Spend time, not money, to build holiday memories

Last Christmas morning, before the gifts were unwrapped, I caught a precious glimpse of my two daughters. Both were sitting staring at the twinkling tree. Before each, a stack of three wrapped gifts sat just waiting to be opened. They pushed the sleep out of their eyes and giggled in expectation together. Typical sister bickering gave way to a spirit of joy and excitement. By a stretch of grace, I was able to snap a quick picture to tuck away the memory in my heart. And then our celebration began.

Giving good gifts to my children is perhaps my favorite part of the holiday season. I love the element of surprise. I love to see them play and experience childhood. I love to spend uninterrupted quiet time as a family. Yet, as the years pass, I realize that while gifts display my love for my girls, spending time is even more valuable. Eventually, she’ll outgrow the coat. The hot toy purchase will land in a donation box. The electronics are outdated a month after the box is opened.

However, the moments we share are eternal. So this year, I’m doing my best to set aside the drive to purchase and focusing instead on the need to be which means I am brainstorming ways we can spend time instead of money. Maybe you might want to incorporate some of these activities into your schedule, too.

Video gameS

I know what you’re thinking. Video games will rot your kids’ brains. And if you let them play them around the clock without checking their vitals, you could be right. However, we’ve found that an evening of Just Dance or some time spent with Mario and Peach provides the perfect opportunity for us to connect with one another. This December, at least twice, I’m planning some serious family video game time. We’ll dig out older games we haven’t played in awhile. We’ll forget about the to-do lists and the calendar and let fun reign supreme.

At least it’s a joyful noise: Listen, we’re not the Partridge Family, but we do have working vocal chords. That’s why at least one evening, we’ll visit a local nursing home with some of our dear friends to sing those old familiar seasonal songs we love so much. Spreading cheer to those who might be lonely or down will last longer than any neatly wrapped package under the tree.

Bake together

True confession. I am the worst when it comes to messy kitchen activities. It probably has something to do with the fact that I have to first clean my kitchen before it’s up to code to take on baking. And then we always seem to use those dishes that won’t quite fit into the dishwasher so they sit on the counter for, ahem, a week or so. However, both of my daughters love to get their bake on. So this year, I’m blocking off two afternoons to bake holiday treats. We’ll pump the Christmas music loud and proud, put on our aprons and forget the mess while we make awesome memories, dirty dishes and all.

Shine bright

I treasure memories of bundling up in the car to drive around and take in the sights of holiday lights. Of course, we could drive downtown to take a turn around Indianapolis’ Circle of Lights; but in the past couple of years we’ve come to love visiting Johnson County neighborhoods who really know how to illuminate the season. We’ll do at least one night of light gazing and follow it up with a warm cup of hot cocoa at home.

It’s puzzling

We own so many puzzles and board games. Sometimes I think I can almost hear them crying in our hall closet due to under-use. This year, rather than purchasing a new puzzle, I’m going to clear through the ones we already own and set up an area in our house just to put together a puzzle. It will take a little work and may even require clearing a table or two, but sitting together and working on a family project will give us an opportunity to talk about our days and plans and dreams.

The most valuable gift you’ll ever give is your time. As my babies turned into preschoolers and my preschoolers into elementary students and my elementary student into a teenager, I realize with an acute sense that time is finite. There’s plenty you can choose to do with your December. Make every moment count.