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July 22, 2014

Christmas in July

No one can accuse my family of gift purchase procrastination.  The women of the clan typically map out their purchases in advance, while my brothers aren't covered by this plan-in-advance-shopping umbrella.  My Mom, for example, has a closet in a spare room where she stores great finds throughout the year.  When Christmas draws near, Mom visits her stockpile of gifts that she keeps sorted by child for each of her 22 grandchildren.  She is organized, wrapped, and prepared months in advance. 

My siblings and I create a shopping list based on the annual Christmas drawing.  All the cousin's names are written on scraps of paper and drawn from a hat to determine who is shopping for who.  The adults draw names of other adults in order to exchange gifts with each other as well.  Most of the women in the family like to follow in Mom's footsteps and try to get a jump start on shopping . . .  as early as the summer months in some cases.  While the kids get excited about whose name they've drawn, they are typically uninvolved in the shopping and decision making.  At least that is the way it works in the Shenanigan Family. 

My brother and his wife are currently visiting her family for several weeks in Ireland.  Although we were all together over the 4th of July holiday, I was dragging my feet on whether or not the Shenanigan's would participate this year.  A few years ago, we withdrew from the Christmas drawing after we moved into a new house, because our budget was too tight.  My oldest sister struggled with our choice that year.  How dare we break tradition?  So this year, I pondered how grinch-like it would prove to be if we opted out of the cousin gift exchange.  I would be:  1. upsetting my sister.  2. disappointing my kids (who would sit and watch cousins open gifts), and 3. relieving myself of shopping for and purchasing an additional six gifts.  I caved, and agreed to participate.  Not in time to get the drawing accomplished though.

My sis in law emailed from Ireland seeking permission to conduct the drawing on the other side of the Atlantic so that she could begin her shopping in Ireland.  Permission granted.  Unfortunately, the shopping list she produced was incomplete.  Instead of 22 pairs of names, there were only 20.  The adult list was corrupt as well.  One adult, who I refuse to name, would be receiving two gifts.  Discrepancies were pointed out, and corrections made.  No harm, no foul.  Few of us, as eager as we are to shop early had actually run out to the mall to make any early purchases.

Although I didn't have the fiscal excuse that I utilized a few years back, I was very hesitant to be involved in the exchange this year after last year's debacle.  The year unfolded like this:  I shopped early for the cousin gifts.  Although I was working over 30 hours a week, I organized my list and hit the mall late one evening.  The next morning I appeared groggy for breakfast, but satisfied that my list was covered in pen marks, notations, and several check marks.  I even smuggled the huge bags into the house while the kids slept, taking the time to separate out the cousin gifts from offspring gifts.  Tired, but accomplished. 

A week before Christmas my brother (a gift purchasing procrastinator) called me.  After picking my brain a bit about ideas I might have for his godson, Laddie, he asked me if I had picked something up for his kids.  In a freaky twist of events, all four of his kids landed on my shopping list.  All of their gifts had been purchased.  They would all be receiving Play mobile sets similar to the ones that my kids currently owned and greatly enjoyed.  Each themed play set was packaged in a neat travel case.  Perfect for taking in the car, or at home storage.  Additionally, I had purchased a few star wars related items to round out the gifts.  They were after all a great deal.  He hesitated after my detailed description of what the kids were getting.  Turns out my brother and his wife weren't really interested in gifts with pieces.  Who is?  But at Christmas it's fair game, right?  His youngest was 3 years old, hardly a candidate for putting everything in the mouth.  He explained that his kids would be receiving a wii video game, so they were hoping that I could pick up a few additional games.  Shock.  I'm all for offering suggestions when asked.  If no one asks what my kid wants, I don't make suggestions . . . especially not in the 11th hour.

Gift receipts were already attached to the packages in my closet.  Why not do what all other controlling parents do, encourage your kid not to rip the packaging and return the gift after the holiday?  Obviously you run the risk of losing out to a spoiled child who demands to open the package on the spot.  I thought about those little receipts carefully taped to each box, 'Feel free to purchase as many wii game cartridges with the exchange money as your heart desires!' I wanted to shout.  The real struggle going on in my head was that my brother and his wife have excellent jobs.  To say that their income is plentiful is an understatement.  On the flip side, I had spent precious time selecting gifts their kids would enjoy and using coupons to keep the items affordable. 

I managed to get off the phone and keep my composure.  At first, I was just in disbelief, then irritated.  Later I broke down and cried.  Now in addition to all the wasted time I spent shopping for their four children, I would have to return the gifts in order to afford suitable items.  Coach was annoyed.  He told me to tell them to forget it.  Why had they waited until a week before Christmas to put in a gift request?  In this case it felt like a gift demand.  Rude.

Within a few days, my sister in law texted me some additional suggestions.  Turns out she overbought and she had some toys in her closet that she would sell me so that I could give them to her kids.  She hoped this would save me a trip to the mall.  Thoughtful.  It just kept getting better.  She failed to understand my budget issues.  My coupons didn't apply at her closet checkout.

On Christmas day, I opened a Lia Sophia necklace from the same sister in law who had systematically rearranged my shopping agenda.  There was no gift receipt.   A friend, who sells the jewelry, shared with me that the necklace was retired.  Translation:  it was most likely offered as a buy one get one.  Makes sense.  My other sister was given a Lia Sophia necklace as well.  I don't know whether or not my sister ever wore her gift.  I don't accessorize much, but when I do I choose to wear a diamond heart pendant that my mother gave me.  Lia Sophia is now safely stored in my top dresser drawer waiting to be re-gifted this year.  Now that the names have been assigned, I fear that my sister's husband might be receiving a Lia Sophia necklace in the near future, because I plan to limit my bending-over-backward trips to the mall.

I suppose my sister in law has begun her shopping in Ireland.  This complicated return procedure might make any gift exchanges highly improbable.  

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