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  • Big Things

    November 25, 2009

    The turkey is not even on the table yet and most of us are already thinking about Christmas.  For the past week or more, the retailers have been relentless in reminding us about Black Friday, the high holy day of materialism.  Getting up at dark thirty and going to a crazy crowded store and fighting over the “it” toy of the season is just not my thing. If it is yours, please have at it. Have my share. Enjoy.

    Yesterday Sean and I were at the grocery store and we ran into a friend of ours.  As we chatted, she mentioned that she had all of her Christmas shopping done for her children except for the big things.  Without thinking, I said “I don’t think there will be any big things under our tree this year.”

    That was a really dumb thing to say.

    I didn’t really mean to say it out loud.  I probably made her feel badly for saying it, which was not my intention.  Her statement was completely innocuous and nearly everyone I know utters that sentence sooner or later during the holidays.

    But the fact of the matter is, there will not be big things under our Christmas tree this year — partly out of necessity and partly out of design.

    And in an odd sort of way the necessity facilitates the design.  In an odd sort of way the tremendous love we have for our boy inspires in us a desire to give him more than is good for him. In an odd sort of way having less than he wants will make him more.  In an odd sort of way,  in the dearth of excess there is abundance and in excess there is emptiness. And all of these things conflict, confuse and claw at the heart.

    Earlier in the year, we read the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series with Sean.  We loved the books, but in many places they were hard to read. Laura’s life was charming and simple, but not at all easy.

    There was one winter in particular where her family faced the very real possibility of either freezing or starving to death.  It seemed only a matter of which would come first.  What has been wonderful about reading the Little House stories with Sean is that he can then look around and see his nice warm house with a full pantry and see how blessed he is.  He is able to come to this conclusion on his own which is much more effective than his parents haranguing at him, “You don’t know how good you have it. You have everything. You should be grateful. Blah. Blah. Grateful. Blah.”

    In one of the Little House books, it is Christmastime and it has been a typically challenging winter.  Laura and her sister are expecting nothing, certainly nothing big, but on Christmas morning they each receive a tin cup, a peppermint, a little heart-shaped cake Ma had made, and a penny. And the only reason they got those things is because a neighbor risked his life to get across an icy river to bring it to them.

    There was such beauty in that scene – in the selflessness of the neighbor, in the absence of expectation and entitlement, in the smallness of the gifts, in the delight of the children.  I have since wondered if we don’t deny ourselves that beauty in our quest for big things.

    So this year there will be some nice things for Sean under our tree, if not big things.

    But also this year, and every year after, there will be a box with a tin cup, little heart-shaped cake, a peppermint and a penny.

    59 Comments »

    1. Susan says:

      We don’t want a Wii, our old TV’s work fine, we have an iPod (can’t see why we all need one when mine just sits on the counter) and we are making a big trip to Grandma’s house so yeah…no “big” things here. We’ve done it like that most years and it has created a 10 year old girl who wants things like a bag of glitter pens, a new book, some jeans and “you know things I like..just get me a bunch of fun little things.”

      November 25th, 2009 at 10:04 am

    2. Allison says:

      Beautifully said. Yesterday at the book store with my 8 yr old I spied the Little House books and thought they would be good for us to read. After reading your post, I KNOW they will be good for us to read.

      “In excess there is emptiness”…how very true.

      Happy Thanksgiving, AM!

      * * *
      Yes, you must read those books with your child. I picked mine up at Half Price Books for about $2/ea. I think there are 7 or 8 books in the series and then a few others on her early married life, all excellent. What a wonderful investment and blessing that has been for our family.

      November 25th, 2009 at 10:06 am

    3. Melita says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with your post! We really do our children (and now I have to include GRANDchildren) a disservice when we give them so much. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

      November 25th, 2009 at 10:33 am

    4. Kai says:

      Oh Allison do DO read those books! I have such fond memories of my mother giving the series to me and reading it. Even now in my 30s, my mother and I STILL talk about the stories.

      We should all remember those simpler times.

      November 25th, 2009 at 11:12 am

    5. Jeni says:

      That is a great tradition! I loved those books as a child, and I look forward to my kids being old enough to appreciate them.

