Contemplating Crazy (A Christmas Shopping Manifesto)

What it feels like in my house Christmas morning (photo by marco antonio torres, via Flickr

Let’s face it: My house is stuffed with Stuff.

I am engaged in an ongoing war to rid my house of junk (Halloween rings shaped like bats, useless party bag favors, toy airplanes built so shoddily they broke the first day, T shirts, T shirts, T shirts–what is it with the “we must have a T shirt for every possible occasion” thing?), and yet the truth is, a family of six is just going to have a lot of stuff.

We print on the back side of every piece of school communication or homework that has a blank side. (I’m kind of obsessive about that.) We are extremely selective about what schoolwork gets saved. We consider ourselves not big accumulators of kid paraphernalia. Yet we have So.Much.Stuff.

And about this time of year, I start contemplating crazy things to address it.

Because it’s time to shop for Christmas gifts. My husband’s family has always done Christmas big. Mine, not so much. So every year we engage in a (loving) (respectful) battle of tug of war to determine how much is “too much.”

Plus, we have kid birthdays four weeks on either side of Christmas. Julianna’s, in February, isn’t so bad, but Michael’s, which is this week, is a stumper. I mean, what do you give a two year old who doesn’t even get the whole idea of birthdays, and who has two older brothers? Everything he’s interested in playing with we already have! And guess what? We have two occasions to give gifts for!

Then there’s the small matter of how to do the shopping without ruining the surprise for the recipient. Last year, for instance, I thought Nicholas (3 3/4)was old enough to understand the concept of surprise. I thought it would be special for him to get to help me pick his daddy’s gift. I impressed upon him the need to keep it a surprise for Daddy, and we went to Kohl’s and chose two Jerry Garcia ties. That night when Christian got home, Nicholas met him at the door shouting, “Daddy, guess what? We got you TIES!!!!”

Needless to say, Nicholas is not going with me when I shop for gifts this year. And that adds some serious complication to the shopping process. My choices are: go while he’s in school, which is supposed to be my work time; go after the kids are in bed, which guts what little time I have to spend with my husband; or hire a sitter. How much moolah do I have to dish out on babysitting so that I can go spend even more on gifts?

I’m contemplating crazy, people. Here are the ideas I’ve come up with:

  1. The children must each pick two toys to give to charity, to make room for new arrivals.
  2. “Disappear” that train table we gave Alex for Christmas when he was two, and wrap it up as a birthday gift for Michael.
  3. Helium balloons. Because they’ll go away after three days.
  4. Take Michael with me while I go to Target to buy the markers we plan to give him. Because he doesn’t have a clue, anyway.

What crazy things have you done (or contemplated) at this time of year?