Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Second Annual Catholic All Year Catholic Costume Contest {now with even MORE prizes}

Last year's costume contest was really cool. I loved seeing all the great Catholic costumes you good folks and your kids can up with. So . . . even though I'm not sure the world needs any more of my All Saints Day costume posts, I decided to do it again. And, as it turns out, I've got quite a backlog of theme appropriate items to give away, so the prizes this year are really good!

Here's how it works . . .



If your kids are dressing up in a Catholic costume for Halloween or All Saints Day share a photo on the Catholic All Year Facebook Page or use the hashtag #catholiccostume (singular) and tag me on Instagram. (If you have a private account, you'll need to set it to public for the day so I can see your tag.) If you are not a social media type, you can email your photo to me at catholicallyear@gmail.com.

Let me know if you prefer that I not use your photos on the blog.

The Prizes

1. From TAN Homeschool, a complete Dramatized Audio Bible . . .



I've been really impressed with these CDs from TAN Homeschool. They are my favorite part of a whole The Story of the Bible curriculum that includes a text book, teacher guide, student workbook, and even a lecture DVD series. The Dramatized Audio Book CD sets are filled with voices, music, and sound effects, and total 7.5 hours per volume. That's going to get you through a LOT of driving or afternoon quiet time.  

For more on The Story of the Bible, see this post:

How to Raise Good Little Catholics


2. From Saint Mail, a three month subscription to Saint Mail.



I subscribed to Saint Mail for my own kids with my own money, and it has been worth every penny. Each month we receive a package in the mail all about one saint whose feast is that month. There's a letter from the saint with tons of great information, plus crafts, trinkets, and little collectibles that my kids L-O-V-E love.

My kids are learning about the saints (AND are quietly occupied for many many minutes) each month without me having to do ANY of the prep work. Molly from Saint Mail is a Catholic mom who is doing the prep work for you, only way cuter than you'd do it. Tiny San Damiano cross for St. Clare! Awesome leather bracelet with St. Benedict cross medallion for St. Benedict that Bobby has been wearing for nearly two years straight! I cannot recommend Saint Mail enough.

For more on Saint Mail, see this post:

IF YOU'VE ALREADY TAUGHT YOUR KIDS EVERYTHING THEY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THEIR FAITH, YOU DON'T NEED THIS


3. From Catholic Word, The Encyclopedia of Peg Saints, a cute little guide to creating your own little saint dolls . . .

I think this book will be what finally pushes us onto the Peg Saint Exchange bandwagon. Betty is really excited to do one with our Little Flowers group.

4. From Peanut Butter & Grace, Sense of the Sacred: a Coloring Book for Young Illuminators, a beautiful coloring book of sacred images . . .



I love these coloring pages to have on hand for a feast day activity, or something to do while we listen to an audio book. There's a companion Illuminated Book of Catholic Prayers that pairs colored versions of the illustrations with traditional Catholic prayers.

5. From Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families, a printable 54 Card Deck of Super Saints . . . 

This kit comes with templates for all 54 Cards along with the official Super Saints back cover template. along with printing instructions and instructions on various games to play. There's a pokemon-type game for older kids, or you can print out two sets to play simple matching games with little kids.

6. From Do Small Things With Love, Sixty-One Cross Stitch Saint Patterns . . . 

Betty (11) and I have been working on these lovelies and they COULD NOT BE CUTER. Seriously. I dare you to look at the little cross stitch buttons on St. Louis Martin's blue topcoat and not just swoon. They are adorable. And really doable for even not-super-crafty-types. It's excellent starter needlework if you've never done embroidery before, and easy enough for big kids to do all on their own. Anita (6) has been able to do some stitching with a lot of supervision, because it's easy for the counting to get away from you.

The original set of forty saints can be found here, for only $3, and the 21 all new saints are here for just $2! The winner will get both sets for free.

7. From Printable Prayers (which is me), your choice of FOUR downloads from the shop . . . 


Could be the Guardian Angel Prayer, could be the Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin holy cards, could be the Litany of Humility, could be a JPII quote. The possibilities are endless. No, not endless. There are forty-three  possibilities.

