An Uncomplicated Life Blog: December 2019

Monday, December 23, 2019

Most Popular Blog Posts of 2019

There were lots of great blog posts this year! My most popular 10 all fit into themes, which is so helpful as I consider content moving into 2020 

I wrote this post about my favorite moments of 2019 and what's most telling to me is that the bulk of my post popular posts reflect my favorite moments! Which is all kinds of "the stars are aligning" because it means that the things that I love to write about are the things that y'all like to read. Win win win. These were my top 10 most popular posts of 2019. Oddly enough, they all fit into categories, and even more odd, two of them were fashion posts (although, to be fair, they're "specialty" fashion finds that I actually know a few things about, like yoga and breastfeeding).

Essential oil DIYs and information:

DIY Makeup Remover Wipes

The Best Anti-Aging Essential Oils

Uses For Lesser Known Essential Oils

Amazon fashion finds:
The Best Yoga Fashion Finds On Amazon

Nursing Friendly Fashion Finds

Food, beverage and meal planning:
How To Meal Plan Strategically

Blackberry Sangria

I Drank Apple Cider Vinegar Everyday For A Month, Here's What Happened

Op-ed Mom posts:
I Don't Mom Culture

What I Learned Postpartum From Twins

It is an absolute joy and privilege to do what I love for a living everyday. I'm so lucky to have y'all follow along and read my posts! It's because of YOU that I get to do this! Thanks so much for reading my thoughts and ideas, and for following along - whether you've read me since the beginning in 2014 or this is one of your first blog posts you've ever read, I appreciate you! I'm looking forward to a year full of fun content next year too. Rest assured there will me tons of recipes, ways to uncomplicate your life, live more intentionally and be present, and of course - tons of sassy opinion pieces, both here but especially on my Instagram stories. Cheers to my most popular blog posts of 2019 and cheers to YOU for making them so!

I'll be on a holiday blog break until January 6. Enjoy the rest of the year with family, friends, or even just by yourself with a cup of coffee and a good book. See y'all in the new year and new decade!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Honesty And Transparency In Influencing

We live in a world where the prettiest pictures get the most likes, and there's constant pressure to "live your highlight reel" online. Here's why I think that's a load of garbage.

This post is totally off the cuff. I had planned to publish the post that will now be coming Monday and signing off for the year. But I got a little edgey, raw and real on my Instagram last week and it compelled me to write this post. I remember I woke up in the middle of the night after posting that photo and contemplated taking it down and deleting my stories to go "back into hiding" about the topic, where it felt so much safer. But the feedback I got from that Instagram post was phenomenal, and some one-off conversations I had not only gave me the courage to keep it up, but they propelled me to write this post as well. Lately, my blog posts have been about reflecting on 2019 and this one will too, in a deeply personal and different way. I want to take a deep dive into honesty and transparency in blogging and being an influencer.

I think the problem starts in that every blogger/influencer I know *thinks* they're sharing their honest life and being transparent online. Sure, they share the pretty photos, picture perfect recipes, amazing makeup tutorials and funny, messy photos of their kids. Then every few months, they share that their life isn't perfect. Maybe they throw up a "behind the scenes" photo, or a "Instagram vs reality" pic. Let me be clear on this: THAT is not being honest and transparent online. The occasional "real life" or "my life isn't all sunshine and rainbows" post doesn't make that influencer any more honest or relatable than anyone else.


Because everyone knows life isn't perfect. Everyone knows there are rough spots and dark moments. But putting up an obscure, over-generalized post about it doesn't actually accomplish the goal of being more real online. In fact, it just looks dumb and out of place. Why not share *exactly* what is challenging? Maybe you got in a fight with your spouse. Maybe you're lonely because you work at home and don't get much social interaction outside of online conversations. Maybe you're in a really rough sleep regression with your kid and you just don't have it in you to curl your hair and put on lipstick anymore. Maybe you got fired from a job. Maybe one of your best friends stopped talking to you. 

