Monday, December 10, 2007

A Simple Christmas

I brought Jackson downtown for the annual trip to Dayton's (er...Marshall Field's...fine, I guess it's Macy's*) for the 8th floor display and visit to Santa today with Grama, Grampa, Aunt Christa and cousin Tommy.

• parking at Macy's for 3+ hours...$10
• crappy photos of Jackson sitting on a crappy Santa's lap (he never smiled, ho-ho-ho'd or asked Jackson's name, totally not the REAL Santa)...$15
• over-priced gingerbread cookie that could not be avoided due to the smell being piped in throughout the exhibit...$3
• watching Jackson exclaim in wonder as he saw the Nutcracker Fantasy unfold before him...PRICELESS

(Next year we're taking the bus, skipping Santa, and going with clothespins on our noses to avoid Cookie Temptation!)

I'm still not knitting, but I'm not as sleepy either as I enter the 10th week of this pregnancy and that has freed up time for reading. This is something I typically lament about when all I do is knit (that I never have any time to read). I don't usually use this blog for book reviews (since I never find the time to read half as much as many of you do!), but today is different, as I've recently finished three books that have collectively lit a new candle within me as I prepare for this holiday season:

Living Simply with Children, by Marie Sherlock
I bought this book when we were pregnant with Jackson back in 2005 but forgot to read it. I just discovered it on the shelf again and found that I couldn't put it down. I guess it was just the "right" time for me to finally read it. It's an amazingly inspiring book about voluntary simplicity and how to apply it to family life. I love that Sherlock continually reminds the reader that simplicity is not about living without, it's about choosing what you want to live with. She focuses on the environmental and social impacts of a lot of the "stuff" we are bombarded with...truly mind-opening. But it's not just a soap-box; the book is loaded with practical ways to make living simply with your family actually work, even if you have teens. Her stats about TV-watching and the effects of media on our kids alone make me so glad that we turned off the TV last year and recently got it out of the house altogether. Score one for simplicity at our house, but we still have a lot of work to do. This book is great encouragement though!

Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyous Christmas, by Bill McKibben
This book should be required reading for...well, I was I going to say all schoolchildren or all college students or all new parents, but really it should be required reading for everyone. At least everyone who has felt the least bit "weird" about the holiday excess that has reared its ugly head in recent years (decades?). McKibben's premise is that Christmas isn't the problem, we are. Or rather, Christmas hasn't changed, we have. Think about it: in the early part of last century when most American families were poor, getting piles of presents under the Christmas tree or eating special foods that weren't readily available year-round was truly a delight. But now, come on...we can almost have anything we want at any time of the year...treats, treasures..."buy now, pay later" has become the new American mantra. Is Christmas' excess really making us happier? Joyful? McKibben doesn't argue that we shouldn't give gifts at all or stop Christmas altogether in a Grinch-like manner - quite the opposite. He suggests that we re-evaluate ourselves and find ways to put more joy back into Christmas. Putting a hundred-dollar cap on the holiday is one the book to find many more. It's only 95 pages...surely you can find time to squeeze it in before heading out to the mall to join the frenzied masses! (And it may save you just in time...)

When Santa Fell to Earth, by Cornelia Funke
I couldn't describe this book any better, so I bring you a review from School Library Journal/

"The leader of the Great Christmas Council, one Gerold Geronimus Goblynch, has outlawed all of the old, magical ways. Snowmobiles have replaced reindeer, elves and angels are banned, and noncompliant Santas are turned into chocolate. Niklas Goodfellow is the last real Santa. He and his ramshackle companions–two fat angels named Matilda and Emmanuel, an invisible reindeer (marzipan-loving Twinklestar), and a bunch of foulmouthed elves ("steaming reindeer poo!")–are hiding from the Council. Luckily, local children Ben and Charlotte and Charlotte's dog, Mutt, join forces to save Niklas from a chocolate-y fate. Funke's holiday fantasy, originally published in Germany in 1994, appeals on many levels and is surprisingly fresh. Howard's charming drawings, many full page, add just the right touch. Wonderfully imaginative details, adventure, danger, and a brave young Santa who fights to preserve all that is magical and special about Christmas make this a perfect read over a mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter's night."–Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library

Dan and I both adore Cornelia Funke's writing (Inkheart, Inkspell, The Thief Lord and due out in the spring of '08, Inkdeath!) and couldn't pass this up the other night. It's technically a kid's book so it's a fast read. But you may still want to savor it or read it many times this season. It goes hand-in-hand with McKibben's book for me...searching for the REAL Christmas and the REAL Santa!

Merry, merry...wishing you much joy this season and always. Life's too short for all of December to suck because of one idea of a commercial Christmas gone bad. Re-claim it!
*But the elevator button in the parking ramp still says "Dayton's," so there...


TinkingBell said...

This is where making gifts rather than buying them and choosing gifts carefully and just enjoying the people and the time is so important!! Here's to you for reminding us of that! Merry Christmas (HOHOHO)!!!!

Rob & Maria said...

Cool reads. This sounds like something everyone should read, both the hundred dollar holiday and the living simple with many days and nigths fill my memories of playing for HOURS in the woods, before we really had a tv and when we did we didn't get any channels so rented the occasional movie, which became a big treat! I'm with you Catherine, let's continue to say NO to the suction of the tv. I'm still lovin not paying for cable at our apt. and therefore NEVER turn it on except for the occasional Waitres..if you haven't seen it...SEE IT!

Chris said...

I passed this post url on to a friend so she can read your McKibben review!

LaVerna said...

We are doing a very simple Christmas this year.I want my kids to experience what was important when I was a kid.Family togetherness and love.Not how many gifts are under the tree.

Heide said...

We've no choice this year but to have an almost gift-free Christmas and it is quite liberating. It's like knowing that we have no extra money has taken all of the pressure off of us. I will bake for friends and extended family. Some more appreciative folks will receive knitted items and only my daughters will have anything, albeit small amounts of store bought presents. We've made sure to make each aspect of the holiday as fun and celebratory as possible... such as getting and decorating the tree, evening Advent calendars, etc. It's surprizing how much a simple mug of hot coco can add to the spirit of the season when it's enjoyed with someone.

I didn't know you were expecting again. Congratulations to you, Dan and Jackson. You're already an amazing mother and I like the thought that someone as neat as you is contributing to the next generation.

Ruth's Place said...

Those books look wonderful. We also don't have a tv (we haven't bothered to set up the aerial to get reception), we do watch stuff on dvd though, but life is much nicer without it, now we are selective about what we watch rather than wasting hours in front of the box.