Every year around this time I start to panic a little bit. Or a lot. Last year I was pregnant but I had the benefit of a week off early in December to get my bearings a bit and prepare as much as I could. This year the Christmas season is extra short, I have two kids, and Christmas is less than two weeks away...and I feel like I've done almost nothing. I felt good going into the season because I bought a handful of gifts back in November (and a few others earlier in the year), but now we're two weeks out and I've done almost nothing else.
I have a full list on my iPod of all of the people we need to buy for. Some of them have suggestions, some of them do not. People have been asking for suggestions for almost everyone in our family, and I'm stumped enough with what I have to buy. Jacob and Carter do not need any more toys, and Carter is all stocked up on clothes thanks to hand-me-downs from his brother and three cousins (four if you count his supply of Nike sneakers, too). Most of the stuff Craig wants is best managed by gift cards since it's more complicated than the average family shopper needs to do. I have a few things on my list, but most are more than most people should be spending. Still, I'm trying to think of suggestions for all the well-meaning askers, but I'm coming up short.
Half of my issue is deciding what to buy, and the other half is actually getting out to do it. My parents may come visit this weekend (weather and health issues depending) so I can have some time to do some running around. I know I can do online shopping, but I'd rather not spend a crap load on shipping, nor do I want to risk not getting things in time as we get closer to the big day. I think we're at a disadvantage when it comes to shopping because we live so far away from most of our family. We don't get as many of those casual conversations that might spark an idea, so we're stuck going off of lists most of the time. I'd definitely rather get someone something they'll like and use, but between working directly off a list and getting a nice, generic gift card, it all tends to feel a little impersonal. When all else fails I still value liking the gift above all else, but there's no doubt it's extra awesome when you think of the perfect surprise gift for someone. I just feel like I can't seem to do that quite often enough!
Every year, and this year in particular, I hear so many people saying that we need to get rid of the Christmas stress and appreciate the reason for the season. I couldn't agree more, but I don't know if the people who will end up gift-less as a result of that pursuit would be as understanding. It's all well and good to say it, but at the end of the day the gifts need to be bought. I've heard and seen a couple things this year saying that you don't have to do every tradition, that you don't have to bake cookies or go to every tree lighting or whatever...but honestly, for me, that's the stuff that helps Christmas feel like Christmas, and if I'm just siting around "appreciating" the season, it's going to come and go without any real memories to take away. Ultimately it's an impossible situation. Do everything and you're stressed, do nothing and it feels empty. The in-between isn't much better, because then you're picking and choosing, and becoming even more aware of what you're missing.
I think I'm having an even harder time this year because of all of the issues we've been dealing with as a family. From Jacob's behavior issues to Carter's food issues, from Craig's Nana being sick to just feeling generally overwhelmed by life most days, it's hard to feel Christmas joy or find peace in the quiet moments. Usually by now I've been moved to tears by one Christmas song or another, but perhaps this year all my tears have been spent. That sounds so depressing and so cynical, but this year more than ever I am buried under the burdens of life in general, and Christmas is only making it harder. Just trying to get through the day's usual stuff is hard enough, let alone adding Christmas shopping and other activities into the mix.
You might think that having a baby makes Christmas that much more special, and to some degree it does, but let's face it--he's really not that into it yet. I think by next year he'll be talking a bit and will have more of an appreciation for what's going on. This year I know he'll love wrapping paper, since ripping and crunching paper is one of his favorite activities. The other thing that does give me a little Christmas spirit is watching his face light up when he looks at the tree. Most days I'll pull him out of his car seat when we get home and walk over to turn on the tree. The way his face lights up when the tree "magically" illuminates is classic. I need to try to catch it on video one of these days, because it's that adorable.
But truly, I'm just bummed...and stressed. I want to enjoy this time of year so badly. I want to look at the pretty lights, eat some cookies (which, of course, are far more complicated this year with the whole gluten-free thing), listen to the music, and ponder God's great gift. Instead I spend my evenings searching the internet for the perfect gift for everyone and wondering when I'll actually be able to make a decision about it or go to a brick-and-mortar store to buy it. I look at the dwindling days and our busy schedule and I freak out, pretty sure that this will be the year it doesn't all get done. Every year I feel that way, but with a lot of work and a few late nights, it does. Nothing feels better than hopping in the car, usually on the 23rd, with all of the presents wrapped and packed. That is when I usually can finally relax and enjoy Christmas. But for whatever reason, this year I'm not so sure it's going to happen. And what then?
I have a lot of work to do...but I suppose I should start tonight by getting to bed so I'm not as tired tomorrow!