Santa Conundrums

Growing up, there were a few hard facts about Christmas, things I knew to be true:

1. Santa does not visit apartment buildings. That’s why we traveled to my Gramma’s house every year.
2. One must stake out one’s present-opening location early, and defend it aggressively.
3. Our Santa prefers beer over milk.
4. Once bedtime has been declared only grownups and approved older kids can be downstairs. Peeking is punishable by lots of people freaking out and jumping in front of half-assembled things. Stay in bed, even if your older sister put your Lip Smacker on her toe.
5. Waking up for present-opening prior to 6 a.m. is not acceptable (unless Auntie Joan is awake at 5 and even then your parents are gonna be a little cranky about it).
6. One is permitted to open one’s stocking without parental supervision BUT THAT’S IT.
7. Stockings are not filled by Santa. Stockings are filled by people’s parents or spouses or someone else if the person in charge drank too much wine and forgot. In our case, Dad’s last minute Walmart/Dollarama run was as much a part of Christmas canon as the Little Drummer Boy himself.

There are many ways in which Santa was unique in our family, but those were the big ones. So last week, at an event where there were children nearby but not really paying attention or in earshot, I idly mentioned buying tissue paper for M’s stocking to another adult, and was completely confused when another parent flew across the room to whisper in my ear that stocking talk should cease lest I ruin Santa.

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Santa whaaat?

Of course I stopped talking (and it was just a one sentence, one-off comment that none of the kids heard anyway) but it threw me for a loop. It never really occurred to me that Santa was supposed to be the same for everyone, everywhere — if anyone asked me about our stocking situation I’d just say that Santa is different at our house. In retrospect I guess pop culture says Santa fills the stockings but we had a Christmas morning with dozens of people and there was no way Santa was playing fair or we’d ALL be getting jewelry boxes in our socks.

There are some Santa conundrums I’m thinking about this year, and that’s just one of them. M is only one year old this Christmas so I have lots of time to figure it out, but still — on the stocking subject, how do you tell kids that Santa is the stocking filler guy, if they are of an age where they can read the words STOCKING STUFFER splashed in glittery letters across every flyer, catalog and in-store sign you might encounter in December? I can see how you can twist all the other Christmas gifts for sale into a Santa-friendly narrative, given that lots of people other than Santa purchase holiday presents, but unless you tell your kids that Santa shops at Shopper’s Drug Mart, that STOCKING STUFFER label is gonna raise questions, no?

And, in the age of the internet, how do you stop your kid from simply Googling to find out if Santa exists? Most of the kindergarten age kids I know can blast through YouTube videos faster than I can, and all of them can work an iPhone. There are no Google safeguards against Santa searches (I checked) so that’s an all-year issue. Siri, for the record, will not answer.

Santa screwed up a few times in our household and I still managed to suspend my disbelief for a few years longer. One time he brought me the same shirt my mom gave me (explained away as Santa giving me a different size because he knew I’d like it so much that I’d want to still be able to wear it when I was bigger). Sometimes he put the wrong label on gifts and we had to trade. I remember at least one year when he didn’t touch the cookies. And he ALWAYS left the price tag on at least one gift.

So — Matt and I differ in our Christmas philosophies. I was a diehard Santa fan as a kid but when I decided I no longer believed it wasn’t traumatic at all because suddenly I got to be one of the people who stayed up late nibbling cookies, wrapping presents, and continuing the magic for the younger crowd. For one Christmas between my realization and admitting it, I stayed quiet to make sure I’d still get presents. Matt recalls being really upset when Santa fell apart for him, however, so he’s reluctant to do the whole Santa thing with M.

I, on the other hand, can’t imagine Christmas without some Santa magic but I’m not a diehard. Right now I’ve settled on sort of a don’t ask don’t tell Santa tradition for us. I’m not going to be a rabid Santa parent who must keep Santa real at all costs (I will never move an Elf on the Shelf around, believe me). I want M to understand that different households have different traditions, and some people don’t believe in Santa, or Christmas, or any of the things which we celebrate, and that’s okay.

