Suffering from Elf on the Shelf anxiety this year? Yup, it's a thing. Are you overwhelmed by the tiny red man with great big demands? Did you run out of time to hatch a magically Pinterest-worthy Elf plan this holiday season? Or you completely forget to move the elf for days at a time?

Mama, we hear you and totally understand.

Elf on the Shelf—though awesome in so many ways—isn't for everyone. And if it's feeling more like a chore than a charming Christmas tradition this season, we've got four ideas that are just as fun but a lot less work. So don't let that Elf get you down, mama! Remember, even the smallest things can spark holiday magic in the eyes of our little ones. Don't stress, have fun, and enjoy the season.

Christmas Is Coming! An advent-style podcast from Pinna

Christmas Is Coming!

All you need to do for this one is download and hit play—it doesn't get much easier than that!

Pinna, a new screen-free and ad-free storytelling app for kids, features award-winning series, interactive game shows, audiobooks, and children's podcasts. Its show—Christmas Is Coming!—is an advent-style podcast with a new episode released daily from December 1st through Christmas Eve.

Each day, kids can tune into the North Pole's radio station, WXMAS, and listen to breaking Christmas news.

We got the chance to preview some of the episodes, and our kiddos were hooked! We love the creativity of the storyline, the screen-free entertainment, and the ease of just pressing play.

$7.99

Christmas Countdown Surprise Box

Christmas Countdown Surprise Box

A Christmas Countdown Surprise Box, originally posted on the Teach Me Mommy blog, is just that: a box filled with bags for each day of December that each hold a small surprise. All you'll need is a cardboard box (or any type of box, really), 25 envelopes or brown bags and some blank stickers. And of course some small surprises for inside of the envelopes.

We love this idea because you can do as much—or as little—as you'd like, and you can customize the bags' content depending on the age of your kiddos. If you want to get creative, you can decorate the outside of the box and the envelopes, but you definitely don't have to.

The best part will be watching your little ones' faces light up as they open a new surprise each day. Download the free template and find most of the item needed in your home.

$0.00

Random acts of kindness Christmas calendar

Random acts of kindness

We love anything that builds our children's sense of social consciousness. The Random Acts of Kindness Christmas Calendar, is a simple way to show kids that they can have a powerful impact on others.

All you'll need for this one is a blank calendar so you can fill in your own acts of kindness. Each day can be customized based on your children's ages and what sorts of activities you think you and your family are up for.

It's not only easy, but the payoff is huge—you're teaching your kiddos about helping others, and that's a lesson that will last longer than any holiday gift ever could.

$4.99

Christmas book countdown

Christmas book countdown

Have a little bookworm on your hands? We love this idea both as a holiday activity and a way to build your family's holiday book collection year over year.

Countdown to Christmas with a different holiday book each day! Or, to make it easier on yourself, open a book "package" every few days, or even sub a few books with your family's favorite holiday movies.

You can use a mix of new books and books you already own—trust me, your kids will most likely have forgotten about them since last year! (Same goes for the movies—use the ones you already have, or include a little note instead that gives kids a few movie downloads.)

All you'll need is wrapping paper for each book or movie, and a cute way to display them. It's easy and adorable!

$10


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I don't think anyone told me I was "glowing" either time I was pregnant. I'm not sure that is the word I would have used to describe me in the early months, either—nauseated is more like it, or tired. Add to that some extra-dry skin and acne like I hadn't had since middle school, and let's just say I wasn't feeling my most beautiful. Apparently I wasn't alone.

"Hormonal changes, and, of course, all the ways your life is changing, can lead to some unpleasant skin changes during pregnancy," says Diana Spalding, Motherly's Digital Education Editor, midwife and writer of The Mother Guide to Becoming Mama. "It's so easy to get dehydrated during pregnancy, which can lead to issues like dryness and itchiness. And nights spent tossing and turning (because how is anyone supposed to sleep with all those sweet baby kicks?!) can lead to dark circles."

If you're suffering from any of the common pregnancy skin issues, but you don't want to pile chemicals on your skin, there are natural, healthy pregnancy-safe makeup and skin care products out there for you. Some even contain treatment ingredients that could help alleviate your skin symptoms, all while covering them up in the meantime. It's also worth noting that the FDA maintains an updated list and categorization of ingredients used in beauty and cosmetic products women should avoid if they are pregnant. A few include: retin-a, hydroquinone, formaldehyde, dihydroxyacetone, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acids.

Just remember that sometimes itching skin can be a sign of a "serious complication known as cholestasis, so definitely check in with your midwife or OB before trying to treat the issue on your own," says Spalding.

The bottom line is, whatever your pregnancy skin care issues are, we've got you covered.

