Tuesday 9 December 2014

Gifts of love

Welcome to the December 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Greatest Gifts
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have suggested go-to gifts and gifting experiences for the holiday season for all your loved ones.

When I was little, we had plenty. It wasn't much, but it was all we needed.

My parents were young when they had us, which meant young in their careers too, and I know that my dad, who was away with the Navy a lot of the time, always had a second job moonlighting as a chef or a farmhand when he was shore-based.

Not THE dress, but it's similar...!
My mum used to make a lot of our - and her - clothes, and my dad was a dab hand with the sewing machine too. Handy at quite a bit, actually - he made my brothers bunk beds, and when our tiny two bedroom house got too small for a family of 5, he turned the end of the hallway into my very own bedroom. Seriously cool - it had a cabin bed and everything.

And that way of life is how I remember the best Christmasses I had.

My all time favourite Christmas present - I must have been about 5. We were excitedly gathered outside the lounge waiting for daddy to finish shaving (which I now know he did to build the suspense more, given that he's usually the first to be heard at 5am on Christmas morning stage-whispering 'It's Christmas - can we get up now?!!'). After what felt like hours, and was probably around five minutes, the door was slowly opened, and there, hanging on the curtain rail, was my Christmas present.

Bright red needlecord with a white cotton embroidery anglais border around the bottom. It was beautiful. It was the kind of pinafore that princesses wore (because everyone knows that flouncy skirts would get in the way on all the exciting Princessy adventures). And it was brand new, made just for me.

Wow. I don't remember a lot more of that day. I don't remember a lot of loss of my Christmas days over the years, or the gifts that many people carefully selected for me. But I remember every bit of that dress.

I'm not a fan of the way Christmas can get overtaken by gifts - not even specific gifts, but just a sheer volume of wrapped stuff which, come thank-you card writing time, we can barely recall. Don't get me wrong, I love presents. I love getting wonderful things that I can't justify buying myself, I love the exciting stack of colourful paper packages under a gorgeous-smelling, ornament-covered tree. But I don't want to trade that for the wonder of feeling so special to those around me that they wanted to give me something they had carefully and lovingly planned to be just for me. And I think, sometimes, we can be overwhelmed by volume, rather then specifics.

This year, my husband and I have been thinking up ways to ramp up the magic-factor for Christmas, ostensibly for our munchkin, but very obviously for us, as she just won't care beyond the mountains of tasty foods she can wolf down... Apparently self-opening doors to the lounge where the tree etc is waiting is our favourite. Why we hadn't thought of it before is quite worrying, it's an obvious must for any self-respecting household.

Said Wheelybug - available from many a place, I'm sure...
We are also making most of our gifts, partly for financial reasons, but also because there's something quite wonderful about receiving a present that you know has had time, effort, care and thought put into it. A lot of our friends and family are homemade Christmas fans too, and I'm sure a good proportion of our gifts will have been made rather than bought.

