Monday, December 12, 2022
Happy Monday, Friends! In our homes, the last minute holiday details are falling into place… schedules of where we all will be and when have at last been determined and the household decorating is almost complete.
Laura’s family has always had the tradition of putting up a live unsheared balsam as our Christmas tree. Some years the tree has held a certain Charlie Brown charm while other years the chosen tree has overwhelmed us with its quiet beauty! Either way, Laura remembers her dad’s words, “A living tree for a living Christ” and, as a result, the family tree typically goes up around December 10 and stays up until Epiphany begins on January 6, following the 12 days of Christmas. (That’s if Laura’s hubby can stand the constant dropping of needles that takes place!)
While our homes are just about ready to welcome Christmas there are still plenty of tasks to complete. Cards still need to be addressed and the last minute shopping crunch is definitely in gear! Therefore, it’s fitting that today’s post focuses on grand gift giving!
This will be Little L’s first Christmas and Laura and family are so excited to see the holiday through her eyes! Memories of Little D’s first Christmas last year are still fresh in their minds, but Laurie and family are equally anticipating all the fun that comes with a toddler in their midst!
While it would be easy to overdo (!) and overspend (!) when it comes to our Littles, we both agree that in terms of gift giving, our goal is to communicate openly with and defer to our Middles and their wishes for the Littles in our lives! How many gifts to buy? Any special requests or preferences? When will our gatherings take place?
So many decisions to be made! The last thing we want to do is to add to the stress our Middles might be feeling during this hectic season!!
With that said, there is one grand gift giving tradition neither of us is willing to give up! Our Middles LOVE their Christmas stockings! Today, we will share our stocking stuffing lists - items we’ve brainstormed as possibilities to include in our Middles’ and our Littles’ stockings this year! Then, Laurie will offer a reflection as she recalls how she and her husband taught their children the importance of saying “thank you” when receiving gifts from others. Finally, we’ll share a few quick tips to serve as guidelines when creating your Grand gift lists for your Littles!
Growing up, all of our children - Laurie’s & Laura’s alike - looked forward to opening their Christmas stockings on Christmas morning. In fact, this has continued to be an important part of each of our Christmas traditions, regardless of when it occurs! We are guessing this is true for many families!
Our Middles definitely expect to see specific things in their stockings year after year (i.e. toothpaste or favorite chocolates). However, we each do our best to come up with a few new or creative yet inexpensive items to surprise them with each year. This has increasingly become more of a challenge as our Middles grow older, in-laws have joined the fold and interests, needs and wants have evolved! And then, of course, there is the added bonus now of stuffing stockings for our Littles, as well! Below are some of the ideas we’ve brainstormed for stuffing our stockings this year! Maybe you’ll find a new idea or two to add to your stocking stuffing lists, too!
Stuffing Our Christmas Stockings
Below you will find our compiled list of suggested items that we often include (or think could be fun to include) when putting together our family’s Christmas stockings!
Let’s begin with our list for our Middles (our adult children)!
While we always have fun filling our Middles’ stockings, we are both especially excited to stuff our Littles stockings this year!! Here’s the lists we’ve brainstormed for our infant & toddler Littles and then a separate list for preschool (and perhaps older) Littles in our lives!
As part of her Little’s stocking contents, Laura is making a few sensory bottles for Little L to enjoy playing with! Look for an update (with photos of Laura’s take on this project) later this week on Instagram (@our_grand_lives) or a photo update will be included in next week’s post, too! In the meantime, here’s the link to this fun project!
We hope our suggestions help you with your Grand Gift Giving endeavors. We are always looking for ideas to add to our own stocking lists, so if you and your family have a recommendation for us, please share in the comments section at the end of this post! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
As the holidays approach, it is a good idea to start talking with your children about not just gift giving, but also gift receiving. We all know the awkward moment after a child opens a gift, parrots a parent’s prompt of “Thank you” and then quickly tosses the gift aside. When my two children were young, I wanted them to be more aware of what goes on behind the gift giving and decided that we needed to practice our “present” manners!. I wrapped up some items in my house - some coveted gifts - a game, a stuffed animal, some less desired gifts - their socks, a toothbrush and finally some silly gifts, too - a spoon, a box of macaroni and cheese. (PLEASE NOTE: All of these “gifts” were already in our home, some being my children’s current toys - I did not buy anything new!)
