Avoiding the Holiday Hangover

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We all know the holiday hustle and bustle well. The months of October, November, and December are full of reasons to celebrate, which makes them my very favorite time of year.

There is one problem with this being my favorite time of year: I want to do ALL THE THINGS. You should see my Pinterest boards for Fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Full to the brim. And having too many ideas, like I do thanks to the lovely internet, usually leads to doing too many things in an already busy time of year.

I became particularly over-zealous about holiday activities once kids entered the picture. This Advent calendar and that Christmas countdown and all the baking and crafty ideas just had to be done or my kids would be deprived of a meaningful Christmas. Yep, that’s the lie I believed. And Christmas time became stressful, not joyful.

Last year, I wanted the joy back. I didn’t want to come to the end of the holiday season and be glad it was all finally over. It is one thing to pack the season full of memories and another thing to become crazy-obsessed-stressed super Christmas mom who doesn’t take time to savor the season for herself. Memories get lost in the stress.


Avoiding the holiday hangover – where you feel like you’ve been put through the ringer instead of celebrating the birth of our Savior – starts with admitting you have a problem. No, this is not a self-help book, but I needed to wake up and see the stress I was experiencing and causing with all of my good Christmas ideas. Too much good is still too much.

The second step for me was being intentional, and more specifically, intentionally saying no. I adore all of the Advent calendars and devotions that have been created for kids and families. I will probably sharing lots of them with you. But we don’t do ALL of them every year and neither should you. Before the seasons starts, evaluate your options and pick a devotion or calendar that suits the ages and stages of your kids. Because we have two elementary-age boys and one preschooler, we may do two different devotions this year to fit their levels. That’s where I draw the line. Make your own line and stick to it!

Why do I feel the need to be so strict with myself? I’ve found that on my way to giving myself a holiday hangover, I leave no room for what God might bring our way during the Christmas season. I don’t savor the moments because I’m always trying to check something off the list. I want to breathe and notice and celebrate this magical time of year.

As I have been reading through Savor, a daily devotional by Shauna Niequist, I have been struck by the detail in which she can describe seemingly ordinary moments and, in doing so, makes them sound life-changing. All because she was really paying attention and living in that moment. These devotions have led me to see so much beauty in the daily things and I don’t want to lose that in the midst of Christmas hurry. I want these holiday moments to be more vivid, more full of life and joy. I want them to be moments that make me smile when all is said and done.

No holiday hangover for me this year. And you can choose the same. Join me in drawing a line, leaving room for joy, and savoring this Advent season!

What will you + your family do or NOT do in order to avoid the holiday stress hangover this year?


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Say Goodbye to Survival Mode!

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My focus this year is on vitality. In all areas of life. No longer just surviving, but rather living a full, energetic, passionate life. Choosing a word for the year is not just about having it there to motivate you – you have to do something. And while I was wanting to leave survival mode behind, I needed a plan to jump start my year of vitality.

That’s when Crystal Paine’s newest book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, came into my life.


I often love the concepts presented in non-fiction books like this one, but I have a hard time finishing them. I get overwhelmed by all of the things I should be doing and put the book away before applying any of the concepts.

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode is a totally different story. I felt like Crystal was telling my tale of being overwhelmed, easily distracted, and just plain tired. As a fellow mom of three little ones, reading about Crystal’s path out of survival mode provided me with a lot of hope!

And along with hope, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode serves up nine strategies for moving forward with intention and life! My favorite strategies are along the lines of time management because that is where I struggle most. A few of my favorite tips:

Record what you do every half hour for 2-3 days.

I actually did this and WOW. So much wasted time here are there! But even just the act of recording what I was doing with my time made me be more intentional. I wanted to make better use of each chunk of time and I stopped doing a few unnecessary things that were showing up too often on the list!

Use those five minutes here and there.

Crystal includes a great starter list of things you could get done in that extra five minutes you have here and there instead of mindlessly surfing Facebook. I’ve started my own list to hang on the fridge to remind me that I own my time and can make it work better for me if I don’t waste it!

