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Boldly Reclaiming Joy in the after Christmas Crash

In the days after Christmas, the excitement of anticipation fades. But I can make a choice to reclaim joy amidst the chaos, finding peace & rest for a new year.

In the days after Christmas, the enchanting excitement of anticipation has faded. Boxes lay littered around the house. Piles of once demanded gifts lay in heaps waiting for someone (i.e. ME) to restore order.

And I’m really tired. I did the browsing, the planning, the shopping, the wrapping, the baking (9 types of cookies & homemade cinnamon rolls), the advent celebrating, the 24 books of Christmas reading. I even managed to get Christmas cards in the mail – mostly in time for pre-Christmas delivery.

In the midst of it all, I did my best to be present and enjoy the fleeting magical days of my daughter’s childhood.

(Heaven not Harvard is a participant in affiliate programs including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.)

But if your holiday was anything like mine, real life didn’t stop for Christmas or holiday preparations.

Trying to combine Christmas magic with normal life is hard.

As much as I tried to pull back from commitments and just focus on the enjoying the festivities, grocery shopping, laundry, and toilet bowl cleaning wouldn’t wait. Bills still came. Crises were not averted . . .

Our holiday crises sound like a twisted version of the 12 Days of Christmas: two ruined batches of cookies, three dirt bike crashes, two broken bones, a deathly ill dog, two scary vet trips, a lost suitcase, and one dead minivan at church . . .

Would I keep calm and worship on, or look like the fiery stick man on warning labels “Do Not Try This at Home”?

Which all added up to two very long ER visits, two long and expensive veterinarian visits, the most expensive car battery I’ve ever had, and days of crying over the dog.

I turned up the Christmas music, forced a smile and regrouped. The cookies turned out fine in the end, but each disaster rolled neatly into another making those last few days leading to Christmas a test of my spiritual maturity.

Then Christmas day was just about perfect, but was over too quickly.

We slept in (thank goodness for older kids), took turns opening presents, had the older boys go on a scavenger hunt. We ate a late but bountiful brunch and a simple dinner.

Our poor dog started struggling the second time on Christmas eve. By Christmas night, she was at death’s door again. Her fever was raging. We all tearily said good-bye to her again the next morning. After adding another $100 to our already steep bill, the vet sent her home again. She is not out of the woods, but seems to be doing better.

Then it was time to race the boys back to the airport which is exhausting and stressful in spades around Christmas.



But God was clearly present in so many little ways. There was a major accident on the way home from the airport. If it weren’t for locating the missing suitcase, the boys might have been in the middle. I knew we were going to be okay. It’s just the roller coaster ride.

I did my best to enjoy the season, but navigating all these strange difficulties while maintaining joy and peace was exhausting.

So how am I recuperating and boldly reclaiming my joy after Christmas?

I made the executive decision to act like a kid again.

I was not going to go anywhere or do anything unnecessary that was stressful because I was going to enjoy these weeks after Christmas as much as the kids all enjoyed the weeks prior.

Take time to play!

We played all the games we got for Christmas: Charades and Clue and colored pictures and solved puzzles I even drove the RC cars!

I curled up by the tree with my new book.

Meals have been leftovers and snacks. Christmas cookies for lunch? Okay, in moderation.

Plates have ALL been paper.

Seriously, I googled it. Washing dishes takes enough water that the environmental benefit of using real dishes over paper plates is negligible. Foil pans and paper plates are FINE when we need a break.

I recorded the Hallmark channel’s Happy Yule Log on Christmas. It’s a roaring fire with a holiday set and Christmas carols. We watch it on repeat everyday.

My husband gave me Yankee candles for Christmas.

I’m usually a candle hoarder. But what’s the point of having them if I never enjoy them? So I’ve been burning one all day, enjoying the light fragrance and warm glow of the candle.

I’ve taken the stress and mess out of as much of daily life as possible.

And my husband has stepped up to tackle some of the household stuff. I love his helpful heart and I’m doing my best to just say thank you instead of offering ‘helpful’ critiques. In a crisis, how doesn’t matter so much. I’ve learned better to be thankful for any help.

