Dear Self,
I’m writing to you because, during the upcoming holiday season, you tend to lose your mind. This may help you hold it together a little bit. So, when things start getting overwhelming and you can feel your head start to spin from all of the things you are expected to do, take this letter out and reread your promises to me.
Self, I won’t let the holidays take you over and turn you into a crabby, grumpy woman who looks like Scrooge’s sister and worse yet, sounds like Scrooge himself. I will remember to take a breath and stop and enjoy the feelings, smells and sounds that make the next two months some of the best of the year. Those are the things that help keep you calm; you tend to forget it in the hustle and bustle. If you need to find a corner to breathe deeply and remember how excited you were about deer season, Thanksgiving and Christmas in mid-November, for the sake of everyone around you, just do it.
I know the recent cold, dreary days have prompted some pumpkin baking to the sound of Christmas music. Music in moderation, though; it will help it retain its power of fantasy longer into the season that way. Yet, it is totally legal to sing a verse or two every time you make hot chocolate after a cold morning in the barn. Let’s be honest, that makes you just as excited about the warmth of the chocolate as it does Cora. She likes to sing it as much as you.
Oh, you really must do your best to slow down long enough to watch some of those holiday classics with your family. They need to watch “White Christmas,” so in 10 years they can shake their heads at the memory and wonder how their mom got them to sit through the movie. After watching that wonderful Bing Crosby classic, then you can add those songs to your singing repertoire and sing them until your children roll their eyes. You must take time to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and drink Grinch punch while doing so. No farmer’s Christmas season is complete without “Annabelle’s Wish,” either. As soon as Cora unearths the DVD, it will be played nonstop if she has her wish.  
On the topic of Christmas shopping, remember to stay true to your own ideals. You always do good for a while then get sucked in when you start to feel like your kids aren’t getting enough. That’s when the spirit of the season starts to get sucked out of you, when you begin to feel overwhelmed with the pressure to compete with gift giving. Take a breath, chill out with some Bing Crosby and remember it’s the gifts from the heart, the ones that real thought went into giving, that mean the most for your children and others. Want, need, wear, read is your gift motto. Say it over and over.
On the order of holiday baking and eating, moderation is the key word. You need to remember that chocolate covered cherries are not considered healthy because there is a cherry involved or even dark chocolate. You can start making breads to have on hand for unexpected visitors. Be a little ambitious and plan a cookie baking day with the girls on the farm. They would all love the comradery in the kitchen.
You must remember the holidays require extra patience with your growing brood. Cora, especially, may not always perform perfectly in the presence of company. She may hide behind your legs instead of hug or want to play with her cows. All three boys may prefer to be home with no guests and lounge around in their underwear. Remind them to be polite, that people want to see them. They will have a good time. Make them hug anyone over 50. Allot plenty of time for running around outside before or after and extra time for Lego building. On the subject of visiting people, take time to visit with those important to you. Take some friends on a shopping date, go out for lunch for no reason other than you enjoy the other person’s company. Spending time with someone is often better than spending money.
Finally, make sure to schedule in some snuggles. Your children all need it. Even those towering teenage boys like to sit near you on the couch, though they likely won’t admit it. Look for Cora’s shining moments instead of the ones that make you want to scream about girls being dramatic. Remember that Ira may be taller than you, but he wants to be a kid sometimes. Dane needs his downtime at the end of the zaniest days, and going to bed 10 minutes later just so he can get a hot shower in is worth it. Let Henry draw his tractors and read in bed; it will get him to a good place before closing his eyes.
No matter how this year’s holiday season turns out, it will no doubt create many new and wonderful memories for you and your family. It wouldn’t be quite the same without a few wild moments thrown in there.     
Sincerely, Pre-Holiday Season Me
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira (14), Dane (12), Henry (7) and Cora (4), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.