These are a few of my favorite things…

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In continuing with my amazingly boring, mundane experience I have been cleaning out my kids rooms. After a full summer, then a full Philadelphia, I haven’t been alone in my house since May. And for any moms out there- you know the gold of being alone in your own house. For me, it’s the cleaning out of things without the tearful claims of “No! Mom! I will play with that.” Even though they haven’t. Even though it’s buried under other toys. Even though until this very moment they had completely forgotten of its existence.

So here I’ve been. Alone in my house, cleaning out old toys, organizing closets, saying goodbye to homeschool supplies. Paring down is like a deep cleansing exhale. After a morning full of errands that came as a results of such purging: Goodwill, Used Book Store, taking out the trash. I sat down with a sense of relief, my house was clean. Then, I got an email from a family member, “What’s on the kids Christmas list?”

“NOTHING!!! Nothing is on their fucking lists!!!!! Everything that WAS on their list last year, just got dropped at Goodwill bc materialism is DUMB! AND, while we are talking about it!!!! I spend all my spare time in this one sweet and precious life storing, cleaning, organizing, swapping out, their toys on repeat. All they need is sunshine and good friends and we have plenty of those so STOOOOOOPPPPPP!”

And by that, I mean, I replied, “Not sure yet, I’ll ask them.”

And I will. I will ask them and they will make a list. And then we will talk through what makes something worth asking for- Is it well made? Did anyone or anything have to sacrifice something for it to be that price? Is it worth its cost? Will it last? Could we buy it local? Could we buy it off Etsy and support an artisan?

Yes, that’s me. See me for who I am. It’s crazy in here.

Sure, I’ll let them ask for some good old plastic crap that won’t last until years end because I am not a complete monster. But I don’t want it to fill our house. I don’t want it to fill our landfills. I want to enjoy Christmas, allow for rich memories and traditions, and I want to raise wise consumers and stewards of our earth.

To set the record straight, I am not a scrooge! Actually, gifts are my love language. there is nothing better than the feeling of a receiving a gift that was curated just for me, or bet yet, being the giver of a gift that I know will hit just right. The trouble is that while I love gifts, waste, materialism, and mindless consumerism make my skin crawl.

The way I stay (semi) sane is two fold.

1.) I give the gift givers a list. Do they keep to it? Roughly. Is it the best I can do? Yes.

2.) I keep my own list in a google doc to make sure all the kids are accounted for (I actually keep it for the whole family). I create a new tab each year and use ideas from years past to spur on ideas for the current season. It usually ends up looking something like this:

Oh, would you just look at it!!!! My organized self dies at this amazing execution. And let’s be honest, it also keeps me from panicking that I have over/under bought for any given child around December 22nd. And, if God forbid, I was ever held me to a Christmas budget, this would be a straightforward way to track spending.

(Luckily, my over thinking of all things gift giving usually keeps my budget perfectly in line…)

Anyway, gosh, where am I going with this?!?

Oh that’s right. It’s almost Christmas, and though you may think it is still a ways out, please take a quick look at the current supply chain issues, and the USPS mail delivery slow-down and you will see that the time is now. Read about that here.

As I consider making my lists for 2021, and feel overwhelmed that we are about to acquire a whole bunch of crap, I think back on the gifts we have given or received in years past. There are a host of them that have been perfect. Treasured, and enjoyed and built to last.

I thought I would share those items with you. Each item listed has been purchased with cash money by our family, or gifted to us, and we have loved it. These items are the Christmas gifts that don’t end up donated or purged by July. They are tired and true. Simple, but also somewhat unique.

If you have any question about any of them, oh please oh please justify the time it took to create this post by asking me! There are links to all the items, and yes, if you purchase from the link I will get some pennies from the Amazon Goliath. Would I mind some pennies, heck yeah, but ultimately I don’t care where you purchase the goods. I just want to share with you some great gifting options as we move into the season of giving.

In case you want to skip ahead:

  1. Beau & Jude Gifts
  2. Selah Gifts
  3. Gifts for Any Kid
  4. Stocking Stuffers (for kids)
  5. Adult Gifts
  6. Books (for father in law types)
  7. Gifts for the Grieving

Handmade Wood Swords & Daggers Hours upon hours of free play have been gifted to Beau and Jude, and by default me, by these simple weapons.

Blast Pad Rocket Launcher– Classic, and yet still earning its keep years later.

Indoor Swing for Kids– A kid, or two, swings in this swing every night. It makes for a cozy reading nook, or just a place to hang out while chatting with your brother.

Beam-0– We are actually on our second beam-o and I don’t see any reason to stop buying them. They are fun to play with- easier than a frisbee.

GraviTrax Marble Run– This is our main gift for Jude this Christmas, so I can’t recommend it from experience. However, the reviews are great and he has been asking for a Marble Run for a while now and so this will fulfill that wish in what seems like a unique way.