      November 25th, 2009 at 11:23 am

    6. Pat says:

      What a wonderful tradition to start. Makes me want to return to those books, even those simpler days. Thanks for your insight and encouragement to do so. Happy Thanksgiving!

      November 25th, 2009 at 11:39 am

    7. Heidi says:

      About ten years ago, my husband gave me the complete Little House Series for Christmas. It is a treasured gift because those books hold such sweet memories for me.

      Last year, motivated by our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, I told our kids that their entire Christmas would be in one shoebox. I loved the challenge of finding items to fit in one box and they never uttered a complaint. They had one package to open on Christmas morning – a shoe box. I know their shoe boxes contained “better” items than what most of the children overseas received, but it was still humbling for all of us, and a great way to illustrate that we do indeed have everything we need.

      Sean is a very lucky little boy with all the important “things” you give him.

      November 25th, 2009 at 11:41 am

    8. Paula says:

      We, too, have read the Little House books as read-alouds and loved them. Our funds have been limited for a few years now due to job issues and our kids are well aware of how much less they have than their friends. But as older kids, they are also aware of the importance of saving and spending wisely. They pay for their own phones, car insurance, gas, fast food, clothes, etc. It has been a tough road, but I believe it has been a beneficial one for our kids.

      Thank you so much for making me laugh and cry over the past couple of years. I love your blog even though I’m not a regular commenter.

      Happy Thanksgiving!

      November 25th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    9. Leigh says:

      How wonderful! I enjoy reading your blog in part because of your lovely photos and funny posts, but also because your daily account of your life gives me hope. Hope that I, too, can be a good Mommy, even if I am an antique! Hope that love, kindness and guidance can raise a better son than Xboxes and iPods. And hope that maybe, just maybe….there are a few more people like you out there, working hard to raise good children in a world that seems to have lost its mind.

      Thanks for all you do!

      November 25th, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    10. Shelly W. says:

      I am crying here. What a precious reminder of what’s really important–that cup, peppermint, orange, and penny say so much.

      For many of the reasons you discuss, we have never made a “big” deal out of Christmas. Like you, there may be a few nice things, but nothing huge. And even though we could maybe do more, we choose not to because we don’t want our children to think that “big” things are expected or normal. In our house, big things are worked for and earned and then cherished all the more.

      November 25th, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    11. Julie says:

      I am 23. In the past 22 Christmases, I have gotten 4 big gifts: a toy kitchen when I was 3, a Barbie Fold n’ Fun House when I was 8, a (cheaper but still working) vacuum cleaner for my first apartment when I was 20, and my husband bought me a brand new set of stainless steel cookware from Sears last year to replace our very, very worn out non-stick stuff. I am not opposed to a “big” gift once in awhile when needed or can afford. But honestly, some of my best Christmases as a kid were just the ones where I got a new Barbie doll, a few outfits, and a bunch of books and maybe some coloring or arts and crafts stuff. That toy kitchen lasted me until I was 8 and then I got my next big gift. Black Friday for me is going out and buying those big tickets items (this year a multifunction printer and a new camera) that we need and I’ve been saving a few months for but just waiting until I could get them cheaper. I have no children yet but my nieces and nephews all get a new toy or play dough/crayons/etc and an outfit or a winter coat or boots depending on what they need. For them, the best part of Christmas is getting to play with “Auntie” with their new game or making play dough animals.

      (sorry so long. avoiding doing more packing since Thanksgiving this year is going to involve us moving either into our first home or into my in-laws until we can close).

      November 25th, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    12. apathy lounge says:

      Still don’t have a Wii and I’m perfectly fine with that. Both college boys drive 10-year old used cars and the upcoming 16-year old will get a good (but used) car as well. It’s all good.

      November 25th, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    13. Because Sometimes The Small Things ARE the Big Things says:

      […] is reminded of our everyday richness. I can nod my head in affirmation at the thought that “in excess, there is emptiness.” (What an awesome reminder two days before Black Friday.) I can cry at the realization that in […]

      November 25th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    14. Aunt Murry says:

      How beautiful. I thnk that is what is wrong with the world, certainly what is wrong withmy fiance’s neice. So many kids get everything they want. They have no sense of yearning, they have no sense of what it is to earn something. They have no sense of responisibility or obligation. I could go on. I think it is a wonderful thing you are doing with your son. Not that you need my seal of approval but I would hope, if I ever get a chance to raise a child that I would raise them in the same spirit as you raise yours. Does that make sense? Happy Thanksgiving!

