Simplicity Mama Holiday Survival Plan: Gift Edition

I am hell bent on keeping it simple this year. Every year I make progress. Here’s where I’m at today.

The kids don’t need more stuff.

holiday card photoshoot #2: 2011

The kids need more time with me.

We have committed to LESS all over the house. We gave away five bags of toys in the last month. The kids notice the difference too. They actually play with the things they kept. They seem to value them more too.

Grandparent/special care giver or teacher gifts:

  • go to the local thrift shop, and buy a box of multi sized and colored frames. They are always there. Have the kids pick one or two they want to fill with art. Buy a box of scrabble–for the pieces only. Have the kids pick out the names of the recipients to glue on the frame. Or a word or phrase to go with the space ship drawing like; “Nana you send me to the moon.”
  • Always a favorite here: a flock of chicks, or a goat from the Heiffer International Gift Giving Catalog in the person’s name. They get a sweet little email card from you saying it has been made. Have the kids pick the gift, and let them each hold the $10.00 they are “spending” to help another family thrive.
  • Another organization that is doing great work and would make an awesome donation in the name of a teacher is the  Africa Schoolhouse Project . The site offers ways to get your school age children involved in collecting supplies for school children in Africa too.
  • In our extended family we have agreed to not give gifts this year, but to make a contribution in the name of another to a charity of our choosing.

How I keep it simple and easy with the kids:

1. One gift.  One from Santa. One from me. One from the grandparents. That has always been the deal. Santa is too busy to be buying them a zillion things. Pick one special thing. Done. Even if you didn’t start out that way–it can be introduced this year. One VERY COOL thing. It is fun for the kids to really think about that which they REALLY want, and want to take great care of.

2. For Sam’s birthday (he is a veryclosetoChristmas baby) I have his party for his friends the first weekend in December every year. Instead of asking his friends to buy him a present we agreed to ask for a new favorite book for a local book drive or a school supply for Sam’s classroom (and maybe we’ll share  those supplies with The Africa Schoolhouse). Sam and I came up with this idea together–and to help him with the prospect of not getting any plastic toys that would break in 5 minutes-I agreed to get him one toy of his choosing to open that morning. He has been BEGGING for a Nintendo DS. So, we went to the GameStop, picked out a used  refurbished DS lite with a free one year warranty and two used games for it. He charged it, and wrapped it last night. On the wall by his bed is a calendar counting off the days until he can open it.

3. Mama passports. I laminate a picture of them and me on a little card stock with the words; “Passport to Mamatime” In the same box is a little notebook. We write down ideas for special things we like to do together–that the other sib may not. Like in Sam’s case that would include; going ice skating, to the skateboard park, or the pizza joint. Then once a month he takes me and him “out” with the passport. I get a sitter, or friend to cover the other. It can just be an hour, but it is time spent alone and together that we look forward to for days. Instead of asking for presents for ME, I ask my friends to cover these dates.

ME: Every year I ask my brother or a friend to take them out and get me something for the holidays. This is not just about me. I want them to have the experience of getting mommy something too. Of navigating the world of commercialism and not buying this or that, but thinking about the person etc. Of choosing something with love, that is within their means. Finally, I want them to be able to do what a kid with two parents gets to do too. I love all the things they make of course–and love showing them that I have capacity for all of what they bring my way!

What are your tips for keeping it real, local, loving and not too excessive or expensive this year? Feel free to share links with us, of great posts you’ve read on the topic too–like this one from Rage Against the Minivan on gifts that give back.

Embracing my inner crayon mom

Being a soccer mom is a complete joy for me. I love cheering. LOUD. I dig the heck out of the rockin’ parents on our  team.   OK it’s not about winning, but we’re really good. Truthfully Sam is improving a ton–and he was good to start. His corner kick is collegiate! That attention span is increasing too. I was even invited to help the coaches for the  “being aggressive to the ball” practice last week. (Did I let it slip that I had fourteen or so years of playing in this old foot locker!)  Our coaches really rock. I mean who else can tell me to shut my horn with this kind of diplomacy; “Sam reports that he is having trouble focusing on the field with both of us giving him directions. Would you like me to stop coaching on the field?”  OUCH! Back to the orange slices for me!  Of course I was the first to volunteer to bring the half time treat! I’d do it again too. My heart crumpled when I realized that there were only three more games left. Continue reading “Embracing my inner crayon mom”

Mother’s May: Celebrating First Moms, Many Moms.

from the archives: Tired Sam(3 weeks old) and tired mom (mine) /Mama C and the boys

This year we’re sending a card that Sam picked out,
and one of his drawings from school.

A photograph of him and his brother and a big smile.

It’s no longer a heavy heavy for me. Or him.

(When it stopped being about me, and what if I say the wrong thing, or not enough of something, or too much of another thing.)

