Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Lists and Unexpected {Gifts}

Today on 12-12-12---it is also 12 days before Christmas.  I have a tiny bit of stress about that.  Okay--maybe not so tiny.  Maybe big-tiny.  I am so sure I am not alone in this.  First I have to say that the 'commercialism' part of Christmas is a bit less in France.  I do think that America may have that dubious 'honor' of being the most over-the-top so for that I am thankful--that we have less to deal with in terms of some of the craziness.  But even still I was noticing a few weeks ago that even in our family the emphasis was rapidly becoming more about the Christmas LISTs than Christmas.... and I was a little discouraged.  I have a teen and a nine year-old---both boys, both heavily into pricey electronics and video games--and also Petite-Fille who turns TWO next month--so this is an exceedingly fun child-proofing, hazard reducing, sensory sensitive holiday endeavor.... so for her not at all about the list... or Santa.... Yet.

The teen is obviously beyond Santa but the nine year-old is still clinging to the spirit of Santa--at least the 'getting presents from' part..... and hence in desperation last week (December 6th to be exact because I was very aware that we made it the first week of the month) that I uttered those very powerful words to him---two words that bring chills and instant remorse no matter what the situation..... naughty. list.

Done.  He was warned.  It worked for a couple of days.  It was worth it.

I am the house decorator (Shocking! Yes I know!)... I do it because I love to and I also do it for the holidays because it makes me feel 'in-the-spirit' no matter what else is going on..... daily things, stress.....Christmas lists.  But I was starting to feel that with 'les enfants'  no tree, no wreaths, no Nativity set... would bring about the real Christmas spirit-----and I decided that even if I skipped it all--as long as there was a pile of loot on Christmas morning---it was all that mattered.

...That is not okay.

The 'kids' tree upstairs--I hope we get to add some more homemade ornaments this year too!
 A few things I decided to do---to 'reclaim' Christmas---from Santa, from Nintendo--from whoever!  I decided that instead of forcing them to watch downloaded holiday specials in English (they don't watch TV at all here in France---ever.) I would instead suggest (read--enforce) that we would read a Christmas story every night starting this past Monday-- it had to be genuine, have a lesson or Biblical basis, be fun or moving and age appropriate and entertaining if possible---I know---lofty goals but I have to say that I have found plenty of sources for great family stories on the Internet!  Tonight I even asked the 'teen' to find one and read it to his brother at bedtime...he found Little Drummer Boy and Middle Garcon was riveted while he read it (and no, it had no Mario or Luigi or Sponge Bob in it---go figure).

Here is the other major advancement---the financial budget was HUGELY decreased for each of them--and surprise, surprise again---they were okay with it.  Wow!  Seriously.  Not solely to diminish the appetite of the 'greed monster' but also like many people we are much tighter these days and we just have to be realistic.  And finally they were coached to re-evaluate their 'wish lists' (no longer referred to as 'list of demands') by making it fit the following criteria:

Something you want
Something you need
Something to wear  (I changed this to share as I felt it was good for the boys to chose something to play together.)
Something to read
Something to give..... added also to help them learn generosity....

This is from an amazing blog post by Jen Hatmaker that has rocked our Christmas world.  Read it here!  
(If you have kids you can thank me later for sharing it!)

Thinking about gifts---I found this great "Ten Free Gifts' that I really love too.  There is no limited 'gift budget' on any of these......

(Author unknown)
1. The gift of listening
Try giving this to someone in need. And you must really listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your responses. Just listen.
2. The gift of signs of affection
Be generous with your hugs, kisses and gentle squeezes of the hand. Let these tiny actions demonstrate the love inside of you.
3. The gift of a note
It can be as simple as “I Love You” or as creative as a sonnet. Put your notes where they will surprise your loved ones.
4. The gift of laughter
Just cut out a cartoon, save a clever article. Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”
5. The gift of compliment
A simple “You look good in blue” or “Good supper” can be of greatest value to those who may feel they are being taken for granted.
6. The gift of a favor
Help with the dishes, run an errand, etc.
7. The gift of leaving alone
There are times in our lives when we want nothing better than to be left alone. Become more sensitive to those times and give solitude.
8. The gift of a cheerful disposition
Try to be cheerful around those you love.
9. The gift of a game
Offer to play your loved one’s favorite game. Even if you lose, you’ll be a winner.
10. The gift of prayer
Pray for your loved ones and let them know you pray for them.

So I have been long-winded here---but I am more challenged to blog as things get busier and I wanted to share...... and I finished the decorating---(you were worried right?)

Actually I thought I was finished ....tree (s) mantle, etc. and then as an unexpected gift French Guy brought me a really beautiful 19th century 'hand basket'.  I had to 'work' it into the decor---mais bien sur! I eye these at the brocantes--they are usually in poor shape (due to being a few hundred years old no doubt!) and if not very expensive.  He found this one--and gave it to me as a little pre-Christmas gift---unexpected--which along with the other list of 'ten' free things ..... is the best kind of gift I can think of! 

More soon!---I hope.  12 days and counting!