The Golden Birthday

My Man of the House is turning 25 this March! (Next week, actually.) I am one of those people that gets excited about birthdays for other people, well mainly just people I really care about. I want to make them exciting and a big deal. That’s just me. That’s why I have made a big deal out of all of our daughter’s birthdays and she’s only 3. Ha! I may be setting some future fella’ up for high standards in the future, what can I say, that’s my job. (;

I do not like the thought of being older and less able to do things for myself, etc. Who does like the thought of that? I’m the kind of person that just doesn’t dwell on it. 25 isn’t as “exciting” as 21, but it is still a birthday milestone. Man of the House is taking it harder than I expected anyone to take turning 25. So, I decided to make it an exciting week. Yes, week. A year ago we did the Love Languages test and believe it or not his strongest love language is receiving gifts. I would’ve never thought that about him because in almost 5 years he has never let on that those things mean something important to him. Add all of that together and I have formulated a plan for his birthday next week. (Keep in mind, there will be no 25th birthday PARTY celebration. He would kill me. I’ve planned little things from our daughter and me that he isn’t really expecting.)

SUNDAY: A tradition in his family is that the Sunday closest to your birthday, you pick out the entire menu and his mother cooks it for Sunday dinner at her house. Everyone comes over and eats with you, etc. Its mainly just immediate family: his parents, 3 siblings, they’re children and spouses BUT they’re immediate family is not small, so it’s like a little celebration for you that day. There is even cake and singing.

MONDAY: This is his actual birthday. He will wake up to 25 balloons that have 25 reasons why I love him wrote on them, a special “My Dad” project from Khloe (her answers are HILARIOUS), and for Dinner we will be having Chicken Salad. May sound weird, but I eventually got it out of him a while back what his all time favorite meal is. So why not have your all time favorite meal on your birthday?!

TUESDAY: I will leave him a birthday card to find when he is up getting ready for work signed/colored by Khloe and me. He’s been wanting a new pair of boots for a while, so I created a gift certificate from a template off line for $$ towards a new pair of boots. That will be in the card when he opens it. Plus that night my grandparents invited us over for dinner already a few weeks ago. Now that they realize its the day after his birthday, they are cooking steaks and getting him a cheesecake since he doesn’t like cake. Score! (;

WEDNESDAY: I am going to leave a basket with some of his favorite things for him to find when he gets home from work. Things like twizzlers, starbursts, beef jerky, and a box of Tagalong Girl Scout Cookies. Plus whatever I find in the store while I’m getting the candy.

THURSDAY: I stole an idea from Find Joy in the Journey ( http://shannonbrown.typepad.com/life_in_general/lets-go-on-a-date.html ) I have created a basket of 12 envelopes filled with monthly dates for a year starting in April. And a few of them I have already bought tickets for (Hello, Groupon!). Woo hoo.

FRIDAY: That morning I am going to leave him a letter laying on his work clothes for him to read on the ride to work. I want to tell him why I’ve been celebrating his birthday all week, how thankful I am for him, and that I hope I get to see his next 25 birthdays, etc. Because it is Friday, and I am sure he will be glad to reach Friday after working all week AND I will probably be glad to have finally given him everything without getting so excited and giving it all to him early (HA!), I am going to buy him/us a 6 pack of beer and hope it’s warm enough for sitting on the back patio and relaxing. If not, the couch and living room and some DVR will work well enough. (:

Now, let the planning and purchasing begin!

A Gift that is Giving Back to Me

Two weeks, ago Santa was stopping by our local mall on a “special trip he had to make to Florida.” There was a big production with singing from special guests such as Frosty, Rudolph, Cindy-Lou-Who, the Grinch, special carolers and elves. We took our two year old daughter thinking it would be an exciting 45 minute event then we would be on our way shopping. Wrong. We stood in line after the show for two hours before we got to meet Santa. I know, we were crazy. As we stood in line to meet Santa, there was the usual Salvation Army Angel Tree set up nearby. It was not something that I could ignore. Not that I was TRYING to ignore the fact that there were at least 100 angels still on the tree, but I’ve just never been able to afford to buy a child their entire Christmas. As I stood there, I thought of all the children whose parents couldn’t afford the gas to even drive to the mall and visit Santa for free. How, to us, this seemed like such a simple thing to bring our daughter excitement, wasn’t possible for everyone. Two hours can give you a lot of time to think.