Matt doesn’t want to outright lie, and I don’t want to be coldly practical, so we have to meet somewhere in the middle. I think M’s looming “Is Santa real?” queries will be met with answers like, “What do you think?” and there will be an explanation of the real St. Nicholas, and a bit of education about holidays in different places and cultures around the world. There will still be magic, and she will believe what she wants to believe, and I won’t overly discourage or encourage anything. If she decides the jig is up, she can join us for the after-bedtime party.

I don’t want to walk on eggshells or dictate other people’s holidays, either, though. I’m willing to explain things to my daughter if she has questions. I’m not worried about Santa being ruined. Maybe I’ll change my mind if she’s six years old and SUPER into Santa, but I am hoping that the environment of our household is conducive to Santa being more of a fun thing than a way of life (and trust me, Santa is not going to be a ‘be good for goodness sake’ weapon because there are lots of things wrong with maintaining that someone can watch you at all times to determine if you are worthy of gifts at the end of the year).

Last year Santa brought us each a gift. This year I think he’s at it again. He’ll probably drop a few things off every year. I, however, am the stocking filler for Matt and M and the cats and that’s not a secret. This Santa also prefers beer, by the way.

This is probably one of those JUST YOU WAIT things where the experienced parents are face palming at me and my grand proclamations, I know. So I’m curious — what do you do about Santa? What do you do about Christmas advertising, and Google, and all of the other warring aspects of your holiday celebration?

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Stocking Stuffers for One Year Olds (Under $30 Total!)

This one is kind of specific, I guess. My daughter is just over a year old for Christmas this year, so she doesn’t quite get what’s going on but still wants to rip things open. If your kid is older or younger it makes a big difference, I think — but here is what I’d put in M’s stocking if it didn’t involve online shopping. ;)

The challenge was picking out items that are useful, budget-friendly, but not things that would work as a standalone gift or overtake what we already bought. We’re sticking to the want-need-wear-read philosophy, so I didn’t want to put anything that would fit specifically into those categories in a stocking!

 

Toddler Stocking

We keep losing our straw cups when we go out, at a cost of $6+ each. It’s frustrating, as is not having a cup for M if we don’t bring one. I think I’m ready to buy these Take & Toss cups! An ideal ornament for a one-year-old is something that can’t break or scatter glitter everywhere and something like this stuffed elephant fits the bill. As for the tissue paper… that’s M’s favourite part of gift opening and I fully admit to already buying a pack of tissue to stuff her stocking.

We go through raisins like crazy in this house and I always feel sketchy carrying my tiny plastic bag of raisins around when we go out. Mini boxes, or another toddler-friendly snack, seem like a good gift. If your kid is like mine the mere sight of a toothbrush is thrilling (but it isn’t a toy!). And, the ABC magnets are a bit pricey, but a good educational gift and a method of keeping your kid occupied while you’re in the kitchen.

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Stocking Stuffers for Men (Under $30 Total!)

I think men’s stockings usually end up as a sad compendium of trial sized deodorants, generic chocolates, and cheap gadgets destined to break. Some of the typical men’s stocking stuffers are actually useful — you can never go wrong with socks — but I’ve picked out a few things that might make a stocking more fun (unless you already put cool things in the stockings you stuff, in which case, carry on!).

Man Stocking

From the top — a magazine, perfect for flipping through once the hustle of gift opening has died down. And, if you pick something interesting, you get to read it later, too! The glass baster is something my husband would want (every time he roasts a chicken he points out that we don’t have one) but any inexpensive, USEFUL kitchen gear is suitable. These Samesorts are totally intriguing because really, who actually enjoys all of the allsorts?

A wood Christmas ornament is manlier than something sparkly (and matches any tree). As for the Fireball, it’s well worth the big chunk of the $30 budget, were you to ask Matt. And, the caramel corn is bound to fill up the rest of the stocking space! Substitute with chocolate popcorn, cheese corn, or even bacon popcorn if that’s more your style (ew).

