Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Preparing for the Holidays

Being a mom around the holidays is challenging. It takes a lot more planning than it did in my single days or married without kids days. Granted, back in those days I worked more (and on weekends!) so it was still a challenge, but parenthood means less control over everything and more that I'd like to have control over. You have the responsibility of making sure your kid gets a great holiday experience--presents, attendance at their events, exposing them to Christmas traditions--while also making sure that social obligations are taken care of, gifts are bought and wrapped, and child care is secured for any non-kid holiday events or crazy shopping trips.

These first few days of the Christmas season have been a bit odd for me. I was very excited about decorating the house and pulling out the Christmas music, both of which I have certainly enjoyed. Jacob has been learning Jingle Bells at daycare for their Christmas program, and I've enjoyed helping him practice at home. He's learned a bit about Frosty the Snowman and is taking interest in the manger scene and the tree, and he loves Christmas lights on houses. Incidentally, we had a casualty last night--I went out to get the mail and came back to Jacob holding a tiny little hockey net that he'd pulled off of an ornament. Luckily it wasn't one of my really good Hallmark ornaments, and I was able to superglue it back on, but he certainly got a stern talking-to (again) about not touching the tree.

The weather has put a bit of a damper on my holiday spirit, though, as moderate temperatures, lots of rain, and brown-green grass everywhere doesn't really scream "Christmas" to me. We've actually been a little short on snow in December the past couple years, and it is a bit of a bummer since this is the one time of year that I enjoy snow. A little white stuff makes everything just seem a little more picture perfect. And I'm actually hoping the weather forecast holds out and we get a little snow next week. As long as we get enough to cover the grass and it's cold enough to stay there for a while, that's enough. While I do enjoy a little snow on Christmas Eve and Christmas to enhance the mood, in reality we have far too much traveling to do and snow just complicates that. But as long as the ground is white and the roads are clear, that's perfect.

In general, I've been waiting for some big intro to the Christmas season, and it just hasn't come. Other than the decorations around the house and the influx of emails in my inbox, I'm not sure I'd even notice it was Christmas season at this point. And it IS only November still--for another few hours, anyway--so I'm not sure what I'm expecting. Maybe it's because I haven't done any real shopping (wandering the mall without a purpose for an hour on Saturday doesn't really count), or maybe it's because I haven't pulled out the Charlie Brown Christmas specials. Maybe it's because we haven't made any holiday-ish plans, or any that we know of seem so far away that I don't even want to tempt myself thinking about them.

I will say that the whole holiday shopping thing is bugging me a bit. I feel like I'm missing out on great deals by not going out on Black Friday or scouring the Cyber Monday ads to get stuff. But quite frankly I'm lacking inspiration on what to buy people this year, and all of the stuff I'm seeing in ads just seems to fall into a few categories--cheesy, expensive, unnecessary, or just plain crap. I usually do start out the season feeling uninspired, and slowly come up with ideas for gifts, but by then we're short on time, things get sold out, or we can't find what we're looking for. I'd love to get all of my shopping done now, before I get busy with Christmas parties and activities, baking, Christmas cards, and whatever else. I know it gets busy and the Christmas season flies by, and I hate that end-of-the-season crunch. It sucks the spirit right out of you. So I'd much rather get that stuff done early and enjoy the end of the season more, but it's just not happening. I tend to panic the closer we get, as I know that each shopping trip is that much more important. That if I don't find something this time, my future opportunities are limited. I wonder if I'm getting a good price and think I should go home and research more, but then it means another trip out to buy it later. Opportunities tend to be so limited as it is that it's a tough call. Do I take Jacob along and risk a meltdown? Do I head out alone when Craig is watching him, or worse, late at night after Jacob's in bed? It's certainly quicker in general without Jacob, but I HATE being out all night and coming home just in time to go to bed. Usually it's already late and then my sleep suffers, and then I'm tired the next day and not wanting to do anything in the evening, and on and on and on. I end up getting anxious about my time management and getting everything done by the end with even a little time to spare to enjoy things. There's nothing worse than getting gifts in the last-minute rush, then coming home and wrapping them, only to have all of five minutes to put them under the tree and take a picture before packing them all up to put in the car. But welcome to my life for the past few years!

Each year I swear I'll plan better, utilize my evenings better, and get really creative with gifts, crafts, and baking. And it mostly never happens. I get tired, I get busy, and shopping trips and big ideas never go as planned. I did do the gingerbread ornaments last year, and I may do them again this year, so I guess there is a shred of craftiness in there somewhere. I'd like to do real cutouts this year (yay, I have a stand mixer to help with that now!), and I'd really like to have more presents bought and wrapped earlier than ever. The last minute gifts we usually run out and get less than a week before Christmas? I really want to do those NOW. However, Craig has a lot of busy weekends this month, so it's going to be a challenge. We have all of two Saturdays and a Sunday to make it happen, and only weekday evenings beyond that. Yikes. As a parent you have to plan much more than ever before, so you'd think I'd have carried that over to Christmas, but not so much. I try, though. I just fail. I try not to be beat myself up about it, though. After all, I'm still pretty new at this and the responsibilities change a bit each year. I know I need to keep learning, and I'll have nearly mastered it just in time for my kids to no longer care :) Just kidding. But I do think it will take a long time to get comfortable with it all. My mom has always seemed to be a master--nice gifts, individually wrapped stocking stuffers, cookies, advent calendars, etc.--and it's a lot to live up to! Or at least, let's just say I'm used to the best. I want to give that to Jacob as well. I'm definitely using these years where he doesn't know any differently as my practice runs. Hopefully one day he'll appreciate it as well.

I'm still looking forward to this Christmas season, but with a list as long as Santa's, it'll be a challenge!

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