      November 25th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    15. Quirky says:

      You know, about two years after I got married, my husband and I decided to forgo the “things” for Christmas and instead spend the money on a nice vacation. We love it! Instead of having more “stuff” cluttering up the house, we have great memories and a whole week together. We’ve done it every year since. Granted, your post is about not doing big things and a trip is certainly no tin cup and a penny, but it brings us closer together, which I think counts.

      November 25th, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    16. Lucy says:

      There are so many things about this wonderful holiday which is supposed to be in remembrance of someone more wonderful being born that I just do not like. The marketing makes me nuts. And I can decide whether to join in with the nutsies or not. And I don’t. :)))

      November 25th, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    17. Stretch Mark Mama says:

      We’ve read about five of the LH books. For the most part we like them, but there’s usually about six chapters in every book that pick some story to detail out to infinity. My 8YO, who is just like me in his need for A Story To Get A Move On, came out of his room after reading “Rocky Ridge” and shouted, “JUST BUILD THE BARN, ALREADY!!” *snickering*

      November 25th, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    18. boomama says:

      Amen.

      November 25th, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    19. Jill says:

      My oldest is a nearly 14yo girl, then a 10yo boy then an almost 4yo boy. The 14yo is pretty pressured by consumerism this year. iphone, itouch, oh-me-oh-my. The middle son is sorta in limbo between not being able to decide which big thing he wants and not really knowing for sure what’s popular. And my sweet little one…OBLIVIOUS. *swoon* We give 4 gifts: something you want, something you need, something to play with, something to read. And new pjs on Christmas Eve and stockings with simple things (includinag repurposed Halloween candy – just don’t tell anyone).

      November 25th, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    20. deb says:

      this post is one of my favs…

      November 25th, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    21. momof8 says:

      We must be on the same wavelength. I just read the Little House Christmas book and was wishing that we could put a tin cup, a peppermint stick, an orange and a penny in each of the kid’s stockings and have them treasure it as much as those girls did. As it is (I am awful) I told them Santa has been hit hard by the recession and asked if he could bring our family surprises. Which means don’t ask for anything this year. Each year I try to simplify a little more. As it is we limit our children’s gifts to 3 –like Jesus. And we don’t spend a lot. As our family grew it became obvious things were multiplying. My house is too full of stuff now–we don’t need more! And while my kids don’t have all the latest and greatest big stuff, they are grateful and pleased with what they are given.

      November 25th, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    22. Rebecca says:

      I would ordinarily just shrug such a minor misslip of the tongue away, but if you’re actually preparing a box this Christmas and every Christmas — well, I had to say something so the box would be right!! Just think, if Sean had this beautiful Christmas tradition that he thought was from Little House, and then his utter shock upon his next reread of Little House on the Prairie to discover his box didn’t have the right things!!

      There was no orange for the Christmas in Indian Territory — it was a tin cup, a penny, a stick of peppermint candy… and a little heart-shaped cake made of white flour and sweetened with white sugar! You’ve got some baking to do! :o)

      * * *
      Aah! An AP fact checker! I believe you are right. We read the book early on in the summer and I thought I remembered an orange but little heart shaped cake is ringing a bell. I definitely remember the peppermint, tin cup and penny. But if it’s cake, then a cake we shall make!

      November 25th, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    23. vivian says:

      When my three children were growing up, I always felt badly that we couldn’t give them the things their friends were getting. I mentioned that to them when they were grown and they were so astounded because they always believed they had gotten just about everything!

      November 25th, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    24. Kathy Vaughan says:

      Amen! How sad to see what Christmas has become. How did we get to the point where every child seems to be entitiled to too much?

      AM, I love the way your boy is being raised! I’m thinking a few years down the road (quite a few, actually), I would love to have one of my granddaughters meet him! I have no doubt he is going to be one fine man someday. I think he will know what is important in life. Bless you as you mold him and teach him.

      November 25th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    25. tom says:

      I find this stirring. I so wish to inspire that sort of appreciation for blessings in my son, if I’ve already failed to do so for his older sisters.

