Posts Tagged ‘celebrations’

Exchanging Presents for Memories

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Exchanging Presents for Memories

My oldest daughters’ first and second birthdays were wonderful, but I was really looking forward to her third birthday. This was the first birthday that she was really aware, able to anticipate and realize that her birthday was a special day. That morning when she woke up, we brought her into the kitchen where all her presents were laid out on the table. As she opened them one by one with a blank look, I thought, “She’s not having fun. Why are we doing this?”

After that birthday, we decided to wean ourselves off birthday presents.

The reality is that you don’t remember the stuff you get unless it’s really special. So as parents, we have two choices when it comes to making birthdays memorable: Spend a ton of money and time searching for the best stuff, or doing something amazing and make memories we will never forget. After all, what are we saying by buying things on our children’s special day? Things make you feel special? I love you, so I bought this for you?

Exchanging Presents for MemoriesPresents are a huge part of American culture, but after looking deeper at it, that just wasn’t the message I wanted to send. Giving a gift only lasts a moment—once the gift is unwrapped, the moment has passed. So we decided to give experiences instead.

The next year it was hard not to buy this or that toy for Maisie’s birthday, even though I knew family members would more than fill the gap. Instead of giving her a physical present, we bought her an hour of horseback riding lessons. This year we spent a day in Vermont to celebrate Maisie’s sixth birthday. We ran a 5k together, picked apples, and toured the Vermont Teddy Bear factory.

If you want to get away from collecting stuff at birthdays and holidays, here are a few ideas:

  • Start small by giving non-toy gifts
  • Look for day trips you can do in your area
  • Plan a weekend trip for a birthday
  • Try something new or something you have always wanted to do as a family
  • Buy a small something to remind you of the trip that will last, like a Christmas ornament, charm, or small collectible
  • Purchase a museum or park membership as a birthday gift
  • Buy a year of music, dance or tumbling lessons

We have only been doing it for two years now, but so far our experiment is a success. We are celebrating birthdays now by spending time together focused on each other and doing something new. The kids don’t miss the presents, and I hope we are teaching our girls that special times are made special with people, not things. The memories we make can never be lost, won’t ever need to be returned, and we will have them forever.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who is trying to simplify, declutter and downsize. She loves and writes in Queensbury, New York.

What to do with the Placenta

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011


A placenta is truly an amazing organ that our body grows during pregnancy. It acts as a passage way for nutrients, oxygen and fetal waste. I give serious pause when I think about this…our body is capable of growing an organ?!  I think that’s a perfect example of the incredible design for pregnancy. Considering the placenta is so instrumental to baby’s growth in utero, I felt the need to honor its importance post birth. Here are some of the things we have done to celebrate the amazing placenta!

Placenta Prints: This is really easy to do but the tricky part is that it’s probably best to do immediately after birth if you want to do a fresh blood print. You simply and gently place the placenta on a piece of paper and then remove it. It will create a tree-like pattern which is fitting as some refer to the placenta as “The Tree of Life”. There are other methods that involve using ink or paints, however I prefer to use fluids from mommy and baby to create the design. Also since I like to preserve the placenta for further use, I don’t want inks or paints to come in contact with it.  If you want to do a fresh blood placenta print have paper put aside with your birthing supplies. It is also helpful to have the role of “placenta-print-maker” designated ahead of time. Here are my placenta prints on display. At first it felt kind of odd to hang them on the wall due to the personal nature of them, but I quickly realized most people don’t know what they are…and those that do will appreciate them.

Placenta Prints


Plant a tree: We have a tree planting ceremony about 6 months after the birth of each child. With my second son we wrapped a portion of his frozen placenta in a paper bag. On the paper bag we wrote messages of love to him. Then we buried the paper bag in the ground and planted his tree in that same spot.  You can do this idea at any time after your child is born. After the birth of your child, you can put the placenta in a ziplock bag and place it in the freezer until you are ready to bury it.

J with "his" tree


Placenta Encapsulation: There may be some mixed feelings on this one, but still wanted to put it out there as an option  because I think it carries great potential benefit for a mother during the post-partum period. Sometimes a midwife or doula will offer placenta encapsulation as part of their services. If not, placenta encapsulation is fairly easy to do yourself. There are various preparation methods you can choose from. The method used involved first steaming the preserved placenta with lemongrass, pepper, and ginger. Then we cut it into thin strips and dehydrated it in a food dehydrator  for about 12 hours. Next we grinded the dried placenta strips into a fine powder in our blender. Lastly using an encapsulation machine we filled empty gel caps. I took one daily in the first three months post-partum and then as needed.

If you intend to do both a tree planting ceremony and placenta encapsulation, be sure to  freeze a small portion of the placenta.

If you birth in the hospital the logistics of obtaining your placenta may take pre-thought and planning to secure. If for any reason you are unable to obtain your placenta or are uncomfortable with handling a placenta, here’s an alternative idea :

Bake a Birth Day cake in the shape of a placenta: A few days after each baby’s birth I have baked a cake to have a mini Birth Day celebration. With baby #3 I decided to make a placenta cake. To clarify there was not actual placenta in the cake…rather it was a cake that looked like a placenta.  It also might be helpful to note that I don’t have any skills when it comes to baking or cake decorating so mine wasn’t exactly the prettiest but it did (kind of) resemble a placenta. A few days before I went into labor I randomly found a disposable pumpkin shaped baking pan on clearance that looked rather “placenta-ish” to me when placed upside-down. Funny how a Halloween cake pan can become a placenta cake pan…goes to show how all-consuming pregnancy can be. At any rate after baking the cake and removing it from the pan, I used brown and red icing to create the look of a placenta. We sang Happy Birthday to baby and then enjoyed our placenta cake together!

What special things have you done to honor and celebrate your baby’s birth? Do you have any rituals or traditions in your family when a new baby arrives? Would love to hear your ideas!

Curious about how to write a birth plan? Check out tomorrow’s post for some inspiration!