The holidays kept me away from my blogs, as I was gift shopping and gift making and wrapping and partying like everyone else.
I acquired a lot of very nice children's books by trading library discard sale paprebacks at the bookworm. I gave quilting books to my mom, fantasy/sci-fi novels to my sister in law, an Ed Emberly book to my brother, picture books to my niece and nephew, picture books to my younger kids, and chapter book readers and a dictionary to my 2nd grader-- all from pocket change spent at the library discard shelf! This was easily a couple hundred dollars worth of books, even at half off the cover prices. I worked on gleaning these most Saturday afternoons in Nov-Dec as I browsed the Bookworm. It's sort of a therapeutic thing for me, getting out on Saturdays to run errands and make that stop. I've mostly just browsed for myself and my kids in the past, but I think I will start keeping a list of books friends and family are looking to read in my purse as well, to gift them for birthdays and Christmas or just for fun.
This year, Sam made a list of things he wanted to get for his brother and sisters and aunt and uncles. it was a very ambitious list of quality gift ideas. Unfortunately they were mostly high ticket ideas. I explained to him his spending limit would be what he could put together from his own piggybank savings and that I would take him to the dollar store to gift shop. He made a new list, with just the names of the other kids he wanted to shop for, and he carefully, thoughtfully browsed the isles at the dollar store, putting his settled on purchases in his hand basket.
"Is everything here, all only a dollar?" he asked, amazed. (I remember having the same amazement at the bins of dime and quarter items at the old Jerricks stores that are no longer so thrifty, but I digress)
"Yes! Well, plus tax."
"Tax? how much is tax?"
"In New York sales tax is 8 1/2 percent. That means you can round up a little and estimate about ten cents more for each item in your basket, so think of them as a dollar and ten cents."
Sam makes an unhappy face. "That's not fair."
"That's the government, Baby."
Secondgraders are not exempt from civic duties. He's not even old enough to vote and he has to pay for public services.
When he was through shopping, and we were going towards the check out, he declared that he wanted to get me a gift. I told him I would wait at the front of the store, and he could find what he wanted for me and check out on his own and meet me at the front. He did.
For Christmas I opened the first bonafide gift from one of my kids who shopped for it himself and wrapped it himself. It's a ceramic cereal bowl with pretty blue bands of color in it. Sam was very proud of himself, and I'm very proud of him. He may not have been able to buy the other kids fancy video games and electronics and name brand items on his original list, but he was very pleased to hand out gifts he'd gotten all by himself.
I'll be trying to help him earn and save more this year and think in advance about what he'd like to do for gifts next Christmas. He's ready to learn more about work, the value of labor, generosity, tithes and offerings, and maybe even a little about investments.
Gwen and Jeff also rallied to buy gifts. I made Gwen's list of people half as long as Sams and also required her to use her own piggybank money for her own shopping. She was a little bit less focused while shopping and tended to want to buy for herself as well, which I had to curb gently, but she did very well. Jeff I gave 5 dollars to. He was incredibly decisive and put the first thing that seemed to fit each person he had to shop for into his basket without a second thought. He was done in less than 10 minutes. Already I can see the adult personalities they will grow into.
I was very happy that all the kid's spent a goodly amount of their thoughts on gifts for each other, rather than just gifts for themselves. It was gratifying to see them coming to me with lists they made for others and not so much on their own demands. I'm very proud of them.
Sam helped with the regular monthly food deliveries for church, and we also signed up for Thanksgiving and Christmas meal and gift deliveries. I got roped into making phone calls for a thanksgiving dinner event. It meant 3 pages of phone calls. At first it was daunting to try to find the time and emotional stable moments to make the calls. But after I got through the first half dozen I found myself able to articulate the invitation clearly and able to converse a little better with the more interested invitees. The list was based on the Food Pantry's sign up and waiting list. They are a very diverse lot, and by the time I was through with the calls, I was very thankful for the glimpse into the ministry that Michelle Flynn manages at the church. The people on the list will either be indifferent, rude, or all the way on the opposite end of the spectra and be joyful, grateful and engaging. Many of the numbers were no longer in service and a few were wrong numbers. Many others I just left messages for. A handful of the invitees were not entirely all present sanity wise and communicating the time and method of travel for the event was very difficult. I did my best. When I gave Michelle the RSVPs, she sounded somewhat concerned-- they had gotten an overwhelming response this year and overbooked the venue! I prayed, thanking God for the opportunity to minister to all of those people, and many others were praying too. Praise God it all worked out. The event hall was able to accommodate extra people without having to bend the firecode too far and the busing managed to transport everyone who showed up. And for my part, I regained a little phone conversation bravery, interpersonal social skills, prayer opportunity that got me talking more intently with God, and learned something about one of our church outreaches.
With my pregnancy and other demands this season, I decided not to put together the Operation Christmas Child shoebox. It was partly the expense (I tend to be very generous and clever with packing mine, I can't help but get into the spirit of it) but more to do with the additional day of shopping. Instead we paid postage sponsoring 2 shoebox deliveries and bought a brood of chicks from the catalog for a needy family. I want chicks too! I'm so jealous! Maybe next year... Anyways, Samaritans Purse does some awesome stuff for people in need. Look them up online. They have a great catalog for choosing how to donate to life giving and sustaining ministries, and I can never page through it without coming to tears for all that amazing work. I know so many ways that God provides unexpectedly for our practical needs in my family and, while I can never hope to repay the generosity, giving to others what I can is just one way I know I can say thank you to Him by passing a portion of that provision on to someone else!
We had the opportunity to meet some of our neighbors this year as we took them Christmas cookies. Some of them showered the kids with cookies and gifts too. We have some new neighbors in the past couple months as houses have sold, and we got to meet some of the neighbors we just hadn't crossed paths with. We almost know everyone on our little street now, and that makes me feel a lot better about things. I hope we get to know them all a little better this year.
I spent a lot of my evenings and personal time working on quilts for the kids. I'll try to take some pictures. They were made entirely out of scraps of clothing and fabric and supplies from my stash, except for the flannel backings which I bought on a sale at the craft store. The Quilts are not wide enough to over hang their beds, as I sewed them just to the width of the backing. They are big enough to cover little kids though, and as they grow I'll try to make them bigger ones. I am very happy to be able to cover them in something warm this year. They've been layering lots of afghans and random blankets in the winter and done fine like that, but I feel better about giving them one very warm winter blanket to do the job. I Got more familiar with my sewing machine by doing that project. I only finished 3 of the blankets, and have yet to make one for Libby, who I figured would be least likely to be disappointed by not getting one with her Christmas gifts. But then she came to me a couple nights ago and asked me "Where's my blankie?" And my heart melted. I have the pieces for it cut out and should be able to put it together in a few more sittings. Because there's less of a rush to finish hers 'in time' I will try to take in process photos and do a nicer job of machine quilting it than I got to take with the 'rush job' I made of completing the other ones.
It was very satisfying turning rags into pretty bed coverings. I will be finding more uses for old worn out clothing and asking friends and family to save me their stained and outdated holey-wear.
Lots more to make a record of, but I'll have to make another installment soon! My tummy is rumbly for a late lunch!