I hope this gives you a little boost of inspiration to get out there for All Saints Day and saint it up. I can't wait to see what you've got! In case you're still costume planning, here are a few posts you might like to check out . . .

COSTUMES FOR ALL SAINTS DAY AND HALLOWEEN: ONE PART CATHOLIC, TWO PARTS AWESOME


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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

We Shall Find Our Little Ones Again Up Above: Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month {October Giveaway Series}

October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss awareness month.

I don't want to let the month pass by without sharing a few resources here on the blog.



~ Bonnie at A Knotted Life offers to pray for people who have lost babies, as a tribute to her son Peter who was miscarried . . .

Let me pray for you, for Pete's sake


~ Mandi at A Blog About Miscarriage has thoughts on naming a baby you've lost, some succinct responses to inappropriate questions, free miscarriage prayer printables (designed by me), and a whole page of pregnancy loss resources . . .

Naming a Miscarried Baby

6 Tips for Responding to Nosy Questions and Hurtful Words

The Child Lives: Wisdom from Mother Angelica (and some beautiful free printables)


~ Mary at Better Than Eden has complied a list of scripture verses that gave her comfort after her loss, and shares the important distinction between angels and saints. . .

Scriptures for Miscarriage

Why Our Babies Aren’t Angels…and Why It Matters


~ Molly at Molly Makes Do has a beautiful take on a mother's body as a reliquary for her lost saints, and a reminder about how easy it is to be corrupted by our desires, even if those desires are for good things . . .

My Superpower

On Miscarriage and Mordor


~ The Giveaway

Because of some lovely artists who also happen to be readers of the blog, I get to offer a giveaway especially for those of you who have experienced infant or pregnancy loss. And because sometimes the best way to heal is to help comfort others, each giveaway includes two items . . . one for you to keep and one to give to a friend.

The first giveaway is from Katrina who blogs at Cedars and Tiny Flowers and peddles her hand-painted wares at Hatch Prints on Etsy.

One winner will receive one 8x10 print of each of these beautiful quotes by St. Zelie Martin . . . 



One to keep and one to give away, plus FIFTY DOLLARS in shop credit!

Katrina's shop is full of really beautiful things.


She says . . .
I love finding quotes that speak to the everyday life and then putting them to watercolor and acrylic paint to create pieces that can hang on your wall and be seen hundreds of times a day. After I paint or hand letter the art, I digitize them and have them printed by a local printer on 100 lb white linen paper for an elegant and high quality finish.

The second giveaway is from Lindsay at Jasper + Jade.

It features a St. Catherine of Siena (patroness of miscarriage) birthstone necklace, which can be customized with baby's birthstone.


And a St. Gerard (patron of pregnancy) birthstone necklace. It can also be customized with baby's birthstone.


One winner will receive both beautiful necklaces, one to keep and one to give away.

And EVERYONE gets a 5% off coupon, to use in the shop! The code is CATHOLICALLYEAR


The giveaway is open ONLY to women who have personally experienced infant or pregnancy loss. Please enter by leaving a comment on this post sharing the name or due date (or whatever you feel comfortable sharing) of the baby you lost. We can all pray for each other, and I'll announce the winners of the giveaway next week.

There's also still time to enter the rosary resources giveaway, which is open to all.

Happy Feast of St. Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of hopeless causes . . .



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Monday, October 26, 2015

It's Not You, It's Him. Of Course, YOU Still Have to Live With Him.



Cranky Frankie is four today.

He likes lots of things.

Cowboy boots:


His little sister:


His other little sister:


Confined spaces:


A good seat for his brother's football game:


The communion of saints:


Chicken Frank the chicken (and Nana):


This exact set up of buddies. Every night. Exactly like this . . . Big Lotso, Little Lotso, Frankie, Little Olaf, Big Olaf, Thumper crammed in the upper left corner between the trundle and the wall:



"This dead guy in the floor at church."


