A book of Christmas treasures. . .
Wait! Before you take down your tree and box up those beloved ornaments, take pictures of favorites and cherished hand-me-downs and make a keepsake book of those treasures. My friend Judye suggested that a couple of years ago, and I'm finally doing it this year. Hey, it's cold and rainy outside, the festivities are over, so what else do I have to do. I'm doing it this year!
Really no explanation to give you--just snap those pictures and go to your favorite bookmaking website or app on your computer and get going. Create that book. Your kids and grandkids will thank you.
Here are samplings of mine that I will include:
I taught school for 36 years, so I have a lot of ornaments given to me by students. Some of them, I remember the child and delight when placing on my tree. These glass bells were given to me by a sweet Jewish girl in El Paso. This was back in the day when we seemed to have more respect for others' religions. (Sorry to editorialize, but it's true.)
Just do it!
I've heard that some families buy their children a Christmas ornament each year and then present those ornaments to the son/daughter when they move away into a home of their own and put up their own tree. How nice to document those ornaments in a small book and then present the book to the kid along with the ornaments.
There are all kinds of ideas of what you can do with those books. Perhaps you'll just keep it for yourself, and gather your grands around each Christmas, reading the book, and giving them a history of some of the ornaments.
If you're snowed in, or just resting from all the festivities, join me in making a book of ornaments!
Are you like me? Always trying to find ways to put "Christ back in Christmas"? I read about one family's tradition of hiding the pieces of the family's Christmas creche around the living room and the young children look for all the pieces. When my grandkids were small, this seemed like a good way to go.
Christmas Eve Treasure Hunt~
Our family always gets together on Christmas Eve. We go to the candlelight Christmas Eve service at church, and then come over to my house for Christmas pasta and then opening presents. While I was trying to get the Christmas Eve dinner on the table, I needed something for the grands to do. I used the idea I read about--we hid the nativity figures around the living room and the grands had to find them. Then before the dinner, Poppa would read the Christmas story from the Bible, and as each item is mentioned (e.g. shepherds), the grand would place the item back in the nativity scene. It turned out well, as it's like an Easter egg hunt...all the excitement of finding Easter eggs, except this night, it's pieces of the Nativity. I used a soft, quilted nativity, but one could use an inexpensive wooden (or other material) nativity scene that could not be broken.
You can use any Bible re-telling of the first Christmas you wish: Luke 2:1-20 or Matthew 2:9-11.
I also read on Pinterest about a mom who, when trying to put the finishing touches on Christmas Eve dinner, came up with a game to entertain her kids while she did this. She hid Christmas bows all over the upstairs of her house, turned out all the lights upstairs and gave her kids flashlights. She told them she had hid Christmas bows, and she wanted to see if they could find them all. This enabled her to finish dinner and get it on the table without nagging children eager for the Christmas eve festivities.
I took it one step further as my grandkids were older. In keeping with my desire to put "Christ back in Christmas," I hid small Christmas packages. Inside each package was something that was a symbol of a component of the first Christmas scene, from the baby Jesus to the wise men, to the shepherds being visited by a heavenly host.
Here are some of the components I considered:
I did this last minute (as I am apt to do) and found small Christmas bags at 80% off at the craft store. I simply placed each item I deemed a representation of the above, and hid them in three bedrooms. That night I presented each grandchild with a flashlight and told them to go look for Christmas packages (we turned out the lights in each room). When they returned, they opened each package and tried to guess what was represented by the item. There really weren't any wrong answers--for instance, the number "3" could represent the three wise men, Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus and even the trinity: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. This prompted lots of discussion.
This prompted a nice family discussion of all the components of the Christmas story and what each one represents. I hoped it kept our Christmas Eve celebration from culminating into the usual discussion of the first Christmas and into one that was more meaningful. I can hope.
As Christmas approaches, I hope these activities might enhance your own celebration. I've never had an original idea--I copy, copy, copy. Please share any ideas you have.
And Merry Christmas each and every ONE!
Last week's blog was about our family's annual gingerbread decorating competition. There's always time after the decorating to play a few games. These are some of our favorites from previous years:
Wrap Up a Snowman!