Guess what? All of those things have happened to other people too. Sharing about them online doesn't alienate you; it builds REAL community.

Saying your life isn't as perfect as it looks isn't being honest or transparent. Showing me a photo of your messy kitchen doesn't make you more likable. You know what does? Details. Specifics. Reading a story that goes in depth into your life that I find myself nodding my head to and saying, "Oh my gosh, me too!" does. It makes you not only more real, it makes you admirable for your true honesty.

But it's hard. Like, really really hard. It's putting details of your life out there for others to consume and judge. That's vulnerability. And vulnerability is hard. But I promise you, it's so so worth it.

There's been a few times where I've thought about taking down some of the content that I've put up. Anytime I consider this I say, "Ok, leave it up for an hour and see what happens! If you still feel this way in an hour, take it down." 10 times out of 10, I get such supportive messages in response to that difficult content! It's those moments that I'm reminded of why I do what I do; that there is indeed an awesome community of people online. That not everyone is a troll out for blood and negativity. That people DO care.

Being honest and transparent is hard. It's especially hard when your blog is a business and how you earn an income. You have to weigh being professional with being a personality. But I think when you share some level of detail on a subject - any subject, really - it makes you not only more relatable as an influencer, it makes your product endorsements stronger too. Because if you'll share details about a topic, it shows that you'll speak your mind. So, if you speak up about "not so pretty" parts of your life, when you do speak about great things, they're *actually* great things! You can't have nonstop good. You can't even have mostly good. To be viewed as an honest influencer, I think you need to share a lot more life stories - the good, bad, mundane, hilarious, sad, and average stories.

Here's the post, if you want to click over and check it out:

I hope that I've achieved that this year. I hope that if you follow me, you know you're getting my real opinion on a product, my real thoughts on a situation, or some real entertainment on something that happened to me or in my life. Moving forward into 2020, I hope to continue to put that level of realness out there. I realize that means some brands won't want to work with me and some followers will leave. I realize that means my photos won't be perfect, my hair might be greasy more than it's clean, and I'm not going to be a ball of positivity and motivation. My goal is to use realness to encourage others; not staging beautiful photos that I truly believe only make people feel less-than.

Does sharing personal stuff mean everyone will like it? That you'll gain fame and followers as a reward for your vulnerability? No. Did everyone like what I had to say about Young Living in that IG post? Absolutely not! In fact, YL reps messaged people who commented in support of me, trying to "earn their business back"! Can you even with that? I can't. It's definitely not all smooth sailing when you share your real thoughts on businesses, products, or current events. In fact, I myself have unfollowed people for their opinions - when CA passed their new vaccination laws and a whole bunch of people spoke up (and shed light on the fact that they're anti-vaxxers) I quickly unfollowed them. Despite my love for oils, I believe in science and medical facts and don't want to spread anecdotal evidence or myths, nor support those who do. And I'm sure some Young Living die-hards unfollowed me for what I posted. But all of that is ok. It narrows your people down to those who are actually your people. The people that should be following you and the people whom you want to follow yourself.

I mentioned this post was off the cuff, which makes me not entirely sure where I'm going with it. I definitely wanted to thank everyone who reached out after my raw IG post. I want to hug everyone who encouraged me and told me they're in my corner with me. And I want to encourage others to be brave enough to share their struggles online too. Give us some detail on your real life and let your followers support you! It's ok to be scared to share, scared to hit "publish" on a post that sheds light on an ugly topic in your life. It makes you more real, a more tangible person. Yes, it means some people aren't going to like you, but it also means that those who do will like you even MORE. I hope this is a trend I see coming to fruition in 2020 - more honest conversations online, as more and more of our relationships are lived out online. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

Low Maintenance Elf On The Shelf Ideas

Elf on the Shelf is everywhere! If your family participates in the Christmas tradition, these are some fun ideas on where to place your Elf for your kids to find the next day

