Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lessons Learned: The Holidays 2008

So yeah, I've got a number of great holiday-fun stuff to post, but you know - I'm all good intentions and very little follow-through these days. However there IS something I want to get out here - more for my own benefit than anything else really. Every year the holidays are lots of stress/headache followed by lots of fun. Every year I vow to lower the headache quotient so I can concentrate on the fun, but I always fail. And now with Lily's birthday falling on December 22nd - well it's just total mayhem. And I pretty much respond by just making it harder on myself. It's almost like I enjoy the challenge of seeing how crazy I can can actually get. So THIS time I've resolved to sit down and make a list of all the things I could have done just a little differently to make the experience better. The idea is that next year I'll come back and read this and TAKE HEED. So we'll see if that happens. Ok here's my list of things to remember for next time around:

1. Start the annual MasterWong photo book early. The past two years I've used to make a photo book. They come out really great and I love the fact that the book-making software is installed on your local machine, so you don't have to do it all online. You just upload at the end. Anyway both years I was rushing up against the holiday shipping deadline and it was NOT fun. This year was total misery. Gordon took SO many great shots this year that the book was nearly 80 pages. Add to that my obsessive perfectionism and some Picassa/Time-Capsule induced networking problems you get many late nights and lots of frustration. Next year my plan is to start much sooner and do the book as I go. After all, the photos from June are taken in - well, June - no need to wait until December to go through them!

2. Sort of a corollary to #1 - don't get something in under the wire on the holiday shipping deadlines and expect it to actually arrive in time. Sadly the blurb books didn't make it to us until 12/26 - so we didn't have them for Christmas Day. The upside is that they're refunding the entire order (how much do I LOVE blurb?) and we still had the one for MaMa and BaBa in time for our trip to New Jersey. However, next time I plan to make the ground shipping deadline instead of pushing it to the 2-day one. I may still use 2-day shipping (not a big price difference), but at least it gives more time to get here.

3. When looking around for photo calendar options just start with SnapFish. I spent a while checking out different ones and liked the collage/design options here the best. Also the finished product came out really nice.

4. Toddlers + Christmas cookies = a VERY good thing. I wasn't sure how well this would work out, so I was hesitant - but it was great fun. We did a cookie decorating night with our friends Lisa, Rick and Sofia. The girls had a great time and rocked at chocolate crinkle making. LIly had a great time icing the sugar cookies with Daddy the next day too. Definitely make time for this again next year - totally worth it.

5. Make time to Christmas shop in Harvard Square - sure it can be a little inconvenient getting there, but it's so great. I love the stores there (Calliope, Tokyo Kids) for gifts that you might not find just anywhere. Also the atmosphere is wonderful. We need to continue to take advantage of places like this while we live close by in Somerville.

6. Search out the local craft fairs - I stumbled upon the Somerville High craft fair one Saturday while Gordon and Lily were at the Children's Museum and had a fabulous time. I found some really neat, original gifts too. It's most fun if you can get there on your own. We did a Union Square craft fair with Lily and she was not so into that - so it was less fun for us.

7. Get as much done early as possible. I think next year I'll try to get started in November, leaving more time in December for just having fun. I know this is pretty general, but my friend Lisa was successful doing it this year - so I'm inspired now.

8. Our condo is bigger than I think and actually pretty good for entertaining. I'm putting this one in here because every year I get stressed out over the number of people coming to Lily's birthday party and the size of our condo. It's a little rough having a birthday in late December in New England - not a lot of outside options. But both years we've had a pretty full house and it's gone great and been tons of fun. So relax - it'll be great. Even if there's a foot of snow outside - like this year (and last).

9. Making gifts for the kids is a great idea, but should not be left until December 21st. Seriously, this year I decided to make Lily some felt food. I had all the supplies in November, but due to the photo book (see #1) did not get started until the Sunday before Christmas. As a result I was up until 1AM on Christmas Eve sewing slices of bread. NOT recommended. So think about projects like this in the summer and plan accordingly!

10. Opening gifts with toddlers takes awhile. We will NOT be able to pull off Christmas at our house AND Christmas at my Mom's house all in the morning in time for dinner at Gail's at noon. I'm putting this one here because we had a very close call with this type of plan this year. Thankfully I realized the error of my ways in time to rectify the situation (thanks Lisa!), but it was close. Next year we should think about how to do this a little earlier than on Christmas Eve ;)

11. Don't pay a professional photographer to do your holiday cards. The photos came out nice, but the price of the cards is crazy. Most of you probably already know this - but we got a little suckered into this one - didn't really have all the facts up front. Anyway, it's a long story, but it caused me a bunch of angst and Gordon lots of hassle. It all worked out in the end (thanks to Target's very reasonably priced photo card jacket thingies that saved the day) - but again, not fun.

OK that's all I've got for now. I do, however, reserve the right to come back and add more if I think of them.
Feel free to leave comments on your own holiday time management tips - I'm always looking for more ways to keep up the jolly!

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