Before we figuratively say goodbye to Christmas and pack it away until next year, the time has come to write about a few things I never got around to posting about...until now. :)
First of all, the annual trek to the Christmas tree farm to walk up and down big hills and find a live tree to cut down and haul home.
I think all of us really enjoy that Christmas tradition; but honestly, this year's trip wasn't so great. I can't remember why the delay, but we ended up waiting until December 5 to go get our tree; and because it was a Wednesday, we were rushed because of Josiah and David's violin lessons that afternoon. As it turned out, we were actually late for their lessons (fortunately, their teacher is very understanding and gracious); but let's just say that our outing to the tree farm was not exactly helped by the pressure of "quick, let's find a tree and get out of here so we can get the boys to their lessons!" ;-)
The other downfall of going on that day was that the selection was quite poor. Apparently everybody and their brother had previously gone to get their tree, and what was left was rather lacking in either size or appearance...or both. To be clear, we are NOT picky about how our tree looks. We always let the boys decorate it pretty much however they want, and we are definitely NOT aiming for a magazine-worthy, "perfect" tree. But even still, it was hard to find one that was even decent. (And actually, we needed to find two: one for our house and one for Jeff's barbershop.)
I was carrying Moriah in the Snugli as we wandered around, and could not believe how quickly she started feeling really heavy and I started feeling really tired. Josiah and David and Tobin were running around, searching as fast as they could for the candy cane tree (which they never found - perhaps since it was so "late" in the season, the candy canes had already been removed?). No candy canes made for sad boys since getting candy canes is always part of the tradition; and what's more, there was no hot chocolate in the springhouse! I hadn't realized how important to the boys each aspect of this holiday tradition had become until I saw how dismayed they were by their absence!
Well, after having said all of that, here are some pictures from that day. And you know, all of that stuff really doesn't matter. We were together as a family, safe and sound; and all the little disappointments and hardships were just that: little. :)
And that's the end of that. ;-)
On to the next topic...
Making Christmas Affordable :)
As our family has grown, we have had to become more aware of how we spend our money and more creative in how we procure Christmas gifts for all the children. Although sometimes the thought is tempting (especially when I see how much stuff we already have!), we have not yet decided to eliminate all Christmas gifts; neither have we enacted a principle of, for example, only giving each child three gifts. Fact is, both Jeff and I love to give gifts to our children; and their delight becomes ours as we watch them open and play with the things we give them.
However, at the same time, we have very strong convictions about being financially wise, continuing to give to various outreach/mission organizations and efforts, not going into debt, etc. Plus, we don't want to spoil our kids by giving them everything they want, thus denying them the opportunity to develop necessary character traits of patience, sacrifice, unselfishness, etc.
So what to do?
Here are some things that have helped us...
1. We don't give gifts outside our immediate family. In neither Jeff's family nor mine do we do a gift exchange. We only give to our children and to each other.
2. We sell some things on Ebay so we can turn around and use that money to buy gifts (and of course, throughout the course of the year, we also use our Ebay money for a great many other things--most notably, books and other materials for our homeschool).
3. I literally keep my eyes out all year for good gifts at inexpensive prices for the kids. This spreads out the spending so there's no time period when we suddenly have to figure out how to find a big pile of extra money to go Christmas shopping with; and besides, I can find better prices on items if I buy them when they're cheap and hang onto them until Christmas (and I do the same with birthdays).
4. We don't hesitate to buy things second-hand--either used items on Ebay, things from local thrift stores, or items from friends who are selling things. Both Jeff and I have been buying second-hand things all our lives (and our parents did it before us), so that doesn't bother us a bit. (In fact, we can't imagine going out and plopping down full price for a lot of the things we buy, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year.)
5. We utilize the dollar store. One aspect of Christmas that is really important to me is having each of the boys give gifts to all the other boys, so they learn, even at their young ages, the joy of giving. The best place we've found for the boys to do this shopping for each other is at the dollar store. It's easy enough to find little gifts for each other there: coloring books, puzzles, toy figurines, etc. And it doesn't break our budget. :) Josiah uses his own money to buy the gifts he gives, and David is starting to do that now, too. But of course, Tobin and Shav still need money from us to buy the things they want to give.
6. When our children are very young, we hardly give them anything. For Moriah this year, for example, we spent about $5 on her. We got three figurines at the dollar store (a Tigger one, a Piglet one, and a Pooh one to go along with an Eeyore one that Jeff had gotten for her a long time ago); she's too little to hold them and play with them now, but they are standing together on the top of the armoire in her room until she's old enough to have them (and not try to eat them!). ;-) We also spent about $2 on a Christmas ornament for her (we gave each of the children an ornament). And that's it! She doesn't need anything--and won't remember it anyway--so we didn't feel compelled to spend a bunch of money for her. In a few years, that will change, of course; and she'll get more when she's old enough to understand what is going on.
With the future of the economy being rather shaky and our personal financial future being unknown, we're well aware that we may have to tighten our belts, so to speak, and give less to our kids in years to come; and that's OK. But for now, we have a whole lot of fun trying our best to be frugal, while still giving thoughtful, useful gifts to our children to help communicate our love to them and bring delight to their hearts! :)
I've already done a post with lots of pictures from our Christmas Day celebration, but I haven't said much about the next day--the one that was supposed to be a larger family get-together. The snow changed those plans, and my brother and his family from Pennsylvania (wisely!) decided to stay put and not venture out onto the roads. We were all disappointed, but cheered by the thought of them being safe. Since we didn't have the big gathering that we were anticipating (even my sister who lives here locally wasn't able to come out to our house), we had a quiet day at home--except for Jeff taking Shav out for their monthly breakfast date--and enjoyed time with my parents and Aunt Helen.
I only took a few pictures that day, but here is a photo of the boys playing a new Bingo game that one of them received from my parents for Christmas.
Now that I've written all I can think of to write about Christmas of 2012, there's only one thing left to say:
That's a wrap! :)