Raise your hand if your December is completely booked with events and activities. Um, me!

It never fails that come the last quarter of the year, our schedule fills up quickly. All of a sudden we are buying more food than we could possibly eat, pulling down a lifetimes worth of decorations from the attic, and getting less sleep than when we brought home our newborn.

This year, JD and I decided before the holidays kicked off that we were going to simplify. While we want to take the kids to do all of these fun things, the reality is they are 4, 2, and 6 months – they think driving around our neighborhood looking at Christmas lights is a special treat. Here in a few years, they won’t need naps, snacks, and a bathroom break every 30 minutes; but for now, it just doesn’t make sense to overbook our children with parties and extra commitments (which is exactly what we did last year).  We also chose to cut the unnecessary – only doing what we love and what we have the energy for. Everything else is going on the back burner. Which is why I’m super excited that this month’s Let’s Be Honest Mamas theme, hosted by Kacie Ellis from Elements of Ellis, is simplified holidays!

Simplified Holidays | Christmas Picture Outfits | Family OutfitsSimplified Holidays | Christmas Picture Outfits | Family Outfits

Simplified Holidays | Christmas Picture Outfits | Family OutfitsSimplified Holidays | Christmas Picture Outfits | Family Outfits

1 // How do you make the holidays less hectic around your home?

Holidays or not, our family runs better when we have a routine. With three kids, we have a lot going on. JD runs a business with an unpredictable schedule, and we both of us coming from families of divorce, we have a lot of additional commitments to juggle. So to keep our lives as peaceful as possible, we make a schedule and stick as closely to it as possible.

That means the boys get naps everyday regardless of what is going on. Being ages four and under, they don’t need to be overstimulated and overbooked – they need predictable if we want the day (and night) to go smoothly. So naps are something JD and I absolutely do not bend on. At some point in our lives that won’t be an issue, but for now, that’s what works for us!

2 // In a season inundated with receiving, how do you teach your kids about giving?

Something we started doing last year with kids is to have them go through their old toys and decide what they want to donate to other children. This year, JD and I have started asking the boys what they want to give versus what they would like to receive. So even in our letters to Santa, the boys could request something from Santa, but also had to request a gift they would like to give to another person. (This year Emmett asked for Santa to bring a pink puppy to this sweet little girl in his class. Heart. Melted.) And as the boys get older, we would like to start incorporating more hands on volunteer work.

3 // In order to enjoy the holidays, it’s important to be thoughtful with your celebrations and only do the things that make you happy. Are there traditions you’ve said “no” to? How did you make that change/tell your friends and family “no” is a way that didn’t upset them?

I don’t know if we have necessarily said no to certain traditions, as much as we have had to pick and choose what we participate in event wise. Between our two families, there seems to be something happening every weekend from Thanksgiving to New Years, but early on JD and I decided that we have to do what makes the most sense for our own family unit. So that sometimes means not going somewhere or doing something. It’s important to us to ENJOY the holidays, not let the holidays run us in to the ground.

4 // It’s easy to overspend this season. Share your tips for limiting the amount you spend on gifts. (example; making gifts, the 4 gift rule, etc.)

Last year, we went a little crazy on the amount we spent for Christmas. Part of it is because we just get caught up in sales and the hype of the holidays, the other part is we sincerely enjoy giving to and showering the people we love with gifts and affection.

This year we have chosen to keep things minimal. Minimal decorations, minimal gift buying, minimal commitments. We were so incredibly busy last year and spending money left and right, by New Years Eve we were drained and exhausted. This year we tried to focus on finding things for the boys that we feel serve a purpose. For example, educational toys and DVDs that can be used not only for play, but for learning. We also decided to put the money we planned to spend on each other towards financial goals that we would like to achieve.

5 // Preparing meals for the family can be stressful. Do you have a simple meal you prepare ahead of time to help lessen the stress?

As I mentioned, this year we are really trying to simplify our holidays. So instead of preparing a big, lavish meal, we plan to prepare a yummy cheese tray on Christmas Eve and possibly order takeout. Less preparation, less dishes, less stress! And I like the idea that we may be starting our own new Christmas Eve tradition.

So what are some of your tips and tricks for simplifying the holidays? Do you have any unique ways of teaching your children about giving? If so, please leave them in the comments below, because I’m always looking for new ideas. And then don’t forget to check out this month’s panel of mamas and how they are simplifying the holidays around their home! xo

Kacie Ellis elementsofellis.com // Stephanie Pollock stephpollock.com // Emily Lindsey happilylindsey.com // Camille Burley theburleytribe.com // Carla Thompson curiousnatalia.com

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