Gather ’round friends and let me tell you the tale of Holiday Season 2018.

For the first time ever, both my parents and Justin’s parents took a look around (and probably a look back over the past thirty five-ish years) and decided it was high time they skipped town and left the holiday magic making to their grown children.

I felt up to the challenge, excited even, to truly establish holiday memories and traditions with my own little family in our new home town. 

I started making lists of ideas, recipes, activities and gifts in November and thought I really had things under control.

By December, I started to come off the rails a bit, mostly thanks to massively underestimating  how busy my work calendar and the kid’s school holiday activity schedule would be.

 But I powered on, ordering the special wrapping paper to denote Santa gifts, going to the right grocery store that carries the type of famous rolls my MIL always makes for holidays and making sure the babes hand made their teacher gifts. 

Then the week of Christmas hit. 

No more school, still lots of work and seemingly endless moments to get it all done.

I found myself at our neighborhood toy store on Christmas Eve day looking for a specific Santa gift that Amazon was going to fail to deliver on time.

 On Christmas Eve evening, I ran to the grocery store after my husband pointed out that there was no way reindeer ate baby carrots, they obviously ate the real, long, raw, ugly carrots and did we have some of those? 
On Christmas night we were up until god-knows-what-time wrapping gifts and Christmas morning was a happy blur, but over in minutes. 

And then. 

Then on Christmas night, my husband sheepishly looked at me and asked, oh so kindly, if he was getting any gifts for Christmas that year.

That’s right, in the rush and craziness of it all, I didn’t buy him a gift from me, a gift from the kids or even remember to fill his stocking until the last minute.

I burst into tears in the middle of the kitchen when I realized that I hadn’t pulled it all off. Let me be clear that neither he nor I think gifts are the most important element of the holidays, but it was absolutely clear that I was going to have to get my game face on come Holiday Season 2019. 

I spent the end of last year burned out, bummed and feeling a little used and abused by assuming the role of Magic Maker. 

I want to create traditions, memories and joy around the holidays for my family and in order to do that, I’ve decided to take on the job of Magic Maker 2019 with more finesse.

I’m actually not cutting down on the things we’re doing, making or gifting, because all of it is important to us, but I am going to do it better.

You know, work smarter, not harder, Magic Maker style. 

I recently chatted about this whole Magic Maker situation during my Car Line Line Up Series on Instagram and asked for my fellow Magic Makers to share how they streamline their holiday process to ensure they (and their families!) enjoy the season.

I’m sharing the best of the best below, and the things I’m personally doing to keep the season on lock.

Calendars/Over All Vibes

This year, I made sure that I got the bulk of my holiday season work done in October.

I put in the man hours, took everything else off of my calendar and did the damn thing so I wouldn’t spend the holidays stressing over my work load. Hopefully that will leave weekend time more flexible and open for fun things! 

I’m also a firm believer in deciding on where you’ll be celebrating/what is best for your family before the holiday season. We have a general rule that my children will wake up in their beds on Christmas morning and all are welcome to join – we’ll be bending that rule this year as a new baby is being born into my family in December – but we’ve established this with typical set up with our families over the past few years. 

This is also a friendly reminder that the holidays are hard for many of us, so don’t forget to schedule your counselor or therapist. 

“Calendar in time for yourself – date nights, a massage, get an extra session of house keeping if company is coming” @lovelyluckylife
“We refuse to travel at Christmas. Our parents can come visit before or after, we want our son to enjoy Christmas and do it at our own pace” @totesanddreams
“Leave at least one weekend blank in December” @ashleybeatrice
“Remember that it doesn’t have to last all day to be special (baking cookies, decorating the tree etc can be smaller blocks of time” @v_edwards 
“We told my in-laws we weren’t making the 15 hour trip…they can come to us. We have a 4 and 2 year old” @kalieghminning 
“Schedule family down time. Board games or story time by the fire, no screens and no tech!” @zanechr
“Say NO” @hallyef
“I try to have the holiday calendar locked in by the beginning of November” @crystal_og


Prep for me is about tackling the things I know will have to happen during the holidays before the holiday craziness hits. I made a list of the stuff I could do ahead of time and am checking it off before Thanksgiving.

I’ve ordered family holiday pajamas, Murphy the dog’s stocking and the kid’s large gift from Santa have been ordered and shipped to my parent’s house where we’ll be celebrating this year. 