Eventually, I walked to the tree and began looking at the names and ages (I mean we were obviously going to be waiting a while, why not check it out.) As I looked, I decided we were adopting a Christmas Angel. No, we do not have a great surplus this year for Christmas spending, but we were about to do something to help. Then, as I looked at the different ages and watched as my daughter ran to me to check out what was going on, I decided I wanted to adopt a child who was close to her age. She asked me what I was doing, so I picked her up and I showed her all the angels. I said, “Khloe, all these are little boys and girls who need Christmas presents this year. Santa needs some help.” Next I asked her, “Do you want to pick one that we can help and buy presents for?” She responded, “We can? Oh that be so cool, Mama.” I walked around and read the information on various angels again and settled on a three year old boy. Three years old. I looked at my daughter as she ran back to her Daddy and began talking about Santa and playing with the other children waiting in line. Not a concern in the world. She will be three in February. It took me less than a second to try and fathom her doing without or not having any presents. Not only missing physical presents, but missing the excitement or happiness that should come along with the Christmas season. If I would have spent much more time thinking about it, I would have been in tears for her just from the mere thought of her heart or feelings hurting. At that point there was nothing anyone could’ve said to convince me otherwise. If Trevor and I had to not buy for one another, we were buying this child from the Salvation Army Angel Tree his Christmas presents.

When I reached where they stood in line, still waiting for Santa, nothing was said when I handed him the angel cut out to hold. I think he just knew that I had decided, and this is what we were doing. He has come to know after four and a half years that when I decide I’m doing something philanthropic, especially for children, just agree and help me make it successful. I love children; especially children in need. He probably already new as I headed toward the tree in the beginning that we would be going home with an adopted angel. Apparently he loves me for it any way. (:

I have received so much joy buying his presents. When I shop for our daughter, I know what she likes and know that when she opens it she will be filled with pure innocent excitement. That does bring me joy and anticipation of her opening them, but when I am shopping for a young child who I know minimal information about, I stand and imagine excitement and happiness with each individual toy I pick up. Does he already have this book? I wonder if he has these toy cars? Then I had so much fun picking out his clothes. I have a two year old daughter so I only ever enter the girl section in stores; and shopping for a 24 year old male is not the same as shopping for a three year old boy.

As I have spent time shopping or gathering ideas for our Salvation Army Christmas Angel over the last two weeks, I have also spent a lot of time thinking about the real meaning of Christmas and the idea of giving. I think gift buying at Christmas has gotten very blown out of proportion throughout the last 10-15 years. Christmas isn’t all about gifts and when I hear people say, “but they’re children, they won’t understand”, I disagree to a certain extent. They will understand what we have taught them to understand. (Now I am not discrediting the idea of the Salvation Army or buying for those less fortunate at Christmas. If I could, I would adopt 500 children at Christmas because I believe every child and person should have at least one gift to open on Christmas, but that is just not feasible for us.) How my thinking led to this was, that I know these children who receive gifts through the Salvation Army will appreciate and be thoroughly pleased with anything they get. The smallest gesture and gift will mean so much more to them than to many other children. It has made me change the way I want to teach my daughter about Christmas and giving. I have decided that every year, we will go together and pick out an Angel on the tree that is similar to her age and shop together. Of course, we will always provide for our daughter first, but if we have to miss out on a barbie doll or two so that we can give an entire Christmas to someone else, that is what you will find our household doing. I realize how blessed my daughter is: as her parents, we are not financially “rich”, but we can provide for her needs and are able to purchase toys and extra things for her throughout the year; she has both sets of her grandparents and three great-grandmothers and one great-grandfather still alive and able to be active in her life; my immediate family of aunts, uncles, first cousins and their children is approximately 16 people, and that is only my mother’s side of the family! Even if she received only 1 gift from each household other than from me and her father, she would have plenty. And what I would want her to get most out of receiving the gifts is the love that our family has for one another, not necessarily our ability to purchase material gifts. When she opens a gift I want thoughts like “oh, this made Aunt _____ think of me!” aka: Aunt ____ was thinking of me; Or, “Mimi got this for me because she knows I love Cinderella,” aka: she pays attention to notice the things I like. Not, “my Paw bought me _____ so I know he spent more money on me than my Uncle _____.” I would be horrified to know my child thought that! I would be horrified at myself as her mother for letting her down in my duty to raise her.

Basically, the decision to adopt the Salvation Army Angel from the Angel Tree this year has really reminded me as a parent what my duty is when it comes to teaching my daughter about Christmas, and well, about life in general. Yes, realistically I am totally aware that I will always purchase gifts for my child or children as long as we both hold employment and that throughout their childhood, they will be children who have selfish tendencies at times; but I will refuse to raise my children to think that Christmas has a certain price or gift minimum for it to be a successful or meaningful Christmas. I refuse to imply by my actions that they are only loved or noticed by family members if gifts are in hand. Honestly, if we show up at my grandmother’s house Christmas morning this year and none of her extended family were able to buy her a gift, she would be so wrapped up in the fact of getting to see all of her little cousins that she would not even notice, and I hope to keep that innocence in her heart. I hope that I can show her to hold onto that despite what society says is necessary for the holiday to be a “good Christmas.”

Little three year old Isay, who might never know his name appeared on a Salvation Army Angel Tree in 2013, will always be in my heart and mind as the first Salvation Army Angel I ever adopted; as the inspiration I had to change the idea my two year old already has of Christmas; and I will always wish I could’ve seen his face on Christmas morning as he opened all of his gifts.