Thanksgiving is next week. How did that happen?! I am so terrible at the holidays. Every year I end up broke, behind, and stressed. I love this time of year, and I want it to be special for my kiddos. But my inability to get everything done usually results in at least one episode of me losing my schmidt and having a mommy tantrum (mom-trum?) because all the pies got burned, the stupid turkey won’t thaw, or no one will smile for the camera.
It’s my annual shame, and this is the year that it changes! (She says in a voice filled with enthusiasm and hope.)
I’m inherently an overwhelmed and disorganized person, so this is going to present a major challenge. I need a plan. One with strategies that even I can manage. So I scoured the interwebs and spoke to lots of friends and came up with a list of five things that I’m going to do this year:
Item 1: The Mean-Mommy-You’ll-Thank-Me-Later Gift Limit
My kids are each getting three presents from us this year. AND THAT IS IT. At first they were not on board with this plan. Then I asked them if they remembered what they got for Christmas last year, and each of them could only recall one or two things. And some of those guesses were wrong. All of which says to me that they got too much stuff. Then we talked about how many kids might not get anything at all. Kids who might even go hungry. And you know what? They thought about it for a while and, to their credit, they decided that they’re cool with only getting a couple of things. I pinched this idea from one of my favorite bloggers, Momastary (who also suggests Item #3).
Item 2: The Double List Cross Off
Someone told me about this last year, and I thought it was genius. Around Halloween, ask your kids to make a list of the stuff they want. Put it away. Then right around Thanksgiving, after they’ve been inundated with TV commercials and catalogues and hearing friends talk about what every cool kid has to have — ask your kids to write another list. Then compare the two. Whatever is on both lists is what they really want. That’s the stuff that I’m actually going to buy.
Exceptions to this include Bratz dolls, jeggings and live farm animals, including ponies.
Item #3: I will be done shopping by Thanksgiving even if I have to kill someone.
I sent out an email in mid-November asking my family to please humor me and send me an idea of what they wanted. I’ve got my two lists per kid. Unlike our friends in Washington, I even made a budget. I know what I have to buy and how much I can spend. November’s budget will be tight. December’s will be only kind of a nightmare. January’s checking account balance will not be an ulcer-inducing panic, as in years past.
Item #4: The Evil Duo That I Will Finally Defeat: Gift Wrapping and Christmas Cards
Every year I do these two things by myself, late at night, rushed, grouchy, and hating every minute. But this year, I’m enlisting my husband. I’m going to buy a couple of really great bottles of wine. And be very sweet to him. And we’re going to pick a couple of nights to stay up late together and do these things while drinking and talking and listening to a college basketball game or his favorite music (think old and random) in the background. It will be fun. And it will replace the tradition of me doing all the work while scowling at him and subduing the urge to kickpunch when he asks if we’ve gotten the cards in the mail yet.
Item #5: Wait. What Are We Celebrating?
I saved the most important thing for last.
Every week between Thanksgiving and New Years, I’m doing something service-oriented. I’ve heard people brag about doing this and even heard of celebrities who have their assistants do this for them. And I’ve always thought, “Sure, Gwyneth. Right after naptime, I’ll just take all three kids down to the methodone clinic and we’ll donate our time.”
But this year is different. My kids are a little older. I have a tiny bit more autonomy because no one is breastfeeding and even my littlest is in preschool two days a week. I really can do something. And I’m going to try and do as much of it as possible with my kids. We’re filling stockings for children who might not get any other presents this year. My church is hosting a Homeless Hypothermia program the week of Thanksgiving and they need a lot of help. There will be caroling at the nursing home. Each kid is going to go through their stuff and find things to donate. Collecting donations for the food bank? Yes. Cards for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed? Even yesser.
If I can do these five things, I will not spend the next six weeks frenetically flapping about only to have to flap even harder at the last minute. No. I’ll be too busy doing things like not having tantrums and actually sleeping during the month of December. I might even get a chance to slow down and enjoy the holidays with my family.