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Simplicity: Christmas & Birthday

I’m a little overwhelmed about the next six weeks or so. So far, we have three family Christmas events, two church productions and a first birthday coming up. We have been “out” of the Christmas game for so long, I’m apprehensive that I will do it wrong. And frankly, the thought of “doing Christmas” is a bit exhausting.

See, one of the blessings I’ve culled from infertility is a much simpler approach to life. When our quest to have a baby began, I began to cut out unnecessary things from our lives: events, people, things, etc. I began to say “no” to a lot more things and became very selctive about my “yesses.”  I though that reducing the stress in our lives would help us conceive. While that didn’t happen, we have certainly been blessed in other ways. And I want to carry that simplicity forward into our family life and our new family traditions.

So the two big events coming up are Christmas and Little Man’s birthday. I don’t ever want my son to feel deprived, but I also don’t want to create a greedy little monster. So I have a plan!

Christmas events: we will see family as much as possible. Family is so important, and it is one of those things that you can’t take for granted. However, if LM is close to a meltdown, we will leave or put him down for a nap, simple as that. Yes, maybe Auntie wants to hold him or feed him things he shouldn’t have (aka sugar), but I know what’s best for him. However, we will also try to only schedule one major event a day. (Christmas Day being the exception, because our families all live so close we can visit at least two places.)

Christmas gifts: three or four (at the most) plus stockings and matching family pajamas is the plan here. (I have always dreamed of matching family pajamas. I’m a nerd. Big shocker). Stockings were one of my favorite things growing up, and I want to continue that tradition. Stockings contains fun things (blocks, candy, small toys) and necessary things (little lotions, toothpastes, etc.) and fruit and nuts. But we will limit Christmas gifts, beginning with Little Man’s first Christmas. Here are the options:

1) Three gifts; a gold gift, a frankincense gift & a myrrh gift. The gold gift is the most expensive, most sought-after gift. The frankincense gift is one that will draw him closer to God (because priests burned frankincense in the Temple at prayer time, believing the smoke & frangrance helped prayers reach God in Heaven). This could include things like a Bible, a CD of music, a microscope or telescope, etc. (obviously things like that are for when he’s bigger!). The myrrh gift is a “body” gift – something to wear (clothes, cologne, special sweatshirt or hat, etc). Myrrh was used to prepare a body for burial. So that is option #1.

2) Three gifts: something you want, something you need & something to read. Pretty self-explanatory.

3) Four gifts: something you want, something you need, something to play with and something to read. I have to admit, I’m leaning pretty heavily toward this idea. I believe so strongly that you should play on Christmas Day that I received a Barbie doll well into college as a Christmas gift. And you’d better believe I spent a large portion of Christmas day playing Barbie, while my high school brother played with his blocks and cars!!

So Christmas will be simple, because the main message of Christmas isn’t gifts. I hope to instill that in Little Man (and future siblings). My ideal Christmas would be Christmas Eve services at Church, home for a nice family dinner, new matching pajamas, and “The Night Before Christmas” read by the tree before bed. Christmas morning would be reading Luke 2 around the tree, stockings and presents (still in matching pajamas!!) and a big breakfast lovingly prepared by moi. Then off for family events if necessary (eventually I’ll end up having everyone come to our house, but not this year).

I want Little Man to receive gifts at Christmas, yes, but I want him to understand the purpose and reason behind Christmas.

Now, on the heels of Christmas will be Little Man’s first birthday! I know people that go ALL OUT for birthday parties, but in the same way that Black Friday materialism turned my stomach this year, so does the thought of spending oodles of money on a party that Little Man won’t even remember.

Don’t get me wrong – birthdays are HUGE in my family and are celebrated accordingly. But they are celebrated modestly at the same time. So the plan for the first birthday:

On LM’s actual birthday, it will just be the three of us. I’ll make something special for dinner and a small cake (like a cupcake for the three of us). I know that in adoption, birthdays can be double-edged swords, and although I don’t think that will be the reality this year, I want to start the habit now of the actual birthday day being just about Little Man (with no pressure to be “on” for guests, even if they are family). So that day will just be the three of us. Oh, and presents will depend on what he doesn’t get for Christmas that we feel he still might need (this year. In the future he will certainly get to make requests). My mom always set a dollar limit for gifts, so I bet we’ll end up doing the same. Then he can choose one gift or many; whatever it takes to use up the dollar limit.

I also want to get a special plate to use on his birthdays, our birthdays and other special days. But that is beside the point.

Then, the Saturday after his birthday, we’ll have an open house type event. We’ll have a cake for everyone to enjoy, and probably chili & cheese & crackers. But that’s it. No big event – no special theme (except this year, he’ll be one on 1-11-11, so the theme will be…wait for it…1!!) – no clowns or pony rides or carnivals or anything. Just something simple & easy so people can get together and enjoy him and each other.

Again, I hope to set the precedent that Little Man is SO important, but birthdays aren’t about gifts that are given in boxes and bags and wrapping paper.

I hope he understands someday. And I hope he appreciates having a more simple life…

7 thoughts on “Simplicity: Christmas & Birthday

  1. Your perfect Christmas sounds a lot like mine! And I love the gift ideas. And the trouble I'm finding around family is that as SOON as I turn around, someone has already given R something I'd rather he didn't have. My MIL especially wants to give him juice all the time. He's fine with water! Give him water! I WANT YOU TO GIVE HIM WATER!

    *ahem*

    And I made a special plate to use for special occasions. It says, “You are SPECIAL!” with hearts and stars. There are special paints you can get to paint on plates and stuff. You bake it and it's set!

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  2. I love your ideas about making Christmas gifts more meaningful! It reminded me about one of the very meaningful gifts my parents would give each year was an inspirational children's book for each kid (there are 4 of us). These could be as simple as Dr. Seuss or things like “Guess How Much I Love You”… Our family would eat what we call “Big Breakfast” after opening the presents and each of us would read our special book to the family (usually ending in some tears). Even as high schoolers, college students, and now adults we all sit around the breakfast table in our Christmas pjs reading our stories out loud. I have a very large collection of beautiful stories for my little guy as a result of this tradition.
    🙂

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  3. I'm with you on the low-key birthday thing. Our relatives plan these huge birthday things for their kids, who are only three at this point, and it is all adults sitting around staring at them. I entertain myself by taking pictures. I asked my husband about what he thought and he said he wanted to do the same thing. I was appalled. They spend hundreds of dollars on these parties and the kid won't remember. And doesn't understand about opening presents. They open one thing and then want to play with it and then cry when their parents take it away so they can open another present. I don't know what I want to do, but I don't want such a big fuss. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out once we have a child. Hmmm. I might change my tune.

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  4. I love the idea of only 3 gifts, but I'm in a quandry, we always do some gifts from us, and some from Santa. Santa never brings clothes, except socks in the stockings. 😉 But I love the idea. Last year was our easiest Christmas ever, I found we were losing our own family tradition time so we agreed to only do one family thing a day, spread it out so that everyone can relax and share the joy, and last year it worked out Quite Nicely. Chris took most of the day opening his presents, because he'd open one gift and play with it a long while before moving on to the next one.

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  5. We do the 3 gifts but I hadn't heard it the way you explained it. I like the gift to bring them closer to God.

    We did her first big because it took so long to finally have a first birthday to plan I wanted it big. And in the end I planned her 2nd bigger then I wanted but it was because I knew we were moving and would be the last with family and friends. Next year her birthday will likely be just us doing something fun and maybe an open house like you described.

    Your simple way of life is a great way to raise him. I hope we're able to do the same with Isabel.

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