About the Author

Lisa-Jo is the best-selling author of Never Unfriended and Surprised by Motherhood. Her newest book, The Middle Matters: Why That (Extra)Ordinary Life Looks Really Good on You invites us to get a good look at our middles and gives us permission to embrace them.

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  1. What a breath of fresh air this is! We’re joining my family this year in the midst of major events in the life of every single family, and permission has been officially granted to have burgers or pizza instead of the traditional meals, because it’s more about the together than the menu. Our kids are well past the stage of littles, but the freedom to throw off our own unwritten expectations in lieu of what really matters is such a good reminder in every season. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Lisa-Jo,
    I know I’ve shared this story before, but I’ll share it again. When I ask my son (now 24) about his favorite childhood memories, one that stands out to him is when both of us would take our lawn chairs (mine adult-sized, his, pint-sized) and we would set them out at the edge of our driveway and we would “Watch the world go by” as we called it. We’d simply sit there, look at clouds and try to find shapes, wave at passers by and count how many waved back, talk about everything and nothing – whatever was on his little mind. My point being is that he remembers this over elaborate Christmas decorations and traditions, over trips to Disney World, over other forced “we’re going to make memories” attempts. Moms of littles…heed Lisa-Jo’s guilt reducing advice. Instead of fretting over all the outer trappings of Christmas, make a cup of instant hot chocolate (with marshmallows of course) for you and your children (individually if possible). Stir it with a candy cane and talk about whatever’s on their mind. Ask them what they love about Christmas. Share with them what Christmas means to you. Talk about Jesus and why we’re celebrating. Tell funny jokes. Just be in each other’s presence. I promise they will remember this more than your Pinterest worthy decorating. Also, if you’re able…delegate…ask Dad or Grandma if they’d like to take over making cookies with the kids. You are not a one-woman-Christmas-show. Breathe and take in the meaning of the season. When we prepare our hearts, it naturally rubs off on our kids. It’s okay…less is often more.
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • I {{love}} this Bev and I haven’t read it before so Im really glad you shared it. Im making plans now, to pull lawn chairs out into our driveway with our 8 year old, Aster, tonight and watch the world go by! With the “super” moon in it’s fullest glory I can’t wait to see her “watch” with expectation of His wonder!

      • Renee,
        One of MY favorite childhood memories was sitting out on the back porch of the mountain lake home my family built in WV. My mom and I would sit for hours just looking at the stars that were so prevalent on that dark mountain top. We’d talk and look for constellations and just being in each other’s presence opened the door for deeper conversation. I’ll be thinking of you and your daughter as you watch God’s sky show tonight…
        Blessings!! xx

  3. GAH!!! This is SOOO good I can hardly stand it! I laughed, I cried, I remembered… My kids are 12,10, and 6 now and I still get caught up in the silliness of trying to get it all perfect instead of in the silliness of them. Thank you!!!

  4. Lisa Jo,
    Beautifully said, speaking from my own childhood memories, the gift of time is what i hold on to the most, it can never be replaced.
    Thank-you for your thoughtfully put words.

    Penny

  5. Lisa-Jo, actually, this is great advice for anyone of any age! I find that doing things well in advance and little by little helps, but to be honest, one of the very best Christmases we ever had was as newlyweds when we didn’t even have a Christmas tree. My great aunt surprised us with the scraggliest, most pitiful little Charlie Brown tree you can imagine, but we were in love, and it didn’t matter. We loved it and each other. And you are so right. When we express our love through time and tenderness, all the trappings fade by comparison. It’s really those things that I remember most about my childhood. We didn’t have a lot, but we had my parents’ love, and it was abundantly enough. Thank you for sharing!
    Love
    Lynn

  6. Oh my word you had me at: “because you’re operating on, like, three hours of sleep and you’re so tired you can’t remember why anyone in their right mind would purposely engage in making cookies with tiny humans and risking FLOUR ALL OVER ALL THE THINGS”. This is me right now. I can barely put together a coherent thank you for capturing the frustration that I feel at my sleep-deprivation, want to do everything with my little one, and just like reasonable expectations for life. THANK YOU! I think you’re my BFF. Your post felt like a big hug.

  7. Yes! Yes! Yes! There is so much truth in this statement: “When we are truly present with our kids instead of distracted and guilted by all the “should-haves” and “wish-I-could-haves” we are in danger of missing the “right-nows.”