Chilli Stunt Scooter– Not all scooters are created equal. I thought Razors were “good enough”, but since getting these Chilli Scooters the boys enjoy scootering a lot more and I enjoy not hearing the metal rattle of the old Razors.


Hand Kites/ Rainbow Ribbon Rings

Wooden Rainbow Stacking Toy– Like many of the “Selah” toys on this list, all the kids love stacking these rainbow pieces and I love their beautiful aesthetic.

Melissa & Doug Toy Shopping Cart- Is it asinine to pay $79 for a toy shopping cart? Yes. Has Selah used it almost every day since she got it? Also, yes. Is it the most painful that we already owned one in 2018 that I got at Goodwill for $10, but donated it when Selah was 6 months old (and we were moving) because I figured we didn’t need it? YESSSSSSS. Anyway, enough about me, right now it’s on sale for $40. Inside, outside, baby dolls, toy food- this cart is well worth the cash.

Mini Trampoline– Hello winter, and being stuck inside. Lord Help Us. We got this mini-tramp a couple years back and both Jude and Selah have gotten hours of bouncing out of it. We also have a full-size tramp that remains one of the best investments to date. Insanely pricey, and yet used daily since 2018…and our neighbors have the same brand of trampoline that they purchased ~20 years ago that is still in great condition.

Fat Brain Toys SpinAgain Kids Stacking Toy– This toy is marketed for 18mo.+ but let me tell you, all kids in our house (3,7,9) can still be found mesmerized by the spin.

Micro Kickboard aka 3-Wheel Scooter– This is Selah’s main gift this year. We got the idea after watching our young neighbors in Philly cruise around our garden block on them.


Standing Art Easel– We used the heck out of this easel which Beaudin got for his 3rd Birthday in 2014 (Thanks Gramps and GV). This was another casualty donation from our move in 2018- slowly learning my lesson that not all purging is good purging. Anyway, I am going to re-purchase for Selah because it was well worth the enjoyment gained. Make sure to also purchase the supplies.

Magnet Building Tiles– We were gifted these by my Aunt Diana, a particularly great gift giver, and they have gotten years of use. The brand we have is MagnaTiles, but they are quite pricey, so this link is for a more cost effective item that has great reviews!

LCD Writing Tablet/Doodle Board Jude and Beau had these years ago and loved them. Grabbing one for Selah for this year, and I know it will be a hit.

Wooden Geo Board

World Globe– Every Christmas Gramps and GV (Grandma Vera) gift us a “family gift”. The globe, gifted in 2018 still reigns a family favorite. It lived on our Dinning room table for a while and not a day went by without a kid stopping to look at it.

Chunky Paint Sticks– Also from Aunt Diana.

Stacking Balancing Stone Rocks These are great for kids and adults alike. I gifted them to Jude last year in a nice basket to keep them tidy when not in use. I imagine someone may like the smaller set on their desk to stack while on a zoom slog, I mean, call.


I know that if I asked 100 peoples their thoughts on stockings, I’d get 100 different answers. There is no right way to do stockings, except your way of course. So whether you are stuffing them with consumables or sentimental treasures- you do you.

Though I must share that my friend Hannah introduced me to a new take on stockings that has somewhat shifted my approach. Hannah stuffs her kids stockings with things that they will do/use/consume on Christmas day. So while I still take a practical approach- yes, everyone is getting toothpaste, socks, and soap, now I add in consumables: dark chocolate, caramels, Sumo oranges, sticker books, Gem/Fossil Dig kits, etc. All items that I expect to be used up and in the trash by days end.

Silicone Gummy Bear Molds– To be made with this recipe from Mama Natural.

SHASHIBO Shape Shifting Box

Glo Pal Light-up Water Cubes

Christmas Theme Stress-Plushies

Gemstone Gem Dig Kit

eeBoo Animal Village Create A Story Pre-Literacy Cards

Sticker by Letter/ Paint by Sticker: Magical Creatures

Sticker by Letter/ Paint by Sticker: In the Wild

Blank Comic Book for Kids

Winnie-The-Pooh Stories– These stories have been the background noise of our car rides for years! I think this would also make a great 1st or 2nd birthday gift with a Pooh lovie.


Dominion– A 20-30min time commitment, but a real good hang. Best for older kiddos (age 7+ can play with parents help, I think the game claims 13+, but Jude (7) loves it.) Joshua and I have actually taken it along with us on date night and played while dinning out, which is a hack I learned from the Rising*Shining Blog.

Qwirkle Board Game– We recently fell in love with Qwirkle! Kids and parents alike enjoy it. You can also play against, or cooperative which is nice depending on what the pulse is aka, how many fights I want to manage during game time. Great to take with you places as it comes with a convenient canvas bag. Ages 6+

Spot It! – This is a game that can be played by all my kids, and actually enjoyed by adults as well. It is a toss up who will win every time. Comes in tin container which makes it simple to take on the go. Actually learned about it from a friend (Hi, Col) who had it at a Rockies game for the kids to play when they got bored around, you know, inning number 3.

