Friday, December 30, 2011

Homemade with Love

This Christmas marked the third year of a new family tradition - making homemade gifts for each other. I'll admit - this was my idea but it was a little hard to sell to everyone initially. To me, Christmas should be about being thankful for each other, not the stuff we give each other.

This tradition has now become our most favorite part of Christmas. Each year the gifts are meaningful, creative, fun, and are truly made with love. Mimi and I tend to decide early on what we are making and are typically done early. Conversely, Tim waits until the ideas come to him, even if they don't come until Christmas Eve. Jack needs some assistance coming up with ideas - they just don't come naturally to him. This year, I stood with him in the craft store trying to figure out what to make for Tim. He had decided on a diorama project where he could build a mountain, put a jeep in it, throw two little goats in there to honor Tim's childhood pets, and then finish it off with a tent. Cute...made up of all the things Tim likes but I wasn't sure what he would do with it. When I suggested that he make something more useful he immediately responded with, "None of my gifts have ever been useful. Why start now?" It really made me chuckle.

We now start each Christmas morning in our bed, with everyone bringing in their homemade gifts for each other. Just to give you an idea of the type of gifts we have made, the first year Tim made Jack a "shooting range" in the basement for his airsoft guns. He used a big cardboard box to make the backstop and then bought targets with little critters on them. He hung those up and built a little shelf for his safety glasses. Jack loved it! Last year, Mimi had Tim take her to a paint your own pottery place and handpainted a beautiful platter with a fish on it for me. She remembered I had seen something similar in a magazine that I loved. It is truly beautiful. One year, Jack made Mimi a frame hotglued with little pigs all over it. He then inserted a picture of the two of them from one of our camping trips over the summer. The first year, I painted Tim's childhood desk Fenway Green and then shellacked the Red Sox logo on it for Jack. I love tradition....I love that Tim had that desk in his room as a child and now Jack has it, but it has been updated into something that reflects his personality and tastes.

This year, the gifts were as amazing as always. For Mimi, Jack painted a sign for Ivy's bunny cage. It is painted green, says "Ivy" in pink and it has pink and green ribbons tied on each side. He made Tim a Camping Koozie - it's orange (because it is one of the Hopkinton Hiller colors) with camping stickers all over it. For me, he took a piece of drftwood that Tim found on the beach this summer and he made a jewelry hangar out of it. He took some sticks from the yard, spray painted them pink & green, and then Tim helped him drill holes for the sticks which I can now hang my jewelry off of. Must to his own surprise, everything he made is very useful!

Mimi remembered that I wanted a Christmas tree in my room so she made me a little tree made out of green sea glass. It was topped off with a little starfish glued to a toothpick. She also made me a bunny ornament out of shells. She used a large scallop shell for the face, mussel shells for the ears, snail shells for the eyes, and a tiny scallop shell for the nose. She called her grandmother at the beginning of December to ask if she could find some mussel shells on her beach. Tim's Mom went out and dug some up, cooked them to open them, cleaned them, and then hand delivered them. It truly was a family effort for that gift! For Tim, she found a jar in the pantry that I haven't been using and hot glued a jeep patch and ribbon on it. She then painted the top with a jeep grill and wrote the word Jeep...it is now his jeep savings jar. Just what he needs...more jeeps and jeep parts. Mimi made Jack a "list book". I have to admit, he got his love of lists from me. We find all kinds of lists he makes all over the house...football teams that he loves, the colleges he might want to go to, things he wants for his birthday. You name it, he makes a list out of it. She took an unused composition notebook we had, covered it in camo paper, and then finished it with stickers of things Jack loves. Now he can keep all his lists in one place...and it will be a great thing to look back on one day when he is older!

Tim made me a Blog Log, which is a notebook, bedazzled with stickers, that I can take with my anywhere to keep track of my blog ideas. Using an old bookcase, he turned it into a "gun case" for Jack's air soft guns and the new paintball gun he got for Christmas. For Mimi, he spray painted an old planter pink and then used stickers to spell out Ivy's name. Now her treats, leash, and blanket can go in one spot on top of her cage. For someone that waits until the last minute when the ideas come to him, he did very good!

A few years ago, the kids came up with this character "Jerry" on one of our long car/camping trips. This is what traveling for 13 hours a day in a car will do to you. The first homemade gift year I made a Jerry "doll" which the kids thought was hysterical. This year I brought Jerry on each camping trip with us and took pictures of him...which they found more embarrasing than hysterical. Little did they know how much he came out when they weren't looking. For Jack this year, I made a Snapfish book of Jerry and his adventures in the summer of 2011. There were pictures of him next to Jack sleeping, at the waterpark, having a beer with Tim, and he even came out at Busch Gardens in Virginia. For Mimi, I knit a scarf to go with her new jacket. As usual, I was down to the wire on my knitting project, finishing just a few days before Christmas. This year one of my projects was to organize my office, which for some reason, became the place to stash everything that didn't have a home. After months of purging and organizing, it is now one of my favorite rooms in the house because it is filled with the things I love. Although I call it "my" office, it is actually half Tim's as well. I put up shelving that displays all his jeep memorabilia. While organizing, I came across a giant folder of all his antique jeep literature. For his homemade gift, I bought an artist portfolio and then organized all his literature, by year and jeep type.

I love that everyone spends time thinking through a personal gift. I love seeing the pride on the kids faces when you open the gift they made for you. I also love seeing the surprise on everyone's face when they open their gift. You truly can never imagine what the gift is going to be, but you know no matter what it is you will love it.

This year I started a log of what we have made each other over the years. I hope we continue this tradition forever, and it will be so fun to look back at what we made each other over the years.

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