Like, break-into-a-sweat, tear-your-hair-out, have-a-mid-December-meltdown hard. It doesn’t matter how far in advance you plan (I’m look at you, Planners) or how organized you are (again, Planners walking around with ACTUAL planners), the holiday season can chew you up and spit you out.
Idealized in carols about things being calm and bright, Christmas can quickly become your worst nightmare. Your inner scary mommy comes out, and that magical season you’re working so hard to create comes crashing down in pieces like the glass ornament your toddler threw at the wall yesterday.
But, never fear, moms. An easier holiday season can be yours!
Here are some ways to make it happen
Whoever invented Elf On The Shelf is an evil genius.
Genius in her attempt to reinforce parents’ idle Santa threats with an actual elfin presence (and the gazillion dollars she made in the process).
Evil in the additional nightly task, stress, and creative pressure put on parents across the globe.
We can practically hear the collective groans everywhere when the “Move The Elf” phone reminder dings each evening. Why does this task have to happen when we’re ready to collapse into bed? We’d all be on Santa’s naughty list for the vile words muttered under our breath in that instant.
If you have young kids or no kids, heed my advice and don’t start the elf tradition at all!
When they ask about other kids’ elves just respond with, “Hmm, I guess we don’t need an elf at our house because your mom is so awesome.” That should do the trick.
But, if you’ve already committed the next 10 years of your life, here are some options for making your Elf On The Shelf duty easier.
- Search Pinterest well in advance, creating a nightly elf strategy complete with all items needed on hand (Planners, I’m looking at you again).
- Give your elf permission to be unique.
The first option helps you stay sane if you’re going to embrace the elf, but personally, I’d go with option #2.
Perhaps your elf really likes his position on the mantle (i.e. the elf never moves) because Santa told him to choose the one place in the house he can see the best. Or maybe your elf makes toys at the North Pole all week long and only visits your home on the weekends (i.e. when you have more time to move her).
The point is: you get to be the boss of your elf, not the other way around.
So, take charge. Write a fake letter explaining the situation to your kids, and move on down the holiday road.
My mom has a fantastic sugar cookie recipe. The problem is, it makes 1 million cookies and takes forever to make the dough, chill the dough, roll out the dough, cut the cookies, bake the cookies, cool the cookies, frost the cookies, and decorate the cookies. Good grief, who has days to devote to something it will take mere minutes to eat!
So, a few years ago, I dialed it way down. My kids still want to decorate cookies (and my husband wants to eat them), but this three-step plan helps us accomplish the task in 90 minutes.
Save yourself time by buying the Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix in the pouch. Pour it in a bowl, add butter and flour, mix, roll out, cut, done. No waiting while the dough chills overnight. It might not taste quite as good as mom’s, but honestly, my kids don’t care. They just want to decorate, and this gets us to the process faster.
Buy frosting in a tub. It comes in green and red, but I buy white to keep it easy.
Shakers of sprinkles let your kids become cookie artists. They get to be creative and since the pouch only makes approximately 2 to 3 dozen cookies, they usually complete their pile before they’ve run out of steam. That means I get stuck with fewer cookies to finish decorating on my own.
While it should reflect the spirit of the season, gift giving can quickly suck the life out of you. How much to spend? Who to buy for? What to get? How to wrap?
Start by scaling down your list. Draw names, go out for dinner, or do a fun activity together in lieu of gifts.
Have you heard of the Four Gifts approach to Christmas?
A few years back we started this tradition with our kids. We buy them four gifts – Something They Want, Something They Need, Something To Wear, and Something to Read. This has simplified our holiday shopping immensely and brought some needed focus back to the reason for the season!
For the gifts you buy, make it easy on yourself by using time-saving measures like online shopping with free shipping (thank you, Lord, for Amazon Prime), gift wrapping centers at the malls, or the always-easy holiday gift bag.
Not sure what to buy for the teachers in your life?
I’ve talked to many of them, and it’s unanimous: gift cards. I know it may not seem homemade or personal, but when you’ve taught for 15 years, you have more ornaments, candles, and bottles of lotion than you can possibly use. Get them a massage or a gift card to go shopping. It will save you time and brain power, and they’ll be thanking you throughout the New Year.
Want to ooh and ahh at holiday lights, but don’t have a whole evening to traipse your way over to Jolly Holiday Lights in Altoona? Look for local neighborhoods with bolstered light displays. (Ashby Drive in Beaverdale is always a hit; this personal residence in Grimes sets their awe-inspiring display to music you dial into at 104.7 FM; and Ankeny has some great displays.) Swing through, sufficiently oooh and ahhh, and after 15 minutes you can check that item off your holiday to-do list for the year.
I love Christmas mail. My favorite part of any December day is the trip to the end of the driveway. The holiday cards come pouring into my mailbox, and I get to enjoy hearing all the wonderful things my friends and family have been up to in the past year.
But, sending out Christmas cards can feel like an insurmountable task. Maybe you feel that way, too. Or maybe you send one each year, but it’s this massive undertaking leaving you feeling like Scrooge.
First off, don’t stress over the photo. Some of the best cards we receive each year are the funny, unscripted shots. If you don’t have time for a family photo shoot, get a friend to snap a quick shot and call it good.
Make it easy on yourself by ordering cards online, and if they have an option to pre-address the envelopes, that’s a win. Type your holiday update on the back of the cards to save a step or skip that all together and just sent out a photo.
People will love seeing your faces more than hearing what you’ve done.
If you can’t make all this happen, but still want to send a card, give yourself permission to send a New Year’s or Valentine’s greeting instead. It’s the thought, not the timing, that counts.
Need to bring something to your work food day or family holiday gathering? No sweat! I have the easiest, yummiest snack in the world for you. And you can grab the items on the way to your party. On the way, people!
Swing through your local grocery store, and grab a block of cream cheese, a box of crackers and a jar of pepper jelly. Place the cream cheese in the center of a plate, pour the pepper jelly on top, and surround it with crackers. Done! A savory appetizer (great to off-set all the holiday sweets) that people rave over. And it’s so simple! You’ll look gourmet, and it took you five minutes to prepare.
December is busy – bust your schedule busy.
You have your regular crazy life, and then you add recitals, programs, and parties to the mix. Throw in the “we always do this” traditions, and you’re tired WAY before December 25 hits, leaving you wanting the whole holiday to just hurry up and get over.
Sit down right now – today – and figure out how to create space in your schedule.
Maybe some of your traditions alternate years. Maybe you attend one party instead of five. Look for hours and days you can block out to give yourself mental health buffers during this busy time.
Because trust me, friend, your sanity and your family’s happiness is worth the sacrifice. You’ll remember and cherish the memories you make way more when they aren’t squeezed between a thousand others. No memory stands out when there’s another trying to claw its way into the picture. Choose one and savor it.
Easy and holiday are rarely mentioned in the same sentence, but with a few of these suggestions you can breeze your way through the month of December.
I hope you do and I hope it’s the best yet!