Thursday, February 4, 2010

Daniel Update and Christmas Reflections

Daniel Update

Daniel is fully back to himself. Every once in a while I hear a slight mid-word pause, but otherwise, everything has bounced right back to normal for him. Praise be to God.

Dan and I are still a little shaken up. Daniel doesn't remember much of what happened to him, except watching a lot of Thomas the Tank Engine movies. We'll never be able to forget, though. I have always enjoyed my children, but this has taught me to truly savour them. I am thankful for that lesson.

Christmas Reflections

I've been wanting to share some of my reflections on Christmas for a while.

Gift Quantity
Last year for their birthday, we got the boys a bunch of little gifts and individually wrapped them. At Christmas each boy opened only two presents. We saw much more appreciation for the two presents than for the bunch of presents. We're going to stick to opening two presents from now on, or maybe three, but no more. We've seen a direct correlation between the number of presents that are opened and how much the kids enjoy and appreciate the gifts.

Adult Gift Budget
This wasn't the first year I wasn't able to spend all of my Christmas budget for myself. I'm going to work on picking stuff up throughout the year this year so Dan has more to give me at Christmas. We are also allotting 10% of the budget to a surprise gift, which is something we used to do but got away from.

I've encountered a problem with homemade gifts. I've been bit by the homemade bug but my husband has not at all. We're doing an experimental pseudo-homemade Valentine's Day to see if giving homemade gifts to each other has a strong future.

The Christmas Tree
We chose to go without a Christmas tree last year. I admit, I was a little disappointed about it at first. As the Christmas season went on I realised I wasn't as stressed. For me, the Christmas tree had become a constant visual reminder about the stress surrounding Christmas and all I had to do. We haven't decided if we are going to have a tree-less year next year, but if we do, I won't be disappointed.

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Anonymous said...

We curtailed our son's gifts about two years ago. It's amazing how less is actually enjoyed when given 'much'. This carries on (lack of appreciation) to adulthood. I've seen this in my own spouse, who didn't embrace 'less is more' and had terrible spendthrift habits throughout the year, never appreciating his birthday or holiday gifts. Thankfully, our older children (on their own these days), follow the less is more way of living.

We have a small fiber optic tree for our son. We found much less stress even in him, although he pines for a real-size tree (real or fake) each year.

Glad to hear little D has bounced back.

Life More Simply said...

We buy gifts throughout the year and keep them organized in a cupboard. I've found that this saves a lot of money overall and a lot of stress! Also, I have 7 sisters and we grew up receiving three gifts plus a stocking every year. I plan to continue this sort of tradition with my own children as, like you said, you can see the difference in appreciation between kids receiving a few gifts versus a room full of gifts!

Here's a little blurb about what I did this last Christmas to be frugal and keep the stress low:

markgro said...

I am so glad to read that Daniel is doing better. What you guys went through is the stuff of my nightmares.

DH loves my handknitted socks, so I know I can always do that if we want a homemade gift year. Because I work on the Constellation Program (NASA), which Obama recommended canceling, I think that this birthday will be a hand-knit sock one. He'll be thrilled, I can use up my yarn stash, and noone has to spend money, which should be piled up right now.

I can totally see what you mean about the Christmas tree being a visual reminder and stressor, but I don't think I would want to do Christmas without one.

jen in MN said...

A thought on the homemade bug... my husband worked at Walmart for about 7 months last year. I thought it was WONDERFUL because he had 40 hour a week potential to bring home a surprise card and occasional treat for me. Making me a gift, especially Valentines one at home would be rough here and you have even less square footage than I do! I'd either walk in on him accidently, stumbled upon his crummy hiding place, or the kids would bust him and the surprise would last less than a second. It's easier for us to appreciate homemade stuff, I think, when we have more time, privacy, and esp. as SAHM's availability to do so.
Do you guys ever have a date night? Valentines day or otherwise?

PS Daniel being better is amazing... do you have any guarantee from anyone involved that it was to be an isolated incident?

Early Modern Mom said...

Well, the hand-knit socks and Christmas tree comment should have been from me, Ms. Lilly, but DH left himself signed in to my computer yesterday, and I didn't notice until I'd already submitted my comment. Sorry.