      The haranguing doesn’t help, you’re absolutely right about that. My five-year-old might not have the attention span to listen to the LH series, but that can be fostered too.

      And all of us this year are going to focus more on giving than getting.

      Thanks so much for sharing this.

      November 25th, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    26. Heidi says:

      Could you be remembering the orange from
      “The Long Winter?” I think as spring finally arrives and they receive a crate on the train, it contains oranges. I have no idea why I felt the need to chime in on that, but I do love a good discussion about Little House…

      November 25th, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    27. Faerylandmom says:

      Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

      November 25th, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    28. momof8 says:

      Yep, yep it was cake not an orange. It was our parents who used to get an orange, some nuts, and some Christmas candy in their stockings. One year my MIL gave each of the kids a paper bag with those things in them. AND THEY LOVED IT!!! They had the best fun cracking open the nuts and eating them. I am going to have to figure something like that out because with 8 kids I am thinking I may have a few grandkids . . . if I start with the expectations low then maybe . . .

      November 25th, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    29. Linda says:

      For some reason I didn’t discover the Little House books until I was an adult. The year I read them I was so impressed by that portion you’ve written about I made many of our Christmas gifts that year – something homemade for everyone.
      You have expressed it perfectly – as always.
      Have a blessed Thanksgiving sweet girl.

      November 25th, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    30. Marian says:

      I love your idea of the tin cup gifts! I’m going to think of something similar, if not copy your idea outright.
      Christmas gift-giving frustrates me because I WANT to really delight my children on just this one day, and I want to do that by keeping it simple as well. But, even if I have not given my children much all year long, everyone else has. You came to the bank, here’s a treat. You came to church, here’s a treat and the prize box. You came to a restaurant (should that not be treat enough?)– have a prize. And let’s not even mention Grandma the Incorrigible. The word “treat” has completely lost its meaning. Truly every day is a holiday. So I arrive at Christmas wanting to both keep it extremely simple and delight my children at the same time, and it feels like an uphill battle.
      In any case, happy thanksgiving to you!

      November 25th, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    31. Sharon M. says:

      Oh, this brings back memories of reading the Little House series to my now 28,25 and 23 year old, many, many years ago. Such great memories, and they were always so appreciative of the little things. I am so distressed today to see how much “stuff” parents give to their children on Christmas. You are such a wise parent. Thanks for another touching reminder of what is truly important.

      November 26th, 2009 at 12:06 am

    32. Shiree says:

      I have been reading the LH series to my now 6yo son for the past year. I was afraid he wouldn’t be interested but he was hooked by the end of the first page of the first book. We, too, have gleaned a lot from the stories in those books. One of them being this very topic. We are cutting back this year and I am trying to find items that will fit in our kids stockings. They will enjoy it just as much. Thank you so much for this post. What a gentle reminder.

      November 26th, 2009 at 12:40 am

    33. Amy says:

      Excellent.

      November 26th, 2009 at 1:05 am

    34. Sue says:

      My mother tells how thrilled they were to get a new pair of anklets, and maybe an orange and a piece of candy. The year their father died, their mother tried to prepare them that there would not be those usual (simple) gifts for the older children. My mother remembers that she, as well as the other older ones, received nothing that year.

      November 26th, 2009 at 2:45 am

    35. Nan says:

      I absolutely recommend those books for all kids. They should be required reading!

      Have you read “Farmer Boy” yet? You MUST!

      * * *
      Yes, we have read every single LEW book she ever wrote. We started early in the year I believe, maybe sooner, and read a few chapters a night. Her writing is so simple and yet so beautitful and of course the stories always point you right back to your own world. We’ll probably re-read them all again in a few years.

      November 26th, 2009 at 5:05 am

    36. Alice@Supratentorial says:

      Love this post. We read all the Little House books this year also. Were you struck as an adult by feeling much more empathy with Ma? I remember as a kid reading them and thinking how exciting and fun the adventures were. This time I read them and was more amazed at what that woman (and other pioneers) went through. Just what it took to keep the family fed daily is overwhelming.