I'll be honest: I don't like Elf on the Shelf. I think it's weird. Maybe because I grew up in the Chuckie era of freakish dolls coming to life and, you know, killing you, but I think the elf is weird looking and the fact that he moves at night and positions himself to watch you and report your behavior to Santa? No ma'am, that's just weird. My husband, however, got into it last year with the boys. They thought it was a hoot! So he's continued the tradition this year, and I have to say - he's done some pretty creative things! This post is more about him and his creativity than mine, but I hope it inspires you for some (relatively easy) low maintenance Elf on the Shelf ideas.

I know some Pinterest moms go all out and make crafts, change the elf's costume, use props and have a whole narrative around why the elf is where he is and what he's doing. That's more than I can really manage with four kids! I feel like the pressure to keep up with "those moms" is a deterrent from wanting to participate in the "Elf on the Shelf" phenomenon too. But you don't have to be that fancy for it to entertain your kids! You can keep it simple and low maintenance, and it's just as thrilling for your kids as putting in hours of crafting work every night.

Watching from the chandelier to make sure everyone eats their supper
Did you wash your hands after using the bathroom? Hope so, because the elf is there taking notes!

The great thing about Elf on the Shelf is that you can keep it really simple and it still thrills young kids. We try to pair the simplicity with whatever we're talking about with them. For example, the boys really wanted a little Christmas tree in their bedroom. I said they could have one as long as they listened, followed directions and had good reports from school for a week. That week, we put the elf in the hallway outside their bedroom, on the shelf (ha! puns!) in their rooms, and near the entry to our home (the one by the garage that we actually use, not our front door) so that the Elf (who my kids have named Eli) can "keep tabs" on what their behavior was like for the day.

On the shelf in the older boys' bedroom - better go to sleep kids!

Another fun thing about keeping your Elf on the Shelf simple and low maintenance is that the fun of it isn't about what the elf is doing, it's in having your kids wake up in the morning and finding him. The thrill of the hunt, not the feast, right?! My kids could care less where or what the elf is doing, they just love trying to find him.

Think you're going to "steal" a snack from the pantry without asking first? Think again, the elf is watching!

That all said, my husband has come up with some pretty creative (and still low maintenance) ideas for ways to display the elf. The boys absolutely LOVE any and all things Frozen. So one Saturday morning after watching the movie that Friday night, hubs put the elf in a glass, filled it with water and put it in the freezer. Then he pulled him out before the kids woke up and when the kids found the frozen elf, daddy said that Elsa "froze" him because he was being naughty! It was a simple way to incorporate what the boys are talking about (ummm, everyday. Every. Single. Day) into what the elf is doing to make it more life-like. Ugh, life like dolls are bringing back those Chuckie memories, but I digress. The kids love it.

Like it? Pin it!

Elf on the Shelf may seem a little intense, but it doesn't have to be. It's easy to figure out ways to make him low maintenance if you don't have capacity to do intense crafts or don't want to put in the mental effort of being insanely creative. If you're weirded out by the elf like me but your kids love it, I hope this inspired you to do some low maintenance elf of the shelf ideas. Leave the crazy stuff up to those Pinterest moms who craft the heck out of everything. 

Monday, December 9, 2019

Favorite Moments Of 2019

As 2019 draws to an ever closer end, here's my look back on the year and all the high point that made it great

I literally have Auld Lang Syne running through my head as I type this, and it's still just early December, ha! I usually take the last two or so weeks of the year off, so that's why I'm starting the 2019 wrap up now. We talked about goals already, I don't think the low parts of the year are worth rehashing, so this post is all about what made the year great for me. It's mostly what made it great professionally, but I'm including a few tidbits of personal details too to keep it interesting. Here are my favorite moments of 2019:

- Watching my son's come into their own person(s)
Henry can now ride a bike without any training wheels and his pedals fully installed on his balance bike. He's playing for his elementary's basketball team, and within a few months, advanced three or four levels of swim lessons. He's athletically inclined! Otto, on the other hand, loves music. He can hear a song once, and be able to sing along with it in the car. It blows my non-musical mind! He could carry a tune (and be in tune) before he was three. I think some sort of dance or music lesson of some sort is in his future. The twins are starting to develop their own personalities too - Teddy is more verbal and loves to talk, while Knox is more physical and loves to play and "do stuff." Knox is easily self-entertained and is always playing, walking, or moving. I wonder if Teddy will take after Otto and Knox after Henry! Time will tell.

Matchy matchy even though their personalities are all coming out now and they all couldn't be more different!

- Niching down
I've now been active in the blogging world long enough, and have developed a portfolio of brand partnerships strong enough to really work with exactly who I want to (see below for my partnership with Revive, right?!) I decided to narrow down the brands to cooking related, child related and eco-friendly or "green." And the coolest part about that is that this year, all those types of brands were the ones who reached out to ME to partner - I didn't have to do anything besides answer emails! Sure, a few random brands reached out, but by and large, everyone who did were people I'd actually want to work with. That makes me feel like I've finally built a reputation as a knowledgeable source on those three key topics that I want to write and share about, and brands are seeking not only my creative side for my ideas, but my marketing expertise too. Yet again... Finally!

Creating recipes, having honest convos about motherhood, exploring gardening and doing it all with a "crunchy" twist has been so fun this year!

- Embracing my passions
I suppose this kind of relates to niching down too. But more than simply writing about my desired topics and partnering with great brands that I'd buy anyway, it's speaking my truth and being myself on social media. It's having an opinion I'm not scared to share. If I've got an opinion about the latest controversy in motherhood, I'll share it. At first I was afraid I'd offend people, but here's what really happened: I get tons and tons of DM's and emails from followers THANKING me for speaking my mind! Saying they agree with me and support me. I even had a follower send me a gift because I spoke up about a topic she was passionate about, and appreciated me taking a public stand on it! That absolutely was a favorite moment of 2019 for me. Every time a follower sends me a message saying I'm hilarious or made their day or they feel like we're secret best friends, my day is made. 100 percent made. It is SO freeing to be yourself and it's rewarding to have people comment on how you make their day by being your true self. This is definitely one of the best things to happen to me all year.

- Discovering REVIVE essential oils
Two words: GAME. CHANGER. I had been a Young Living distributor for a few years, and made all of about $30 from them. Then they wanted me to take down some of my best performing content, and the best course of action for me was to stop (attempting) to sell their oils on my site. But that brand has a website that's hard to navigate ("what exactly is an enroller ID and what the heck am I actually buying... I just want some lavender!) and so expensive, even affluent readers didn't want to take the plunge. And I don't blame them. I felt guilty every month spending the money I did on those oils too!

Then one of the Instagram accounts I really trust for oil recommendations said Revive was the best out there. I went to their site and saw that a bottle of lavender was $7 and they had free shipping, so I thought ok - I'll get one bottle and compare it directly to YL. I had tried other brands before and was consistently disappointed. Revive did NOT disappoint! I couldn't tell the difference between the two lavenders. So I ordered lemon, peppermint and frankincense, three more oils I use regularly. All were of equal quality to YL, and I got all of them for less than one 5ml bottle of Frankincense from Young Living.

Have you tried Revive oils yet?
After researching and trying the oils myself, I reached out to the company to see if they had an affiliate program. They had just launched it! I got my discount code and got to work updating my most popular blog posts. And I'm THRILLED to say that their brand was a natural fit for me! FINALLY! Within 4 months, I became their number one sales rep in the world. The. World. My website is a top traffic and sales driver for them. I've partnered with them on marketing campaigns and they genuinely listen to my recommendations. It's by far the best brand partnership I've ever experienced! They let me bounce ideas off of them and we create together. They're hands down the reason my blog was successful in 2019! My first paycheck was enough to pay my cell phone bill. Now it can fund the mortgage!