Emily said...

jen, It is definitely easier for me to make Dan gifts than for him to make them for me. Time if a big factor for him. And there is no guarantee about this being a one time incident with Daniel. His doctor is treating it as though it is, though.

Early Modern Mom, I thought that sounded like you, unless I was somehow attracting more NASA readers. I love the idea of handknit socks. My husband goes through socks at an alarming rate and I'm thinking those would be more durable.

Devon said...

I so know what you mean about the savoring every moment. It sucks to learn it that way, though. I'm sorry you had to go though it.

Simple in France said...

Emily, I hope Daniel continues to feel like himself. As for the home made gifts, DH and I simply don't exchange gifts . . .perhaps that's weird, I dunno. And we actually don't do the tree anymore either. It's not that we have something against it, we just prefer not to deal with it. We don't have kids, but I think that if we ever did, we'd maybe decorate in some other small way and go with just 1-2 presents each year--too many is not good, in my opinion.

Alicen said...

My husband and I have decided that we will stick to 4 gifts for our children. Something they WANT, something they NEED, something to WEAR, and something to READ. I don't think any child should receive everything they ask for, it sets a bad example about money and realistic expectations in life. We do save all year to buy those 4 gifts though so we get through Christmas debt free.

Minn said...

I am glad Daniel is doing well.

We've limited gifts to our children to 4 each; a book, a crafty thing, an outfit and one thing that they requested. We have a low budget on each child, and most of the time we spend under budget. It's really nice to limit the gifts because 1) they appreciate it more, 2) less clutter to deal with afterwards. :D

Anonymous said...

My husband and I don't give each other Christmas gifts- we give each other a "day." We take a whole day to be together and we plan and look for coupons and free happenings. We have a bit more to spend now that my boys are grown but when they were small we could do a whole day for very little if we exchanged baby-sitting. The memories and time together are priceless. So glad to hear your little one is better, dee

JennyWLS said...

We didn't do gifts for each other this year either and honestly, I loved it. My husband is a big STUFF guy, so I felt like whatever I bought him wasn't enough because he has a list a mile long of things he would like to have. As for me, I don't really want a whole lot of stuff, and when I do want something, I find a way to save for it over time and make it happen, but I am not a big "run out and buy it right now" person at all, especially not during the holidays.

Our compromise for this was that any cash we were given as gifts from other people was ours to do whatever we wanted to do with. All checks were cashed and divided and the money was split down the middled. Here it is February and we both have over half of what we started out with! Turns out neither of us really WANTED a whole lot anyways :)

Anonymous said...

I don't get this statement: "I'm going to work on picking stuff up throughout the year this year so Dan has more to give me at Christmas."

So Dan doesn't buy / make / give you gifts? You pick out what he's going to give you? This also seems to imply that you give each other a number of gifts but then limit your kids to 2 or 3 gifts...

Why do you two exchange gifts anyway? You'd think you'd just do gifts between the kids. My husband and I don't live like you (not even close), but we certainly do watch our budget. We don't exchange gifts because we would rather spend it on our famly or something we need or would like for the house.

Vicky said...

I gave exclusively home made gifts this year.

I started way back in April last year, and I made a very special, very good quality gift for about 15 people (close family and friends).

Sometimes it was a photo matted beauitfully in a frame, for my dog friends I painted a portrait of their dog and framed it, or I made them matching leash/collar sets with the dogs name embroidered onto the collar.

Some people I made clothes, some got baby-related items if they were expecting.

I actually got thank you cards for some of them - which I've never gotten before when I just bought people things.

connie said...

My son gets enough toys from others that I don't buy him any for bday or xmas. my husband and I do not exchange gifts, but we usually will "treat" ourselves. for this past xmas, we got a cable dish installed, and receivers for all 4 TVs, and added the dvr option.

p.s there is another connie posting here

Domestic Goddess said...

Less is more. They just appreciate it more, aren't as overwhelmed and spend more time with each gift.

We do three. One for each wiseman. They do get a stocking that generally has a sweet treat, some crayons or pens or something else small. Other than relatives gifts (and we do pollyannas with the cousins - very large family!), that's it. We like it small and quiet.

We do a fake tree, due to child's allergies. One year we didn't put it up becuase I was due at Christmas. I put up a wreath and we put our presents near it. Itwas FINE! My son even drew a picture of a tree. We were still happy.

Glad Daniel is ok!

