Friday, December 18, 2009

Travels: A Holiday Trip to the Napa Valley, CA

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We are off the visit the Napa Valley CA,  to celebrate Christmas and New Years with family. I miss the country side there, looking at these pictures makes me truly home sick. Even in winter it is beautiful and it does look just like the above pictures so it will be a welcome trip. We are almost ready to go, all packed and have the cat and house sitter coming to care for the house and pool.

Needless to say posting will be at a hiatus till January and comment moderation will be slower than usual. I will be checking emails as well as visiting everyone’s blogs to see the Holiday posts so hopefully we won’t miss any fun stuff!


Cheers My Dears! 

As my mother in law, Margaret from England would say in her wonderful North Yorkshire accent.


 Here’s a toast to you for a fun filled holidays and a move into a new decade 2010!

(click on the glasses to visit one a favorite Napa Valley wineries which serves wonderful sparkling wines and has an incredible French restaurant – Domaine Chandon)


Helpful Holiday Tips:

Here’s an informative article by Wednesday Martin – author of Stepmonster (reviewed here on Layers of Thought) on ways for those of us within “blended families” to keep stress at a minimum. She gives us some ways to understand and 10 logical tips which only take a few minutes to read. Definitely recommended.

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Stepfamily Sanity this Holiday Season
By Wednesday Martin, Ph.D.,
Author of Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do

When you think of holidays, you probably think of family.

And that's what makes holidays so tough for stepfamilies. At this time of year, couples in a remarriage with children might be feeling . . . imperfect. For example, they might be polarized -- he misses his kids, while she hopes they won't treat her like the maid when they show up. She wants to buy her 25-year old's plane ticket to come for a holiday visit -- he thinks she spoils her kids and young adults should pay their own way.

Even if they're on the same page about their step/kids, both members of the couple likely find themselves facing plenty of misunderstanding from friends and family as visions of sugarplums dance in our collective heads. "His kids won't be here for the holidays? How come?!" "I can't believe they're going to spend only Christmas Eve with you." "You're not doing holidays with his ex? How come? Isn't that the best thing for the kids?"

In the face of all the pressure and misunderstanding, take heart. Here are ten simple tips for stepfamily sanity this holiday season.

1. Give up on "blending." Stepfamilies come together in their own ways, and in their own time -- experts say four to 12 years! Particularly at holiday time, stepkids of any age may feel their loyalty binds more acutely ("Dad's remarried but mom's not so I should spend the whole holiday with her"). And sometimes in spite of a stepparent's best efforts, a stepchild may keep his or her distance, taking a "stand" at holiday time. Don't expect your stepfamily to resemble an eggnog smoothie during the holidays and you'll spare yourself and your marriage a lot of aggravation.

2. Let your stepfamily be what it is. One family I interviewed put up two trees every year, because it mattered that much to them all to honor their own traditions. Respecting those differences can help everyone come together in their own way.

3. Know that you and your spouse will probably argue. From deciding how much to spend on gifts for her kids, to reopening old wounds about how the stepkids behaved during holidays past, couples in a remarriage with children are under extraordinary pressure this season. Arguments aren't signs of failure -- they're opportunities to communicate. Find communication formulas and tips that work for you in Stepmonster and other books for couples with stepchildren.

4. Keep it normal. Whether they're five or 50, what kids want post divorce and remarriage is a sense of belonging. So skip the red carpet welcome and think "inclusive" and "normal." Give mom or dad some time alone with his or her kids, and then do the things you do every day and every holiday, inviting the kids to join. Let older and adult stepkids help with holiday meal planning and prep, serving and clean-up. Little ones can make place cards or holiday art for guests. This helps them feel like family, not guests. And when they're pitching in and happy, stepmom/stepdad won't feel as depleted or de-centered by their visit.

5. Choose side by side activities. Puzzles, stringing popcorn, baking, and watching a holiday movie all let you spend time together without interacting "head on," which experts like Patricia Papernow tell us can be more stressful for "steps."

