Whew! And with a huge sigh of relief, much discarded wrapping paper, lots of batteries, alan keys and fiddly assembly, Christmas is concluded for another year. How was your big day? Ours was an unqualified success. The work that goes into Christmas day, all the preparation and planning, leaves me exhausted on Boxing Day. The Test cricket is a welcome relief as I lie comatose on the couch, punctuating the hours with random, sporadic bursts of tidying up (or blogging).
And it seems I’m beset by a Christmas curse. Every year I aim to get everything done in plenty of time so that I am free to go to bed by about 10.30pm on Christmas Eve. My dream is to be well rested for the big day, which better equips me to cope with the pressures and stressors that can crop up on the big day. And this year I was in the best position ever to achieve my goal. Food was prepared and ready to go (hosting duties this year were shouldered by my sister-in-law, so I was making a few dishes to take over there for Christmas lunch – more on that later), presents were all wrapped bar the three gifts collected from the lay-by department at Kmart (put on lay-by in June) on Saturday afternoon, Christmas Eve. By 4:30 I was smugly anticipating an early night for hubby and me.
I was not envisaging waking up on Christmas morning with just a couple of hours’ sleep under my belt.
Sleep, o where art thou?
Why? In large part it was assembling the freakin’ dollhouse. What I thought was an hour’s assembly turned out to be more than two! It’s the usual story – instructions not written in English, but rather, diagrams only. This resulted in several steps being a complete mystery as to what the arrows mean, what needs to be done and what sequence some things should have been done in. *le sigh* And I couldn’t start until the kids were asleep. Which meant I didn’t start until after 9pm. So at midnight, instead of being tucked up firmly in my bed zooming to the land of nod, I was downstairs in a stuffy office swearing at the Chinese and their lack of written English. It was highly frustrating. Hubby drifted in and out to help every now and then, but I think we could both recognise the tension in the air and the enormous potential for disaster. So he wisely kept his distance and refilled my beer glass.
By midnight, however, we were positioning it beside the Christmas tree and I began ferrying the presents out from all the hidey holes I’d stuffed them into throughout the year. The arranging took some time, but by 1am I was satisfied and I spent half an hour finishing my beer and enjoying the calm before the frenzy. Stumbled off to bed around 1.30 and proceeded to have the worst night’s sleep in years. Hubby and I tossed and turned for hours. Why? Who knows. I just could NOT get to sleep despite being very, very tired. I finally drifted off to sleep around 4am and was woken just two hours later by the sound of DJ unwrapping his presents.
After that rocky start to the day, however, things moved to dizzying heights of spectacular.
Christmas Day challenge for all mums
I’m not sure if all mums feel this way but Christmas day is fraught with difficulty for me. I walk the fine line between not blowing the budget and making sure there are just the right toys to garner the ‘wow’ response. The secret to a successful Christmas day is always having ideas percolating in the back of your mind for at least six months leading up to the big day. Listen to what your children talk about and think about how you can foster their creativity or their interests with well-thought-out gifts. For me, the key to keeping costs down is planning. I tuck little things away throughout the year that make great stocking fillers. A tub of playdough on sale, a few Nerf gun refills, some Lego packs. Grab them, tuck them away and remember where you hid them!
By spreading purchases out throughout the year you can minimise the damage to your savings account/credit card at Christmas time. Budgeting is particularly crucial for the Moores as all five of us have birthdays that straddle the Christmas period. Mine is in October, Matilda’s is in November, Hubby’s is in December (along with my mum and grandparents), DJ is in January and Fin is in February. By March we’re spent, and we begin the long process of saving up again. It’s a process that significantly reduces the stress of Christmas.
For me, the danger to blow out the budget only comes when I can’t think of things to get the kids, when I fail to plan what to get the kids. So I end up buying lots and lots in the hopes I’ll get a couple of ‘wows’ from the whole bunch. This is silly and is falling prey to the commercialisation of the season. It’s not about lots of lots of things. It’s about exchanging a few gifts with loved ones that signify your love and regard for them.
I aim for one big-ish or main present and a small handful of stocking fillers per child. A friend sets a budget per child and sticks to it rigidly – $150 per child. I think this is reasonable.
This year was much easier because the boys are reading now and are voraciously reading everything they can get their hands on. So a few Zac Power books ($6 each) and Captain Underpants books ($5 each at Big W) really bulks up the stocking without blowing budget. I also put in some BeyBlades accessories ($4 and $7 each).
Our secret weapon in the budgeting arena is the January sales. A deliberate choice hubby and I have made is to use the boys’ birthdays as the occasion for the really big budget items, such as bikes. This way we can buy them in the January sales for much cheaper than we would have paid if we’d bought them in December for Christmas.
Also, the ‘big’ Christmas day item is bought in June/July in the Target and Kmart Big Toy Sale events. Also, cheaper than buying in November or December. Matilda’s dollhouse normally retails for $130 but I paid $88 in the June sale and spent six months making small payments each month. The added benefit to lay-by is that the item is stored at the shop, and not at your house where roaming children can stumble upon it.
Time of family
I’m an atheist so Christmas holds no religious significance for me. But I hold it sacred as a time to spend with my children and husband. A time that isn’t constrained by school routine and work pressures. A time where I make an effort to really do things with my kids, to play with them, watch movies with them, talk with them, read with them, go to the beach with them, hug and cuddle them. It’s not a time to lavish them with lots of presents and park them in front of the telly.
The day itself is a time to be shared with extended family and I really enjoy it. This year we were at my sister-in-law’s house and she being the consummate hostess, puts on a great show.
Time of food
In the month leading up to the day we plan the menu, with various parts being delegated. This year I did salad and dessert. After much to-ing and fro-ing I settled on a traditional German potato salad (with bacon and dill mayo) and a less traditional linguine and bocconcini salad with olives and asparagus.
Christmas lunch started with prawns, served with aioli. Delicious! And for mains we had a selection of smoked ham, cold baked chicken, plus the two salads I brought and my sister-in-law’s pear and blue cheese salad.
For the dessert component I made mango ice cream and pistachio praline, along with chocolate biscotti to go with coffee and I also brought along a Christmas pudding and custard, (which didn’t end up being served). My 12-year-old niece made the most spectacular pavlova ever. Yum!
As with most Australian households at Christmas the day moves at a very lazy pace. We started eating lunch around 2pm and didn’t reach the dessert course until 6pm! The kids played with their cousins and everyone enjoyed the harmonious day. No squabbles, no frayed tempers – glorious!
By 6:30pm I could see my children were going to hit a wall and in addition, my lack of sleep was starting to tell. We packed up and decided to get while the getting was good, so to speak. From there it was a simple matter of bath and bed. I collapsed into bed at 9pm and slept the sleep of the righteous until 7.30 this morning.
Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope your Christmas day was enjoyable and everything you wanted it to be. I’d love to hear how you spent your day!