Holidays

Asking for Less ‘Stuff’ without Seeming Like a Grinch

Hello, dear villagers!

I am a winter holiday kind of person. I want to start listening to my favourite jingly, ho-ho-ho-ing tunes the day after Halloween. The only thing that keeps me from putting up a tree mid-November is the fact that the grocery store near our house doesn’t sell them until now. First weekend of December, my house looks like this:

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Singing carols makes me happy. My favourite holiday movies make me sigh, weep, and giggle with nostalgia. Twinkly lights on houses all over town, reminding us that there is cozy, hopeful goodness shining through at the darkest time of the year, is one of life’s greatest pleasures for me.

And yet this year, I got a little anxious at the thought: Christmas is coming.

Because I have two small kids.

And I spent 2018 trying to get through Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. (I still haven’t made it to every category yet, but I will, even if it takes me twice as long as she said it would!)

The thought of not even being finished purging my home of extra stuff once and suddenly getting bags and boxes of lovely gifts made me feel – I’m sad to say – defeated.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles at this time of year at the intersection of seeking a less cluttered, more minimal home environment and loving the excitement, festivity, and participation of the BIG. FAMILY. CHRISTMAS. WITH. KIDS.

So I decided to write a letter to my family and friends, asking for their help. I posted it as a Facebook Note on October 1st titled, “A Humble Holiday Ask.” I wanted to share it here too, in case you or anyone you know is going through the same thing and wondering, How on earth do I SAY this stuff without coming off like a big ol’ GRINCH??

Here’s what I wrote (insert your own favourite local shops/haunts/etc):

Dear family members, friends, and loved ones who thrive with gift-giving,

 

I have a request this upcoming holiday season. I’m hoping you can help me with something I’ve been working on this year and that I’m really happy with. I’m writing this early because I know that unlike me, many of you are way more on-the-ball, early-bird-gets-the-worm types. (I admire and envy you for that!)

 

For the past year, I’ve been working hard to purge our house of extra stuff. I’m still not quite done, but almost there, and the results have been good for me. Having less stuff gives me more physical space to move around, more metaphorical space to think, more time to enjoy my family, and an increased sense of calm. (Some people thrive in cozy spaces full of souvenirs of treasured places – turns out I thrive with nearly blank walls and shelves, lol.)

 

So I humbly ask for your support in this process, which I know can seem at odds with our holiday culture. In return, I also want to support your preferences and wishes at holiday time, and don’t want to dismiss the joy any of you get from gift giving.
  • If you prefer not exchanging gifts and instead all you want for the holidays is to spend some time together, let’s make plans!
  • If you prefer to give gifts, but are okay with the less tangible kind, here are some things I/we would be ever so grateful for:
    • Gift cards for consumable treats – Fireroasted Coffee, Black Walnut, Plant Matter Kitchen/Bistro, Starbucks, Tim’s, Swiss Chalet, Five Guys, LCBO, etc…
    • Passes for things to do in our area – Storybook Gardens, Play Away, Junction Rock Climbing, movies, Clovermead, Port Stanley train events, Spectrum activities, etc…
    • Experiences you want to invite the kids to – it’s a double gift: fun and time spent with you!
    • Gift cards to stores we use regularly – CostCo, Once Upon a Child, Superstore, Ellen’s Children’s Shoes, Mastermind Toys, Plato’s Closet, Curiosities, Quartermaster, MEC, Farmboy, HomeSense, Home Hardware, Indigo/Chapters…
    • Contributions to the kids’ RESPs (we can never have too much invested for their futures!)
    • Charitable donations in our names to organizations that warm your heart and ours.
  • If you get joy and cheer from giving presents wrapped up with a bow, I appreciate that and would never want to take that from you! If you’d like to help me with my goal of a less-stuff-life while doing that…
    • Feel free to ask me what types of clothing the kids currently need if you’re thinking of clothes for them (often we’ll have way too many of one type, but be desperate for another by laundry day)
    • Know that an in-home children’s library is the ONE collection of items that can never be too big for me!
    • Consider multi- and longer-use kids toys – many toys spark in-the-moment joy but then are forgotten a few days or a week later
    • Aim for kids’ items that encourage imagination, creativity, problem-solving, and confidence
    • Remember that our little guys are spoiled in the best sense of the word – they are surrounded by so many people who love them, and the smaller the overall collection of new items is, the more attention they can pay and the more appreciation they can have for each gift they receive
    • Check out this registry I’ve started for the family, if you want more ideas (we’ll add to it whenever we think of something we need/would love): link here to an Amazon wishlist
Many thanks for ‘hearing’ me out. If you have questions or concerns, I’m always happy to talk. And if you think I’m being ridiculous and want to ignore me, you have that right, too!
Love,
Lindsay

I was scared to write this, but I actually got a huge amount of support from my near and dear ones. Which, in retrospect, I’m not sure why I ever doubted – I have awesome people in my village!

