Christmas,  Cooking,  Gifts,  Stress

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Chaos: 4 Ways I Fight the Christmas Crazy

If you’re anything like me, you would rather not be found sitting in a corner on Christmas morning, sucking on candy cane plastic and rocking to the beat of Santa Baby.

I know if I run at the normal American pace though, I’ll be up wrapping gifts till three in the morning and sliding into Christmas slightly bitter and more coo-coo than ever.

So I made some new choices this year. Not everyone will like all of them, but when I went back to work I think I added a bit of “I care less about what people think” to my résumé. 

I often describe this season as organized chaos. I start mental planning plenty early, but something happens between my beach towel and the Thanksgiving table, and then I play catch up. 

Please tell me this is a thing in your world too. 

Enough is enough. Here are some ways I’m fighting the Christmas crazy this year:

1. Simplified Food

I don’t exactly have the time or desire to spend two hours on dinner each night, especially during the Christmas hustle. Incorporating a few shortcuts helps keep the kitchen chaos down while still filling the stomachs of teenage boys and a man.

As much as I would love to make soup from scratch every time, the organic vegetable and barley soup went on sale at Costco last week, so I grabbed two packages, added edamame, chunks of turkey, and squash, and served it up with cornbread. 

For three days.

Here are a few other fast foods my people love that aren’t fast food. 

From Costco:

  • Salad kits
  • Chicken apple sausage
  • Lasagne

From Trader Joe’s:

  • Cornbread (they have GF too!)
  • Tortellini (pesto-filled is the best)
  • Orange chicken (we all voted it’s better than Costco’s)
  • Turkey corndogs (zero MSG, nitrates or nitrites)

And the classics:

  • Grilled cheese 
  • French toast for dinner (family fave)
  • Loaded nachos

Throw a few apple slices at them and voilà—three extra minutes to look them in the eyes and ask what they love about Christmas.


2. No Tree

Hold the guilt please—we already feel lame, un-American and lazy. 

Yes, it seemed sacrilegious to cancel the delivery from the garage, but I think the late Thanksgiving, a minor surgery, an editing job, and football playoffs threw us for a loop.

Don’t get me started on the normal busy…

Cutting the turkey, cutting my hair, 

Hating the store, loving my door, 

Back adjustments, attitude adjustments, 

My writers group and veggie soup,

Holiday parties, slumber parties, 

An allergy test and not enough rest, 

Trips to Baja, paperwork shredding, 

Two hungry boys who wanna go sledding.

Rolling stress inside my brain,

A foot massage to ease the pain….


Where was I….


3. MIA Christmas Cards

When I wrote Christmas Card Dropout, I expected half my readers to say, “What? That’s a terrible idea!” And I expected the other half to say, “Finally! I’ve been trying to drop those for years!” 

Instead I heard crickets and wondered if I struck a nerve on both sides. 

Either way, the decision to drop the tradition stressed me out, but once I let them go I felt light and free. Three years later I have zero regrets.

Family photo shoots. Sooo fun.

4. Happy Jesus

In our town we have a foot massage place called Happy Buddha that drills down on your neck, shoulders and back for 30 minutes, and then your feet for 30.

I’m not a fan of Buddha though, so I lovingly renamed it Happy Jesus. 

Growing up I always put massages in the same category as manicures and pedicures: unnecessary luxuries.

But with daily neck pain and a sore back full of moderate arthritis (doc’s new words) I unabashedly visit this place with two different sets of friends at least once a month.

Sometimes thrice. 

For those who need to justify such a thing, here ya go: I get an HOUR massage for the ridiculously low price of $25.

Sorry—didn’t mean to yell at you, but an hour? People! You could get four massages for the same price as one fancy dinner with a bad waiter!

My husband didn’t have to think hard about what to get me for my birthday this year; a few certificates in an envelope… done.

I have issues in my tissues, so yes, I’m even going in the middle of the Christmas crazy. We schedule it about three weeks out, so it’s an actual appointment on my calendar. 

During this month more than ever, having someone push on my knotty knots isn’t just glorious—it’s wanted, appreciated and kneaded.


And You?

How are you fighting the Christmas crazy? 

  • Less parties?
  • More advent?
  • Less sugar?
  • More store-bought?

Tell us your secrets in the comments so we can all stress less and love the season more.

Feliz Navidad, Amigos. Slow down, look up, and make it a great one this year!

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  • Andrea Chatman

    I love your writing. You speak truth with well timed humor.

    I put up my artificial tree and added eight ornaments. Random but that was all I felt like pulling out and it looks good. Done. I over did it on the shopping, but plan to save baking for my favorite cookie and after Christmas when I can enjoy them.