One year after we finished decorating the gingerbread houses and cleaned up our mess, we had a race wrapping up a cousin in each family in toilet paper! It's true! The kids along with their parents had to wrap up a kid in their family as a traditional snowman. Alas, I bought cheap bathroom tissue and it kept tearing as they wrapped. I provided hats, toboggans and scarves. But everything else they had to create out of construction paper. It was too fun!
So that everyone would have a turn being decorated, I also had supplies for a reindeer and a Christmas tree. These were wrapped in crepe paper which I found at the craft store. Again, the siblings had to design ornaments out of construction paper and get them taped on the tree.
Another game we love is rollick. I had never played that before, but it's a lot more fun that charades. In fact, it's charades in reverse. Divide in two teams and ONE PERSON on your team guesses and everyone else acts it out. This even works for the little guys who are not reading yet. Just take them aside before the clock starts and tell them the action. For instance, it might be, "Elves making toys in Santa's workshop," or "Decorating and eating Christmas cookies." Once the clock starts, you act it out, but just like in charades, you can't talk!
This is the traditional game of charades, but adapted to a Christmas theme. You can either have each team submit a Christmas movie or a Christmas carol to the other team, or make it easier and get a list of Christmas carols online, print them out, and cut them to size and put in a Christmas tin for drawing. This game is for older kids who can read. But fun nevertheless.
Another favorite and one that our family does in partners--an older cousin or parent/grandparent with a younger cousin, is Christmas Scattergories. It's fun and such a bonding time when you can work together on your answers. I printed up the Scattergories sheet and provided each team of two with the sheet, pencils and a thick magazine on which to write. We just got comfortable on the couches and chairs in the den in front of the fire. If you're not familiar with the game, simply check online for the rules. Someone simply throws the lettered dice, calls out the letter, and all your responses for that game have to start with that letter. You'll also need a timer. As I said, the rules are online, or perhaps you own the packaged version and can use the rule sheet and timer in the box.
Christmas Sock Hop!
This one is not so much a game, but just a good old-fashioned dance. Simply roll up the rug, everyone put on their Christmas socks and dance to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," and other holiday favorites! This is perfect if your grandkids are toddlers and much too young for the games above.
Along those same lines, you can also ask your young party-goers (once again I'm speaking of older kids for this) to bring a pair of Christmas socks with a $5 gift tucked inside. Then everyone exchanges gifts and puts on their Christmas socks for the rest of the party. Really puts everyone in a festive mood.
Fun Christmas games found online~
All these games I found online and on Pinterest. Sometimes it's nice to read from someone else which ones are successful and kid-tested. I'm thinking some of these are great for an adult party as well--in fact I'm sure of it.
This blog is about activities and traditions for grandparents and their grandkids. I hope you found some today that you might can add to your repertoire. And as I always say, write me games and activities that you've done with your grandkids at Christmas. I'm thinking about adding some "Minute to Win It" games this year. Let me know if you've done any of those. They look so fun!
Websites that might be helpful:
Merry Christmas, happy HOLY days, and a prosperous New Year to you and yours!
Do you build and decorate gingerbread houses at your house? I'm guessing most of you do as I see the results on Instagram and Facebook. How about adding a twist. Have a competition between families or cousins for a little festive holiday fun!
I actually started doing this before I had grandkids. I invited my co-workers over for some Christmas fun and asked them to bring their kids. I told them we would be having a gingerbread house decorating competition, and they came prepared. There's something about adding the element of a rivalry to bring out everyone's competitive traits and spark their imagination.
Continuing the fun with my own kids!
I couldn't wait till I had grandkids so I could continue the competition. I only have three grandkids in town, so at first the decorating was within our own family. I got two gingerbread house kits, and it was the boys against the girls. That way there were adults to assist the younger kids, and let's face it--the boys against the girls is always fun!
We are fortunate in that my grands do have cousins in town as well, so about three years ago, we started challenging their cousins--my daughter-in-law's sister's family against our family. I have to say that has been a blast! We choose some night before Christmas and really make a grand ol' party of it--wearing our best Christmas socks, eating pizza, and playing games. All that besides decorating the houses. I provide the candy house kits to each family, but they can bring any embellishments they want. Prizes are given for creativity, good sportsmanship. . . things like that.
And the traditions continues. . .
