The New Christmas Plan

When Eli was about two or three, Christmas started to get really crappy for everyone involved, and I believe this was also the advent of my obsessive detailing of all that we needed to PLAN and DO and FOCUS on to make sure Christmas was ok.  Now we have applied $5K worth of therapy to my brain and I like to think of this year as the start of a new Christmas plan.

The thing I am learning, mostly, is that things change and that’s ok. Christmas doesn’t have to be exactly the same every year. It doesn’t have to be exactly the way your parents did it or the way you see it in the movies or the way it worked when your child was 2.  I do wish I would have realized when Eli was younger that NO ONE would remember any of that stuff, not him or me, but I also think that helped us to figure out how we like to do things now, when he will remember.

One thing we have retained is that we always have Christmas at our house. I want my kids to wake up to Christmas morning at their  own house. I want Santa to come HERE. I don’t want to spend our Christmas break shuttling all over the country and trying to jam my kids into someone else’s Christmas morning. I want the freedom to do our traditions just the way we want to do them.  So we stay here, and we miss our families, of course, and wish we could all be together, but we also love being at our house, with our tiny family, and having our own Christmas just the way we like it.

However, this year, we are trying some new things too.

We used to distribute presents over as much of a time span as possible because there was SO MUCH STUFF and Eli would get totally overwhelmed after three presents and leave the room on Christmas morning.  I do think that the “OMG ONLY GRANDCHILD SEND EVERY TOY EVER MADE” fervor has died down and Eli is also waaaaay more into presents now, so this year we are going to go back to opening all the presents on Christmas morning. We used to do family presents on Christmas Eve and Santa Presents on Christmas morning but last year to achieve that nice “what a lot of magical stuff there is under this tree!!!!” feeling I had to really stress and overbuy and even then my ungrateful child was a bit “that’s it?” So this we will bombard his skinny little person with everything at once and see how that goes.

I also took my Advent Calendar list into therapy one day and after my therapist nearly cried tears of laughter and asked if she could photocopy it and make it Exhibit A in the DSM under OCPD, she told me to cross off 75% of the things on the list, especially the things I didn’t think were fun, that I was just doing because I thought I had to for the kids.  And honestly, we don’t have time to do all those things this year anyway, now that Eli is in first grade.  We come home, have a snack, do homework, and then it’s time to start dinner and work our way towards bed.  So I crossed off A LOT of stuff and now we’ve got a few things we do on the weekend and we mostly ignore the Advent Calendar and there’s a nice flexibility that’s come back – we still went to get new ornaments but we did it when we had a spare couple of hours, not as dictated by a schedule.  And I didn’t make sugar cookies with the kids because it sucks and I am not sad about it, not one single bit. I made lots of cookies, by myself, and it was lovely.

My therapist also suggested that Christmas shouldn’t be JUST about kids.  That we should find some new traditions that are just for me and Erik, things like going out to a nice dinner to talk over December plans.  This is a work in progress because money is so tight this time of year and Erik had two work trips and it’s just doesn’t come naturally to me, but so far we have our Christmas Day Dim Sum and we have an NBA game two days before Christmas (we take Eli but not Katie), and next year I think we’ll do a joint shopping day and a joint cookie day, Erik can take the day off work and we’ll just hang out together.  SANS CHILDREN.

But so far this year for the first time in a long while I have really enjoyed Christmas.  There’s still the money stress and a slight desire to just get things over with, but I focused my energies on the things I love doing, like decorating my house, and I let go of some other things that were bogging me down. One of the things I had to let go was the $25 and Under Gift Guide I always used to do, and I felt so awful about it, but it was just so much work and aside from all the nice things that everyone always said about it, I didn’t get much back for it.  I don’t make any money of any kind from this blog and it was just too much work for not much return. I was really conflicted about this, but the first time I chucked a catalog in the recycling bin instead of forcing myself to sit down and comb through it for ideas, I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders.  So it was time.  It was time to let that go.

