Mom’s Holiday Survival Guide

The sugar high isn’t even gone from Halloween and the stores are hanging the stockings, pushing the candy canes, the gift guides and toy magazines have landed in the mail box and Costco looks like Santa Land. As soon as November 1 hits there’s a quick slide into the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. And ready or not, you get shoved into the mix of it all. 
Maybe you’re like me and it’s a conglomeration of emotions. I love the festivities, the lights, the delicious meals, hosting friends and family, the thought of my kids making crafts of turkeys with wobbly eyes and sipping hot cocoa near the tree. About three seconds later, the same sweet thoughts of crafts and cocoa make me sweat, feel frantic and want to hide in the closet. Crafts make messes, hot chocolate spill and gives a buzz to an already crazy 5-year-old, the turkey craft looks amateur and messy compared to the Pinterest world, and the relatives are coming, oh my! 
And then there can be family pressures. Traditions passed down, some you love and some you don’t. Maybe you have a blissful family holiday every year, but I know a lot of people, and that’s not always reality. It’s supposed to be a time of year to sit and savor family and friends but it can often lead to a big hot mess of family disfunction, mommy guilt, tears and unmet expectations instead. Are you all in the holiday spirit yet? Yikes.
I’m not here to put a damper on the holiday cheer, because I think that the holidays can be the best time of year. However, I’m also a realist and know the culture we live in can be overwhelming and stressful this time of year.
 moms holiday survival guide logo
Here are some tips that I’ve begun to put into practice in our own family to help make the holiday season a little less crazy and frantic (as much as that’s possible anyway), more meaningful and enjoyable to all.

1. Decide what’s important to you and your family

Having kids really helped us to begin to reevaluate how we do holidays. What traditions do you really enjoy and want to implement? Do you travel or stay home? Do you limit gifts? Do you eat the same thing each year? Do you always make a gingerbread house? Meet with your significant other and kids to decide what the most important things to include in the holidays are for your family. This can be so hard because it can mean letting go of some things and possibly disappointing others. But, it also means leaning into things that are important and meaningful to you, which in turn brings freedom and joy. 

2. Keep it simple. Be okay with not doing it all and not doing it all perfectly. 

Pick one craft for Thanksgiving or Christmas (not five) if it doesn’t give you life. Only make two types of cookies or treats instead of six. Pick a few of the really important things/traditions and do those. Less can be more. And from a recovering perfectionist, let go of the unrealistic expectations of perfectionism and embrace the mess and the craft that just came out “okay”.

3. Say No


There are always more parties, more requests, more events to attend to than we actually have time for. It’s okay to say no. When we say no to something, we also say yes to something else, like perhaps more quality time with the people we love. Say no to materialism. More gifts do not mean more happiness. Our kids actually want more of us, not the “things” that come from us. 

4. Say Yes

jenna and hot cocoa

Say yes, to snuggles, to playing a game, to reading a book on the couch or under the Christmas tree. Say yes to that hot chocolate when you want to say no. Say yes to being present. 

5. Take Care of You

When you care for yourself you are caring for those you love as well. Set aside the oh so familiar mommy guilt and do something life giving to you. Go on a date with your significant other. Go to coffee with a friend. Sit and read a book. Go get a massage. Go for a walk in the beautiful place that we live. Go work out. Giving the gift of a well taken care of you is a good thing. 

6. Remember those in need

It can seem so crazy to think about serving others when we can barely take a shower, get food on the table, manage the carpool schedule or keep our toddler safe each day. But oftentimes serving someone else in need can bring unexpected life and joy and helps to lift our eyes to the bigger story of life. Take someone a meal, bake cookies with your kids and take them to a friend, drop off a bag of food at the food bank, donate a toy to a child in need, join Portland Moms Blog in showing a little love and fill some needs this season. There are so many simple, yet very practical things we can do to make our world better, one small act of kindness at a time. 

7. Begin or end your day with quiet

So much easier said than done, I know. My son jumps from his bunk bed every day by 6 a.m. There’s no quieting that one some days. And by 8 p.m. I’m totally wiped out on an average day, let alone during the holidays. But give it a try. For even just five minutes try some of these things: Sit silently. Read a scripture, poem, or something inspiring and think on it. Pray. Light a candle. Listen to soft music. Go for a walk. Lie down and think about the things that you’re thankful for. Quieting our hearts and minds in a noisy world is hard to do, but so needed and worthwhile. 
Whether you are bounding with joy and have sugar plum fairies dancing in your head about the holidays or the thought of the upcoming season makes you want to take a nap, let these tips help you and your family over the next seven weeks. May the season ahead bring you unexpected joy and sweet memories with those you love. Happy Holidays!    
through the windowIsaac and christmas tree

(This was a Pinterest craft that looked good for a couple days……until the marshmallows (a.k.a. snow) slid all the way down the fishing string. #craftfail #nailedit #letitgo

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Jody grew up in a small town in Central Oregon, graduated from Oregon State University, traveled to Africa for three months and, upon returning, moved to Montana to be near her then fiancé. They lived in Bozeman, Montana for nine years working on the Montana State campus in full-time ministry. They now have lived in SE Portland for nearly eight years and work part-time with the same faith-based non-profit. She is also now a business owner and helps others find health and happiness through Plexus. She has been married for 16 years and they have two beautiful kids. Their 11 year-old daughter is a miracle biological child after years of infertility, and their son 7 is a miracle child through the gift of adoption. Jody loves living in beautiful Portland where flowers are always in bloom and there is always an adventure around the corner to be had. She loves Jesus, coffee, a good book, deep conversation with people she loves, being intentional to love those around her, hosting events in their backyard, sausage, beer, traveling, and being a wife and mom. The beach is her happy place. She also blogs occasionally at about motherhood and ministry.


  1. Great tips! My sister and I tried that marshmallow Pinterest craft. We also #nailedit. The garbage can looked quite happy with it. 😉

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