Do you feel a little remorse after heaping the shopping cart with “toy of the moment” stuff from the big-box stores this holiday season? Are you already envisioning a yard sale in nine months, with much of the stuff you are buying right now? Would you rather get your child some educational toys this holiday season, and find toys/experiences that will last more than a moment? How about buying a toy that will help your little wonder and not so little wonder learn?
Now that I have asked these questions, I will point you in the direction of some sage advice. Last year the folks at “Live Science” have come up a great list of toys that help children explore many science fundamentals. From toys featuring old friends and familiar product s like Miss Frizzle and “The Magic School Bus,” and Lego sets, to toys that get at chemistry through cooking and exploration through a working microscope, there are a wide range of toys in every price range. These toys offer toddlers through teens the chance to build robots, do chemistry, familiarize themselves with labs and lab equipment, and fit together gears. As you shop for your family, picture the heap of toys gathering dust and taking up space in one corner, versus some great quality toys that will go far in encouraging them, to pursue science and find real learning satisfaction. While there may some of that dusty heap, I am going to plan to offset it with quality items.
Somewhere between Pinterest idyllic and reality, there is what we hope to establish in our home during the holidays. For many, it is a time of increased togetherness. The children are off from school and perhaps you are off from work for an extended period of time. Perhaps you are a stay at home parent and you are always “off.” Or perhaps, no such luck, you have to work increased hours over the holidays because of the kind of work you do. Regardless of your exact situation, I am sure that some of what you are hoping for during the holidays is a sense of familial togetherness, fun, new memories; and meaningfulness. –More on that in a moment.
Rest assured, even the plans and holiday idylls that do not go as planned can be of lasting memory. We still talk of the “Pink Eye Christmas” when we recall memories of Christmas past. Our daughters had an awesome case of conjunctivitis, that was worsened by an allergic reaction our youngest girl had to eye drops. She had a distinct resemblance to Rocky Balboa after a hard fight, that Christmas! We still laugh at the Christmas mouse, from growing up. As teenagers, my siblings and I had a mouse run across the floor during our Christmas meal. A fond new memory is from a few years back when our girls received a package of pacifiers or “bobos” from Santa and the Bobo Fairy. She had come about a year prior, when our daughter gave up her bobo. This is how they found out their mother was expecting their little brother.
Somewhere between your holiday idylls and the bickering that arises when all the children are home together for an extended period of time; the pulls and demands of time, money, and limited energy reserves; and the unexpected that is all but a guarantee in life, is a chance for some great times together. The folks at the great website “Parent map” offer 15 great ideas for making the most of your time together during the holidays. From game nights by the Christmas tree and volunteering as a family to great craft ideas and journaling suggestions for recording the year’s highlights, there are some fantastic suggestions here. Wishing you togetherness, laughter, fun, new found memories, and meaning this holiday season! Happy Holidays!
Most parents I know, throw myself in the bunch, are in a bit of a small panic at this point in the holiday season. –Or so it seems. There are those lucky few that seem very excellent at taking things in measured stride. –You know, those moms you meet that planfully buy things throughout the year. I even have a dear friend who keeps a running spread sheet and does this bold feat. I have other friends who start baking in the beginning of November and have it done, along with lasagna for their Christmas meal just waiting to be pulled out to eat. To some extent, I wish I was like these amazing friends. Yet natural tendencies and a heart and mind that get caught up in the excitement of the holidays, and the daily demands of living, prevent such organization. Yet, even if this be my proclivity or yours, there are things we can all choose to do to make the holidays more meaningful and sane.
There are some wonderful blogs and articles that discuss this very issue. For those who are more into the sacred sense of Christmas and Hannukah, the article “40 Ways to Keep Christmas Simple and Meaningful,” by Victor Parachin offers some inspiring, lovely, and practical ways to keep the sacred and spiritual in Christmas. From reminding the reader of scripture verses to hold on to and encouraging the “spirit of the innkeeper” to rethinking habits; exercising the word ‘no’ to all the shoulds and have to’s that we impose upon our lives this time of year; and doing more to keep it simple, there are some great things here for the traditional Christmas soul. The “Jewish Woman Magazine” offers some tips for keeping Hannukah more meaningful and sane. From tips on establishing limits to suggestions for meaningful gifts, experiences, and sharing of beloved traditions, there are many helpful nuggets for the stressed out Jewish parent. For the more secular family, there are great article and blog offerings to read on this subject. The “Frugal Girl” blog offers some great ideas and ways to maintain a simpler and saner Christmas. In fact , she has a whole series on the subject. One I particularly enjoyed was “Making Christmas Merry, More Experiences, Less Stuff.” She discusses what she remembers most from her childhood. While she recalls liking her stocking and the presents under the tree, what she most cherishes are memories with her grandparents making pfeffernusse and stringing cranberries and popcorn around her tree with her family. Indeed the latest video game and plastic toy may seem exciting, but what lasts are the intangibles: the things we hold meaningful and time well spent with the ones we love making memories…..
