instead of presents, be present.

don't buy presents, be present.

We are preparing to move (again!) from Kentucky to Washington, DC in about a week. As we are cleaning, organizing, going through, and preparing the house for the movers to come… I didn’t realize how much STUFF we’ve accumulated in the past year alone. Not really us, but the kids.

As a military family, many people feel sorry for us because of our lifestyle. The constant moving, deployments, more moving, etc etc. One of the blessings in disguise with the constant moving is the MANY opportunities we have to reevaluate the stuff in our house. We have the luxury (or curse! LOL) of going through our stuff and throwing away, donating, or selling what we don’t need every few years, sometimes every year! You probably won’t see a military family on the next episode of Hoarders because we have to lug all of our stuff with us to every duty station we live at next. Then somehow we need to make all of our stuff “work” in our next house.

During the holidays and birthdays, my kids get a lot of gifts. I mean, a lot. Yes, it’s because they’re kids. But they’re also one of the first grandkids on both sides of the family and the first kids within our circle of friends. When we go home, we purposefully pack our suitcases half full because we anticipate the amount of gifts the kids will get from their relatives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so SO thankful that my kids are loved that family members want to get them presents. But once we get home and unpack everything, the kids are off playing with their favorite, old toys again.

The best part about going home is seeing the kids play with their aunts and uncles, their cousins, and their grandparents. Until this day, my oldest son talks about “the time when (insert family member’s name here) and me went and (insert cool activity they did here)” or “the time when (family member) did (something hilarious/extremely awesome)”. Kids remember moments and memorable times that happened.

So, last week the kids and I went through all their toys and threw away all the toys that were broken or had missing pieces. We donated the ones that they haven’t played with in the year of living here. We kept their “favorites” and anticipated the toys that their littlest brother would perhaps enjoy. The best part was the kids were telling me what they liked and didn’t like any more. We were getting rid of toys on their terms instead of just me assuming.

My husband and I watched this Netflix documentary called “Minimalism”. In a nutshell, the documentary was about getting rid of material things and focusing on what actually makes you happy. While we’re not going to throw away, sell, or donate EVERYTHING – my husband and I took a good hard look at our lifestyle. We didn’t need three TVs so we sold the other two and are keeping one. My husband doesn’t need boxes and boxes of Jordan’s and Kobe’s so he began selling his shoe collection and is only keeping his favorite shoes. Same thing with toys - our kids don’t need a ton of toys because they will end up broken, forgotten, or outgrown.

Parents, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents: if you’re stuck on what to get a child on their birthday, switch it up this time and give them an experience or spend time with the child instead. Take them to the park. Bring them to the zoo. Bring them for ice cream. Play with them. Read to them. Talk to them. Play a game with them. Play catch with them. If you’re adamant on getting them something, go to a bookstore with them and have them pick out a book, and have some good conversation about books. Cook with them. Bake with them. Spend time with them.

Of course, as parents, we are grateful whenever someone gives our kids a gift. We are teaching our kids to be thankful for everything they receive. My close friends and grandparents totally will overlook this blog post and get the kids gifts anyway, and I’m totally okay with that! I’m blessed that they love my kids that they want to spoil them. But don’t forget that over the years, things will break and toys get lost, but kids will hold on to those moments with you for a long time.

What was your FAVORITE memory growing up?

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