You are still getting old.
You are going to get tired with kids in the house, especially younger children during the Holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Kwanza, Solstice, Festivus-doesn't matter. Those two to three weeks off school are going to make you a tad crabbier, a tad more tired, a tad more edgy.
If you are wealthy, you can tell the au pair to take them to the park or out for hot cocoa, and to plan indoor activities. They can be chauffeured to hockey practice, playdates, and choir practice. The laundry will take care of the extra loads of wash. Cook will plan the extra meals. The cleaning service will keep the house shining brightly.
It may interest you to know that these services are available for those who might not happen to have live-in help. And for those of you who know a grandparent, aunt or uncle who is raising grandchildren, or nieces and nephews- such services make a great gift.
- LAUNDRY- Almost every laundromat (coin operated laundry, washateria, lavanderia) in my area has a wash/dry/ fold service. Prices will vary, but it is usually between $1 and 1.50 per pound (they weigh it on a laundry scale). The best ones sort the clothes by color, wash them with their detergent, dry them, steam out any wrinkles, and hang what belongs on hangars as well as folding the other clothes. In a household of two adults and three active school-agers, a week's load averages 40 pounds, or between $40-$60. It's possibly can't be a weekly fixture in your life, but every once in a while, it certainly takes clutter out of a busy time.
- DAY CARE- Check your local park district for "Winter Break Day Camp." There might be a place or two left for your kids. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the school district, private schools all offer camps, and short term activities during the Holidays. Check the local community college. See what the public library has planned. Remember to get your reservation in early for Spring and Summer, too!
- FOOD- There are very, very few towns nowadays that do not have a deli and food-to-go section in the local supermarket. When we travled, I favored Von's, Safeway, Dominick's, Publix (LOVE PUBLIX!), WinnDixie, Piggly Wiggly, Hannford, Whole Foods, Caputo's, Cermack, Prisco's, and Butera. Most stores also have a bakery, but if you have a just plain old bakery in your area that is good, you are indeed twice-blessed. You might not be able to afford it every day, but once or twice during the Holidays, as a treat for you, can really give you a break. Do not eschew frozen food, microwavable food, peanut butter and jelly, fresh fruit, and milk. There is no law that says all grannies bake. I avoid baking because I love to eat, and those cookies become another 10-15 pounds on my hips and thighs. I try to make TWO batches of cookies with the kids. I buy good cookies at a bakery in the area renown for cookie prowess. I have also been known to "doctor" such cookies and crackers as Oreos, Ritz, gingerbread windmills and people, and chocolate-covered marshmallow (here known as chocolate volcanoes). Canned frosting, sprinkles, colored sugars, CakeMate and Wilton premade piping can make a lot of everyday cookies festive. My grandmother once made a Christmas meal out of swedish meatballs, ham, potato salad and what we call in the Midwest "relishes" from a Swedish deli. It became a tradition- and so easy to make and clean up!
- CLEANING- Less is more when it comes to holiday decoration. Put out only the best menorah, not all of them. If you insist on a real tree, scale it down to something smaller. If you have a large artificial tree, don't try to fill the space with other holiday clutter. Organize a wrapping station. Use reusable holiday bags and tissue paper instead of wrap. Make the kids pick up after themselves immediately. Give each kid a room besides their room to clean. Even second graders can work the vacuum. There are paints and paper for kids nowadays that really take up the slack when it comes to mess. Call one of the many chain cleaning services, and see if they have a holiday rate and/ or a senior rate. Check the local newspaper for folks with references who want to clean your living room, bathroom and kitchen for a set fee.
- REST- There is no law that the kids can't sit on your bed, watching TV or reading, while you catch a few winks. Early bedtimes during the Holidays should be encouraged for all. Naps, even for the big ones, should be used as necessary.