Issue 6: gearing up for the holidays 🎁🎄 View in browser
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Issue 6: November 20, 2019
gearing up for the holidays 🎁🎄

[4-minute read]

I have a confession to make. If you know me in real life, you probably already know this—holidays (Christmas in particular) are not my thing. There are aspects of this season I appreciate and enjoy, but for the most part, it produces more stress than it’s worth. Decorating, shopping, spending too much money, wrapping gifts, traveling, extra church events, Christmas parties… so many things to remember! Some people love it, but I just don't think I'm built for holidays. Overall, the last months of the year feel like a marathon of insanity that seem to always end in tension and tears. 

Every year when people start talking about Christmas (right after Halloween—that's why I'm sending this out now instead of halfway through December), I resolve that THIS is the year I will LOVE Christmas like a normal person! I will do it! I will bake goodies and listen to Christmas music and enjoy decorating! I’ll go at it from the spiritual angle! I’ll pick out a signature wrapping paper and make gift wrapping an art!

Yep... every single year, I try my hardest to muster up enough hype, cheer and spiritual fervor to ride the wave of sugar-and-adrenaline-fueled energy to the finish line until we make it to my favorite holiday, New Year’s Eve.


But this year, I’m looking ahead to the holidays and not feeling nearly as stressed or anxious. Why is that? I’m realizing my issues were really not entirely Christmas’ fault. The amount of stress I’ve historically experienced during this season was a symptom of an all-year sickness: a false belief that the path to a meaningful life required MORE. More friends! More involvement! More service projects! More work! More money! More traditions! More gifts! 

Turns out, that’s not true. An already chronically stressed, over scheduled, overcommitted people pleaser cannot survive the holidays without dropping some of her many spinning plates.

It took me 30 years to figure it out, but apparently, I only have two arms. 🤷‍♀️ I can only hold up two plates at a time. And finally, that’s what I’m doing. Currently, in my non-holiday life, I’m only holding two plates instead of 20—so I’ve got a clear head and a rested spirit heading into December.

Friends, I'll keep it short and sweet this week...

A simplified approach to life can yield a calmer, more enjoyable holiday season. Some “nos” can allow you to say “yes” to what matters this year. Looking ahead to December, I’ve personally taken some steps to DO LESS at Christmas this year so I can enjoy it MORE. 

  • Don’t enjoy or can't afford decorating? DON’T DO IT! No one cares! I made a felt tree for Julia and might get a table-top tree. We don’t have space for a big one and don’t have enough ornaments to decorate one anyway, so we aren’t doing it. We’ll do a big tree next year when she’s old enough to enjoy it.
  • Feeling overwhelmed about shopping for all 87 siblings and their spouses and kids? Initiate a Secret Santa or Dirty Santa gift swap! Guess what? Everyone else will be relieved, too!
  • Want to add some actual meaning to the season? Establish a tradition that means something to YOU! So far this year, we have watched Rudolph and ate homemade popcorn on the sofa, and I made these adorable Advent ornaments to go with Julia’s felt tree (see Helpful Happies). I’m loving it!
  • Don’t want to spend your month leaving your kids with sitters so you can run to different parties and events? It’s REALLY OK to say no to the ones you don’t want to or just can’t attend.
  • Want to host a holiday party with just a few people, but don’t want to make others feel left out? Don’t post pics on Instagram! Enjoy your evening!


So IF this season stresses you like it does me, here are some things to consider (if it doesn't, don't let me bring you down 😜). 

What are your specific stressors? What are you doing from a place of obligation rather than enjoyment? Do any of your traditions exist simply to impress or appease others? What do your kids and spouse actually enjoy about the holidays? Are we doing it for the kids or doing it for the 'gram? 🤣 😉 And of course, for my fellow procrastinators... how can we plan ahead? 

I have a great feeling about this holiday season for our family, and I can’t wait to experience a quieter, more simple Christmas. If you're traditionally overwhelmed like me, I hope you can find your sweet spot, too. If you love the hustle and bustle of Christmas, keep doing your thing, girl! 

Love, Jill 

Advent Ornaments

This seems like an ambitious craft for someone who is not a crafter, but it really wasn't too bad—I finished all the ornaments in one weekend! 

I had been looking for some kind of advent tradition to start with Julia that was simple, interactive/fun and centered around Biblical stories without being too preachy. I was also interested in putting up a felt tree on the wall for her to play with. So... I combined the two! 

I found the idea for these ornaments online, and instead of making them into ornaments to hang on a regular tree, we're just going with the flannelboard technique (felt sticks to felt). I used spray adhesive to put them together and bought a pair of small, super sharp scissors made specifically for detailed cutting to help with all the TINY pieces.