This year there is simply no time before Christmas to have a competition. But that's not stopping us. I think we'll simply ring in the New Year with our cousin party and house decorating. But the gingerbread house will have to have a "New Year" theme. I've been thinking that the invitation I send to all the kids will perhaps have a "Mission Impossible" motif with a list of the theme and components we will be judging. I actually got this idea from the very first competition I mentioned above with my co-workers. One of the families created the UT Tower (University of Texas). I've never forgotten that--so fun!
If you've never decorated gingerbread houses with your grands, you simply must try it this year! The kits are incredibly cheap and you can even find them at your local discount pharmacies and grocery stores. And you don't have to have a competition--just get the family together and everyone creates. As always, there are tons of ideas online....particularly Pinterest. Just do a search. I've even seen one idea for a party wherein every participant gets a stack of graham crackers and their own plate. Bowls of candy (and other embellishments) are placed in the middle of the table along with tubs of icing available to everyone. Then the family can create a little gingerbread village. The ideas are endless.
Have fun! And as I always say, please share your ideas and pictures! We'd all love to see!
Two fun websites:
And because I love all things New Mexican, here's another:
More Christmas crafts~
Creating Heirloom Ornaments from Grandmother's Jewelry
Yesterday my blog was about creating ornaments for the family's tree out of buttons from Grandmother's button box. The idea came from a friend from my youth, and I love her idea and creativity. It brought to mind another friend's creations for family trees from her grandmother's jewelry. She's a beautiful writer and has her own blog. I'll let her tell you:
Hanging Up Heritage~
My beloved maternal grandmother passed away just after Christmas of 2007. I am forever grateful that we got that last Christmas with her; as her passing was sudden and completely unexpected. It took a while for my mom and her sisters to go through her things, but after they did, they came back with keepsakes for all of us. Among the many things I was given, were several pieces of my grandmother’s jewelry. Some of it was valuable and sentimental, and others less seemingly so. My mom scooped up a handful of the latter along with a cluster of old buttons and beads and said “we thought you could do something creative with this.” Hmmm, that got my wheelhouse turning. How could I repurpose these pieces of what most would think to be dispensable into something meaningful? Whatever it was, I knew I wanted it to be something that honored my grandmother and I wanted it to be something I could share with the entire family. The idea of ornaments came to mind, as my grandma LOVED Christmas.
Reflecting on our many yuletide memories solidified my notions of figuring out a way to fashion ornaments out of my grandmother’s things. I went to my local craft store (aka my second sanctuary) and found unfinished glass ornaments of various shapes and sizes. Some were flattened circles, others spheres, and I even used cubes. Most of her jewelry and buttons shared a common theme of colorful rhinestones and varying shades of metallic. I procured metallic acrylic paints in ruby, emerald, sapphire, and pearl. They perfectly complimented the jewel tones I was working with. Then I set up a makeshift workshop and got busy.
I did my best to channel the craftiness of my grandmother, and in an elfin-like state, I began painting ornaments, snipping the backs off buttons and lapel pins, and removing clasps from bracelets and necklaces. Wire snips, a metal file, and E 6000 glue became my new best friends. All in all, I had enough supplies to create sixteen unique ornaments. That was one for each couple in our family. Every one of those ten grandchildren, plus the aunts and uncle pairs, were able to receive one. Next came a way to present these gifts in a special way. Sturdy cardboard boxes seemed the way to go in perfect ornament size. I found them!
I wanted a way to explain to the family (as all of this was done in a great shroud of mystery and surprise) what I had done and also give them a way to see everyone else’s ornaments; as we are spread out geographically. A photo book seemed like the perfect solution. I took pictures of each ornament hanging on my Christmas tree, and then adapted a version of “The Night Before Christmas” to add some festive commentary to the images. I ordered 3X5 soft-cover books from Walgreens and they were perfectly sized for the boxes I had chosen.
Once I had collected all of the components, I started assembling my packages. Each ornament was carefully wrapped in white tissue paper and then a thin layer of bubble wrap. If my memory serves me correctly, a handwritten Christmas greeting was written in what else, but gold paint pen, my grandmother's favorite. The books fit neatly inside each box. They were then wrapped in parcel paper, addressed, and sent on their merry way. The response I got to these gifts was emotional and overwhelming. My family was so moved that they each now had a tangible way to remember my grandmother at her most favorite time of year.
