It’s the Most Modest Time of the Year

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. The holidays were simple. Great! But, simple. My mom and dad always did their best, and we always had good gifts.

It wasn’t just Christmastime that it was like that. We ate simply, and I argued with my mom every single year when it was time to get back-to-school clothes. But, the hot pink dress flats! All the girls in my class will have them!

We have a lot more money than my parents did. But, I want to raise my sons to know there’s more to life than possessions. I feel like I grew up with an appreciation for things. With the ability to wait and save up for things I really wanted. How to tell the difference between something I wanted and something I needed. I know the value of a dollar.

In today’s world, this is an all but forgotten concept. Especially in the United States, kids are raised to think they can have anything they want, and be surrounded with stuff. Hardly anyone tries to raise their kids to be happy with what they have, and to be happy with less.

We keep the toy box half empty. They don’t need every single toy they see on TV. And they don’t need 1,000 different things to keep them happy. A set of blocks, a few Matchbox cars, a train set, some art supplies. This fosters creativity, and a true appreciation when we do introduce a new toy. After a while of getting all the toys they want all the time, receiving a gift begins to lose its meaning.

It’s not that I don’t want to shower them with a ton of gifts. I love my children with all my heart, and want them to have more than I did when I was younger. But, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a balance. Good, nice gifts, but not every toy on the shelf. More presents than I got as a kid, but not a gigantic pile under the tree.

What’s your philosophy? Do you get your kids new stuff all the time? If you can’t afford to do that, are you sad that you can’t get more? How do you talk to your kids about money/consumerism?

A Very Bloggy Christmas

Our holiday consisted of a Christmas Eve with friends, appetizers and plenty of beer and wine, followed by a Christmas day with family and friends, more appetizers and tons of champagne. Also, an amazing, fantastic Boxing Day crab feast, provided by my sister-in-law.

Bowie got some (i.e. 50) Hot Wheels cars and a cool race track with a “hoopty-hoop”(how he says “loopty-loop”) which he played with all morning long.

Hope your holidays were/are filled with all the love, joy and priceless memories they should be.

Christmas in San Francisco

I have not spent a Christmas in the Midwest in, I think, 6 years. We’ve made a couple of Thanksgivings, but never Christmas. And normally, come about, say, December 15, I would be a puddle of depressed goo on the ground, just wishing the holiday would come and go already, gah.

I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that, in our old neighborhood, the outdoor Christmas lights and decorations were…scant. In a couple of the houses that had nice, big windows (and superb views of downtown and the bay, luckies) you could see their giant, perfectly decorated Christmas trees. Otherwise, it felt as if we were the only ones who were celebrating that year, with our tiny, fake, very Charlie Brown Christmas-like tree.

The other problem is…it doesn’t snow here. You’d be surprised how quickly a Wisconsin girl will consider 40 degrees to be “really cold”, yet how long it can take that same Wisconsin girl to get used to the idea of “winter” with no snow. I still recall our second year living in California, when we trucked it up to Tahoe in February with some friends, and I secretly spent the entire first day reminding myself that it wasn’t Christmas, even though it was snowing. Not that I ever even liked snow, I so did not! I see the Wisconsin blizzards on the news and think, “hahaha remember when I used to have to deal with that stuff.” Yet somehow my brain still thinks winter equals snow. The human brain is a very complex thing.

Anyway, I don’t know if it’s because enough time has passed that maybe I’m ok with it, or that so very many of our new neighbors have gone all out with their decorations, or that this is the first year Bowie is really starting to understand Christmas, but this year I finally feel like I am home for the holidays. We will be here with just a few friends and family members (and I am used to GIANT family gatherings) but I am, for once, excited about it.

I do miss everyone at home, though, don’t get me wrong. I will still wish on Christmas day that you were here with us to celebrate, but I will have myself a merry little Christmas anyway. Finally.

Needs

For the past few years, in my mom’s family, in lieu of giving each other gifts, we adopt a family and chip in to fulfill their wish list. It’s something I’m more and more glad that we do each year, and it has been so amazing.

For starters, it saves us some of the hustle and bustle that can come with this time of year. We focus less on buying gifts and more on getting a family things that it needs.  We can bring our attention back to the season, and it’s meanings and traditions. Society has become so commercialized, and it’s so easy to get caught up in all of the holiday madness. This takes so much of the pressure off of us.

And secondly, it puts things in perspective. My husband and I have had to live a bit, well, meagerly for a few years now, but we’re certainly not a family in need. That’s totally different. These families often ask for things like towels, sheets, diapers, coats, boots, things that we take for granted. The families all have young children, and sometimes just one parent. It makes me value the things that we have, it makes me want to consume less, and it makes me happy that I have enough that I can give what little we have to a family that needs it more than we do.


Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com