Lowe’s has had their Christmas trees on display for four weeks, JoAnn’s began playing Christmas carols in October, and I remain in complete denial.

Holidays are challenging for me. The other night, in fact, David voiced his concern that I might have a lesser-talked-about seasonal illness called Holiday Disorder. He may have a point.

Once you become a mom, the holidays are such fun, aren’t they? Those nights as a family, singing door-to-door in the neighborhood, baking cookies while regaling each other with all that we’re thankful for, and group hugging as we open the “gift of the year?”

Yeah, none of that has ever happened here outside of my mental vision board.

The other day, I went to the grocery store with Jack and Henry (who are 10). They asked me to buy them honey-roasted peanuts from the bulk section (which I did).

We got into the car and Henry actually suggested—with complete sincerity—that, upon arriving home, Jack count every single peanut to ensure that they each got the same exact amount.

“Um, I’m not counting every single peanut, Henry,” declared Jack.

At which point Henry launched into a made-up jingle of sorts, the verses of which were unclear, but the chorus was unmistakable: “It’s not fair. It’s not fair. Nothing is fair.”

No matter how I approach parenting lately, it appears that if one kid gets 23 M&Ms, and another gets 22 (or, heaven forbid, 21), it means one thing and one thing only: Life is simply and utterly—you guessed it—unfair.

“Fair does not mean equal,” I repeat with frequency. I don’t think they hear me.

You can imagine the stress this places on me to create the perfect holiday season. Not that I’m actually out there trying to do that, mind you. Because I’m not. What I am doing—what I begin doing every November—is preparing myself for the fact that the holidays mean something different to everyone who lives under my roof, and it’s real hard (read: impossible) to satisfy everyone’s deepest wishes.

Add to this the fact that, in the middle of attempting to satisfy everyone else’s deepest wishes, all of my wishes tend to be completely overlooked. Because, sadly, there are only 24 hours in the day.

One might argue that my wishes should be overlooked since, as the matriarch, I am apparently supposed to sacrifice with constancy for the delight of my children. But, alas, if I sacrifice too much, I become, well, unhappy. And a bit snappish. And an unhappy snapper is not, in my experience, in the best position to create a wonderful holiday experience for her family.

Therefore, I make it a point to be proactive about maintaining my sanity through this complicated meal making, endless jingle bell ringing, holy-cow-so-we-really-have-to-decorate-every-branch season.

Be forewarned. Mine aren’t popular sanity-saving suggestions such as “Take time for yourself” or “Cook everything in advance.” For one thing, I don’t believe that most people actually heed this type of advice. For another, there are 8 kadrillion experts out there already recommending this sort of approach.

Instead, I’ll provide my Top 10 Unorthodox Strategies for Surviving the Holidays with Kids. Feel free to adopt any or all, and let me know how it goes!

10. I buy myself a holiday present. Last year it was a table saw. This year, it’s a blow torch attachment. Hey, we like what we like. And yes, I wrap it.

9. I purchase a great set of PJs and socks. One must at least endure the insanity in comfort.

8. I make sure that Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and the entire Josh Groban Noel Christmas album is at-the-ready on the iPod because it’s my favorite holiday song of all time.

7. I identify my Holiday Treat of the Moment at Starbucks—the one that will get me through to Dec 26th. This year, it’s a grande, no whip, soy, peppermint mocha latte with half the regular amounts of syrup.

6. I identify the parts of the holiday that are most important to me, and I make sure they happen. This year, we will purchase a living tree (and then recycle it), have cinnamon rolls with pecans on Christmas morning, and choose a night to drive around wearing PJs and admiring everyone’s holiday lights.

5 I will DVR so that I can watch at will every holiday Charlie Brown movie.

4. In honor of Charlie Brown, I will rescue a small, nearly dead and completely forlorn tree for the holidays.

3. I will pay myself $1 each time I endure with a smile a comment such as, “I wish I got…,” “I wish I had…,” or “It’s not fair.” I will then take that earned money to a destination of my choosing. I expect it to be quite profitable, and am therefore now actually welcoming these sorts of comments!

2. I will not enter Walmart, even under penalty of death, until January. Possibly ever.

1. At the end of each and every day, I will be grateful for how incredibly lucky and blessed I am. Because regardless of how crazy things might get, regardless of how many times I say, “I’m not buying that” and then buy it anyway, and regardless of how many fits may be thrown because I can’t make it snow in Phoenix, I am crystal clear about one thing: I wouldn’t trade any of it for even a second.


Elizabeth Lyons is the author of the hilarious You Cannot Be Serious: and 32 Other Rules that Sustain a (Mostly) Balanced Mom as well as the Ready or Not series on raising twins. You can find out more about her books and other ventures at www.Elizabethlyons.com