Set focused work time.

As an easily-distracted person, I have a hard time using time wisely. I have too many open windows in my browser. Multi-tasking is often my enemy and the thief of some of my vitality. I’ve been scheduling my days better since reading this book, and my writing time has been a lot more productive. Focused work time also means my time with my family is more focused as well.

These were my biggest “aha” moments, but Say Goodbye to Survival Mode is so much more than this. You’ll also find Crystal’s help to:

  • feel healthier and more energetic by setting priorities and boundaries
  • eliminate stress with savvy management of your time, money, and home
  • get more done by setting realistic goals and embracing discipline
  • rediscover your passions—and the confidence to pursue them

I don’t know many women who WOULDN’T benefit from reading this book, trying Crystal’s strategies, and finding life beyond just surviving! I am grateful to Crystal for sharing her life in such an honest and inspiring way and I am thrilled about the direction Say Goodbye to Survival Mode has me moving in for 2014!


To celebrate the release of her book this week, Crystal is offering a collection of amazing prizes for those who buy the book. Simply go to www.GoodbyeSurvivalModeBook.com now for details. And there are lots of special giveaways every day this week as well! You can also pick up the book anywhere books are sold, including Amazon.

Are you in survival mode? What area of your life could use a new strategy?


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Day 2: What Does “Having It All” Look Like?

31 Days of NOT Having It All Banner

So many of the thoughts associated with “having” it all have to do with appearances. And isn’t that how we tend to judge things? We see something and take it at face value, never bothering to investigate any further. We are really living our lives with a lot of assumptions about other people’s lives based on how things look.

What Does Having It All Look Like

The reader survey I did a few weeks back proved that connection between what we see and what we think…

What words come to mind when you hear the phrase “having it all?”

  • appearances
  • beautiful house
  • fit + attractive husband
  • great looks
  • adorable children

We look at the lives of others, see what we see, and decide that surface looks good, so they MUST have a great life.

The comparison game is most prevalent in this arena of appearances. We tend to sugarcoat the lives of others based on appearances, while beating down our own lives based on what we see, which is a lot more messy and real.

Our public facades are all shiny, blemish-free, and one-dimensional because that’s what we do when we are out and about – we dress up, do our hair, wipe everyone’s faces clean, and smile like our life depends on it. But then we see somebody else doing the same thing and suddenly, the reality of our own lives is just not good enough.

This problem is only magnified by the world of social media where we always put our best faces forward. I may post about Big J memorizing some Scripture or a fun field trip we took, but you’re not seeing the diaper blowout or mommy yelling fit that broke out when the toys were STILL not picked up. Social media is a breeding ground for envy and discontent because it is full of all the good-looking stuff of our lives.

As this series gets rolling, can I challenge you to not let the appearances of others be your measuring stick for “having it all?” Don’t judge the book by the cover, because if you looked inside, you might not really like what it takes to have all the things.

What does “having it all” look like to you?

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Day 1: What Does “Having It All” Mean?

Having it all. Such an interesting concept. What does it really mean?

The meaning of “having it all” depends on who you are. When I asked you, my lovely readers, to do a little word association with “having it all,” here were some of the responses…

“clean house, obedient children, plenty of money, great husband, great health, great kids, great looks, great job, nice house…”

Those all sound great, but that is a lot of pressure as well, right? Eek.

“not having to worry about anything”

Many link the concept of the American dream with “having it all,” but the American dream was originally just about freedom, not stuff. We have distorted the foundations of the American dream to include money and possessions and it has also heaped on the stress.

“having everything you could possibly want or need”

The American dream used to mean freedom, now it feels like a burden.

“success, wealth, big house, adorable children, vacations”

Over the next 31 days, we’re going to explore the idea of “having it all” and find freedom and contentment in the process.

31 Days of NOT Having It All Square

Our mission:

We are on a mission to discover that trying to have it all does not lead to happiness. It’s time to stop “keeping up with the Joneses.” During these 31 days, we are going to make some hard choices, simplify our lives, and find fulfillment in God and the blessings we already have.