6. Know your limits. Don't do or give in a way that will increase your resentment. If your stepkids habitually forget to bring anything for you, or have a history of not writing thank you notes, don't go overboard with extravagant gifts and efforts. Let them be your guide to avoid martyr syndrome ("I do and I do for them!") during (and after) the holidays.

7. Strategize ahead of time. Stepfamilies aren't first families. There may be tensions, and that's normal. Spouses might have to plan out activities and time alone ahead of time. "I think I'm going to need a break tomorrow. How about a long walk together first thing in the morning?" This is not a failure -- just a constructive way of adapting.

8. Remember stepfamily members bond best one-on-one. All-together-now activities can activate stepkids' anxieties about who's an insider and who's an outsider. Give parent and stepparent plenty of one-on-one time with kids and stepkids -- and with each other. And don't forget about yourselves as a couple. You need one-on-one time, too.

9. Get out of the house. For stepmothers especially, there can be extraordinary pressure to create that Norman Rockwell aura over the holidays. Before the pressure gets to be too much, get out to see friends and your own family. Take time to pamper, whether it's a spa visit or a coffee with pals who understand and don't judge. Getting out of your own home, away from your stepkids and even your spouse, isn't a sign of failure. It's a necessity, rejuvenating you and helping prevent stepparental burnout.

10. Let go of the guilt. Remember that even first families struggle with unrealistic expectations during the holidays. If things don't go perfectly -- if there are squabbles or hurt feelings -- have faith that this is normal and won't damage the kids or your marriage irreparably. Stepfamily members are bound to have differences and even blow-ups. By showing your stepkids that people can argue and then move on, you are modeling the kind of resilience that will serve them well for a lifetime. That might be the ultimate holiday gift.

©2009 Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., author of Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do

Coming in January the Brandon Sanderson – The Gathering Storm signed first edition giveaway and signing event post. We got pics! So stay tuned!

Until next year!


Amanda said...

Have a wonderful trip and happy holidays, Shellie!

Unknown said...

Amanda -
You too! I hope Santa gives you everything you want this year. :)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Have a wonderful holiday in CA. We are suppose to have a white Christmas in New England, so I bet you'll be lots warmer and having more fun...LOL

Unknown said...

Diane -
Yes we will be warmer, but New England sounds fabulous for the holidays.

Charlie said...

To youse guys (Shellie and JD):

Have a fun and safe trip.

Have a Merry Christmas.

Have a Happy New Year.

Have a few for me.

Unknown said...

Charlie -
We will do more than that we will have bunch for you!

We will be by your blog to see your posts and get a laugh... some time next week and more whenever we can get access to the laptop.

logankstewart said...

Have a great Christmastime with family, Shellie. Enjoy the break.

Unknown said...

Logan -
Thanks a bunch!

logankstewart said...

Is it because you're in wine country that you use that pun? Very clever. :)

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Oh, Shellie, I am so envious! I visited the Napa Valley for the first time last summer (yeah, I know it's hard to imagine waiting this long, especially since I lived in San Francisco and Sacramento for a few years!). But it was well worth it to go...finally! What a beautiful place! Have a wonderful holiday.

Anonymous said...

Have a great trip, don't you love the warm sun during Christmas time. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year :)

Unknown said...

Logan -
No I always say bunch - but clever of you to note it.

Laurel -
Its great to be home for the holidays... you know I am from the Napa Valley right?

Ann Marie -
Thanks, you too!
Its a bit rainy in the Valley this time of year and it certainly is a change from the sunny Arizona desert where we currently live so its a welcome change and its good to be "home" for a visit.

I hope you all had a great Christmas...ours was wonderful and very busy. This is my first chance to get comments published.

DCMetroreader said...

Hope you're having a relaxing holiday with your family! Nappa Valley is beautiful (I went on a wine tour there years ago -- lovely place).

Unknown said...

Kim -
Thanks so much. It has been wonderful so far. The problem is I don't want to go back to Arizona. :)

Unknown said...

I hope you're having a great time in Napa Valley.

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones Shellie!

Unknown said...

Lilly -


I hope you had a good holiday season too.

I am so glad it is all over and a new year has started.

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