Though I shared a little bit in my last post about my borderline disgust with current Christmas trends, I kept a positive focus on attaining holiday happiness for everyone by reinforcing that giving is so much more gratifying than receiving. This year was the first year we put this method into practice and I will never, EVER stray from this path again.
Shortly after Thanksgiving we sat the kids down and shared with them our experiences in giving. I told them about the Christmas when I was 15. I wanted my gifts to be perfect. I knew that there was nothing in a store that could satisfy the sentiment I was looking to achieve. I took a ride into the city to visit my Grammy and Papa to ask them if there was a certain perfume her grandmother wore, or a tea that they drank together, or a game they played. My Papa disappeared into the basement for a while and came back with a wooden board with small round divets bored into it in a game board like pattern. There was also a tin full of marbles and small mug shakers with it. As it turned out this was a handmade game that my mom used to play with her grandmother all the time. Papa was thrilled to give it to me and seeing my mom open that gift was something I will never forget.
I wanted my kids to know that feeling. To know how wonderful it feels to give a gift that took time, thought, and love and to have them be responsible for someone else's utter joy. We let it mull in their heads for a bit and after a few days I grabbed some alone time with each of them. I asked them about each of their siblings and what they would love to make for them. To my surprise they all had AMAZING ideas already worked out!
Seeing Aislin and Caleb doing their "homework" (which was what we called it to ensure the 3 year old would want nothing to do with it!) was amazing. They had decided to make one big gift together for Marlee- a giant doll house! I mentioned that I had gotten Marlee a Strawberry Shortcake doll set for Christmas and they were pumped to make it the theme of the doll house. Seeing them in the aisles of Michael's excitedly choosing scrapbook paper and felt for the rooms and finding the perfect embellishments was priceless. They seriously could not wait for her to see it!
As you can see, it's just one of those cheapy cube book shelves with a roof built on to it. We have a bunch of these lying around and we are huge on upcycling, so it was a win win! They wanted to do just enough that she would know it was a doll house so she could customize the rest herself. I love that they made it Christmas in the living room!
When I talked to Caleb about what he wanted to make for Aislin he wasn't really sure. I helped him a little with the idea, but he absolutely flew with it. I bought one of those old console TVs ages ago. I had intended to do a project with it, but I had been so buried in work that I just never got around to it. Here's what became of it....
So we gutted the insides and paid a small fee at the dump to dispose of it. Mimi and Papa just so happened to have the perfect sized fish tank just hanging out in their basement, so naturally we snapped that right up! Caleb picked the rocks, the tank decorations, the fish, and the christmas tree wrapping paper as the background. Let me tell you: it's not easy hiding a fish tank in your house, filling it up in your living room while the recipient watches a movie upstairs, wrapping it, all while trying to keep it a surprise! Good thing these bad boys are on wheels!!!
When I asked Aislin what she wanted to make for Caleb she knew immediately that she wanted to make something Lego related. He is always losing his Lego "guys" and she thought having some sort of display/storage would help. Thank you Pinterest!!! (As soon as I find the original link I will link it!!!)
It was a total hit! As you can see he's already started to fill it up. The top row is the figures from his brandy new Lego Forest Ranger set. The bear is hilarious!
Marlee wanted to paint pictures for Aislin and Caleb. I let her choose the paper, the brushes and the colors. Here's the result:
The kids LOVED making their gifts. In the days leading up to Christmas, like usual they couldn't contain themselves, but it was different this year. They were so excited to GIVE their gifts. There were several "that was a close one" moments where they almost blurted it out, but all in all they did great. Another surprising thing that came from this was appreciation. Near the end the kids were saying things like- "How do you keep it a surprise for us every year?! It's so hard to be sneaky!" and "What if she doesn't like it? Did YOU ever feel unsure if someone was going to like a gift?" The kids now understand the full effort that is Christmas. Some of my friends have expressed concern that I have "taken the magic away" because now my kids know how much work goes into it. I think that is just absurd. The magic is in the sentiment of giving, not in drowning your children with gifts and making it appear effortless. The warmth I felt this year is unmatched. I have never felt merrier in my life! Not once did I feel grumpy or scroogy- which is rare for me. Our kids are already talking about what they want to make for everyone next year and when Marlee was asked about what she got for Christmas she mentioned two items: her "warm-warm" (a microwaveable rice pillow Aislin made for her) and her doll house.
Handmade Christmas for the win!