I resonated with so many of your responses to the survey I posted. This week, we’ll explore more of the feelings you and I have associated with “having it all.” We will discuss the possible positive connotations to “having it all” {there MIGHT be an upside!} and take a look at what God has to say on the subject. The rest of the month will be dedicated to dispelling the myths of the many things we think we “have” to do.

I’m really glad to be going on this 31 day journey with you! I need to take a good look at all of these areas as much as anyone else and can’t wait to hear your thoughts as we work through this topic!

How would you define “having it all?” Does it have positive or negative meaning in your life?

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The Best Meal Planning Tool I’ve Ever Used!

This is NOT a paid review. I just LOVE this so much, I HAD to tell you about it! I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

Raise your hand if meal planning is one of your biggest struggles as school starts up again!

Summer is kind of a free-for-all when it comes to food around here – snacking, late dinners, leftovers. But our school schedule along with extra activities demands that I be more structured. And my grocery budget thanks me for it as well.

When it comes to meal planning, I have tried EVERYTHING. Calendars, lists, pen & paper, digital, binders…seriously, I have tried it all in an effort to stay more on track with food prep and budget.

I honestly scrolled right past the tweets and posts about Plan to Eat when they first popped up because I didn’t think it could be any different or better than all the things I had already tried. And I really wasn’t interested in a paid meal planning service.

But the 30-day free trial reeled me in, and before a week had even passed, I was hooked.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Plan to Eat is different than other meal planning options and works well for our family for several reasons:

1. We are picky eaters. We do not do well with someone else sending a menu to prepare for the week. Plan to Eat is for YOUR favorite recipes.

2. When I want new recipe ideas, I want them from a friend who has actually tried them and loves them. Plan to Eat has a social aspect – find your friends on the service, browse their recipes, and add the ones you want to try to your recipes!

3. I find the majority of my recipes online, from friends’ blogs or social media posts or on Pinterest, and I want to have all those great recipes organized in one place. Plan to Eat makes it very easy to add recipes directly from a website or blog post with copying and pasting the whole thing! There is even a bookmark you can add to your browser’s tool bar to click on and automatically add a recipe!

4. The $39 annual fee is SO small compared to most online services. And I’m sure I’ve saved that much on groceries by being more organized! {And stay tuned later in this post for a way to get it for even less…}

I could go on and on about my adoration for Plan to Eat, but I really think you just have to try it to see how much you’ll love it. Really – go sign up for the 30-day FREE trial, find me on there {homewiththeboys}, and start

If you get in there and feel a little overwhelmed about where to start, feel free to ask any questions by email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever! My friend Kat wrote an AWESOME series on using Plan to Eat, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel! She covers everything!

To celebrate the start of the school year and help you get back on track, I have a super special Plan to Eat treat ONLY for you, my friends! Check this out…


You MUST take advantage of this now! I don’t think you’ll even need until August 31st to decide to go all in!

And there’s more!

We’re giving away TWO one-year meal planning subscriptions to Plan to Eat, each valued at $39! Thank you PTE! We love you!

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High Five Morning Routine for Kids

Two years ago, the lovely Laura Booz posted on her blog about her girls’ morning routine called the “High Five!” You can see my comment still on that original post where I said I was going to make my own for the boys right then. And I actually did!

We’ve been using that “High Five” routine for two years now. It was simple because they were 5 and 3. The five things on their hand were all things they could do mostly by themselves. I could just say, “Go do your High Five!” and they knew exactly what to do! It’s a lot easier to say that than list all of those things over and over again!

As the boys have grown up, I’ve seen a need to “grow up” their High Five as well!

The older two boys {7 and 5} and I sat down to talk through the different parts of their current morning routine and determine which of those things needed to happen EVERY morning.

Here is what we came up this time around:

High Five Morning Routine

These five things are to be done in order from left to right. Bible + prayer time is first because I want it to be the first thing they do each morning – now and in the future!