Here is what you need to fix eight common pregnancy skin problems:

For oily skin: RMS Beauty 'Un' Powder

Un Powder RMS BEAUTY

Sweaty? Oily? Yup, you can thank those pregnancy hormones for that! The RMS "un" powder can help! This ultra-fine, super-silky powder has only two ingredients (mica and silica—not to be confused with silicone) and will never give you a white cast. It's so sheer but so effective. We promise no one will know you're wearing powder.

$34

For dull skin: Plant Makeup Pink Rose Shimmer Balm

Plant Makeup\u2019s Pink Rose Shimmer Balm

Pregnancy can make a lady tired, and along with fatigue comes dull skin. Plant Makeup's Pink Rose Shimmer Balm to the rescue! Made by hand with French pink clay and pure natural mica, this very subtle balm moisturizes, highlights and adds a little sparkle. We love that it's not glittery, but rather reflects light for a hint of highlighting.

$3

For breakouts: Juice Beauty Photo Pigments Perfecting Concealer

Juice Beauty Phyto-pigments Perfecting Concealer

Oh, hello, pimples. We meet again. Juice Beauty's Photo Pigments Perfecting Concealer will mask your blemishes while healing them with organic coconut oil, known for its antibacterial, anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties.

Editor tip: For best results, warm formula with finger or brush before application.

$25

​ For dry + itchy skin: Suntegrity 5 in 1 Tinted Face Suncsreen

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Tinted Face Sunscreen

Winter months can take a toll on your skin, and with low temps come flakes, bumps and cracks. And if you're pregnant, dry skin can during this time can be even worse. So how about a multitasking product that moisturizes, soothes and protects while providing a light tint for that no-makeup look? If you suffer from parched and dry skin during pregnancy, Suntegrity 5-in-1 Natural Moisturizing face sunscreen is the product for you.

$45

For dark circles under eyes: W3ll People Bio Correcting Multi-Action Concealer

W3LL PEOPLE Bio Correct Multi-Action Concealer

Tossing and turning at night because you cannot get comfortable? You know what that means. Dark circles and puffy eyes are sure to appear. We love W3LL PEOPLE Bio Correct Multi-Action Concealer because it contains caffeine, so while the gorgeous mineral pigments cover those circles, the caffeine also depuffs your under-eye area.

$22.99

For capillaries + visible veins: Gressa Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation

Gressa Skin Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation

During pregnancy, your veins may make your body look like a country map. Nothing to worry about, your network of veins is actually here to carry your increasing blood supply and provide a support system to your growing baby. Unfortunately, you may also experience spider veins (also spider angiomas or spider nevi) on your face, which is also due to increased blood circulation. Gressa Skin Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation is a serum-to-powder formula, almost like a multi-vitamin for your skin and provides seamless coverage.

$62

For dark brown spots: 14e Aloe Nourish Foundation

Aloe Nourish Foundation

Are you noticing, dark, blotchy brown spots on your cheeks and forehead? Blame it on an estrogen surge stimulating melanin production. Aloe Nourish Foundation by 14e Cosmetics provides medium, buildable coverage while leaving you feeling weightless with a satin semi-matte finish. It has only a few ingredients, and its base is aloe, which means it soothes as it covers.

$38

For tired eyes: Alima Pure Natural Definition Mascara

Alima Pure mascara

In my opinion, nothing wakes up a face like a good mascara. Alima Pure's Natural Definition Mascara makes one that's super-subtle, if you're not much of a makeup wearer and don't want to look like you suddenly went all-out.

$22

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Beauty + Style Shopping Guides

At one of the most important nights of their career, celebrities made sure their hairstyles stayed put at the 26th Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. As a collective, the hairstyles were beautiful—french twists, bobs, pin curls and killer cuts filled the red carpet on the night to remember.

And surprisingly, the secret wasn't just the stylist team, mama. For many of the celebs, much of the look can be attributed to a $5 hairspray—yes, you read that correctly.

Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray was one of the top stylist picks for celebs for a lightweight, flexible finishing spray, leaving tons of body and bounce. Unlike most hairsprays that can take several minutes (even a half hour) to set the look, this extra-hold one contains a fast-drying, water-free formula that helps protect your hair from frizz in minutes. As a result, celebrities were able to hold the shape of their styles with mega volume.

"Dove hairspray works well by holding curls in place with maximum hold and ultra shine, while still maintaining soft, touchable texture that is easy to brush out," says Dennis Gots for Dove Hair, who styled Phoebe Waller-Bridge for the SAG Awards. Translation: It's great for on-the-go mamas who want a shiny hold that lasts, but doesn't feel sticky.

