christmas, life on the farm

4 Ways to Simplify Christmas

Wish you could simplify Christmas? Learn 4 ways to help you simplify the holidays!

Learn how to simplify Christmas

Do you ever feel like the holidays get a little out of control?  Wouldn’t you rather be able to just sit back and actually enjoy Christmas and everything that comes with it?

This idea of a simple Christmas becomes even more important if you have a special needs child who gets over loaded by all the holiday hoopla.

How do you go about creating a simpler Christmas?  What would that look like?

I’m going to give you 4 ways to help you achieve a more relaxed  holiday season!

1. Let go of your expectations.

This sounds easier said than done, right?  Well, it doesn’t have to be!  I’m very blessed because I grew up in a household that always had a low key Christmas.  We didn’t go anywhere, we didn’t get a ton of presents, and the day was relaxed and easy.  That’s all I knew, so it was fairly easy to create that with my own kids.  On that note, even with having a fairly simple day, it is still  hard to let go of those perfect movie pictures that run through my head of what our day should look like!

And when you throw autism into the mix?  Ha!

Make sure you throw ALL of those expectations straight out the window!

2.  Pick just a few easy traditions and stick to those.

In other words, you DO NOT have to do ALL THE THINGS!  You do not have to attend the town Christmas parade.  You do not have to take pictures with Santa.  You do not have to attend every Christmas party.  You do not have to participate in your church’s program.  You do not have to make a special Christmas breakfast.  You do not have to decorate all the presents.

Get the picture?

Remember what that first Christmas was like….

You know Mary didn’t have ANYTHING in the way of a modern Christmas!

Heck, she was recovering from birth… in a barn!

(All you mamas can say Amen!)

What would that look like in your own house?

Well, I can tell you what we do in our family and what we gave up over the years as Reece’s autistic issues became more front and center.

Traditions we do every year:

  • Homemade coffee cake for breakfast.  My grandma’s coffee cake is a family tradition that we won’t be giving up!  I make it the day before and then pop it into the oven to warm up again right after we’re done opening gifts on Christmas morning.
  • Reading the Christmas story out of Luke.  We have a few easy snack foods on Christmas Eve and read the Christmas story together that night in the evening.
  • New “comfy” pants for the kids to wear to bed that night of Christmas Eve.  When they were younger, I always sewed them, but as they’ve gotten older and bigger, I buy them 🙂
  • Decorating the tree with personalized ornaments.  I have all of mine from when I was a kid and my own children have amassed quite the collection.  It’s not coordinated and magazine worthy, but it’s ours!
  • Making gingerbread houses.  Some years I throw a big party, but if we’re recovering from cotton harvest I keep it small.  We do it a few days before Christmas.  It sounds like a lot of work, but I keep it simple if I need to!  I don’t try to replicate it the same way every year.  I’ll have an upcoming post of how I make our homemade gingerbread houses (it’s easier than you think!).
  • Going to Grandma’s (Jeff’s mom) for Christmas dinner.  I like this tradition because then I don’t have to do a lot of cooking, lol!
  • Make peppernuts.  They are a Ray family tradition dating back to our origins in Germany.  We LOVE them and only make them during the Christmas season.
  • Christmas letters.  Some years are better than others, but I try to do a full blown letter every year.  I save a copy of each letter every year for a neat family record 🙂  My grandma does this and it’s so fun to read her letters from the 50’s!
  • Putting ornaments on the advent quilt.
  • Make and decorate sugar cookies.


Traditions we gave up or have never done:

