Motherhood, Art, Creative Play, and Finding Joy in Everyday Life

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Why My Kids Won’t Be Making A Christmas List

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I realize that the holiday season is different for every family, and is often fraught with feelings of protectiveness over one’s traditions. You hear all the time about whether or not saying “Happy Holidays” is polite, politically correct, or somehow construed as an attack on the Christmas holiday. While I believe most people agree that we live in a society that turns holidays into frenzies of consumerism, and that this is a negative thing, it is still an easy trap to fall into. Even though I personally think it is ridiculous to spend more money than makes sense, to rush around from store to store scrambling to find something, anything, to be able to scratch another name off my list, I still do it every year, at least a little bit.

I daydream about the perfect simple Christmas season. The house will be decorated with handmade treasures, the kitchen will smell of fresh baked molasses cookies, gifts will be handmade, or lovingly and locally purchased, and wrapped in recycled brown paper bags. No stress, no rush, no busting the budget. Each year Jeramy and I move one step closer to achieving this daydream, but we haven’t gotten quite there yet. (We will keep trying though.)

We are not a religious family, so for us Christmas does not include certain traditions that others partake in. Although sometimes I do enjoy slipping off on my own for the Christmas Eve service at my Unitarian Universalist church, we focus on a non-religious meaning to the holiday. Christmas for us is about giving to others. Giving meaningfully, because we care, not because we feel obligated to buy something for everyone. It is about spending time together as a family picking out just the right Christmas tree at the orchard. It is for crafting, decorating, sipping hot cocoa under the twinkling lights, and reading stories together in our pajamas on Christmas Eve night. It is about telling Simon to look out the car windows–”Look, quick, on the left!”,”Coming up on the right!”–to see the elaborately decorated houses as we drive around. It is about coming together to share meals with family when the daylight hours are short, and the cold keeps everyone inside.

It is about taking a bit of extra time to appreciate the everyday magic in things, and to show those we care about just how much we care by partaking in the tradition of giving, even if all we give is a handwritten greeting.

All of this to say: I will not be asking my children to write Christmas lists. The reason for this is simple: I do not want them to focus on asking, but rather on giving. I want to encourage them to think about others during the season, instead of themselves.

I know, I know. It is a tradition, the making of the list. One that I partook in, that you probably partook in, and that has been going on for generations. And we turned out OK. I know. I am not trying to rob my kids of magic, or say that they don’t deserve presents, or don’t deserve to daydream about what might be under the tree for them on Christmas morning. I am OK with the fact that Simon has told us what he would most like to receive this year. But I feel very strongly against asking him to make a list of stuff.

I worry also that a Christmas list for small children may set them up for disappointment. What if they ask for things that the grownups in their lives simply cannot afford? I used to circle things in catalogs. But, when you are just a child, and there is so much variety in front of you, how can you possibly narrow it down to what you truly want? Commercials, store displays, and catalogs are trying to tell our kids that they want everything by using bright colors, catchy jingles, and scenes of smiling kids playing with toys and gadgets. There is so much being thrust at them, that if we ask them to make a list, we are asking them to filter out noise they may not be mature enough yet to ignore.

I give my kids gifts because I love them, and because as their parent, I want to give them the world, like all parents do. I want them to wake up Christmas morning, look under the tree, and feel anticipation to discover what is there for them underneath the shining bows. To see them get excited over just the right thing being chosen for them is something I hope to always be able to do.

I just won’t be asking them for any lists.


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Simon's sunshine
We started our new year off this morning by being entirely too lazy for an impatient Simon, who woke with typical boisterous three-year-old energy. (How do they do that, so early?) Once he convinced me to leave my warm bed I sat on the couch, by the heater, under a blanket, and sipped a cup of tea while Jeramy made us all toast. Thankfully, my child has plenty of new toys from Christmas to occupy him while Mumma and Daddy wake up fully.

We then dressed and headed off for a day at Simon’s Great-Grandmother’s house. There, we enjoyed lunch, playtime, and even a champagne toast (for the grownups).

Back home, our exhausted child was ready, despite his protests, for an early bedtime, as indicated by his continuous eye-rubbing. (Poor kid, can never fool us into believing he isn’t really tired.)

And now I sit, in my cluttered house, finding myself feeling kind of relieved that the holiday season is over. It is time to take the ornaments off the tree and drag it into the woods where it can become new habitat for wild creatures. Time to put away all of the remaining gift bags and boxes, and mix the new toys in with the old. Time to pick up the mess that the holiday season left behind. Time to set out with a new list of intentions for a mindful, peaceful, and happy new year.

Happy 2014!

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Halloween 2013


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Hi! Happy November! I hope you all had a safe and fun Halloween yesterday, if you celebrate. We sure did!

