And, as usual, I've been staying calm and festive and merry, but now that Christmas is really close, I'm in danger of losing that happy Who-like attitude and becoming that crazy mom who is panicking over needing one more gift and worrying about how on earth I'm going to get everything wrapped and how I'm going to get the house clean for our Christmas Eve and oh my God the TREE and...yeah. The potential is there.
Since I flat out refuse to become a grump just waiting for December 26 to hurry up, I've found tricks that work for me and our family. It's not a one size fits all approach for sure, but it may help you best find your happy place, so you can stay merry!
Tips for Shopping
I'd love to be one of those people who is finished and wrapped by Thanksgiving, but I'm not. Sure, I get started in November as the sales start, but I still have plenty to do in December.
- Give the kids Santa deadlines. One of the things our Elf does is put in a request for final submissions in the first week of December. After that, Santa needs to focus on fulfilling requests, not taking new ones. If you're suddenly inspired on December 15 and can't live without a new toy you just discovered, that's what Christmas gift cards are for.
- Know your limits. I don't set foot in the big stores during the last weekend before Christmas during daylight hours. I'm usually not thrown by crowds, but I really can't handle that level of madness. If there is something I absolutely need, I go super early in the morning, or late at night.
- Have a plan. Not just a generalized list, but a real plan of action for the crowded stores. Wandering with a cart all over the store is just asking for aggravation.
- If you can buy it online, do it. For me, online shopping is not the be all, end all. I get inspired when I'm in actual stores. I can get better deals if I time it right. BUT, if it can be done online with two day shipping, I'm doing it.
Tips for Wrapping
I think I love the idea of wrapping. And pre-kids, I loved getting everything spread out with my paper and tape and decorations and watching Christmas movies while I worked. Now, it's much more stressful because my kids seem to see everything.
- Use specific paper. Each of my girls has special Santa paper that is only for their Santa gifts. This seems like a super overachiever tip, but honestly, it's a lazy thing. I don't have to label those gifts. The pile of Superhero Girls packages is for Madison. The pile of My Little Pony packages is for Reagan. No tags necessary, it's clear those gifts were from Santa, and I can keep track as I'm wrapping to make sure one pile isn't much bigger than the other.
- Get some alone time. Easier said than done, I know. But I kick my family out at least one day so I can wrap before 9:00 pm and actually sit somewhere besides the cold attic where I hide the gifts.
- Stay organized. Scissors have a spot. Tape has a spot. Tags have a spot. And when I pick it up, I put it back down where it belongs. This saves me a TON of time searching for the tape, only to find I'm sitting on it.
Tips for Cards
I still do cards. I love getting them, and I love making them. Here's how I keep that.
- I don't go crazy. Fifty percent off a crazily expensive fancy card is still expensive. I have yet to pay over fifty cents each for a photo card, and mine still look beautiful.
- Get your addresses ready. Every year I'm astounded by how many people are at new addresses, even though it didn't seem like that many people moved. Knowing who you'll have to track down makes it easier.
- Go out of the box to get stamps. I can't imagine braving the post office if I don't absolutely have to. You can mail anything from Staples, and you can get stamps everywhere from CVS to the grocery store to a warehouse club.
- Assembly line is the way to go. to get the envelopes done, I addressed. Madison stuck on the return address, Reagan stamped. Then I wrote a note (if necessary), Madison stuffed, Reagan licked and stuck.
- We display cards on our interior front door. Photo cards earn a front and center spot, but every card we receive gets hung. At the end of the season, I take all the cards, punch holes in the corners, slip a ring clasp through them, and hang them next to the door with the year. It's so nice to see how things change year to year!
Tips for Tree
We love getting a live tree, but it does impact our timing! From picking it out to bringing it home, to getting it in the house, to getting it decorated, timing is important, and can be tight.
- If you choose a live tree, set yourself up for success. Pick a day where you can stand to be outside. Adam and I look at the calendar to choose both a day and a back up day, just in case. The one year we didn't do this, and we were limited to one day, we ended up picking out a tree in sleet with a crabby infant and toddler.
- Bringing the tree home doesn't need to be stressful. Follow these tips, and it's a cinch!
- We were always told to let the tree sit outside for at least a day to let it settle and to make sure any living critters vacate before you bring them inside. This year, we ended up letting it sit almost a week because of Adam's travel schedule, but we kept it watered, and it was fine.
- Get a QUALITY stand. We love this one because of the easy foot lever.
- Decorating is a family affair - Adam strings the lights, but he helps himself by stationing a child on the back of the tree so they can pass the string back and forth and he isn't try to circle the tree. The girls have a box of ornaments to hang, and we have ours.
Tips for Sanity
Streamline. Do what you love, and lose the rest. We do the Elf, but he does absolutely no mischief, because I know I can't handle that. We do minimal baking. We attend only a few holiday events that we all really want to attend.
And we stay healthy. We balance the treats out with good food, we make sure everyone is getting sleep and we nip all illnesses in the bud.