I have wanted to play with hand lettering for some time – fauxligraphy if you will. For Christmas, I got a beginner’s set. Today, I set aside an hour and spent some time practicing with my new markers.

I’m not letting the mess and disorder get me down.

Christmas took weeks of preparation. It can take weeks to pack away. I try to tackle a box here and there, put away one area of items at a time.

Simply, I’m doing everything slowly.

Christmas decorations can stay up as long as I want them to.

I’ve shut down the internal voice that demands everything must be done right now. And I’m resting. Tackling a few chores here and there in small bursts allows more down time.

We’re eating lots of leftovers. We’re finishing up all the Christmas movies on the DVR. Crackers and cheese for lunch. PJ’s all day.

Real life hasn’t paused any more this week. However, I take time for myself to play, pray and rest each day.

I can’t stop the world so I can enjoy the holidays, but I can stop myself from doing all the things.

The crazier things got, the more intentional I was about being in my Bible and spending time in prayer, which sets the tone for joy. Finishing my reading plan for the year, I was deep in the prophets. Seeing God’s plans for Israel, the prophecies for our savior helped me remember that nothing escapes His will.  We just need to rest there.

I plan to carry this attitude into the new year as well. The best present I got came after Christmas in the reminder to be present.

God’s got us. We just need to reclaim joy in the ride.

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Last Minute Ways to Make Christmas Magic

Need some last minute ways to make Christmas magic? I realize now, the magic of my childhood Christmases doesn't cost a lot, & even with only a few days, anyone can make this kind of magic.

It took me a long time to realize what made Christmas magic in my home growing up. In fact, I don’t know that I really realized exactly what it had been until today. But I realize now, it didn’t cost a lot and even if you only have a few days before Christmas, anyone can make this kind of magic.

I only remember a handful of gifts, but the feeling of that childhood Christmas magic will never be lost for me. My mom always made Christmas magic for us. As the mom of my own home, I’ve tried really hard to re-create the sense of wonder from my memories, but as I stood over the chaos in my kitchen four batches of cookies into the day, I realized I’ve never really given deep thought about what made it so special.

I know it was hard work. And maybe I’m a bit emotional because my mom turned 75 today and I couldn’t be with her. But she got Christmas right in my memories every year because she loved us.

As I scooped our family’s traditional chocolate drop cookies with sticky fingers, I thought about what made it all so special. The baked treats were special, but they were only part of the puzzle.

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It was mostly love. But it was love spun into family traditions and kneaded into cinnamon rolls, wrapped into presents, shared through stories, and baked into cookies. That is the Christmas magic I really want to pass onto my children, the magic of our savior’s birth and how we love each other because of Him.

That kind of Christmas magic doesn’t cost money and if you haven’t found it yet this year, it’s cheap and easy to find.

Focus on the right kind of presence.

First, wrap everything you do in Christ’s presence. Be intentional to focus on ways He is present everyday. Be His hands and feet to your family, neighbors, church.

and Be present yourself. Quit worrying about all the things that need to be done or the next thing you’ll be doing. Just be when and where you are. There is so much rest that comes with focusing on the moment we’re in.

When I remember Christmas in my childhood home, we were all present more than just physically. Our family spent quality time together. We sat around the table for meals. We talked about our lives, whether it was difficulty with division or anxiety over college applications, or future plans. And there was always so much laughter.

All the funny stories we’d gathered over the years were remembered (and embellished). My dad’s laugh is the kind of wheezing gasp that builds into giant guffaws. It’s still so contagious!

Take the time to treasure your family.

Talking to each other is a lost art. Revive it. Sit around a table with nowhere to go, nothing to do. Get the grandparents talking about their memories. Ask the kids deep questions about their lives or their favorite memories. And really listen.

Kids today don’t know how to sit and listen. Mine are no exception. But I try to teach them to listen to the stories, to value giving someone your attention over staring into a screen. They learn mostly by watching, so show them how to tune out everything but God and family right now (or after you finish reading this ;)).

Play family games. While the younger kids are up, play games they enjoy or family games they can join. Charades or drawing games are always good. A few of our family favorites are shown below. We also really enjoy Wits & Wagers. Older kids are sometimes harder to engage. A family game that forces us to be silly and drop our guard can be just the ticket to find some togetherness.