How I envision this working: I'll wrap each ornament in butcher paper, and she'll get to open one every night during Advent. 

Each of the 24 ornaments is paired with a story in the Jesus Storybook Bible, starting with creation and ending with Jesus's birth. So we'll open an ornament, read the story that goes with it and put the ornament on the tree. *Hoping* this goes well with a 2-year-old. If not, there's always next year. 😆

As we try to figure out how we want to present our faith to Julia in an authentic way, I like this tradition because it's all about the big picture and simple stories instead of focusing on verse memorization or devotionals that can confuse or turn off kids who haven't fully understood and chosen faith for themselves yet. I pray regularly for a personal, authentic, not coerced faith for my children. I'm hoping this little advent tradition will play a role in that! 

Advent for older kids: Jotham's Journey

For older kids, I HIGHLY recommend this book my mom read to us every year during Advent! 

Jotham's Journey is absolutely captivating, even for adults! I already have my copy and can't wait until Julia is old enough to enjoy it.

Kids are ready for this when they can sit through and comprehend a chapter book. 

Recipe: Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas

Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas 

Recipe from Cookie + Kate

Start-to-finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes (30 minutes active) 


  • 1 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes (2 small-to-medium)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained, or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 ounces (1/2 cup) crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 small cans (4 ounces each) diced green chiles
  • 1 medium jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Remaining Ingredients

  • 2 cups (16 ounces) mild salsa verde
  • 18 corn tortillas
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and coat the flat sides lightly with olive oil. Place the sweet potatoes flat-side down on the baking sheet. Bake them until they are tender and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes.

    Meanwhile, pour enough salsa verde into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish to lightly cover the bottom (about ½ cup). In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the remaining filling ingredients.

    Once the sweet potatoes are cooked through and cool enough to handle, scoop out the insides with a spoon. Discard the potato skins, and mash up the sweet potato a bit. 

    Stir the mashed sweet potato into the bowl of filling, and season to taste with additional salt (I added ¼ teaspoon) and pepper.

    Place a layer of 6 tortillas on the bottom of the pan and spread half of the filling on top. Add 6 more tortillas and the other half of the filling. Top with the last 6 tortillas, remaining salsa verde and cheese. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and the cheese is lightly golden. 

    Let the enchiladas cool for about 5 minutes. Whisk the sour cream and water together to make a drizzly sour cream sauce. Drizzle it back and forth over the enchiladas, then top them with cilantro and red onion. 
Parenting resource: Janet Landsbury

Lots of people have a niche interest they spend their spare time researching. Mine is child psychology, parenting philosophies, etc. I am obsessed. This does not mean I actually practice those techniques, but I really enjoy learning about them and I hope some of the info sinks in enough to make a positive difference in my parenting. 

Anyway, I wanted to share one of my favorites with you! Janet Landsbury is a treasure trove of specific, practical, gentle advice that speaks to my momma soul. She is all about RESPECTING children while setting firm, clear limits that make our kiddos feel safe. Every time I read an article or listen to a podcast I want to TAKE ACTUAL NOTES. The content is so rich. 

Janet has a podcast, blog and shares on Facebook

Two of my favorite articles she's shared lately:

Parents Struggling with Boundaries: 3 Common Reasons

"To experience true freedom and happiness, kids need gentle leaders who are clear about house rules and expectations. They need a healthy balance between freedom and boundaries."

Empowering a Passive or "Shy" Child

"We enable our children’s social learning in two important ways: 1) By supporting and acknowledging struggles while intervening as minimally as possible; and 2) Trust. This is the biggie. Children can’t proceed with confidence unless we perceive them as capable learners and trust their processes. So, trust is crucial, but it can be challenging when our child seems either aggressive or too passive."

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Does anyone else love Dr. Bronner's as much as I do? I first discovered it this summer chatting it up with a lady in line at Target in Asheville. She started talking about how she works for Dr. Bronner's, and I said, "What's that?" She pulled out a coupon for a FREE 32-ounce bottle (worth like $16!) and gives it to me! I left the line and grabbed a bottle and have been obsessed ever since. 

I use DB for dishwashing detergent, all-purpose cleaner, to mop my floors and more! You can even bathe with it. It's clean/non-toxic and so versatile. Plus, reading the bottle is too fun. 

8oz for $7.99
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As we're building our family Christmas traditions, I'd love to hear your favorite low-key/low-stress holiday traditions, especially things to do with kids that kids will actually enjoy. Recipes for Christmas goodies are WELCOME. 😉

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