We had really big Christmases when I was a kid, with lots of relatives and lots of presents and a huge feast, and it was awesome and I felt really special and loved. I'm the youngest in my nuclear family by far, though, raised by my grandparents, and so you know how it is with families--cousins grow up and have their own Christmases, and the aunts and uncles go to their houses, instead, and Christmas gets smaller, and the grandparents grow older and don't have the energy to make a big fuss. Life moves on.
I mean, it moves on for regular people, not me. I insisted on going back to my grandparents' house for Christmas every year, even after Matt and I were married, even after we had kids. We never had Christmas in our own house, but instead drove screaming babies and bored toddlers ten hours down and ten hours back every single year. It was kind of stressful and kind of sad, because I had, like, this visible reminder every year of how my Pappa's health was declining, but what was I going to do? Not go, and possibly miss the last Christmas with my Pappa?
I had that last Christmas with my Pappa a couple of years ago, and he did six days later, on New Year's Eve. People get over it at some point, right? Someday? Asking for a friend.
So anyway, I've always tried to buy the kids and Matt nice presents for Christmas, and when the kids were little it was easy--what little kid doesn't love toys? Presents were a huge part of my childhood Christmases, a big part of why I felt so special and loved. And that's possibly because I'm shallow, because I still like stuff. I can tell you, off of the top of my head, 100 presents that I would genuinely love to get right now, and none of them are those "experience" gifts that non-consumers are always into--none of that "a surprise dinner out" or "a spa day" stuff for me--I want Dalek cookie cutters and those adult fleece romper pajamas and that awesome toaster that will also cook you an egg and warm your Canadian bacon!
But Matt is NOT like that. He wants for nothing. And as the kids have grown older, they've gotten like that, too! Yay, of course, for them, but they are SO hard to buy for. They like getting presents, sure, and they're grateful and it's nice, but even presents that wow them? They don't really play with them. Syd plays with her American Girl stuff and her My Little Pony stuff, and otherwise she listens to audiobooks from the library, draws and colors and messes with craft supplies, bakes weird recipes. And she's got all the craft supplies and baking supplies that she needs, and when she needs something else, I go out and buy it for her from my homeschool budget.
Will reads. That's it. She reads real books, and ebooks, and messes about online and reads stuff there. When she's not reading, she's playing old-school computer games. If I bought her new computer games, she'd play them, but she gets plenty of screen time, as it is. If I bought her new books, she'd read those, but then they'd get put on our shelves and she'd go read something else.
So every year I kind of agonize over what to buy the kids and Matt that they'll really love, that will make them feel special, and I buy them, and they open them on Christmas, and they love them and say thank you and use whatever it is for a while, but then they move on with their lives and stuff sits on shelves and it seriously bums me out.
At the same time, though--AT THE EXACT SAME TIME--I have entire Pinboards and planners absolutely full of projects that I'd love to make for every single member of my family, if I just had time between school and work and family. Stuff that I want to make for Matt. Stuff that I want to make for Will. Stuff that I want to make for Syd. Just sitting there in my plans, never made because I can't scrounge up the time.
This, then, is my Christmas revelation: handmade gifts for my very own family.
Sure, I've got a couple of things bought for the family already and set aside already, so there will be a couple of store-bought gifts in the mix, but mostly, I'm going to make for them the things that I've been dreaming about making for them, and give them to them at Christmas. I've got so many ideas!
I'm going to tell you these ideas, but I'm going to trust you not to spill them to my kids, who, I assure you, do not read my blog because it's boring.
Here's one project in the making: formal portraits of Syd and her best friend, her cat, Gracie.
The first photo shoot, on a picnic blanket in our sunny backyard, went amazingly well:
Seriously, how cute are they? And you can tell--the cat was super into it!
The next set that I wanted to do was a Hogwarts photo shoot. You can bring an owl, a cat, or a toad (also apparently a rat, but not a rabbit) to Hogwarts, so I wanted a shoot in which Syd was going off to Hogwarts, with Gracie as her familiar.
I should have ironed the sheet that I duct taped to my garage door. Also... Gracie was not super into being photographed this time:
She kind of did okay, but you can tell that she's trying to get down in that last photo, and when she looks at me it's only to give me the stink-eye.
I thought that this shoot would go better. Instead of standing on the sunny driveway, after all, Gracie was already hanging out in Syd's comfy bed with her when I spotted them and said, "Ooh, photo shoot time!" Gracie didn't have to do anything extra, and so at first it was cool:
And then she spotted the camera.
Commence with the stink-eye:
I'll tell you something, though--putting this together is obviously taking hours upon hours longer than it would to click through Amazon to find some stuff to put under the tree, but it's so much more awesome to do. I've been wanting to take these photos forever, so making the time to do it is an actual relief, and I have no doubt in my mind that my kid is going to LOVE them, and in fact is going to cherish them forever. Hell, I'M going to cherish these forever, as well as the memories of making them.
Next up, a Choc-ola candle for Will, and fleece mermaid tail lap blankets for all three of us (well, one of them may actually be a shark...)
P.S. I share weird and wonderful crafting and homeschooling stuff all day on my Craft Knife Facebook page, because work/life separation is hard for me.