Friday, January 18, 2013

Our Version of a Homespun Christmas

I am not a creative person. I am neither crafty nor cutesy. I have tried, but creativity continues to be a struggle because it is not something that comes naturally for me. So when my sister-in-law suggested that our kids make homemade gifts for one another rather than buying presents for each other's kids at Christmas, my initial feeling was one of panic. The sister-in-law who made this suggestion happens to be one of the most creative people I know. She sews, crafts, turns various items from trash into treasure; and she is one of those people who makes it all look easy. I didn't think it would be easy at all for me to help my children make gifts for their five cousins.

But after giving it some thought, I decided that I liked the idea. I didn't want to be the one doing all the work and I really didn't have any special talent to offer to my children. However, I did want my kids to have the experience of being more personally invested in the giving. After all, it's easy and convenient to pick out a toy or video game from a list, but it takes a lot of time and effort to make gifts and to try to make those gifts special. I knew it would require my children to put more of themselves into the process and that it would be something memorable and worthwhile.

When I told my children, they immediately hopped on board with enthusiasm! They were truly excited about it and they kept that excitement throughout the gift-making process. We made very simple gifts; gifts that my kids could mostly make by themselves. We made gifts that didn't require any special or hard-to-learn skills (I don't possess any such skills). Homemade gifts did require a greater measure of time and effort, and it was a bit difficult to get it all finished in time. But it isn't an experience that I would trade. My children and I spent quality time together planning and making these projects, and I truly believe that the cousins were as thrilled as ever to receive gifts that were obviously so full of love and planning. Again, our gifts were simple, but in the end we made quite a variety of items, including beaded bracelets, homemade finger paints, slime, paper bag coloring books, multicolored shapes made from recycled crayons, framed drawings, clothespin dolls, pencil holders, and edible gifts too! My children received wonderful gifts from their cousins in return that they will cherish for years to come.

I hope that this was the beginning of an annual tradition. Maybe the kids and I will even learn some new skills  before next Christmas that we can use. My daughters are currently learning to sew, so who knows what we might be able to accomplish by next year? I wish that I would have taken pictures of  every gift that we made, but I didn't. However, I did take a few pictures, which are shown below.

These first two pictures are the clothespin dolls that my daughter, Grace, made, along with the American Girl box that she decorated to store them in. The first two clothespin dolls are supposed to be Grace and her cousin, Kaitlyn. The next pair is supposed to be the American Girl characters, Molly and Emily, followed by two more American Girls, Kit and Ruthie.

Next is a picture of my two nephews and one of my nieces with a cartoon picture of Fred Bird, the St. Louis Cardinals mascot, drawn by my daughter, Anna.

My seven-year-old son, Justin, decorated a colorful martial arts box for one of his cousins.

Two of my children worked together to make pencil holders out of recycled glass jars, twine, and small seashells.

We used broken crayons to make multicolored star and wreath shapes.