. You can always order online and ship it directly to the person the gift is meant for but that means it’s not wrapped so you can warn them to just put the mail under the tree until it’s time if you want. This year we bought almost every present locally and shipped it. As you can see, we waited a little too long and had to use priority mail (our bad) but thankfully it’s all done.
Task 2: Order/buy kid’s and spouse gifts.
This is pretty self-explanatory. I love utilizing Zulily for the kid’s gifts because it’s a better price (for the most part) but shipping can take a long time so I started early this year. I started buying their presents in October and used footlockers to hide them as they came in. Since we are overseas, I used Amazon for a lot of my husband’s gifts because they can actually get gifts to our APO address within a week. Not your next day or 2 day shipping but it’s better than a month which some places can take. I suggest making a list early on, like around October time frame, and then start buying right away. This will make December a little more enjoyable for you. We have enough to do as military spouses, try to mark off tasks as early as possible.
Task 3: Decorate the house.
This task can be time consuming if you are a lover of Christmas like I am. Luckily for my husband, the Belgians don’t do fancy outdoor lighting so he only hangs a few strands of lights around the roof-line and he’s done. I tackle the tree and all the other inside decorations. This task I get done the weekend after Thanksgiving. Our kids are in Belgian school so they go to school on the Friday after Thanksgiving which allows for some Black Friday shopping at the Base Exchange and then home to put up decorations. Again, this is an item that you can check off before December to help spread things out.
Task 4: Send out yearly newsletter and Christmas/holiday cards.
As a military family you have a lot that goes on within just one year. The easiest way to update friends and family (especially if they aren’t on social media) is to do a yearly newsletter. You can include milestones for the kids, what military life has had in store for your family during the year, if a PCS is upcoming, local attractions you visited and any pictures of the family. I type mine up and mail them with the Christmas cards but you can always decide to just email it if you want. It’s also a great way to keep a record of your family’s year for yourself as well.
Task 5: Clean out the kids toys and clothes. Organize for new presents.
A good cleaning out of the kids toys and clothes is essential when they are about to get new items. We all know that during a PCS we are limited to weight on what the military will move and my husband has made it VERY clear that we will not go over that. If you do a clean out before Christmas it not only gives room for the incoming toys and clothes but it allows you to donate used toys that are in good condition. There are so many needy kids during the holidays that would love to have those toys, used or not. If you have a base thrift store then donate to there, which will allow families to purchase wonderful gifts for their kids at a much better price. If there is a used toy drive on base then donate to there. Also, if your base has a Facebook page where you can sell items then you can post on there for a cheap price or even for free. Either way, you are helping needy kids and also making sure your house isn’t overflowing with stuff. I went through my kid’s bedroom toys last week and have 4 boxes going to be donated today. I still have downstairs to go through too! Best part, my kids don’t even know that stuff is missing…they thanked me for organizing their room and making it “beautiful”. Win, win! (Our girls are getting new beds and bedding for Christmas so the room will be totally different in a couple of weeks. Empty shelves and the kids didn’t even care LOL.)
Task 6: Bake single Airmen cookies.
Every year the spouses provide cookies to give to the single Airmen. A lot of these Airmen are away from home for the first time or maybe the second time and it can be a sad time for them. If baking a few dozen cookies can help to cheer them up a little then I will do it! Try to put yourself in their position and understand that they are probably used to mom’s cooking and baking. Step in and help to bring a little cheer to them. It is the Christmas season! We are Air Force obviously but I am sure the other branches do this as well.
Task 7: Bake or make Christmas goodies for your spouse’s flight/section.
I think it’s always nice to bake some goodies or make a cute little homemade gift for the people in your spouse’s flight/section. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. One year I baked some cupcakes, cookies and fudge then put it in mason jars and put some ribbon on it. Very simple but was very appreciated by those who received it. Sometimes I even bake enough for everyone in my husband’s building, if I have enough time. It’s the season of giving and I know that not everyone has money to spend so I always do something from the heart and baking is pretty darn cheap and full of love if you ask me.
