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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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?


It’s Been A While

jeramy simon ukelelesSimon’s Christmas present from Mumma and Daddy: a yellow ukelele for jamming with Daddy.

Hello, friends. It has been over a week since my last post. I needed a break from the blog world for a little while to relax and enjoy the holidays. We were very busy here with tasks, celebrations, and gatherings. Now the hubbub has finally died down, the schedule more relaxed, and most rooms tidied.

Throughout our holiday adventures this year, I was doing a lot of reflecting on family priorities. Jeramy and I have been together as a couple since high school, married for 5 years, and parents for two-and-a-half (not counting the time that our child was in utero). Despite all of that time together under our belt, I still think of us as a “new family”. Our child is still little enough, and we are not set in our ways quite fully yet, and therefore, I feel that our family unit is still in the budding stages. We are finding our way, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and developing our own traditions.

One of the priorities that Jeramy and I try to focus on is the goal of living a simple life. This is not an easy thing for two creative pack rats, but it is important to us to make changes toward a simpler life. This means letting go of certain modern ideas and embracing more old-fashioned ones. It means making certain sacrifices that will lead to rewards that are not material in nature. For example, watching very little television to gain quality time, or streamlining our possessions to gain a greater sense of order and zen.

The holidays can be a very chaotic time, when goals are easily derailed. There are many people vying for our company, which is wonderful, but also makes for a lot of traveling around. There is an influx of new things into our home, which is a blessing, but also requires flexing the organizational muscles and purging some old things. There is also a certain pace to keep up with-a whirlwind of activity and deadlines on making things, and many things unattainable in the time given. During all of this madness, I find myself yearning more and more for a simpler, more meaningful holiday experience.

I have never talked about my spiritual beliefs before here on the blog, but I will say that we are not an overly religious family. I have found a church that I love, which welcomes diverse people of all faiths to worship together, while Jeramy prefers not to do the whole church thing. We will raise Simon to find whatever beliefs are right for him. Because Christmas is not a very religious holiday for us, we have had to search for a different reason to celebrate the season over the years. As time has gone on, it has presented itself to us little by little. I believe it is still a work in progress for us.

For this family, the seasonal shift that occurs on the solstice bringing more light to our days, the reconnecting and quality time spent with our family and friends, the desire to share our abundance and give to others, and a recognition of traditions that we have grown up with are the things that make this time of year special for us. With those four things in mind, we go through the holiday season attempting to make it as simple yet special as possible, and each year we make tweaks to our celebrations that will bring us closest to what it truly is about for us.

Someday, I know I will look back over decades of holidays and see how our own special family traditions unfolded.



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We are down to the last few days before Christmas and I have reached a point where some things just won’t be making the cut as far as handmade gifts go. Sometimes, realizing it is OK to defer to the store for a little help is incredibly freeing.

Today I am thankful for:

~Friends who are willing to babysit.
~A helpful husband.
~The most amazing bagels and cream cheese from my favorite market.
~Our festive Christmas tree.
~Crossing more gifts off the list.
~Holiday recipes I am excited to make.
~My warm lap blanket.
~Having a dishwasher!!!! (My surprise  Christmas gift from my husband that arrived on Monday!!!)

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The Little Things Of The Season

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Our tree now has lights. We strung them up tonight, while Simon jumped on the couch excitedly shouting: “Our wun-uh-ful kiss-miss tweee! Our wun-uh-ful kiss-miss tweeee!” After we finished, and were vacuuming up the dropped needles, Simon changed to running around the house at top toddler speed, singing the bit of “Oh Christmas Tree” that he knows, over and over again. He is showing the same wonder and joy for Christmas time that I remember feeling as a child.

Not that I am without my own Christmas spirit in adulthood. It is just often weighed down with the tasks of the season that need crossing off of lists, as well as the stress of maintaining a budget while wishing I could give my loved ones everything their heart desires. Despite this adult responsibility and awareness, the excitement is still there, just a tad more muted by the frequent doldrums of being a grown-up. I still love plotting surprises, and making things with my own hands, and gathering to celebrate with others. Little things, like the brilliant colored lights shining all over our tree in my dim living room perk up the festive part of me. Experiencing my child’s delight each morning as we move our mouse to another square on our advent calendar stirs joy in my inner child too.

This time of year it is these little things that are the most important to me–more than the shopping, the wrapping, the questions of “What am I going to wear?” and “What food will I bring?” and “What time do we need to be there?”. The season flies by fast, but I am trying to remind myself to take my time, and to pay attention to the delightful details. My child will only be 2 at Christmas once. We have so much to be thankful for, so many blessings that can be easily overlooked if we get too caught up in chores and lists.

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“Trimming” the Tree

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My patient husband performed a bit of surgery on our Christmas tree today, cutting off the bottom row of too-wide branches that were sweeping far into our living space, and shortening the trunk. (Poor guy, he did this with an inadequate saw.) Now the tree is still huge, but fits much better in the living room. The room is rearranged now as well, and will serve us perfectly for the holiday season. There is plenty of space for presents under the tree and ample seating for guests. A slight angling of the loveseat on Christmas morning will make an ideal arrangement for present unwrapping.

My final task of the night, before sitting down to relax, was to put on the tree skirt. She is all ready to be decked out with lights and ornaments tomorrow. I am really looking forward to it.

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A December Day

~My husband walked through the door today, returning home from work, with a rose and a cappuccino for me. Little surprises like that always have a way of making my whole day and then some.

~December seems to be really flying by. I am very excited for Christmas though, and really looking forward to it. Simon is old enough to be more aware of it all and that is making me feel some of that childlike wonder again.

~While Simon napped today, I spent a relaxing hour curled up on the couch with a blanket, finishing the last chapters of my current book. What should I read next?

~I spent a late night of Christmas shopping with a friend, and only just now returned home. (It is eleven-thirty.) My feet are now sore, but it was a productive trip. I love picking out just the right thing for people, planning and scheming surprises.

~Last night I ended an insomnia streak, and actually got a decent night of sleep for the first time in about a week. I would like to have a repeat of that, so tonight’s post is a short one. Tell me, how is your holiday season going?