a peek inside the fishbowl

21 Dec, 2014

Christmas gifting at Casa Fishbowl

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|parenting

This is where my brain has been these past couple of weeks:

Four under the tree

This is where my brain has been as I walked and up down Westboro and West Wellington/Hintonburg (two of my favourite shopping districts in Ottawa!), and this is where my brain was as I spent untold minutes idling in abysmal Merivale Road traffic yesterday.

The “four gift” idea has been making its way around the internet for a while now, and I can’t take credit for it or tell you who thought of it first. I liked it when I first saw it, and floated the idea by the family awhile back. This year we decided to try it out and put it into play. We are doing so partly because I think we all accept the fact that we don’t need a mountain of gifts under the tree, and also because we’re planning a couple of nice getaways in the coming months. My preference is to spend our few extra dollars on Doing Fun Things as opposed to Having Too Many Things.

I have avoided writing about the four gifts idea because there are many people who exchange fewer gifts out of necessity, and I don’t want to toot my own horn or be annoying about it. I’m writing about it today because of this blog post over at Globetrotting Mama. I haven’t stopped thinking about it. To summarize: Heather’s family hasn’t exchanged gifts for four years. (In the interest of full disclosure I should point out that I know Heather personally and we went to school together.) Heather’s family is a travelling family. This is something I aspire to as well although we are not at a point in our lives where this can happen very easily. But, maybe some day we will.

So, yes. Four gifts. The girls made their wish lists awhile back. ONE of them helpfully divided her list up by category – Want, Need, Wear, Read – and the other didn’t bother, which left us guessing a bit. I will say it’s been tough to stick to the four gift rule because the temptation to pick things up on impulse is very strong. I did it, but I cheated a bit because I have a feeling the girls’ stockings will be overstuffed. The good news is that we’ve spent less on gifts this year and there’s less to wrap. What remains to be seen is how we feel on Christmas Day. Will it be sad to see less under the tree, especially after so many years of the volcano effect? (a.k.a the overflowing pile under the tree that spreads like lava beyond the borders of the tree skirt?) We’ll see, I guess.

7 Responses to "Christmas gifting at Casa Fishbowl"

1 | Life of K

December 21st, 2014 at 9:56 am


We’ve done this for a few years now and I love it! It really helps me from buying ALL THE THINGS for the kids and really think about what they’d like best. I don’t think anyone will notice a difference Christmas Day.

2 | Shan

December 21st, 2014 at 10:02 am


I’ve also adopted that formula for this year. To be honest I’ve been heading in that direction for some time now. I’ve switched most of our gifts to ones of time and/or experience. So those mega canning sessions I have with my girlfriends over the summer, the spoils work their way into goodie bags for the grandparents along with something I think they’ll enjoy spending their time with like a good book or dinner out. Another thing spurring this idea along is my kids are getting older and the gifts are getting smaller in size. It was easy to make it look like a mountain of gifts under the tree when they wanted doll houses and tricycles, now it’s gift cards for the app store and trendy hoodies. I’m also getting to the point in my life where I’ve been involved with the process of cleaning out deceased loved ones houses. If I ever needed a lesson in having less stuff, that was it. I’m fairly confident that our tiny pile of gifts this year will be sufficient to satisfy.

3 | Lynn

December 21st, 2014 at 10:46 am


I also try to follow this general rule but like you, I cheat on the stockings – that’s where the impulse buying happens! I also struggle with the “something you need” category, because technically speaking I don’t think there is anything my kids really need that they wouldn’t already have – so it often turns into two “wants” instead.

What do you get your girls in the “needs” category?

4 | andrea tomkins

December 21st, 2014 at 10:57 am


Lynn, I can’t tell you what I got them because the girls might read it, but what really helps is if they tell you what they need! Generally, I think this category is for things one wouldn’t normally expect to be gifty-type items. More utilitarian if you know what I mean.

5 | andrea tomkins

December 21st, 2014 at 11:00 am


p.s. I think socks and underwear are the perfect gift in the “NEED” category!

6 | Annnd that’s a wrap. On Christmas, that is. >> a peek inside the fishbowl

December 30th, 2014 at 10:31 am


[…] Day, which my weary body appreciated. It was a peaceful morning. We had followed through with the four gift rule I wrote about recently, and I have to say it was pretty awesome. I didn’t get the impression […]

7 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Christmas 2017 recap - a peek inside the fishbowl

December 30th, 2017 at 9:03 am


[…] pretty chill. First, you get to sleep in. Christmas with teens is also quieter, with fewer gifts. (We do the a variation of the four gift idea.) THEN, we (er, mostly Mark) spent the next 18 hours trying to figure out how to set up our various […]

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