But there are also lots of thing he does NOT like. Those things are less predictable. They include, but are not limited to . . .

Going to bed, getting up, eating food, wearing clothes, sitting in chairs, not making that sound, other people doing their schoolwork, new stories, the existence of some types of animals, when good guys win in movies, going places, leaving places, screen time restrictions, and pumpkin patches.


He's a real piece of work, this one.

He's gotten better . . . I think. Probably. I mean, he must have, right? But he still spends quite a bit of each day making trouble and getting busted for it.

I love him to pieces. But I sometimes lose my cool. I find his extraordinary contrariness a little charming. When it's not completely infuriating.

But what Frankie really taught me is that kids are who they are. Parenting techniques are great. I couldn't do this and keep my sanity without a method in the madness. But parenting techniques are for managing kids, not changing them.

Some kids are docile. Some kids are stinkers. Either way, that's on them, not me.

My oldest was hard, maybe as hard as Frankie, I'm not sure. I was so sleep deprived I don't really remember. (He is still kinda hard.) My next two are super easygoing in comparison. The next two are high spirited, but manageable. I was pretty sure my acquired parenting skills, forged over lo those many years had finally made me stinker-proof. I knew how to handle kids now. My oldest had to have been a fluke. The result of my inexperience.

Then came Frankie.

Parenting just   s  l  i  d  e  s   right off of him, like butter off a corn cob.



But I keep at it. He's worth it, and my sanity and the (relative) peace of our home are worth fighting for.

I got a question in the comments of that behavior modification post a couple weeks back, that I wanted to share here . . .

Question:
Any ideas for what to do with a 4 year old boy who just can't seem to help but choose bad things and never chooses the same bad things but comes up with new ones 24/7? For example, climbing the dressers, hanging off the bunk beds, cutting his own hair, sneaking food, coloring on walls, humming annoying songs, stealing siblings' toys, or any other crazy idea that pops into his head. You'd think he's doing this for attention except he's a total introvert who loves playing alone....he just doesn't make good choices when playing alone, lol! Actually, even when he's with me he's constantly trying to get into stuff. It's like a compulsion, and he's been like this pretty much since birth. At 10 months, before he could even walk, he had climbed on the dollhouse roof and was happily bouncing up and down on top of it....

Amanda

Answer:

Have you considered selling him to the circus? That's about all that's left in my bag of tricks for dealing with almost four year old Frankie. ;0)

I think some kids are just wired for mischief, ya know? And Frankie is an introvert, too. Sometimes I think he gets himself into trouble just to get sent to his room for some alone time. He also spends a lot of quality time outside with the chickens. (The "with the chickens" part is his choice.)

Mostly what I do is . . .

1. Not give up on him. In the face of such constant disobedience, it's easy to be tempted to just give up on a kid and let him be a menace, but I don't want to do that. We're going to civilize him, some how. If I have to stop him from doing twenty different naughty things twenty times a day, so be it.

2. Not take it personally. I think it's important to remind yourself that you're not a bad mom if you have an especially naughty kid. And he's not a bad person. He just doesn't have a temperament that happens to care much what other people think. That can be very liberating. But it's also something that he needs to learn how to compensate for. (Ask me how I know.)

3. Find the good in him. Frankie is exasperating and exhausting, but he's also hilarious and spunky and lovable. I try to find things I can praise him for and things I can do with him that he likes. He's still going to spend a significant percentage of his day in trouble, but at least there will have been SOME nice things too.

Also, I really recommend the book How to Really Love Your Angry Child . I don't know why it's called that, it should be called "Intense Child" or something, because I don't think they have to be angry to be difficult. But it gives a great framework for understanding this kind of kid.


So, Happy Birthday to my Frankie!

And if you've got one of your own. Hang in there, mama.

Want MORE Frankie? Try these:

What Cranky Frankie Taught Me About God 

Cranky Frankie Went to the Fair

Living the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in the Home. . . with Frankie

And away he goes . . . Don't worry. We caught him. We're going to give four year old Frankie a try.
 