Andria said...

When the kids are a litte older, we are sticking to 3 gifts-- the same amount Jesus received. A big item, an outfit, & a book.
I can't control my parents though. They always go overboard.

gail said...

found you thru frugal hacks post. we had a considerable decrease in salary when my husband went back to school 2 years ago as well. i can totally relate. i found that there were a whole list of things that we had thot were essential that we learned to live without. hubby graduates this may and we are really looking forward to a new season in life.

we also have done without a Christmas tree for several years, mainly from lack of space. i have found i don't miss it as much as i thot i would. we may get one in the future but its not essential anymore. i still decorate alot without it.

Renee said...

We had a much larger budget for our daughter this year than we had in previous years and I too will cut back next year. I really think that too many gifts can be overwhelming for them!

Next year she'll get a present from Mommy, one from Daddy, a stocking filled with little things, and a present from santa.

Now if we could just get my in-laws to stop going nuts...they bought her more than us and 'santa' combined!

Emily said...

Anon, we do pick out our own gifts. We don't buy anything for ourselves except at birthdays and Christmas so we sometimes want specific things.

Vicky, that sounds nice. I might start drawing up plans for that kind of thing this year.

gail, welcome!

Patty said...

I'm married and the house is mostly established to the point where we don't want more 'stuff' and the things we do want are too 'big ticket' to have family give us. Vicky is on the page with us. When we adopted our first dog my mom sent us a drawing. I asked my mom for a painting of our house for my birthday and one of our second dog for christmas. She's always painted cards and such but these were just little sketches from a photo that are sooo special and personal.
My husband and I try to shop/do for each other but mostly we end up picking out our own. We are trying to keep it to things for the house or that we 'need' (tires and socks) but sometimes pick up a few wants. I have a gift closet for picking up things through the year at discounts which is handy for surprise parties, wedding or baby showers and the holidays. I suspect I will continue this when we have children.

Melissa said...

I am so happy that Daniel is doing better! I hope that he stays well and never has another illness like that again!

My dh and I exchange homemade Valentine's Day gifts every year. I would rather have something homemade than store bought. Being a SAHM, I obviously have more time to put into a gift so mine are usuaully better but thats ok. This year I am doing a scrapbook with pics from when we were dating until now. My dh loves gifts with pictures so hopefully it will be a hit!

God Bless,

Taurman Inc. said...

So glad to hear Daniel is fully recovered. We rarely buy anything for each other for any holiday except a very nice card. When we had the extra money we didn't always do it so now that we don't have the money it is no big deal.

Carla said...

Glad to hear Daniel is doing better. My son was hospitalized before Christmas with H1N1 and it is still a little traumatic for him to go elsewhere (he used to go on sleepovers to his grandmother's house but won't anymore because he wants to be close to me).

We pared back a lot this Christmas. We could of done better but it's a work. DH at the last minute bought me a bunch of stuff that I wasn't happy about because it was a waste (big baset of dollar store lotions and bath things that irritate my skin). Next year we will only buy a couple of gifts for the kids and something for our parents, because they do so much for us and it's a small way to thank them.

A good site for cheap gift ideas is . They often have promos where you can get free items or items for the cost of shipping or items for a low price with shipping included. You customize items with your pictures or artwork and they have really high quality product (and a lot to choose from!). I made gifts for many of our family members for around $20 and they were the most loved. My brother, who is impossible to buy for, went gaga over his, lol! You can sign up on facebook and they send a lot of coupons for items. Over the past couple of weeks I got a 100% free mousepad, a $1.99 watch keychain (shipping included) and a $1.99 shipping included dogtags with chain (I got a heart one with pictures of the kids on either side).

Sorry for the long comment!

Aimee said...

We are also working on cutting down the quantity of gifts. I grew up with "one big gift, one stocking, and a slew of little ones" I remember as a child, piling them all into my room, getting frustrated at being yelled at for a messy room but having no where to put all these things. We are also working on before big gift giving occasions, clearing out things. My husband had to learn the art of giving gifts through me-his family didn't do gifts until he was 17. It's been an eye opener for me.

I am so glad that Daniel is better. It is so scary as a parent to see your child not at their normal self!

-Aimee from Our Life-From Scratch.

Simple Memories said...

