The shopping frenzy began in September, and by October it had really gained momentum. As the mom of two little girls, I enjoyed every minute of searching and buying, wrapping and dreaming. I wanted them to have everything! And now, only a couple of days after Christmas, when the dust has yet to settle on the manic present-opening frenzy, I have a different perspective. They already did have everything. They have a wonderful home and parents who love them and each other. And even more, at Christmas, they have had a houseful of cousins to play with. Watching 11 little kids (the oldest two are 7) run joyfully through the house, forming alliances and making memories, brings me back to the days when the best thing of all was just being together, and when Christmas was more about spending time with your cousins then it was about what we found under the tree. So I have hidden many of the gifts away, even though they are opened, and my girls haven’t asked for a single one. They seemed to enjoy the frenzy of ripping paper the most, and the toy seemed like an afterthought, especially for my ultrasocial older daughter, Lola. There are a few toys I know will become favorites: Lola’s new American Girl doll, Lani, Eva’s first AG Doll, a Bitty Baby (both gifts from Kevin’s mom), which has hardly left her side, and the puppet theater my mom got them from One Step Ahead (it’s a 4 in 1 – kids can also use it as a post office, an ice cream parlor and a magic show). There are others I know they will get a lot of use out of, once I start, one by one, bringing them into circulation: the Moon Sand set and painting tools for my creative Eva, the girly craft set for my always-bored Lola, and the Princess Cookbook from Aunt Chris and the chef set from me that will make Lola feel like a grown-up. Right now they are running around playing with the simplest things: the pink Brain Food (silly putty) and princess flashlights they found in their stockings. But I am struck with a sense of what excess can do. It dulls the palate, in a way, so that kids no longer appreciate what they have. So after this weeklong frenzy of fun with our cousins draws to a close, I will be reorganizing their playroom and our lives, doing what I typically do before the holidays, and clearing out the old to slowly make way for the new. I feel the need to slow down and focus more on playing with the girls and less on buying stuff for them. As I always say to Kevin, it’s good to have goals, and that’s one of my main ones for 2011. I don’t want life to be one big hectic blur, and I will do my best to shield my kids from too much stuff and too little time. And next year, at Christmas, I will limit my shopping to a couple of very very special gifts, so that the other special gifts they do get (from grandmas and aunts and uncles) take on more meaning and more significance. Here’s to a wiser, saner 2011!