Stephanie asked a question a few posts back in the comments, and today I started to answer, but it got to be so long I decided to just make it into a post.
Which brings me to a question I've been meaning to ask you, as well as mothers of other large families: how do you go about your gift-shopping with such a large family? Does each child get a certain number of gifts? A certain dollar amount? Or are there no rules, so to speak?
I'm curious how others do it, especially as our family grows...
Stephanie, unlike my more structured friends (and daughters LOL) we tend to do it a little differently every year. I start buying early as well (though I usually cover the grandchildren first), but I don't do it according to any plan. I take into account the available funds, my energy level, the children's needs, their desires, their natural "bents", etc. and then I begin looking for gifts. The Papa and I talk about what we'd like to be a main gift for each one and then I fill in with books, clothes, toys, whatever. The definition of "fill in" varies widely year to year and I kind of like it that way. I have thought about gift-giving by some sort of formula and then I've realized that it just doesn't fit who we are. I have to do enough in my life according to a grid...don't want to give gifts this way.
That said, I DO make accurate lists. I use a Word document and list everyone I want to give a gift to, and then I list several ideas, followed by question marks. If/when I buy that item, I take the question mark off. (Some years, when I'm more energetic and have a higher tolerance for detail, I code it with a certain color when it's been ordered and yet another color when it actually arrives.) If I decide against a certain gift, I delete it, and if I find something unexpectedly perfect that wasn't on the list, I add it. Near the end I just remove everything with a question mark, make sure that I'm happy with the proportion / distribution, and save the document for next year. Sometimes I include what I've spent, sometimes not. I also keep track of ornaments I've bought for each child, a calendar for each one, and any "name drawings" I need to purchase.
So while I don't start with a big plan for number of gifts, amount of money, etc., I do keep good records and that always helps me the next year.
One thing I've done, not every year, but often: I choose a certain kind of wrapping paper for each child and wrap all their gifts in it. None of them are supposed to know which paper I've assigned to them, though there's always a lot of speculation whispered behind my my back: "Oh, come on, she'd never choose rocking horse paper for me." Hee hee. Anyway, this helps eliminate some of the guess by shaking or by the shape of the item and makes it more fun once everything is under the tree.
Last year I was dealing with lots of leftover paper and didn't seem to have enough paper to do one per child, so I used whatever paper I had and then just labeled them according to one of the reindeer's names. One was Prancer, one was Vixen, etc. and I didn't reveal the "code" until Christmas morning. Again they tried to guess based on what names "fit" them...Nathan was just 100% certain that he wouldn't have been Vixen. ;-) It's fun to see lights go on in the kids' heads after the big reveal..."Oh, maybe that big one with the pointy thing sticking out IS for me!"
As an aside here, I am now approximately 90% finished with my shopping and still haven't set foot in a store. I'm very happy to be pushing my cart (or my bathtub, if you've followed these posts) around the World Wide Web and getting to know my UPS man. Okay, it does make it harder to stop for a latte, but as long as someone brings me one once in a while through the holidays, I can deal with that (Starbucks Eggnog, Pumpkin Spice, Gingerbread or Peppermint Mocha, please).
Some of you will be disappointed that we don't have some spiritual grand plan for Christmas gift-giving or that I'd dare let Vixen be a part of our celebration, but there you have it. My children grow up understanding Who the real Gift is and this is given plenty of space and celebration in our home all through Advent and the actual holidays. But Granny's House also strives to be a place of fun and variety and even hilarity...I've always seen it as part of my role to foster making this a delightful place to live, so even in the recent years when I've done most everything from a chair, my brain is alive!