Monday, December 16, 2013

Simple Little Christmas Giving

We keep gift-giving simple around here. Mostly, anyway.

We believe that homemade is best, second-hand is great, and ethically made store bought is good, too. We consider the carbon footprint of a product, the labor standards and materials used in its production, the long-term impact the product is likely to have on the planet and people on it, and the message the product sends to its recipient. Of course we also try to support local businesses to the extent we can, and socially conscious, eco-friendly larger businesses when we can't.

It's kind of a lot to think about sometimes, this simplicity. 

For those who are curious about what products meet these standards, today I'm sharing what our kiddos will be receiving for Christmas this year. (This is from Mom and Dad, Santa and grandparents, by the way. We try very hard to avoid over-giving.)

Our seven year old will get:
Some audiobooks (Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Mr. Popper's Penguins, etc.)
The American Boys Handy Book
A crossbow (I know- I'm not entirely convinced that this is the greatest idea yet, either)
Beeswax modeling set with wax cutters
College fund cash

Our four year old will get:
A lunchbox
Waldorf doll
Clothes for the doll
Homemade step blocks (similar to these)
College fund cash

Our two year old will get:
A lunchbox
A homemade doll swing (like this one shared on Rhythm of the Home)
Waldorf baby doll
A homemade diapering kit (like this one)
College fund cash

Our two month old will get:
An amber teething necklace
A playsilk
(Mostly) college fund cash

Our stockings will be filled with:
A bit of natural candy from here
Toothbrushes from Preserve
Mason jar tops from Cuppow
Small Lego sets (disclaimer: Lego is not a socially conscious company per se, so we buy with moderation since we do have three kids who are big fans of the traditional building blocks)

Siblings will give:
Next year we may start a "secret Santa" tradition among the kids because this is becoming quite a thing to manage, this gift-giving between six family members. For the past few years, and this year too, we've given each child a dollar amount to spend at our church Christmas Fair fundraiser to purchase gifts for their siblings. It's worked out very well in the past- kids have purchased gently used items or fun little crafted items for their sibs, and have learned the value of budgeting in the process. This year my oldest was helped by a teen at church to even purchase something for me, and I confess that I can't wait to see what his little heart spied for his mama.

Family and friends will receive:
Baskets of our homemade items. That includes honey, candles, lotions and lip balm or breads, jams, pickles... whatever we think the recipient will prefer. We have tons of fun making the products contained in these baskets, and each family member gets to weigh in about what they believe a basket's recipient would enjoy (is this friend a creamed honey sort of person, or a lilac infused, we wonder?).

Mommy and Daddy will receive:
Nothing from one another, actually. Years ago we released ourselves from the expectation of gifts under the tree for each other. For us, Garrett's birthday and Valentine's Day are right around the corner, and we've felt pressured to come up with so many gifts that the pleasure has been stripped away. Instead, once the new year has arrived, we go out to a fancy dinner together and reconnect after the business of December. It's lovely.

What about you? What are you giving your family members this Christmas?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Perfect Isn't Always Good Enough

It's no secret that perfectionism isn't good for us. Aside from the occasional positive motivation to get a task completed to the best of our ability, perfectionism exists to pressure us into always doing better, and breeds discontent with the way things are.

I have struggled with perfectionism from my earliest days. I can remember barring my parents from track meets as a child, so fearful was I that I wouldn't place well and be embarrassed. (My parents couldn't have cared less how I placed, and were likely quite hurt by the fact that I didn't seem to want them at my races.) I remember feigning illness during a scholastic competition at school because I was going to win in all likelihood, but there was a chance that I wouldn't... can remember saying "no" to opportunities for schooling and jobs in my young adulthood because I was fearful of being a small fish in a big pond. I remember being limited by my attitude.  Perhaps it's because I'm the first born of my family, or perhaps it's because I come from a long line of perfectionists. The cause really doesn't matter, I suppose. The fact is, I have been given the characteristic of perfectionism in this life, and I need to figure out how to cope with the less than desirable aspects of that trait.

This is what I've been thinking about a lot of late. How this perfectionism- so often the unwitting source of pride for me- as not been serving me well. As the mother of young children (four of them no less) I often have to accept a "good enough" standard for their benefit, so I know I have the capacity to extend grace when necessary, and to overlook the less-than-perfect attempts that children make while on the path to achievement.

I'd like to go on record here by saying that this is extremely, exorbitantly, terrifically difficult for me to do. But I persist because it's the right thing to do as a parent. When I watch little hands wipe down the counters only to push the crumbs to the floor, I praise the job well done. When I come across clothes stuffed into drawers and toys mashed into toy bins, I sing praises and give accolades because the intent is spot-on even if the execution needs work. When I find toothpaste smears all over the sink because some little person tried to clean up their own mess, I forgive and give space because I know a small hand has been hard at work to keep our home clean. (OK, I secretly cringe at the last one but come on- toothpaste all over the sink is SO gross!)

So, why give the credit to my children when I know they've been working hard, but deny myself that same kindness? Why? Because my perfectionism allows me to believe that it's OK to overlook the faults of others- but not my own- as if I'm some superhuman being sent here from Planet Perfect to mingle with the natives and understand their ways...

I rob myself of joy, holding onto this impossible standard. I really do. When I'm in "that place" where nothing seems good enough I take away my ability to enjoy the moment- the process- and the fact that I am human. The best lessons I have learned in my life have come from mistakes, but a perfectionist attidude leaves no room for those same valuable mistakes (it must have been someone else's fault, after all) and therefore no room for growth.

So I am reminding myself to be kind. Not just to my husband, my kids, the people at the store who ran out of the last ingredient to make my grammie's pecan sandies... no, kind to myself. Permissive of my human condition. And grateful for the many, many, many opportunities I have in this life to learn.

How do you tame the perfectionism beast? Do you treat yourself with as much kindness as you treat others?

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