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Suburban Island

A Christmas to Remember
Monday, Dec. 27, 2004, 11:31 a.m.

QUESTION: Still listening to carols?

WHAT I LEARNED: A little project planning never hurts.

It is really gratifying as a parent to hear your kid say late on Christmas night Ė this was the best Christmas ever - and mean it from the very bottom of their heart. These are the words I heard just before midnight on Christmas and they made all the practicalities of the season Ė the planning, the decorating, the cooking, the coordinating of all the details that make the season merry and bright - well worth it.

Thereís a lot of planning that goes into the holidays. Moms often get tasked with the brunt of it. I have learned the value of gift lists in Excel and to-do lists in Word over the years. Iíve been maintaining the 2004 lists for the last few months in the hope of somewhat navigating the treacherous floodwaters of annual holiday activity. It does help.

I also have put some other surefire holiday strategies in place. The first one is the basic wait-until-Christmas play. Anytime someone wants something I just say Ė why donít you wait on that and put it on your Christmas list. By the time the holidays roll around, that item may be displaced by something else altogether or even forgotten. Another useful approach is to buy the item but put it away until the holidays. My kids are at the age when they actually want clothes and I have found putting those purchases away to go under the tree makes good holiday sense. Iíve been using the magic words Ė Iíll get it for you but itís going away until the holidaysĖ since September. I wish I could use the Santa-is-going-to-put-you-on-the-naughty-list sound-byte to keep the peace in the household during the stressful holiday season but my kids are a bit too old for it anymore. It worked like a charm for many years though.

I also think that the traveling we did this year helped us to cut holiday corners. We understood innately that not decorating at all would result in a post-Disney depression of major proportions but time and energy constraints forced us to be more judicious in the amount of decorating we did. Goldilocks knew what she was doing with that too hot, too cold, just right stuff. We pulled out some of our decorations and trimmings and that was just right and just enough to make for a happy holiday re-entry.

I also insist on holiday music and movies on Christmas Day because the next day things will get back to normal. The carols on the radio will disappear. Weíll start listening to all those CDs and watching all those DVDs we got for gifts. All the TV stations will stop broadcasting A Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street non-stop. Life will be non-Christmas-y again.

We have also discovered that luxuriating in the day including leaving stockings until later in the afternoon or evening and saving one last present for the end of the night to make for a lovely end to the holiday.

Cooking is kept to a minimum. We do a big breakfast and eat it between opening gifts. Dinner has been at a friendís house for the last few years. Sheís the hostess I could never be and I thank her very much for so deliciously simplifying and merry-fying our holiday season.

I hope I can bring a little bit of Christmas with me into the rest of my year. Not just the gifts, the glitter, and the holly-jolly stuff but the good cheer, the generosity, and the tiny often unnoticed jingle and sparkle that ornaments the average day like so many tiny grace notes throughout summer, winter, spring, and fall.

I hope you are still basking in the afterglow of the holiday season.

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