Well, we managed to land in our garage at home at about 11:45pm Christmas Eve. Papa was up until about 4am putting out the already-wrapped gifts and trying to fight the effects of the coffee he drank to keep him up while driving.
The children were up promptly at 6am and it went a little something like this…
We try really hard to press “experience gifts” on the family; and relocation has made that slightly easier. After all, the shipping for an “experience gift” isn’t as high as it is for a toy. Part of the challenge with this comes in the form of cousins–who don’t love experience gifts as much as my kids do. Our relatives want our kids to experience optimal joy on Christmas morning and giving them a membership to a museum wouldn’t invoke optimal joy in the cousins so they don’t imagine it would invoke optimal joy in children in general. But videotaped reactions help.
This year, we had the E. NOR. MOUS. blessing of grandparents that helped fund some higher level learning for the kids. We tried to sell off some assets that didn’t move and we didn’t have the money to do these things ourselves. It was a huge show of support for our kids and our educational choices that my inlaws helped things along. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling comfortable pushing the usual experience gifts with them since they’re usually educational (museum or zoo memberships, dance or swim lessons, etc.). But they don’t go overboard and that’s really helpful. For everyone.
As for the parents, as the volume of presents shrinks (we have no contact with Mama’s family and Papa’s family is small) we have taken a new approach. This year, we did the “Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read”. Unfortunately, I lost track of some of these things in the mayhem of losing our dog and preparing for our road trip. So the kids got a bit more than they would have.
Wants… BigGuy wanted a Dr. Who Sonic Screwdriver set. Done. He spent the majority of the morning changing out the heads and using the screwdriver to “magically” open just about anything that had to be opened. Then he would intermittently park himself somewhere and stare it the contraption–studying it. It’s been a few hours and he is still very dedicated to it’s use. #win
Girly always, always, always wants art supplies. Like, always. She got one of those boxes that holds lots of crayons, markers and colored pencils; and noted that she no longer needed to borrow my markers. #BIGwin
Needs… This was hard for BigGuy because really–he needs nothing. So I got him a muscle roller stick that will hopefully relieve muscle tension. It was suggested through an Asperger’s parent support group I belong to and BigGuy has so far tried it out a few times. That’s a good sign.
This was pretty easy for Girly because no joke–her sneakers had to GO. Unfortunately, I went back to buy the shoes she loved (and that I knew would fit her) after what was apparently a great sale… and they could NOT be found online. But she loves them, so…
Something to WEAR… And this is where I lost track. I buy things as I see them and didn’t realize I had already bought each kid something already. During birthday shopping for Girly, I bought a Minecraft kitty shirt for her and forgot about it. So when I saw the black shirt with hot pink storm trooper head on it during a sale, I just grabbed it. #whoops
BigGuy is another story… I bought him a shirt when I bought Girly’s birthday stuff back in late October and then LOST the shirt somewhere in our house. Uh-hunh. Then I found some BB-8 (Star Wars reference) hat and gloves super cheap and got those. And then I found the NASA shirt. I probably should have held that until his birthday in a few weeks, but I couldn’t hold one of Girly’s shirts until next November and in the interest of being even, he got both. Womp-womp…
Something to Read… Honestly–I bought BigGuy’s book a while ago. I actually bought him two books, but I’m holding one for his birthday. So for Christmas, he got Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan. He is a HUGE Riordan fan and was quick to tell me that this series was about Viking mythology whereas each of the other of his series were based on different mythologies. Educational. Who knew?
Girly’s book came from eBay and is a bird call BIBLE. It has JUST shy of 750 bird calls (I think 747) and a local friend had one that was bought several years ago at Costco. She had a ball this morning plugging in random numbers and listening to the sounds, then looking up the bird it belonged to.
They got plenty of other things, of course. Our road trip took us to see the only brother I still have living and in contact with plus my ex-stepfather (who we still keep in touch with). We got to stay with them during our road trip and we all went out to see the Star Wars movie together–which was a big deal–on my brother. That uncle also got BigGuy a Minecraft Lego set and Girly got a new soccer ball with an upgraded version of those drawstring backpacks. Of course, Girly was really upset that BigGuy got Legos. It’s an ongoing problem: she feels like she will never have as many Legos as he has, and he’s not particularly generous in sharing his. Their PawPaw also gave us money and it was used to buy dinner for Husbeau and I plus the cost of our community pool membership next year. To round out my side of the family, my sister got each of the kids a 2-flight-plus-video package at iFly Indoor Skydiving. They were thrilled.
On the other side of the family, one aunt & uncle sent money so they could pick what they want (sometimes they send money directly to we parents so we can translate it into an experience gift, but they also like the thrill of being able to pick something themselves to splurge on). The other aunt & uncle on that side sent some Minecraft books to BigGuy and an Elves Lego set to Girly. The grandparents sent both kids doodle books and then BigGuy’s big gift was a Lego Millennium Falcon. Girly got a pretend vet kit that she LOVED but when she saw BigGuy get ANOTHER Lego set, she couldn’t help feeling defeated again. I’d held back a wooden Farm Animal Set from Plan Toys that I’d bought through a wholesale cooperative and it made her feel a thousand percent better.
So, not a horribly modest Christmas but a wonderful Christmas. We have some additional funds from a relative or two that will mostly likely be used on eating out since, as a family, we LOVE to eat out and really can’t afford to do it much! Or we might be able to pool it together for a renewal on the zoo membership. Or we might just bank it and save it for something if and when “something” comes up. We shall see.
Personally, I am very thankful to be happy today. There are people who aren’t and I know that sometimes that’s a choice of mindset; but I know too well that some life circumstances and personal challenges are about more than just a change in perspective. The holidays can be painful and lonely. Not everyone has the resources or background to persevere through those things. I love those people. I love them so much and wish they could feel it because I know at their heart–they just want to feel loved.
Gentle reader… if you know someone who is in a dark place, I beg of you to set your judgment aside. Even when you appear to have walked the same shoes–they are not exactly the same shoes. They are not the same feet with the same strength and same muscle strength that you may have had (hard though it may have been). If you feel like someone “just wants attention”, err on the side of caution and just place distance between you if you can’t tolerate it. But if you can find it in your heart to reach out to someone that isn’t managing the season well, or is new to the area and may not have friends or family… it may change both of your lives.
Much love to you and yours…