As I drove my kids to school recently, I marveled at the breathtaking beauty of the fall trees — the brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds at their peak right now as we move into November. Blink, though, and it’s gone! Having lived in Chicago much of my life, I know how fleeting this season is and how important it is to appreciate all this gorgeous color while it’s here. Before we know it, the trees will be bare and snow-covered and we’ll have moved on to dreaming of spring.

Lately, I find myself talking a lot about the passage of time; no doubt, my two boys are to blame. Every night, their pajamas fit a little more snugly; every morning, they spill less milk as they get a little bit older and a lot more independent. It seems each milestone, big and small, from the changing of seasons to a birthday to growing out of another pair of shoes, serves as yet another reminder of how precious every moment really is.

Isn’t that what “the most wonderful time of the year” is really all about? Pausing to reflect on those ephemeral special moments? Sure, it can get a little bit hectic, but it’s punctuated by so many meaningful opportunities to press pause, gather our most beloved close, and say thank you for this life we have. Helping you to create and savor these moments is at the heart of what this issue is all about.

One of the easiest — and most poignant — ways to stop and recognize all we have to be grateful for is to look beyond our own families to those who are struggling. This holiday season, why not start a new tradition of family giving? In “The Giving Season,” we share engaging and impactful ways families with children at every age can spend time together on an activity that will make a real difference for someone less fortunate. It’s an ideal time — before all of those parties and presents descend — to remind kids that there really is more joy to be found in giving than receiving.

Speaking of parties, are you assuming hosting duties for a holiday soiree or the big meal this year? Dining Editor Julie Chernoff’s “Holiday Survival 101” is packed with tips, tricks, and genius hacks to help you throw a Pinterest-worthy fete yet still have the time — and remaining strength — to actually enjoy it. Even if you’re just along for the ride, there truly is an art to being an elegant and gracious guest.

And while we all know it’s not all about the parties and presents, we’re sure you’ve made that list and checked it twice. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that when you buy gifts for your nearest and dearest, you could also be doing something to make the world a little bit better? In some small way, the purchase of every single item in our 2018 Better Gift Guide does just that. You’ll find something fabulous for everyone on your list, and feel good knowing you’re spreading that love even further.

In between all the partying and gift-giving, my goal this season is to spend as much time with my family as possible. On our list: Illumination at Morton Arboretum, the Joffrey Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” and the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, where our favorite Disney pals Mickey and Minnie will be marshaling the Tree-Lighting Parade. Come join us — and discover more festive happenings around town. From my family to yours, here’s to a joyful holiday season and a happy new year.

 

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Editor in Chief of Make It Better, Brooke Geiger McDonald is a Chicago native and Northwestern University grad who spent a decade away working for O, The Oprah Magazine and Shape magazine in NYC, and getting her master’s degree in English literature and working in book publishing in London. Back home in Chicago, she’s outnumbered by her husband and two sons, and the four of them are certifiable Disney and Star Wars fanatics. Other obsessions include Charles Dickens, wine, and authentic Neapolitan pizza. Her favorite cause to support is Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Follow her on Instagram: @brookejmcdonald