Clutter Free Christmas Gifts for Kids

clutterfree

If you’ve been a parent for longer than say, a week, you’ve realized just how much stuff little people can bring into the world with them. Newborn gear turns into infant toys which turns into toddler everything which then multiplies and multiplies as the kids get older until your entire house implodes under the weight of so much junk many treasures.

With each Christmas and birthday, many parents I know dread the influx of more stuff, and are looking for more creative things that take up less space.

I would rather my kids have fewer high quality toys and playthings than a lot of little toys. The reasons are two-fold. First, because I can’t stand clutter, and secondly because they appreciate things more than when there are just a lot of little things lying around.

Of course, kids are kids, and they will always be bringing little “treasures” into the house, but I try to do my part in being intentional about the things we purchase for them, and don’t fall into the “buying for the sake of buying” trap that many parents fall into around December.

Here are some of my favorite gifts for kids:

1. Outdoor Toys
I love outdoor toys because they don’t clutter up my house, and they get the kids out of the house to exercise or use their imaginations. Win-win!

-Sandboxes
-Water Tables
-Scooters (Such as this one)
-Wagons
-Bikes
-Outdoor playhouses
-Sports equipment

2. Books
Books have this horrible reputation for being “boring”, but there are SO many types of books out there, that you can find something for everyone.

-Favorite character books
-Coloring Books
-How-to Books (Like this sewing book I purchased for my daughter for Christmas this year).
-Other great “How-to” books include Drawing books, Lego design books, and Coding books.
-Activity Books
-FUN Reference Books. I say fun, because I’m not talking about Dictionaries and Thesauruses, haha. But, you can find some really neat coffee table quality reference books for any and all interests. Costco has beautifully photographed and fun-to-read reference books that cover Legos, American Girl Dolls, Movies, Animals, the Human Body, and Space that my kids really enjoy looking at.
-Magazine subscriptions…this is the gift that keeps giving all year long. And since kids adore getting mail, it’s like opening a new gift every month.

3. Learning Toys
So, when I said “clutter free”, you probably thought I was gonna go all anti-toy. Not at all. Like I said before, I would prefer my kids have fewer high-quality toys. Good quality learning toys fit that bill perfectly. But learning toys don’t have to be boring. Some of my all-time favorite toys are:

-Magformers
-LEGOs
-Wooden Blocks
-Puzzles
-Logic games
-Pattern Blocks

4. Experience Gifts
This is pretty self-explanatory, but here are some ideas:

-Movie tickets
-Gift cards to the ice cream store
-Museum passes
-Zoo tickets
-Tickets to see a special performance (one year we took my daughter to see Disney on Ice as one of her presents)
-Amusement park passes
-A coupon for an outing to go bowling/trampoline park/rock climbing/mini golf/laser tag, etc.
-Lessons for something they want to do…such as horseback riding lessons, ice skating lessons, karate, etc.

5. Consumables
Consumables are considered anything that stays in my house for a limited amount of time. Examples of this include:
-Art Supplies
-Favorite snacks
-Science Experiment Kits (my sister is putting together an awesome box for Tater this year with a bunch of printed out science experiments, all the directions, and all the supplies needed to complete it. She’s going to love it!)

6. Fun Clothes
Clothes don’t have to be boring. My kids love getting shirts or pajamas with a favorite character on them. This year, I purchased new warm pajamas and slippers for my kids because we’re going on a trip to the snow next month.

Hopefully these are some ideas to help you keep your Christmas stress and clutter free!

*this post contains affiliate links, but all suggestions are my own based on items I have purchased myself that we just really love! I have no affiliation with any of the brands mentioned.

A Bittersweet Season

IMG_9401The last few months have been tough around here.

Besides the usual busyness of Junior’s appointments and therapies and continuous monitoring of his fairly slow progress, Tater has been seeing a specialist for some potential health concerns. I’m a worrier, and was in Mommy Worry Mode for a while. But, once December rolled around, I was determined to enjoy every second of the Christmas season, and put all my anxieties on the back burner. The kids and I did crafts, baked cookies, and made ornaments. We decorated the tree, had family movie nights, and went out to see all the best Christmas lights San Diego had to offer nearly every single evening.

