Thursday, April 18, 2013

Priceless Christmas 2012

Better late then never: Christmas post. So why and I posting this now? We just finished hosting our first Safe Families child and it brought to the forefront of my mind how nourishing to a child's development it is to be in an environment marked by peace and joy. And cuz I've been busy, aiight, and this was mostly written.

Bo and I challenged ourselves this year to have a priceless Christmas. We wanted it to be filled with happy family memories, but didn't think that needed to cost anything. It's not because we can't afford to, but because we didn't want to participate in a lot of the commercialism, consumerism and stress that can surround the holidays that are supposed to be characterized by peace and joy.

We are blessed to have extended family who give gifts to our children for Christmas. In fact, there generally is an abundance and outpouring of generosity throughout the year but especially for Christmas, birthdays and Chinese New Year. We truly appreciate this demonstration of love. It gives our children something tangible to enjoy while remembering a loved one who cares so much about them that they spent their hard-earned money on presents our children would like. So it's not like our children are lacking in what has become the traditional gifts of Christmas.

So how did we come to this practice of giving gifts at Christmas anyway? From a Christian perspective, I wrestled this past season with the tradition of gift giving at Christmas. Is it because the wisemen gave gifts to Jesus? But, they were scholars and from a distant land who did not know Jesus personally nor did they interact with him ever again. They gave him extravagant gifts mostly for symbolism of who he was. Is it because God gave us the gift of Jesus? That was the most perfect gift! There's no competing with that. This year, I was more reflective on what Mary's gift was to Jesus, as she was his mother. Mary is a rockstar. Her life gets completely turned upside down, and still she maintains her cool. Peaceful. Joyful. You can't buy that. You can't wrap that.

Being their mom and the #1 person around them the most, I'm in a very unique position to give my children the three priceless gifts that no one else can give as much as I can: attention, affection and appreciation (thanks, Facebook, for the inspiration). Isn't that what all kids want from their parents the most?

Starting in the month of December, I laid the attention, affection, and appreciation on thick for my kids and we experience more peace and joy in this house than ever before. People feel listened to, loved and like they have a special and unique contribution to our family and the world, so there's a whole lot more getting along and fun. It's like magic, but it does take a lot of intentionality and least for me. It was a change I wanted to make to our home life not just for Christmas, but for our lifetimes because I want my children to remember that kind of mom and that kind of home and not just what I put under the tree.

So yes, we did put gifts under the tree too, but they were few and from the heart. They had minimal cost, but lots of love went into making them.

You can kinda get an idea of the sparseness of the gifts under the three here. This includes our family gifts as well as what my side of the family gave to the children (more on that later).
Bean and I made dough for cinnamon rolls and Tey a I baked them for Christmas breakfast. He learned how to make orange icing. The secret is in the zest! 

I made Mae a button monogram. Look how cute she is saying "M."
I got the buttons cheap from  the I.D.E.A. store and some from a generous friend.
Bo drew a snowy owl for Tey. I love their expressions of awe. 
A couple months ago Bean asked me to draw him a tiger. I took 5 seconds and drew him a cartoon one in markers.  I didn't know until later that he also asked Jon to do one and the result for Christmas was this. My husband never ceases to amaze me with his talents and his dedication to our kids. 
Tey learned to read this year, so I made some  bookmarks of some of his favorite books with the scrap paper from their book jackets.  This will be a encouragement to me too to keep reading to him a bunch. 
For Bo, the younger two and I made carmel corn from Bean's Boy Scout popcorn that were just popping kernels. 
Jon helped the kids make me marshmallows
Mae is the official taste-tester. Yum...soft, pillowy, sweetness, and the marshmallows aren't bad either!!

I also made Bean a shadowbox that holds his Tae Kwon Do belts that he's earned so far (white, yellow, orange and green. I wanted him to know how proud of him I am of his hard work with that and before this they just laid in his closet. Bo made me the most delicious brownies in the world and though I've been sharing, I think I've eaten half the pan just myself. A chocolate treat is a great motivator during the day :) I think Bean spent the most money this Christmas. He bought got everyone but me used books from the Urbana Free Library Book sale.

Mae loved her new book, which was in the style of some others she has. Tey immediately started reading his book. For Bo he picked out an AWESOME vintage edition of all of John James Audobon's paintings. It was perfect because just last week as Bo was finishing his animal drawings for the kids he was contemplating what it was like for JJA to draw all those birds. 

Months later, looking back, I'm so glad we challenged ourselves to do this. We can see the HUGE positive results for our family dynamic, which has helped prepare us to be available to share our peace and joy with another child, if only for a couple weeks. Hosting a Safe Families child reminded me the importance of loving and secure relationships in the lives of children, regardless of amount of their possessions or toys.