Turn on the music & turn off the lights.

When I think about my childhood home at Christmas, I remember how peaceful it was. The lights were soft. The house was warm. It smelled of sugar cookies and cocoa and cinnamon. And Christmas music was always playing from the gigantic record player in the hall.

Dad would put on Bing Crosby’s Christmas album and we’d sneak in Amy Grant’s Christmas before Mom’s favorites. We’d listen for hours. I remember falling asleep to some of those songs. Nightlights were Christmas bulbs and Emmanuel would play down the hall. I would sit at the edge of my bed and sing my little heart out.

Let the only lights be candles and the Christmas tree. Everything is more magical by twinkle lights. If you have a fireplace, light a fire when you’re all gathered together listening to Christmas music.

Sitting in the dark to just a handful of lights somehow reminds me of the first Christmas. One tiny baby came to light the world. At first only a few could see who He was and bask in His light, but eventually, His light would transform the world. Sitting in the quiet next to the tiny white lights of my tree reminds me how one tiny light is pretty, but how when we all work together, it’s breathtaking.

My mommy heart wanted to offer her every precious thing that would bring her joy, but I knew the better lesson in disappointment.

Read together as a family.

We used to read the Christmas story while setting up the nativity. Each of us had to race to unwrap and place the characters as Dad read from Luke. It was such a fun way to learn the Christmas story and decorate. My daughter doesn’t have to race against two sisters, but we read the story as she sets up her nativity too.

We didn’t have a television in our living room. We didn’t have smart phones. Books were a popular escape, but we would sit together and read, diving into our books, but still together and coming up for air, cocoa, cookies, snowball fights and trivia nights.

Even big kids like to be read to more than they let on. A few good Christmas books have the kinds of stories that can tug the heart strings of all ages. We just finished Holly & Ivy tonight. The last few pages always make me cry as an adoptive mother.

Store bought cocoa, cookies, and movies can be homemade Christmas magic.

A hot cup of cocoa or mug of apple cider over a plate of Christmas cookies feels pretty magical no matter how old you are.

While homemade treats might not be on your radar this year, powdered cocoa is plenty special with a candy cane to stir and squirt of whipped cream. If you’re feeling really snazzy – use a vegetable peeler on a chocolate bar to add some pretty chocolate shavings to the top. Easy magic!

Buy some different types of pre-made cookie dough. Roll it out and use cookie cutters to make Christmas shapes. Red and green colored sugar will make any cookies feel like Christmas. Decorating is the important part anyhow. Pre-made peanut butter dough, coated chocolate candies, and pretzel twists make fun reindeer cookies.

If you feel like baking, try to let everyone pick a favorite recipe so they can all enjoy a taste from their memories. I took a bite of my mom’s molasses ginger cookie recipe today and was transported to 1983 . . .

Drop everything else.

After Jesus, this is the most important one. If at all possible, drop everything else. Focus on the most meaningful parts of Christmas and stop running for the next thing.

Put down the phone. Step away from the laptop. Turn off the television. Whatever you need to do to be able to focus on just loving the people in your life and home for the next few days.

Play on the floor with the kids’ toys. Build with their legos. Have snowball fights (use rolled socks if you don’t have snow).



For all the presents under the tree, the one thing that makes Christmas magic is the presence of the people we love.

In my family tonight, we are celebrating (from afar) my mom’s birthday, but also remembering losing my husband’s grandmother 8 years ago, and mourning his aunt who shared a birthday with my mom.

You won’t get back this Christmas no matter what it looks like. Embrace the best this year has to offer and trust God in the worst.

You won't get back this Christmas no matter what it looks like. Christmas Magic means embrace the best this year has to offer and trust God in the worst. Focus on the right kind of presence this Christmas. Click To Tweet

Our Christmas this year is a mixed bag. Our boys will be here, but our families came for Thanksgiving, so it will be just us five. The boys are grown and get boring gift cards and new socks. We are facing major changes and some emotional struggles. But we’ll never be here in this moment again.

We can enjoy what we have with a sense of awe and wonder that the God who created the universe provides for us. He gave the ultimate first gift saving the world through His son 2000+ years ago.

