Saturday, December 6, 2014


Many years ago (but just yesterday in my mind), I was a young mom living a fairy tale, expat life in Denmark. I had three little ones, 6, 4 and 9 months and it was Christmastime. Christmas was my favorite time of year in Denmark.

 It was beautiful.

 It was simple.

 It was magical.

Classic amusement park Tivoli Gardens puts on a festive market in Copenhagen.

 And I couldn't leave it at that...I had to complicate it.

M was traveling a lot in the month of December that year. The details are fuzzy now, but I remember being faced with a lot of empty days and nights with just the kids. And just for the record, I use the word "days" lightly, because the sun was rising as I rounded the last corner to take Katie and Cole to school in the morning and it was pitch black as far as you could see out my kitchen window by the time we were having our afternoon snack. Winter days in Denmark are very short.

So I hatched a "great" Christmas plan. Armed with my well-loved, past Christmas issues of Family Fun and Parents magazine (the current issues wouldn't reach me in Denmark until around February), I decided that the kids and I would make a new Christmas craft every day for the month of December. Good grief!

I'm sure you're starting to get a picture of how this unfolded. We started strong. Beautiful little glass jars covered in glued on squares of tissue paper so they glowed like stain glass when filled with a lit votive. Beautiful, right? We still have them. But I was quickly in over my head. By what I like to think was day seven or eight (but could have been day three or four), I lost steam (and I think my will to live). What had started as a fun project to engage my children in the joys of the season, became a herculean task that felt like a weight around my neck as I scoured the aisles of the local hobby shop for just the right supplies (made extra fun by my inability to speak Danish). This hare-brained plan of mine almost sucked the joy out of Christmas for me that year.  And that would have been awful.

My lovies that Christmas

I'd love to tell you that this one example provided the epiphany I needed to simplify Christmas and my life in general, but that was definitely not the case. Fourteen Christmases later, however, I think I'm finally starting to get it. Sometimes less really is more. Moms, and moms of little ones in particular, put so much pressure on themselves to be perfect, or Pinterest-perfect, as I like to call it. We run ourselves ragged trying to complete tasks that we think make Christmas. So here's my advice this holiday season...


Take a deep breath and really think about what matters this year. Make a list of things that MUST happen before Christmas at your house.  But here's the catch -- just put five things on that list.

 Yes, I know this is tricky. But you can handle five.  Twenty-five gets a little unwieldy. Try to let one of the five be something that's just for you, really.  I have friends who pass up every holiday invitation they receive because they are too busy, or life is too crazy to squeeze in a bit of simple joy for themselves. This makes me sad. You deserve really do.

So here are some thoughts...

Say "yes" to that invitation to the cookie exchange if it means spending an hour or two with people you care about that you never get to see. Buy the cookies (gasp!) if that's the only way you can go. Your friends want you, not your cookies. Okay, let's be honest, one or two of your friends really want your fancy cookies, but most of them just want you.

Don't send Christmas cards. Don't get me wrong, Christmas cards are one of my very favorite things about Christmas (and definitely one on my five musts), but if things are so crazy in your life that sending cards has become just another chore, than give yourself a break. Take a year off.  No one will cross you off their Christmas card list for missing one year. The world will not end. I promise.

Meet a friend for coffee. It's just an hour. The laundry, or shopping or wrapping, will still be there when you get back.

Cheat a little. Slice and bake Christmas cookies, or better yet, the break apart kind, are just as fun for little hands to decorate. The sprinkles and the icing stick just as well to these as they would to that homemade dough, and you can use the time you save to have a cup of tea and read that beautiful Christmas issue of your favorite magazine that just arrived.

Cheat a little more. Christmas crafts are just as special made from construction paper and crayons as they are from modge podge, or fancy lace, glitter or other supplies (note to my much younger self). And who doesn't love crayons?

Decorate less. I know that you have forty-five carolers that need to be arranged in cute little vignettes around the house (oh wait, that's me), but maybe this year, they could send a small delegation to represent the rest.

I had friends in a few nights ago to assemble Christmas/Finals care packages for our college kids. It was way too early in December for my house to be fully decorated (I was just taking down the very few fall decorations that were out), so I went in the attic, grabbed what was within arm's reach, and did what I called "Five Minute Christmas". A few simple decorations spread out around the house to hint that Christmas was indeed coming. Guess what?  It was perfect. Lots of laughs and stories and good cheer with good friends.

It was beautiful.

It was simple.

It was magical.

Make your list of five, and try to stick to it. Give yourself a break.


May your days be merry and bright!