I also stopped opening the stuff other people send here! Aren’t you proud of me? I know not everything sent to us will be to my taste, and that’s fine.  And granted, I did buy almost all my Christmas gifts from Erik myself, because I hate surprises and it’s just easier that way.  But I finally finally, just this year, realized that Christmas isn’t about getting my needs met by other people. It’s just something people do to be nice.  It’s not my mother’s job to keep me in clothes that fit me or makeup that I want. That’s MY job.  Presents are just things that people send you to be nice, and if you don’t want them, then give them away or throw them out.  No big deal.

Anyway, I started this post as a way of telling you what the kids are getting, so ten million years later, here’s what my rotten spoiled children are being showered with on Christmas morning:

(First we open Santa presents and stockings, which show up on Christmas morning.  All the other presents are already under the tree, wrapped, and we open those next.  Sometimes after breakfast, depending on how hungry we are.)

Santa is bringing Eli:

A Spark Scooter (unwrapped, if you care about that sort of thing)

spark scooter

Angry Birds Jenga (wrapped)

angry birds jenga

A Glow Pet (wrapped)

Stamps and Envelopes, as per request

and 18 bottles of root beer.


In his stocking, also from Santa, he’s getting socks, play doh, a movie, a little lego guy, bath bubbles, soap (the boy loves his soap), bandaids, animal crackers, a book, a movie, a toothbrush and toothpaste, gum, red peppers, and a bike lock.

From me and Erik he is getting:

A “Grown Up Camera”


a giant box of art supplies

slippers, a tie (he really wants this, for some odd reason), a sweater (he doesn’t want this but he needs it), gloves, and a wallet because he just started getting an allowance and he keeps all his money in a ziploc bag.

The most important thing to note is that in a well guarded secret, my brother is getting him an Xbox/Playstation/Wii variant and so he won’t care about any of this other stuff AT ALL.

*** Do we think this is enough presents? At first I thought he was being spoiled rotten and then I got worried this was a lot of clothes and it’s not enough stuff.  Feel free to tell me I’m a complete idiot with very spoiled children.

Katie is getting, from Santa:

A new bike


and a “tiger for dad” because she’s obsessed with tigers now and she has diabolically started asking for presents for other people that she wants for herself.


In her stocking she’s getting basically the same assortment of stuff as Eli: paints, socks, animals crackers, tights, another little tiger, some terrible Ariel necklace, play doh, bath bubbles, toothpaste and toothbrush, gum, band aids, lip smackers, and a movie.

We had a really hard time figuring out what else to get her.  She has these very specific interests and I don’t want to fill up my house with crap, because I don’t have room for it and my kids don’t really play with it.  Although I am going to start a game shelf in my coat closet and that might help, traditionally games have had the pieces scattered all over my house and the pieces lost and the boxes crushed in mere minutes and then I just throw them out, so I am hoping having a high up shelf and having to ask to get the games down so you can play them one at a time and then clean them up and put them back will help.

Anyway, from me and Erik she is getting:

two dresses, two or three sweaters, some purple hair bows because purple is her favorite color and the other day when she asked for a purple  hair bow and I told her she didn’t have one I thought she was going to report me to CPS, an Ariel doll that goes in the bathtub because I just couldn’t give a Barbie to a three year old, gloves, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and a Tiger Costume and Tiger Legwarmers.

ariel  tiger costume

She’s also getting a glow pet from my neighbor, a new pair of Minnetonka Moccassins from my mom, and a zoo membership from my brother, so I think she’ll have a lovely Christmas.  In fact, hopefully we all will.


11 Responses

  1. Oh! I love this!

    And mere moments before I read your post, I was staring out my office window and thinking, “Man, I really don’t want to go to Iris’ school holiday night tomorrow. Maybe we should skip it.” She sings for 30 seconds (or stares blankly into the audience) and it scoots our entire evening off-kilter and maybe it’s okay to miss it this once.

    Sometimes scaling back feels different but good.

    P.S. Iris got Hungry Hungry Hippos for her birthday and that shit is LOUD but just as fun as I remember it.