How about you?

Have you struggled with this? Have you successfully made the kind of thoughtful asks you want to so that you don’t feel torn at holiday time and can just enjoy the spirit of the season?

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On Love Day, Love Yourself, Too

Valentines’ Day, or as I prefer to call it, Love Day, is upon us. Absolutely, it is a contrived, silly, excessively-commercialized “holiday” that often causes more sadness and distress than happiness and contentment.

However, it seems to be here to stay, and now that I’m a mom, it’s harder to ignore. I almost never do anything out of the ordinary for Feb 14, but this year, with A being three and in a childcare center for part-time care, it’s different. He received a story book called “Franklin’s Valentines” and has asked to have it read repeatedly in the last couple of weeks. His childcare teachers provided a list of all the kids’ names, when one parent asked specifically for the occasion. Valentine’s Day is creeping into his consciousness, so I can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist anymore.

I’ve put it out there to my social media circles in past years that on Love Day, we can expand our understanding love beyond romance. I know (and I’m glad!) that I’m not the only person doing this re-framing – just think of the popularity of Galentine’s Day, for a start!

Yet one type of love that stands out to me as particularly absent in Love Day discussions is self-love. I’m not talking about cliched notions of “self-care” (read: “me time” of the bubble bath/wine night/spa date variety, though these are lovely!). I’m not talking about selfies on social media proclaiming to other people that we love ourselves/aren’t ashamed of our stretch marks, under-eye circles and less-than-taut bellies post-motherhood.

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I’m talking about real, deep, feel it in your belly self-love.

I’m talking about staring yourself in the eyes in a mirror and knowing that you truly love the person you’re facing, in the same way you love your best friend, your sister, or your partner.

I’m talking about hugging yourself and feeling sincere, not silly.

I’m talking about laughing with tears in your eyes that you still have so much love to give yourself, even when you think you’ve given all you can to your partner, your children, your friends.

I’m talking about knowing that love is infinite, even when time and attention and patience aren’t, and that you radiate love all the time, even when you’re mad (sometimes especially when you’re mad).

I’m talking about seeing the beauty in yourself that the ones closest to you see, and more – not in a vain way, but in an honest way.

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If you’ve never thought about self-love this way or felt it so deeply, don’t worry – our culture doesn’t teach us to, as women or as mothers. This is an inside job, and it’s one we have to do on our own, because the world at large isn’t always telling us we’re worth it.

But we are. We so are.

Happy Love Day, you beautiful, wonderful, radiant mama, you.

 

 

Two Moms, One Question: What About Santa?

With both moms here at Raise A Mother having young toddlers, this holiday season begs the questions: to Santa or not to Santa? How much to Santa? And what about when it’s time to stop Santa-ing?

LINDSAY:

I may be the more cynical of the two of us, but I’m struggling with the whole concept of Santa. I recently went out with a group of mom friends whose eldest kiddos are 2-year-olds, like A, and when we talked about it, it seemed to me that almost everyone in the group had some reservations about this aspect of Christmas. Asking other moms I know since then has revealed the same issues. Whether it’s a major or hardly-there concern, and whether it’s about putting too much focus on getting presents, feeling pressure to buy more presents than you otherwise would, being creeped out by the Big Brother he-sees-you-when-you’re-sleeping connotations, or worries about ‘lying’ to your kids and how you’ll address that when they inevitably find out – almost every mom I’ve talked to acknowledges some weirdness about it. However, the overwhelming conclusion seems to be that as uncomfortable as those issues are, most of us plan to do Santa in some shape or form, since we don’t want our kids to be left out.

