A Christmas cunundrum

First subject: CHRISTMAS
I'm having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. I'm torn, is what it is.

Don't get me wrong, I love the baking, seriously LOVE the baking. Any excuse to eat fudge for breakfast is alright by me. I'm also a big fan of the good cheer, of the holiday spirit and all. Of all the giving to the needy and all the getting together with friends and family, the better attitudes and cheerfulness. I love all the decorations and the twinkling lights and especially decorating the tree.

An aside (I can already tell one of many): Josh and I decorated our tree without Zeke this year, in a coffee-induced midnight-hour high. (since being either pregnant and/or breastfeeding fairly constantly the past few years coffee is a rarity for me and Josh almost never drinks the stuff, so 20 oz of starbucks each made us go a little mad) It seemed sacrilegious as first, leaving him out of the process of tree decorating, but I don't regret it in the least. Much like my decision to leave our pumpkins un-jack 'o lanterned this past Halloween, the next day I was feeling less like a scrooge and more like an intelligent mom that just avoided hell. He will be old enough for these traditions later. You know, when touching pumpkin goop wont send him into a conniption and there is no longer danger of him eating any of the hooks to hang ornaments.

But to get back to the point, in many ways I love Christmas. And I've been trying my hardest to get into the spirit of it. Josh took Zeke out on a special trip to buy food for the needy. I took Zeke over to a friend's house so the kid's could decorate gingerbread houses.
Or maybe so Kaitie and I could decorate gingerbread houses while the kids ran in and out of the room and begged for candy. You decide which actually happened with our 1 year olds.

So Christmas is great in many ways and I try to partake. But I also hate (and have long hated) all the commercialism of it. I hate the gifts. Really, I think Christmas would be 1,000 times better if it weren't for the presents. It's so uneccessary and so stressful (this year I made most of our gifts so it was more time stress than finanical stress, which is better but still fairly stressfull) and so against everything Josh and I believe in and the values we are trying to instill in Zeke. Uhg. Stuff. And the worship of stuff. Its hard enough to raise an American child without Christmas coming once a year.

Which brings me to my next subject: TOYS TOYS TOYS
I blogged recently about the fact that Zeke's list of possessions was getting a bit out of control. I'm not sure how it happened. We bought Zeke (from Santa) some window crayons and a few matchbox cars this year and I swear it was the first 10 dollars we ever spent on toys for him. First Christmas? Daddy-made toyshelf. First Birthday? Radioflyer Wagon (best double stroller-substitute ever). This Christmas? Rocking chair. We dont buy toys.

But we do recieve lots and lots and lots of gifts...and hand me downs. And we love it. Dont think I'm complaining. It has allowed us to save a lot of money on toys. Because a child does need some, after all. But like I said, it was getting out of control. Leaking out of his bedroom and slowly taking over the rest of the house.

But I just finished reading the book Simplicity Parenting.

Second aside: Hands down best parenting book I've read yet. As I joked to Josh, its the best kind of book, one that repeats back to me all my own firmly held beliefs. But joking aside it is an amazing and inspring read. Its not all fluff and opinion and lofty goals, like a lot of parenting books. Its very real, with real steps to accomplish real goals. And best (and rarest) of all, the steps are easily done and the goals honestly achievable.

The writer believes that kids today have plain too much. Too much stuff, too many activities, too much information, and too fast. And it takes you thru 4 sections on how to simplify their (and your) life. The first section is about toys, mostly about how a toy in the midst of a heap of toys cannot be truly cherished, and how simple is better and in many ways less is more. It takes you step by step on exactly how to go about throwing away, giving away, and storing away the excess. The second section is about rythm, and how a very small child is in control of only 3 things: eating, pooping, and sleeping (or more correctly NOT eating sleeping or pooping). And if they feel their life is out of control then they will try to gain some back in one or more of those ways. I love that he doesnt stress a schedule per say, as much as a general pattern of what days are like and clues that something next is coming. He even has a section on how to ease the discomfort if any sort of pattern at all is impossible for your family. The third section is on over-scheduling. Too many activities and why its important for kids to have free time (not time free to be filled but time free to *gasp* be bored). The fourth section is the one on too much information. Kids dont need to know about the economy, the families financial issues, the rain forest, or Iraq. These are adult issues and kids should be kids.

