Sandra Dodd

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I wanted to add a few thoughts about my experience of abundance. 

I'm currently at a large beautiful lake house in north Idaho, surrounded by piles of snow that keep growing.  Its quite magical.  My entire husband's family is here - all spouses and children.  The 3 refrigerators are literally stuffed with food, the 20-foot tree is stocked with gifts, and the kids are reveling in the abundance all around us.  

My husband grew up in a family that could afford anything they wanted and more.  I've heard many stories about the Herculean efforts my mother-in-law made in acquiring the gifts her children requested when they were young.  Without fail, these stories include (now, with lots of laughter) what a pain in the ass she thought it was.  Often the perception was that her work was unappreciated.  

There's an immense amount of generosity in this family.  Sometimes there's resentment about the reactions to that generosity.  My mother-in-law fed her family elaborate meals growing up.  I almost said she loves to cook, but that's not true now, whether it ever was.  Her role in the family is the person who plans and prepares meals. Regardless of the efforts of her children and us spouses to help her in the kitchen, she ends up taking over anyway.  We still attempt to help where we can, but recognize her need to be in control.  We all just finished eating a delicious breakfast casserole that is traditionally served around Christmas time.  Part of the lore of this dish was the effort put into its construction - in fact my brother-in-law had nicknamed it "Christ on the cross casserole" when they were kids because of the feeling of sacrifice made clear by their mother.  Many years ago my husband and I had jobs that prevented us from spending Christmas with his family, so his mother sent me the recipe for the casserole.  I was dumbfounded by the simplicity and lack of actual effort required to make it. 

My husband and his siblings all, at times, display self-centered, narcissistic, entitled behavior.  I certainly can't point to definite cause and effect, but I can't help but think the attitude around giving, not the giving itself, influences these feelings and behaviors.  

When our daughter was born, I told my husband I didn't want to do massive Christmases like the ones he grew up with.  I didn't want our child to be "spoiled".  My family was never wealthy (monetarily), and our Christmases were more measured in terms of stuff, though overflowing with joy and a sense of love and abundance.  My parents would have gladly given more if they could have afforded it. 

I'm so glad I found this list, which I've been reading for probably about 4 years - the majority of my daughter's life.  My feelings about "spoiling" children have completely changed.  We are fortunate enough that we can afford the things my daughter asks for, and so she gets them.  Her aunts and uncles marvel at her generosity, noting how sweet and kind she is with her stuff, sometimes in stark contrast to their own children.  Over these past few months, whenever she spoke of what she wanted from Santa, I wrote it down, then I got her everything she wanted plus a few things I wanted to give her because she really didn't ask for much.  I look at the modest pile of wrapped presents and have a pang of "is that enough?" even though I know it will be, because she already has a sense of abundance in her world and doesn't need more stuff to prove it.  The stuff is just a bonus!

Technically I'm not unschooling yet as my daughter wouldn't start kindergarten until next year, but the radical unschooling principles have done wonders for my family - my thought processes have morphed over these few years to allow me to be more patient, generous, peaceful, and loving with everyone I care about, most especially my wonderful daughter. She said to me recently after asking me if she could have or do something, "mama, you always say yes!" and then gave me a huge hug. 

I wish everyone here a massively joyful and abundant holiday season and new year.  Thank you to all who so generously share here. 


Sandra Dodd

Cheri, that was beautiful. I’m going to add the bottom part (not the casserole story) to the abundance collection. :-)

I hope the gift opening is (or was) sweet and fun.

I’m glad you and others have shared stories that will enrich the lives of children who aren’t even born yet.



