I realize that as the Queen of Christmas, many homemakers look to me to set the tone for a Happy Holidays. (Where do you think Martha Stewart gets all her inspiration?)
But let me tell you, things aren’t always “eggnog and cookies” up here at the North Pole. Santa has his not-so-jolly days, and if you think children can be difficult to manage– try keeping up with hundreds of stressed-out elves.
So when Sabrina at Incredible Infant called me up (we’re old friends) and asked if I would share some of my wisdom with my fellow females…well, I couldn’t resist. Who am I to sit back and let my sisterly bakers, wrappers, and organizers suffer, when I’ve had centuries of practice?
Before getting into all my diaries and pulling out my secrets, let me start with the biggest one: You can must put your foot down this year. You have to slow down the sleigh to a nice easy canter. None of this galloping across the fields at break-neck speed. If you want to truly have a Happy Holidays, you’ve got to deliberately slow. things. down.
I know it seems impossible, but the world won’t end if you take on less!
Herewith, some common holiday struggles and my remedies for managing them all in a snap, all while keeping your Christmas cheer intact.
Mrs. Claus’ Success Secret #1:
Avoid Holiday Party Overload
As our elves can attest, Mr. Claus and I do love a good party!
Despite this being our “busy season” and all, Santa and I get invited to party after party without fail every holiday season.
I can see the appeal– we do rock a mean Samba–but some days being a “Social Snowflake” just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, you know? All of those invites pile up on the kitchen counter… it tires me out just looking at them!
As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I have learned one thing when it comes to parties (and life):
Only say yes when you really, REALLY mean it.
Ask yourself: Is this a holiday party that I will truly regret not attending? Do I have a very specific obligation to a person or group that would make NOT attending irresponsible?
You are no good to anyone if you’re the grumpy party guest.
If you’re worried about declining and hurt feelings, I encourage you to suggest a different activity you can do with the host to spend more quality time together at a later date. Perhaps a coffee date the following weekend? Maybe a night of holiday shopping and dinner? Your host will probably thank you for your thoughtfulness.
And all those others invitations you are on the fence about? This is where we interject the only word you will need, and also the hardest one to actually say: No. (It gets easier with practice!)
Mrs. Claus’ Success Secret #2:
Have a Holiday Hospitality Gameplan
An action plan for tackling well wishers during the holidays is essential! Even the most orderly of households can take a quick turn into dizzying carousel land– and in-laws are the prime culprit.
My MIL is a saint…until she comes to town, that is. Like last year, when she commandeered my kitchen for dinner every night without asking. Or perhaps the other year when she brought friends and wheedled Mr. Claus into taking them on sleigh ride tours of the woods right before Christmas Eve. (I mean, really! He’s got a long night ahead!)
Not to mention, the holidays can quickly turn your orderly abode into a minefield. Haphazard stacks of wrapping paper, closet organization gone awry while trying to double as a hiding spot for gifts and endless cleaning lists abound when your visitors come a-calling with their Pomeranian in tow–no less.
The majority of chores and stress come from one unfortunate volunteer task that we all find ourselves faced with at some point during the holidays: The overnight holiday guests.
First things first: do you really need all the holiday guests? I say this, not as a Grinch, but as the bearer of reality.
Is it really not an option for your in-laws to stay with your aunt, sister, or dare I say it: an Airbnb?
Family is a cornerstone of the holiday season, yes, and with good reason. However, all too often family just assumes since you have a room/floor space/ an air mattress you naturally are open to having them stay over…
…for as long as they’d like.
Tis’ is the season for family and giving, but there are limits to that grace. Set clear boundaries with your family and you’ll all enjoy a much happier holiday season. Make plans to attend a Christmas play, take a drive to look at the lights, or even just plan for a lower-key dinner at home while opening gifts.
They will survive without spending every moment of their holiday vacation with you and yours. And YOU my friend, will have far less cleaning on that to-do list. All it takes is one clear chat with your spouse about what’s acceptable and what’s not. No longer than an overnight is the new rule? Great! Clear agreed upon expectations make life easier on everyone–including your guests!
Mrs. Claus’ Success Secret #3:
Implement a Plan for Healthy Eating
As you can probably imagine, cookies and treats are everywhere at our house. From the looks of him, you’d think that I don’t have much success in keeping Mr. Santa Claus away from the sweet tray, but I assure you that if he ate everything he WANTED to….well, let’s just say he’d need a bigger sleigh and more reindeer.
Try one of my favorite strategies here to minimize holiday weight-gain:
- Allow yourself one sweet treat or indulgence per day (but one means one!). Saying you won’t drink any eggnog all holiday season, probably isn’t realistic. Say yes to a small glass of eggnog and no to any cookies or treats after dinner.
- Get up and move! The cold weather and cookie comas are a surefire recipe for the couch potato life descending on your household. Don’t allow it! Mr. Claus likes walks with the reindeer through the woods as his winter exercise. Try shoveling snow (by hand), having a snowball fight with the kids, or even going for a winter walk to look at the lights with Fido. Maybe even start a NYE resolution early and learn a new skill like ballet–it’s never too late, and very little bit helps!