If you're skeptical about oils or you don't think Revive is good option, accept my challenge: Go to and pick out an oil. If you don't know what to get, let me suggest the lavender. Use code PAIGE10 to get 10% your first order (along with free shipping to the US and Canada!) and try it yourself. If you don't like it, email me and I'll buy it back from you! One bottle. It will change your mind and your life.

2019 was a hard year personally. It was full of nonstop diaper changes, sleep regressions and breastfeeding twins. Late in the year, the twins finally started to sleep through the night and they were fully weaned by 13 and a half months. Since both those milestones, my personal life has become much easier and more manageable! My professional life was another story! 2019 was a roller coaster. I started the year off strong and confident. Then hit a low in mid-March and stayed low until I found Revive. I can say that, in 20/20 hindsight, the year was full of growth and learning that is definitely ending on a positive. I'm so thrilled on where I'm at in both my personal and professional life heading into 2020. I hope it's a sign of good things to come!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Goals For 2020

New Year, new decade! Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish, both personally and professionally, in 2020

I'll be honest; I love reading other people's goals. Usually, it not only gives me things to consider for my own life or business, but it also sheds perspective on why a person is the way he or she is. This New Year's is a big one. It's the start of a whole new decade. I've now been blogging for six years, and it's a totally different animal than when I started. I also am a homeowner and a mom to four boys. Given all that changed this decade, I thought it'd be fun to share my short term goals for the year and some long term visions I have for the future. Here are my goals for 2020, and where I hope to head both personally and professionally into this new decade.

Personal goals for the decade:
- Stay in shape; stay vegetarian 3-4 days a week. I hope to keep working out most days of the week, and hope to keep learning about new ways to incorporate vegetarian dishes into our everyday lives. I know eating vegetarian is key to a better environment; and what meat I do buy, I want to learn how to buy off local farms. It's funny - when I lived in Minnesota, EVERYONE belonged to a meat and veggie farm co-op - here, it's all a new thing. I'm slowly learning about local farm shares, buying local meat, and growing our own veggies (see my goals for gardening above!) I hope to expand that into the future and cut out as much waste and transportation as I can, to help the environment, improve my family's health, and support local business owners.

- Move into a larger home. Man, y'all.. This one might kill me. I LOVE our home. I LOVE it. I walked into it and knew it was home immediately. In fact, I made an offer on it while my husband was traveling (with his permission) because I knew this was where we needed to be. But it's a four bedroom, 2.5 bathroom home. And we have four we have four kids, only out of state family and both my husband and I office from home. Currently, my "office" is in the corner of the play room and his is in a corner of the formal dining room. Everyone shares a bedroom.  All boys plus guests need to share a bathroom. Some days, I seriously can't wait to move into a bigger home. Other days the thought of leaving it makes me nearly burst into tears. It's still fine for now, but as our babies grow... It's going to get very small very quickly. I just wish it was a tad larger, or even just had one more bathroom... First world probs, right?! A larger home is def on the list for the next decade, though, as our boys grow up and become TEENAGERS. They'll be teenagers within a decade! Ahhhhhh!

Personal goals for 2020:
- Learn more about gardening. I suppose this could be a professional goal too, since my gardening posts are some of my most popular, but truly this is a personal passion of mine that I've simply translated into my professional life. As you know, I have a raised garden bed in our backyard that I mostly use for veggies. I do lots of container gardening for flowers too. And this last year was one of my most successful yet! Mostly, I've been learning via trial and error, which was fun... But it's time to start to attempt to limit the errors! My flowers are usually always a success but my veggies are at a 50% success/fail rate. I want to dive deeper into what veggies should be planted when so I have a better yield, what flowers do best in the Texas heat, and share more of that with y'all. We have great landscaping, and we have beautiful potted plants, but I'd really like to learn more about when and what grows best when and where to optimize our garden life - of course, doing it organically and as sustainably as possible. In other words, I won't be dumping a bunch of chemicals and fertilizer (outside of manure) on the plants to make them grow artificially.