    Ten years ago, I was feeling guilty about not having the energy to do all these fun Christmas crafts and activities. I was just getting over morning sickness. After watching Martha Stewart, I was in tears and told my older ones that I couldn’t do most of the activities we had planned. Their response was laughter and then “You’re not Martha Stewart. You’re our mom.” They didn’t want to do all of those things. They just wanted to be with me. That was a turning point in how I handle the high expectations of myself. The guilt is gone. Life is simplified around all celebrations so that I can be present to my people.

  8. LisaJo,

    I totally agree with this. Why stress yourself out over a “perfect” meal, advent or Christmas. We need to be present in the lives of our families. People tend to make a huge deal out of the holidays. All we need to do is celebrate with each other. Young people/littles need to understand the meaning behind the holiday and enjoy time with parents.

    My hubby and I use the holidays as time to rest and reconnect from busy schedules. We just put up a small Charlie Brown Christmas tree and a few other minor decorations. We are blessed to have some sacred time away from work. This year though hubby has to work on Christmas. We will celebrate with his folks on Christmas Eve. Most of our family is gone or lives far away.

    Blessings 🙂

  9. Still tired and I have grown kids! The best Christmas we ever had was when I said “no” to many things. I choose to do less. It was more Christ centered, enjoyable, and I connected more to my family. LESS IS SO MUCH BETTER. Thank you for the post I am going to ponder as I go into this season.

  10. Honest? This works for my own family, but it gets tricky when other extended family members feel “cheated,” make comments, and look down their noses at me. Hard to keep opening my home and heart to hurt.

    • When we lived at the Seminary housing years ago, I remember telling a new family that they were welcomed to eat a pizza at my home even though it was not clean. I was vulnerable ( humble) as we ate I exclaimed,” if people don’t like my messy house then they can just help clean it!”
      The husband of the other seminary wife literally burst out laughing because he was married to a ,”Martha Stewart” and they weren’t allowed to “live” in their home. How sad!
      Balance is key. I’ve suffered with a chronic illness for over 20 years and have three children. They look good, they eat and have their nails cut. But my home is not on display.
      My life is invested in them. And we’re even trying to get the chore thing down as I really do need the help.
      Life isn’t fair… But God is good!
      Fill up your spirit daily in His word, it helps me stay anchored and not feel as out of control. One more thing learn to say no if family are pushing boundaries. They don’t have to come to your home if you don’t feel ready! I’ll be praying for grace in your life. Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t. That helps too!
      Blessings,

      • Brenda, sweet sister in Christ, that made me cry (good tears!). Thank you so much for your gracious response and example from real life. I am so sorry you’re living with chronic illness and will pray for grace for you too! Yes, you are absolutely right — healthy boundaries, time with God, and daily gratitude all change things. I am so blessed by you, Brenda! May God sustain, comfort, and strengthen you today!

        • I appreciate your prayers have been ill for a few weeks & will have some surgery on Thursday. Thank you for Prayers for peace.

  11. Lisa-Jo
    Thank you, this is very true! My daughter, mother of two, is so sleep-deprived that while leaving for work she opened her car door right into her head. Her oldest told her that she looked cool, kind of like Harry Potter with his scar.⚡ I will be forwarding this to her. She actually does get some of the cooking and baking things in. Amazing!

    ~Kay

  12. Thank you for your truth and vulnerability!! I have 2 sons, 7 and 2, work full time and I am an officer’s wife that has to function alone with my boys for most days… I’ve been sleep deprived for at least 3 years! I get so discouraged every year when my grandious Christmas plans don’t work out. I feel like I’m failing my boys by not doing the advent calendar or like you said, indulge in the culinary torture of making cookies. Last year I just had a tree of lights because I didnt want to engage in the daily battle of “Dont touch those ornaments!” I truly needed to read this, and I’m so thankful I’m not the only one who feels this way!! Big hugs to you!

    • Feel ya! That discouragement is the worst! I’m a new mommy, and I just haven’t been able to reconcile who I thought I’d be as a mother, who I want to be as a mother, and who I actually am as a mother. Not being able to reconcile = striving, discouragement, and guilt! I’m so grateful for posts like this one, letting me know that, despite all my seemingly perfectly together friends, I’m NOT the only one scramblin’, and all that I’m capable of – even if it’s not all that I hoped – is enough. So grateful for the reminder of that truth and freedom. We’re NOT the only ones, friend!