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Are you looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations?

Looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations, but not finding much left on the shelves? Don't Stress - Here are some of my favorite ideas & where to find them! 

Looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations, but not finding much left on the shelves? Don’t Stress – Here are some of my favorite ideas!

(Heaven not Harvard is a participant in affiliate programs including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.)

Today, I went shopping for Thanksgiving decorations. I had a coupon for the local home decor store, and I was so excited. All week, I’d been looking forward to this shopping trip.

Walking in, I was prepared to spend a decent amount of money I’ve been saving since my birthday. But wasn’t prepared for the explosion of snow, holly, and evergreen.

Looking for cute Thanksgiving Decorations, but not finding much left on the shelves? Don't Stress - Here are some of my favorite ideas & where to find them! 

Apparently I missed the memo that even though Halloween hasn’t happened yet, it’s already Christmas.

I was so frustrated. 

My family is coming to visit for Thanksgiving. I’ve never hosted the family for Thanksgiving, and I just wanted to add a few touches of warmth to my home.

I picked up a couple of items at Kirkland’s.

Are you looking for cute Thanksgiving decorations last minute? Here are some really cute ones I found!

But I really wanted bright vibrate foliage and flowers. No such luck! I’m going to have to turn to Amazon and Hobby Lobby!

Being Sunday, Hobby Lobby will have to wait until tomorrow, but Amazon . . . my sweet Amazon is always open!

Here are some adorable shelf sitters or table decor. I love the bowls that would be great for leftover Halloween candy (if yours survives the weekend!)

We don’t get a lot of fall color where we live, so adding some in touches at the doorway brings the sense of fall, even if I can’t count on the weather to feel like fall.

I love the light up trees and pretty leaf garland for the entry way.

I’m trying to decide if we’re going to go formal with my china for the main meal or use fancier paper plates. I might get some decorative paper plates for hors d’oeuvres and leftovers for the days following Thanksgiving.

Using my nice china and glassware is fun and fancy, but when my family is visiting, the last thing I want to do is spend an hour at the sink instead of spending time with them.

Growing up I always felt like my mom missed the best parts of the after-meal story telling around the living room. Cheeks flushed with the warmth of too much sugar and turkey, we would laugh and tell story after story.

While we would help her clear the table and load the dishwasher, she still spent so much time cleaning up. I don’t want to miss the stories. My husband always pulls out a new story for company, and I hate to miss them. He is just the best storyteller!

Using disposable plates is one way to keep the clean up a little simpler! Especially if you’re going to be having family staying with you for the days surrounding the holiday. I usually use some cheap foil pans for baking and cooking as well. They can go from freezer to fridge to oven to trash.


Let Earth Be Filled with His Glory – Throw Pillow

from: DaySpring Cards Inc

Since, we’ll be using our spare bedrooms for family, I’m also trying to decide if I should add a few pops of color to the guest room. Maybe some harvest or fall themed throw pillows for the guest beds.

Of course, the harvest theme is HUGE right now thanks to Fixer Upper.

I love the farm theme especially for Thanksgiving decorations!

Celebrating the harvest season reminds me to be thankful for God’s wonderful provision in my life. When I only wanted to be a mother, God answered that prayer. When we needed food on our table, God answered.

Can I just say that it’s totally unfair that my two favorite holidays are so close together! I would totally decorate for Thanksgiving and leave it up way longer if Christmas season didn’t start so soon afterward!

Well, my birthday money won’t quite stretch far enough for all these things, but I certainly found some adorable deals. And I’ll start baking any minute . . .

Can you smell the pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls yet? I hope you love these cute Thanksgiving decorations as much as I do! And find that they warm your home this Thanksgiving season!

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Creative Ways to Have Extra Christmas Money

Wouldn't a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical and a lot less stressful this year? And focus our hearts on Christ in Christmas

Wouldn’t a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical and a lot less stressful this year? While giving gifts isn’t the main message of CHRISTmas, we do want to show people how loved they are! But we don’t always have the funds for what is in our hearts.

(Heaven not Harvard is a participant in affiliate programs including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.)