Professional goals for the decade:
- Be flexible. Here's the truth: who knows where influencer marketing is headed. I think 2017-2018 really did a number of our credibility. I think it will still exist, I'm just not sure in what form. But I hope to still work for myself, with my flexible schedule. I believe that blogging, in whatever form, will ALWAYS exist, but do I think the dependence on social medial will be the same in the next 10 years? Absolutely not. I think we'll see a return to independent website marketing, like we saw in 2014-15, and perhaps more talented, dedicated bloggers will write for the personal blogs of professional websites, and run their own more "underground" or grassroots web sites. One thing that's clear heading into 2020 is that people are SICK of social media. They still consume it, but they're sick of it, and it's only a matter of time before they stop consuming what they're sick of. Here's to adapting to the next chapter, whatever that is!

- Learn a new skill. I'm not sure what that skill will be, but I'd love to learn a new skill to keep me relevant. This past decade, I learned photography. I had been in marketing communications and a writer since I graduated undergrad, so the writing aspect of blogging was a natural fit. But very quickly, I learned that I'd need to learn how to take GOOD pictures. Then I learned that I needed a DSLR camera, and would need to learn how to use it too, and I'd also need to learn how to size and edit those photos. What will the new skill set be? Dunno! Maybe learn more about HTML. Maybe learn how to work in wordpress and transfer this whole site over to a self-hosted domain. Maybe I'll learn a new trade or craft that I end up selling on my site. I'm not sure yet, but I'd love to learn a new skill to keep me motivated and my mind fresh.

Professional goals for 2020:
- Go to a blog conference. In 2015, I went to two, and learned SO much! It was so fun to network and meet people in person. In 2016, I had a young breastfed baby at home so I couldn't travel or attend, and then in 2017, there weren't any coming to Dallas that I wanted to attend. Now I'm more aware of which conferences would benefit me, and they all involve getting on a plane and traveling to them. And I SO want to go. My goal is to go to one, even if that means airfare and hotel and all the other expenses of a conference. If there's also one coming to Dallas, I want to do two! But definitely hit up one big blogger conference and expand my network this year. It's been far too long since I hung out with people in person!

Are you a goal setter? I remember always being annoyed with year end reviews and goal settings sessions when I worked a 9-5, and find it hilarious that I'm now doing it annually on my own and also reading everyone else's goal posts and statuses on social media. Tis the season for goal setting! Get your mind right and set up your decade for success. I love that I not only write these to make them concrete, I publish them publicly so that I'm held accountable for them. Go set some goals and do little things everyday that drives you to those goals' success.

Monday, December 2, 2019

How We Manage Holiday Gift Giving

With Christmas around the corner, my mom groups are talking nonstop about stocking stuffers and how each family manages gift giving. Here's what we've found to be most effective

All my kids are still young enough to believe in Santa. I'm not looking forward to the day where Henry learns there's not such thing, but until then, we'll Santa on! They each have stockings with their names on it hung over our fireplace. Personally, I wasn't aware there was a controversy surrounding Santa and the gifts he brings (or doesn't) until I was scrolling Facebook and saw all these moms get into heated debates about it. Then I thought about gift giving in general, and how my husband and I manage it, and realized yes - there absolutely needs to be a strategy if you've got a large family and many people who want to gift presents to your child(ren). In the season of giving, and as a person who is anti-materialism and consumerism, here's how we manage holiday gift giving. Hopefully, it inspires you to be more mindful about how gifts are given (and received) in your home, too.

There's a popular article circling on social media about the four gift rule: give your kids four gifts for Christmas - something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Clever with the rhyming! And easy enough to implement. But what about family members that want to gift the kids things? What about Santa?