In the morning I got up early to start engineering my horizontally braided hair for my Pippi Longstocking costume. (At work, all of us Children’s Librarians dressed up as various Children’s book characters.) I dropped Simon off at preschool in my costume and was the only parent dressed up so early in the day. His ghost costume was in a bag because his class was going to all get dressed up together. (That way, no little ones would be as likely to be scared of their classmates in masks.) After work, I picked Simon up and we drove to go surprise his Papa and Mimi both at their work places. By the time we finished doing that, Jeramy was home from work and it was time to get ready to take Simon Trick or Treating.

We usually go to a neighboring town, which has a shopping village made up of well-lit streets that are lined with little touristy shops and outlet stores. This year though, it was raining and super windy, so we went to our local Mall instead. It was perfect because we were indoors, and Simon walked happily up one side of the mall and down the other, while store employees in costumes handed out candy to all the kids. He loves Trick or Treating and was so polite, wishing each candy hander-outer a “Happy Halloween!” and saying “Thank You!”.

Finally, we went to my Mother-in-law’s house for a pizza dinner, which has also become a Halloween tradition over the last three years. Jeramy and I sorted Simon’s candy into a pile that he can have, and pile of stuff that was loaded with food coloring or too choke-able for his age. I know it is supposed to be a myth that children get a “sugar high”, but after being allowed a couple of sugary treats, Simon was all wound up and difficult to put to bed. It was a long day, but I love Halloween and dressing up, and so does my child, so we had a lot of fun.

Did you or your kids dress up for Halloween? If so, I’d love to hear what your costumes were, and if you blogged about it, leave a link with your comment!

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First Fireworks

With the help of some noise cancelling headphones, Simon got to stay up late and watch the fireworks for the first time this year. He “oohed and aahed” and had a wonderful time. When we got home, he fell asleep in my arms before I could finish singing a lullaby.

If you live in the US, I hope that you, too, had a Happy Fourth!

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The Return Of Spring

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This weekend, as a family, we are celebrating the return of Spring.

This morning  started with Simon and I boiling and coloring some eggs together. This time around we did nothing fancy, just crayons and nontoxic markers. Afterward, Simon immediately wanted to eat some, so most of them did not last long, but they made a perfect breakfast. He loved helping to peel off the shells.

For lunch we had wood-fired bagels, and freshly made cream-cheese from our favorite local market. (And a coffee for Mumma!) After Simon’s  “nap” we made chocolate-chip blondies together, to bring with us for an evening with Simon’s Mimi and Papa (my parents).

When we arrived at their house, Simon was presented with a bucket, and he grabbed a magnifying glass to set out on an egg hunt in their yard. He has really been into treasure hunts, looking for clues, and maps lately, so he was very excited.

I enjoyed the brilliant sun, and the warmth today. It was in the high 40’s, so not very warm by some people’s standards, but for this Maine gal it meant no coat, and wearing flats with no socks for the first time all year. It meant there was no unshakable, bitter chill in my bones. After dinner we all took a short walk: Jeramy, Simon, his Mimi and Papa,  my brother Ian, and I…and being outside on this lovely day made me feel very content.

Happy Spring everyone!

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making valentines
I am not big into Valentine’s Day as an actual holiday, but I do love the idea of spreading a little extra love and joy to the people we care about. I also like the part about chocolate, making heart-shaped crafts, baking special treats, and having an excuse to wear as much pink and red as possible.

So, this morning I made Simon heart-shaped toast with apple slices, and set out the valentines he received in the mail from Grandparents, along with the one we had for him. After breakfast, we decorated some valentine hearts together, and went to deliver one to Simon’s Mimi at work. This evening, Jeramy and I went out for Indian food, just the two of us.

Nothing big, nothing fancy, but a chance to make an otherwise ordinary day a little bit special.

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Gifted Homemade Granola

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Our Christmas gifts for aunts and uncles this year: homemade granola. We used this recipe, and found free online labels here. I was quite (pleasantly) surprised to discover how easy to make granola actually is. However, you really have to keep checking it, and go by your oven and not the recipe for time. (Ours took 2o minutes, not 30. The 3o minute batch burned and went straight into the trashcan.)

I bought ingredients in bulk if possible, so that we can make our own granola from now on. I am not really a cereal fan, and prefer to eat a half cup of granola with a little bit of milk for breakfast, or to sprinkle some for crunch into my morning yogurt. My other favorite use for it is to fill baked apples in the fall.

This gift was well-received, and there was even some left over for us after it was all put into jars. Simon loves it too, and happily gobbled up fistfuls after it had finished cooling. I recommend storing homemade granola in the fridge to keep it crisp and fresh.

Did you make any edible gifts this year?