We have all been affected by the terrible, unspeakable tragedy that took place last week in Newtown, Connecticut.

I, like many of you, have been holding my children tighter, thankful that they're in my arms, and I've been letting things go that might otherwise have irritated me. Toy alligator in the toilet, all the chocolate from the advent calendar for breakfast, little feet in my face when I wake up in the morning, and loud voices of children fighting upstairs? I welcome it, all of it.

Now that the holidays are upon us, I plan to enjoy every second. And while I normally find a lot of joy from shopping this time of year, and specifically, this week, there is so much more to the holidays than that. Sure, I'm still checking things off my shopping list, and sure, I'll still wrap all the presents nicely like I love to do, but really, this has all suddenly become...not so important anymore.

Here are the Five Ways I Plan To Enjoy the Holidays:

Spending time with my family: The number one thing I love to do over the holidays is spend time with my family. I love baking with my children, even though my cookies don't end up looking great; I love doing crafts with my boys and having them help me wrap presents, and I love, love, love our tradition of Christmas Eve celebrated at my parents house with my sister and her family and my grandparents. A house full of (loud) Greeks, delicious home-cooked food, Christmas movies playing in the background, and children running wildly around the house, sneaking Greek cookies before dinner, followed by gift opening and midnight mass? That is my perfect Christmas.

Helping others: Helping others throughout the year is important, but especially during the holidays. Donate old clothes and toys, buy new toys for children in need, volunteer your time at the hospital, give to the food bank, and give away your children's old snowsuits and boots to children who need them the most.

Choose gifts that give back: There are many ways you can do this, but lasting gifts are the most meaningful, in my opinion. Whether you're supporting Plan Canada, UNICEF, or Save The Children, there are literally dozens of ways you can help.

Thank those that matter: Remember gifts and hand-written cards to the teachers who are there for your children every single day. The teachers who gave up their lives, who protected their children, during the shooting last week? They're heroes. They really, really are.

Calories and carbs don't count: I almost started a diet on December 7th and then I realized that I'd be miserable if I gave up carbs in December, the month of cookies and sweets and yumminess. The holidays are no time to be counting calories! Enjoy the food that you've prepared, enjoy the food your friends have made, enjoy those cookies, and that wine! January is coming up...we can all resolve to eat better then.

Happy, happy holidays, to all of you. May it be a time of peace, love, and reflection, and may you find comfort in the arms of those you love.