it’s the most runner-full time of the year

Sorry I haven’t posted this week; while I have been sitting at my computer for dedicated stretches, I have been spending December’s child-free moments creating spreadsheets and trawling the Web for free shipping and trying, unsuccessfully, to cross “finish Christmas shopping” off my burgeoning to-do list.

Every year I think I won’t get it all done, and of course I somehow do, but this year I am having serious doubts. Mount Xmas seems higher and harder to scale each year, and I can’t really say why that is, because each year another present I used to have to buy falls off my list. Last week, my sister-in-law and I decided we weren’t exchanging gifts among the adults in my husband’s family (just the seven grandchildren, sigh). That’s four fewer presents to buy right there, and yet every time I look at my list,  another handful of names have crept onto the list, like kudzu.

I also have trouble saying when. Each year I say I’m going to keep the Santa shopping for our own kids under control; the problem is that I do it remotely, since we don’t celebrate Christmas morning in New York City. I do keep track of what I’ve ordered, nice little lists, but then I’m never sure it’s enough, because I can’t see it all stuffed in the upstairs closet. I might just need one more little thing, I think.  Then I walk into Urban Outfitters and see this Star Wars “In Your Pocket” talking keychain, and say “I’ll take two” (so the boys won’t fight), and then repeat that process a dozen times, and on Christmas Eve, when I drag it all out, I will be nauseous at the amount I have somehow accumulated. “This is too much stuff,” I’ll say. “This is ridiculous.” David will refrain from comment. “I am doing WAY LESS next year,” I’ll vow. And then it will be Dec 8, 2011, and I’ll have 56 gifts for each kid again. 

This morning when I dropped the kids off at school, there was a signup sheet posted on the kindergarten door. “We need two parents to help with gingerbread house decorating!” it said, in gay red and green and gold lettering. Well, I’m not a crazy person, I thought; I have WAY too much to do to take up half a free morning making gingerbread houses with my kid.

Then I realized: if I don’t have enough time to do something like that at Christmas, then I need to change something. Because I’ll miss it. I’ll miss all the fun, while I’m making lists and checking them twice. I don’t want to be merely the architect of a perfect Christmas for everyone else. I want to be part of the fun. 

So I signed up to make gingerbread houses on Friday. Then I signed up to bring baked goods to the school holiday party on Saturday. Then I signed up to put beards on the shepherds and the wise men the morning of the Christmas pageant next week.

I may soon be taught a harsh lesson, like when Marcia Brady overcompensated for her case of “new school-itis” by signing up for every single club on campus. But I am going to remember that I am having fun, yes FUN, that I love Christmas, and that anything that falls between the cracks probably didn’t need to get done anyway. 

Did I mention I’m hosting a birthday party for ten eight-year-old boys on Sunday afternoon in our apartment? A party requiring a theme cake? 

How are you managing your holiday madness?