Task 8: Bake or make Christmas gift for your kid’s teachers.
These teachers are with your kids 5 days a week. This year school runs until December 22nd for most schools. That’s just days before Christmas, yet they are still there taking care of and teaching your children. Now I know that a lot of military families home-school but there are always other influences. Maybe a church group or if they do outside sports. Showing your kids that you make something from the heart, even if it’s just a little something, teaches them to show appreciation as well. I beyond grateful for what our kid’s teachers do and our kids learn so much from them so this year I made some homemade hot chocolate kits and some fresh baked cookies for them. It’s nothing really expensive, just something from the heart. You can also always provide some classroom necessities since this is the time of year the classes start running out of things and the teachers pay out of pocket for items. Ask for a list of needed items and split it between some of the other parents.
*** If you notice the last 3 tasks are all around baking or making so you can take a day and knock all three tasks out! Do a major baking day, have the kids help and then you will be done plus you got time to have fun with the kids!
Task 9: Prepare for the Squadron/Unit Christmas Party.
I don’t know about you all but our squadron always seems to have a theme. So instead of running around last minute trying to find what to wear, I always try to prepare a little early. We have attended quite a few Christmas party and other special occasion events so I keep ALL my dresses, ugly sweaters or whatever and now it’s almost to the point that I can walk out into the garage (we have hanging bars in there with uniform stuff, coats and dresses) and grab whatever outfit is needed then take it to the dry cleaners. Don’t forget about your spouse too though. My husband isn’t much for anything other than t-shirts so I have had to either go buy him what he needs or I make him go online and find what he likes and order it right away. They have enough going on so they tend to forget until the day of.
Task 10: Buy your Christmas dinner items early.
If you are OCONUS then you know that the commissary typically runs out of items quickly. There is nothing worse than needing an item for your dinner and having to search all over the place to find it. Don’t do that to yourself. Plus, who wants to fight those crowds?! I like to go during the week, while the kids are in school and at least two weeks before Christmas to get what I need. I normally do that for Thanksgiving too but procrastinated this year and was so sorry I did! You will feel much more relaxed if you go early and have what you need on hand. Lucky for me, our traditional Christmas dinner is lasagna so I’m not fighting for a turkey or ham but I still like to avoid the crowds if at all possible.
Task 11: Wrap all the gifts.
This is actually a fun task for me. I love setting up a wrapping station (I use the kids little table) in the living room, put on my Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, grab a glass of wine and spend the night making the presents pretty. Typically the gifts that family sent need to be wrapped as well, at least for us, so I pull all the gifts out and separate who gets what and who it’s from then I wrap the gifts evenly. That way if I have to continue on to the next night I don’t have only wrapped gifts for one kid under the tree. That can make for a meltdown and I avoid that with all costs! This is your chance to have a little fun, make pretty bows or even something as little as making the paper match. One year I used nothing but plain brown paper but then I cut out letters for everyone’s first name from scrapbook paper and pasted it on the present. Then I made pretty bows. It was my favorite! Get creative; I know everyone will enjoy looking at your pretty work under the tree.
Task 12: Enjoy some family time!!!
This is the most important task you will have the whole holiday season! Your spouse should be getting some time off (if they aren’t deployed) so take full advantage of it! Plan to do some activities together. You can bake, go ice-skating, or just have a movie day in your pajamas. It doesn’t matter what you do but make time to spend with the family. We spend so much time on the go and the military dictates most of your spouse’s time so Christmas is the perfect time to just slow down and be together. My kids love playing football on the Xbox with my husband, they love eating popcorn and laying on the couch together watching a movie. I have plans to do just that when my husband is home. Relax and enjoy your time together because we all know it’s few and far between.
Now, if you haven’t done these tasks then you are in luck! You have 12 days until Christmas Eve so take one task a day and knock it out. Then you will be done on Christmas Eve and all will be just fine. Although, I suggest you take time every day for the last task.
Merry Christmas everyone! I hope this holiday season has been great for you so far and that it only gets better each day! <3