This project was indeed labor intensive, but with every stroke of the paintbrush and with each dot of glue, I couldn’t help but think I was making Betty proud. The beauty in these ornaments is not just in their physical attributes, but the rich memories that they represent. What began as a fleeting thought turned into a wonderful way to dress up our trees each year by hanging a little heritage among their branches. My grandmother may be gone, but she truly is with us in spirit and her remembrance is a treasure I deeply cherish.
Thank you, Sara, for sharing this wonderful family tradition. I hope it inspires others to create remembrances, not just for our grandchildren, but others in our family as well.
I'm going to be sad when this holiday season is over. I have loved getting these wonderful family traditions and creations from my friends and readers; from my sweet sister-in-law sharing her travel-to-England book to Judye's button box and now to Sara's beautiful ornaments. I hope you've found something that inspires you to share (and maybe create) with your own grandchildren.
Happy Creating to you!
Do you have beloved ornaments from your grandmother's Christmas tree? What a treasure. Have you ever crafted something for your home out of an item worn by a sweet grandparent? I know when my husband's father died a few years ago, my husband's sister made us all a wonderful wall hanging out of my father-in-law's old flannel shirts and presented them to us for Christmas. It's hanging in my husband's study. But I really had never thought of crafting items for the Christmas tree out of things passed down from grandparents. A reader (actually two readers of this blog) shared a holiday craft--making treasured ornaments out of things passed down from grandmothers. Today I'll start off with Judye's story~
The Button Box
Did your grandmother have a button box full of a variety of shapes, sizes and colors of buttons? My grandmother had such a box which came to me. One year, my grands and I got into the button box and made Christmas decorations. The grandkids loved searching through the button box and looking at all the different kinds of buttons. We talked about their great-grandparents, what their lives were like and why they even needed to have a button box. Together we wrote up a little family story about the button box.
For the tree decoration, we took a cinnamon stick, cut some pieces of fake greenery to glue on the cinnamon stick and added buttons as the decorations. Each child got to select the buttons that they wanted on their tree. This was a great way to pass along some family history and give them a memory to hang on the tree. My grandchildren had plenty of wild and crazy buttons on their trees!
History of the button box~
Judye's parents and my parents were children of the depression. They were raised at a time where you saved and recycled EVERYTHING! If the shirt or jacket was threadbare, you removed the buttons before you tossed the shirt. The buttons went into the button box. However in my case, it was a button tin. Another friend reported that her grandmother had a button jar. Then when you lost a button, your mother would send you to the button box to see if you could find a match. I even remember sewing with my mother-in-law and needing buttons for the pattern. Often my mother-in-law would say, "Oh, don't buy buttons. I think I have some in my button can."
When Judye shared this story, I remember my mother's button can vividly. It was a little rusted around the rim and so when you tried to take the lid off, many's the time it would POP off, and buttons would scatter all over the floor! Loved the little trip I took down memory lane when Judye told me about her grandmother's BUTTON BOX!
A fun Christmas craft with your grandchildren~
Maybe it's not too late to make such ornaments with your grandchildren. Or some other Christmas decoration. I've seen people take wooden trays and decoupage favorite Christmas pictures on it. How fun to get that out year after year and serve hot chocolate to your grandkids and reminisce about the photos. I know my readers have tons of ideas. Please share! That's how I got this story about THE BUTTON BOX!
Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog! It's another one about crafting Christmas ornaments with treasures from your grandmother. The writer is a blogger too and she called her essay, "Hanging up Heritage." Watch for it.
And keep those ideas and Christmas crafts coming! We all love it!
Kids' books about button boxes:
"The Button Box" by Margarette S. Reid
"The Button Box: Lifting the Lid on Women's Lives" by Lynn Knight (not sure of the age level on this one)
A Season for Giving and Involving the Grands~
A few years ago when my grands were younger, I wanted to involve them in my Christmas donating activities. They were too young (mostly) to earn money for giving on their own, but I thought they could help me with mine--they weren't too young for that.
I decided we would participate in the Toys for Tots campaign sponsored by our community's Interfaith organization. I took each grand one on one (and if you don't ever do that, I recommend it--every kid should have some alone time with a grandparent!) for an afternoon outing. I explained to them that I wanted to give a toy for a child whose parents may not be able to afford toys/gifts this year. When we got to the toy store, I asked them to choose a toy that they thought a kid their age and gender would really like. They each picked out such a toy.
