Emphasis on the "love" part of that.
I had decided previously that this was going to be my "slacker" Christmas. Gifts were already bought, so that wasn't an issue. But skipped having tons of different cookies for just the ones I made for the cookie swap* and our traditional gingerbread.
By Saturday morning, practically everything was done, part of a bargain we'd all made with each other that if everything was ready for Christmas by then, we could take a one-night trip to a neighboring town for lights and fun. We did. It was fun, and stress-free. I mean, except for the one obligatory "don't make me turn this car around" moment.
Was everything perfect? Um, you're aware I have 4 kids, right? A glass of beans helped ...
My kids were off the week before Christmas. The Sunday before, I was thrilled, and ready to write a letter to the school board thanking them for this scheduling. By Monday afternoon, I was ready to write a letter to the school board threatening to burn down their homes if they do this scheduling again.
But I'm back to happy about it. And all because of a glass of beans.
I filled up a glass with dry beans. I put a sack next to it. Every time I had to break up a fight, or deal with whining, or argue with someone or, or, or .... it took away from my time and/or energy. And I took beans out of the glass. Once the glass is empty, I explained, we can't go. Not punishment, just a visualization of reality. If the stuff isn't done, we have to stay home and do it.
The effects were magical. For the most part, anyway. And if LW shrieking "No, Ma Ma, don't take out beans!"-- at a restaurant when I asked her to not bounce on her seat -- is the price, well, that's okay.
And the presents ...
Well, we're not really trying to buy things, are we? The kitchenaid mixer is the promise of healthy, delicious food. The board games are a promise of warm, happy evenings as a family. The PDA is the promise of a stress-free, organized life.
And that's all fine, as long as our expectations are in line with what we're buying. That weight set isn't going to give you a great body unless you can also "buy" the time to use it.
So ... we bought the idea of the family playing together in the living room. Not board games -- have you ever tried to play Monopoly with a 2 year old running around? Or any board game with multiple pieces? It doesn't work.
So ... we got a Wii. No crazy midnight lines or paying twice the price ... I just googled "how to find a Wii" and found out that Amazon posts their new stock on Wednesdays at noon. 12:06, I had a Wii in my cart for normal price.
The Husband and I are feeling good about it. We can all play -- even Little Warrior. And while I won't go so far as to call it exercise, it does make you get up off the couch.
The Boy wanted to get LW a very special present, something that would thrill her. "Money is no object," he pronounced grandly. (He socks his money away like a miser, so this was a real offer.) After walking up and down the toy aisles at least twice, he decided on a giant stuffed dog, bigger than LW, and highly cuddleable. He hugged it through the store and beamed when buying it. He had that wonderful feeling when you just know that you've bought something someone is going to love. He was right.
The most significant and extravagant gift cost the giver no money at all. My mother-in-law (or mother-in-love, as I've called her since The Husband and I married), presented me with a gorgeous blue topaz necklace. "This was my mother's," she explained. Her mother died right after The Husband was born. "She would have loved you and the children. I spoke to the girls (her grown daughters) and told them I was going to do this. I want you to have it."
Ms. Kitty has been pondering mothering a grown son, one who is married. I will (hopefully) face this some day. I couldn't have a better role model. My MIL met me when I was 20. Her boy loved me, so she loved me. It was that simple. He married me and she encouraged him to cleave unto me. She never gives advice unless asked, and perhaps equally important, she has asked our advice on various matters. She and I can (and frequently do) stay up late into the night talking on her visits to our house, or ours to her condo. And if she thinks I'm making any mistakes with the kids, she's never given any indication.
So, our gifts are more than the things themselves. Like a very special necklace that says, "You are valuable. You are loved. You are family."
A really lovely Christmas.