Here are a few awesome hairstyles that were finished with the drugstore Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray at the SAG awards:

Lili Reinhart's French twist

"I sprayed Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray all over Lili's hair to lock in the shape and boost the shine factor, making the whole look really sleek," says stylist Renato Campora who was inspired to create the look by Reinhart's romantic gown. "Lili's look is sleek and sharp with a romantic twist."

Cynthia Erivo's finger waves

"This look is classic Cynthia! I knew I wanted to keep it simple, but it's actually quite detailed and intricate up close," says stylist Coree Moreno. "While the hair was still wet (yes—I needed to work fast!) I generously spritzed on the hairspray for all night hold without flaking. The hair continued to air dry perfectly while she finished up makeup."

Nathalie Emmanuel's curly high pony

"Nathalie wanted a retro Hollywood glam for the SAG Awards, so I used her natural texture and created a high pony with loose tendrils framing her face and neckline," says stylist, Neeko. "I finessed the look with the hairspray to lock in the style while keeping her hair looking and feeling touchable."

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's slicked back bob

"I used duckbill clips on different areas of her hair to keep the shape and curl while the hair air dried. Air drying the hair allowed for maximum shine and then I sprayed lots of hairspray all over to truly lock in the sleek shape and enhance the shine," says stylist Dennis Gots, who was inspired by a 90s vibe for Waller-Bridge's look.

Dove Style+Care Micro Mist Extra Hold Hairspray

Dove Style+Care Micro Mist Extra Hold Hairspray

Who doesn't want a hairspray that makes your hair feel as good as it looks? Dove Style+Care Extra Hold Hairspray holds body, volume and enhances shine. It gives your hair touchable hold while fighting frizz, even in damp or humid conditions.

$4.89

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Beauty + Style Shopping Guides

Keeping up with a skin care routine isn't as simple as it seems when you're a busy mama. When you're trying to bathe kids and get them to bed, or rush out the door in the morning, the last thing on your to-do list is probably using a serum. Plus, figuring out which masks work for your skin type, or what is *really* worth that hefty price tag seems overwhelming.

Until now.

Amazon launched its first-ever skin care line called Belei last year. It featured 12 products that can complete your skin care routine, from moisturizers and serums to cleansers and masks.

Our favorite features? (Aside from the fact that you can Prime these goodies straight to your door).

  • Clean—free of sulfates, parabens and phthalates
  • Affordable—everything is under $40
  • Dermatologist tested + not tested on animals
  • Offers satisfaction guarantee—if not satisfied, they'll refund within a year

Right now, each product is up to 20% off so it's the perfect time to try it out. Here are some of the products we're adding to our cart:

1. Triple-Peptide Eye Cream

Amazon skin care line eye cream

For those inevitable nights with little sleep. Complete with caffeine to reduce puffiness and ingredients like shea butter to minimize the appearance of fine lines and dark circles.

$14.40

2. Charcoal Balancing Mask

Amazon skin care line charcoal mask

Have five extra minutes? Lather this on to absorb excess oil, deep clean and balance your skin.

$14.40

3. Retinol Refining Moisturizer

Amazon skin care line retinol moisturizer

Retinol has so many benefits, from smoothing your skin to helping it retain moisture, but it often comes with a price—not this one, luckily.

$28

4. Blemish Control Spot Treatment

Amazon skin care line spot treatment

You can't always stop breakouts from happening, but you can fight blemishes with this.

$17.60

5. Dark Spot Solution

Amazon skin care line dark spot solution

Your body has gone through a lot and that usually means your hormones have fluctuated. For some, that causes dark spots or uneven skin tone. This is packed with rich ingredients to even everything out.

$17.60

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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If you're visiting a new mama, it's customary to bring a little something to celebrate. This person just went through a monumental, life-changing event and most people focus on bringing stuff for the new baby, who has no idea what has happened—they just want all the snuggles and food. But we say to go ahead and celebrate mama. You can bring flowers or her favorite dish from that restaurant she loves, a little note with a gift card—it doesn't have to be expensive or shiny, just something that shows you care about them.

If you need ideas, Frida Baby, the brand that creates those super useful tools (looking at you, nose-sucker) has you covered.

This Frida balloon was just launched by the company and it's funny, real and will most definitely make any new mama feel seen.

Check it out:

It's a Mom balloon

It\u2019s A Mom Balloon

Everyone is likely familiar with the traditional "it's a boy" or "it's a girl" balloon that every hospital store sells, but it's time to celebrate moms with this "it's a mom" balloon. Sure, it's funny, but also super real. Also, keep in mind that this ships flat so be prepared with some helium to make it float.

$6.99

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