Running the Xmas Gauntlet

Processed with VSCO with a7 presetIt’s the 11th of December and, up until Friday night, I had done absolutely nothing (zip, zilch) to prepare for Christmas. Friday night I went to bed at 7.30pm with a cup of herbal tea, a piece of dark chocolate and my laptop, and finally ordered some Christmas presents. For children, my first stop for gifts is always here. For the girls I like to stick to the little poem: something I want, something I need, something to wear, something to read. It helps to keep things simple and, for me, takes away some of the overwhelm and decision making.

I like to make most of our gifts for extended family and my niece (and this year, my new nephew!) and (if you’re family, stop reading here!) this year I’m trying my hand at these for adults and my usual combo of these and these and perhaps these for kids. Our family have really downsized our present regime over the past few years and now just give small token gifts to show our love and appreciation. My only issue with the adult pressie that I want to make is that I can’t find pine resin here in Australia, and I also don’t know if it is sustainable even if I were to find it… if anyone knows what I’m talking about and has any tips, please email me or comment below! I’m planning on making a little gift set of perhaps two or three for each couple/adult in the fam, just as a token, and because I’m sick of my usual gift of granola!

Yesterday we finally got a tree so I’m feeling like we are back on track. I also sewed a pair of shorts, finished a geranium dress for a friend and tidied my sewing stuff. I just have a few more birdie said orders to get through before I can close up shop for Christmas.

Christmas can be such an overwhelming time. I have friends who feel so much pressure to make things and be all homemade and festive, but they work outside the home and have children and the juggle is stressful. I have friends who spend a lot of money on gifts and give to a lot of people. We all have our own challenges and stressors this time of year. For me, it has been a slowly evolving thing: building traditions within my own family unit, figuring out what works best for us, what we can afford, what we enjoy, what we are and aren’t prepared to do. Figuring out what Christmas means to us, as a non-religious, anti-consumerist family. What is left for us here if we don’t believe in God (in the Christian sense) and we are worried by consumerism!?

For us, it’s simple: family. Time to share and enjoy each other. Time to celebrate giving small and meaningful gifts, and teaching our children about people who are less fortunate than us. A girlfriend of mine has been such a role model for me in this area. Every year she gets her children to choose and wrap and deliver a present to someone in need (whether it is for a shopping centre Christmas tree or other charity). She’s done it with her children well before they would have understood what they were doing, and now it’s so ingrained in them it is something they naturally think about and have empathy for.

I’m not always good at keeping things simple, or sticking to what (I think) we believe in at this time of year. I get stressed and run from here to there. I get caught up with the Jones’s. I do! But I try to patiently bring myself back to my own values and ideals. I guess this happens a lot in life generally, not just at Christmas.

I have more to say on this topic but this will do for today. I’m sitting in our front yard in the shade of the trees while the girls play with dirt and cockatoo feathers. I’m needed to assist with a cup of gum leaf tea so I had better get back to it. I hope all your Christmas plans are going well, if you choose to celebrate it!

the CD and the atlas: lessons learned in the lead up to Christmas

My Grandpa lives by the sea. We went to visit yesterday and spent a few hours with him, eating sandwiches and drinking coffee brewed on his camp stove in the afternoon sun.

He’s in the process of moving house and let me choose some of his books to take home. One is an old atlas with the inscription: “To Mary with love from Graeme Xmas 1960.” A message from my Grandpa to my Grandmother.

We have been looking through its softly worn pages today. In the lead up to Christmas while my heart is  beating faster and faster with increasing overwhelm, I can’t help but reflect on this little gift with wonderment. Imagine, opening up a present from your partner on Christmas morning to find a lovely book with a short message in the front. I like to think it was wrapped brown paper, and perhaps tied with white string. It is this kind of simplicity and thoughtfulness that I yearn for in my every day life. We are overcome with monstrous loud flashy messages and it is easy forget that we don’t need to buy each other and our children bigger and better things in order for them to be happy and healthy and cherished and loved.

At birthdays and Christmas I stick to this motto from Jodi Wilson:

something I want, something I need

something to wear, something to read

Even still it is easy to get distracted and carried away and panicky and compare-y. We have to stop doing this.

Gramps also offered me some CDs of classical music. “Ok,” I said, “but can I have one that isn’t frantic. One that I could listen to on a Sunday afternoon. Something calming. No violins?”

“Hmm. Well that isn’t how I approach music at all.” he replied.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I walk over to my CDs. I think of one I’d like to listen to. I put it on, then I sit down on the couch and I listen to it. That is how to engage with a piece of music. If it’s on in the background it might as well be anything.”

“Ok. But what if you’re me and you’ve got three screaming children and you have to cook dinner and fold the washing and feed the dog and it’s 1pm and you want to put your pyjamas on and you’re not really thinking about developing a relationship with a piece of music but you would like something to listen to… in the background?”

He stared at me for a moment, laughed, then a few minutes later handed me this, and we listened to it in the car on the way home.

The CD and the atlas. I’ve been thinking about them both since yesterday. The purity and the restraint and the slow and the time. I am so rushed. Even when I try to slow down, there are so many external things wanting my attention. Children, animals, schedules imposed on me and so many rules. Rules! So many!

It’s been a timely and gentle reminder. Now when I look at my Christmas list, I am not looking at things to add, but places I can pare down, things that I can make, things that I can replicate to create a bit of flow, areas that I was perhaps getting a little carried away (do the girls really need another story CD? What will really make them happy on Christmas morning?) I think it’s important to remember that the presents we buy and/or make for our kids are just the beginning for most families on Christmas Day. For many, including us, there will be a number of shared meals that day, and many thoughtful gifts and presents to open. To keep it simple and quiet in the morning at home, we are actually doing our children a favour and allowing them to enjoy the excitement ahead.

Will you be keeping things slow and quiet this Christmas morning?

two

Still reeling from the fact that our girl turned 2 last week. She has just recently begun to better understand the significance of family traditions and events and presents and all such exciting things which made the day incredibly special. When she went to sleep that night I was reminded of the hollow feeling I used to get when my birthday ended as a child, I just had a little too much fun celebrating. The photos above are of her first meeting with “Collette” the newest member of our family which I mentioned in my last post. She came with the name… but considering I had a cabbage patch doll who came with the name Etheldreda Eunis when I was a wee one, I figure she can deal with Collette…

Healesville Sanctuary obviously had a huge effect on her as she has been telling everyone how she saw gorillas, elephants and giraffes there. And for those who don’t know, Healesville Sanctuary houses Australian native animals so the chances of seeing gorillas, elephants or giraffes are fairly slim. Oh and she also keeps talking about the duck that was there… a duck which we saw on a poster. Guess the Aussie animals were a bit too quiet for this excitable 2 year old who insisted that the kangaroos were donkeys. Once I stared at them for a while I could kind of see her point, their faces do look a little like donkeys! Or is that a stretch? Nevertheless, we had fun!