A little thought on the tree...
I too find trees stressful and we have only had a 'real tree' once. But, I love decorating, so a few years ago, I went to Wal-Mart after Christmas and bought 2 18-24" fake trees and some small ornaments (still collect these) and I decorated the tree. It fits nicely in a rubbermaid storage container, and since the branches fold up, you don't have to re-decorate it.

Every Christmas I pull out the box, fluff the tree, and have a nicely decorate tree in 5 min!

Also, can you post some more handmade gift ideas?

Hopewell said...

Glad your little guy is doing better. A lot of folks do the "Jesus got 3 gifts" rule....

Daisy said...

Since our kids were very small we have limited our purchased gifts to two presents and a stocking. In our family one gift is from mom and dad and one from Santa. The stocking has little things. We also have family members who enjoy buying our children gifts so we find that even then our kids are inundated with more stuff than we would like.

Hubby and I also enjoy stuffing stockings for one another at Christmas (that is all we do). We generally keep things small and "consumable" but have found that we enjoy the little treat. As a rule I get bubble bath, scented candles, herbal tea, organic, fair trade coffee and sometimes a coupon he made or a gift certificate for an outing. For the remaining holidays (Valentines, bday) we prefer to have experiences vs. "things". So we usually choose and outing where we can have fun. One year we went to an amusement park and rode roller coasters.

Blessed said...

I can't remember if I mentioned this here before, but this year we came up with some really good, frugal, healthy approaches to our gift-giving, namely filling my husband and my stockings with things from around the house, and limiting the # of gifts we give the kids. If I did mention it before, anyone who is interested in how it all worked out can read about it here:

Clisby said...

"As the Christmas season went on I realised I wasn't as stressed. For me, the Christmas tree had become a constant visual reminder about the stress surrounding Christmas and all I had to do."

If Christmas is stressful, I guess I can understand that. I don't find Christmas stressful, so it wouldn't apply to me. My husband and I give gifts to our children, we take a dish to our family Christmas Eve potluck dinner, and we cook our own Christmas dinner. That's about it. Oh, and I put a wreath on the door. And I get out the good china for Christmas dinner. I love the tree - we left ours up for about 3 weeks after Christmas because it looked so cheerful. Long-term, maybe you should work on reducing whatever is making Christmas stressful. It doesn't have to be.

Susan said...

I am so happy about Daniel. May he continue to prosper.
I have found homemade gift to be almost as expensive as bought gifts.
My favorite gift to give is a homemade Christmas ornament. I have made 'marbled' glass ornaments, cross stitch, needlepoint, beaded, felt shapes, the list goes on. It brings me joy to see how each family has saved and uses the ornaments over the years.

I am sorry you didn't have a tree. When my Grandma decided she was too old for a tree, my aunt showed up with a very small tree and a box of very small ornaments. My aunt had found them at an estate sale and immeadiatly thought of her Mom. The tree sat on Grandma's dining table year round after that.
Or instead of a tree, perhaps a nice creche. I keep one of mine in the dining room hutch. Behind the closed doors it doesn't need dusting except for twice a year.
Of course with the children, you might be able to find a child's creche they could handle.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I have been remiss in commenting for a bit. Life has been a tad bit hectic around here. (I blogged about it on my blog about the boys - - and that's just one day, sigh)

I am so, so glad Daniel is doing better. I know how scary it is when things are going on with your little ones that are out of your control. How is his speech therapy going? Do you like your therapist? Does HE like his therapist? We personally live in a world of daily therapists so I know how important that is to a child developing in the areas he's missing.

Sondra Rose said...

Blessings to Daniel!

We didn't have a tree this year--and we didn't miss it...we chose to do stockings and bought a shared present instead.

Emily~ you have inspired me into starting my own blog! Totally different subject's the link if you want to check it out:

Emily said...

Our Family, we were going to wait to see if his speech issues cleared up before going to a therapist. Thankful, they cleared up on their own, so it was never necessary.

Lisa said...

If the children only get two gifts (and are supposed to be happy with only two), why do you feel the need to get more gifts at christmas?

If we set a limit of two gifts at christmas, it would include EVERYONE in the household, not just the children.

Emily said...

Lisa, that was discussed pretty thoroughly here:

Essentially, my husband and I are the ones who give gifts to each other, where our kids are overwhelmed with gifts from relatives.

