We had such a wonderful Christmas this year! We have quite a slew of annual traditions that we've built over the past few years. We saw the Snow World at SeaWorld back in November. We watched the Bay of Lights boat parade at SeaPort Village here in San Diego. We went to Christmas Card Lane up in Rancho Penasquitos with Blue's friend. We saw the Living Nativity at the local church, and Blue was an angel this year! For decorations, we added a crochet and felt fireplace to our crafty wall - which I will hopefully one day get the pattern written up. We made ornaments, baked cookies, had way too much sugar, hung up our lights, and sang a ton of Christmas songs.
Mr. River had to work on Christmas day this year, but we did get to have a nice, quiet dinner together on Christmas Eve since they gave him the 24th off. Truthfully, he would rather have Christmas Eve off than Christmas since he does get to spend Christmas morning with us before going to work.
This Christmas, we aimed to do more handmade items to give to the girls. First, we have been trying to minimize the quantity of toys that the girls have and focus on quality instead. Blue is four now, and it's easy to see that a quality, open-ended toy can invite and sustain years of play. It grows with them and becomes more cherished as the adventures grow. We've also been trying to declutter, a lot. When Blue was a baby and toddler, she was our only kid so it was easy and tempting to want to add more toys whenever we found something that looked fun or was decently priced. And since I shop at a consignment store mostly, it was easy to buy since items rarely cost more than $5. But as Blue got older and we added Baby Bear to our family... soon we just had so much stuff. And although the girls played with pretty much everything, the open ended toys definitely saw a lot more play. Things like miniature animals, dolls, role-play items (kitchen, dress-up), blocks, art supplies. We decluttered at least half of the girls' items and it actually enhanced their play since they now had more room to do it.
So now when we add toys... it's a lot of hemming and hawwing over whether it'll add enough in fun to be worth the amount of space it takes up.
On another level, we are deeply uncomfortable with the materialist, toss-away path of us as a culture, and we as adults are definitely not innocent of our role in it but are trying to get better.
One thing that has definitely helped is that our girls don't really "want" much. If you ask Blue what she wants, she'll likely surprise you with a very simple answer - like "I don't know." If you pry, she may say "paint" or "a leash for my dog." Without cable/TV networks, the girls aren't exposed to commercials or product pushing. They don't really know what's out there unless we are in a store, at which point Blue transforms into a normal four year old and wants one of everything. But as soon as we say bye to the toy aisle, thoughts and wants of the toys leave her mind. So that makes it easy :)
So all of this led to Christmas and our desire for more handmade. Our original plan was for Mr. River to build the girls a Waldorf-inspired playstand, where they could play house, host a market, use it as a fort, whatever! But as Christmas drew near and I grew possessive over the "real estate" of our apartment that I so painstakingly cleared over the last year.. we realized the playstand wouldn't happen this year. Maybe when we have a house or at least more room we can look at it again. So then the plan was for a dress-up tower that would also function as a puppet theater, and I would make the girls a stuffed animal and quilt each. I already have the fabric, so it was just a matter of making amends with my sewing machine - which has been banished to the closet for the past three years.
Me and the sewing machine are still not speaking.
So the quilts didn't happen.
And then Blue asked Santa for a little house for her little people. So our energies shifted to thoughts of dollhouses and what we could make. Mr. River became quite realistic and admitted he would not be able to finish a dollhouse in time for Christmas, so I searched online for one that looked open-ended, large enough for multiple kids to play, and was well made. I came across the Maine Natural Dollhouse from Elves and Angels and was immediately in love. I really loved the size of it, that the first floor was easily visible and accessible even when it was on the ground, the natural wood and lack of "assignment" of rooms, the design, the open-ness of it to all sides, and that it was handmade in a family-owned woodshop in Maine. More hemming and hawwing over the price of it, but eventually we decided to get it as the big gift to both girls.
I am so so so so glad we did! The quality and craftsmanship is just astounding on this and we know it will easily last through our girls' children. The size is perfect - all FOUR of us can sit around it and play. And I love the design! I was originally looking at a three story "treehouse" kind of design, but realized after looking at other pictures that you can't really see the first floor in most dollhouses.... unless they're on a table or you're laying on the floor. This one is perfectly designed.
So that was the girls' big gift. And Mr. River and I have spent quite a bit of time making the dolls and furniture for it.
I made the girls their stuffed animals - Blue got a purple dog (using Little Owl's Hut's pattern) that she said she wanted for Christmas over the summer (and then forgot she asked for it haha). Baby Bear got a blue unicorn (using Dawn Touissant's pattern), which she isn't quite sure what to make of it. The pressing question we all don't know the answer to: do unicorns say "neigh"?
Mr. River made the girls a wooden puzzle each, which they love!
I made them each a pirate map for their stocking.
And the nonhandmade items they got: Baby Bear got a piggy bank (Blue got one for Christmas when she was 2). Blue got a Barbie that someone at Mr. River passed down to her. For their stockings: they each got a Melissa and Doug puzzle. Baby Bear got a Jellycat Cow that we actually bought for her *last* year but forgot to give her haha!! She immediately squished it upon seeing it. And Blue got a kid's Timex watch so she can learn to tell time (she really wants to learn). They also each got a new set of watercolors.
They also got the HoneyBee Game and the super cute movie Prep & Landing as their Christmas Eve gifts.
The adults' gifts weren't quite as exciting but things we definitely love! The girls got me a "kitty" calendar that they picked out, Mr. River got me a new pillow, and we got him a Survival Strap bracelet