  2. I love your Christmas plans, and I think this one is the best yet. 🙂

  3. Yep, yep, yep. The weight that was lifted when I “gave up” trying to create the PERFECT holiday experience was maginificent. So we miss the lights at the zoo, or the model train, or whatever. But we make it up in time spent together, at home, watching Noah and Chloe perform their “Winter Wonderland” play complete with home made tickets. That, that is Christmas to me.

    Hope the rest of this season is wonderful and slow and quiet. Peaceful, even.

  4. For years I’ve been trying to go with the “All is calm, all is bright” mentality for Christmas. Then I invite 20 people for drinks on the 23rd or agree to host lunch on Christmas Day and take on a massive renovation project that has to be completed before all that can happen.

    This year there is nothing at our house, we’re only going to 2 functions, I haven’t done any Christmas baking, one of my kids won’t send cards to their friends and I’m reeeeally trying to fight down the guilty feelings that its not going to be special enough. My husband thinks its going to be the best Christmas ever since he met me.

    Merry Christmas, Elizabeth.

  5. I find this stuff SO interesting, how other people ‘do’ Christmas. For instance, in our house the only gifts from Santa are what comes in the stockings. Our kids get less, present-wise (zero judgment, just observation of differences). We set a $100(ish) per kid cap. I try to do advent stuff, but honestly, everyone except the 6-year-old finds it pretty tedious. All christmas activities including stockings take place at my parents house, because I don’t enjoy hosting (or decorating) and my mom does. And because I have a hard time with change so making it more like I remember from childhood feels good to me.

  6. I would commit a non-violent felony to stay at home for a major holiday (Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, or Christmas). I admire your stick-to-it-ness about staying home. Somehow I don’t think the “but I don’t want to kennel my cat” has the same authority as “I want my kids to wake up in their own beds” to my in-laws.

    Can you write me a note telling my in-laws that I HAVE to stay home this year? Give yourself some convincing credentials and tell them that it’s super duper important? Otherwise, it’s never going to happen.

  7. This year I have been telling myself over and over and over again, “It’s okay if I just don’t do much this year. It’s okay. I have three small children and I have not slept in a long time and it’s OKAY.”

    And…it has been! I think we are going to have a lovely Christmas, but it has not been without a lot of abandoned ideas this year.

  8. Just want to say that it sounds like you are on track to have a lovely and joyous holiday, and here’s to only doing the activities that you truly enjoy. I have been a huge fan of your gift guides in the past, but I thoroughly support your decision to give it up–it’s not worth making yourself miserable over.

  9. I always try to remember that my own childhood Christmases were not filled with advent activities every day in December, but I still remember them as being incredibly joyful. I hope your holiday is calm and bright!

  10. i liked reading this. i felt it was very “oprah ah ha moment”. hopefully you don’t hate oprah.
    I LOVE the bike katie is getting. i wish it came in my size.
    greg and i both had christmas morning at home growing up. we thought it was pretty much the most awesome part of our childhoods and we want to give our kids the same thing so i hear ya on staying home. our general theme is stockings and coffee/hot cocoa/cinnamon rolls. then champagne and presents galore. we don’t always pick the wrapping paper up that much. we just lay around in a completely trashed house for a day and play with our presents. greg makes these little pigs in a blanket. at some point a giant ham and ambrosia are involved. amazing times.
    i hope your christmas is full of peace, happiness, and wrapping paper mess.
    ps. erik is agreeing to shopping and cookie making on his day off. keep that man!

  11. I loved all of this. Especially the part about your list making your therapist cry tears of laughter. My pre-holiday party list of to dos would probably do the same to my hypothetical therapist, I’m sure. I decided, ten days beforehand, to repaint the kitchen and hallway and to finally turn the weird empty closet space off our dining room into a wine station, despite being behind on even normal housework stuff. Totally reasonable and realistic, esp w/ a sinus infection!
    However, I DID enlist help with the painting and let got of needing to control the project. Also, the wine closet only got half done, and wasn’t usable for the party, and despite that wine was still served, the world did not end and I didn’t even freak out, so I think I’m making progress with my crazy tendencies!

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