It seems like just yesterday that the summer ended and the school year began, but here we are again quickly approaching another holiday season. And although it’s a great time of year to be a parent as you watch the magic and excitement through your twins’ eyes, it’s also a crazy time as you hustle to buy gifts for everyone from the baby-sitter to Great Uncle Ned, curse the endless strings of tangled lights, and plan a Christmas menu for 40 of your closest relatives. So how can you do it all without turning into the Grinch?
Easy. Don’t do it all.
As you make your holiday to-do list, select one or two events or traditions that mean the most to you and your family such as making gingerbread houses with your kids or chairing the Christmas carnival at your local church, and cross off the rest. In doing less, you’ll enjoy your choices more. It’s OK to “just say no,” but to ease your guilt, promise to commit to something different each year.
The Double Holiday Party Dilemma
If your kids have volunteered you to bake for their holiday class parties, make sure each signs up to bring the same item. It’s easy to
buy bake four dozen cupcakes and divy ‘em up than it is to make two separate recipes. Yet what do you do when your twins are in separate classes and each begs you to attend his holiday party? After all, you can’t be in two places at once! Speak with both teachers and see if they’d be open to combining their parties (something that many teachers enjoy), or ask them if they could schedule the parties at different times during the school day–one directly after lunch, the other an hour before school ends, for instance—so that you can attend both. If you explain your double predicament, most are willing to accommodate.
Freeing up some time is a great beginning to a stress-free holiday season, but there are plenty of other time-saving tricks, too. Try scrutinizing your Christmas card list, for instance, editing out those you can wish well in person (do you really need to send a card to the woman who sits next to you at work?) or acquaintances that you haven’t heard from in years. Then turn to your computer and log the remaining addresses into a word processing program. When it’s time to mail out your cards, rather than writing out the envelopes by hand, create labels with a click of your mouse. Just think, next year it will be an even easier task—just hit the “print” button. Or, better yet, be the first on your block to start a refreshing trend and send out New Year’s cards following the first of the month when life is less hectic.
Rather than leaving your gift buying for the last minute, try shopping throughout the year (keep a secret wish-list for family and friends noting their hobbies, clothing sizes, and color preferences). It can be as simple as buying your sister’s favorite video while you’re out renting one this Friday night or doing a bit more shopping on your next summer vacation. Another trick is to give the same gift to all your relatives such as a beautifully framed family portrait. And forget elaborate gift-wrapping. Use decorative gift bags instead—pop the present in, add a fluff of tissue paper, and you’re done!
Take advantage of the Internet as well. These days you can find anything you want online from clothing and toys to one-of-a kind artwork and jewelry. No need to deal with crowded malls and parking lots, and you can shop anytime even while sitting in your pajamas. If you order early, usually before the first week in December, many online stores often offer free shipping. My favorite shopping website is The Find. Enter what you’re looking for in their search bar and The Find will spit back dozens of online stores where it’s available so you can comparison shop easily.
And what about gift buying for your twins? Should Santa give them each the same toys to avoid looking like he’s playing favorites? Rather than getting caught in the “fairness trap,” encourage St. Nick to look at the individual needs and wants of each child, hone in on their individual special talents and give gifts accordingly. At the very least, have him leave goodies that complement each other such as two different sets of Legos, or a Barbie and a Ken, rather than giving a carbon-copy toy to each child.
If it’s your turn to host the holiday dinner, take a pro-active role and assign everyone a dish to bring, being as specific as you like (“How about if you bring a tossed salad, Aunt Jane?”) this way you won’t be taking on the whole meal yourself but you will still have control of the menu. If you insist on doing it all, forget complicated recipes and dress up simple family favorites—a sprinkling of parsley on top of mash potatoes makes it look festive, toasted almond slivers tossed in steamed green beans adds a crunchy kick. Or hit the warehouse stores for a great selection of ready-made treats from hors d’oeuvre to desserts.
And when it comes to your holiday tree, fake is in! Artificial trees have come a long way in recent years—only an up close inspection will expose the truth. And they’re a time saver, too. The lights are prestrung; no more evenings spent untangling. Plus, maintenance is non-existent—no dead needles to vacuum or water trough to fill. Set it up early, well before the craziness hits (the kids will hardly object); take it down at your leisure. One last tip: designate a special ornament box for each child, tucking her favorite keepsakes and school-made ornaments neatly inside. It’s an easy way to keep things organized year after year and a great way to show your twins how much you value them as individuals, not just twins.
Remember, the holidays are meant to bring family and friends together—not a time to prove your culinary or decorating skills. Cut back on your schedule, relax, and bask in the joy of the season.