Vanessa’s Mom Hacks for The Holidays

‘Tis the season for parties, concerts, gift wrapping, decorating, baking, and all the other holiday activities that are dancing in your head. Holiday season is a busy time for everyone, but the most important part of the holidays is family time. Unfortunately, that can get lost in all the hustle and bustle. After years of spearheading big family holidays, I’ve come up with a few hacks to get everything done, while keeping the focus on what really matters: family time.

Make Your List and Check It Twice

I make a list of all the things I want to do in the holiday season before it kicks off. I also ask the kids what they want to do, which usually includes baking cookies, looking at holiday lights, etc. Then I sit down with my calendar and try to fit in what I can. Planning ahead, I also invite dear friends and family that live nearby to join in on some activities. The more the merrier, right!? If something is meaningful to me and my family during the holidays, we have to plan and take the time to make it happen.

Santa’s Little Helpers

Some of my fondest holiday memories are of my time in the kitchen helping my mom and grandma cook the most amazing Christmas dinners. I loved feeling like an integral part of that important meal and just being together. Involving my children in many of my holiday to-dos is part of what makes the season special for me. I look forward to spending time together as we decorate the tree, make our traditional “Snowy Mix” treat to give to neighbors, put together a holiday playlist, and entertain friends and family in our home. And it’s the thoughtful homemade gifts they give to each other that make our “Secret Santa” tradition so special.

Christmas Eve is No Time for a Wrap Battle

One holiday lesson I learned the hard way, don’t wait until the last minute to do the wrapping! That makes for a very long Christmas Eve and a very groggy Christmas Day. We give each of our seven kids only three presents that go under the tree. But Santa gives a stocking stuffed with dozens of fun, little, inexpensive gifts. And Santa wraps ALL of those little stocking presents. We also have a tradition of wrapping 24 Christmas books, and each night in December, we take turns unwrapping and reading one before bed. That’s a lot of wrapping! So I’ve learned to employ my very own staff of elves in the form of neighborhood kids. Instead of holing myself up in my room to do all the work, I pay them to watch Christmas movies and wrap all the presents. That’s called a win win!

Another time saver are reusable gift bags. My crafty sister-in-law has made us several over the years, with holiday fabric and a sewn in ribbon. And every year we make more. They make wrapping a cinch—and you’ll never have to worry about running out of tape!

Make Time for What Matters Most

I always want my family to give back service in a meaningful way, but especially around the holidays. With all the fun activities, it’s easy to miss this one if you don’t plan for it. We often put all of those years of music lessons to work and take the kids to a nursing home to perform a little holiday concert. One year we hosted a dessert buffet in our home for coaches and teachers from school as a thank-you for all they do. It’s in those moments of serving others that our family truly feels the spirit of the season.

Always Be Christmasing

Shopping for our large family can be overwhelming. But I learned a trick from my mom (a mother of 12!). I keep a bag for each kid hidden in my closet and throughout the year, if I see something perfect for them, I grab and stash it in their bag. I also keep an ongoing note in my phone of what I’ve purchased as well as other gift ideas. Not only does this tip save time, but also helps spread out the financial burden that can come with giving to so many people.

Capture It All

My kids are growing up way too quickly. While there’s nothing I can do about that, I can play photographer to every cookie decorated, carol sung, and present unwrapped. I cannot say this enough…TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES! Although the holidays can be stressful, these moments spent together as family are what it’s all about. Be sure to snap and Chatbook them all so you can hold on to what matters.