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Tuesday, December 27, 2011


My son has referred to Christmas as Chris-Chris.
When we ask him what Santa says, he says with a smile, as if adding, "duh..." "HO HO HO, Merry Chris-Chris!"
It's adorable. It makes us laugh every single time we hear it.
It makes me want to video tape my son's every word, reaction, smile and move during this Christmas time.
Yes, it's true. The holidays are so much more fun with a child around.

We had our best Christmas yet this year, and I know it's almost entirely related to the fact that our son is a vibrant and growing toddler who is interested in and excited over absolutely everything that has to do with the season. Seeing the excitement and joy in his eyes makes me feel like a kid all over again. And it's a good thing. Because in the past 4 years or so Christmas has represented nothing but stress to me, based on the sheer fact that it's just a lot to do and we have no money to do it all with. It becomes a source of frustration with both my husband and I. Yet this year... we enjoyed it! Every second!

We did a few things this year to make it a smoother Christmas season, aka less busy and more fun! Here are some of the ideas that I hope we can stick with next year:

1. WE SAID NO! (nicely, I promise!)- Christmas is always about giving... sometimes too much though, of ourselves, our time and energy. It's hard to say no at this time of year. But this year was the first time we actually stopped and learned to say that two letter word... and it paid off!

Every year on Christmas Day we have done 5 Christmas-es... starting at our own house at 6 a.m., going to my mom's by 8, then to my husband's parents by 10:30, then to my husband's uncle's and cousins' by 1, then back to our house by 5 for dinner with my dad and sister. It's crazy, stressful, busy and not relaxing. It ended last year with my son in a crying exhausted fit from not having a good nap, totally ruining his time with my family at the end of the day. This year we said we could not go to the extended family gathering at 1... which along with a couple of others who said it was also too much for them to attend, spurred the discussion to having that event changed altogether to the day after Christmas- awesome! Since that event was gone, it meant all the other events could start a little later, thus meaning more time with those people, aka less rushed and more enjoyable. Because Christmas Eve was a Saturday and my husband wasn't working and because our son is still too little to comprehend when Santa is really supposed to come, we opened our Santa and family presents Christmas Eve morning, stayed in our pj's until lunch time, and ate delicious cinnamon buns as we played with all of Owen's new toys for hours! It was so relaxing and again more fun than rushing through it at 6 a.m. to get to the next stop on our Christmas list.

We also said no to buying more gifts than we could afford. Instead of swapping gifts at the extended family like usual, we all pitched in and donated gifts to a needy family. It was cheaper and yet more meaningful, too. Instead of having the little kids buy gifts for their cousins to swap, we had them make homemade Christmas cards for one another and build gingerbread houses at the family gathering to make it more fun. Again, less waste, less stress, total fun! I have to admit it was hard to be the one to step up and say no first when everyone else seemed to be going with the flow of buying gifts like has been done in the past... but as soon as we said it it seemed like others followed suit agreeing... so we can't be the only ones who felt the need to say enough is enough here!

2. WE ENJOYED THE SEASON'S GIFTS- We had breakfast with Santa, decorated ornaments, colored pictures of Santa, hung our tree early, put lights outside the house, drove around several nights to see the lights in the neighborhood, went to the local parade, attended the children's pageant at church, etc. We did all of those typical Christmas events that kids love. It really helped to make it a FUN season for us, seeing the point of the holiday, not just getting caught up in the stress of buying gifts.

3. WE BROKE UP THE SPENDING & SHOPPING- I started Christmas shopping in July. Literally. It was sort of by accident. I had a few gift cards to use up, didn't find anything for myself, so thought to start on my niece and nephews for Christmas. Then I just decided to break it up. My goal over the summer was to have my niece and 2 nephews and son done with Christmas by the end of September. Then in October and November I shopped for my side of the family. From Thanksgiving to Christmas week I shopped for my husband's family. Voila, done! If we had all the money and time in the world I'd have loved to have all shopping done by my old deadline of December 1st, most done in October before the crowds hit the stores. But we don't have all the money, therefore breaking it down works best for the budget and my sanity. This is definitely something I intend to do again this summer. Starting early meant so much less worry and a lack of that overwhelming feeling that it's all so much at once.

4. I SEARCHED FOR DEALS TO MAKE IT FUN!- I've always been a bargain shopper, but this year topped it off! Since my goal was to shop for my son over the summer I hit up a few yard sales and a library book sale and pretty much had him covered! We don't get him a ton since he has 10 aunts and uncles who spoil him enough and 6 grandparents doing the same. Since we started early, I was always searching for great deals. I found my sister's Christmas gift in TJ Maxx when I was simply in there getting a quick birthday gift in October! I also scored big on some photo calendars (only cost me $4 shipping, instead of $30 total) and some photo Christmas cards (FREE including shipping for 20 cards... instead of like $40!). Searching for cool deals like this made the shopping fun.

5. I SHOPPED FROM MY COUCH!- Shopping online is most definitely not overrated. It's awesome! Not only was it easier and less chaotic than going to the mall, but it was fun also getting the packages in the mail to see what we'd ordered. I have a son... an almost 2-year-old... if you are a mom, you can imagine how challenging and totally insane it is to take him shopping in a store. The one store I did take him in this year to get gifts he screamed SNOWMAN all through the store, laughing hysterically, and grabbing everything off the racks, tossing them on the ground... It was miserable. That night I went online and found tons of what I needed. Much easier!

Just a few ideas that made a big difference. Hopefully next year we can remember this year's "Chris-Chris" and stay in that happy, this is so much fun stage instead of getting bogged down in what doesn't matter - the chaos!

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