A Sand Mandala Kind of Christmas: thoughts from last year’s holidays


Off to the mall today with my children. Everyone was strapped in the minivan ready to go.  But where were the gift certificates the kids just got for Christmas from the relatives? I was perplexed and scuttled back into the house. Inside, I recreated in my head the scene at grandma and grandpa’s where I had last seen the gift certificates. At their house, after the children had properly said their thank yous, I remembered carefully folding the certificates in tissue paper and tucking them into the sparkly blue gift bag which was to go to my parents on behalf of my in-laws.  As an added guarantee that they would not be forgotten, I deliberately placed the blue bag with the other presents we had received. Where could they be? After all, they were safely in the big black trash bag with all of the other presents.

The trash bag? Oh dear.

Suddenly I remembered arriving home from my in-laws to a family room cluttered with gifts from Santa. I told the kids to clear everything out. When the dust settled I saw a big black trash bag in the center of the room. I grabbed it and threw it in the garage. Then a Christmas miracle happened.  In the midst of holiday hub-bub, my husband remembered that it was trash pickup day and took out the trash.

Gone were the gift certificates. Gone were my in-law’s presents to my parents. Gone was the plug in Star Wars game module. Gone was the “last copy” of a book of Chinese folk tales lovingly picked out for my daughter. And gone was the silly Bop- it game, a crazy game of Simon Says where one of the commands is to “bop” the toy against your tummy.

For a brief moment I contemplated running down to the dump and trolling through the garbage. After all, there were probably only a couple thousand black garbage bags. If I started now, I could be done by next Christmas.

Laughing (what else could I do?), I made my way back to the car where I broke the news to my kids. I too was disappointed, but I couldn’t go back and undo the event.  I had no choice but to laugh.

Together, between the tears, we stepped through lessons learned.

Lesson #1 Be more careful with our things

Lesson #2  Forgiveness is hard but essential for moving forward

Lesson #3 We were happy two days ago and that was before the presents arrived

Lesson #4  Let your kids play with their new toys the moment they get them- you never know when they will disappear

And the most important lesson #5 Use clear trash bags

My oldest smiled slowly and pointed out that I had declared to the kids, “Any presents not cleared out of the family room and put away in your own rooms will be thrown out.” I had unknowingly carried out my threat. Gradually, murmurs of disappointment gave way to laughter as we all imagined a scruffy bearded hobo going through the garbage picking up gift certificates from the girly stores Justice and Abercrombie.  Somewhere there is a stylin’ hobo with a scruffy beard in a fur trimmed hooded puffy coat and tank top, hopping up and down, playing Bop-it.

The minivan shook with laughter.”Oh, mommy, I’m laughing so hard my stomach hurts,” my daughter said. “Mine too,” my other two moaned between giggles.

The cost of “the stuff”:

A lot.

Making kids laugh so hard that their stomachs hurt:


Naline Lai, MD
©Two Peds in a Pod℠

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