I learned a new trick in PicMonkey. SO fun.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Why I Bother With the Rosary {October Giveaway Series}

October is the Month of the Rosary . . .

Sometimes I imagine Saint Bernadette, eagerly and devoutly praying the rosary at the feet of Our Lady. She reverently hold the beads, she carefully recites the prayers, her heart and her mind full of Mary's love for her son Jesus.

That's not how it usually goes down at our house.

Not when the kids are involved, and not even when I'm praying it all by myself.

Young Lady Saying the Rosary, Vincent Vidal. French (1811 - 1887)

When I say a rosary, it's almost always kinda grudgingly, with all the other things I could be doing with that twenty minutes flashing through my mind. And I'm almost always distracted by kids and lists and schedules. I have to admit to never having had any particularly supernatural experiences of the rosary at all.

When we pray it as a family, the kids get wiggly. The kids don't speak up. They stare off into the distance and forget to say the prayers at all.

They play with their rosaries instead of praying with their rosaries. They break their rosaries instead of praying their rosaries.

So, why bother? Why do it at all? There are other ways to pray, of course. Why the rosary?

1. It's ancient and new



Catholic tradition holds that Our Lady appeared to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan de la Roche sometime in the thirteenth century to impart the devotion of the Rosary. Monks of the time used beads to pray all 150 psalms from memory, but the rosary was given by Mary to St. Dominic especially for the use of lay people who couldn't read to memorize all those psalms.

It's been prayed continuously ever since, by Catholics all over the world. Rich and poor, religious and lay people, saints and sinners.

I love the connection the rosary gives us to all of those people. I love the resurgence the rosary has had among Catholics lately. And even among a few Protestants.

(This series of posts by a Protestant historian is a thorough and fair take on the common Protestant objections to the rosary.)

2. It's communal and private



The rosary can be prayed alone or in a group.

When I'm alone, I am still participating in a communal prayer of the Church. No matter when I'm praying, I can be certain other Catholics are praying the rosary at the same time, alongside me.

And when I'm praying in a group, I'm still also praying personally. I'm not a spectator.

While it's easy to imagine a nun or a pious old church lady sitting at home alone with her rosary beads, the Church actually encourages us to pray the rosary with our family or religious community or in a church. The indulgence is better:
 A plenary indulgence is granted when the rosary is recited in a church or oratory or when it is recited in a family, a religious community, or a pious association. A partial indulgence is granted for its recitation in all other circumstances.
So if I'm tempted to think I'd be better off just praying by myself and not bothering to pray with all these kids, I remember I'm getting paid overtime for it.

(For more on the concept of indulgences, see here.)

3. It's vocal and meditative



I like to be busy. The rosary is perfect for that.

It gives me something to do with my mouth: say the prayers, and something to do with my mind: meditate on the mysteries.

I also get something to do with my hands.

When our family says the rosary we are sharing traditional prayers, taken almost completely from scripture. And we are contemplating the lives of Jesus and Mary, through the mysteries of the rosary.

4. It's for all ages



Few things warm a Catholic mama's heart like hearing the stunted first few words of her children learning to pray. It's pretty great. And I love how my kids' relationship with the rosary develops over time. How they learn the prayers a few chunks at a time, and eventually are able to lead the prayers. I love how they can shout out the mysteries, and how they have favorite ones. Frankie, for instance, is rather partial to the Scourging at the Pillar.

On the other end, my grandmother suffered from severe dementia at the end of her life and couldn't place me, and thought my son Jack was her son (my dad). But it only took saying the first few words and she could recite the whole Apostle's Creed. That's a powerful thing to be left with at the end of life.

5. It's for all places



I love how portable and flexible the rosary is. We usually say our family rosary sitting in the living room, or around the table. But if we're short on time, we say it in the kitchen while we all work on the dishes.

We say it in the car whenever we have a long drive. We say it in church with the church ladies after Saturday morning Mass.

Yesterday, on the Feast of Pope St. John Paul II, we said it while walking home from our nature hike.