      • I totally agree. I think it so easy to try and look like we have it all together. I haven’t met anyone who when they are totally honest has had it easy. I normally don’t read comments look at all the goodness I’ve been missing.

  13. Having been ” mother ” to day cares full of children. I can tell you that Bev is right. They will remember the little things. Children need to be taught to soothe themselves from an early age, to just be still and quiet, the soft music, stuffed animals, books, quiet time, t.v. time, taught to do chores. I kept children for a lady who was always running, she told me her parents used to run her behind the car. That’s not quite the energy level I want or would instill with children, they need peace to not chaos. I decorated every year, nice Victorian tree full of ornaments, entertained. We always had Christmas and we always had Christ. After years of what I though was me being sleep deprived and running to see to everyone’s needs. I crashed and burned. There have been a few years with less, and that’s fine too. I’m still here. I have baked cookies and bought them, you have to be yourself, and be good to yourself and no, ladies, forget the guilt trip. My advice, take a nap. There really is such a thing as beauty sleep.

  14. Completely brilliant, and SO TRUE!!! I survived 4 littles, who are now 24 & up, and having their own families. I so remember the feeling of never getting “finished” with Christmas prep – my most favorite moment (it still is), is driving to church for Christmas Eve communion service, with the feeling that it was all finished – no matter WHAT stage it was at – I.was.done. The rest was Christmas jolly time!

    So moms of littles, heed this. You will survive. And your kids will remember the fun, not the perfection!

  15. This is so perfect. I was breathing sighs of relief in between laughter as I read your post. Thank you for this gift of grace friend. You are the best cheerleader for us mama’s!

  16. This is so freeing. I wholeheartedly agree. Though its taken me 6 babies to figure it out, I’m finally giving myself permission to do less. Its made everyone in the house breathe a little easier. Blessings to you and all the other mamas. May we all embrace God’s invitation to be led beside still waters.

  17. Yes, Praise God, yes! This is so right! The very best point that you shared wss-“Turn off your phone” love those littles with both hands, both eyes, and your whole heart! Thank you, God Bless you!

  18. Advent calendars? Sounds like a holiday torture device – daily, no less – for this working mama whose husband works nights! Before I had my now ten month old boy, I had this vision of how I’d be as a mom, and… what a joke! I thought I’d have an Advent calendar, and I’d love to have one, but… I’m lucky to get through the days without catching anything on fire! Who am I kidding? Yesterday at a pinterest-perfect birthday party for a five-year old, my friend asked me if I was starting to plan my baby’s one year birthday party (his birthday is 12/29). I said to her, “If you’re asking me if I’m going to have wine on his birthday, and celebrate keeping a kid alive for a whole year… YES!”

    Hey, where are all the Lisa-Jo Bakers in real life?!? I need less people asking me if I’m planning a one year old’s birthday party, and more people telling me there are no Advent police!

    • My son’s first birthday is next month as well (12/12) I love the idea of wine and celebration! I’m with you girl! Let’s celebrate surviving and not adding another stressor to our plate.

  19. As a mom of two little boys (3 and almost 1) I sure needed this reminder. It isn’t the check marks on our to do list that make memories. It is the silly moments and life’s messes. Time to stop, breathe and take it in. I’ll wait to pull out the Advent calendar. 🙂

  20. Yes yes yes and YES. Christmas is exhausting enough already. Last year, we got home from my in-laws house at about 7:30 in the evening on Christmas Day. I flopped face down onto my bed, fell asleep, and slept for over twelve hours. And that was with the absolute minimum of required Christmas commitments for our family. I’ve become protective of our schedule around the holidays. I deserve to enjoy the season, too. I shouldn’t have to spend all my time and energy trying to meet everyone else’s expectations and make everyone happy. We’ve simplified Christmas the past couple of years and have really enjoyed it. Less pressure, less stress.

  21. I love this! Thank you so much for reminding me what really matters. You are a big blessing in my life and I always look forward to reading your blog posts and books.

  22. Thank you for this reminder. Our family is in the process of adopting a 1-yr old out of foster care. (I never imagined I would be “starting over” at 46.) In the midst of the adoption process, we sent our oldest to college, the middle one turned 13, and my grandmother died. We also homeschool. I keep telling myself our family needs grace during this transitional time in our lives, but I’m not good at grace. Thank you for permission to let go, because I’m not feeling like doing all the hoopla this year.