I laid out the gifts in front of my kids and talked to them about how exciting this was for them to look at. I shared how exciting it was for me to find gifts for them because I loved them and hoped to make them happy. (I did tell them, however, that none of the wrapped items were new gifts, but things I had found in the house for our game,) I explained that over the next week or so, they would be receiving some gifts from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends who also wanted to make them happy and so it was important to practice our “present” manners. (Most) people would give gifts to them because they love them. Sometimes people may not know them as well and have to guess about what they liked. I further explained that no matter what the gift might be, we need to understand that someone has thought about us and hoped to make us happy.
First I asked them each to go find one of their favorite toys and give it to me. The first time I made a funny face and said “Yuk” and tossed it aside. I asked them how they felt about that. They thought it was funny but by gentle questioning I made them realize it also made them feel sad. They loved the animal/book/toy they gave me and wanted me to love it too. The next time I smiled and hugged the gift. They could see and feel the difference.
So the game began... I made 3 rules. 1. You open the gift respectfully. 2. You say one positive thing about the gift as you look it over. 3. You thank the person - making eye contact. The first gifts were easy - they “opened” their games and stuffed animals and hugged each and smiled. We talked about what to say. “I love it!” and “It’s my favorite!” were very easy comments to come up with!
We moved on to the practical things. They did great on the opening, but had to think of what to say. They came up with phrases like “Now my feet will stay warm!” and “My other toothbrush is old so now my teeth will be better!” Because of their ages, I helped with examples of what could work. We also talked about why grandma would give them socks when they might really want toys. They were especially impressed when I told them the story my mom had always told me - she was young and lived on a farm during the Depression. Sometimes a toothbrush and an orange or apple were the only gifts she received and she knew her mom and dad were taking care of her with all they had to give, so that gift was very special to her. She was passing on a heartfelt memory to them.
We moved on to the silly things, and thought about why people might think they needed a spoon or a box of macaroni and cheese. My 4 year old said it best with “maybe they don’t know we buy macaroni and cheese all the time and they know kids love it so it's a big deal to them!”
The last thing we talked about was what to do if they got something they already had. I encouraged them not to mention it and told them that I would help them figure it out after the event. If the person asked “Do you have this?” I told them to be truthful and say yes, but they could also add “but that’s ok because I love it so much!” or “you must know how much I love to color!”
We laughed a lot but I was very proud of how well they did. We played this game from the time my kids were two and four years old and then repeated it for the next 2 - 3 years. I often reminded them of my 3 rules before birthday parties and Christmas. I was very proud when my kids would comment on another child’s manners, and say “Boy, their mom must not have taught them ‘present’ manners.”
My kids have always been gracious gift givers as well as receivers, and I have received many compliments on this over the years.
At age 29 and 31, they still talk about these lessons. During our current family gift opening events we sometimes laugh and tell each other to stop admiring and complimenting the gift and move on!! Some lessons are very well learned!
We each laughed out loud when we read the above quote! (In fact, did you take a close look at the photo of Laurie with her Little D earlier in this post? If not, go back and take a look at Little D’s shirt!) Too funny!
While we love spoiling our Littles, as we said at the beginning, we both know the importance of restraining ourselves. In addition to our fave, the Christmas Stocking tradition, we both are planning to follow a simple guideline for buying gifts for our Littles. Here’s one we both love:
This guideline seems to cover all our bases (and all the things we love) and has given us direction as we shop! As our Littles grow older, we can also see the merit of gifting them an experience… no clutter and a shared activity or adventure seems like a win-win and another option we will probably explore in the future! Do you have any advice for us? Let us know if you have other recommendations for us to consider! We welcome them all!
We have two more weeks of these “Sneak Peek” posts - our introduction to this blog and the types of content we look forward to sharing with you in the future! As our homepage states, the main purpose in creating Our Grand Lives is to create memories that the heart holds forever! Our intent, with each post, has been to share resources and experiences that do just that!
Join us next week when our topic “Merry! Merry!” focuses on ways to enhance your family celebrations! On December 26, our “Happy New Year” post will offer our thoughts and ideas for adding some flair to your festivities! Then, following some time off, our regular posts will kick off the week of January 9. (😉 Remember, you can always subscribe so you never miss a post and you can always find us on Instagram - @our_grand_lives for additional content and fun!)
As we continue to cross things off our holiday lists, finish addressing the cards and making sure every detail has been dealt with, our hope and prayer is that we all - us included - keep the gifts of family, friends and faith at the forefront of all we do!