      It is so hard at Christmas and birthdays to find the balance of giving the right amount. Like you said, the desire is to give good things to my kids and to give them all they desire. And yet, I know that it not the best thing for them (nor is it truly possible). And how to teach them to be truly grateful when they have so much. It’s a modern dilemma. Reading the Little House books is also good for me to remind me that I’m blessed even to have this kind of dilemma instead of worrying about whether our one bag of wheat will last until the train arrives with more food. I realize that sometimes I worry about my kids being “spoiled” but really I’m just as much in danger of being “spoiled” myself.

      November 26th, 2009 at 6:32 am

    37. Paulla says:

      This made me cry. So true. I’ve read the Little House books, and read them to my now grown children many times. I remember those scenes you mentioned.

      You’re so right.

      November 26th, 2009 at 8:08 am

    38. Brigitte says:

      You brought tears to my eyes.

      As a kid, I thought those books happened hundreds of years ago. When I was older, I found it was more like the late 1800s and Laura Ingalls Wilder was alive until just a few years before I was born. Plus, until I was 27, I knew a lovely woman that had been born in 1892. It puts a lot of that “ancient history” in perspective. Heck, my own dad grew up in conditions like those, and still remembers the Christmas HE got an orange!

      * * *
      I think it is telling that those who only got an orange for Christmas remember it forever, but those (me included) who have gotten “big things” can’t tell you two days later what they got for Christmas.

      November 26th, 2009 at 8:34 am

    39. grandma to four says:

      I love this post – and your blog in general.

      My two boys grew up with the Little House books; and we didn’t allow them to watch the tv show. (I didn’t want them picturing Pa as Michael Landon; and had other problems with the show.)

      Here’s a suggestion for another story for your family: Little Britches by Ralph Moody. There are seven or eight in the series but I suggest only the first at this time i.e. Sean’s age. Be sure to have a box of tissues ready when you get to the end of the story. (I read it aloud to my husband; we had to take turns reading…. And we are “senior citizens.” 🙂

      November 26th, 2009 at 8:58 am

    40. fern says:

      Lovely post. And I agree with you–we have never done big gifts.

      I loved the Little House books, but my kids were never interested. I may just have to re-read them on my own. I am proud, though, of all the social action my daughter does and now she and a friend are planning a “hunger banquet” raising money and awareness of hunger around the world.

      Also, if anyone is interested in a great idea (credit to my sister)–we do not give Chanukah gifts to any of our nieces and nephews, or our own sibs anymore. Instead–we all pool the money we would have spent and let the kids choose a charity to send it to. Every year one organization gets something from our whole clan, and the kids get to think and talk about how they choose the organizations that are important to them.

      November 26th, 2009 at 10:34 am

    41. Jenn A, says:

      This past weekend my parents came to visit. While we also celebrated an early Thanksgiving, the true purpose of their visit was to help my husband and I fix the many broken/undone/needed things around our first home. My father is a very skilled craftsman and he and my mother spent four days alongside us helping us do things that were desperately needed, such as hang a new door, cabinets, a light fixture, curtains, etc.
      On the final morning of their visit, as we were eating breakfast, my father turned to me and asked what I would like for Christmas this year. Honestly, I did not know what to say. The gratitude for their help with things that we did not have the knowledge or experience to do on our own simple overwhelmed me at that moment. There is not one possession on this earth that could make up for their selfless gift of time. That is the gift I will remember when this holiday craze has long since passed us by.

      November 26th, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    42. Kate says:

      Oh Antique Mommy, I am so with you!! The Little House books are my ‘stranded on a desert island’ books. The simplicity and the grateful hearts that permeate throughout the books just transports me to a special place. She makes her meager Christmases seem like the richest ever. And they WERE rich, so much richer than so many of the wealthy people in the world today.

      Since you are such a fan of her books, I have found a new book you will love…and in the book the kids have a lovely, simple Christmas much like Laura’s Christmases. It’s called “The Year of Plenty” by Rebecca Brammer. Apparently it’s going to be a whole series! The book read very much like a Little House book and like the Little House books it follows a tight knit,loving family from earlier times, while focusing on a main character, and showing their life on a self sufficient farm in Kentucky. I highly recommend it!

      November 26th, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    43. Marian says:

      AM, I literally have nowhere else to vent this. Please indulge me. I commented above that it can be such a battle to keep it simple, and allow our kids the opportunity to feel grateful for little things, especially when the rest of the world is not cooperating.

