It’s really the one time of the year when I feel like a superhero-ninja-Martha Stewart Hybrid. Actually it’s not, but I’d like it to be so I tend to do most of my Christmas shopping while humming my imaginary theme song. Imagine a mix between “The Christmas Song” and a way-cool superhero entrance song. That friends, is what I’m thinking when I’m rolling my eyes at people in the line-ups at Target with my cart overflowing with that shit we claim “they’d just never buy for themselves!”. The other sound you might be hearing is my credit card sobbing in my wallet. It’s kind of like the backup singer. This year, Christmas has been a new challenge for me because it’s the first year I’ve had to adhere to a pretty strict budget and it’s the first year I’ve worked for The Salvation Army at Christmas, which I expect is sort of what The North Pole would be like for elves. In a word, PANDEMONIUM.
So, with all that in mind, I decided to handcraft as much as possible because I’m crafty AND because in my head it seemed like a good idea. Mostly, the whole “handcrafted Christmas” thing went over pretty well because I made a bunch of stuff for lots of people, and only had to pick up little bitty things to go along with. But then, it wasn’t such a great idea because I can’t seem to figure out how to make electronics or toys that my kid will like, and since I don’t think it’s advisable to leave a 4-year-old alone at home while I go shopping, I’ve had to try to shop with him for him without letting him in on it. But it’s not just him. My mother – bless her heart – is the nosiest person in the world, next to me. And maybe my PR team leader. She’s pretty nosy too. And both of these amazing women have the ability to walk into the middle of a discussion about the surprise gift I’m planning and the next thing I know, you’d think I got caught red-handed committing a crime.
AND my child can sniff out a hidden toy, snack or pair of scissors from 11.3 miles away and get his hands on it quicker than you can say “snoop” so I’ve gotten pretty good at this whole Christmas gift planning and hiding biz. Here are my tips for keeping it real (stealthy) this holiday season!
- Use the phone whenever possible. Offer the person on the other side of the phone the option to simply answer “yes” or “no”. I actually did this today on the phone with my mother as I was trying to determine what size my father wears. I’d type more but I’m pretty sure he can read (HI DAD!). After that, I directed her to put him on the phone to confirm that I’d bought her gift today and that it would be arriving in a couple of weeks. (HI MOM – no hints here! MWAHAHAHA)
- Don’t do that awkward “stop talking and stare at the person” thing that I’m awesome at doing. While discussing my team leader’s gift with my colleague, she walked into the work space and we actually both stopped talking instantly and looked at her as if we were conspiring (which we were). She figured something was up, and I figure it’s bad karma to lie when I’m under the roof of Sally Ann so I flat out told her I was talking about her. When all else fails, make them think you were talking about them. They’ll leave and you can continue your conspiring.
- If you have to shop with the person you’re buying for – sometimes it’s unavoidable – make sure that you have some sort of cover when you spot an item you think would be perfect for their gift. If I’m shopping with Mom and pick up something I think she’d like, I fib and tell her it’s for one of my aunts. With F, I try my best to pick up little items and hide them amongst others while he’s distracted. This is easier said than done.
- Hide gifts in plain sight. Seriously. I left a handful of things for my Mom out and about in my bedroom because she will find them while she’s cleaning my apartment because she’s a saint and she cleans my apartment when she visits. And if they’re hidden, she’ll ask about them. When they’re a part of the mess she doesn’t notice! Winning!
- Be cool. The key to stealth is to not try too hard (she says as she ninja-crawls across her flat with toys stuffed under her shirt)
- Wrap ’em as soon as you can. Just make sure you have the gift tag ready, too. You don’t need the stress of trying to remember who gets what present because you were a little overzealous wrapping them all before someone could possibly see.
- Remember where you hid the presents. I won’t even tell you the number of times I’ve happened across something months after Christmas because I totally forgot I bought it and then also forgot where it was hidden. BONUS: I can save it for next year (meaning it will never make it to the intended recipient).
Try not to stress too much about keeping it all a big surprise. Christmas is about the time you spend with family more than anything – if someone catches you in the act of buying or wrapping their gift, shrug it off. And then pour yourself some eggnog, put your feet up and enjoy! Rum optional, but highly recommended.