  • Pictures with Santa.  We don’t “do” Santa so this was never a priority in our house.
  • Full blown Christmas decorating.  We put up a tree and hang our stockings, but that’s about it.  I don’t have time to go over the top (we usually in the cotton field until the first week of December and after a month of hard work like fall harvest, I’m too shot to think about elaborate Christmas decorating!)
  • Candlelight service.  We used to go every year, but it made Christmas Eve horribly hectic!  Between getting all dressed up, feeding the kids, doing the girls’ hair, and getting out the door, plus trying to keep Reece in line, it just became too much.  That’s why a few years ago, we started having snack foods and reading the Christmas story at home.
  • Christmas activities.  It helps that we homeschool, so we don’t have parties or anything to attend, but there are activities around that we could go to, but we choose not to.  We like just staying home and relaxing as much as possible!
  • Tons of gifts.  We don’t follow strict guidelines, but we try hard to give the kids useful things.  As they have gotten older, they don’t want “toys” so this has become easier.  They usually get one “bigger” gift (which usually costs about $30-40) then a few smaller things, like socks, underwear, a new shirt, and a few stocking stuffers like gum, hair accessories (girls), beef jerky or candy (Reece), etc.  Sometimes we do concert tickets if there’s somebody coming to Wichita that we want to see.
  • Elaborate gift wrapping.  We definitely don’t go overboard in this department!  There are no Pinterest perfect gifts under our tree!  In fact, I choose one wrapping paper per kid and wrap all of their presents with that!  Makes it easy on Christmas morning for them to sort out their presents.  We generally don’t do bows and ribbons, which makes wrapping fast!
  • Fancy Christmas cards.  Yes, I try to write a letter (I like to write- can you tell?? Ha!), but I don’t worry about taking coordinating family pictures specifically for Christmas.  Some years I get cards made, but I just use candid pictures or something for the card and some years I just add the pictures onto the Christmas letter and print them that way.  It depends on the year and what’s going on at the time (cotton harvest takes up a lot of our time during November!) so I try to only do what I have time for.


Now, some of our traditions you may have no interest in doing and some of things that we don’t do, you may love to do!

And that’s fine!

My point is that you don’t have to do what everyone around you is doing 🙂

3. Don’t place unnecessary expectations on your kids, especially your special needs child.

If your kid won’t smile for family photos?  Fine!  Move on 🙂

They don’t care to open all of their gifts?  (Toddlers are notorious for this and my son Reece often feels overwhelmed with all of the gifts.) Let them open one and play awhile or take a break.  Or if they don’t care to open presents at all, don’t wrap them!  We started putting all of Reece’s gifts into one big box for him to open.  He’s good opening one but hates sitting there to open several.  This way, he is less stressed out and we’re all happier!

You’re afraid they may start a fire at the candlelight service?  Don’t go!  Have a little service at home worshiping our Savior 🙂  (On a side note, Reece tried to start a hymnal on fire at the last candlelight service we attended!  Ha!)

They don’t want to build a gingerbread house?  Great!  That’s not a requirement for a happy Christmas 🙂

I’m all for disciplining kids and making them do things they’d rather not do (chores, schoolwork, etc), but most of the Christmas stuff isn’t really a life necessity, right?  The season is full of expectations that we place on ourselves and our kids that society says we must do.

Don’t feel like your child is ruining the season by not doing x, y, z.

4.  Don’t feel like you have to spend an inordinate amount of money on gifts.

I suppose if you have the money, that’s fine.  But if you’re like the majority of us Americans, we may be fine with our day to day living, but we cannot afford to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on gifts every year!

Who wants to start off the new year with major credit card debt??

Yeah, not me and I think the stress of that would definitely not fall under the category of a simple Christmas!

We spend a certain amount on family members (about $25 per person) and about $100 (includes stocking stuffers) on the kids (but we only have 3!  If you have more than that, your allotted amount per child may be a lot lower!).  Your budget may look different from ours, and that’s fine.  This is the level we feel comfortable spending and it doesn’t cause us extra stress.

Something we started doing years ago in my extended family that reduced the stress and simplified our Christmas was the adults quit giving each other gifts.  I come from a large family, so we didn’t buy for everyone (we drew names every year), but it still got to be too much.  Plus, it became a time of exchanging gift cards, lol.  Now, we only have the cousins draw names.  So, even though I have 7 nieces and nephews on that side, we only buy 3 gifts.


The whole point of this post is to get you thinking about your Christmas.  What do you want it to look like?  What are your kids like??

Take time to think about your expectations and the reality that God has blessed you with.  Then, let go of any guilt and do what feels right and comfortable for your family, regardless of what tv ads, hallmark movies, or even other bloggers tell you to do 🙂


What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?  What things have you given up in an effort simplify your own Christmas?



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chickens, life on the farm

How to Raise Meat Chickens

how to raise meat chickens raising broilers homesteading

*Note- I wrote this post a year ago in June of 2017.  It’s an overall comprehensive post on raising meat chickens.  My new chicks for 2018 will be arriving this week, so I plan on blogging about it step by step to really give you an in depth look at how we do it!

Have you ever thought about raising your own meat chickens?  I’m here today to give you the lowdown and my personal experiences, both good and bad! Continue reading “How to Raise Meat Chickens”

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farmwife, kids, life on the farm

Down on the Farm- Working Cows Edition

Hey Everybody!