“We have a lot of steps in my husband’s side so we’ve started dictating our schedule and inviting them instead of being pulled in 100 different directions” @josephinewalthall
“I thought about what single thing stressed me out the MOST in the past and then I found a way to change it without sacrificing the overall tradition. And I said tough titties to family members who didn’t get on board :-)” @bcakeful 
“Decorate before Thanksgiving” @bringingupleavitt 
“Mine is lists, lists, lists and working ahead of time” @emjanning
“Ask the grandparents to take the kids on a holiday movie theatre trip and use the time to get organized” @kellylovesbaby
“Really focusing on my family unit and saying NO to events that don’t sound fun” @nikimarie6
“keep a list of supplies you know you’ll need for annual activities and shop ahead of time” @ourhouseofburgesses

make cookies (or dough!) ahead and freeze! Still magical without the pressure during Xmas week” @amandacgrimsley 


This year, I’m delegating the gifting of my husband’s family to him.

We have a large family on his side and the adults draw names to do a gift exchange. We gift our niece and nephews and my in-laws, so he’ll be on deck for that.

I’m using the app Santa’s Bag to track our budgets and gifts, so hopefully this year I won’t forget anyone.

“I use the app Giftful and just send the link out to our families – it makes it easier for everyone and no duplicates or fighting over who gives what” @totesanddreams
“I keep one big gift spreadsheet and add a column every year so I can track gifting” @meganderkey
“We stopped buying presents for the adults in our family and do a good $150 Secret Santa exchange instead” @stephaniesutton7
“No gifts for adults OR a grab bag/secret santa so everyone focuses on one person instead of EVERYONE.” @clm1122 
“Getting gifts done as early as possible helps me 10 fold” @lovinglivvy
“For cousins we do a gift exchange with a theme: pjs!” @snarlycarly
“Give teacher gifts the first week of December! One less thing for me and they enjoy” 
“Amazon wishlist for each kid, send out the link to the fam!” @annamarie0615
“Shop and wrap by December 1st” @laurenkellyblack
“Wrap gifts as you buy them!” @gram2380


So, we’ve never done Elf on the Shelf. And we don’t plan to ever do it. For me, it’s just more work that I don’t want to take on and I don’t see it as a “mandatory”.

This year, we’re also scaling back our Polar Express tradition by going to a more local location that will only take a few hours instead of making it an overnight adventure like the years past. 

“Not stressing over elf on the shelf magic this year (eye roll emoji)” @thefabricgirls
“I avoid serving sit down meals at holidays – with young kids, apps & desserts are enough!” @zanechr
“Pick a couple of activities that are most important & don’t plan beyond that. If there’s time for more, great!” @rachbark08
“I asked my kids what traditions they liked the most and put the focus on them” @annabethgumpert
“Elf on the Shelf or an Advent Calendar, not both!” @jessicamcdonald07

Short Cuts/Help/Outsourcings

I’ll have more on this coming later this week, but I am outsourcing this year. Bring on the help! 
“Hire help. Seriously” @taylorfarmwife
“Anytime a store offers gift wrap, I have them do it for me!” @thedailyjulie 
“Not stressing about food as much. Using boxed brownie mix instead of scratch, doing “easy foods” instead of elaborate meals” @sldoyle22

“Paper plates, pre-done meals for Thanksgiving/Christmas day” @ellepdub

“Overnight french toast casserole – pop in Christmas morning – no cooking!” @lizfranklin11
“Order the turkey and the fixins!” @teamb_partyof5
“Husband cooks most of Christmas Eve dinner with my Brother In Law helping. I do dessert and a side” @joyful_inspired_curls 
“Grocery shop online and pick up” @carey.breslford

Holiday Cards

This year, I set out to get holiday cards done early. Which means I had to schedule photos, pick outfits, select the dang photo and order the cards early.

I’m happy to report that as of the second week of November, I have the cards in hand. I also ordered stamps and return address printing on our cards to cut down on extra steps. 

Minted auto addressing of Christmas cards!” @mommasociety 
“No Christmas cards. Controversial but life changing to let myself off the hook!” @clm1122
“Have Christmas cards ordered, addressed, ready to mail before Thanksgiving” @katierose827
“Keep family addresses in an Avery word document so you can just update new and print!” @amsokol815


Oh, Santa. That guy gets all the glory. This year, we’ve decided that Santa will gift each of our kids one “big” gift that will be unwrapped and their stockings. 
“Time saver: don’t wrap Santa gifts! My parents never did and neither do we!” @rachbark08
“No gift tags! Each kid chooses their own wrapping paper to leave for the elves to come collect for Santa :-)!” @megparkk 
“If you do unwrapped Santa, take everything out of packaging whit it arrives, not on Christmas eve” @lizfranklin1

Mostly, I hope each of you Magic Makers know that I see you and how hard you’re working to make this season special for your people.

And, truly, it’s a wonderful but thankless job. Hopefully there was something in this post that sparked an idea for you to streamline and ensure that you’re working smarter not harder!