Now that my children are old enough to give gifts, I have been searching for gift ideas that go beyond gift cards and scented candles. I want gifts to convey that we took time to create or find something meaningful.
I think all of us go into the holidays with such intentions, and then fabulous sales and frenzied schedules somehow derail those plans.
For help, I consulted a slim volume titled "Simply Christmas: Great Ideas for a Noncommercial Holiday," by "Noel Pax" with Mary Thompson.
Even a slow reader like me can peruse the book in a couple of hours. It has hundreds of ideas for the holidays. Its main focus is gifts. It has suggestions for inexpensive gifts, environmental gifts, gifts for children of various ages, homemade gifts and more.
Here's a sampling of the book's ideas for kids:
For gifts for kids, think outside the toy box. Give a certificate promising an outing or storytelling session, or perhaps a lesson in a skill you possess. Give tickets to a children's play or museum, a train ride or the movies.
One of my favorite ideas: Introduce kids to old-fashioned favorites like marbles (with playing instructions), a yo-yo, a jump rope or jacks.
For gifts from kids, consider a craft or homemade food that can be made in batches and given to more than one person. "Simply Christmas" suggests cooking dinner for someone's freezer or baking loaves of homemade bread.
The frozen-food idea is especially welcome with bachelors and widowers, who often don't have the time or skill to cook meals. My kids, ages 2 and 4, love to measure and stir. Better yet, they enjoy helping load the dishwasher.
If your kids enjoy helping around the house, their gift might be house-cleaning or leaf-raking. They can offer to paint or do repairs for people on your list who can't.
In our family tradition, we draw names at Thanksgiving and exchange gifts at our Christmas gathering. This has always helped reduce holiday expenses; each person purchases only one gift.
This year we break tradition. The adults, instead of spending on each other, will pool their money to help my grandmother with her expenses. I almost wish we had forgone the children's exchange, too, as a lesson in giving. But I guess commercialism is tradition, too.
Join a community cause: Participate in the Reindeer Romp at 10 a.m. Saturday at Camp Dogwood in Sherrills Ford, sponsored by the Sherrills Ford-Terrell Rotary Club.
Proceeds from the 1- or 3-mile walk/run will go to the camp, a recreational facility on Lake Norman for the blind and vision-impaired. Details: www.sftrotary.com.