We have an interesting situation because we have all out of state family. Nobody is showing up for any holiday with gifts; rather, they ship them to us. Which works well, because I can run an interference! While I know they mean well, sometimes the gifts our families send are simply too many. Which seems like it would be a good problem to have, but let me tell you about what happens when your children have too many gifts: Christmas turns into a straight up nightmare. The kids get over stimulated and overwhelmed with all the opening and excitement of new toys. For the first few presents, everything is fun and watching your kids' eyes light up is the BEST. Then they start to get over-stimulated, and with every new present placed in front of them, they fall deeper and deeper into a whiny, overly excited and hyper-stimulated state. Soon, they're fighting over who's presents are who's and aren't listening because they want to go and play with the last toy they opened that really excited them. Things fall apart. Quickly.

If you're a parent of toddler aged kids or older, odds are good you've had this happen, be it Christmas or a birthday. It takes a fun celebration and makes it hell. Yup, hell.

Creepy Elfie watching the kids from the TV. Who came up with this tradition?!

What can be done about it? First, we ask our parents (the kids' grandparents) for contributions to their 529 college funds instead. Still, I know they find it fun to shop and wrap up presents for them, and despite everyone's best intentions, large boxes of presents show up at our door. I take one for each child, and place it under the tree. Not too early, because that's too much temptation for toddlers (and frankly, our 13 month old twins would open them and chew on the paper!) so a few days before Christmas, I set out a few of the gifts. I usually take what we get and cut it in half. The other half the kids get to open on their birthday. That's super easy for Otto since he was born Dec 18. Henry waits until his birthday in May (he never misses the presents he never sees anyway!) And yes, the twins will have to wait all the way until October to open the other half of their gifts. That's a long wait, so I try to put out any age-sensitive gifts first.

Honestly, last year my husband and I didn't do any shopping for the kids. What was sent to us from grandparents was far more than enough.

Now what about Santa? Growing up, Santa always gave me small gifts. Things like magazines, candy, new gloves or socks, and maybe a small accessory for a doll or stuffed animal. I'm talking gifts under $15! I think this is the best way to do it. Nothing expensive for flashy, just fun little treasures to open up on Christmas morning. This way, the "big gifts" are given the night before on Christmas Eve, and Christmas morning is spent opening a few little items from Santa, then playing with the toys from the night before.

I know some people like to have Santa bring the "big" gifts, but that's never been how my family has done it. Why? For starters, it makes your kids wake up even EARLIER on Christmas, since they're excited to see what they're getting. My kids wake up at 6:30am anyway, and I sure as heck don't want them getting up any earlier, especially after a night of having wine during Christmas Eve dinner! Second, why give "credit" of the expensive gifts to a make believe person? No, mommy and daddy or grandma and grandpa got you that! Not every child's family can afford some of the gifts my kids are able to get, and having that come from Santa sets up my kids to be "bragging" or make others feel bad about what Santa brought them. That's too intense for a make believe character for me. Third, what do you do after your kids are too old to believe in Santa? Or when one is but the others aren't? Just transition those gifts from coming from Santa to magically coming from family now? That doesn't make sense to me, and it certainly doesn't make sense to your kids.

I think the theme of our holiday gift giving is attempting to simplify. Some years I'm better at it than others. Some years it's easier than others. But the attempt is always there, to curb meltdowns and over stimulation. In a world of materialism, I want my kids to focus on what the season is all about: love, family and togetherness. Celebrating the birth of our Savior. Not new toys and technology and bikes and games. None of that will mean anything to them in  a few years, but spending time together will create memories that will last a lifetime. Creating holiday traditions will last and perhaps even carry over into when they start their own families. THAT is what's really important; not the gifts. Simplify your holiday gift giving and watch how much more fun the Christmas season is, both for you and your kids.