Your First Christmas Without a Loved One

Coping with a death at Christmas

It was early November 2011 that Mom took her last breath. All to quickly the holiday season crept through the front door that year. Though still feeling the numbness of her absence we began to pick up speed through all our usual festivities. School concerts, church gatherings, family, and more family began to add weight to our already heavy hearts. Christmas night was my breaking point. I slumped down on the couch fully aware of the ache in my stomach from eating a rich feast...more food than I had eaten in weeks. My chest heavy, I recognized the tidal wave of grief rolling in, and instantly felt suffocated by emotion. It was just.too.much. 

The first Christmas without our loved one is perhaps the most agonizing time of the year. A season usually filled with laughter, nearness of family, and joy loses its sparkle under the weight of grief. Even worse this year, are the restrictions placed on many of us amidst our current lockdowns and precautions. The comforts of the company of family will be absent and deeply missed for many of us here in Canada, leaving the deep throb of grief all the more raw. 

If I could go back in time I would give myself four pieces of advice, but since time travel is impossible I will share them with you instead in hopes of slightly easing the burden of the grief in your holiday season.

1. Allow yourself time to be sad.

Christmas is truly a season of joy as we remember the birth of our Redeemer, it is certainly a time to pause and celebrate! This year, let your gift to yourself be a gift of grace when the joy doesn't come as easily. Be patient, allowing yourself to be sad. Joy will return in small moments though maybe not through this holiday season, but one day. This also goes for the coming years, as grief is a rather odd emotion sneaking up when you least expect it. 

Be purposeful in taking moments to yourself or with someone you love (even if it needs to be through an internet video call) to be sad and remember the person who has passed. One day you will smile a genuine smile again. One day you will laugh again. One day you will make it through Christmas and enjoy it once more, but until then be gracious with your heart.

2. Expect fatigue

My body was beyond exhausted by the time we made it to Christmas. We had gone from death to funeral to Christmas and both my physical and mental health were deplete. Christmas day I found a quiet space at my grandparent's home, where we were visiting, and excused myself to rest for 30 minutes. Go easy on yourself this year. Slow down the pace and allow yourself to conserve your energy reserves. Allow me to give you permission to eat frozen pizza or a bowl of soup this year if that's all you can muster up in strength. There will be future years where turkeys and roast beef can have you place in the kitchen, but this year might not be it. That's ok. You will be tired as you work to process your emotions and down time will be essential. Give yourself scheduled breaks to be able to rest even if you don’t sleep.

3. Find a way to remember your loved one

On the top of our tree we place an angel that my mom had given to me just before she got sick. Every year our angel finds her place atop our tree and everyone in our home knows the angel is our precious reminder of Mom/ Grammy. You could put out a photo or ornament, light a candle, recite their favourite Bible passage, play their favourite song, or leave an extra place setting at your table. Whatever it is, do something to remember them and remind you of the cherished memories you still carry even though they are gone. It is in those sweet memories that you will find the healing balm for your wounded heart.

4. Know that how you feel won’t last forever

Christmas is no longer what it once was. Every now and then I still find myself grieving over what use to be, but we have found new ways to enjoy Christmas together. This is true whenever there are monumental changes in our lives be it a death, a move, divorce, a new baby, or anything that brings about newness good or bad. Our traditions have changed a little to adapt. Our new traditions are growing sweeter again as the holidays no longer sting like they once did. 

It is hard my sweet reader but the crushing pangs of grief will lift, don’t take my word for it, here’s what God has to say to you:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… (Ecclesiastes  3:1,4)

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Take heart. Know that God is near you, comforting you, and strengthening you as you rest. 

Merry Christmas dear friend. 

All my love,

Like Grandma Did

Wisdom and Laugh Lines: Why This Phase of Life Rocks!

30 something and loving it

We are about to embark upon a rather epic journey of converting our “everything space” in our basement, to a homeschool space where the kids can more easily spread out. Maybe you have an “everything space”. It’s the space in a home that occupies all the miscellaneous “stuffs” <—(yeah, I know that’s bad grammar, but “stuff” hardly felt like it covered the vast array of junk we have collected). Not sure if you a space like that, though I suspect we all have at least a “stuffs corner”. 

I was browsing Instagram accounts and Googling basement renos like a mad woman, you know, so I can later convince people I have some hidden gift of interior design (which I do not in case you’re curious, but let’s keep that between you and I). As I scrolled though pages on my phone I noticed two things, the first being that I needed to slow down the pace or else I was going to end up with a solid case of arthritis in my thumb. But, it was my second thought that surprised me the most. Image upon image of beautifully creative rooms with their curators all being young 20-something women revealing genuinely more skills and talent that I hold in my left pinkie. Not only that, but they look cute doing it! 

I mutter something out loud as I see a young lady with a perfectly poised “messy” ponytail, drill in her hand, ripped jeans (that I guarantee cost her more than my entire current jeans collection), and 5 sweet little coordinating children at her feet, presumably hers. 

“I do not look like that when I reno a room,” I snickered.