It is here and fully upon us. As the first real snow continues to fall lightly outside, I truly welcome in the holiday season. We get ready to give thanks tomorrow and then the build up to Christmas time.
I love this season on so many levels. For me, it marks a time in which we are all at our collective best. As we give thanks, we think more often of our blessings and what we are grateful for in life. We also think longer about those who do not have all we do and we think of how to help; how to contribute; how to share our bounty. For a time, it Is less about us and more about the greater world and its needs around us. Imagine what such attention and contribution could do the rest of the year!
I also love the wonder of the children. I do not think the most jaded individual would remain that way, if they spent abundant time with little ones. The big turkey; little pilgrims and Native Americans; the baking and cooking; the decorating; the music and singing; the tree; and playing in the snow all create a palpable excitement and joy among the little set. You can’t help but feel it in their presence.
I love the socializing. Whereas most other times of the year we say we will make plans with extended family and friends, we tend to really do more of that this time of year. We gather and enjoy each other’s company. We make greater efforts. We do not rush as much.
I love the traditions, with the food ones being some of my favorite. The pasta dishes on my husband’s side and the fish, sausage, and ham dishes on my side, remind us of where we came from and the richness of our differences. Hearing the old stories of how it used to be done and telling our children stories about our childhoods, mean everything to me. The roots are being planted; I am a grateful gardener.
So now I am really ready. The Christmas music that began right after Halloween on the airwaves and the items that appeared two months ago in the stores were completely out of place for me. Yet with it now really here, I am ready to dive head first into it all. When you pull me out, you might just find me covered in flour; lights; and little boy and girl kisses.
There is no doubt that this time of year can leave you feeling frazzled and fatigued. The holidays can feel like the great race, instead of beautiful and meaningful. Falling short of two people I know who simply cover their Christmas tree, ornaments and all with a blanket, and bring it up each year, I have adopted a local professional organizer, author, and friend’s holiday motto. Jennifer Ford Berry in her ‘Tips for a Simple Fun Holiday Season‘ says good enough is the new perfect. In this web article, Jennifer gives eight tips for simplifying your holiday season.
- Get real about your expectations: Even craft challenged individuals like myself gaze lovingly and adoringly at Pinterest sites, Martha Stewart magazines, and blogs that show people who are oozing over with Christmas ideas to try. I think it is helpful to remember that Martha Stewart has a staff and that Pinterest and blogs are pretty places for other peoples’ ideas.
- Quit being ungrateful: When everything is feeling like a never-ending to do list during the holidays, be grateful. There is so much to be grateful for in our lives.
- Develop a holiday vision that is unique to your family: Decide what is a must for your family this holiday season. What are your family’s traditions? What new holiday traditions do you want to try this year? What things are just unnecessary or lovely but not realistic?
- Stop cluttering up other people’s homes: Gift certificates for experiences, memberships, or services go far!
- Just say no to the perfect holiday card contest. In the popular vernacular, matching outfits, perfect hair, really? Fun shots from last summer are just as fine and not so, really!
- Again, stop being Martha Stewart and keep it simple when it comes to entertaining. The five course holiday dinner is unnecessary. Embrace the potluck dinner or a simple cocktail party with appetizers. Good food and good company are what matter, not extreme food measures.
- Pair down the gift wrapping and recycle your kids’ artwork: Nothing is more frustrating to me than all the wrapping. (Unless it is receiving presents that are so beautifully wrapped, I know I could never replicate it). Keep it simple. As a professional organizer, Jennifer is always looking to tame, reduce, and recycle the gobs of paper that come into our homes. Whether it is your child’s artwork or giving them some old paper to make some uniquely interesting wrapping paper for your presents, here is a way to lessen the paper trail we call wrapping paper.
- Cut down on your holiday storage and use natural elements. I love this idea! Jennifer suggests using natural elements such as: pine cones, popcorn, berries, cookies, and birds nest to decorate with in our homes, things that can be disposed of or put on a compost pile.
It is so easy to lose sight of the wonder and meaning of the holidays. Rather than being swept away in the blur and haste, consider simplifying where you can and making good enough your new normal.