Last week, I wrote about the decision to give my son Miles a doll for Christmas. While stewing over gift-giving options, I expressed my dilemma to a friend: “I just don’t know what to get these kids who have everything.”
To this, she replied, “Do you have to get them a gift?”
I know there’s a great answer for this. I’ve read all sorts of inspirational essays and articles about this very topic. I suppose we don’t HAVE to get them a gift. We could skip gifts this year. We could take all the money we’d spend on Christmas and donate it to a noble cause. We could teach our kids about minimalism and non-materialism and all the delicious fruits of the spirit. We could probably start a chain reaction and bless the whole world if we did something like that.
And while I love the heart of these ideas and have gobs of respect for the people who follow through on such commitments, I just can’t bring myself to hop on that train.
In our family, we like giving gifts. We really, really like it — choosing something that our kids will cherish and adore, something special and unexpected that we’d never just buy on a regular Tuesday afternoon. We’re a one-income family. We are masters of finding delight in cheap thrills and small pleasures. We choose wisely and live frugally throughout the whole stinkin’ year. But at Christmas, we live big. At Christmas, we live special.
On the morning of the 25th, we sit beside the tree, boys in their matchy red and green striped PJs (thanks, Grandma – the ORIGINAL extravagant giver) and before a single gift is unwrapped, my husband reads the story of the birth of Jesus, of the very first Christmas. You guys, this is complete torture for our kids! You have never seen little boys as antsy and dancy as these three while Chad reads that passage from his Bible! We love reading and sharing the story of Jesus’s humble birth — it’s the essence of our faith. But we also make a point to bring attention to one of the richest layers of the story that is often skimmed over –the coming of the magi. Those three kings who brought gifts to Jesus from faraway lands didn’t bring just anything — they brought something meaningful. They brought something special to say–
You, dear child, are precious.
You, dear child, are loved.
With just a few weeks until Christmas, I am growing more excited EVERY DAY to give gifts to my friends and family, tangible objects that deliver the intangible message that the recipient is special and loved. Here are a few items I am giving this year, some tried and true children’s gifts, and a few grown-up gifts I enjoy presenting to dear ones.
For little people:
This sweet tale about a mouse looking for a cozy home reminds children that no creature is small or insignificant in the eyes of God. My boys immediately adored this book. It is the most-requested bedtime story of all our Christmas stories. I like it because the story is concise enough to hold the attention of preschoolers, but thought-provoking enough for kindergarteners. Jane Chapman’s illustrations are vivid and detailed, making the book delightful for both the eyes and ears.
I rarely give digital toys because I find them to be
annoying as hell distracting. But this drum has pleasant sounds, with a choice of tones or songs, and a cool chime feature when the drum is rolled on its side. Grateful momma perk: two volume levels.
People, let’s just admit it — a lot of children’s music is downright torturous to listen to. Elizabeth Mitchell is a godsend. Her music is folky and catchy, but never obnoxious. I have several of her CDs and enjoy them all, but You are My Sunshine is my hands-down fave. I like it so much I listen to it even when my kids are not around. I mean, I would if that were ever to happen.
These bristle blocks are crazy popular at our house. They are bright, easy to build with, and encourage imaginative play. Bonus: the plastic storage container has held up to a couple years of abuse by rowdy little boys.
This simple, but magical story of a father taking his child owling on a crisp winter night is an absolute treasure. Jane Yolen’s fluid, poetic style shines through the narrative, and John Schoenherr’s soft illustrations bring the audience right into the scene. This book remains on our shelf long after the Christmas books are packed away. Perfect pairing: I’m giving this book with an adorable owl puppet from Folkmanis. His head even turns from side to side!
Once you hold a Folkmanis puppet in your hands, you’ll be amazed by the quality and realistic detail. It’s no surprise that kids (and parents) love these things!
For older kids: I’m not much help in this department since my three are five years old and under, but my hip Aunt Nancy found these light-up interlocking blocks for my oldest son and we think they’re brilliant.
We have the samurai but there are dozens of fun choices. This is one smart toy.
And now, for the big people on your list…
I know what you’re thinking. Pajamas — bo-riiiing. But I’m telling you, these are the softest, comfiest, loveliest pajamas a girl could put on her body. They wash beautifully and hold up for years. The sleep cami is my favorite. It has adjustable straps and is long enough to cover your bum, so a midnight trip to the potty isn’t totally embarrassing when your ten-year-old bumps into you in the hallway.
Are there any guys here? (Whispering now.) You can’t go wrong with these pajamas. The really sexy ones are still super comfy, so she’ll want to wear them. The comfy ones are silky and luxurious, so she’ll feel sexy in them, which is never a bad thing. Buy the pajamas.
I could start another post, if not another blog, about how I adore Shauna Niequist, but let me attempt to sum it up here. Shauna writes about relatable experiences in a sincere, charming, best-friendish kind of voice. Her most recent book, Bread and Wine, is simply delightful. She calls it “a love letter to life around the table with recipes.” I tell you, I laugh-cried my way through the essays and then concocted every recipe in this book. It was ALL delicious. So really, this book is a two-fer gift — inspirational essays and cookbook in one. I’m giving this book to a few special ladies in my life, and you should too.
PS – Shauna’s new devotional book, Savor, is forthcoming in March, so if you fall in love (and you will), you’ll have something to add to your wish list!
And last, for the person who is absurdly hard to buy for:
Again, you say, bo-riiing. But you’re wrong. These are not the wool socks your great-aunt Beatrice gave you in 1991. They are soft (not scratchy!) and structured (not saggy!) They come in hundreds of style/color combinations. I have been wearing these socks for years. I never know what to buy for my brother-in-law, so last year I bought him some mid-weight hunting SmartWools and he even raved a little about how comfy they are. I’m telling you, everyone wants SmartWool socks even if they don’t know it yet. Yeah, they’re twenty-ish bucks, but with an anytime guarantee (I’ve used it), you can’t go wrong. Because even hard-to-buy-for brother-in-laws have feet.
There you have it, my friends. May your gift-giving be a reflection of the spirit of this season — thoughtful, inspirational, and best of all, fun!