Our munchkin is getting a second hand Wheelybug, but she's also getting a handmade, slightly imperfect dress, because, 28 years on, I still prize that gift above every other I have been given, year on year. And that means, clearly, that there must be something a bit magical about a homesewn Christmas outfit.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon December 9 with all the carnival links.)
  • I Want to Buy All of the ThingsThe Economama discusses whether there's a way to buy all of the baby stuff she desperately wants for her daughter without spoiling her.
  • The "Collectors" and the "Concentrators": How Children React to Lots of Presents — Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., at Parental Intelligence discusses two types of children who receive gifts: the "Collectors" who rip open the wrappings on their their presents and love to count them and the "Concentrators" who spend endless time on each gift ignoring the array of presents around them.
  • The Joy of Giving and Receiving — Ellen at Life With Lucien shares her three-year-old son's new favorite toy for imaginative play.
  • Books: Best Present Ever! — Holly at Leaves of Lavender discusses some of the many reasons why books are the ideal gifts for little ones.
  • 10 DIY Gifts You Still Have Time To Make — A roundup of 10 DIY gifts that don't take much time to make from Doña at Nurtured Mama.
  • Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaves - A Delicious Holiday Gift — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares one of her favorite recipes to make and give during the holidays. This Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaf is much anticipated by her friends and loved ones. Learn how to create this delicious gift from the heart!
  • Christmas gifts for dreamers — Tat at Mum in search shares her favourite books and resources that have helped her get inspired and move forward towards her dreams this year.
  • Natural parent's baby shower registry — Since she had everything already for baby #3, Lauren at Hobo Mama is amusing herself by building a list of essentials and a few fun fripperies for a natural-parenting nursery.
  • Gifts of love — Charlie at PeelingClementines recalls her favourite Christmas gift of all time and thinks about how to add this magic to her little one's first Christmas.
  • The Gift of Letting Go — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has discovered that when you're a perfectionist, sometimes the best gift is simply releasing yourself from self-imposed expectations.
  • Montessori Inspired Gifts for Babies and Toddlers — Rachel at Bread and Roses shares gift ideas that were a hit with her son last year and what's on her wishlist for this year.
  • Giftmas Ideas for KidsMomma Jorje offers an original gift idea that hasn't been overdone and is good for the kids!
  • Favorite CDs for Babies and Toddlers {Gift Guide} — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her family's favorite CDs for babies and toddlers, some of which were favorites of her children and are now favorites of her granddaughter.
  • The Birthday Turned Christmas Wish ListThat Mama Gretchen forgot to share her birthday wish list this fall, but she's still wishin' and hopin' a present or two will arrive for Christmas!
  • 8 Thoughtful Non-Toy Gifts for Baby — Is your family asking for hints for presents to give baby? Moorea, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, offers this list of ideas that won't overwhelm your little one with toys.


  1. I Love this sentiment. I am making a stocking for my little one, I started after his first Christmas last year and honestly I don't think I'll finish in time for this year, so next year is the big one! I have a similar hand made stocking from my aunt and I still treasure it so much knowing that she made it just for me. I want my son to have that same feeling.

    1. I think it's wonderful that you're making your son a stocking and love that you still have a handmade one from your aunt - how gorgeous! Handmade Christmas definitely ramps up the special-factor for me and I'm sure your little boy will love his new stocking whichever Christmas he gets it!

      My mum is making a stocking for my new little'un so I made an advent calendar instead... the theory is it'll be filled with fimo nativity characters eventually, but this year I ran out of time, so each day houses a little box of raisins and we take it in tuns to 'open' it!

  2. What a beautiful story! I love handed-down treasures.

    I have to say, too, I was captivated that you had a bed in the hallway, because we also have a 2-bedroom place for a family of five and have been eyeing our stairwell for loft-bed ideas…

    1. I loved my little cupboard room - I'll bet your hallway would make a fab extra bedroom!! Xxx

  3. I'm making my son a few pairs of pajama pants for Christmas this year! (And I'm making matching pairs for myself and my husband too!) There truly is something magical about homemade gifts, especially clothes.

    1. Pajamas sound ace! A friend of mine has a Christmas tradition of new PJs every year for Christmas morning - how much more special if they're homemade! Maybe you could blog on the sewing process if they go to plan? I've not tried PJs before but I'm always game to try something new!

  4. Loving the dress story, the one in the picture looks beautiful and the real thing would have been even more so. My kids have written a letter to Santa this year and I'd have to say I hate every single item on the list, except for a book my son wants, which of course had to be out of print. So we're still looking for reasonable compromise on the presents ;)

    1. I have to say, I'm dreading the day when the List dominates!! I'm hoping that just one thing off the list will suffice, from Santa, and any other gifts can be vito-ed by us - especially if the Santa letter is 'secret'!!

  5. I so wish I had some of the clothes my mom made for me when I was little. Her big event was Halloween - she made several of my costumes when I was small. I'll be sure to set aside what we've made for the kids - they'll appreciate them again someday :)

    1. Wouldn't it be great if one day grandchildren were running about in dress-up things made for their parents by you? I love that, in my One Day A Long Time From Now thoughts... If they love the things you've made now, time will only make them love them more, I expect - nostalgia tends to do that, I've found :)