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? 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Courtney December 8, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Good topic! I struggle with my lists constantly, as I know what the holiday season is truly about, yet I still get suckered into buying unnecessary gifts. My family has cut down on gifts, but we have not cut down on time spent together, which is truly the most meaningful thing about the holiday season, at least to me. Instead of buying gifts for all the kids in the family, we are all going to the waterpark. Instead of buying presents for my girlfriends, we are all going out for wine. Instead of trying to decide on a present for my husband, we will go out for a nice dinner. So, I will still be spending money on these things, but it's money well spent, as I get to spend time with the people I love! I also work at a non-profit for domestic violence victims, and there is NO better job to keep my own life in perspective.


Amy Wilson December 8, 2010 at 6:02 pm

You're right, Courtney- it's all about perspective. Having the problem of too many Christmas presents to buy, or too many fun activities to fit into one's schedule, is certainly a high-class problem to have.

My extended family has figured out one creative way around all the madness also- I'll post more on that tomorrow.


Courtney December 8, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I also have a child with a birthday of December 30th. So we also have been fretting on how to fit in her birthday! But, it shouldn't be a bother, it should be a wonderful celebration! So we decided not to whine anymore, and to not WORRY so much about what we have to DO – and just spend more time with our 2 year old, as this time goes so fast! At this age, everything is magical!
Gosh, I'm quite logical today:)


kect December 8, 2010 at 7:34 pm

The lists for our extended family are still crazy, but my husband and I have vowed to keep it simple in our home. Our kids get three gifts: something from their list (this one is "from Santa"), a surprise, and a book. When they are old enough to understand, we will explain to them that this is because Jesus also got three gifts on his birthday. My husband and I exchange one gift, and we keep a reasonable price limit on it. It's a work in progress to keep things from getting too crazy, but these strategies help us!


mountain hardwear December 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm

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.

great realization…Good luck!


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