It’s simply something we do with joy and ease in May: we send Tea a Mother’s Day card.

She is his first mother.

She will always be his first mother.

She will always be the person who Sam likes to thank for;
“carrying me in your tummy and having me, and loving me all that time,”
and “everyday still”.

She is the one who made me a mom too.
Who chose to believe in my own ability to do so, even when my own body couldn’t or didn’t.

I get less and less hung up on holidays of any sort.

This one has so many opportunities for me to make so many people genuinely happy that I can’t not.

I send my loving Mama a thing (this year a Snapfish notebook with her favorite grandkids on it) that is useful and fun.

I pick a different super Mama’s in our lives each year to make a donation in their name to Unicef to help other Mamas be their best too.

And I love planning how to get other people to help my sons honor me with a thing, but that is worthy of another post soon.

I scan for coupons and deals so I can slip in a “Well look at this? Look what the Mother’s Day fairy sent me thing”. This  year a beach chair that has straps for my back so I can carry all of their beach things too that will keep them happy while I sit on my old butt on my new chair. Did I mention the new suit that will fit when I have about five less pounds on all my things? The mother’s fairy was generous in a way.

I put up a new window bird feeder to help the new birdie mamas feed their babies. I even got it to stick.

For a list of socially conscious to all out frivolous gifts for all the moms on your list-I like this post on the topic from Rage Against the Minivan. Feel free to add links to your lists below.

How are you honoring your first mom? Their first mom? Other moms in your life this year?

Planting this transracial garden (Last day to enter TAC giveaway)

Sam's growing peas story board from school/ Mama C and the Boys

One of many reasons that I love Sam’s kindergarten teacher? Her appreciation of color. I don’t just mean the lack of white space in a drawing and the relationship of that to “quality work”. I mean that almost every photocopied activity she offers allows with ease for a child with dark skin and/or curly hair to color the image to look like them.Sam derives so much pleasure from making EVERYONE look like him.

A friend of mine recently asked her classes of over seventy plus 7th graders to draw a draft picture of themselves doing a random thing they loved. They were asked to put in as much detail as possible. Crayons and markers of every color and hue were provided. Out of seventy students, two choose to color in their skin brown. Over thirty children would have identified as Black or Mixed or Biracial in her class.

She followed this up with a discussion that included explicit instruction to color in their skin to reflect how they saw themselves, modeling how a few students had done so. She praised these few examples. The students were then asked to redo their images for the final draft (they were practicing their figure drawing skills for some project posters coming up the next week). The second time around the results shifted dramatically. The hallways were covered with images of brown skinned children in the final posters weeks later. This happened after students were GIVEN PERMISSION to do so.

Sam is learning from age six that his skin color is the desirable outcome for success in a school project. He is being given explicit praise for placing himself in the world. His teacher was incredibly “with it” from the beginning. But, I still initiated conversations having to do with issues of race, and picture books, adoption, and how important it was that he be allowed to express his own story from day 1. The coloring piece–was all her. I have been so impressed with her attention and intention all year.

Next the family is planting the pea plants mentioned above in container garden this morning along with several other seedling, herb, and perennial plantings. This followed by two soccer games (Marcel is going to try once more), and a baseball practice. What’s on your first Sunday in May agenda? Or second, or third?


REMINDER: Today is the last day to enter to win one of two free subscriptions for you or a friend to The Adoption Constellation magazine.

Book winners & Adoption Constellation subscription giveaway

Thanks to everyone who left a comment, and/or an answer to the question; What I’d like to read an adoption book about. on my Adoption Nation book review post. I hope the publishers are listening! Many folks asked for resources, and many of you may have them, so please check back and read the comments, and add a link or suggestion if you have the time.

My two winners were Anne from Alaska, and Jess in Australia. (Then the pub tells me we can’t ship to Australia! So Jess, I’ll be sending that one on my own, so hold tight your winter reading will arrive!) In corresponding with Anne about the win, we discovered we are leading semi parallel lives in the single mama sibling co-parenting department. What a hoot. You can go see for yourself in her blog three little birds.

Today I am  offering Mama C readers a chance to win a ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION to The Adoption Constellation Quarterly.

In order to enter you’ll need to do one or two of three things:

1) Sign up to receive Mama C and the Boys automatically to your email using the subscription button on my sidebar ->, and leave a comment saying how happy you are you did!

2) tweet, fb, email, blog, or carrier pigeon about the competition mentioning The Adoption Constellation and @MamaCandtheBoys, and leave me a comment telling me which one you did, leaving a link if possible.

3) leave a comment answering the following question; “If I could read an article about one thing of CRITICAL importance to me as a member of the adoption constellation¹ it would be; __________________” in the comments section of this post. The magazine provides a forum for all voices in the constellation, so please spread the word, and the opportunity to win.