My daughter’s, having heard my snork, gathered around to see just what mom was looking at. They instantly start laughing, like way beyond my subtle snicker, which actually left me genuinely confused. I mean, I know I’m no beauty queen when I work, but was it really that bad?!

They began to reminisce between themselves of that time, earlier this summer, when I renovated our kitchen. 

“No, that’s not our mom at all!”

“Mom’s painting clothes are hilarious!”

Hold up. They are painting clothes children, what’s the problem?

“Well, let’s not forget your green crocs, “ says one.

“Or the pants that don’t do up!” squeals another, which instantly triggers tears of laughter rolling down their faces.

It’s true. They don’t. They are the last pair of jeans I bought pre-babies 15 years ago, hence why they are now work pants. Problem is, they genuinely don’t do up anymore, and it isn’t because the zipper is broken. Just an FYI, I bought them one month before I found out we were expecting and I felt it seemed a tad wasteful of hard earned money spent on my delightfully new Quicksilvers (best brand ever, am I right?!) to never wear them again. I vowed to make the most of them in whatever way I could, and I now feel like I have my money’s worth- almost.

Also, since we’re going for honesty here, I usually wear an old t-shirt that says “My mommy thinks I’m special”. My mom gave it to me as a gift many years ago, and oddly enough had the same tearful laughter my daughter’s were currently displaying when she gave it to me. I wore that shirt when my second was born, because…well…because it was already on when I went into labour and sorting out which pjs I wanted to wear while grunting out a child was fairly low priority. I still have it because it makes me smile when I see it, even though it now looks like I was in the spray zone while ax-murdering a can of paint. Too dark? Actually…just the right shade. Bad joke? I know. I didn’t dare tell them that I also have a pair of pink fuzzy socks that are a must when I adorn my painting duds, that’s because I’m all for encouraging them to learn, and they can sharpen their skills of observation to figure that one out on their own. You’re welcome, children.

All that to say this, I have come to one conclusion: I am in the early onset phase of “getting older”. 

Don’t laugh, I’ve just invented a new season of life. 

Granted, I can’t say for certain how long this phase lasts, as I’m only crossing into this new territory now. Perhaps a few decades, perhaps longer. All I know is this…

Something odd has been creeping in the last few years as I near my middle ages. It’s nothing overly intense, I mean, I need to pep-talk my uterus each month to convince her she needs to hang in there a little longer. Unlike my 20-something counterpart, the need to take photos from a higher vantage point is now a thing. Oh, and I get cranky when I overhear teenagers talk about how tired they are. “As if”… as my currently aging generation would say.

But, there are perks to being in this phase of life that no one tells you. For example, I can now enjoy embarrassing my children when I take them on a trip to the hardware store for more paint, just by wearing my painting pants (don’t worry, the “my mommy thinks I’m special” shirt is long enough to hide the fact that my top botton of my jeans is making no effort to find its way to the button hole several inches away.)

Clothing aside, there is one giant perk to this new season of late 30-something/ early 40-something season of life. If this last decade has taught me anything at all it is simply the wisdom to trust God’s gentle unfolding of life. There is a letting go of perfection in this season, and rather a treasuring of each passing moment for what it is. Whether it’s good or bad, our life experience, by this phase of life, has taught us that both possess equally valuable lessons. There has been a quiet confidence arising in this season as a result. It’s the confidence that stems from the wisdom to know that we all struggle in our days, no one is exempt, no one has figured out perfection. As if waking up for the first time, I realize this journey is one worth savouring rather than trying to race through. With God at the helm, we can loosen the grip and stop striving for the approval of man, but rather relish in the goodness of God’s providence as we ride on.

I know that that sweet young mama, God-bless her, has struggles like the rest of us. I know she likely had ketchup spattered children that she wiped down before the photo was taken. I know that these rooms of beauty only look so good because the paint is still fresh, the lightbulbs were just replaced, and the toys and clutter have been cleared just beyond the edge of the frame. It’s ok to share in the beautiful things of life, but this past season has taught me the broken and ragged both hold just as much beauty, and I have come to treasure both.

Sure, my body is doing weird things, but hey, at least it’s new and somewhat interesting. But my mind and mental sanity have settled into this season with enough wisdom to offer myself grace to leave behind perfection, and just enjoy the sweetness of these moments. Our eldest daughter, a teenager, is contemplating her future career path, our middle is becoming a most magnificent baker, and our youngest, our son, is so full of wonder I can’t help but to slow down and enjoy his curiosity with him. Such an extravagant season is wrapped up in the ordinary, I must say, I am finally seeing it.

So, me and my lime green crocs will enjoy the journey with the slow stability of this season, a season that appreciates the ability to just be without needing to fill it, without needing to prove you can accomplish greatness. This is a season where we put into action the lessons of triumph and failure from our past and sing praises for the magnificent depth of character we now see in our faithful Father.

Our job now is to simply trust the Driver, and enjoy the new-found wisdom of this phase of life. 

