February 24, 2017

Santa Balls

Behold . . .

The entirety of our Christmas.

The background:

Simplify.  Have less.  Keep it manageable.  

All words I repeat in my mind every Monday morning.

When the tornado of the weekend has passed through my home and the quiet hours hit as Monday morning dawns and the kids return to school, the weekend destruction reveals itself. I either crumble into the fetal position or look in the mirror and repeat positive affirmations and head to kitchen and pull out a black bag to commence my favorite game, "Fill a Black Bag".

The rules are easy.  Grab a black bag, and try to fill it as fast as you can.

Guess what?  

I win every time.

Friday folder papers, 1000 insurance EOB's, Happy Meal trinkets, little stuffed animals that multiply while you sleep, crafting remains, toy shrapnel. . . . the bag gets filled.

Our children are inundated with so many things that they no longer value them.  And it is not their fault.  The more that anyone has, the less they can value every little thing.

Case in point:  The Spider Ring

As a child, I remember getting that special cupcake with a spider ring on top.  I would suck that icing off and treasure my little plastic ring for months.

Fast forward to present and every October my home looks like a scene from Kingdom of the Spiders - except in orange plastic form.

Spider rings everywhere. . .

and pencils, and little erasers, and little bubble bottles, and notebooks (how many little notebooks do girls need???) and tattoos and cards and bracelets and stickers.  .  . don't even let me get started on stickers.  Sticker obsession hasn't gone away, remember this

It all accumulates.  Very fast.

A few years ago, when I asked Lance what he wanted for Christmas, he answered, "Nothing." 

"Mom," he said, "I have what I like and like what I have."

Oh, I love that boy.

And so began my plotting for just that, the Christmas of nothing.

To teach my children to value things, I have to carefully manage and protect my home from the bounteous amounts of junk kid treasures that come in.  I also have to be careful that I am not a contributor to the problem.  When I thought about how much my children DON'T need for Christmas, I thought 2016 might be a wonderful Christmas of memories, not things, which is what we collect best.

Our Christmas began December 1st, when the children drew names for a sibling that they would "gift" a month of service to.  Each day they would look for secret ways to serve that sibling.  It was beautiful to watch how creative they could be when they thought about each other.  

An interesting lesson was learned by Lance.  Bridger had drawn Lance's name as the person he would serve.  That, of course, came with severe limitations.  As Lance watched his siblings being served around him - their beds made, their chores done for them, he had a flash of bitterness that nothing of the like was being done for him.  We had a beautiful conversation of what intangible service looks like and what service Bridger was indeed doing for him during the month.  Lance also appreciated when extra service was done for him "by proxy".

I prepared for Christmas morning by taking a page out of a wonderfully creative friend's book. I decided that our Christmas would be a Santa ball for each child.  

What the heck is a Santa Ball?

To make a Santa Ball you cut crepe paper (not streamers) into 1/2" strips.  Starting with a little core trinket or gift, you begin rolling the strips around and around.  You tape the end of each strip to the next, varying in colors as you go.  As you roll you wrap little gifts inside.  It is tricky to find just little things that will tuck into your rolls.  You craft and shape it into a ball, with the final wrapping being pink colored crepe.  Add a Santa hat, little googly eyes and some cotton for his beard and brow and you have yourself a Santa ball!

I collected some small little gifts for the kids and roped my mom into helping and spent an afternoon creating the display for Christmas morning.

The secret "core" for each Santa ball was a little box.  In each little box were some puzzle pieces that, when combined with all of the children's little boxes of pieces, would spell out a message.

The children rushed down Christmas morning to see Santa's deliveries piled under the tree.

But, with the exception of a few presents received from family, under the tree was bare.

Confused looks all around.  The only difference to the room were the balls on the hearth, the cookie crumbles from the plate left for Santa and the hoof print in the oats that Eliza left for the reindeer.  

Bridger saw the Santa balls first and scooted over to the hearth to give a closer look and in summary statement pronounced, "Those are creepy."

Okay.  Maybe this was not going to go over as well as I thought.

Then we had the children look at the balls and they saw the "pull" tab, and the merriment began.

#1 question I received from friends, "What in the world did you put in those things?"

For the girls it was little earrings and necklaces.  Eliza had a little game and ponytail holders.  Eva had a ticket to Wicked wrapped in her ball for a showing during Christmas break.  Sadie had some candy, a gift card to Ulta for the hair straightener she wanted.  Bridger had some mittens and little play figures he has been obsessing over.  Lance had a glove for his bow, some earbuds and a certificate for a duck hunt with Alan.

The thrill for them was unrolling and unrolling to see what would be revealed next.  Bridger would pull his paper, slowly hand over clumsy hand, then scream in delight every time his paper changed colors.

Lance got to his little box at the core first, shrugged his shoulders at the puzzle and put it on the shelf.  I told him how in my childhood we always did puzzles on Christmas.  He said that maybe we could do it after church or later that evening.  I agreed, secretly dying inside that he would set aside the biggest surprise.  I had been bursting for months about it.  I guess I would have to hold it in for a few more hours.

The children all set aside their little boxes and we had Christmas breakfast.  It was a morning of togetherness, enjoying each other and not burying individually into our latest acquisitions.  Not even knowing that there was more inside the little box, the children were completely content with their simple little Christmas of practically nothing.  Alan and I looked at each other and recognized that we didn't even need to have that special surprise in the center of the Santa ball.  Everything was magical just as it was.

BUT, who am I kidding?! I was dying inside.  So I subtly suggested that we had some extra time before church, perhaps we could put together the puzzle before we went.

Little did I know how hard it would be for children to put together a puzzle when they don't know what they are making a picture of!  Lance thought we should finish it later. Luckily, his sisters had more resolve and urged him on.


It was pretty apparent right away that it was a Disney puzzle as they found pieces of Mickey and Pluto.  That prompted discussion of favorite memories of our trip last year to Disney and the Disney cruise we went on.  Then the puzzle revealed a picture of us on that cruise with all of the characters.  More laughing as we shared memories of last year.

Even when the first words to the text frame revealed, "Get ready to set sail. . ." Lance thought it was a puzzle keepsake to remember that previous vacation.

Sadie, a little sharper, stood and froze in place with her eyes wide open.  Eva soon followed with her jaw dropped.  Lance, still clueless thought we were still excited over our last year's cruise.

A few minutes later and he caught on, 

and the excited exploded.

Santa balls - my new favorite tradition!

A Christmas unwrapping memories made for the most wonderful Christmas ever.

And, it didn't even fill a black bag.