When the kids have trouble falling asleep, we suggest that they say a rosary. If they fall asleep in the middle, it's okay. St. Therese didn't mind, and that's good enough for me.

6. It's a mortification



I don't get all filled with warm fuzzies when I say the rosary. But that's okay. I say it as a spiritual exercise, to strengthen me.

I pretty much never FEEL like saying the rosary, but I've never regretted saying it when I was done.

I'm sure prayer is hard for everyone, but I've always wondered if it wasn't ESPECIALLY hard for mothers of young children. Our lives are lived at the whims of the little people around us. It's difficult to have a regular schedule of quiet prayer time.

But, for me, that's the great thing about the rosary. It's only twenty minutes, less if I really hustle through it. I can do it at any time of day and in any place. I can do it with the kids or on my own. I don't even have to have any equipment, because I've always got my fingers with me.

There's really not a good excuse for me to NOT get to a rosary during the day. And if all I get to in a day is a rosary, that's still pretty good. (Although I do make a point of trying to include other prayer in my day as well.)

Our Lady told us at Fatima to pray the Rosary daily. The bishops told families to pray the rosary daily. Popes and saints have told us to pray the rosary daily. They didn't say I have to like it, just that I should do it.

7. It's a gift



And wow, are there ever a lot of lovely things associated with saying the rosary.

There are rosary promises, and rosary miracles, and rosary messages. All of these are considered "private revelation" and as such are a pious tradition, which a person is free to believe or not believe.

But I know it's something that I want to be a part of our family culture. I want it to be a tool in my kids' tool kits. I want them to know it's there and know how to use it. I feel like our family rhythm is better when we are in the swing of a daily family rosary.

We haven't always, ALWAYS been great about getting to it. The family rosary has been a part of our family life since the husband and I got married, but our consistency has fluctuated quite a bit. These past few months of uncertainty about house buying, however, have been VERY motivational for us. We've been saying it every day, and hoping for our miracle, in spite of our wiggling bodies and wandering minds.

Here's how we do it, usually . . .

How We Say a Family Rosary

Here's how we do it on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary . . .


Here are some tips from Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas . . .

Can You Pray the Rosary with Little Kids in the House?

If you are not yet a person who regularly prays the rosary . . . this is a good month to start.

If you used to be a person who regularly prayed the rosary and then you had kids, or a job, or school and now, not so much . . . this is a good month to pick it back up again.

If you are a person who regularly prays the rosary . . . this is the perfect month to keep up the good work.

I've got some resources for all y'all. And people get to win them!



A cute little book to help you guide your children (or your childlike self) though meditations on each of the mysteries of the rosary. It's written by Michele E. Chronister of My Domestic Monastery and illustrated with original folk art by Heather Sleightholm of Audrey Eclectic.



This book is one of four available, one for each set of mysteries of the rosary. It has a two page spread featuring the prayer and a different work of art for EACH BEAD of the rosary. I think it's intended for kids, but would also be quite useful for distractable adult-types.


It's published by Peanut Butter and Grace, a Catholic family company with a really great selection of useful and practical resources for Catholic families.


Kids are tough on rosaries, but I don't want to be that mom who won't let anybody touch anything. So I am really grateful for GOOD child-friendly rosaries. Mary Jane's godparents gave her a Chews Life Rosary, and we love it.



Shannon of Organic Mama's Shop makes fun, safe, brightly colored rosaries that are supposed to be for babies but have proved very popular with all my kids, even the thirteen year old. The beads have a very comforting give to them!


Hey, did I mention about my new Etsy shop? I think I did. Anyway, these Rosary Printables are among the growing selection available over there. Also, a dozen JPII quotes, Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin holy cards, and a Back to the Future set, because I'm well rounded.