- Eat small meals throughout the day with healthy snacks included and a substantial breakfast. Low blood sugar sets you up for binging. Starving yourself all day for the holiday party later or because you’re dreaming of cheesecake will just lead to you eating multiple helpings–not just one. Pressed for creativity and inspiration in the kitchen? Let eMeals do all the heavy lifting for you and watch how easy this step can be!
Mrs. Claus’ Success Secret #4:
Children and elves can help us see Christmas with fresh eyes. Their wonder, excitement and enthusiasm is infectious and endearing. Elves, like children, are wonderfully helpful (most of the time) but if life has taught me anything, it’s that snags happen.
- They open toys that aren’t theirs–it’s the shiny object syndrome surely, but still.
- They get creative with their jobs and oftentimes end up creating “new” prototypes (a toy train with wings instead of wheels) at precisely the wrong time (Christmas Eve).
- They are notorious tricksters who love a good laugh, even if that means hiding all the toys set to go out with Mr.Claus…and then forgetting where they hid them.
Do your own little “elves” test your patience like they test mine? The Christmas excitement children have can quickly give way to: extravagant Santa lists and epic holiday meltdowns. It’s a chaotic, joyous and stressful time and kids feel all of these things even more acutely than adults.
Here are a few of the simple Do’s and Do Not’s I’ve used over the years to manage the expectations of my little elves, perhaps you can use them for yours!
Writing Their Letter to Santa
DO: Encourage your children to list one “big ticket” item and other items that are smaller. I also like to add in traditions that remind them of the true joys of Christmas: generosity and giving. Have them choose an extra gift that they can donate to a charity drive or family in need program so that every child in their neighborhood has a memorable Christmas.
DO NOT: Allow them to list everything they want without any limits and then purchase it all. This sets them up for future disappointments (when money is tighter) and unrealistic expectations. Besides, you have to leave my dear Mr. Claus a few options!
Handling Holiday Meltdowns
DO: Try to establish new traditions that appeal to all of the age groups in your family and involve minimal fuss. Decorating cookies (there is no shame in pre-made sugar cookie dough), a Christmas movie marathon night, and holiday light displays are all safe bets for a variety of ages–young and old!
DO NOT: Force a ritual or tradition that is simply too complicated for your family and the season they’re in. The Nutcracker is a beautiful play, but expecting a toddler to behave during the whole show isn’t realistic. And don’t, please heaven, forget naptime! With all the activity and excitement, the routine (and rest!) is needed for the little ones.
Christmas will always be my favorite time of the year. Even with the bustle, I try to savor each moment, because they really are so fleeting! Let me testify that putting these little elf-management strategies in place has given me and Mr. Claus a lot more peaceful nights in front of the fireplace!
Mrs. Claus’ Success Secret #5:
Prioritize on My Free Holiday Organizer
My to-do list is massive at this time of year. So many things to do and so little time to get it all done. For me, it helps to divide, distill and conquer.
So many things we think we need to do right this second! are really just false alarms. We can do them if we have the energy/time/wherewithal, but the world will not end if they take a few more days (or honestly, never happen at all).
I’ve created this little holiday organizer here for you, sweet sister! Just print it off, fill it in with the things you feel you need to do, and then steadily check them off over the next few weeks.
You’ll be surprised with how short the Must-Do list really is when you take the time to sort it out. That just means more time for the fun things on the Like-To list!
So, download this printable, pour yourself some well-deserved hot chocolate, add your one guilty-pleasure treat of the day, and start prioritizing!
Moral of the Story:
The bottom line is this: Christmas comes once a year. Whether you see that as a blessing or a curse lies entirely within your hands. Set your boundaries, make a plan and stick with it. It will all be over before you know it.
If you’re taking notes, here’s the Cliff’s version for handy reference:
- Avoid Holiday Party Overload
- Have a Holiday Hospitality Gameplan
- Implement a Plan for Healthy Eating
- Manage Your
- Prioritize on My Free Holiday Organizer
Lastly, cherish. every. moment.
Enjoy every trip to Santa and every batch of sugar cookies that need decorating. Don’t let these little memories escape! Despite it’s challenges, let me promise you, it will pass faster than you can believe. I can remember Mr. Claus’ first outing, giving out corn-husk dolls and wooden cars, like it was yesterday. Now it’s all vTech and American Girl.
From my little gingerbread home to yours,
Meet Sabrina Fox
Hailing from the Mitten State, Sabrina is the neighbor who brings over baked goods for holiday cheer and is forever cooking up new recipes in her microscopic kitchen. She spends most of her time with her darling husband, cheerful daughter, baby-on-the-way and two terribly needy cats.
She dreams of owning a house on a lake with a yard full of pine trees and to that end—fosters an unhealthy relationship with Zillow. When she’s not writing, cooking or baby wrangling, you can find her reading the New York Times, traveling, drinking iced tea and sometimes binge-HBO watching.