When my daughter was very little I sometimes felt overwhelmed by her need for lots of a type of toy.  It felt threatening and oppressive.  She had a passion for Octonauts for a while and ended up with a large box of figures and gups.  She had many variations of the same character and it looked needless and excessive to me.  I had been reading and thinking and watching and my perception of her collection was changing.  One day she was playing with her collection in her paddling pool and I didn't feel threatened any more.  I had stopped seeing 'too much' and there was just happiness and play and learning.  So I helped her arrange all the figures around the edge of her paddling pool and took a picture so that I would always remember the moment when I noticed that change.  My daughter was so happy to have all the figures and sea creatures arranged like that and it is a really joyful photo for me to look back at.  I have never mistaken abundance for excess since.  Seeing her so happy to have so much of something she loves that she could literally surround herself with it was a beautiful moment.  

I have taken other abundance themed photos since then.  She has a big collection of Skylanders and many times when we get them out to play with we arrange them in new and inventive ways before we get started with the game.  Sometimes we take a photo of the arrangement or of her, grinning with the figures spread out all around her.  Sometimes we have so much fun arranging them and grouping them that we don't actually turn the game on.

My favorite of the abundance photos was one of her toy weapon collection.  It is a very big and impressive collection and it grows and changes as she finds new weapons to add to it.  When the toys start to overflow their storage boxes we cull them to remove any that are broken or not used very often to make room for new finds.  She doesn't usually like to part with them so the rejected ones move out into the garden.  Since we had emptied the boxes out for sorting we decided to make an arrangement of all her toy weapons and spent a very happy morning comparing and grouping them.  Her favorite grouping was a spiral of six scimitars on her trampoline.  They looked so beautiful.  When we finished the floor and all the furniture had toy weapons spread out in patterns all over them.  It was magnificent.  We do that every time we sort the toy weapons now and it is really interesting to compare the photos to see how her collection has changed.

The collection of toy weapons showed me how powerfully abundance is connected to gratitude and generosity too.  After we moved house, toward the end of 2014, Exey had access to a big pool of children she had never met before.  We are lucky that the housing estate we moved to has grassy play areas between the houses and no roads.  There are large social groups that have little adult involvement because it is such a safe area for children to play in.  Exey had never been interested in playing with other children but she soon learned how much fun it is to play nerf gun fights with a big group of kids, and that it is more fun if she shares her toys so that more kids can join in.  We had a brilliant summer.  Most days we would drag the boxes of weapons out and they got used freely be everyone for epic day long adventures.  Exey shared her abundance with everyone and built some really strong friendships.  

It wasn't just toy weapons we shared with the neighbourhood kids.  As we formed friendships I naturally started to extend the principles of unschooling into those relationships.  I payed attention to them and offered a safe, rich, accepting place to play and explore.  As I got to know them better I realized how much fun it was to strew for a bigger group of kids.  I set up art and craft supplies, brought out piles of books to read on the grass, shared our collections of nuts and bolts and tools for them to tinker with.  We took old appliances apart and held our own Olympics with medals and an Olympic torch we had made ourselves and equipment improvised from garden toys.  We all learned about bees after our curiosity was sparked by a mating flight that landed on Exey's face!  I built our street in Minecraft and everyone filled in the inside of their house however they liked.  (We have plans to extend that project because the primary school just down the road has closed and is to be demolished next summer so we are going to add it to the map and ceremoniously blow it up with TNT on the same day the wrecking crew start on the real school)  I bought a slack line and swings for the trees outside which were used constantly.  We all came out late to look for shooting stars. We played with bubbles and ice and playdoh and sand and lego and marbles.  We made lemons erupt and concocted glittery potions and stinky potions.  We sang and danced and dressed up and had huge raucous water fights in the rain. We had spontaneous picnics and I arranged to take a group of them swimming one time, and for a walk to the beach another time.  And more than anything we talked and laughed and shared ideas and had fun together.  We were having so much fun we barely left our street all summer.

Exey got to be part of a big group of kids for the first time and she loved it.  The sharing of stuff was pretty one way, from us to them but Exey never minded at all and she could see that they gave us an abundance of fun and happiness and connection in return.  If it hadn't been for the nerf guns breaking the ice it is quite possible that none of that would have happened.  I'm so glad I never told her that one or two was plenty, or that she had enough already.  Having enough nerf guns and darts to equip a dozen kids really paid off for us.