Having worked retail off and on for the past five years, you'd think I would stop being surprised at the earlier and earlier arrival of "Christmas" in stores. It makes sense at craft places and seeing literal "Christmas in July" in the aisles of Joann's or Michael's doesn't faze me. When I walked into Target and saw the fake snow and Christmas decorations set up against a spooky Halloween wall mural, though, I rolled my eyes. Too early, Target. Too early.
But it's almost mid-November and I have to start our holiday season if I don't want to be a crazy person by Dec. 12. And with three kids to buy for, it helps to spread out the damage some.
Take Lily. Lily is 14 months old. I could get Lily nothing, or a hundred things, or a package of baby wipes and let her pull out every single one (actually, that's not a bad idea...), and she wouldn't know the difference. In fact, it will probably take a true Christmas miracle to divert her from undecorating the tree every five minutes during present opening. So I should be off the hook with a new sippy cup and maybe a doll, right?
"Mommy, what do you think we should ask Santa to bring Lily?"
We take a loose approach to Santa. I've made comments that Santa is "a fun story" and "part of Christmas tradition" while suggesting Santa isn't exactly real. But Anna especially thinks, say, Elmo is real. She sees it, it's talking, and she's three. Mary has a bit better idea of things but then she sees Santa in the mall, and it's not a guy "in a costume," a la a mascot, it's a real person, and anyway, Santa still brings presents. (Granted, since I'm not 100 percent committed to preserving the myth, Santa's gifts are in the same wrapping paper and the tags look a lot like my writing, but whatever.)
Either way, if Santa, "Santa," or The Flying Spaghetti Monster brings Anna and Mary toys, so too must Lil have something to open. And it has to be better than a "coupon" to splash in a newly disinfected toilet or something, which is all she really likes to do anyway if someone leaves the door open.
I settled for some Little People sets I know everyone will enjoy. Lily is done, the other girls have a few things each and I'll chip away at the rest between now and mid-December.
Then my OCD kicks in and poor Tim is forced along for the ride.
"Honey, let's do Elf on a Shelf!"
"What the heck is Elf on a Shelf?"
In case you are uninformed, Elf on a Shelf is a horribly overpriced plastic bendable elf that comes with a story book that informs you on the cover it's "a Christmas tradition!" Which pretty much means it's made up to make someone a lot of money. But I started seeing all these cute things you could set your elf up doing and thought it would be fun.
"...and you tell the kids that he's from Santa..."
"We don't even really 'do' Santa, do we?"
"Sure we do," I glossed. "And you tell the kids that he's Santa's helper and you can make him play pranks and do cute things and then he reports back to Santa!"
"What? You want to tell our children some creepy ass plastic toy is WATCHING THEM?"
"It's not creepy!"
"Jeez, Kim, why don't we just tell them there's something watching them from the closet?"
"It's not LIKE THAT!"
"Creepy. Creepy Plastic Elf, Creepy Plastic Spy Elf. We can only get it if we call it that. How much does it cost?"
"FOR A CREEPY PLASTIC ELF? Let's just get a candle and tell them the candle is watching them. You have lots of candles."
He may have a point there. I gave up and started angling for a Pottery Barn Kids Christmas tablecloth.
Or the tree.
Last year I started eying the WalMart $89 special pre-lit Christmas tree we bought the first year we were married.
"Our tree is horrible," Tim agreed.
"I want a white one and lime green and aqua ornaments!" I said.
"Um..." he mumbled. "What?"
"Retro! Actually, I want one of those '60s aluminum pom pom trees."
"The kids would kill themselves on that," Tim, ever the voice of reason, said.
Turns out those old trees are stupid expensive. But this year - THIS YEAR - I am totally getting my white tree at the after Christmas sales. Because NEXT YEAR - I hope and pray - Lily will stop trying to eat the decor.