    My book is done!

    • Carrie Talbott

      That is a huge compliment from a fellow writer. Thank you, Andrea. My visual of your tree with eight ornaments left me smiling. 🙂 Never thought about doing baking after Christmas… great idea. I’m so excited for you that your book is done! Such a massive undertaking, but what an awesome Christmas present! Happy for you!

  • Terri Ford

    Hi Carrie, love your ideas. Especially the soup, gonna do that one. I have been doing advent devotions and reading Luke each day, helps with the stress. Putting my tree up today. 2 grandkids 8 and 6 come here for Christmas morning. Christmas day movies after dinner have been a tradition with some of the younger folks. Merry Christmas!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Good on ya for keeping up with the advent and devotions. I sadly didn’t make that a priority this year, and then once we started traveling and being with family, most routines went out the window. Have fun with your grandkids, and Merry Christmas, Terri!

  • Shelley

    We’re in a sweet time of life right now where the boys are old enough to help and Christmas is magical but they aren’t involved in a million time-consuming activities yet. Our December baking, crafting and concerts are much more chill than what I remember my mom doing growing up. Perhaps that is another byproduct of having kids in my late 30’s/early 40’s as opposed to my 20’s. Oh, and french toast for dinner is one of our favorites. I make it with the cracked wheat sourdough from our store bakery. Mmm!

    • Carrie Talbott

      I agree, Shelley–that middle ground between diapers and driving is awesome! It’s great that you have chill traditions now so when life naturally gets busier for the boys your holidays will still feel doable. Merry Christmas!

  • Nicole

    I’m weird. I’ll start with that so you can take this or leave it as you like. Christmas chaos doesn’t much ruffle me. I can say no to a thing or two. I can keep some traditions and let others go and maybe bring them back in the future. Being critically ill during Christmas (twice) has taught me a thing or two.

    What’s stressful for me is that Christmas reveals all the “knotty knots” in difficult relationships that I can sort of ignore all year long, until Christmas. I never know exactly how to handle some situations and it causes ridiculous amounts of stress in me. So, I would say that the one thing I do to handle Christmas stress is: keep date night. It seems odd, I know, to keep the weekly dinner and tired chatter with my husband when I could easily see him and talk with him at other times in our day. Wouldn’t it be better to skip date night in December and gain a little wiggle room in the schedule? But no! I need that time to share the turmoil in my heart with the safest person in my life. We process it and carry it together. Doesn’t change a thing in my circumstances, but sure does help me show up and be pleasant with a full tank of love and support to carry me through.

    I should also add, same thing with a devoted prayer time with God. Same reasons. Clearly, I need a lot of help from the men in my life. 🙂

    • Carrie Talbott

      I’m weird too, so this should work out nicely. 🙂 I like that you have a different perspective. I’m sorry you were so sick over two Christmases, but it sounds like you’re much more flexible now. Relational stress though… that’s a whole ‘nother ball of candle wax. I hear ya on that one, but good job for keeping your date nights sacred. Great insights, Nicole! Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  • Gidget

    Awesome list! Getting a real tree is part of our traditions while the boys are young and we hang up ornaments together, reminiscing when they received them (I gave them an ornament every year to symbolize their year from birth – preteen) but I’ve given that up. And I was forced to stop doing the annual card after I had my stroke, but it was my goal this year (4 years later) to get a card out… mostly to minister to my neighbors as I don’t have them on Facebook. But I order EVERYTHING online and have it shipped. And once it comes in, I stuff it in a bag and put it under the tree. And we don’t do stockings (though Aaron asked for something in his stocking… sigh… I might just stick his new electric toothbrush in there). Also, I number the packages and keep the master list (thank you, Mom) so they don’t know how many packages they’re getting and leave them alone! I think kids just like the idea of having a lot of things to unwrap, so I get them stuff they need along with stuff they want, which includes coupons for a date with dad/mom. Another family I know buys an “experience” for Christmas, like a family trip, which is cool and something we might do when they’re older. When we exchanged gifts with my siblings/cousins, we choose names. My grandmas/aunties give me the money, then I buy what they need/want. Win/win. I decorate minimally too. No guilt! I’ll have to adopt the easy food ideas. Merry Christmas and happy new year!

    • Carrie Talbott

      You sound way ahead of the game! We started drawing names for the adults a few years ago and it has been soooo nice. I deal with guilt in general, and Christmas guilt seems to be even strong. Boo. But I’m getting better about letting things go, including no tree this year (yikes!) and minimal decorations. Your packaging system sounds brilliant! Feliz Navidad, Brenda!