But, two weeks before Christmas, we got a phone call. One of those phone calls. The kind you always dread in the back of your mind every time the phone rings.

Your dad has advanced cancer.

My dad has battled many health issues over the years, but nothing his great attitude and sense of humor couldn’t overcome. We were shocked…this diagnosis came out of left field, and at Christmastime no less.

My dad was admitted to the hospital and began radiation the same day he was diagnosed. He’s battling, but it’s been tough. It’s been 6 weeks and he still hasn’t been able to come home permanently, but we are prayerful that he will fight this thing and be victorious.

We spent Christmas together as a family…my dad received a 4 hour pass from the nursing facility to come home and visit, have brunch, and open presents…and we tried to make each moment count. It was bittersweet. Sweet for the time spent together, Bitter for the circumstances clouding the day.

Now that it’s January and the excitement of the Christmas season is over, real life has begun to set in again. Junior’s delays are still being assessed. Tater still has follow ups with the specialist. My dad still has cancer. And I’m still tired. Tired of there always being something.

My dad had many favorite quotes he used to tell me growing up. (They annoyed me as a teenager, but now I am grateful for the morsels of wisdom.) One of the phrases he used to quote the most came from the movie Apollo 13, in which a set of circumstances devastating for one character, ended up being the saving grace for everyone else.

Things have a way of working out.

And they will. God promises that ALL things work together for the good of those who love him. Because He is the one who created my story, I trust that He is working everything out for my good. I may be exhausted, worn out, anxious, and grieved, but I have to trust that His promise is true. That things do have a way of working out, even when life is out of our control. Because He’s the One who holds all our tomorrows.

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7 Christmas Traditions Your Kids Will Always Remember

Christmas Traditions

*This post contains affiliate links

Christmas is that time of year when life just seems to slow down and speed up all at once. It slows down because you’re taking in all the sights and sounds and smells, all the while speeding up because it seems to go from Thanksgiving to Christmas in like three days.

My parents always made Christmas special for us…not because they spent a lot of money on us, but because they spent a lot of time on us, making memories, and starting traditions that I have passed down to my own family. Here are the 7 things I look forward to most about the Christmas season with my family.

1. Christmas Light Nights
A simple internet search will likely yield a nice list of the best Christmas light displays in your area. We have 4 or 5 specific places we go every year, and it’s just fun to see how people go all out for the season. There is one home near us that has over 100,000 lights, and another home that boasts life sized gingerbread houses and a “real” Santa who gives out a little toy to each child that visits. We don’t usually tell our kids the evenings we’re going…I make a simple dinner to enjoy in the car and off we go once my husband gets home from work! The kids get excited to guess when and where we will be going.

2. Packing Operation Christmas Child Boxes
Tater (7) especially loves finding little treasures for other children as we pack our Operation Christmas Child boxes. We always choose the “Track Your Box” option so we can see where our box goes, and pray for the child that received it. Tater knows that Christmas is about giving, and packing the shoeboxes is a tangible reminder of that.
(See my post on shopping for an Operation Christmas Child Box on a Budget)

3. Decorating Our Tree
Every year, I buy one ornament for each of our children that has a meaning for the previous year. Sometimes it’s an ornament of a child’s favorite character, a new milestone, a new sport, or a token from a family vacation. Every year that we decorate the tree, we look back on each ornament as a special and treasured memory.

4. Decorating Sugar Cookies
This is probably the most anticipated of all our family traditions. We have a set of trusty Christmas Cookie Cutters that we have used for the last 10 years (they’re older than our kids), and buy every color sprinkle imaginable, along with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and shredded coconut. We cut out the dough, decorate the cookies, then bake them. We don’t use frosting, but if we did, we would bake the plain shaped cookies first, then decorate them. Lots and lots of laughter on Sugar Cookie Decorating night.

