This weekend, Rosie sat me down and recited her holiday list. Sadie, always eavesdropping and ready to jump in, popped her head around the corner. “Oh, you want to hear mine?”

I can tell they’ve been rehearsing for the moment. The lists change from year to year, but they always have this crazy range of scope– there’s always something expensive and electronic that they’re pretty sure we can’t afford (every year at this time, new lust develops for the iPod touch), but then there are little things, erasers, special lockets, random trinkets they’ve seen in their adventures. Both girls asked for gift certificates to our local bookstore, and I swear they winked at each other when I couldn’t help but nod in appreciation of that one. And at one point, Rosie asked for a certain toy–a request that made Sadie quiver in her chair. I’m guessing that’s what she’s getting from Sadie.

These are not lists for Santa. They are lists for us, and for each other.

Usually, I talk about not buying things. Every year, I post handmade gift ideas, and of course those posts are coming (fancy mustard! cookies! jelly!). We give out treats throughout every December–I’ll make a few edibles and they go out with some art project or mix CD that Joey makes. That’s how we do the holiday around here. But this past weekend, as the sale emails started shouting at me from my inbox and we kept one ear on the news to make sure that no one had been trampled at Walmart, I started thinking about the other side of shopping for gifts… the good side.

Most of the time, there’s very little new stuff in the girls’ lives. Whenever we are out, my default response to the “Can I have just one thing?” is always no (or, more subtly, the look I reserve for those moments that ends the question before it’s fully emerged). But here, in this month, Joey and I duck into stores and pick out tiny charms and Japanese candies for their stockings. I can fulfill dreams of a soft new cotton nightgown to replace that one that Rosie’s been wearing since she was four, or a special book that Sadie’s picked up every time we’ve gone to the bookstore. I let myself do that in a way that I don’t in the rest of the year. And the hiding of packages, the weighing of specialness between gifts for each girl–the process makes me feel warm, and lucky that I can do this now for them. These little material bundles give me a sense of maternal comfort. In this small way, I get to focus on giving them exactly what they love.

It makes me want to give a box for each, wrapped in my clumsy way (Joey’s the real artist, and you can always tell his gifts from the others), filled with confidence for this next year. I want to give Rosie the power to navigate through the new emotions that seem to be coming to her. To give Sadie more ease in the process of abandoning herself to the things she loves. To feel like their bodies are doing just the right thing as they get bigger and longer, and to find just enough power to make good things happen without a sense of  overwhelm.

This year, Sadie decided she wanted to only buy gifts for people with her own money. (We’ve started giving her a little allowance, and she’s saved it all.) She started her shopping last week on the way home from school, making her way down her list while Joey and Rosie waited outside. Later that day, she came into the house clutching her bags, hurrying to her room to find a hiding place.

Again, that feeling of warmth! And there’s one more good thing about having kids–they do things that make them happy, and somehow I feel it too.

Happy almost December, friends. (It’s snowing, here! Finally! I’m hoping it just might stick…)



    • alana says

      It is! I’m so thankful that I get to be around these girls who keep me on my toes when it comes to taking things for granted. It’s definitely one of the perks of parenting.

  1. says

    I used to harbor a fair amount of holiday humbug (okay, still do), but years ago, managing a small local herb shop and seeing teenage boys clumsily picking out lavender bath salts for their mothers, and seeing our sales soar enough in the month of December to keep the shop afloat during the lean winter months, made my heart and mind open just a bit wider, wide enough to see the sweetness in this holiday where giving still lies beneath all the frenzied consumerism.

    • alana says

      Oh, it’s hard to see the sweetness sometimes, isn’t it? That’s why I had to get it down in words, because so much of the time it just feels so… well, gross. But there’s something at the heart of it, something good! I think that quality is there if we want to feel it.

  2. says

    This sure brought a smile…
    I’m still recovering from 20 years in retail, trying to regain my long-lost love of the holidays. Having a three-year-old granddaughter in the house helps, but so does reading things like this, that can conjure-up the days when my kids were like yours. Enjoy them, and treasure them…
    (Just started snowing down here on the island, while I was typing…it’s a good sign. )

    • alana says

      Yes, yes- nothing like a 3 year old to cure just about every cynicism there is. And to help you enjoy the snow, too! Hope it stuck a little over there…

  3. says

    This reminds me of when I was young, learning about how exciting it was to make and buy gifts for people, just as much fun as getting them myself.

    • alana says

      It’s funny Anna- I wonder why we seem to get this more when we’re young? I used to wrap crayons up for my mother and put them under the tree- just for the love of giving something! One more thing to learn from the kiddos around us, I guess.

  4. Eleanor says

    You write so beautifully about those girls! This is second only to the epic, inspiring kale revolution post from a while back. Yay for Holidays and gift-giving!

  5. says

    I love this post so much. Do I write that exact sentence here in the comments section all the time? That’s how I feel so often here, Alana. Can’t wait to get our girls together sometime soon. xo.

  6. alana says

    Oh, Jess–sending love from here. And yes! Counting the days until the girls all get to play (while we get to have a play date, too)!

  7. Lisa Moran says

    I love the picture of your daughter with Santa. Her expression is priceless! It’s like Santa just said something to her and she’s thinking it over very carefully before responding. What a great picture :0)

  8. says

    gifty :)
    warmth ::))
    the weight of these things :::)))

    i love it all, and yes, ditto that. i spent the morning stitching coasters with my old rattletrap sewing machine, thinking the whole while, “these are more for me, than them…” i’m itching to get up to my elbows in flour, but am forcing myself to wait another week… and still trying to figure out how to teach these kids o’ mind that the real joy is not in the receiving but giving. it’s tough, and good, and i do so love december.

    happy holiday-ing, alana.


  9. says

    Hi Alana – I love this post. Every year, I find myself both wanting to get the nicest, the best, the most WONDERFUL gifts for those I love – and being grumpy about the rampant consumerism of these holidays. Thanks for sharing how you strike the balance. I *love* your observation about how your kids’ happiness becomes your own – in the mothering way, not the living-vicariously way. So good. Happy gifty days to you all.

  10. Kate says

    I give my girls $5 and then let them shop at the church Christmas bazaar in November. It’s full of used books, white elephants, toys and even a room where parents are not allowed for secret shopping. A trip to the thrift store might work just as well. They spend their pocket money and a little extra from me and buy the whole family “treasures”. It’s a great way to show that gifts can be from all sorts of places and need not to cost a lot to be special.

  11. says

    Oh what precious little people you are raising! I hope your Holidays were filled with love and memories to last!
    I received your book from my Mother-in-Love (in-laws has such a bad ring to it ^_^”) and I absolutely love it! I am also happy to have found your blog! I have some catching up to do, and look forward to reading while stocking our pantry. I will be replacing and making as many changes as I can! *insert happy dance here*

    Happy New Year, and Happy Blogging!

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