Christmas, help!

As the kids get older I find it harder to think of Christmas presents for them. Our apartment is not massive so I really have to think about space, also I don’t like just buying things for the sake of buying. I want to get them gifts that will mean something to them and they will use. I just don’t know what those things are.

My first thought was bikes, Summer is the only one that can ride without stabilizers which I find totally ridiculous but I guess moving to the city where the sidewalks suck and everyone drives, it never calls for cycling much.

Really, I think I would just like to get them a couple of little things each and then spend the big money taking them somewhere exciting. An experience to remember! But Christmas for kids has turned into a shit show of plastic and paper, with the excitement of opening gifts then throwing them aside. Do they really need another box of shopkins or  more toy cars or whatever fad gift is relevant this year?

I’ve been wondering a safe way to teach them about the value of giving, that is a much nicer and more fulfilling way to spend Christmas than receiving an abundance of toys. I’d really like to head down to a soup kitchen or something but I don’t know about having a four year old in that environment is any good or even a thing that is allowed. Also I know that everyone wants to help at this time of year and we would be better doing a homeless charity when volunteers are low mid year. I guess google will be my friend when investigating this.

So how do you all choose Christmas presents? How do you differentiate between what they really want and what they REALLY want? My kids tend to look at catalogues that we get through the door and pick about 10 things on each page. Telling me how cool it is and how they absolutely need a chocolate making kit or they may not survive Christmas. Jeezy, were we all this greedy as kids?

I still remember my favourite present as a kid. I don’t really remember my age, maybe six or seven. I was overjoyed with a cardboard sweet shop that had real sweets. I sat for hours weighing out sweets for everyone that they were not allowed to eat, because then I’d have none left to play with. The sweet shop could not have cost for then a couple of quid, but boy did my mum do well that year! Now it’s about spending as much as you possibly can on the kids. Everyone posts to Instagram and Facebook with their massive piles of presents under the tree on Christmas eve. I feel a bit like it is keeping up with the Joneses and I just couldn’t give a crap about that. I would rather impress my kids with time and an experience.

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Since I started writing this blog post, Jacob and I have decided that we are going to go away for Christmas. The kids will get a few little presents as we can’t carry that much then a larger one between them when we get back. While away we will show them the craziness and man made eyesore that is Las Vegas, then move on to Lake Mead in the hope that we can teach them about how Vegas may be fun but it is draining this lake dry. I will come armed with information about what conservation ideas are around and see if they can think of any. From there we’ll move on to the Grand Canyon because who doesn’t want to see metamorphic rock…this will take some good explaining, I’m sure! Then to the Joshua tree for a little hiking and peace. Being a thrifty chick I want to do all this on a budget. Google has already told me a lot of exciting free things to do while on the trip but if anyone has anymore ideas then hit me up. I really want to show these kids everything!

 

 

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Kindle be gone.

Road trips with young ones are just not what the used to be and I blame the invention of tablets. Up until last Christmas we did not own a tablet, or that’s a lie, I did, but it was mine and the little rats were not getting their filthy paws on it. Then along came amazon with a deal…$35 for a kindle fire. How could I refuse? Number one was getting older and as much I had resisted the electronic madness there comes a time when you have to let them enter that world. But you can’t get one child something without getting the others the same…Right? So before I knew it there were three Kindles all wrapped up and under the tree. The kids seemed easy about it start, only playing in them every so often. Still interested in all their other toys and actually socialising with one another. But slowly, slowly the beast grew and now I don’t have any idea how to moderate this unruly monster that I, myself brought though the door.

For me, sometimes it’s an easy out. I need to make dinner or clean the house in peace so out comes the tablets. In the past few months I’ve become unceasingly lackadaisical, handing it over to stop the constant whine “Mum, can I have my Kindle?” “Mum, when can I have my Kindle?” “Mum, Mummy, Mum, I really need the Kindle!” Then there’s the harrowing screams when the battery runs out, I always think someone is close to death. The arguments the ensue when one kid realises that one of the others have 100% battery but theirs only has 98%. But when will the madness stop? What’s a mum to do? The husband I have had talks about how to moderate it, how to give them a little but not make it so they are like shit faced junkies waiting for their next hit. Do we time it? just an hour a day? or only allow it at weekends? The guidelines on these things are ever changing and I can’t keep up.