Once all five are completed, they get to slap the hand on the wall – actually high five the “High Five!” Boys love getting to hit anything, right?!  The rule in our house is no playing until the High Five is done! The boys each have an assigned daily chore which I prefer them to do in the morning, but we didn’t make it part of the High Five because some need to be done later in the day.

The High Five could be easily adapted for children of any age. Other things that could be included in your morning routine depending on age and time of year:

  • Pick up toys
  • Put pajamas away
  • Feed a pet
  • Get backpack ready for school
  • Wash face
  • Morning chore
  • Brush hair
  • Take vitamin
  • Hug Mommy & Daddy
  • Thank Jesus for today {original idea from Laura!}

Isn’t this a fun idea? I’ve found I felt less like a nagging mom in the morning when I just say, “High Five time!” It’s a morning routine that has worked for us for two years and I think it will stick around for a long time!

What would be on the hand for your High Five morning routine for your kids?

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A Simple Christmas

The Christmas season never seems long enough to me.

I just don’t feel right decorating and listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, but I also feel like the month between the two holidays just flies right on by! I’m always left wanting more!

That short amount of time is also usually jam-packed with activities and get-togethers and plenty of things to keep us busy.

Sometimes I wish it was simpler.

I wish I had the time to ENJOY the holiday season, not just make it through flying by the seat of my pants and dragging my family along for the ride!

My wise and wonderful friend Crystal Paine has just released a lovely ebook to help us – mostly me! – get the holidays under control! Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas contains a wealth of tips and tricks to make this Christmas more organized and enjoyable for your whole family!

The beauty of this ebook is that Crystal walks the reader through simplifying many different stressful parts of the holiday season, including budgeting, gift wrapping, decorating, cleaning, and cooking.

My favorite parts of Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas

*The book starts off with a section on budgeting. Do NOT go into the holidays without a budget. It. Is. Dangerous. Crystal’s tips will help you make sure you don’t overspend this Christmas.

*I love the ideas for gifts that won’t break the bank! I enjoy making and giving unique gifts and Crystal gave me a bunch of new ideas for this year!

*The “Freezer Cooking for the Holidays” section is genius. Having food prepared ahead of time for special events makes those special events so much more fun! I’m definitely trying the make-ahead scone dough – we LOVE scones around here!

*Each chapter ends with a “Let’s Get Practical” section with action steps for you to take. Crystal knows how to get you moving on what you just read!

I will be referring to this ebook daily as Christmas approaches, reminding myself to plan ahead and slow down to really savor this special time with family and friends!

Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas is available for Kindle for just $.99 through Thursday, November 15th! {regular price $4.99}


We’re giving away one copy of Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas here today!

To enter, just leave a comment sharing your most stressful part of the holidays!

This giveaway ends at 9:00 p.m. CST TONIGHT {11/13}! One winner will be chosen at random and notified by email!


*I was given a review copy of this ebook. All opinions are 100% my own.

**This post contains affiliate links.

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Be Still: A New Film from Lisa Chan

Every woman knows the feeling. Regardless of her age, her income, or her family situation, women today are facing the challenges of a busy life and the stress that comes with it. Obligations to children, husband, job, church, friends, committees, and the pressures of everyday life have created a spiritual crisis for women. Because in their efforts to be everything to everyone, women have forgotten the ONE who really should be their everything.

Do YOU know this feeling? I do. All the time.

I need reminders to just BE with Jesus often so I don’t neglect the most important of all my relationships. This week, that reminder came in a beautiful short film from a well-known pastor’s wife.

Be Still is a brand new film from Lisa Chan {wife of Francis Chan}, the first in a series entitled True Beauty. This 20-minute film is like listening to a girlfriend talk about how the busy of life has pushed out any time she once had for Jesus – and how she got that time back.

I was captivated by the storytelling from Lisa in this film because I felt like she was speaking my heart. The “busy” must wait. Stillness with our Maker is essential to our very survival as women, wives, mothers, and every other role we take on. I think this would be a fabulous discussion starter for a women’s group!