All My Love,

PS- Upon proofreading this post, my husband has kindly asked to buy me a new pair of painting pants. For the sake of our marriage, I'm going to take one for the team and let him win this one (but I'm keeping the Crocs- don't tell him I said that!).
Like Grandma Did

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade laundry detergent

After having our third child I realized almost immediately that we would need to change our laundry habits. We were going through a ton of laundry and washing our clothing too often. The most obvious course of action was to downsize our clothing and linens. I paired down our closets, went down to the minimum amount of linens we could get away with, and gave everyone a laundry basket to keep things organized. If I didn't have time to fold in those early baby days, you could at least find your clean clothing in your labelled basket on the shelves my father-in-law graciously built in our laundry room. 

Once we had paired down, the next step was management of the water. Five people means a lot of water gets used in a day. Figuring out showers/baths, dishwasher, and laundry felt like a bit of a task to conquer. I designated shower days/times and laundry days to help us out. The dishwasher needed to run every night so we needed to work around it. Still today, we all have our laundry days, and you need to get in and get out in your allotted time. In case you were curious, two out of three of my kids (ages 11 and 14) now do their own laundry, and my five year old is in training to do his own as well. 

Next up came the frugal factor of the cost of laundry soap, not to mention I'm not a fan of the chemicals in store bought soap. After doing a little digging I came across a homemade laundry soap on the Duggar's blog. I figured if it worked for their giant family, why not give it a shot. I have since adapted it slightly to our hard water. It is this recipe that I wish to share with you today. 


- 1 - 1/12 bars of laundry soap (Sunlight is easy enough to find, but if you want something more natural try your local health food store for bars of laundry soap. This time I tried the laundry bar from Rocky Mountain Soap, and so far I really like it!)

- 1 1/2 C washing soda (This will vary depending on your water softness. Use less for soft water as this amount is set for those of us with hard water)

- 1/2 C borax

*you will also need a 5 gallon bucket with a lid.


1. Grate the full bar of soap (plus half from another if you know your clothing will need an extra boost).

2.  Fill a pot of water with 4 C of water and add your grated soap.

3.  On medium heat, continually stir the soap until it melts into the water

4.  Fill a 5 gallon bucket with hot tap water then add your soap mixture to the bucket.

5. Add in your borax and washing soda and mix until it's all dissolved (be sure to scrape the bottom of the bucket).

6. Fill your bucket to the top.

7. Allow to cool over night.

8. The next morning give your laundry soap a big stir (depending on what type of soap you used it may gel, that's perfectly fine, just stir it extra good).

9. You can now add essential oils if you wish, but we usually left ours fragrance free. Make sure you give it a good mix if you're doing this so you avoid staining your clothing.

To use:

Before I use ours I just give it a quick stir to mix up any separation that has occurred.

Use the same amount of this laundry soap as you would the store-bought.

One final note, it has been really important to me that our laundry always gets an extra rinse, as it helps to wash away any residual soap that may irritate the skin. 

And there you have it! Your own homemade laundry soap!

Know any other good laundry recipes? Drop me a link or share below.

All my love,

Like Grandma Did

Creating a Home of Comfort In an Unusual Holiday Season

creating a home of comfort

I stood on the wintery step waiting in anticipation for the moment about to unfold before me. Suddenly the door was opened and the familiar smells of the holidays filled my nose: turkey, apple cider, a roaring fire. My grandmother appeared with cherry pink cheeks hot from her labour of love in the kitchen. Year after year, I looked forward to these familiar sights, sounds, and smells as comforts of the holiday season.

This year, an odd and unexpected one, has me pondering the season that is about unfold. There is an uncomfortable newness and uncertainty in the unfolding of 2020. Like the opening of Grandma’s front door, what comfort of the season awaits on the other side?
Sweet Mary knows though...
In the midst of the chaos of the bustling town of Bethlehem, hidden away in a dusty barn, on an anything but silent night, God incarnate chose to make his first appearance. He didn’t come in the comfort of a celebration, nor in the presence of glitter and decor. He didn’t even come in the comfort of an abundance of family and friends, or holiday cheer.
The arrival of a King, though the ambience lacked in splendour, certainly didn’t lack comfort, but not the comfort we are familiar with during the season, rather Mary’s comfort. Mary didn’t find her comfort in anything other than a deep, unwavering trust in her Lord.
As the door to the holiday season begins to open, I suspect the chaos of this year (perhaps more closely resembling the noise and unrest of the night of Jesus birth) has potential to catch us off-guard. Or, like Mary, we can choose to find comfort in nothing but a quiet hope and trust for our gracious Lord and his ability to lead us through the unfamiliar.
Just as my grandmother opened her door to welcome us into the comfort of her home, so also we can open our doors and welcome in the comfort of the hope we have in our Lord in spite of our circumstance. Let us make the comfort that Mary knew well the heart of our home this season.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

All my love,

Like Grandma Did
[name=Sarah Slanzi] [description=Old-fashioned homemaking steeped in God's grace] (facebook= (instagram= (pinterest=