It started when I was asked to keep the grandkids for a day over the Christmas holidays a few years back. In an effort to make it more memorable I got online to find some fun Christmas craft ideas. The plan grew to include a few friends and a big pan of lasagna, assembled the night before so it was ready to bake the next day.
The kids were already cranked up with the thought of Santa coming so anything Christmassy seemed like a great idea to them. That first year we made snowmen from clothespins with magnetic strips on the back to hang on the refrigerator. We made Christmas tree ornaments out of Popsicle sticks that I had precut into varying lengths for them to glue, paint and decorate. And we made snowmen out of stacked pompoms with googly eyes and tiny scarves carefully cut from material. I hot-glued pins on the back so they could wear their creations on their winter coats.
Each child is clearly different from the other, individuals with minds of their own. Matthew carefully crafted all of his pieces, methodically arranging his Popsicle sticks, one on top of the other to create a Christmas tree with larger stick pieces at the bottom building up to a tiny bud on the top. In my Tupperware tub of decorations with buttons, beads and sparkly things he found a star shaped button to glue to the top of his tree.
Lexi, much like her brother, is always neat and orderly and her crafts always show that care. But Norah — the youngest and our favorite wild child— decorated her tree ornament with piles of decorations. She used every color and texture she could find in the decorations bucket to make it her own, a Norah original. Each Popsicle stick Christmas tree was different from the other, but all three were adorable. And so was the conversation at the table.
By the time we got to the pompom snowmen, Norah was tired and I ended up doing half the work for her but that was OK, too. We munched on Christmas cookies, then headed to the living room to read.
I'd purchased a new Christmas book called "The Christmas Baby," by Marion Dane Bauer. I hit the recliner with both girls piled in my lap while Matthew settled onto the sofa beside us. Norah was quickly pulled into the story of Jesus. She intently examined each picture as the page was turned. Afterward, she wanted me to read it again but I insisted on reading another Christmas book called "The Doggonest Christmas," by Richard L. Stack. Norah rolled her eyes and fidgeted and half listened, barely holding on to the end. .
"Now will you read about the baby Jesus again?" she retorted.
I had to laugh at her impatience and insistence, but of course, I read it again. And again. And again. That girl really loves that book. On the fourth read-through she fell asleep in my arms. I knew right away that this Christmas craft day was going to become a tradition.
Last year we made elves that turned out so cute it was hard to believe they were made out of toilet paper rolls. We made adorable mice ornaments out of two Hershey Kisses. The flat bottoms of the Kisses are glued together with ears cut from felt in between. Googly eyes and a black or red bead nose at the tip of one kiss were glued on and a thin ribbon tail added on the other end. Then we made candy cane ornaments. Threading beads alternately in red, then white, red then white, over and over on pipe cleaners taught four year old Norah about patterns. Afterward, once again, I had to read the story of baby Jesus at least four times.
This year — our third Christmas Craft Day — was held the evening of Thanksgiving Day and on Black Friday and it included a sleepover. The first craft was built in two parts, started the evening before and finished the next day.
I'd purchased cardboard cones at AC Moore and I'd precut strips of colored construction paper. They glued the strips in layers onto the cone the night before and in the morning Grammy got out the Tupperware decorations tub refreshed with new buttons and baubles. So the girls had lots to choose from when decorating the trees we'd made the evening before. As usual, Norah plastered her tree with rows and rows of buttons and beads while Lexi neatly spaced colorful decorations around her tree. Both were beautiful!
After the tree was finished the girls painted wooden birdhouses that I'd purchased at JoAnn Fabrics and then we made snowmen from K-Cups stacked and glued. Listening to the girls banter as they worked warmed my heart. The giggles and critiques they gave each other made me smile. It didn't even upset me when they tipped over the Tupperware decorations bin. Picking everything up just meant more time together and another lesson about cleaning up our messes. Afterward, we read "The Christmas Baby" because in three years Norah has not stopped loving that book.
Matthew had gone away for the day with his dad and couldn't be there so I'm hoping to add another Christmas Craft Day this year on a day when he can be with us. After all, I just got a new Christmas book in the mail from Amazon. It's local author Marcia Leiter's newest release, "Sweet Pea's Christmas." I've already read it and have fallen in love with the main character, a sweet little bunny named Sweet Pea. I have no doubt that Norah will go nuts over the detailed illustrations, with a plethora of things happening on every single page.
Christmas Craft Day with the kids reminds me what Christmas is all about. For me it is about two things — the kids, and a special birthday celebration for Jesus. I'm looking forward to that extra craft day with my grandbabies this year, even though I have a feeling I'm going to have to read "The Christmas Baby" a few more times.