Take a minute to watch the trailer for this wonderful film…

I have one copy of the True Beauty: Be Still DVD to give away today!

To enter, just tell me what “be still” means to you!

This giveaway will be open until Tuesday, September 11 at 9:00 p.m. CST. One winner will be chosen at random and notified by email.


*A review copy of this DVD was made available for me online. I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own.

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Simplify with One Bite at a Time {Top Ten Tuesday}

Top Ten {Tuesday}I have a post coming up at the Tommy Nelson blog this month about my word of the year for 2012, but I’ve actually picked two.

The one you’ll read about at Tommy Nelson is more a word to define the year.

The other word I’ve chosen for this year is something I can – and NEED – to act on ALL. YEAR. LONG.

That word is…


It’s not that I like things to be complicated or cluttered or busy – they just seem to end up that way! But not this year! We’re adding a baby and a doctor to the house and moving to top it all off, so simplicity in any areas of our life will be very welcome!

That’s where I need a little help from two main sources:

1. The hubby. He is all about organization and keeping things streamlined and simple. I’m grateful some of this has rubbed off on me in our 8 1/2 years of marriage, but I still have a long way to go!

2. Tsh from Simple Mom. Between her website, her book Organized Simplicity, and her newest ebook One Bite at a Time, Tsh is whipping me in to shape in the discipline of simplifying!

One Bite at a Time is my main focus right now – 52 projects to make your life simpler. Just one project a week – I can do that, right? After reading through the book, I think I can do it and here is why I’m excited about it…

Top Ten Reasons to Love One Bite at a Time

1. The pace. One project a week is not too bad, but you can really take each project at your own speed. One project may take you a day while another takes a few weeks – no worries as long as you keep going!

2. The variety. This book covers simplifying & organizing your money and space and time and mind and so much more!

3. The practical tips. You won’t be left figuring out how to finish these projects on your own!

4. The quote that inspired it all: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

5. The emphasis on forming good habits. Yes, there is a checklist involved, but many of these projects can be the catalyst to important lifelong habits. Morning and evening routines are the ones I need to work on the most.

6. The involvement of the whole family. Meetings with your spouse, dates with your kids, family cleaning – this ebook is about simplifying life for everyone in your household!

7. The intentionality. There are reasons behind doing each of these projects and that intentionality will help you keep focused as you work through the book. {I almost picked “intentional” as my word fo the year – I love it.}

8. The lists of resources. It’s not necessary for every project, but many of the projects have an extensive list of other places to find help for that project – websites, blog posts, books, and so on!

9. The connection between projects. These projects are not completely independent of each other. In fact, the whole book is working together to simplify your life. At the beginning of the book, the projects are categorized to help you see how they work together. In addition, within several projects, you will see another project mentioned that will help you with the one you’re on! It’s like teamwork!

10. The very first project listed: “Eat Your Frog.” This may be my biggest obstacle to overcome – I tend to put off that hard stuff and then it gets left behind. “Eating your frog” is starting your day with the hardest or least fun task on your to-do list. Everything after that won’t seem so bad and you’ll feel great having that task done!

So that’s where I’m starting. Today, I will eat a frog. And maybe you’ll join me?!

Let me share a few fun details with you…

*One Bite at a Time is regularly priced at just $5. Through January 10th, you can get $1 off when you use the code HAPPYNEWYEAR at checkout!

*Jeannett from Life Rearranged will be writing a monthly One Bite at a Time post on Simple Mom, encouraging community and accountability as she works through various projects from the e-book. You’ll be able to join in with comments, share how your projects went that month, or to link to your own blog with results from completed projects!

*You can win your very own copy of One Bite at a Time here and now! Just leave a comment telling me one area of your life you most need to simplify! Leave your comment before midnight CST TONIGHT {Tuesday, January 3} to be entered to win!

One winner will be chosen at random and notified via email Wednesday!

***GIVEAWAY CLOSED – Winner has been notified by email!***

Will you join me in simplifying in 2012?!

*This post contains affiliate links.

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