      Yesterday my parents stopped in for a visit as they were traveling through our city toward my brother’s city for Thanksgiving. They brought a very large gift bag and presented it to our 4 kids, saying that they should open it today (Thanksgiving) so they’d have something to do. I peeked inside late last night. A remote control airplane. Walkie talkies. A large plug n’play video game. And I couldn’t see down to the fourth gift.

      ONE DAY set aside to sit back and be thankful for what we have. ONE DAY. And they want to pollute it. I’ve tried talking to them about it nicely a few times, and they’re always angry or insulted. I’m going to be the bad guy again and won’t give the gifts to them today. I don’t want to, ever, actually. But we’ll have to. Trying to decide what to do…

      Anyway, I hope that you’re busy enjoying your precious Sean and AD. I’m thankful for your writing. Happy Thanksgiving!

      * * *
      Oh I know. That is a pickle. Your anger is totally understandable. I would totally object to that, but there’s no way for you to put the skids to it without looking like the bad guy. And anger and resentment, even concealed, makes for an unpleasant holiday.

      It sounds like the grandparents wanted to enjoy seeing the kids open the stuff and maybe if they don’t see them often or at Christmas, they are trying to compensate?

      I’d say work on letting it go and make the most of the other 364 days of the year to model and talk about gratitude with your kids. You have to ask yourself if it is important enough to you to create a rift or harsh feelings in the family. As you yourself point out, it’s just one day.

      Then again, I’m no Dr. Laura…

      Good luck and peace and grace to you Marian.

      November 26th, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    44. Dee from Tennessee says:

      Well. I am feeling like death warmed over — whine, whine– but now I am soooooooo thankful I creaked over to the pc to read this. You just always hit the nail on the head.

      I’ve heard my mother mention more than once about receiving an orange for Christmas. (You might enjoy Patricia Polacco’s An Orange for Frankie. She’s one of my fav children’s author.)

      November 26th, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    45. Dee from Tennessee says:

      As if you asked (but that’s not stopping me I fear): I saw this idea/tradition on another blog a year or two ago and I would Oh.So.Steal. this idea if I had little ones. Each year, a Christmas-themed picture book is added to the family’s collection — and oh, there are soooooooooo many wonderful ones.

      Before Thanksgiving, they are all rewrapped, and after Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas Eve, one of those wrapped books is unwrapped and reread together. LOVE this idea.

      A former student of mine gives her two children a Christms book every year and always takes their picture with the book beside her piano. (And of course there’ s the pics with the new jammies too.) It’s fun — looking at the kids grow up and hearing their comments about the books they received that year.

      Christmas books at our school are shelved on a special holiday shelf, and they are continually checked out. (I’ll hush now.)

      November 26th, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    46. Praise and Coffee says:

      Love this. Hope you’re having a wonderful Thanksgiving.
      Sue

      November 26th, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    47. Carrie says:

      Ooh, cool reminder! Thanks for sharing! We hardly buy any toys for our little boy either, some educational things when he gets gift cards or money, but our parents & grandparents do enough of the toy-buying. 🙂

      November 26th, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    48. Diana says:

      Thank you.

      November 26th, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    49. Perspective on the Day After Thanksgiving « Fun and Learning says:

      […] how she is trying to remind herself and her son what is important, and how she is not going to buy “Big Things” for her child this Christmas. This is a nice alternative to the Walmart and Best Buy ads on […]

      November 27th, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    50. mythoughtsonthat says:

      My boy is 9 and this year, he was really interested in Black Friday. I would NEVER be a part of Black Friday and this year, he had lots of questions. I told him that I don’t like to make a big deal out of Christmas (although he’s received some nice gifts over his years), that I’d rather spend small amounts of money on him throughout the year, doing fun activities together. He said he was going to ask for a drum set and I said simply, this Christmas is going to be small, smaller can be better, save the drum set for another time. And he accepted that. Times are tough here and everywhere. Less CAN be more. Peace.

      November 28th, 2009 at 12:05 am

    51. Lori says:

      So beautifully written!

