It’s 4:00 and once again I have nothing planned for dinner. We eat dinner every single night but somehow, every night I’m caught off guard and have nothing planned and nothing defrosted. Where’s the Dinner Fairy when you need her?
My 83-year-old father still works full time. He and my step-mom run their own real estate company. When they get home from work, rightly so, they are plumb tuckered out and are too tired to make dinner. At our recent Christgiving celebration they received a gift from me and the Dinner Fairy.
My girls and I spent two days cooking and filled their freezer full for Christmas. For a couple who have all the material knickknacks they need, this was the perfect gift. Today I’m sharing extraordinary simple gift ideas that don’t need to be gift wrapped.
My wonderful friends on Facebook recently responded to my survey, “If you could have any non-material gift this year, what would it be?” I loved their answers and the hearts behind the answers. They are the inspiration behind these gift suggestions.
A Gift of Assistance
I have decided that the full freezer gift is the perfect gift for anyone. Besides cooking for my Dad and Mom I also filled plenty of containers with food for my son. December 5th is his 22nd birthday, so we drove down to his college yesterday with an ice chest full of food. I knew finals were just around the corner and my apartment-living son tends to not eat, or eat garbage when school is overwhelming.
A college student is not the only one who needs some go-to ready made meals. Any mom would delight in some frozen meals: new moms overwhelmed with caring for a new life, toddler moms exhausted from chasing their 2-year-old all day, working moms who never know how to get it all done and even elderly moms who now live alone.
We all have so much stuff, we don’t want any more, but dinner, now we could all use dinner!
A Gift of Togetherness
The most common reply and greatest desire my Facebook friends had to my survey was time with their family. Some longed for together time with grown children who were far from home. Some dreamed of the gathering of extended family like when they were children. Others just wanted to have everyone together and enjoying one another. Some moms longed for family meals while others wanted an entire Sunday spent together, every Sunday. One mom wanted everyone together on a family hike. We just want to be with the ones we love.
Pick a day. It can be Christmas day or another one, but set that day aside as Togetherness Day. Re-work schedules, eliminate projects, make things as simple as possible, but hoard one whole day to spend with your family.
Pre-choose their favorite games and set them out. Choose stories worthy of a read-aloud time. The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is not as long as you might think. For younger children pull out all the Christmas picture books. Try to avoid technology and movie watching. This is time to enjoy one another.
Not only do you need this for your own family, remember extended family who would love a day like this also. Make a beautiful coupon good for one evening of togetherness and present it to that person in your life longing for fellowship. Write three possible dates when you will be available and let them choose one.
Family togetherness, the ultimate gift.
A Gift of Support
One of my friends shared her broken heart. Her teen son was lonely. One friend desired the guidance and wisdom of the older generation. She wished someone would pass down their knowledge of a dying craft or a foreign language. One mom just wanted help with the high cost of college.
I would be giddy if someone decided to give one of my kids a college education for Christmas, but that’s unlikely. A great idea however would be letting grandparents know that the cost of a college textbook would be more appreciated than a package of underwear. You too could contribute in some way to a relative’s or friend’s college costs. A parking permit, lab fees or additional meals on a meal plan would be great gifts for a college student or parent.
If you have a skill or talent or just knowledge in a particular area, make a coupon and treat someone to your time and talent. I spin wool. Not everyone can and not everyone wants to know how, but a coupon for five spinning lessons is a great gift. I would love to receive some French lessons or watercolor classes. You have so much to offer, so offer it this year as a Christmas gift.
People need us. So many people are lonely, the elderly, the young mom and teens in a world of cliques and judgement. Find a way to give them the gift of your time and support. They don’t want socks or even the latest iPhone. They want acceptance, companionship and relationships. Give the gift of support.
You have the means and the power to give the most extraordinary Christmas gifts this year. For the most part, no money is required. The requirement is a little thoughtfulness on your part, some of your time and all of your heart. Give the gift that people truly want this year…YOU!
Oh, and Lord, could we have a white Christmas?!
BONUS GIFT IDEAS
All I Want for Christmas is an article I wrote for Medium. It too has additional great heartfelt ideas. Read it here or scroll to the bottom of this post for the complete article.
THE COZY CHRISTMAS BOX GIVE-AWAY
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Here is one of the soups the Dinner Fairy made for my family.
Sausage Lentil Soup
1 lb. Italian sausage – browned
2 cans lentils
3 TBsp olive oil
1 onion – diced
4 stalks of celery – chopped
3 carrots – sliced
2 lg garlic cloves – minced
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
6 cups chicken broth
28 oz of canned diced tomatoes
Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer at least 30 minutes. This can also be cooked all day in the crock pot. Add pasta if desired. (use cooked pasta, uncooked pasta soaks up too much broth.
