Best Christmas ever! Those are the words I always dreamed of hearing from my kids, but somehow "Bah Humbug" always came out of my own mouth before Christmas morning ever hit. But finally, last year, that magical moment came when the kids said it, and I had never uttered one bah humbug all month.
We have five kids and what some people consider a tiny house. I have weak ankles, and if I tripped over one more toy, I swore I was going to donate them all. We decided that what our kids really needed was memories, not more stuff. We decided to do things instead of give things.
I made a list of inexpensive or free events in our community and determined to hit them all. Santa Claus always comes to our local Mom and Pop hardware store to hand out candy canes, and we have a lovely small-town Christmas tree lighting with free cookies and hot cocoa. Afterwards, we drove around town looking at the neighborhood lights. It turns out that ten minutes away one gentleman goes really over-the-top and decks his yard out with multi-colored lights synchronized to music. We spent a long time there "oohing" and "ahhing."
An ice skating rink in a nearby town has a "Santa Skate Day" when they are half-priced. A particular bowling alley is cheap on Monday mornings. The Reptile Zoo in another nearby town is $5 a child and very warm. Art museums always have discount days. With a family of 7, it makes sense to buy family memberships at places like the Children's Museum and the Science Center. They pay for themselves after one visit, and then we have something to look forward to in a few months. I always pack a picnic lunch.
I told the relatives we wanted to do things with them, and skip the presents this year. My father and mother-in-law took us to a very fun Chanukah festival. It doesn't matter that none of us are Jewish.
We did give the kids a few gifts. We bought a couple of DVDs for the family. We haven't gone to a movie in years, since taking a family of 7 is too cost prohibitive. We bought three movies (used and/or on sale, of course) that we knew would be watched over and over. And of course, I made gifts. I sewed a network of city streets on a big piece of felt for my youngest son's toy cars. I made dolls and stuffed animals from books I checked out of the library. My oldest daughter wanted to help with the sewing, so we had good "together time." My best brainstorm was a box I labeled "Invention Convention" for one of my sons. I filled it with sponges and glue and bluing and gelatin, along with index cards with recipes for "Invent Spray Chalk for Writing on Snow," "Invent Pirate Crystals," "Invent Scratch 'n' Sniff Stickers," etc. Again, the library has good books. And I always give coupons for "Help Me Make Cookies," "Mommy Cleans Up One Mess," and stuff like that. My husband got his usual love letter. Love letters generate great conversation, as we discuss how we want our life to be and what goals we have.
In the middle of completing our list of places to go, it snowed. And snowed. We were trapped in our house (on a gravel road) for nine days. Just as it started to snow, I sent my husband to run to the store for eggs. Two hours later, he came back without eggs. He had just spent two hours at the library getting our truly essential provisions, and that's all.
Even without eggs, we had great, nutritious, home-cooked food to eat, the kids ran outside to use the new Spray Chalk for Writing on Snow, and then came inside to warm up by the fire with a good book. It was the best Christmas ever!
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