iphone pics 2011-2012 856This time of year things can really amp up a bit – with social events and sing-alongs and school pageants and classroom projects and gift giving and decorating and, well, you get the idea, it’s busy right now. Even if it’s good busy (which I hope for all of you that it is!) it’s still busy and definitely takes some serious intention. And planning. And ideas for how to keep things feeling the way you want them to feel.

While I do love the giving spirit that is prevalent this time of year, I don’t love the feeling of obligatory getting that seems to want to dominate. And that marketers spend billions of dollars on. Being aware of that is our first step towards making it work for us. When we know what we don’t want, it’s easier to focus in on what we do want. And from that knowing, and from the web, and from trial and error over the years, I bring you this…

  1. Experience. Rather than a thing, focus on an idea. A special class or outing, a trip to the movies, a book of coupons for visits to the bakery or the ice cream shop or a one-on-one date to the cafe or some other such outing where the prize is the process itself.
  2. Consumables. Perhaps this comes from having a big family now and coming from a big family, but having your very own box of your favorite cookies or a special treat or your own bag of chocolate pretzels or some other food that normally isn’t the norm?  That you can eat when you want and that you don’t have to share if you don’t want to but you can if you do want? That’s heaven for a kid. You can eat if fast, or make it last. It’s up to the recipient and they are in charge of that little food domain.
  3. Want/Need/Wear/Read I saw this a while back and I think it’s brilliant. I love the parameters it sets and I love the simplicity of it and the fact that it’s all sort of covered – desires are met, needs are met, a fun garment can be purchased that might not be otherwise, and a book to read, which provides an instantaneous activity! It all takes care of that feeling many of us parents get when we put the gifts out and think, “Oh my! That’s not enough!”
  4. Presence. It sounds cliche I know, but truly, what if accompanying the presents there was also presence. Phones would be turned off, screens could be pushed away, distractions could be eliminated or at least minimized , and we could greet our children with our full present selves. We could play the games they want to play, and engage in a way that felt like a gift in itself. Something I know we can’t always do with all that needs to be done in a day, but on this day, in this season, that seems like it could really bring about the feeling we’re all truly seeking.
  5. Group gift that is also an activity. Something like a board game for the family or a big giant puzzle or an art supply of some beautiful variety or coupons for bowling or the batting cages or some place you’ve all been wanting to go. Something that is given to the group for the group and that instantly inspires some fun family time.

In our house we’re going for the feeling of satisfaction and we are well aware that feeling comes not from a thing but from the approach. (and quite often this time of year I need to remind myself of that!!) It is not about getting more, but about making sure that what we bring in are the things that bring us more of the feelings we want.

After a talk I gave recently on creating your slow holiday, I realized, there is no magic in a cranky mom.

What are some ways you make it work in your house? What is one of your ideal holiday memories? What’s your favorite gift to give? Or get? What’s the feeling you’re going for this holiday season? And how do you make sure you get there?