Stephanie Precourt projects remarkable light, positivity, and gratitude; qualities -- along with her lovely writing style and beautiful photography -- that make her blog Adventures in Babywearing so wonderful to visit (even for those of us who are beyond babywearing). I first met Stephanie at the inaugural Disney mom bloggers mixer, during which time she was pregnant with her daughter Ivy; since then, it’s been a joy to be connected with this kind and thoughtful friend. For the fourteenth installment of my Simplifying the Holidays guest blog series, enjoy Stephanie’s reflections on the nothing and everything of the holidays.
I don't usually buy new books. But the boys had a special reading night at the local bookstore recently and a small, simple book caught my eye: The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell.
We had a voucher: for every purchase that night, a percentage would go to the school. I grabbed the book without even opening it up. I never do this. But I just had a feeling about this book.
I let the boys each pick out something at their reading level and paid. When we got home I pulled out The Gift of Nothing and set it on the end table. At that point, it matched the Christmas decor.
Then it was the book chosen for bedtime. The simple photos tell a simple story: of what do you give to someone that has everything? Nothing? There is so much stuff. It's hard to find "nothing." But if you can be still, you will find it. And nothing, can be everything to someone.
Every year we seem to scale back our Christmas more than the last. And our Christmases aren't much, if you’re measuring by number of presents under the tree. But that's not what we think counts.
It's not just for financial reasons; it's partly because when you think about it, we really have everything we need and want. Of course there is always the latest this or that. But, the excitement of those new things grows dim so soon. My mother's heart can't take the highs and lows of so many I have to have this! toys that now await new batteries deep within a toy box, in pieces under the bed, or left to weather in the backyard. Here is how our family celebrates:
1. We encourage our whole family to consider spending time together rather than money. And for the parts of our family that do have money to spend, we do something special together. This holiday, in place of presents, we went to a water park hotel for a weekend with Grandma & Grandpa and aunts and uncles and all the cousins. The kids all understood this was their Christmas gift from Grandpa & Grandma. There would be no presents to open, but memories and time spent with each other to last much, much longer.
2. With the other grandparents, we'll go to the museum and see the Christmas trees around the world. We'll spend that day together and have a "lighter" Christmas on Christmas Eve.
3. At our house, on Christmas morning, there will be small toys and candy inside the stockings, and a couple of gifts for each child under the tree. Nothing extravagant, but definitely thoughtful gifts that are not only useful, but special and imaginative.
4. On gifts: just as I prefer to keep the gift-giving simple, I long for the gifts themselves to be simple. Maybe handmade, and most importantly something that captures the spirit of the recipient. I've bought Ivy a felt tea set (her very first tea set), and the boys each a secret compartment vintage book. I'll fill the books with some individual little treasures for Noah, Carter, and Gray.
I know it's certainly not much. And it's definitely not "nothing."
But it means everything.
Note: I'd like to thank @summerm for telling me about the secret compartment books; such a perfect suggestion for my boys ages 4, 7, & 8. If you are up to the task, I found an awesome DIY video on how to make a secret compartment book. I thought about giving it a try, but it would be too difficult to do without the boys finding out. We also have a very small, simple house.
Stephanie Precourt has been married to her husband Jeff for 10 years & is the mom of three boys (Noah, Carter, Grayson) and a home-birthed girl (Ivy). She works from home as the voice of Adventures in Babywearing, as well as SheKnows.com's Real Moms Guide. She also freelances for NWIparent Magazine and the NWIparent blog Close To Home, and is the Managing Editor for 5 Minutes For Parenting. You can follow Stephanie on Twitter at @babysteph.