If you are not sure how to approach that, and want some inspiration, download your free copy of the first issue of the magazine here, and find out. Then come back and write a comment. You’ll get a free entry if you tell me what your favorite article was in that issue, and why!

Already a subscriber? GREAT! So tell me about that in the comments, and then enter to win a copy for your local library, or your workplace, or your step brother.

Up to TWO entries per person will be accepted. Winner’s name will be chosen in the old fashion name in a bucket, picked by Sam and Marcel on or around May 1st.

In full disclosure, I am a writer for the magazine, love the magazine, and am paying every penny of the subscription cost as my contribution to a project I deeply believe in.

¹ From the editor; “The adoption community extends much further than the triad of birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents and we believe the term adoption constellation reflects this.”

How does your TRA brain work NOW?

The Mama C teacher look/Mama C and the Boys

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I have grown in the last seven years (Sam is 6.5) not just as a mom, but as a TRA (transracial adoptive) parent.

If I had never adopted Sam, never entered into an open adoption relationship, never waited on the edge wondering what the text response from his first mom was going to be when I suggested (last week, post to come) that we come for a visit in the next year or so, I would not be this mom. I would not be this me. Continue reading “How does your TRA brain work NOW?”

Marcel Monday: Stretchers don’t hurt? (book review)

The firefighter and his keeper/ Mama C and the Boys

Marcel’s new favorite book is hands down This is the firefighter by Laura Godwin. I love it because the firefighters are female, male, Black, White, and in between. I love that the crowds in the story wear saris and dreadlocks and whatever they choose. We call the one with dreadlocks Tree (Marcel’s donor’s name) because Marcel decided that is what he looks like now. Continue reading “Marcel Monday: Stretchers don’t hurt? (book review)”

Marcel Monday: I know you!

Looking sharp/ Mama C and the Boys

A few one liners from #2 to ease your Monday.

Upon waking and seeing me; “Hey! I know you.”

While eating cheese crackers; “I think they are too small. Can we call them cheese cracks instead.”

While watching me grade student papers; “Mom, that doesn’t look like poetry? You are supposed to be writing poetry today.”

The shearing above happened last night. He wanted to be bald like his brother:

Marcel Monday: Signs of life (in Maine)

Spring here is called mud season. Or Farchil (a word that I heard for the first time, Saturday)  which means February, March and April all slushed into one.  On a little walk up north yesterday, Marcel and I went looking for signs that winter is ending in a few weeks.  We found many. Can you detect all the good omens below?

Watering can popping up/ Mama C and the Boys
The glisten of mud, an unzipped coat/ Mama C and the Boys

That you are seeing the road, and not snow, and enough solar power to cause my little temperature sensitive one to unzip are all key. That he could find a stick to pick up, that was not under the snow, or frozen solid is another clue. That I can’t get anyone out of bed this morning because of daylight savings time…

To Farchil and beyond!

Some linky love from your Mama

The fam in veg mode/ Mama C and the Boys

He was right next to me, asleep I thought, when his super sweet little three year old voice bounced off the hotel’s mission style headboard with this inquiry; “Mom? Am I a super star?”

We were on a little mini vacation-two days in a hotel in Providence, Rhode Island visiting the parents of one of my best friends. For a devout homebody he was doing remarkably well on this little adventure. Just sleeping in a different bed garnered the title of superstar in my book. I may have also used the term when he had willingly sat in the hotel pool (on the steps in the shallow end, and in the dreamy little sunken hot tub next to it) voluntarily on several occasions.

For the rest of this post, on the lighter side of Mama C, please go to Mixed and Happy.


This post on Salon, struck me for a number of reasons. I appreciate the anonymity the writer maintains, in order to write freely on the topic of her son’s “femininity”. I also love her voice, and the way she takes on the random moms she encounters. Ashamed to admit that I might have shared the thinking of some of those moms at points in my playground career.


Part of the infinitely rich Adoption Round Table over at Production Not Reproduction this “Frank answers about Open Adoption” post came from See Theo Run, in response to questions posed by O Solo Mama. I admire, as always, Harriet’s clarity and concise style. She finds her way to words that have not begun to gel in my own head.


I’m on a little hiatus of sorts as it is February break here on the East Coast. This means that Sam and I are clocking some serious Mommy-Sammy hours, which I am trying to just enjoy, and not look at like a blogging petri dish! We’ve been to the movies, the car wash, the donut shop, the gymnasium, and the accountant! (Speaking of which–the adoption tax credit extension is something you should research/ask your accountant about if yours expired last year, or maybe even the year before. Just saying!) I have two exciting guest bloggers coming soon to a Mama C near you in the next few days and weeks.

On my own mind/brewing is a post on my own transracial adoption parenting successes and areas for major improvement. I’ve had some knock me over with a feather moments in the last few weeks. I’m eager to give them voice, and invite you in.