Sugar Cookies and Sanity

Photo courtesy of Erin Johnson

I love Christmas. Who doesn't, right?
It's just the most magical time of year! Staying warm and cozy inside, where it's beautifully decorated, while spending time with loved ones. Eating amazing food, exchanging gifts, and listening to Christmas music that makes us feel peaceful and nostalgic. It truly is just a fabulous way to end a calendar year.

But let's face it, it's also.... completely insane.

There are A MILLION THINGS to do. There are gifts to buy! And trips to plan! And baking to do! And Christmas cards to mail! And parties to go to! And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Then there's the fact that in the excessively Pinterest-inspired society we live in, we're practically drowning in a flood of cute ideas and precious traditions that JUST ADDS MORE TO DO. 

For example, WHO in their right mind came up with the concept of smearing toothpaste all over their bathroom and propping up a mischievous elf next to it so that their kids can enjoy the idea that their house is haunted by one of Santa's helpers? And then making sure that by the next time their kid blinks, this Elf (who is apparently the Lucifer of the North Pole) is making a brand new mess somewhere in the house for Mom or Dad to make AND THEN CLEAN UP?

I'll go ahead and bet that IT WASN'T A PARENT!

Can we just zoom out and think about this for a second? This is lunacy! Our parents would have never bothered with crap like this, because they were apparently the last generation to be burdened with practicality and common sense.

We, on the other hand, can't help ourselves!
We make extravagant advent calendars that have a different Christmas activity written on little notes every single day, that we have to plan our lives around or miserably fail at! 
We wrap up twenty five books and put them under the tree, so the kids can open one every day until Christmas!
(Let me do the math for you here: $17.99 per book X 25 days = A MILLION DOLLARS. Sorry kids, you're going to have to eat your new books for dinner, because now we're broke.) 
We even make Christmas light scavenger hunts! (Like... what?!)

Here's my point with all of this... we don't have to be like this. 
We don't have to do ALL THE THINGS that we like the idea of, but in all reality actually ends up sucking the life out of us and our families.

You know what we can and should do? Things that breathe life to our souls and families.

My friend Erin bakes and decorates the most unbelievably gorgeous cookies (shown above) that might as well belong in the Louvre. Clearly, she studied baking AT HOGWARTS and you know what? She loves doing it! She doesn't do All The Things, but this is her thing.

Every year, I send and hand out around 150 Christmas cards. Why? Because I enjoy it!
But every year, without fail, at least a one or two people who I give Christmas cards to immediately look defeated and go "Oh geez, you do cards? Ugh. I've never been able to get these done."
(Let's face it Ladies, if Comparison and Perfectionism were olympic events, we would bring home gold medals EVERY. DAY.)
Believe it or not, I didn't actually put makeup on, bathe my children, have a friend snap a picture of all of us, and order a bunch of cheap prints at Costco JUST TO SHAME OTHER WOMEN!
I honestly enjoy sitting down with a glass of eggnog and While You Were Sleeping playing in the background, and stuffing envelopes. It's fun and relaxing for me! It's my thing. 

But you know what wouldn't be fun or relaxing to me? Opening up a new note from a freaking advent calendar every day that gives me some sort of exhausting activity to do right then and there with my hyperactive children. I swear you guys, by day two I would be a walking Jack Nicholson impersonation. 
Not even from Cuckoo's Nest, we're talking THE SHINING here.
Trust me, no one would be having fun.

But I bet that's someone else's thing and it's not a complete life suck for them!

My point, again, is that you don't have to do it all.
Do some of it, do none it, it's up to you. But make sure you're not doing it because you feel like you have to. Do it because it brings you joy. 

And here's my other point: you also don't have to GO to it all.
You know ALL the parties and gift exchanges and relative obligations that you're expected to be at? 
Come close and listen to me....


It's true.
You do not have to be overwhelmed by the workload of packing or baking or shopping, if it's just prepping you for your next nervous breakdown.
You do not have to go into debt to show people that you love them.
You do not have to put up with the racist grandma or perverted uncle one more year, just because someone will be offended that you didn't show.

You not only have permission, but a responsibility, to prioritize your mental health over people pleasing.
Especially if this time is already hard because of grief or depression or broken relationships. Be kind to yourself. We are all human, which makes us a lot more fragile than we like to think we are.

You also have permission prioritize your own family over all of the invites and obligations.
A sobering thought that I think about often as a parent is that I only get so many Christmases with my kids. 
And then they're gone! 
They'll be grown and will have their own lives and families and maybe they'll celebrate some holidays with us, but they certainly don't have to. And either way, it won't be the same.
I really try to take that into account every holiday season. How am I going to remember these little years? Will I be resentful that I shared too much of my precious time with them? 
How will they remember me? Will they associate Christmastime with their crazy, stressed out mother acting like someone who should be institutionalized? I really hope not.

As fun and magical as the holiday season is, there is lots of wisdom in taking a deep breath and giving ourselves grace. In keeping perspective and not getting swept up in it all, as if we're completely out of control (which were not.)
That if we literally say NO to everything, and the only thing that we do this whole month is take a moment to thank God that He sent a baby, who will be coming again as a grown man to fix ALL OF THIS, then that is enough.

And most importantly, we can have hope that someday...
 Elf on the Shelf will finally meet his maker.


  1. Hi! I don't do Elf on the Shelf, Advent calendars, or Advent books. But this might be the first year that I don't do photo cards.... But I enjoy it. And I enjoy doing a ton of other things.... Thanks for 'permission' to do what I enjoy, even if others view it with the wrong perspective.
    Her cookies...I never thought to decorate a Christmas tree cookie like that! Are there more pictures of her process?
    I'd love for you to share this post at our Best of the Weekend party Friday at 8 PM EST.


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