This is the first holiday season in a long time that Seth and I have had more than the bare minimum of cheer. We didn’t have strong traditions between the two of us, and anyway as two childless adults we felt there was no point setting up the miniature village on the back of the piano (figuratively, of course. There’s no piano in the tiny house). But now — oh, now! — this baby changes everything. She’ll be a year old this month. That’s old enough to want to instill some magic into the next few weeks. We’ve started putting up solstice decorations, and there’s a pile of presents accumulating.

More than once Seth has come home to find some project scattered over the kitchen table as I squeeze in a few minutes while Addie is distracted. We’re once again shuffling crafts from counter to table and back again. “What are you working on?” Seth asks every other day.

Well I’ll tell you. It’s something that I could probably go out and buy for $10. But instead I’m hunched over it for hours or days, or in the knitting’s case, weeks or months. Usually there’s Mod Podge on my fingers and bits of paper or threads lying in piles. With eight nieces and nephews and assorted family and friends, I sometimes feel like I’m running Santa’s workshop.

As the countdown dwindles to the bubba’s birthday, and winter solstice, and Christmas, I’m feeling the heat and I remind myself that I could go out to the store and buy these little doodads instead. But whenever I go to any store besides the grocery store, I am frozen with indecision. A panicky undercurrent. I made Seth and Addie walk across the craft store three times this weekend in order to compare notepads. Notepads! And then I hyperventilated a little while Seth helped me decide. There wasn’t even any eye rolling, just a knowing smile as he pulled the glitter glue from the baby’s mouth again and added the notepads to the cart.

I’m really not trying to complain. Come on. Culturally sanctioned craft time? Yes, I’m ready! And I’m not the only one. My browser history is full of things like “18 best Harry Potter ornaments to DIY” and “patchwork gifts for teenage boys.” These articles actually exist and I’ve read them. Guilty as charged. It’s a good thing I can laugh at myself.

Making presents, however much the time and money don’t add up, is my magic of the season. There’s something about slowing down and using my hands, picturing the recipient with the gift even as the radio hosts ask each other, “have you gotten all of your shopping done yet?” Maybe homemade gifts aren’t really in style with most folks. But they sure do bring me back to those days as a kid when I would sit down at the piano to play a Christmas carol and look out over tiny lights illuminating a snowy village street.