Oh no it's an empty box!It won’t be that drastic this first year but it’s coming (someone warn my kids). I am sick of toys and clutter and excess. I am disgusted with the fact that my husband and I cleaned out our kid’s toy box and found toys that had never really been played with. The thrill of my children unwrapping presents on Christmas morning seems to be forgotten by the new year. It needs to be different, and I need to be the one to do it.

I don’t go into rants with my kids about how little I had at their age or how lucky they have it. To be honest I have been the responsible party here by overdoing it with gifts in years past. Guilt does that to me. Guilt for being a crazy working parents that travel or works insane hours. Guilt for having to say ‘just put yourself to bed’ some nights because I’ve got a deadline. The guilt over not having enough as a kid myself. The heartbreak I see that children both in my own country and around the world live every day – and probably don’t even realize it. Hell, I even have really good friends that never seem to have enough for their kids.

The way I see it is if I don’t break the cycle with my own children their chances of growing up to become compassionate adults is slim. They are compassionate children but they are still children. Their gluttonous, pages-long Christmas wish lists tells me I’ve made very big mistakes along the way. This year I am making progress to fix that.

I am exchanging gifts for experiences. Some (many) people I’m sure will say I am just swapping out many paper-wrapped indulgences for one large one that requires a plane ticket. Maybe. But the fact is that I had very little growing up and my husband and I can now moderately afford to provide more for our own kids. So instead of buying crappy little toys to wrap and put under the tree just to find stuffed in the couch by March, we are taking them on a vacation. To Disney World and Universal (Harry Potter to be specific). We will get to spend five days with each other, mostly uninterrupted by phone calls and technology, and we will have shared experiences together that I hope know will be better than some dumb plastic toy. I will take lots of pictures and video and turn those into books and DVDs for them to watch and enjoy through the year (and the rest of their lives) – those will go under the tree with a very reduced number of gifts. At least I know those gifts won’t get stuffed in couch cushions.

The more important part to all this is they also take time and do things for others that are in a less-fortunate situation than they are. I needed to pick something physically close to home to they can actually participate and see first hand. What I’ve come up with is to make little presents for other children that we will distribute at my grandmother’s nursing home (we call their great-grandmother ‘Mousha’). This way the other residents at the home that have great/grandkids will have gifts to give to them. While this isn’t doing much to help kids in third-world countries, this is an act of giving and compassion they can see and understand. My son is 4 and my daughter is 10. They will both understand this.

So, any ideas on what type of craft can I have both my kids make that would be appropriate for kids of any age? Since I don’t know the ages of any potential recipients I need them make ‘all-purpose’ gifts. Candy and food is hard because of allergies so I’m leery of that.

And, in case I forget to say it later… Happy Holidays.