"Give me an army saying the rosary and I will conquer the world." -Pope Blessed Pius IX

"To recite the rosary is nothing more than to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary." -Pope St. John Paul II

"The devil, of course, hates the Rosary, precisely because it changes hearts, detaches from sin, attaches to the all–pure Mother of God, and leads to conversion. One of the ploys he uses to deter people from praying it is to suggest that unless one can pray it well, i.e. perfectly, one shouldn't pray it at all. I would suggest, rather, that the Rosary, even prayed badly, is better than no Rosary at all." -Fr. Mark Kirby
There will be four winners, announced next Friday. To enter, just leave a comment on this post telling me the last time you said a rosary ("not yet" is allowed!), and/or your best tip for remembering to say a rosary or wrangling kids while saying a rosary.

I was provided some of these items for review, and some links are affiliate links.

Stay tuned. I've got even more October giveaways to come!


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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How to Get Less Stuff This Christmas

Mailbag time! 

I know, I know, it's not even Halloween yet. But someone asked, and it's a good question, and I've already gotten two versions of it, so I'm answering it here, now.

Question:

Hi Kendra!

I really enjoyed your post about being a missionary to extended family.
I wanted to ask your opinion on a similar topic. My husband is a convert and his family does not practice any religion. They are Christian (I believe) but they have little understanding of how I'm trying to raise my children. When it comes time to celebrate Christmas, our ideals and expectations are much different. My main goal is to figure out how to make Christ the center of our celebrations, when it's not even a small priority to my in-laws. I guess I'm going to have to ask them about buying less gifts. they're wayyyy over the top, to the point where I feel like maybe I shouldn't even buy my kids anything because they are receiving so much. I haven't figured out a good way of communicating this with them.
They seem to think I'm worried about them spending too much, and continuously tell me "don't worry about it."
Do you have any suggestions for how I can speak frankly with them about wanting to have a simpler Christmas? And any suggestions for keeping Christ at the center of things when I'm not in control of the household?
I worry that my kid's idea of Christmas will be spoiled by materialism and they'll miss out on all the simple joys of the season.

Thanks for your time!
Sarah
Answer:

Hey Sarah,

I think this is an issue a lot of us have struggled with, from one side or another. There's the Your Family Culture aspect, and the Too Much Stuff aspect.

For the first, both of our sides of the family are practicing Catholics, and both are awesome. But both are out of town. We spent the first five years or so of our marriage going between grandparents' homes for Christmas. But as our family grew, I realized that I wanted to have OUR family traditions that our kids would remember. So, we decided to stay put for Christmas. There's a standing invitation for anyone to join us, but when it's at our house, we have a lot more control over the focus of our celebration. For us, that's things like observing Advent, putting up and decorating our tree on Christmas Eve, going to Mass as a family on Christmas morning, putting on a family Nativity Play, etc.

We just decided to claim our family Christmas and do it our way at our house.

There's more to juggle when you've got family in town. Especially if both sides of the family are vying for their slice of the celebration. If that were our situation, I think I'd relinquish either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but not both. That way, I'd know we could have our family's focus on the "reason for the season" on one of the two days, at least. And that's probably enough.

And I don't worry about being "too religious" for our guests. Especially when kids are involved, Jesus-themed parties are super fun parties. We've had non-Catholic extended family members participate in our family nativity play, t-shirt turbans and all, and it's hilarious. At the end of our tree trimming and simple family meal on Christmas Eve, we sing Away in a Manger, and Silent Night and put the baby Jesus in the manger of our nativity scene. It's pretty much the sweetest thing ever to see the baby Jesus lovingly thudded into the manger by a very solemn two year old. You never know who might be touched by witnessing such a thing.

So, I'd really recommend trying to host the family celebration either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day, and if that's not possible, just opting out of the extended family celebration on one day or the other, so you can have some family traditions of your own.



But even if that isn't possible, remember that Christmas is a whole SEASON, not just a day or two. If the right thing for your family is to give over control of Christmas Eve and Christmas, you can still make your Advent really meaningful. You can do a family novena leading up to Christmas Eve, you can have your kids fill baby Jesus' manger with soft straw that they earn by their good deeds. You can read beautiful books every night. And you can keep your family celebration going for all twelve days of Christmas in your home, by doing little projects like crafts, or baking together, or watching Christmas movies together.

