Wednesday, December 14, 2011
You know what's easy to do? To fall into the rush of December. One question I asked myself years ago when I first became a mother, was if I wanted my kids to remember the holidays this way, with me running in and out of stores, parking lots, looking at the time and slapping my forehead.
We don't have to put the brakes on this season, not if doing holidays are your thing, BUT what if we take some of that energy and spread some love around to more than just our own?
Here's a list of a few things our family has incorporated as new tradition. Sowing these seeds of kindness will grow into a harvest of your children feeling the same heart urgency to do for others, in their own families. What a thought, isn't it?
1. Ask at your church to forward a donation of grocery store gift cards to a family that is struggling. Our church will announce to pray for those looking for a job, and through confidentiality, they will forward your donation. Place your gift cards inside an envelope wishing them hope and remind them that they are in your thoughts and prayers. Wish them the warmth of the season.
2. Let your children pick out some of their favorite toys or games from the store; then deliver the gifts to a women's shelter so the children there will know that the world does love them.
3. Include your children in a trip to the grocery store for the sole purpose of donating to the food collection barrels there. Buy only items for the food barrel, and let your children choose the non perishables they think children in other families would enjoy. They'll delight you with their choices of red licorice, Oreos, and they'll remind you that people in need have children who want something special.
4. Rather than gifts, purchase an experience for your family: like tickets to a local production of A Christmas Carol, or another holiday show. Your ticket will support local arts and you know what every show needs to survive: an audience!
5. Take a trip to a bookstore with everyone, choose a holiday chapter book there. Read a chapter a night, together as a family. Write the date on the inside cover, and have everyone sign their names and write a short message. You've just created a keepsake.
6. Sit and share stories with your family about some of your favorite past holidays. Tell them why you remember the ones that you do, and what made it so special. Ask them about theirs. What they remember will impress you.
7. Go for a night drive, or a night walk; soak in how pretty all the holiday lights look. Enjoy being together with nothing else to distract you.
8. Check out a colorful holiday recipes book from your library, one with lots of pictures. Spend time poring over the pages, and choose a recipe that you can make as a new family favorite for your big dinner.
9. Rather than dinner one night, make several holiday appetizers: serve them all on round platters, along with small appetizer plates. I found some plates at WalMart for a dollar each and the kids' reaction was as if I was serving them up on emperor's plates.
10. Have a dinner by candle light during their winter break. Not just one candle holder, but many, many votives scattered all about the kitchen or dining room. Talk about the happiness you feel in having everyone home with you. The glow of the table will bring tears to your eyes, I promise.
11.Come home from the craft store with an armful of those fun paint it yourself ornaments. I have found them for less than a dollar each. Spread out an old shower curtain and paint away.
12. Rent a holiday movie and have a movie night. Declare this THE must watch every holiday season for your family. For us, it's Elf and It's a Wonderful Life. My family knows these two movies so well, we'll toss out a quote and shout, "Name the movie!" Shared memories, deepened bonds.
13. Really: this one. Make a gingerbread house. It is fun so don't let the thought terrify you. You can buy the kits for $9.99 now. With everything you need. Have little cups around of cut up red licorice, skittles, raisins, gum drops, pretzel sticks, to decorate. SO MUCH FUN but let your 'neatness' tendencies somewhere else for this one.
14. Don't stress over the holiday cookie bake. You can buy already made rolls that you just slice and they're just as delicious as the hand rolled out ones. Always fun to decorate and frost. Make an extra two dozen and deliver them to a senior center. They have coffee get togethers in the mornings, and you'll find people there who have no one else in the world to spend the holidays with. Make a card, kids' work necessary!, wishing them a healthy, happy new year.
15. Remind your children that the joy of the season is in thinking of our fellow man. Present options to them in how they'd like to give to help those with less. This year, my children chose to donate two hours of their time gift wrapping angel tree gifts for a women's shelter. My youngest went caroling at a nursing home.
16. Donate to every coat and mitten and boot and hat drive you read and hear about. A quick search on the internet will give you info on where to drop off, what size items are needed. We gave a few items last year to a community through our neighborhood high school who had put out a call for Syrian refugees expected that winter.
17. I just read this one, suggested by a friend of a friend, and it's something we can do in any amount. Check in with a school office and ask to donate or pay toward the account of a family who is behind in their lunch plan payment. Some schools will say yes and you've just taken the stress out of a financially taxing month for a family who will never forget your kindness.
Let your family, and you, feel the joy in giving. When you hear your children say, "That was fun, mom, and it felt good," you will have the magic of the holiday season, of how we really are happiest when we do for others.
Glitter and all.
*Happy Holidays to all of you, I wish you peace, and the making of new memories that will delight the child in all of us.