Before, After, and In Between

Christmas is upon us. Practically sitting on my chest, in fact. And Christmas is heavy.

It's been a noisy week in Lake Alatorre. We've had the school Christmas Program, a Basketball Tournament (we're in the Final Game! Yeah! Mixed Blessing!), baking til 3AM, last day of school, school parties, a birthday party invitation to honor, shopping, gift wrapping, decorating . . .

I am continually amazed at the ebb and flow of chaos and order around here. One minute, the dining room looks like this:

And miraculously, after a little elbow grease, it looks like this:

Lovely, isn't it? Lasts for about 10 seconds before it spontaneously combusts into mayhem once more.

There is so very much to do at this time of year. We are notoriously bad at taking care of things ahead of time, so we are once again down to the wire on a few gifts, important ones, too. Each year, I vow to start earlier so that I can spend these last few days before Christmas enjoying family and friends rather than shopping, baking, and running around like a maniac. I was unable to keep that vow this year, but I am yet again vowing to do better in 2008.

And even though we are last minute once again, we actually don't do THAT much shopping, so it's not so terrible. I have spent very little time in stores this year, and have been quite happy about that. Stores at Christmas make me anxious. There is, quite simply, too much stuff to take in and most of it is pure junk. Well, I suppose that depends on where you shop. I went to Target tonight, not a place I frequent usually, and found precisely what I needed very quickly. I then spent the rest of the time marveling over how much junk there is in the world. I was looking for a gift for my 1 year old. Now, she doesn't actually need a gift...she won't really care if she gets fewer gifts than her siblings, and we already have a nice pair of PJs for her. But I thought I'd just look around and see if there was anything relatively affordable that I felt like she would really have fun with. What I found was tons of cross-promoted toys from the past six months worth of kids' movies, lots of Bratz doll stuff, lots of plastic and electronic "educational" toys. It didn't take me long to remember that Target is the wrong place to shop for creative, well-crafted gifts for children.

I always chuckle to myself when I walk into Target. The doors of the store have a sign posted that says: "Distraction Free Shopping." This is the distillation of Target's policy preventing anyone from standing in front of their stores and asking for donations or signatures or anything else. No Salvation Army bell-ringers at Target: too distracting to the customers. So yes, the experience of walking through the door is free of that particular kind of distraction. Never mind that walking through a Target store is an exercise in being distracted, by banners, ads, displays, music, lights, buzzing, bells, and all manner of "Come Hither" attractions. I think the sign should be changed to read: Distractions-Not-Intended-To-Make-You-Spend-Money In-This-Store Free Shopping.

Anyway, the good news is that while we may have left many things for the last minute, we have also spent more time with the kiddos. We have been making ornaments for the tree, wrapping presents together, singing lots of Carols (mostly in the car going from activity to activity), and generally getting excited about the approaching day of gifties. Lots of talk about the baby Jesus, including a question from Vincenzo: "Why doesn't anything rhyme with Jesus?" Apparently, he was trying to make up a little song, and couldn't finish a couplet that included a line ending in Jesus. So we all joined in and came up with this:

"Christmas is all about the Baby Jesus,
And eating great food like crackers and cheeses!"

And then Elizabeth came up with this version of her "Family Love Song," a favorite of hers:

"I love my Grandma Rose,
And I love Samuel's nose.
And I love Vincenzo's toes..."

We have, in short, been enjoying ourselves. We are spending the days preparing for Christmas and the birth of Christ. We are getting ready to give gifts and watch people smile. We are ready for Christmas, even if the to do list isn't anywhere near finished. And who needs a neatly crossed-off to do list when you've got a cute little angel in the house??


Sandy said…
I LOVE Vincenzo's song! You can tell him that the Christmas carol we sing with Jesus' name in it is...."Happy Birthday to You"'s worked for years!

Merry Merry Christmas to all y'all!

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