Friday, November 26, 2010

Backing Off This Black Friday: An Interview with Author Karen Ehman

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Author Karen Ehman
 Karen Ehman is an organizing guru and the author of several super-helpful books for those who are organizationally-challenged (like me!). I talked to Karen recently about the challenges of staying organized at Christmas, particularly when it comes to dealing with all our kids' STUFF--and this time of year, all the incoming STUFF! But it doesn't have to be that way! Read on for a different approach (actually, an ancient approach) to gift-giving.

MS: Karen, how about some encouragement for moms on this Black Friday? As we enter into the holiday shopping season, I think it's a great time to caution moms against getting too caught up in the hoopla, and sometimes even a spirit of competition, when it comes to Christmas celebrations and glitzy gift-giving. How can we stay focused on Christ and keep the commercial and secular aspects of Christmas from stealing the spotlight?

KAREN: While my husband and I have made many mistakes and missteps in the rearing of our brood resulting in some "I wish we could go back and do that all over again" feelings, there is one decision we have never regretted. That is our decision as brand new parents to simplify the Christmas gift-giving and NOT spoil and splurge and give into our kids' every whim (and going into debt in the process).
Every year since our daughter Kenz was born (over 19 years ago), our kids have received these at Christmas:
  • One thing to open on Christmas Eve --usually pj's, slippers, a stuffed animal to sleep with---something they can use right then as they try to fall asleep with all the excitement.
  • In the morning, a stocking full of treasures and treats.
  • And then, they open their three gifts from us.
MS: Did you say only three gifts?

KAREN: Yep...I said three. That is all baby Jesus received--remember gold, frankincense, and myrrh? When my kids were younger, the categories were:
  • one toy to play with
  • one book to read
  • one item to wear
MS: How has this evolved as your kids have gotten older? The one toy to play with gets more expensive as they move into their teens!

KAREN: You're right! Over the years, we heard about others doing this idea, often with a twist. So we morphed this tradition into a gold gift, a frankincense present, and a myrrh package. Here is the concept:

GOLD-- this, like gold, is a highly desired item; precious; maybe even pricey (thus my annual shenanigans on Black Friday--trying to secure the best deal).
FRANKINCENSE--Because the real frankincense was burned during prayer and arose heavenward, the gift in this category is something that will draw them closer to God. Perhaps a new Bible, a book series, a CD or tickets to an event or concert.
MYRRH--Myrrh is a burial spice used to cover the whole body. So the myrrh gift does the same thing. It goes on the body. In past years this has been rain boots and a new coat for Kenz, a hunting jumpsuit and camo boots for Mitch, or Spence's favorite Detroit Tigers player jersey.

By following this tradition, we have opted out of the "keeping up with the Joneses" contest that often takes place each year. Our kids don’t beg for tons of items since they know there is a number limit on how many we will buy.

MS: Karen, thanks for these great ideas! Mom Seriously readers, you can learn more of Karen's great parenting and organization strategies in her books: The Complete Guide to Getting and Staying Organized: *Manage Your Time *Eliminate Clutter and Experience Order *Keep Your Family First and
Homespun Memories for the Heart: More Than 200 Ideas to Make Unforgettable Moments. Be sure to visit Karen's blog and her FB page!

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