I admit, I baked at least one thing from scratch every day over the past week.

In fact, the 25 pound bag of flour (super economical at $8) I purchased just before Thanksgiving has been reduced to a cup or two.

But I baked with no real goal, and certainly no pressure. I tried some new recipes that looked fun ( apple streusal coffee cake, peppermint brownies), made a few holiday favorites (pumpkin muffins, Russian tea balls, chocolate chips for Santa), and went for functionality as well (biscuits for breakfast, a focaccia appetizer).

This is what our whole season looked like. I forced myself to make decisions that simplified our Christmas. Specific examples:

~ I wanted to have a party like this. Due to the logistics of finance, geography, and being fairly new to the area and a stranger to most of my kids’ school friends, I talked myself in and out of hosting a Happy Birthday Jesus party with this level of fanciness. Instead, we accepted nearly every invitation extended to us and invited small groups of people over on a few occasions. My kids didn’t know the difference. They just had fun.

A new tradition: Breakfast with Santa at the Hard Rock Cafe

~ I wanted a gorgeous, Photoshopped, perfectly quirky beach family picture to send out on the Christmas cards. But the photo companies discounted their cards long before Paige was home for break. So I made cards from some great shots we already had. And I only ordered 50 of them. I sent some other cards and photos out as well. I didn’t get one single comment from a card recipient that he/she was disappointed in what we sent. Imagine that.


~ I wanted to do some sort of wonderful, educational, enchanting, daily Advent activity with the girls. I read about several, was sent a few, and some looked fun and engaging and just great.. But we didn’t do any of them. We did paint ornaments, sang a LOT of Christmas songs, talked about the aspects of the Nativity story, talked about the role of Santa, talked about the ones we were missing, and generally celebrated love. It was, um, all good.

Photo by C.A.M. Productions, owned & operated by our boss’ sons.

I almost started to feel bad as I read or heard that others were stressed, exhausted, not sure they were going to Get It All Done In Time. That’s been me every Christmas for years, even before I had kids. I wanted perfect gifts, perfect gift wrap, perfect food, perfect atmosphere, perfectly magical traditions. And what I often got was a feeling of perfect letdown when it was all done.

Two years ago I wrote passionately about this subject with this goal of simplicity in mind. It’s funny to read it again tonight and note that 1) I totally forgot the cuteness of KK calling it a ‘Christmas Treet’ and 2) Days after writing it, I made space on the counter for a Kitchen Aid Mixer and added several inches to my waistline!

Well, it’s taken me 2 years…and a move 1000 miles away from the temptation to run-run-run-get-it-all-done, but a simple Christmas was achieved. But… from the day we put up the decorations until tonight, as we sit watching crazy, stupid love in front of a somewhat unnecessary fire, I haven’t felt worn out, beat down, or pent up. I feel like I’ve been the recipient of a month-long gift. With all the imperfections and hurdles in our current life, these days, with their impromptu white-chicken-chili lunch dates, completely generous and unexpected financial blessings, dance-it-out episodes in the kitchen, etc. have been some of the fullest and sweetest I’ve had since we moved here.

My husband has been dying for me to keep it simple. But I had to get here in my own time. We made it. Now we’re going to enjoy the decorations for a few more weeks, forgive ourselves for not watching It’s A Wonderful Life yet, throw AWAY some of those leftover treats and plan a few balanced meals, stop by the beach every chance we get, have fun spending those awesome gift cards, and be thankful for the simplest Christmas ever.

Taken at our JourneyChurch Christmas morning service, jammies welcome.

As we lay in a hotel room last night, Christmas night, for the first time ever (we visited with our ‘Carolina family’ about 2 hours from home yesterday), the carol that rang in my head, seemingly all night, was one that suddenly seems perfect for post-Christmas:

Give us a lamp to light the way unto the land of perfect day. O beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on…