In the week before Christmas, it's a carol-cliché of hustle and bustle, dressed-up city sidewalks and shoppers rushing home with their treasures.

Of course, Bing Crosby of Silver Bells fame never had his car park pipped at Bayfair by someone in a silver Honda Fit.

In our quest to find just the right thing (or anything at all) for those on our Christmas lists, there's never enough time. Especially, if like me, you view December 1 as an early start to holiday preps and December 18 as about average but not time to panic – yet.

Motherhood bears its own rug of regret. Much of the year, it feels like a faux-fur parka. In December, it's a lead-lined shield.

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I feel guilty having waited this long to finish (almost) Christmas shopping and guiltier still for the riches my cherubs will reap for being middle-class kids with generous grandparents.

I issue warnings like, "Santa won't bring you anything if you don't do the dinner dishes …" but I've yet to see the big guy replace pressies with a lump of coal. Such softies, Kris Kringle and the grandparents.

Children's wish lists fulfilled (aside from items I've mentally crossed off like dust-mite breeding giant teddy bears; expensive Apple watches, and a plastic camera whose film cost would far outweigh its initial price), I tell Miss 13 and Master 12 about my Christmas list.

Master 12 pre-empts me, saying, "I bet you want us to do jobs around the house." Yes. Always. But at Christmastime, what I really want is something no one can buy.

"I want us to spend time together doing things like going to the beach, riding our bikes, swimming …"

The kids return to watching Christmas with the Kranks, about a couple who decide to skip Christmas until their daughter tells them she's coming home. The Kranks forego a Caribbean cruise to spend the holidays with her.

After the gadgets break or get lost, I'll remember moments shared with loved ones -
celebrating Dad's 70th birthday in Ohio last year; eating toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup during a break from freezing temperatures at Mom's; giving my 95-year-old grandfather doughnuts for Christmas; and back here at home, time on the beach watching the kids turn cartwheels and flips on the sand.

I want more time with the husband whose work has taken him far from us – more minutes to talk face to face; to breathe the same air; to dote on our home's queen (dog) together. Time to weed the garden and grouse about sore backs.

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Less time working on the computer; sorting schedules and tasks; gazing at other people's bright, shiny online platforms.

Less time trapped inside a four-wheeled box and more time pedalling two wheels.

More time for a friend whose cancer has so far outwitted surgery, chemotherapy and holistic treatments. So much more time. Decades.

More time for cloud-watching and stargazing.

More time for gratitude and less time for angst.

More time for running with friends and for breakfast with the family afterwards.

More time for reading – actually finishing – books.

More time to show my children living in community means helping.

More time for long backwards glances at the life I shared with my late husband, the man who spent his final days loving our kids and me. Twelve Christmases together could never have been enough.

More time seeking solace, that thing David Whyte wrote is the "art of asking the beautiful question, of ourselves, of our world or of one another, often in fiercely difficult and unbeautiful moments". More time to stand with loss without being swallowed by it.

More time talking with family members who remain alive and well, no matter how many time zones and kilometres stretch between us.

None of this stuff is on sale down the street.

Psychologists have been telling us for years experiences, not things, make us happier long-term. Studies have shown even unpleasant episodes, like getting lost or enduring a rainy camping holiday, are later more valued than material possessions.

Imagine telling kids you've replaced Nerf guns and Lego sets with a walk in the woods. Maybe when they're older …

Aristotle said, "Men fancy that external goods are the cause of happiness [but] leisure of itself gives pleasure and happiness and enjoyment in life."

What was true in 335BC is even more so today.

If, as some writers and philosophers surmise, we attract what we focus on, maybe inviting Time into my life will beget more of his friends – Spare Minutes and Idle Hours?

These holidays, I wish you time with the people who bring you pleasure, happiness and enjoyment.

Meri Kirihimete