5. Christmas Movie Nights
We always have to watch Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and after the kids go to bed, A Christmas Story. We whip up some popcorn, maybe grab some leftover sugar cookies and hot cocoa, then sit in front of the warm fire and enjoy the show together.

6. One Christmas Eve Gift
This tradition goes back several generations in my family. After church on Christmas Eve, we come home and the kids open one gift. It’s always a pair of Christmas pajamas to wear that night (I prewash before I wrap them), and a new book about the birth of Jesus. We read our books after the kids are snuggled into their new jammies, then it’s lights out!

7. Christmas Communion
This is a special tradition from my husband’s family that my he carried on after we got married. On Christmas morning, after a breakfast of cinnamon rolls and tangerines from our tree, but before we open stockings and gifts, my husband leads us in Communion with some bread and grape juice to help us focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and to thank the Lord for our blessings. The best of which cannot be found under a tree.

This Christmas is going to be a little different because of family health issues, but it’s still such a wonderful time of year that I cherish. My husband gets some time off work so we can spend a lot of family time together, and we make wonderful memories each and every year. I love that our kids want our time more than anything, and these traditions help us make the most of that time.

What are your favorite family Christmas Traditions?

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DIY Christmas Cinnamon Orange Room Freshener

roomfreshener

One of the things I love most about Christmas is the wonderful smells…

Fresh Cut Christmas Trees, Fresh Baked Gingerbread, Cinnamon Wreaths, Cozy Wood Stove Fires…oh how I love the smells of December.

I was looking for a way to get those smells into my house without ahem actually having to do anything, and after some tweaking, I have finally found the perfect recipe for Christmas potpourri. Since we spend most of our time in the kitchen, this is the perfect thing to put on in the morning so your house will smell like Christmas all day!

Christmas Cinnamon Orange Room Freshener

  • 1 orange or tangerine peel
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 TBS dried cloves

Place orange peel, cinnamon sticks, cinnamon and cloves into a small pot or saucepan and cover with water. Turn to a boil, then let simmer for as long as you want. Make sure to keep an eye on the pot. Add more water to cover the ingredients as needed, otherwise you will have a real burned mess! Keep simmering as long as you want that glorious Christmas smell (about 3-4 hours max).

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Junior Being Junior is Better Than Being “Normal”

Even though the special needs road can be tedious, it’s also filled with beautiful moments. A couple of weeks ago, Junior was looking at a word in a book. “Auhhhr” he said as he pointed to the “R”. Then, he said “Ohhhh” as he pointed to the “O”. I was stunned. We had never taught him letters. We have spent all of our waking moments just getting him to understand the most basic of words. It reminded me that he understands way more than we give him credit for. Just because he can’t communicate like his peers doesn’t mean he’s not smart, and just because he has sensory issues he can’t cope with yet doesn’t mean he’s lacking. I’ve spent so long treating him as a “patient”, that I sometimes forget to notice the real-live little boy in him.
Junior keeps reminding me that he’s not a checklist of milestones he’s missed or hasn’t hit yet. He’s not a questionnaire with the options “sometimes, always, never”. He’s not defined by his diagnosis. He’s a little boy who just wants to be loved. 
He doesn’t see himself as different or abnormal or challenged. He just wants to run around and play and make friends with the little pigtailed girl at the playground, and yell at his sister for turning off Curious George. He wants a lollipop at Trader Joes, and he doesn’t want me to kiss him when he’s riding his trike. He wants extra sprinkles on his ice cream, a turn playing catch, and a cup of milk before bed. He wants to be happy when he’s happy and crabby when he’s crabby, and he doesn’t want anyone telling him when he should be either of those. He doesn’t want to be “normal”, he just wants to be him. He wants to be Junior and he wants to be loved just for being Junior. 
He’ll never be “normal”, but why should he settle for normal when he can be phenomenal? When he can be Junior.
Read Junior’s Story Here

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