Then we delivered it to Interfaith, and they presented the toy to the receptionist. The receptionist alerted the behind-the-scenes staff and they came out to thank the child and explained to my grandchildren that it would make some kid very happy.
Then we preceded to enjoy our outing as we usually did back when they were young(er). We took the trolley to Market Street, and stopped by the cupcake shop to enjoy a drink and a cupcake.
My son and his wife buy and place ornaments on their tree to commemorate trips, customs, and their children's interests. Just like most of you, I'm sure. So it will come as no surprise to you that I bought a cupcake ornament to represent the time they helped me buy toys for those kids less fortunate.
I'm sure the seed of this giving was sowed in my mind when my big sister said she piled some of her grandkids in her car and went on a shopping trip. My sister is of the habit to buy clothes and toys for needy families at Christmas, and this particular year, she decided to involve her grands. They all jumped out of the car at the store and went in and bought clothes and toys with a needy family in mind. My sister met them at the check-out. I'm thinking that this models the behavior of giving for our grandchildren. So great to send that message to them.
I know so many of you do these kinds of things with your grands and much more. I would love to hear about it. Just use the contact page to share. We need to keep stirring this pot of ideas for sharing love and joy and family traditions with our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Please write! And maybe this is one tradition you can add at your house--buy an ornament to commemorate the occasion! Those ornaments have even more meaning when they represent something they did with YOU!
December 5th addition~
You'll notice in my "Final Thoughts" paragraph, I asked readers for their stories. A sweet friend responded with her story:
"Last year when I went back home for Christmas, I had my youngest grandson, age 14, with me. I wanted him to see and experience how much better it is to give rather than receive. I told him we were going to give $100 to a complete stranger. We said a little prayer that we would be giving it to the most deserving person. We went to a big-box discount store and walked around the store and even observed the people in the check-out line. We simply did not get the right vibes (to use a '60's word) and we left. Next we went to a store across town. There we saw a young mother with a toddler in her basket. She was looking at toys and finally selected one small toy. She had such a sweet face and demeanor, and I just knew she was the one. My grandson and I looked at each other, and I could tell from the look on his face, he agreed. We walked up to her, gave her the $100 bill and said "Merry Christmas." She looked at us shocked and replied, "I just couldn't." We told her that it was actually a gift to US, and something we both wanted to do. She grabbed us, and gave us a big hug. Then she looked up to the heavens and said, "Thank you, Lord." We all got tears in our eyes. I really think this holiday episode made my grandson understand the lesson that the Lord Jesus himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Love hearing from my readers. Please write anytime!
Merry Christmas and happy HOLY days to all!
Getting out into this big, beautiful world!
My November 25th blog was about my niece's family participating in our local Turkey Trot. I had remembered seeing a Facebook friend's posting about a bike ride she took with her husband and grandson over a charmingly lighted bridge. I asked her to contribute that experience to the theme I had going--grandparents getting out and exercising with their grandchildren. Alas, I caught her on a road trip to spend Thanksgiving with her family. But she didn't forget, and I found these charming pictures and the details in my mail today.
"My grandchildren are all in their late teens now. I am always on the lookout for activities that we can share and enjoy together. My youngest grandson lives on a mountain, and had never learned how to ride a bicycle. A couple of summers ago, we decided that bike-riding time had arrived! The learning process was somewhat painful and frustrating, so I promised him that when he could ride the bike, we would ride across the Trestle Bridge at night.
The day arrived. We packed drinks and snacks and traveled to Madrid, Iowa where the bridge is located. We rode across the bridge at dusk, and then had a little picnic as we watched the sunset. When night had fallen and the bridge was lit up, we rode back through this magical tunnel. He was so proud of his accomplishment, and the lights on the bridge just seemed to make it a grand celebration!"
I haven't forgot that challenge I issued on November 25th. Let's get out there and do something physical with our grands this holiday season: ice skating, a walk in the snow, bike rides, Jingle Bell Run, or a simple walk in the park.
Until next week. . .
Oh, and thank you, Judye for your contribution!
Retired school teacher and now full time grandmother sharing ideas and looking for new ones about grandparenting!