Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Joy of Giving

Christmas is just 12 days away. Less than two weeks. Holy moly it is coming fast. I am so enjoying it this year. I knew that when 2011 started it would be a much better year for us and it was. It didn't start out that way, but come mid year it all started turning around. Last year I dreaded the holidays and this year I am excited about them and looking forward to Christmas especially.

Tradition is something that is very important to me. We are trying to keep as many traditions going as possible, obviously moving to South Carolina kind of put a wrench in some of our traditions, as so much of our Christmas holiday revolved around friends and family in California.
One tradition that we started years ago is pulling a name off of a 'wishing tree'. The first year that we did it we were able to pull 4 or 5 names. Oh. my. gosh. we went crazy. We had so much fun making the wishes of those kids come true. We bought a bicycle for one of them, a remote control car, clothes, I don't even remember everything but it was great. It was so awesome for my kids to go pick everything out. It was a wonderful experience so we have tried to pick at least one child every year or at the very least go help out at a church passing out toys or food.
This year there was a tree up at Allison's work. I was so glad, because being new here I didn't know where we would find one. In years past we have picked the names of the younger kids (I mean who doesn't love to buy toys) but this year all of the kids on the tree at her work were older.
This is the 'ornament' that our guy, Nicholas colored and wrote what he was wishing for on. As you can see Nicholas wants a watch. On the back of the paper is also the size of clothes that he wears in case we are able to do a little more. The idea that this kid is 14 years old and is living in a home for boys and all he wants in the world is a watch kind of breaks my heart. No, I take that back, it REALLY breaks my heart. I hate to think of him alone and wanting a family and traditions of his own. We will do everything that we are able to do for Nicholas. I will fill a stocking for him and buy him his watch too.

I just love giving. Isn't it just great? I love that my girls love to give also. My kids haven't had a lot lately. They have gone without for quite some time. When they were younger and we were able to they had wonderful birthdays and Christmases. That changed a few years ago and each year they have gotten less and less. Last year we hit bottom and they didn't get much at all. We even took the tree and decorations down before Christmas so that we wouldn't have to look at them anymore. It was tough, as a mom I was sad and felt like a total failure. You know what though? They survived. They still had a good Christmas and they still got to be a part of our wonderful, loving family and that is so much more than so many other children get to have and they are so appreciative of everything they do get.

This year both of the girls are really excited about giving. Especially Allison. She has had a job for quite some time now and has her own money. As a matter of fact, for the last week or two there has been one gift under the tree and it is for Gianna from Allison. It was making Gianna crazy that she didn't have anything for Allison so when she had the opportunity last week she bought a little something for her sister and now that is also wrapped and under the tree. Allison already sent out gifts to her three best friends, two in California and one in Virginia. She is making gifts for all of her teachers, co-workers and friends at school. Here are her supplies-
She is going to make mason jar cupcakes for her teachers, and Oreo cookie suckers for her friends and co workers and then she is going to personalize the two plastic cups with vinyl (using my cricut) for two of her school friends. Y'all that just makes this mama so proud. How cool that she has this money that she has worked so hard for and she is spending it on everyone else. I just love that kid.

Tonight Gianna and I made smores pops. I got the idea from Pinterest (of course). I have been making the Oreo cookie suckers (thanks to my friend Kristy) for years and I wanted to switch it up a little.
The tutorial for the smores is here.
Here is Gianna laying all the graham crackers out. The original tutorial didn't include many pictures so I thought I would add a few for you.

This was before they went in. Our first batch had chocolate chips inside with white choc. outside and then our second batch had butterscotch chips with milk chocolate on the outside. In the tutorial she had her toaster oven set to 400, since I was using the big oven I turned it down a little, I had it set to 350.
When the marshmallows started turning a little golden I took them out of the oven and immediately put the sticks in them.
I used marshmallows that are made specifically for smores, they are flat. I think it made it a little easier to smoosh them together. After the stick was in I carefully transferred them to a smaller plate and put them in the freezer.
After I covered them I laid them out on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper and let them cool and harden. After that all that is left to do is wrap them up.
I think all treats look better wrapped in cellophane. It just always makes them look so festive and like a gift.
We made these mostly for Gianna's teachers....and maybe for my favorite baristas at Starbucks.
I also made Gianna's teachers each a monogrammed clipboard. I sell them on etsy and they have been a big hit this year for teachers. I figured if so many people are buying them for their teachers I should make sure that our teachers got them too.
I was a pre-school and Kindergarten teacher for the better part of my adult life. I have such an appreciation for what these people do for our children. I always make sure that I remember them somehow. Most parents are so good about remembering to do a little something for their elementary school teachers but when their children get to middle school and high school they don't give them anything. It really is sad. Those folks are working with our kids when they are the toughest. When they have bad attitudes, bad habits and sometimes bad behavior. Shoot they need the little pick me up more than ever! Make sure you do a little something for your kids teachers this year if you can.
Well this has been a super long post and quite frankly I am beat. Happy gifting everyone!

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