almost christmas

Can you believe it’s almost Christmas? Where did the year go? The weather here has hardly turned cold, but the sales are plentiful, and shoppers abound, so it must be Christmas afterall.

I’ve avoided most of the crowds this year through a combination of early and online shopping. We did our annual Christmas name drawing with ben’s family early this year so we could bring gifts up with us at Thanksgiving, saving the hassle and cost of shipping. Since we do a name drawing, we only buy for two adults and the kids.

Growing up, any time a friend would mention that they had a large Christmas, I would just shake my head and chuckle. They hadn’t seen anything until they’d been to my house for Christmas. And I have yet to be proven wrong. We have an average sized immediate family, but a rather large extended family. My dad’s family is mostly local, and we have a small exchange with them, usually baked goods or candies, and it’s fairly easy because everyone lives within 30 miles off one another. My mom’s family, on the other hand, is all over the country. She’s close with all of her siblings, all four of them, as well as their children. Everyone is incredibly generous at the holidays, sending boxes filled with presents, stocking stuffers and goodies to enjoy, and we try to reciprocate. My usual rule for people I don’t see on a regular basis is to give something universally useful (like a gift card) or something that can be consumed. This year we opted to send fruit gift baskets. I searched online, selected something that looked delicious and the rest of our out of town shopping was done. Removing shopping, the hassle of packing boxes and going to the post office made the whole experience much more enjoyable.

Here’s where I find myself differing from the stereotypical woman… I don’t really enjoy shopping. Give me a list and I’m happy to make a purchase and move on. Targeted shopping. Efficient. Browsing just has little appeal for me. And don’t even ask about trying things on. Oh, I have my days where I get a shopping bug, but they come about once a year, sometimes twice. Otherwise I do it begrudgingly. (Ben might argue this point a bit, as I do enjoy it more than him, but my comparison is more between me and “stereotypical” female). This generalization is in regards to shopping for anything other than electronics. Even then, I prefer online vendors so I can read reviews and compare prices, but I don’t mind searching out and buying an awesome new gadget in the store either. Weird, right? Oh well.

Back to the shopping thing… It’s actually a bit stressful for me. I think I’m lacking some essential radar to tell me when something is perfect for someone. Or maybe it’s just seriously defunked. I always have doubts. What if they already have it? What if I’m completely off base? I get that “it’s perfect” feeling every so often, but it rarely corresponds with a holiday, so even if I do decide to buy whatever it is right then with the intention of saving it until a birthday or Christmas, I will most likely stash and forget about it, leaving me to scramble at the last minute to come up with a new idea.

Ben and I used to go big for holidays. The newness of dating, the thrill (and stress) of finding and giving that perfect gift. The longer we were together, the less these extravagant purchases made sense. We bought the things we wanted throughout the year. So, when birthdays or whatever came around, we were left with few options to purchase for each other. We came up with a “consumables” gift idea for birthdays and Valentines day. Things like dinners, wine, cheese and crackers. It took the stress off the occasion, and let us spend time together, which we find we value most. Even if we couldn’t afford the things we want, I think I would opt for spending money on experiences and time together over material objects. Building memories, both good and bad, that we can reflect on and laugh about later. Maybe that’s why I have so much trouble buying things for other people. I don’t care about things as much as I do about spending time with people I care about.

For Christmas, Ben and I exchange stocking stuffers, and then figure out a “house” gift together. It’s usually not anything we desperately need, more of a splurge for ourselves. One year, we upgraded to a king size bed. Another, we bought a fancy gas grill. This year, we’re putting those funds toward a trip to Hawaii. This arrangement is only for Ben and me, though. For C, of course, we do the whole gamut. Stocking, presents, everything. Plus, at this age at least, she’s really easy to buy for.

I was chatting with my dental hygienist last week (her cleaning my teeth, us trying to talk, always an awkward thing), asking her if she was done with shopping. Her reply? “I have a college student and a teenager. They want cash. I’m done.” She went on to say that her kids really don’t want her buying things for them. They don’t enjoy them, it causes stress for both sides and makes the holidays less enjoyable. Why not give them what they truly want and let them enjoy it, instead of imposing what she thinks they would like. My first thought was that it wasn’t really in line with the “spirit” of the season, but as I sat thinking about it, her reasoning started to make sense. Ok. Yeah, I could get on board with that. I could see that happening with older kids. Everyone does things differently, we’re just finding our niche.

Wow, this post has gotten long fast. Hoping your holiday shopping is done and you’re ready for whatever holiday you embrace. Merry Christmas!

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Mom to "C", wife to Ben. I'm a part-time blogger, cook, organizer, seamstress, house cleaner, taxi, nurse (the mom kind), accountant... I could go on, but really... it's all in the blog. Read away!

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