This Christmas, we’re giving our son the 3 items he asked for—and that’s it

I thought that maybe his small list was a fluke, a one-time occurrence, but I was wrong.

This Christmas, we’re giving our son the 3 items he asked for—and that’s it

My son was about 5 years old when he started making his own Christmas lists. Each year, he’d excitedly place his list on the refrigerator for me to see. And this year, my son, now 10, got fancy and delivered his list to me via text from his iPad.

I still remember his first list clearly. He’d written it out on a piece of candy-cane striped paper I had stored in a desk. He numbered each item carefully. Once he was finished, he placed the list on the fridge and happily announced the completion of his task.

“Mommy!” he shouted across the house, “My Christmas list is ready for Santa!” I thanked him and told him I’d look it over later that night.


After he’d been tucked into bed, I went to the fridge to examine his list so I could get an idea of the “damage” Christmas would cost. To my surprise, my son had written down only three gift ideas. I was perplexed. When I was a child, my Christmas lists were always several lines long. In fact, my mother would ask me to star my top three items, all while reminding me I probably wouldn’t receive everything I’d hoped for.

I thought that maybe his small list was a fluke, a one-time occurrence, but I was wrong.

Ever since that first list he created, my son has only asked for three or four items for Christmas each year.

In the past, my husband and I felt guilty after fulfilling his list. Were we really going to present him with only three items on Christmas morning?

Out of guilt—or maybe just our own discomfort—we bought more. We’d purchase extra toys, gaming systems, clothes, movies and the like. We wanted to make sure he was happy with his presents, and we thought the answer to that was: more.

We were wrong.

Year after year, we watched our son happily open his gifts, but continually noticed his lack of interest in all the ‘extra’ items we added in. He was most excited about what he asked for—those three items he wrote down and stuck to the fridge.

And yet, we continued to do the same thing over and over again. Until now.

This year, my 10-year-old son has only three items on his Christmas list, and that’s what he’s getting from us—those three things, and those three things only.

A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to the concept of minimalism and I haven’t looked back. Soon after I incorporated minimalism into my life, my grandfather passed away. Through his passing, I have been given the gift of perspective—I’ve been able to reflect on what matters most in life, and I’ve realized that the majority of the things I possess don’t really add much value to my life.

I treasure experiences and time spent with loved ones. I treasure simplicity. I treasure financial security. Buying material items doesn’t add value in most cases. Another purse is great for about a month, and then the luster wears off.

With the holidays in full swing, I realized that my son, though he didn’t know it, had been teaching me about the value of minimalism all along.

So this year, I’m listening to him.

Aside from our Christmas Eve tradition of PJs and a movie and a few small stocking stuffers like chewing gum and socks, my husband and I have decided to fulfill our son’s list without indulging in extra purchases.

This year will be different in another way, because our family has grown. Now our baby boy will also receive presents under the tree. And rather than buying him a mound of toys, clothes and miscellaneous items—we’ll keep his gifts minimal, too. (After all, a 1-year-old, doesn’t have a very specific wish list, anyway.)

A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided to start taking family trips the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. As we minimize the money spent on “things,” we’ve been able to maximize the money we put toward our trips, which will enable us to travel to destinations we might not have considered before. Our children will have the opportunity to see places my husband and I have only daydreamed about.

We’ll be giving our children experiences we never had as kids, which is really the goal, isn’t it?

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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