~ the money issue ~
we are broke. we have been broke for the past 4 years due to hubs being in college and our only income being grants and loans. and of course, being paid a chunk of money at the beginning of the semester pretty much guaranteed that we were broke by the end of it. but our level of brokeness has increased as each year has gone by. back in the day, i had a budget of $500 for xmas. that seems extravagant to some and lame to others. the budget declined over the years and well, last year it plummeted to $100. i made it work, and i was actually quite pleased with the results. we restricted the number of gifts to 3 per kid, and i scoured the thrift stores for weeks and weeks. I ended up finding each child presents that they were thrilled to get, and they didn't care a stitch that they were secondhand. I did buy a few knew things, but not a lot. socks. toothbrushes. new crayons. dollar store trinkets for the stockings.
~ the time/energy/opportunity issue ~
so every year that we are broke, i have to find creative ways to provide gifts for our family members. i have tons of craft supplies and could easily, between my husband and myself, be able to produce lovely gifts for everyone on our lists for little to nothing out of pocket for us. but time and opportunity are a rare commodity around here. so the handmade stuff usually ends up going to the extended family. Last year they got hand-dipped beeswax tapers, handmade wool dryer balls, handmade (melt & pour) soaps, etc. in the past i have done sugar free & fat free hot chocolate mix (bc all of the grandparents and aunts/uncles are more "diet" conscious than we are -- we prefer whole-ish/"real" foods and not over-processed chemical shitstorms), felted wool coasters, crocheted whimsical/unique bookmarks, knitted/crocheted scarves, inexpensive photobooks (from CVS) of the "best of 20XX", etc. simple, quick stuff from supplies already onhand; things that are unique and infused with love. but those particular things are not the best gifts for children (with the exception of the photobooks -- they have been a bit hit with the littles!).
~ is it worth it? ~
for children, i mean. to make things. my kids are slobs. because of a combination of against-the-grain parenting philosophies, my desire to avoid conflict/take the path of least resistance, and my own laziness when my older children were younger, i have failed to establish good habits in my children. habits regarding taking care of their items and their home environment. if i am not on top of everything everyday by myself, the whole house goes to shit REALLY quickly. so i try to supply my children with sturdy, high-quality, repairable toys so that they will withstand rough use and last a long time. they still manage to break these toys. an overabundance of clinical-level hyperactivity amongst my children does not help things (it also drives me batshit and i have to take sedatives to make it through some days without completely flipping out). so when it comes to handmaking playthings for them, i am apprehensive. i have made many baby toys which have held up well bc they are simple crocheted/knitted or carved wood toys. but then the simple dress-up clothes have not held up so so well. drawstring to the cape goes missing and suddenly it's a useless piece of cloth. the ladies full-skirted half-slip that was upcycled into a little girls dress-up ball gown got the petticoat ripped off of it, so now it is a short, "flapper" dress. still loved, but disappointing to me. the bendy dolls and gnomes that i have experimented with in the past have been taken and ruined, whether by having been left in the yard at the mercy of the elements, or kicked unter a bed to gather dust bunnies and provide the inevitable florida bugs a tasty feast. so while i want more than anything for my children to have these beautiful, handcrafted, open-ended toys, made with love by their mama, i cannot bear the heartbreak of seeing those things destroyed.
~ the influx of shit ~
"shit" being stuff. new stuff. all five kids' birthdays from november to february, and xmas thrown in there. with overly generous grandparents in the picture, i'd say we end up with AT LEAST 50 new playthings (or plat SETS) in the house during those 3 months. that doesn't include the gifts that hubs and i receive. it's great that the kids get fresh playthings, really. i do not resent the generosity that provides my children with things we could never afford. i am a minimalst at heart, and we have 7 people living in a house built for 4. take that an add to it the garage that acts as a storage unit for everything from things we still haven't unpacked since we moved in 9 years ago (I KNOW) to things friends who lived with us for a while left, things we inherited when various elderly family members passed away, and of course, things that are no longer useful to us (outgrown clothes, toys, etc). we just have too much stuff. we have PLENTY of storage space. it is just not used efficiently, and there is a ton of stuff in there that just doesn't need to be. but i do not want to just chuck it all and be done with it, since deep in the rubble there are sentimental things from my childhood (or my children's infancy) that i truly want to keep for scrapbooks and/or memory boxes. so to chuck everything at once would be to risk losing something precious. (i promise, i'm not a hoarder. really. i'm talking memory boxes the size of a file box here.)
over the years, my children have destroyed many sentimental items of mine. i have hardened my heart to it and told myself over and over that "they're just THINGS." but that doesn't make it any less sad. i finally packed up the irreplaceable stuff and put it in a box on a high shelf in a locked room, to be taken back down when the kids are MUCH older. so i get that things are just things. i do not have a hard time deciding to get rid of things, and i have become more and more ruthless about it in the recent past. i lamented to my husband that we get rid of things that we shouldn't HAVE to get rid of, because if we are going to be able to teach the children how to take care of things, said things (all things, not just toys, but household items, too) need to be stripped to a minimum. so that is the idea while i cull our possessions these days. this time of year gives us a chance to start over. but the culling is tedious and can be very overwhelming.
~ and finally, nuclear-family-of-origin issues ~
my nuclear family of origin (mom, dad, sis) are not close. i won't hijack this by explaining why, bc that would take days. however, suffice it to say that the holidays rub salt into the wound that i have tried to keep swept under the rug of my consciousness. it hurts. i do not have a close, loving relationship that i so desperately crave with my family. so when holidays come around and we can't get together due to schedule conflicts, i feel undervalued. this is especially true when my sister is able to make the trip to visit our parents and i am not. so i go to my in-laws' house and celebrate with my husband's family, all the while feeling lonely and unloved because my own family did not try harder to include me in their celebration. and then when we DO get together, it is surface-level visiting with a slightly formal air to it. then the (always brief) visit is over and i am left feeling abandoned again. i have friends who are very close with their parents and siblings. i have learned to be apathetic about it, but underneath that i am envious and wistful. and the worst part is, i feel like it's too late to fix it. i have closed the door of my heart to them after enduring far too many rejections.
so all of that, you see, is why i like the holiday season to pass as quickly as possible so we can get on with starting a fresh new year (and perhaps consuming an entire bottle of champagne myself on NYE, haha), and i can focus on enjoying the lovely florida winter weather.
~ namaste ~
(at least i keep telling myself that)