As kids get older, buying gifts gets harder

Before you know it, it is the time of year to start shopping for Christmas gifts. Ok, I will be honest. I was done with most of my gift buying before Thanksgiving.

But each year as the kids get older, it gets harder and harder to figure out what to buy them.

surprising-ways-kids-play-02-pg-fullWhen they were infants and toddlers, there were so many cool toys out there that they were happy with anything. Heck, they were probably happier with the box. When they are that young, any new toy makes them happy.

And then they start liking certain characters or shows. And the choices get narrower. Gone are the days when a red drum or a stuffed animal will make them happy. They now want Disney this or Dora that. But still the kindergarten age is relatively easy.

For me, the years after that are harder. Even if I have my kids make a list, you have to figure out which things they really want. Girls-Toy-AisleMy 7-year-old is apt to write down anything in a pink box or anything that looks fun. Well, girl things are often in a pink box, and all toys are usually presented as fun items. It makes her list long. (This year I stressed only writing down the things she really wanted.)

And then there is the ever-changing favorite thing. One month she is all about the new My Little Pony/Equestria Girl movie. She is singing the songs and wanting all the toys. They are on sales so you think about buying them – or perhaps you even do. And then, she finds a new favorite thing when she watches the latest Barbie movie or sees a commercial or finds out her friend Melony likes Monster High.

This ever-changing list of the “best” or “hot” toy is what makes buying for Lexie so hard. You have to look at her list and try to figure out which of these toys does she really want – and not because it is in a pretty pink box, which of these toys is not a passing fad. But the grandparents always want a list, so I do my best to guess which items she really wants and will play with. canterlot

For this year: My Little Pony has always been a hit with her, so we bought her the Canterlot Castle. And you can never go wrong with a toy from the movie Frozen so she is getting one of those too. She has been talking about the CleverKeet for over a month so that is what Santa bought her. (Yep, still believing in Santa.)

For the past couple of years, we have it easier with Jase as he has been into Legos. The problem is that he doesn’t always build some of the more complicated sets or even if he does, they never stay put together and soon his room is overrun with Lego pieces. Beyond Legos, he is into video games, which are usually an easy purchase. The thing with his items is they are no longer cheap!star wars legos

For this year: We have bought him a Star Wars Lego set and a video game. We are still waiting on purchasing his gift from Santa as he hasn’t said what he wants to ask Santa for. (I get the feeling that he may no longer be a believer but he hasn’t said so yet.)

So we have navigated the gift buying for this year. But I expect the same dilemma will hit me next year.

Decorating for the holidays

“Can we decorate the tree now?” Lexie asks for what has to be the hundredth time.

Yes, last week we finally decorated the house for Christmas. In the past, we have sometimes put the decorations up the weekend after Thanksgiving. I don’t want them up BEFORE Thanksgiving. As much as I love how the house looks, I like to finish one holiday before starting another.

Downstairs tree

Downstairs tree

So, the weekend after Thanksgiving we talked about getting our trees down – yes, they are artificial because that is what I grew up with, and Lexie would probably be allergic to the real things and yes, I did just say trees as in plural. We have one upstairs that we put all the presents under and then another one downstairs in the living room.

Upstairs/Office tree

Upstairs/Office tree

We got the downstairs tree out of the garage and up in the living room first. It is a 9.5’ slim pre-lit tree. The upstairs tree, which is in our computer room/office, is 7’ tall and much wider. It is also pre-lit and incredibly heavy. We store it in the garage on a high shelf above the garage door. We have a pulley system set up to help us get it down, but it is still always a big chore.

Next out comes four boxes of Christmas ornaments and decorations. Yes, we have a lot of ornaments. (So far we have added 12 new ones this year thanks to my mom.) Most of our ornaments are from Hallmark and stored in their original boxes, so they take up a lot of room. It also takes a long time to unpack all of them. The kids were very impatient waiting for me to do that.

P1040094A majority of our ornaments are Star Wars. Many years ago, my parents started buying my husband all the Star Wars Hallmark ornaments each year. P1040085After 19 years of marriage, those are a lot of ornaments. The kids get a few new ornaments each year from my parents too. For Jase it is Star Wars or Star Wars Lego ornaments. Lexie gets usually Disney’s princesses (this year Elsa and Belle) but also has received Batman and Curious George to name a few others.

Now the inside of the house is usually decorated first because the outside always feels like a lot of work. We typically have icicle lights on the top of the house. That is closest we are going to get to real icicles here in Texas. We also have net lights for the bushes as well as lights for the driveway as well as a two deer and a Christmas tree. Yes, pretty when it is all up, but it does take a long time to set up and for the house lights, we need to wait for a non-windy, rainy day.

So finally our house is looking ready for the holidays. The kids are excited, which makes all the work worth it. I just don’t want to think about having to take it down in about three weeks!

Dividing the holiday time between our respective families

It is that time of year again…time to celebrate the holidays. And as with many families, we are looking at how to divide the holidays between my husband’s parents and mine.

Growing up, my family celebrated as a small unit – just the four of us. There were no massive get together with aunt, uncles, cousins or grandparents. This was true for my husband’s family as well. When my husband and I were first married we divided our time between the two families – one got us for Thanksgiving and the other Christmas.

Then we moved farther away, and it was just the two of us celebrating. Soon after we moved to San Antonio, my parents moved to a neighboring town, and we began celebrating all the holidays with them.

(I will say that I did offer to go visit my in-laws during several Thanksgivings but my husband always said no. In fact, during the fourteen years we lived far away from them, we only visited them two times – and both were non-holiday related.)

So for the past nine years (and for the whole time we have been parents), we have spent Thanksgiving at my parents’ house and Christmas at ours. My husband and I declared right after our son was born that we would be spending Christmases at our house. We couldn’t imagine having to lug all the presents to someone else’s house and then back home. If you want to celebrate with us, we told our family, you are always welcome to come to our house. And my parents have always done that.

Things were rolling along fine with this set up until last year when my in-laws bought a house about 30 minutes away from us.  Now we need to incorporate them into our celebrations.

The thing is his parents have pretty much given up celebrating some of the holidays. They no longer cook a turkey on Thanksgiving.  And because his parents don’t want to socialize with my parents (for reasons I guess I will never understand), they won’t accept an invitation to eat at my parents’ house. (Their official excuse is they can’t leave their 35-year-old son at home alone on the holiday. Of course, he is invited too but is anti-social so you know that isn’t going to happen.)

Again, this year my parents invited his and again they declined. My husband suggested we host Thanksgiving but since I already cook a big meal on Christmas, I wasn’t thrilled with adding another big meal to my list of duties. Plus, I think his parents still would have declined – after all the other grandparents would be there and would be commanding some of the grandkids’ attention. And heaven forbid they have to make small talk with my parents.

But that leaves us with Christmas, and I think we have found the solution. My husband’s family always did most of their celebrating on Christmas Eve. (I still think it is odd to open all your presents on Christmas Eve, though they did have Santa’s gifts on Christmas morning.)

So right now, we are planning on having his family over Christmas Eve, and the grandparents can watch the kids open a few presents. Then my parents will be over Christmas morning to see the kids tear into the rest of their gifts and enjoy Christmas dinner. I think it will work out well for everyone.