Quite possibly, the hardest thing to do is think about Christmas. Especially when you're in the midst of back to school activities and still braving triple digit temperatures. But it is, by far, THE most important thing you can do to prepare. The sooner you think Christmas, the smarter you'll be about Christmas.
Your first assignment? Take advantage of back to school sales and purchase a 3-ring binder, some dividers, and a pack of college-ruled paper. This will be your "Christmas Planner" and the key to your success. My A-type personality also recommends some page protectors. I use one to keep all gift receipts and others to hold onto ideas and recipes I find in catalogues and magazines throughout the year.
Organized Christmas provides specifics for making your own holiday planner. But if you're a newbie to this "uber-organized" approach to Christmas. The above items will be sufficient...this year. ;-)
If you can't get all of those things right away. Grab a piece of computer printer paper, or steal one of your kid's spiral notebooks for an hour. Just get busy! You can always transfer info into your planner later on.
Find a few minutes to steal away and think. I know what you're thinking. Time to think. Are you out of your mind? Perhaps a little. But, even 10 or 15 minutes now will save you hours later on. (I won't even begin to describe the conditions under which I am writing this blog post at the moment. But you should know they include poor lighting, a writing position that would make my chiropractor cringe, and head phones pumping music into my ears solely to drown out the sounds of my children fighting over what Disney dvd to watch.) Believe me, when Christmas Eve comes and they are giddy with delight, your kids will not remember the time you locked yourself in your own closet for 10 minutes that one day in August.
Think about the following and write your answers down on a separate sheet for each question:
What activities do you want to experience this holiday season? Have you always wanted to host a Christmas party? Have you been promising your kids a day in the snow? Is your little girl dying to see The Nutcracker? Perhaps you want your family to experience serving a meal at a local homeless shelter. Whatever it is, write it down. Believe it or not, many activities and events begin to sell tickets during the summer and will often sell out before you're even close to planning for the holidays. But with them in mind, you're more likely to make them happen.
Who will you need to buy gifts for? On your list, don't forget teachers/administrators, your hairstylist, yours or your spouse's assitant, bosses, co-workers, etc. These are the gifts that add up quickly when you throw them into the mix with your family. They can often be purchased on sale or made for a fraction of the price if you allow yourself time. Are you beginning to see why we are starting so early?
What foods/goodies must be present on your table during the holiday season? If your family is at all like mine, holidays don't exist without food and specific food at that. Jot down the cookies you know your kids can't live without, or that appetizer your husband begs you for 11 months of the year. Now that you have those down, you are free to thumb through recipe books, magazines, and surf the web for new ideas to incorporate into your holidays.
What is your goal for the holiday season? The answer to this question should be more than "to survive it"! Think about last Christmas, if you can get back that far. What didn't you enjoy about it? Did you miss out on seeing someone in particular? Were you over-scheduled? Sick? These are the pitfalls we want to try and avoid to the best of our ability, so identifying them is key. A few years ago, my goal was to enjoy the season more. This meant spending more time at home with my family, watching Christmas movies, listening to Christmas music, and just down-right staring at our Christmas tree. I call it "basking in the season" and once I realized I wanted it, I was able to make it happen. What will make Christmas feel like Christmas to you?
That's it for now. Be prepared for lists galore! They are coming. In the meantime...lock yourself in your closet and start dreaming.