Jack and Jill said...

Our prayers are with Daniel, thank God he is doing well.

On the valentine's, my hubby and I decided to avoid gifts this year but now I am having second thoughts. Are we going to lose our "spark" as a result?

JussieMariee said...

I just wanted to say that I have been coming here for a few weeks now, and you have been a great support for me as my husband and I are going through a voluntary drop in income as well. I am working on a blog to chronicle how we are doing it, and our successes and failures. You are an inspiration. I also wanted to say also how relived I am to hear that your little one is doing better.

Keep it up…

Tammy said...

We do a couple of special gifts on Christmas Eve, and Christmas morning we open stockings. Each family member picks out a treat for each other (that can fit in the stocking; may or may not be food) and we all write out 2 "coupons" for each other: a "service" (example: I will give your dog a bath, or, I will wash and clean out your car) and a "fun one" (We will go to the library together and then walk to the diner for a piece of pie, or, we will build snowmen together and bring hot chocolate, etc.)

We sit around the living room, taking turns reading the coupons out loud. I have saved them over the years; my kids like to illustrate them, and they are treasures indeed! It's probably my favorite Christmas tradition and it's free (if you're careful about what activities you pick!).

Anonymous said...

Hand knit socks can be very durable, especially if you knit some nylon thread into the toes and heels. They are much more beautiful than most purchased socks, and can be customized to the wearer's exact measurements. Plus, they are fun to make.

However, they aren't actually cheaper than the commercially available mass produced socks. Even the poor quality mass marketed sock yarns available at JoAnn's and similar stores are $6 per ball, and each sock requires a full skein.

CaveGirl said...

We give our children 3-4 gifts each for Christmas but they're gifts that they want and will enjoy for the whole year. I don't buy cheap gifts just because they're cheap. They always get one book, one pair of pajamas, and 2 presents that they've been wanting. This year my oldest got a book, a pair of pajamas, sea monkeys, and a $50 remote control car he'd been begging for. My middle child received a book, pajamas, a Barbie playset she'd been wanting, and a Strawberry Shortcake toy she wanted. The youngest got a book, pajamas, one of those annoying baby dolls that pees and poops, and a Strawberry Shortcake toy. They play with their Christmas toys every single day.

They get 2 presents each for birthdays. My youngest and oldest share a birthday and my middle child's birthday is 2 weeks later. They each get one present on the first birthday and one present on the second. It seems fairer to them that way.

Hampers said...

Just gone through your blog in Christmas and found it awesome. May you be blessed with... His love and protection, guidance and grace.

Cris said...

I still don't know what I'm doing about gifts. As my partner likes to do the gift thing I'm at we each choose one gift for the other at Christmas. The birthday person gets to choose their gift on their day. So the kids would probably get two at Christmas, then possibly one on birthdays. I'm assuming they would choose big things on their birthday like a bike or a trip.

My mother used to buy me a small trinket and treat on smaller holidays like Valentine's. I was going to do that this year for my three year old, but am leaning towards baking a treat for her and axing buying something.

nepamom said...

I understand about the tree...I love to decorate but the tree stresses me. It's this big item I have to find space for and then keep the kids away from. The boys are currently sharing a 7x10 bedroom -3 little beds and a bookshelf doesn't leave room for toys in there. So basically I'm setting up a 6-7 foot tree in the kids play area (people without children or with more space might refer to it as a living room(; )The holidays can be crazy enough on their own and then I have to rearrange my house to accomodate. Hopefully by next year we'll have more of the house finished so it won't be so cramped but I still want to do something different with the tree.

I'm also planning to buy throughout the year to make things easier on the budget...luckily my soon-to-be new bedroom comes with a big double closet! Our family has just gotten to big to wait until December paychecks.

We had one minor snafu this year in regards relying on family for gifts. It seemed like every other year they would mix tons of toys with a nice amount of practical clothes. This year we decided to have fun for a change and use our limited budget on the fun stuff assuming they'd all be buying clothes again (that we didn't need all that much of anyway). Not a single reletive bought so much as a shirt for any of the little ones. It wasn't a huge deal since they have plenty of clothes, I was just looking forward to some new pants for the almost 7 year old that just decided to grow a few inches and some shirts for the 3 year old since nice hand-me-downs for that age/size are hard to come by with 3 older brothers.

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