So my first question this Christmas is: are the majority of new parents out there today initiating Santa with their kids not because they really really want to, but because it’s just what we do collectively

This is where I’m struggling, because I can’t think of other areas of life where I’m trying to create the illusion for my kids that a fantasy is real. And don’t get me wrong, I really like many aspects of Santa, like his qualities of generosity, jollity, and cheer. I love putting out the cookies the night before and hanging stockings. Not to mention that the general ability to believe in magic that most of us lose with growing up seems so precious in kids. But I’m still challenged by the idea of deliberately engaging my kid with a fantasy story as if it’s realWhen we read a book about talking engines or dragons, I don’t feel a need to stop and say, “Just so you know, this isn’t real.” But I’m also not going out of my way to create dragon-sightings or doing ventriloquism with his toy trains to try to migrate those stories into his real life. It’s a puzzle to me, so I’d love to hear from some other moms in the village on how you resolve this!

 

SHANNON:

I guess I’ll start by answering the question Lindsay posed in her response: No, I’m not just planning on doing Santa with my kids because I don’t want them to feel left out. I’m planning on Santa-ing because I have very fond memories of believing in Santa as a young child, and because I like the sense of excitement, joy and magic that he brings to the season for kids.

I guess I don’t struggle as much with the idea of Santa. My childhood self wasn’t scarred or even hurt when I found out that Santa wasn’t real. I didn’t feel betrayed. I understood that my parents and the adults around me had created a fun, pretend time for us. To me, it didn’t feel very different than when my Mom would commit to some other form of imaginative play and then the game would eventually end. My Mom never felt the need to point out that we couldn’t really turn into mermaids. On some level, even as a very young child, I already knew that. But that didn’t stop me from wishing ardently on countless stars that I would someday sprout a fish tail. That’s what kids do. They believe in magic – whether it’s magic presented to them by others or magic fostered in their own imaginations. 

I remember feeling disappointed that Santa wasn’t real, but also that I already kind of knew. Because kids generally do figure this out on their own. And with Santa, as with many things in parenting, I want to meet my kids where they are, to let them take the lead. Once they start expressing their own doubts, I like to think I’ll take that cue as a sign that they’re ready to learn the truth without feeling shocked or blindsided.

It is absolutely important to me to teach my children that giving is more important than getting, and to set reasonable limits on spending. These things are true every day of the year, not just around Christmas. I think when you are modelling and talking about these kinds of lessons throughout the year, children expect them at the holidays too. Like virtually everything else in parenting, I think you make the holidays work in the way that works best for your family – not the other way around. So, Mamas, how do you make them work for you?

 

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GUEST POST: An Elf I WANT My Kids to Emulate

We’re absolutely thrilled to have Caitlin Murphy writing her first guest post for Raise a Mother. She is a dear childhood friend of Lindsay and Shannon, and someone we both admired as a parent before either of us had kids of our own. Caitlin is an imperfect perfectionist, empath, and mama to three wonderful wildings – with another on the way! She has a passion for working with children and families, reading, and writing, and lives with her family and husband, John, in London, Ontario, Canada.

I love Christmas. There’s something about the holiday season that makes me feel like a kid again… and now, as a parent, I get to witness that magic through the eyes of my little ones! My family always had a lot of treasured Christmas traditions, and now that I have a family of my own, we’ve carried them on with the new generation. Decorating the house while listening to Christmas carols, making a gingerbread house while listening to Christmas carols, baking delicious treats while listening to Christmas carols (there might be a common theme here…) – the list goes on! But mostly, I associate the holidays with spending time with family and friends, and a general feeling of spreading kindness and the “Christmas spirit.” I wanted to share those same sentiments with my kids – to teach them that the meaning of Christmas goes beyond presents, treats, and holiday sweaters.

A few years ago, when my oldest was a toddler, the Elf on the Shelf became “a thing”. My mom bought one for us as a gift, and without giving it a lot of thought, we followed the basic premise: the elf arrived at the house to keep an eye on things until Christmas Eve, we gave him a name (“Spat” – thanks 2-year-old!), and every day he was in a new funny place for the kids to find (if I remembered to move him, of course!). It’s a cute idea, but parts of it didn’t quite sit right with me… the idea of this little dude reporting to Santa about my kids’ behaviour seems…. A little Big Brother to me. Also, some of the elf antics I’ve seen posted on Facebook or copious Pinterest posts are pretty mischievous or naughty… not really behaviour I want to encourage. As much as possible, I try to practice positive parenting, and my mom (a former child psychologist) has always said one of the best ways to encourage positive behaviour in kids is to “catch them being good.” So we decided to shake things up a little with our elf!
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GUEST POST: Halloween Cookie Project For Kids