Kanoodle 3-D Brain Teaser Puzzle Game– Such a good game for on the go, aka the hospital which is where we used it most, but we also take it out to dinner for the kids to use while waiting for food.

BLINK Family Card Game– Similar in premise to UNO, as you need to know shapes and colors, but much better because a single round is over in 1-2 minutes. Bam!

TENZI Dice Party Game– There are 5 game in one with Tenzi, can be played with 2-4 players, and is simple and quick. Up side- doubles as stacking blocks for players to young to hang, aka, Selah.

The Magic Labyrinth– This was a find from Joshua’s mom a couple years ago, and is a real enjoyable play and the boys love it! Ages 5+


Stainless Steel Enema Kit– Yes, I went there. Thank me later.

Balance Board Sports Trainer– This could really be a gift for kids or adults alike, but I got it for Josh since he is the only one worried about core strength.

Frozen Fruit Soft Serve Dessert Maker– This beauty takes frozen fruit and turns it into the consistency of soft serve. Delicious, healthy and kid-approved.

Collage Photo Frame– Every year I fill a frame with family pictures and gift it to Joshua. We hang the frame in the kids bathroom, moving each previous year up the wall, to be replaced by the current frame. It’s simple, but three years in and I am looking forward to our walls being lined with these time capsules! We look at the pictures every day during the bedtime routine and reminisce.

Skylight Digital Picture Frame– We were gifted one of these frames by Joshua’s boss and it has been a treasure. I am not sure I would have purchased it myself, given the price tag, but now that it’s ours, we love it. It would make a *great* gift for grandparents as photos can be updated from various devices- so Uncle Roger in South Carolina can update with pictures of Cousin Addie and we can update with pictures of our kids, and Gramps and GV can just relax and have updated photos streamed into their living room.

Speaking of pictures: Grandma gets framed school photos. Is it sexy? Not entirely. Is it predictable for me and adored by her? Check and check. Guys, come up with a gifting theme and call (clap) it (clap) done (clap).


Speaking of a theme: every year I gift my father-in-law a book. He is a sports fanatic, so they usually (read: always) happen to be about sports. Knowing that I get him a book makes shopping for him simple and also allows me to be on the look out throughout the year. For example, this years book I heard a review on in August and picked it up then. Easy.

Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

It’s Better to Be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness

Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History


I’d be remiss to not talk about how much the holidays can suck for those of us who are grieving. I offer permission (as though you need it) for anyone grieving to just skip the holidays ALL TOGETHER. If you need a pep talk on this, call me.

However, whether your loved one has decided to skip the season or not, send their heavy heart one of these items to remind them that with or without pomp and circumstance, you are still there.

Laurel Box Christmas Remembrance Box– Choose a curated box or build your own, this company is the *best* place to shop for those you know who are hurting.

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved

No Cure for Being Human: (And Other Truths I Need to Hear)

The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have

Grief F*cking Hurts…Write that Sh*t Down: Notebook

Bison Keychain– Talk about a well intentioned gift. This beauty arrived in my mailbox after a dear friend read my bison hide post. Gift this with a hand written card referencing my blog post about the topic found here.

Keep Going Cuff Bracelet – There is nothing like a hidden curse word to make me feel warmly loved. My dear friend sent this to me days after Beaudin relapsed and I wear it every time I go to the hospital. People remark about my cute bracelet and I feel warm inside knowing that the beauty holds a secret.

Flecks of Gold Journal– This journal was created by a mama who knows that motherhood wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but that in each day there was some fleck of gold to notice. It is similar to a Line-a-day, or 5-minute gratitude journal.


That’s all I’ve got.

I’d love to hear about how you approach holiday gift buying. Do you have go-to gifts for certain people? Do you have a rhythm around purchases, or a way you come up with good ideas?

Please tell me somewhere out there also has a spreadsheet?!?!

Let me be the first to say, Merry Christmas.

This post brought to you by me and Jolly Old St. Nick

5 comments

  1. I like your method! On my side of the family we all buy the little ones gifts. For everyone else, we draw names (we use drawnames.com) and set a limit for the gift price ($50-75) i.e. for the other members of the family like Josh’s brother’s, aunts, etc. and same for your family). Then we create a Google spreadsheet that is shared with everyone in the name drawing. Everyone has a tab on the spreadsheet where they add ideas of what they would like, including sizes of clothing. They can also list their favorite activities and hobbies. We encourage links in the spreadsheet to the items so they are easy to find and purchase. For my husband’s side of the family, his siblings make homemade gifts for each other including his mom. That has been fun.

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    1. Oh I love this method- you guys have it down to a science. We used to draw names for my extended family, but once we all started having kids it felt like we were just exchanging gift cards and the whole thing fizzled. Homemade gifts? Sounds so crafty, I love that. Thanks for commenting. I love hearing how other approach this behemoth!

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