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS
“What do you want for Christmas,” is a common question heard often at this time of year. Other than a pink sweater long enough to cover my hips and world peace I’m not always sure what to put on my list.
Christmas at my home is a big deal. As mom, I am the official creator of Christmas happiness. I decorate in magazine worthy style. I search for and wrap gifts for each family member that will thrill and delight. I mail Christmas cards, bake cookies, host parties, write a family Christmas story and believe it or not, I even throw a Fezziwig Christmas Ball. I am a holiday overachiever.
I strive to create magic each December, and by December 25th I am burnt-out, bitter and even once, I was hiding in my bedroom lost in hopelessness. Did I mention that I’m a Christian and that I celebrate Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus? How then do I end up so unhappy on the 25th?
When I think back to my favorite, and unfortunately my un-favorite past Christmases, I easily see a pattern. Every year the item that I desperately want is not a gift you can slap a bow on. One of the greatest gifts anyone could give me is a little help.
I am the mom of five kids. My oldest is 27 and my youngest are 17-year-old twins. I’ve had many Christmases attempting to be magical Christmas Mom. I’m still trying to get it right. Over the years I’ve learned what truly makes a Christmas magical, and it’s not usually in a package. So, if you are searching for that perfect gift for a fellow mom, or if you just want to inform your family of what you whole-heartedly desire, I’ve created, “Mom’s Christmas List.” Feel free to print it and hang it on the refrigerator.
Mom’s Christmas List
A Little Help
Every mom needs help. The mother of an infant would greatly benefit from someone willing to hang out with junior for a few hours so she can take a much-needed nap. The offer to pick up groceries would be heaven sent and just sharing a chat with another adult human would restore lost brain cells.
The mother of a toddler just wants a break. Toddlers are the busiest people on the planet. They are learning and growing and doing so by destroying your home. Offer your services to a “Toddler-Mom.” Clean her house, keep the little angel occupied while mom tries to accomplish some tasks. It’s important to keep from discouraging her by letting her know that whatever was just cleaned will be a mess again tomorrow.
The working mom could use some home-made meals stored in her freezer. Some help with laundry would send her over the moon. The working mom doesn’t need another bottle of perfume, she needs dinner on the table and clean clothes.
A Little Time
“I wish I had more time.” We all say it and we all wish it. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you get 24 hours a day, that’s it. However, there are some ways to make it feel like there are more hours in a day. It happens when we pitch in and support each other.
The best way to expand your time is to train your kids to help out. They need to share the load. Doing it all is the quickest route to a disgruntled, bitter mom. Mom, you are no longer the creator of Christmas happiness. Christmas is now a team sport and you are the coach. Call the plays and make it happen by group effort.
You could also write coupons for extra tasks that need to be done around the house. Tape them on the fridge and tell your kids that those coupons are what you truly want for Christmas. Tell them to choose one or two, wrap them and put them under the tree.
Most of all reduce your Christmas to-do list. All of it is not necessary. Time multiplies when we reduce our expectations, plans and activities.
A Little Compassion
The Christmas season is filled with joy and festivities. Unfortunately, for some it is also filled with heart ache and loss. The greatest Christmas wish many people have is for their loved one to be free from disease or to once more see their loved one who is no longer with them.
These friends need the gift of compassion. They need a listening ear and an understanding heart. The cultural expectation that they should be merry and bright when their heart is heavy can cause anger at the season. Be someone who cares. In the midst of your celebrations, remember these friends. Invite them out for a non-Christmas themed lunch. Don’t place expectations on them. Just because they’d rather not focus on the holidays, don’t neglect them. Have compassion on a hurting friend.
A Little Togetherness
Moms long to spend time with their families, unscheduled, unrushed and unplugged. The most wonderful time of the year is also the busiest. For some reason it has become the norm for everyone to present a show at Christmas. Piano, choir and dance recitals, school and church productions, school, office and countless other Christmas parties all clamor for a date on your calendar.
No, is a complete sentence, one you should use. The word “no” is a gift you give to yourself. Moms long to spend time enjoying their families. We want to be at home with no time demands. If that is the gift you desire then, “no” will need to be used more often. Don’t just dream of more time together, plan for it and take steps to create it.
If what you want for Christmas is a little help, a little time, a little compassion and a little togetherness don’t ask your family for a new kitchen appliance or bath salts. Sit down and have a discussion. Decide how your family can add these non-material gifts to your lives and the lives of your friends. The result will be a merrier Christmas and a merrier mom.
Most photos by Anna Spence