      There won’t be much under our tree this year as my husband has been out of work for almost 9 months and my sad little seasonal job at James Avery barely pays for any ONE bill that we have for the month. (Not complaining…I’m thankful for my job that keeps my mind off of the situation for a few hours each week). Both of our boys have been told that Christmas will be sparse this year. Thankfully at 15 and 17 they understand and are grateful for the abundance we are continually blessed with.

      When my older son was 5, we read, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” together and then went to see it at Dallas Children’s theater. It made for a wonderful discussion about the meaning of Christmas and loving others. You are making such great MEANINGFUL memories with Sean. How wonderful.

      November 28th, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    52. Minnesotamom says:

      We have been intentional about giving Anja next to nothing from ourselves for holidays, since her grandparents (my mother in particular) seem to find it necessary to spoil her. Also, we took time this year to list 5 words we want to describe our Christmas season. Funny, “commercialized” and “high-maintenance” weren’t on the list. We made a list of activities we’d like to do as a family that fit into our description, and I think, if we can be diligent about protecting our time (and not over-committing to parties and the like), we will have one of the best Christmases we’ve ever had!

      November 29th, 2009 at 1:40 am

    53. Dee/reddirtramblings says:

      That scene always makes me cry. When Meg was little, we read the stories and went to Laura Ingalls’s house in Missouri. It’s the one her husband built when they married. We read some of Farmer Boy while we were driving, and it made us all grateful. Happy Thanksgiving. May we all be grateful for what we have.~~Dee

      November 29th, 2009 at 11:37 am

    54. Rebecca says:

      That is by far my favorite story out of the Little House books. Bless you for reminding me.

      I’ve decided that my ‘big’ present to my daughter this year will be a journal I’ve started for her. She will hate it on the surface, but love it secretly.

      November 29th, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    55. Nancy from Illinois says:

      This is beautiful as well as timely. Blessings, AM!!
      Nancy
      p.s.- (I remember my mom telling stories about each child getting an orange and a few hard candies after the church Christmas program. She said no one ever had oranges at that time, they were just too expensive. This was a treasured gift, and she would eat it slowly, savoring each bite over the course of several days. This was in the late 1930’s, not that long ago!)

      November 29th, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    56. mutating missionary says:

      my daddy was a triple degreed engineer. He died building (as the Project Engineer) the largest natural gas refinery in the world (in Saudia Arabia). We were never aware that we were ‘rich’! We lived in modest homes, celebrated modest Christmas’, drove a modest family vehicle. But, my dad always said, “It is harder for me NOT to give to you than it would be for me to give to you.” He fought with himself over our ‘modest’ living. As I said, we did not know we were wealthy. My dad died when I was 22. I am 53. My mom has never lived a day in financial distress and has not had to work. She still lives modestly – losing most of it in the plunge in the past few years, but still able to live at 81 volunteering and comfortable. But, I wonder… I really wonder… would I have been able to leave America and become a missionary at the age of 45 had my dad given me all that he COULD have given me? And then I think of Our Sweet LORD… where would I be if HE gave me everything that I had wanted over the years? Who would I be? ???? Proud of you.

      November 30th, 2009 at 4:37 am

    57. mutating missionary says:

      ps – as a second grade teacher I read Little House on the Prairie to my students. Many came back over the years saying this book impacted them more than they could have imagined.

      November 30th, 2009 at 4:39 am

    58. April says:

      We’ve read all of these books too. It’s also a great illustration of how parenting has changed,but perhaps shouldn’t have, over the years. These books are powerful and sweet with the real things that matter plainly written for all children to understand. Any 7-12 year old can relate to the beauty and simplicity. When our children want “too much” that is generally the fault of the parents and, of course, commercialism that they are exposed to (also because the parents allow it). I know myself that usually when we give we have great intentions of the happiness it will bring, but that happiness is fleeting. I like to look back over my life and see what has meant the most to me. It has always been the time my family spent together NEVER the money we were able to spend. I thank you for molding another little boy into someone who will be conscious, kind, and practice good stewardship in this world…I hope my daughter’s will be lucky enough to find one like him!

      December 4th, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    59. Sarah@Clover Lane says:

      I’ve read the whole series tens of times as a girl, and that scene is the one that will stand with me the most. The simplicity, the kindness, the gratitude…I think of it every Christmas.

      December 6th, 2009 at 5:27 pm

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