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Stocking Stuffers for Ladies ($30 Total!)

In our household, stockings are usually filled with inexpensive things. Especially this year! Anything worth more than $20 would definitely get wrapped up and I think $30-ish per stocking, total, is a good target.

When I was a kid the women in my family always got ridiculously swanky stockings — jewelry, wine, chocolates, perfume, all the things that seemed really grown up and fancy to little kid me. That’s a bit harder to pull off with a small budget but I think a low-budget ladies stocking can still be classy!

All of these things can be found relatively cheaply either online, or from brick and mortar stores. Although I pulled a bunch of stocking stuffer ideas from online shops I’ll probably be going around to local stores before Christmas instead, so I can funnel more funds toward products rather than shipping (that and I worry about things not making it on time!).

Women's Stocking Stuffers

 

To start with — good chocolate! I love Ferrero Rochers and only ever get them at Christmastime. I would appreciate these in my stocking AND I would not share. Fuzzy socks are like the practical budget version of fancy lingerie and less embarrassing to open in front of people. If you can’t get jewelry, nail polish is still sparkly, too.

I like putting ornaments in stockings every year and this fuzzy feather bird seems to fit with the classy theme. As for the monogram mug — I love these. Chapters always has them on sale and there’s even a travel mug version. Mini bottles of booze are always welcome and if you pick sparkling wine it can be turned into a Christmas morning mimosa, no problem. And, finally — hair ties. These are a step up from basic rubber bands.

It’s a stretch from the typical toothpaste-and-razors stuffers, but I like it!

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Four Year Blogiversary

Four years ago yesterday I started this blog. It wasn’t my first time blogging, but it was one of the first times I really shared it with people — friends, family, Facebook. Being up north away from the people and places I used to know was still novel enough that it seemed like good blog fodder, and it was an easy way to stay in touch with everyone.

Blueberry Festival 2011-28

That’s still one of the main reasons I write, but I’ve moved on past the basics, I think. This blog has seen me through an engagement, a wedding, buying a home, having a baby… It has kept record of weight loss, lifestyle changes, endless painting and repainting, money woes, heartbreak, happiness, and everything in between.

Over the last four years more than just family and old friends have read my words, and I’m very grateful for these new blog-based friendships. It still kind of boggles my mind that other people are interested in my life — and I know that in this last year, I have fallen down on my side of keeping up with blog friends.

I always say this, but I am reading, and I am listening and looking and paying attention — I just have a hard time putting things into words; finding the time to sit down and type. Right now I’m writing with my beat up old laptop in bed because the baby went to sleep early — which only happened because she stayed up and partied last night! It’s difficult to balance blogging and “real life” now.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m typing just to fill space. Other times, I feel guilty that I only posted twice in a week. I pressure myself to meet blogging goals and it probably isn’t worth it, in the end. But this little corner of the web gives me joy, gives me a creative outlet, and has helped my household monetarily (sometimes when we really need it!). I still love blogging and I still see so many benefits from it — but I need to find a way to focus on quality, not quantity, to get back to writing as something that I truly enjoy rather than a forced habit. And I want to engage with my online friends, because I feel terrible about being so one-sided. I’m going to try to reinvigorate myself and my blogging in the new year, somehow. I’m still trying to figure out what to do.

I once had a snarky comment flung in my direction, something that essentially implied that I was a lesser person for having time to spend on blogging, as if I frittered away my time writing on the internet for fun rather than upholding real responsibilities. I thought that was really weird, given all of the wonderful ways in which blogging has enriched my life. As far as hobbies go it’s a pretty good one! The key, I think, is to find the right balance between enjoying a hobby for what it is, and doing it out of a sense of obligation, and that is where my troubles lie right now.

I’m not going anywhere! I don’t think I could. The last four years of blogging have been wonderful and I can’t wait to see where the next four years take me.

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