Every year, I promise myself I’ll actually enjoy Christmas with all the delicious baking and warm family times.

But the stress of the holidays often gets in the way. One way to take that stress down a notch is to remove the worries over money.

Wouldn't a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical & a lot less stressful this year? And focus our hearts on Christ in Christmas

Are you guilty of treating Christmas like a surprise?

Christmas is the same time every year, but often we start scrambling to afford gifts come October or November, which is really too late. Then we plunge into credit card shopping only to dive deeply into debt. No one wants to start a new year paying off the last one.

Don't treat Christmas like a surprise! Plan ahead to have extra Christmas money now! Click To Tweet
  • DOES this seem like a strange post for me? It might, but going from two good salaries to one has made me realize how much stewardship is involved in properly handling our money. God has been gracious to provide for our family in many ways, but these are a few ways I’ve been thrifty and stretched every dollar!

We’ve been able to have Christmas paid for before the gifts were wrapped and under the tree for several years. Want to know how?

Tip #1 – Take $50 off the top.

Call your bank and have $50 a paycheck/$100 a month directly transferred to a savings account each month. This builds your savings without thinking about it. And gives you $1200 for extra Christmas money if you need to dip into it.

If you think I can’t afford $100 a month for savings, see if there are luxuries you can do without. Living beneath what you can afford makes money stretch.

Tip #2 – Find creative ways to EARN money!

Taking surveys, opening emails, watching advertisements isn’t going to make you rich, but it is a way to make spending money while watching television. I use several sites and redeem my points/cash expressly for extra Christmas money.

My Points is awesome! It’s a website that sends marketing emails. Each email you open is worth five points, some are worth more if you make a purchase or sign up for a service. Also, you can earn points for donations to the Red Cross and animal welfare sites.

Why I love it!

This year, I’ve earned points for up to $100 in gift cards. I can redeem my points for gift cards to many national chains including Amazon, The Children’s Place, Bass Pro Shops, Home Depot, Sears, Kohl’s, Old Navy, even Papa John’s!

Another similar site is Inbox Dollars.

I earn a few cents a day just opening emails. They pay in cash and offer surveys too. I have earned $35 in just a few months. That’s a Christmas gift or movie date night!



SAVE Money on Groceries!

One of my favorite ways to earn extra Christmas money is through the Ibotta app!

Ibotta is like reverse couponing. I scroll through the app after making my grocery list. After shopping, I scan the items I purchased into the app with a copy of my receipt. I’ve earned $182.65 using the Ibotta app so far.

Walmart Savings Catcher is another easy app. Every time you shop at Walmart, scan your receipt into the Walmart App in the Savings Catcher section. I’ve saved $190 using the app. It literally takes seconds as I walk to my car! I deliberately don’t use those dollars until Christmas and can transfer my credit to the Walmart Pay section of the app to pay for gifts.

Wouldn't a little extra Christmas money make Christmas a little more magical & a lot less stressful this year? And focus our hearts on Christ in Christmas

Do you shop online?

I shop online through Ebates – I can shop for Christmas while earning extra Christmas money! This year, I’ve earned $120 buying things I was purchasing already!

I just go to their site or app and shop, earning money back on homeschool products, website subscription services, Amazon, Wayfair, Overstock!

They even have a browser extension that pops up and reminds me to activate their service if I’m shopping a site that works with Ebates.

Last Tip – Shop smart & start EARLY

Shopping smart won’t earn you extra Christmas money, but it can save you enough to be worth doing.

I’ve already begun stock piling gifts.  I usually start in September. If you are saavy, watch for great sales now. A lot of catalogs count on Christmas to make their year, prices right now are often lower than they will be later.

Shopping early lets you have plenty of time to shop around for the best price and take advantage of early sales.

I make a list of everyone I need gifts for and begin keeping an eye out for just the thing that will make them laugh or smile or be really useful. Especially for my husband!

If nothing else, I can earmark all my planned gifts for Cyber Monday and be ready to snag the deals, having my budget set and Ebates locked and loaded.

Plan ahead, budget wisely, use some creative ways to earn extra Christmas money and this might be the most stress-free holiday season yet!