This month’s guest post comes from Kimberly Chapman, a competitive cake decorator who teaches beginner/kid friendly classes in the US and UK.  She is a multiple prize winner at various international shows, including first-place awards. She’s known for her dynamic and detailed figure work, as well as pushing the boundaries of standard techniques to the point that the Austin show created an Innovator Award, of which she was the first and only multiple winner.  She blogs her edible media experiments at Eat the Evidence. in between other crafts, authoring feminist romance novels, community volunteering, and being a mom to a preschooler and a preteen.  She had to tell her preschooler to “Stop that!” three times during the writing of this bio and expects to be fetching the first aid kit any minute now. We’re very excited to have such an accomplished kitchen whiz share her skills with us at Raise A Mother. For more fun ideas, check out her site!

Hi, I’m Kimberly from Eat the Evidence,and I specialize in coming up with wacky cake and cookie projects for kids and decorating beginners. One of my most popular tutorials is how to make your own fake, edible, chocolate-flavoured blood for Halloween treats, so for a collaboration with Raise A Mother, I’m very excited to my bring my 3D filled cookie techniques to a whole new audience.

On Eat the Evidence, I often use a special pan covered with semi-spheres to make dome-shaped cookies that can be filled with candy, the fake blood, or other fillings.  But I know not everyone has access to or interest in buying such a device.  So for this article, I’m going to show you how to use basic kitchen tools to still be able to create filled cookies, explaining everything at a beginner-friendly level with lots of options so you can create with confidence.

Let’s make some filled 3D tombstone cookies!
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Why It’s Important to Travel With My Kids

Traveling with kids is more difficult than without. Hands down, bar none. I say this based on my own experience: my pre-parent self lived and traveled in Southeast Asia for two years in her mid-twenties, and my now-mama self just finished her first two-week air/road trip with a baby and a toddler.

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free tickets when they’re under two, but you have to hold them on your lap…

In what now seems like my past life, traveling was a breeze and a joy Continue reading

At the Dawn of Your New Year…

Good morning Mamas, and Happy New Year!

Each Jan 1, it seems like pressure to make resolutions is everywhere, and unfortunately, resolutions often have the tendency to focus on what is ‘wrong’ with us or our lives: commit to stop doing something ‘bad’ even if it doesn’t really hurt us, or limit things we really enjoy, or force ourselves to do something we don’t like. Many people, me included, don’t do traditional ‘resolutions’ because the whole exercise can seem pretty negative. (Jamie over at The Poptart Diaries published a post just this morning that I found quite familiar on that front!)

On the flip side, I (also like many people) do enjoy the process of reflecting and getting inspired for bettering myself and my life. So I’ve pulled together a few ideas here for how to do some reflection – if you’re so inclined – without the pressure, negativity, or self-destruction that resolution-making can sometimes bring at the end of an otherwise jolly holiday season:

  1. This simple post from Instagram user elephantjournal (this is the one I’m personally going to give a go this year): Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 10.48.32
  2. Writings like this that reverse thinking on common resolutions: 7 Things Good Mothers Do That I’m Not Going to Do. (My favourite part is when Anderson explains she’s not going to be “eternally patient” because “It’s good for kids to recognize the incipient stages of someone losing their shit. This will serve them well in the world.”)
  3. Reframing resolutions as ‘intentions,’ which allows some general reflection without getting caught up in the quantifiable details that so often cause people to stumble and ultimately give up early on the goals they’ve set for themselves.
  4. Rather than making a list solely of goals you haven’t met yet, try a list of anticipations or excitements for the year ahead. My husband and I did this a few years ago (and we had a really good name for it, too, but as it was on a pre-crash computer and I have baby brain, I can’t remember it now!). It was a fun exercise because it reconnected us to our favourite activities, both separately and together, so that we were each reminded of the things that make our partner really happy, and renewed our desire to help the other person experience those things more often. It also allowed us to highlight all the things that were already going to be happening in the coming months that we were pumped about, and see what we already had going in an exciting light, rather than only thinking about things we wished or hoped might be different. The best tangible result was that it encouraged us to actually plan and take a fun road-trip that summer. We’d both been missing traveling a lot since moving home from overseas a couple of years before, and putting it in writing in January allowed us the time and momentum to make it happen by August!

I’d love to hear more ideas from my village community – what do you do at the dawn of a new year?

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