Though we’re only about a week into November, stores have been showcasing their Christmas gear for a couple of weeks now, and guess what? I love it! But, if you’re like me, two plus months of Christmas all up in my grill meant I was spending twice as much money on STUFF.
When my first daughter was born, Christmas morning was a gong show. She didn’t care about anything but the crinkle sound of the wrapping paper, and my idea of a “perfect Christmas” was squashed when she wasn’t as excited for her brand new pink shoes as I was when I bought them. Uh, excuse me, 11 month old…these kicks are amazing. *crinkle crinkle* Oh great, her full priced, unpractical, name brand pink kicks that she will only wear 4 times come with tissue paper. Neat. I might as well crumple up a few $20 dollar bills in a box and watch her rip those up instead.
Being the new baby, it seemed like everyone wanted to give her a toy or stuffie, and while the generosity and love oozed out of our friends and family during the season, the gifts didn’t get used nearly enough, and sat in her playroom looking adorable until the time came to donate to a new family.
So how do we get ready for the holidays and start new traditions that have less to do with presents, and more time with moments? I have been on many donation rampages where I whip through the house filling garbage bags and bins full of STUFF just to clear the clutter, and you know what? It feels GOOD! Last month I donated 4 garbage bags full of toys that the kids still haven’t noticed are gone – that was a real wake up call, especially when I was preparing myself for a war. (I shall consider this a Mom Win since those don’t happen so often. Note to self: send myself a medal).
Though STUFF is cute, fuzzy, twinkly and loud, it doesn’t do too much in the department of making memories or spending time with family, and before anyone thinks “She doesn’t like toys?? I bet she doesn’t let her kids watch TV either”…I do. More than they should. In fact, I would love for Santa to bring me some seat back DVD players for my car so I can drive 15 minutes in peace. The truth is, I waltz through Costco or Toys R Us and look at all the beautiful toys I know the kids would love for about 11 days, but I force myself to leave them on the shelves, because do you know what we have the most fun doing? STUFF.
Not having stuff, but doing stuff!
Here are some ideas that we try to follow as a family, and perhaps it’ll give you an idea to incorporate into your own traditions, or even give you a great gift idea for nieces, nephews, friends and grandparents:
My girls are 5 and 18 months, so when we write to Santa, we kindly ask him to only bring a few fun things for us, and to be sure to give the other toys to kids who are in need. (As a side note: teaching kids to GIVE more is a gift in itself). While Santa brings crafts, toys, and games, Mom and Dad are in charge of the books, needed clothing, and the STUFF that we hope they will remember doing as a family, like seasons passes to the African Lion Safari, which is amazing for all seasons (great splash pad!), indoor playground passes, butterfly conservatories, and movie tickets.
Some of my favourite gift ideas come from WagJag where you can search Family Activities like Disney On Ice tickets, Paintball, or even a Flight Simulation Experience! They’ve also got Travel experiences (my FAVOURITE) which are great for short getaways, dates with your significant other, or full out vacations! Right now, my list to Santa includes the Ice Hotel in Montreal (you hear me, Santa?), and some awesome getaways to Niagara Falls that include your stay, plus a ton of credits and discounts at local restaurants and attractions!
Now what on earth do we do with the pictures we take on these dates, because my scrapbooking career ended long ago after spending a bajillion dollars on supplies, only to make 3 pages and quit. With the ability to make awesome photo books through Shutterfly, I really don’t have to do any thinking (great news) and they look incredible! (Another great stocking stuffer idea for Mom! Santa…you better be reading this blog!)
Ultimately, we didn’t decide to have kids only to miss their milestones, or to work ourselves to the bone to see them before bed. This life, these kids, and our time is so precious, so when our kids are 30 and they tell us their favourite memories growing up, we’ll know it was more about the time spent together, and less about the stuff that filled their rooms.
…and if I may add one more thing here (I can, it’s my blog), take more pictures. I love a good selfie on occasion, but Dad – take more pictures of Mom, and Mom – take more pictures of Dad, both individually and with the kids. Take pictures when someone is laughing to tears, when one is reading to another, while someone is sleeping, while they hold hands walking into a store. Take pictures to mould memories of the little things that may not have formed as a memory yet, but when the kids look back at their photo book, they’ll see love in many forms. (Can I cry? It’s my blog)