Bonus Tip

Plan ahead to be generous. Set aside some of your Christmas money to give to charities that matter to you.

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Intentional Multitasking for Busy Moms

What is intentional multitasking? It's how I quit feeling stressed and crazy, started getting stuff done, and found more time for enjoying my child.

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What is intentional multitasking?

When I was at my wit’s end, I had to find a way to quit feeling like a spinning top.  Intentional multitasking helps me get more done with LESS stress and MORE time to be the homemaker and Christian woman I strive to be.

(this site uses Affiliate links-purchases support our ministry through a small referral fee that never affects your cost.)

Even during this season of disability, I’m still BUSY!  But, I got tired of feeling frazzled, stressed, and distracted! I don’t want to miss my daughter’s childhood.


Something had to change . . . how I tackled multitasking!

Tips for Intentional Multi-tasking

Have a daily WRITTEN to do list

One of my largest stressors is worrying about forgetting something. By having a written list (even just a note on my phone), I don’t forget anything and don’t have mental stress over forgetting something important.

Put the quality back into your quality time with Intentional Multitasking

When I remember something I need to do, I write it down. Instead of shifting away from the task I’m working on, I save it to my list. Then, I finish the priority task rather than let all my random thoughts distract me.

Combine activities, don’t split focus.

I can combine some activities, but some really need focused attention. I choose one task that needs most of my focus and combine it with some mindless mom task, like folding laundry.

They are PERFECT opportunities for intentional multitasking. I can chop vegetables while helping my daughter read a book (hint-if you plan meals well, you can chop/prep for a couple of different meals at once). I can vacuum while reviewing my mental to-do list or even use that time to pray for friends and family.

Intentional Multitasking? Put more quality back into your quality of life. Click To Tweet

Throw in a load of laundry while reading a book with the kids. Use toy clean up as a chance to do squats or stretch. Make it a game with worship music and you’re cleaning, praising, and spending quality time with the kids.

Right now I have a load of laundry going, my daughter is working on some math, and I’m finishing this post.

I can combine tasks, but never split focus. Giving my best attention to the most important part of this mom life.

I need most of my attention to proofread and write, but can take a minute here and there to check on my daughter’s progress and to switch laundry from washer to dryer.

Make Time for Quiet Time

Quiet time can be one of the first things we set aside when life gets busy, believing we’ll get to it later, but the day only gets busier.

Some of my quiet time is listening my daily Bible reading on the YouVersion App. I wouldn’t trade all my Bible reading for audio, but while washing dishes or fixing my hair, I can primarily focus on God’s word. And it’s pretty hard to be bitter about chores while listening about the Israelites complaining in the desert. 😉

 

Driving in the car, it’s easy to turn on the radio, but I have a few favorite preachers I find uplifting and convicting, so I listen to recent sermons instead, which helps pass long drives and is great way to hear in-depth teaching of God’s word when I don’t have MARY time in my MARTHA schedule.


Using social media is the death of productivity. It’s a rabbit hole that will suck hours of your life away. If I want to get things done, I have to close tabs on my laptop, silence my phone and turn it screen down.

In fact, multitasking with our devices decreases productivity and even our IQ!

I literally work ON social media, but I have to set strict limits on it during the day or I find myself spending all day reading important articles and viral posts and then I’m commenting on my friends’ statuses. Next thing I know, it’s dinner, and I’m still wearing pajamas.

But if you’re on –

Be more intentional with your blogging - use a plugin that saves time! (Affilink)

Know when NOT to multitask!

Trying to complete two tasks that require high levels of mental attention at the same time means doing them both poorly. It takes intentionality to know when I can’t multitask. Sometimes, I have to block everything out and finish something, especially something time-sensitive or important.

The Daniel Tiger-esque rhyme I created is “do one thing until it’s done, then you’ll have more time for fun!”

When I decided to stop making myself crazy doing a little bit of a lot of things and chose to do a couple of things with my best attention, I learned to use intentional multitasking to stay on task, to prioritize my to-do list, know when to multitask & not to.

Now, my daughter gets more undivided attention with lots of stories, hugs, and kisses. Unrushed quality time just feels longer!

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