Wrapped Up with a … Oh Wait, I Forgot the Bow.

source: Bugs and Fishes

I thought about doing something like this for my presents this year. Really, I did.

Just about every year I try to convince myself that pretty wrapping matters, it will make people feel special, etc, etc.

And every year I wrap up my gifts in dollar-store paper, sometimes covering a cardboard Amazon shipping box, and stick a 200-for-$1 label on it. Because, really, does it matter?

I was contemplating this yesterday. I’ve always enjoyed wrapping; I rarely use gift bag. Unwrapping is half the fun, right, especially when you’re a kid? But the fanciest I ever get is making gift tags from old Christmas cards, and it’s been three years since I even did that! Looking at those meticulously cut letters, all I see is extra time I don’t feel like I have in this season. My naptime quiet minutes are few.

The thing is, if you love cutting out letters while listening to carols and sipping peppermint tea, I think it can be holy. Perhaps wrapping gifts is one of your favorite things. Perhaps it is a gift God gave you to bless others. It’s just not mine!

At Christmas, I LOVE reading Christmas books to my kids. Every night, and all the time. I would read 10 in a row while they snuggle up on me. I love baking cookies and other goodies to give to people. Anyone! Everyone! Those are my special things, the things that make me feel alive, God-given loves, I think.

In our Post-Pinterest world, sometimes we think we need to be good at everything. Everything must be picture-perfect. But y’all, to make things look good, I have to do a whole lot of creative cropping. I am just NOT good at everything – and I’m guessing you aren’t, either. It’s OK to admit it and happily dive into those things that we do love, while eschewing the tasks that just aren’t important to us. (As long as those aren’t biblical things, of course!)

I wish you a simple Merry Christmas and a happy, imperfect New Year.

Gifts That Give Back by Jessie Weaver

Here’s my great Christmas confession:

  • We don’t do Santa.
  • We don’t have a real tree.
  • The very small amount of gifts that my children get from us generally come from a thrift store.

It’s not how I was raised. My sister and I always received a huge pile of presents, a few of those from “Santa.” But where are those gifts now? Except for our original Nintendo, which is happily housed with my husband and me, I have no idea. A lot of those gifts got great love: Barbies, Cabbage Patch dolls, board games. But I don’t know that our Christmases would have suffered without half of those things we wished for on long lists.

Nowadays, I prefer to keep the focus on Jesus’ gift. This year, my kids (4 and almost 2) and I will be going through Truth in the Tinsel, an Advent e-book that guides them through Scripture while we make fun ornaments. We’re also opening a Jesus-focused Christmas book every night and reading it together.

As for presents, they’ll get plenty from their two sets of grandparents, being that they’re the only grandchildren on both sides. We’ve encouraged them not to overdo it, though, because our kids already have so. many. toys. Experiential gifts are my favorites, and art supplies are basically “consumables” for little ones.

I hope my 4-year-old will be able to help me pick out some gifts that give to others, too, and start to understand that others around the world have needs far greater than ours. We start impressing this idea with packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and continue throughout the holidays.

Here are some of my favorite gifts that give to others!

  1. For $100, you can give a family in need a goat and two chickens through World Vision. This provides a family with goat’s milk and eggs – and the families that receive them are asked to pass along chicks to other families.
  2. For just $9, you can feed a hungry baby for a week through Samaritan’s Purse. It’s Gift 40 in their catalog.
  3. Any donation is appreciated through Compassion’s fund to help provide education fees for children in need.
  4. These fun paper bead necklaces are $25, hand-crafted by women in Kenya, and help support Mercy House Kenya.
  5. Buy an adorable cupcake bib for $6 on Etsy, help support relief efforts from Hurricane Sandy.
  6. $25 from each $50 plate purchase of this cute, recycled glass plate goes to support City Harvest in NYC, an organization that raises money to feed those in need.

Do you have any favorite gifts that give back?

Christmas Ramblings

99_MommyandJack2a.jpgLast Christmas season was wonderful and easy for my new little family.  Jason and I were still basking in the glow of being new parents. We were excited for extended family members to meet Jack. Jack was still young enough that planning holiday festivities around his schedule was no problem at all! But looking to this year … I was afraid things would be very different.

To be honest, I was worried this Christmas was going to be stressful. I was dreading putting out the Christmas decorations with a toddler underfoot, I was sure finding time to Christmas shop was going to be next to impossible, and I was concerned that all of the holiday festivities would throw Jack’s schedule completely for a loop! (I can see my husband now … shaking his head at my tendency to worry too much.)

The reality is … this Christmas season has been great so far! We put up the Christmas decorations after Jack went to bed one night! We kept things simple this year and didn’t go overboard. In fact, we put up the Christmas tree without any ornaments so that Jack could enjoy and explore it without us having to constantly monitor which ornaments he was handling. (Did I mention the tree is pre-lit? All we had to do was fluff it and plug it in! That’s my kind of decorating!)

While the busy part of the month hasn’t hit yet, I shouldn’t worry too much about planning around Jack’s schedule for Christmas activities. He’s very laid-back and has never had a problem being flexible!

And on the shopping front, we are almost done, and it has been fun to shop with Jack! We only have a few more gifts to buy for family. Then we can turn our attention to shopping for Jack … who surprisingly has become the hardest to shop for!

Last year Jack was too little to care what anybody got for him so we gave him practical things like bibs, blankets, clothes, and other essentials. But this year, there is a new pressure to get not only toys he will be excited about but also toys that are durable and will grow with him over the years. We only want to get him a few presents, so narrowing it down has been more difficult than I thought it would be. I’m sure all of the pondering will be well worth it though when Jack opens his presents on Christmas morning. I can’t wait to experience Christmas through his eyes!!

Are you looking for gift ideas that are memorable, flexible, and durable? Be sure not to miss the 2009 Christmas Gift Guide in the December 2009 issue of ParentLife.