We don’t take them to use them out of the house (The kindles, we do take the children out of the house!) unless we are travelling. Which brings me back to road trips. This past Thanksgiving week we spent a lot of time in the car. We drove up to Sacramento, which is about a six hour drive but then add in dinner and toilet breaks, we talking more seven hours. So the Kindles came with. It was great to start, they played happily, still talking to one another, requesting Alicia Keys to be on the stereo constantly. And may I point out the The Element of Freedom was released in 2009 – I mean seriously, I thought it was about two years ago, what happened to those years?

While in Sacramento (the state capital of California), we looked around the amazing old town, which has a history with the Gold rush in 1848. The area has 53 historic buildings and is registered as a national and California historic landmark. It also has a darker side, and was once known as the worst skid row west of Chicago. Today is it still super rough around the edges. Due to it’s river location it is very industrial with lots of edgy graffiti on disused buildings running the length of river from our hotel to tower bridge. Perfect for a rock band photo shoot! But the area still has a huge homeless population, it pains me to see so many people wandering around, kicking the dirt, looking completely lost when you know that they should be receiving real medical help. I guess the cost of medications and healthcare will make it nearly impossible for these people to stand a chance.

A friend recommended that we take a trip to the rail museum, which is located in the old town. The place was filled with historic trains and employees in costume who had the knowledge to answered every question. The carriages were filled with artifacts, and placed on moving platforms that swayed gently, so you really get a feel what it would be like to travel in these trains back when they were operational. The play area for kids had…yip…trains. They could watch the vintage train sets bimbling around in their vintage tracks, then play with the wooden trains. Pretty much a perfect day out for anyone. Even if you’re not a trainspotter(which I am not!) But throughout the day I heard the word Kindle, 700 million times. They kids dreamed of the drive back to L.A. so that they can play their bloody kindles. The immediate moment was lost. Screw the trains, who gives a shit about historic train or even playing for that matter when there is a Kindle sitting in a hotel room all lonely and sad. How could we have left them there? What if someone breaks in and steals their precious box of plastic and microchips.

The journey home was quiet, apart from the cogs of my brain ticking around trying to work out a solution that will end this madness.

A few days later we were headed to Carlsbad for the night. I was quite excited, having seen friends photos for the area. It always looks beautiful with lovely beaches and desperate housewives style homes. And yeah, the Kindles came with…they needed to experience the beach life too…right?! While driving down the freeway I noticed a massive building wrapped up like a giant Christmas present, with a freaking huge red bow on top…I tried and tried to get the kids attention but their eyes were glued to their screens. How could they miss such an amazing Christmas miracle? The bow itself was about 3 stories high. What the hell were they thinking? How can Plants vs Zombies or slither.io be better then a giant bow on a building? ugh I give up!

I’d love to tell you that Carlsbad was as good as I expected but the weather was crap, with two storms headed our way. We pretty much hid in our hotel room watching out the window as other hotel residents took pictures of the palm trees blowing sideways. The next afternoon we had a cold, windy walk on the beach.  Then lunch at Benihanas before enduring another quiet ride home.

This past week I’ve come to the conclusion that, I’ve had enough, no child of mine is going to miss the craziness that is America. Or miss the songs we can sing, the chatting that we can do. The good family times that we are missing out on due to a $35 piece of plastic. But now comes the hard part…weaning them off. I’ve had a few people who don’t have children telling me that they would just lay down the law. Which is lovely and slightly naive. I want to understanding their needs and really, Jacob and I are the only ones who have to live with that crap, so a full cut off may not be the right thing!

So, What’s the right thing to do? What are the limits? What do you all do?

I’m wondering if a mysterious ant colony may invade the house and eat up or carry off the kindles! That’s a totally realistic reason for their disappearance, right?