Well, it was a busy weekend here at the Donley farm!

On Friday I took advantage of the beautiful, if not WINDY, weather (It gusted up to 57 mph!!!) and planted my strawberries.  It felt so GOOD to get some dirt under my fingernails!  (And all my fellow gardeners said, “Amen!”).  I plan on posting about that soon (I used a different method of planting them than I have in the past) if all goes well.  #gardeningisagamble Continue reading “Down on the Farm- Working Cows Edition”

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everything, farmwife, homeschooling, kids, life on the farm, Uncategorized

Down on the Farm


I thought I’d do a little update about what’s been going on down here on the farm!  It’s been busy, busy and spring is maybe finally in the air??

Our Charolais heifer herd starting calving a couple weeks ago!  Woo-hoo!  We were nervous about this, but so far, so good.  All calves look good and healthy and the mamas seem to be taking to their job.  Watching new calves is one of the best things ever 🙂

down on the farm
These babies are a cross between the white charolais and a red hereford bull. We ended up with little blond/strawberry calves. SO CUTE!!

Continue reading “Down on the Farm”

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back where i come from, chickens, life on the farm

The Pros and Cons of Free Range Chickens


pros and cons of free range chickensPros and Cons of Free Range Chickens

Raising your own chickens for eggs and meat is one of the first steps for your new homestead, right?  I call chickens the gateway drug!  Trust me, you start with chickens, then you move on to goats, then pigs, then cows, then who knows what else…. and your husband and kids are like “Please stop!  We don’t want anymore chores!”  Seriously, this has NOT happened in my life- ha!

I’m here to give you the lowdown on all things chicken, but since I could probably right an entire BOOK on it, in this post, I’m only going to really touch on laying hens, and the pros and cons of free range chickens, K? Continue reading “The Pros and Cons of Free Range Chickens”

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4H, everything, kids, life on the farm

…and Everything Else

small dog

Today, I’m going to a just give you a random post about a little bit of “everything else” that’s been going on around here!  July, August and September threw for a bit of a loop and I’ve had a hard time sitting in front of the computer to blog about it.  It was a good loop, mind you 😉

1  Tent camping over Labor Day

Jeff’s family has camped in Noel, Missouri over Labor Day for decades, literally.  It’s a large family affair involving distant cousins, great aunts, etc.  Anyway, we have a great time, but due to livestock issues and the crowded conditions of the river (which Reece doesn’t do well with), we didn’t go last year.  Instead we started going during August in the middle of the week with Jeff’s parents and his sister and her family.  It had gotten really difficult for both Jeff and his dad to be gone at the same time because of the cattle operation and finding someone to water and check on everything, so they decided that this summer, they couldn’t both be gone at the same time. Well, we went camping in August for 5 days in our camper with Jeff’s sister and her family, but my girls and I really missed going over Labor Day with the big group.  So, we took a wild hair and decided to just load the truck up, drive over ourselves, and tent camp! Continue reading “…and Everything Else”

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everything, life on the farm

Summary of July

OK, so I totally fell off the radar during the month of July!  I didn’t intend to… it just sort of happened.

We celebrated the 4th and Reece had off school until the 10th and it’s really hard for me to get much done on the computer when he’s home.  He’s well behaved, just very demanding.  I hear “Mommy, mommy, mommy” a LOT!!  I know all of you with toddlers probably understand 😉  Sometimes it’s weird having a 14 year old act that way, but after years of him NOT TALKING I never take it for granted!

And then a push to get 4H projects done happened.  Plus the girls wanted to ride horses every night and go swimming every afternoon.  Shoot, I wanted to go swimming every afternoon! Continue reading “Summary of July”

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back where i come from, farmwife, life on the farm

Wheat Harvest – The Best Time of the Year!

combine in wheat

We are smack in the middle of wheat harvest right now!  (Update:  We finished last night before our area got a big storm!)  Hip-hip-hooray!  Seriously, I think wheat harvest is the absolute best time of the year and I feel so sorry for everyone that doesn’t get to experience it!

This year makes my 37th wheat harvest 🙂  We have two main harvests around these parts- wheat harvest and fall harvest.  Fall harvest starts in October and can run to almost Christmas and is long and drawn out.  Wheat harvest, on the other hand, starts mid-June and everyone is usually done by the first of July (although I do remember several 4th of Julys as a kid where we had to miss the town fireworks because we were cutting.) Continue reading “Wheat Harvest – The Best Time of the Year!”

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