HOW TO DE-STRESS YOUR HOLIDAY CARDS

Thank you to Minted, the maker of modern and beautiful holiday cards, for partnering with me on this post.

The Christmas season is upon us! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and also, sometimes, the most stressful. The shopping, the cooking, the baking, the cleaning, the partying, it is a FULL season, and while it’s a good one, it easily becomes a little crazy.

I think part of it is sometimes, that everything labeled “Christmas” can be hyped. From gift-giving to baking to holiday party outfits, sometimes in the middle of trying to make everything more magical what we really do is make everything more stressful. I want to recognize this, but not live into it. I want to have a simple Christmas, not a buying frenzy or a perfect gift hunt or a fit-everything-we-can-into-these-four-weeks experience.

Our families are awesome, and one way that we’ve all decided to simplify Christmas is by drawing names on both sides, so that we’re each giving to only one person in each of our families. Doing this has saved so much time, energy, and stress, and I really enjoy it.  If we do something extra for the grandparents I like to do photo gifts that are simple and meaningful, like calendars or books of highlights from the year.

But there are some things that we feel we have to do (or choose to do) in this season. Like the Christmas card. This process alone is enough to stress someone out. I don’t know what it is about them, but I think there’s this pressure to get THE most perfect photo of all time. Like we need to prove to the world our family is WITH IT. Like, “Look! We’re all smiling! We’re all happy, well rested, highly capable people who never have a bad hair day or have to wait in long lines at the post office or arrive late to church every.single.time and for the life, can never, ever, seem to find the missing shoe?”

Do you resonate with this? That struggle to get the perfect photo is real. As a semi-professional photographer and designer, I get it. Photos are important to me. I treasure them, print them, save them, post them, enjoy them, and yes, photo quality is more important to me than the average person.  BUT. Just because you’re into high quality photos doesn’t mean you need to hire an expensive photographer to get them. Our Christmas card photos this year were all taken on self-timer, and they are some of my favorite photos of our family, ever. Here’s how I did it:

By some Christmas miracle, we got an early snow this year in October. I know how magical of a backdrop this makes, so I bundled everyone up and out we went. It was not fancy or glamorous - we just pulled over on the side of the road near a local park, and I set up the camera and told Daniel where to stand with Trey. I have this DSLR camera, this lens, and a tripod (similar) that I use for self-timer photos. I pressed the “10 second continuous timer" button, ran for it, and hoped for the best. This one took only 5 takes which is completely miraculous with small children.

Once we had the photo, it was onto the card. This year I worked with Minted, which I love for their wide selection of designs and their printed recipient addressing. I'm so thrilled with how these turned out. They were exactly the kind of card I was looking for - modern and simple, and festive, and even though I say this every year, they’re my favorite cards we’ve sent to date.  

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Trey "helped" me stuff the envelopes. Excited to incorporate him more into our families traditions in the next couple of years. Some of our other favorite (simple) holiday traditions include: seeing Santa (it did not go well this year but we did it), walking through Candy Cane Lane (an area of houses decorated in vintage Christmas decor with lights and music; it’s very It’s a Small World-esq.), buying a Christmas tree (we did the closest lot this year instead of the farm because #movingiscrazy), and reading the Christmas story (we like this one for kids). We're already two weeks into it but in the future I'd love to do some kind of advent calendar, and also somehow incorporating doing something for someone else in need, because I think that’s the true spirit of Christmas - bringing hope and light to the world during one of the darkest times. I want my family to think of Christmas as a time of giving, instead of getting, because that’s where the lasting joy is.

What are some of your favorite family traditions and how do you keep your Christmas simple? Would love to hear.

HANDCRAFTED GIFTS THAT GIVE BACK

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I'm excited to be partnering with World Vision this holiday season, the global organization working to empower people out of poverty and directing a variety of other social justice projects. Their child sponsorship program is well known, but they also have holidays gifts to specific relief efforts, as well as a tangible handcrafted gifts in their gifting catalogue, which I think is a wonderful way to give something wrappable that is ethically made and gives back. I'm sharing my top three picks from the handcrafted catalogue today.

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1. The Kenyan Salad Scoops ($75) These are beautifully made out of olive wood by artisans in Kenya. I love the modern, short handles and how versatile they are. They look awesome with our classic, big, white, salad bowls.

2. The Upcycled Artisanal Bowl ($135) Made from reclaimed scraps of wire and metal by artisans in India, this bowl is the epitome of turning trash into treasure. It is substantial and beautiful and no two bowls are alike. I love it on top of a wood table filled with seasonal decor.

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3. Wraparound Ring ($65). I really love this ring. Made by fair trade artisans in India, it features two stones and is adjustable, so no need to get exact sizing. I love the delicate gold band and the colors of the stones.

This is just one small way to give back this Christmas. I want to incorporate some kind of giving into our family holiday traditions each year, whether it's through conscious gift giving or other ways. One thing I'm thinking for slightly older kids is to give them $5 each Sunday in December to give away to someone throughout the week. I like that this encourages them to keep their eyes open to need, and teaches them of the reward in giving. Because it's true that the joy really is more in the giving than the getting.

THE ANTI-UPGRADE

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Photo by Alexa Seidl.

Trey's outfit is Gray Label.

In the last three weeks I've made countless trips to the Apple store and have trialed three different phones including the iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, and the iPhone 6, which all started because the battery on my iPhone 6 stopped working a few weeks ago.

Initially, I thought I wanted to upgrade, but after having the newer phones for a little bit I decided I didn't like either. The 8 Plus felt too big in my back pocket and wasn't easy to navigate with one hand, and the 8 felt too similar to my old 6 that it seemed silly to upgrade and pay that much money for something that could be working again with an easy fix.

Luckily, I hadn't erased or traded in my old broken phone yet, so I just went back in and explained I just wanted to fix the battery on my old phone instead. I'm so happy with the change to my old, trusty, (now working) phone.

Just because everyone else is upgrading doesn't mean you have to. There is no race. We don't need to keep up or keep score. Especially during a season of so much change for our family, I'm so glad to have gone back to something that feels so comfortable, like an old sweater or a favorite dinner. I was almost blindsided for a second there by the newer, shinier, things, and well-meaning salespeople. But then I realized that I was in charge of this decision, and I had the power to change the situation, even for something that felt backwards to many people. It goes back to my motherhood mantra: you do what's right for you and your family and you don't worry about what anyone else is doing. Stay in your lane. Keep your old phone. Or don't. That's just it - you can do whatever works for you.