The second aspect is SO HARD. Because, of course, family members are only trying to express their love for our kids by giving them generous gifts. And we want our kids to get that thrill of an awesome Christmas. But I can tell you from personal experience that less stuff Christmases are WAY better. It might be hard to have that discussion with the grandparents, but it is worth it.

What worked for us was being really open about wanting to de-clutter our homes and our lives. Before the holidays, I did a big clean-out of all the kids' clothing, toys, and junk, and I made sure that the family knew about it. Then, I used that as a jumping off point to ask for a simpler, less-stuff Christmas.

I've actually just been given the opportunity to try and review a website called SoKind, that lets you register for experiences and assistance rather than STUFF. It seems really cool so far. It allows you to ask family members to help you with things for the kids like sewing a quilt out of old baby clothes, or putting in a playset in the back yard, or putting together a family recipe book. But whether or not you use a registry to do it, you can tell grandparents that you would ask that they buy only one toy for each child, but if they want to give other gifts, you would be grateful for things like museum passes, or a zoo membership, or movie tickets. Certificates for taking a child out to lunch, or to play minigolf, one-on-one. They could give art classes, or sign the kids up for sports. Or they could give private lessons from THEM on something that that family member is good at, like cooking, or gardening, or car repair.



Things like that, that will be used at a later date, (or MANY later dates) throughout the year, go a long, long way to cutting down on clutter and distraction on Christmas. Just a few new things to play with on Christmas morning is fun and exciting. A mountain of new toys to play with is overwhelming and messy.

We had a specific and clear conversation with our family members to let them know that we appreciate their generosity, but it's important for our family to not be swamped with stuff. We told them that we and the kids really value experiences and time with them more than things.

After that, of course, it's not up to me. We accept gifts gratefully as we receive them, then, later, we decide what gets to stay in our house, and what gets donated.

Another part of this for me was learning to live it myself. I realized that part of my frustration was that *I* wanted to be the one to wow the kids with a super-amazing Christmas gift. But once we decided to really scale back our Christmas, it meant that I needed to pass along that idea for something that I knew a particular kid would really love, and let the grandparents be the ones to give it to him. And so my kids' gifts from parents and from Santa have become much less spectacular. And that's been totally fine. Usually now I give them books and something homemade, and leave the cool toy to family members, or Santa.

So, basically, I have totally been where you are. But we were able to make those adjustments and end up in a place where we have a really, fun, meaningful, and balanced Christmas. I really recommend it!

Cheers,

Kendra

p.s. In case you missed them, here are a few related posts . . .

Seven Reasons My Kids Don't Need Toys This Christmas

Advent: How We Try to Celebrate Things in Their Proper Season Without Feeling Like Total Jerks

Keeping Christmas: How we keep celebrating from the partridge all the way to the drummers

A little more about SoKind . . . I've been on the Simple Christmas bandwagon for a couple years now, so I was pumped to get a chance to take a look at the premium SoKind membership.

The idea behind SoKind is this: 
Your favorite gifts don’t always fit in a box. SoKind is the place for creative registries that promote fun, family, and friends—the possibilities are endless!




So cool. It's a place where you can list all those "wouldn't it be nice if . . . " ideas like piano lessons and museum memberships and an evening of babysitting. And then your loving and generous friends and family members can give your kids that good stuff instead of a bunch of noisy toys. But you could put a noisy toy on there if you want.

I love this registry the most for weddings though. It kind of makes me want to get married all over again so I could set up this registry and get our friends to gift us in graphic design, and photography, and a rehearsal dinner venue. When we got married, I know my friends would have wanted to contribute, but there wasn't an easy way to organize it all.

Anyway, SoKind. Check it out. Simple Christmas, let's make it a thing.

You can use the code simplify2015 to get 15% off the $29.99 premium registry price. That code will expire on January 1, 2016.

And that's my honest opinion (and an actual mailbag question) but this is a sponsored post. 


Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.

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