But to get back to the point, the book inspired me to donate a lot...and I mean 2 heaping full garbage bags...of toys.

3rd aside: It also inspired me to feel ok about Zeke not being in any activities for a few more years (I am not depriving him of opportunities, I am giving him the opportunity to be a small child), and to cut back on my computer time (we are great about tv around here but both Josh and I have a serious internet addiction).

I guess I just felt that every hand-me down had to be cherished, that each little mcdonalds thing was lovingly passed down to us and it would be beyond rude to not keep it. They were lovingly passed down to us, and we appreciate it so much, but that doesnt mean that I dont have the ability to lovingly continue the practice with some of them. So into the trash all the broken toys, all the toys with missing pieces and the toys that dont quite work went (a full bag there). And into the donation bag(s) went all the toys that Zeke had too many repeats of, never ever played with, or were plain just hated by me.

And we were left with toys that fit into his bedroom. No overflow. Toys that fit neatly on his shelves with enough space to see each one. An amount of toys that even my 18 month old (tomorrow) can clean up by himself. And Zeke loved it. It was as if without all the clutter and excess he truly had time to enjoy each toy again.

His books (and he has many) I didnt want to donate any of. So I took the advice given to me by so many of you and created a lending library. About 3/4 of his books are in a laundry basket in his closet while the rest sit on his headboard shelf, ready to be read over and over and over again. And when Christmas comes and threatens to overwhelm his little room again I plan on taking a portion of his new toys and a portion of his old and adding them to the basket to be switched out with available toys from time to time. Not only will it cut down on the clutter but it will provide him with something "new" consistantly, which is fun for both of us.

And just so no one thinks I'm abusing my poor son, dont worry, he was still left with a LOT of toys:
Added to this are his 3 under-the-bed drawers which hold individually peek-a-blocks, legos, and his beloved peg board.
And of course there is that basket of bath toys, and a half dozen or so outside toys, and his crayons in the kitchen...

So I suppose they may still be leaking out into the rest of the house. But I feel like I've really gotten some control and its brightened my view of all those wrapped boxes under the tree quite a bit.


Trippleaaa said...

FABULOUS!!!!! I would LOVE to get the author's name so I can find that book. It sounds like something I could certainly use.

Rachel said...

Love the new banner!

Sarah said...

I just finished the same book and loved it too. Doesn't it feel good to simplify?

coco-ono said...

Ashley- Kim John Payne is the author, the book's title is Simplicity Parenting. They have at least 2 copies at the Spokane library, that is where I got it.

Melissa aka Equidae said...

seems like the book i need

Lianne said...

I am so with you on simplicity. Since reading Foster's book on spiritual disciplines, I realized the need for simplicity in every aspect of life.

As to the dread of commercialized Christmas, you may find this movement interesting:
I'm a fan. :)

Lucy S. said...

I notice in the pictures a twin bed - does Zeke no longer sleep in a crib? I am curious to hear how that transition went. I have a son exactly Zeke's age and have baby boy #2 on the way the same time as your blueberry and am debating making the switch now or later. Just wondering how things went for you...
Feel well!

coco-ono said...

Lucy- The twin bed transition was great for us. I think Zeke was about 15 months when we switched him over? He's fallen out probably 3 times, but only 1 of those times did he wake up, and it didnt take him long to adjust. They also have inexpensive rails that we considered buying.
I will say that because of our sleep training practices (we cuddle to sleep and respond quickly to his crying for us in the night) the "trapped child" part of crib sleeping was never important to us. I think for a lot of people that is the hard part, with a twin they can just get up if they want to. Since we have always stayed with him until he is asleep, though, its not any different. And when he wakes up in the night he will sometimes come to our room for comfort but I figure those times he would have cried for me anyways so I just saved myself a trip!

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Anonymous said...

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