Passionate About Iowa City
and the Moms Who Live Here.

BIG Change!


That’s what’s in store for our family.

[Disclosure: this is a rather looong post. Sorry. But, feel free to stop reading if curiosity hasn’t roped you in already.]

Nope, this isn’t a pregnancy announcement and we aren’t adding another four-legged member to the Claussen Clan. No, no, no we’re not packing up and moving to start a new life in the great state of Alaska (although we had a friend do that very thing and her pictures are absolutely breathtaking!) And no siree, I’m not going back to work after being a SAHM for 6 years.


We are, however, instilling a new way of thinking in this fam.

We will be provoking laughter and joy in our kiddos.

We’ll give them something to talk about for years to come.

We have decided to give our munchkins the gift of memories and experiences!!!

Traditionally, Gabe and I can be found scouring the toy store the night before one of the kids’ birthdays or Christmas (and by toy store, I mean Wal-Mart… who else is open at midnight?!?!) Once we finally make it to the checkout lane, we have a cart full of: awesome super hero figurines, cool tech games and gadgets, light-sabers and pirate swords, princess and villain dress up costumes, the latest Crayola coloring invention, cool Hawkeye gear, maybe a skateboard and Barbie bed, and a handful of books and a lot of random whatchamacallits.

We spend the next few hours wrapping all these presents and crash onto our pillows, exhausted, at wee hours of the morning (we’re procrastinators, what can I say)… only to be woken at the crack of dawn with excited shrieks emitting from the blood thirsty children, anxious to open their gifts.  And for the time being, the kids are delighted with all their new… stuff.

Fast forward a few weeks.

The toys are nesting at the bottom of the bin, where they’ll start to collect dust. The crayons and markers are broken and dried out already. The costumes are probably ripped from a puppy who thinks chewing on clothing is more comforting than a dog bone. And the video games have ben beaten (thanks to my man-sized fourth child… AKA – my husband).  A few of their gifts are still being played with, but not many.

All the joy/thrill of having these new, fun things has worn off.

After reading many articles about this very “problem”, we decided to enlist a change.


Just last Saturday, our oldest turned 6 and instead of buying him a whole lot of crap (excuse my language), we spent the weekend making memories.

We ate lunch at his favorite buffet, where he surprised the waiter buy saying hello in Chinese. We let him use his birthday card money (along with his Geoffrey Club coupon) to pick one toy he couldn’t live without at Toys’R’Us. We spent the afternoon at Chuck-E-Cheese playing arcade games and riding rides. We stopped at Gamers to let him choose a game out of the $5 bin and play the public Wii console. We went to the grocery store twice so he could decide what was for dinner and snack on his special day. We made (and devoured) his ice-cream cake together. They all got to poke fun at Mom while I threw numerous gutterballs at the bowling alley. No joke, 2 out of my 3 kids scored higher games than me. We spent a few hours playing at the Children’s Museum and walked around Target admiring all the Christmas displays. We chose a few movies for our upcoming road trip and had a picnic lunch (in our van) in Hy-Vee parking lot. We finished the weekend playing and laughing with friends at our small group potluck.

He. Loved. Every. Second. Of. It.

We honestly spent the same amount of money that we previously would have on toys, and it allowed all 5 of our family members to have these awesome experiences together!  I am extremely confident that this will be a birthday to remember. And, I don’t have a bunch of stuff cluttering my home. He couldn’t wait to call Grandma and Grandpa and tell them about ALL the fun things he got to do for his birthday. He was happy. We are happy!

I encourage you to make the change! And it doesn’t just have to be “experiences.” Make memories for others. We tried hard to make his birthday special for him, but we are already talking about sending our Christmas money to help build water wells over seas and cooking some homemade meals to deliver to the homeless. I just saw a link where you can write letters and send cards to soldiers around the holidays. Whatever you do, just enjoy that time with your kids! Really cherish it! They’ll appreciate that so much more. And it will be a memory they carry with them for years to come!


[If you made it to the end, props to you for finishing this novel! Ha! Seriously though, thanks for reading!]

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6 Responses to BIG Change!

  1. Kate November 13, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Cool! We do this too for our kids birthdays and for (gasp!) Christmas! The really cool thing is that now we’ve got traditions our kiddos look forward to for their birthdays and Christmas, instead of “stuff”! Good luck! I know it’ll be great. I love it! Not to mention the fact that you get to enjoy the day instead of running around the aisles of (for us Kmart) in the wee hours of the night 🙂

  2. Sherri Edvalson Erkel November 13, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    I love this post and the whole philosophy of creating experiences for kids instead of more stuff!

  3. Heather Stocking November 13, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    I love this!! One of the things that we have tried doing with the adults is instead of gifting “stuff” we gift time together. Tickets to a movie, show, dinner, etc. Something that we can do together to build memories. I need to transition this to our kids as well!

  4. Megan Harris November 14, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    That’s good stuff, Tara!! You’ve inspired me to add a “Do” to our Christmas gift tradition of “Want, Wear, Need, Read”.

  5. Jessica November 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    I love this idea! Thanks for sharing.

  6. claussentara November 24, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    Thanks gals! We had so much fun! We just celebrated out daughter’s 3rd birthday yesterday and it’s amazing all the fun activities you can squish into one weekend! It was a blast! 😀

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