Tag Archives: christmas

Project Christmas: Success!

I was secretly a little worried that the kids were going to notice the fewer gifts and be secretly disappointed. None of them, even Ruby, would complain. But I was so happy that they were super excited about their gifts.

I took pictures of all my kids, but out of respect for the teenagers who don’t want pjs and bed head on the internet, I’m only posting those of Ruby this early.

The puppet theater was a roaring success. The whole family has gotten in on the act.

I found brother and sister puppets. They haven’t been named yet, but you can be sure they will be. Ruby names everything. Here she is playing with her daddy on the other side.

We also bought some dollar store puppet making kits. Here’s Nick entertaining with the world’s whitest white puppet.

I should have known though, that THIS would be Ruby’s favorite puppet of the day.

The doll house went over well. Ruby ADORED the little family, and the furniture Nick and I made for her, plus the little pieces Kevin found at Michaels and Toys R Us. She’ll pain the plain wood furniture herself, which I can guarantee she will love. I wasn’t super happy with the way the house itself turned out. The glue warpped it a little. Ruby didn’t notice though, and she was ecstatic. We might secretly put together another one. We might not.

I love LOVE this picture–because just as I snapped it, Ruby was saying…”Daddy! Santa brought me the library!”

I’ll post again when the big kids are presentable!

Leave a comment

Filed under spirit

Christmas and the Very Busy Weekend

FIRST THINGS FIRST: I wrote the names off all the people who entered the giveaway on pieces of paper and had Ruby pick one out of a bowl. The winner is…(drum roll please!)…Jen! Please get to me as soon as possible with how you’d like your five peggies painted. Congratulations.

I loved reading all your handmade Christmas ideas, thank you all so much for playing.

Okay now…

I thought I’d share how our Christmas is shapping up gift-wise.

This is Christmas season has been different from the past several. I’ve been married to Kevin for seven years. Prior to that I was a single mother with a very limited income, and Christmas was never about the gifts. I have eight siblings–and while we always had Christmas gifts, they were spread around. We never had tons and tons of gifts each. For the first eleven years that I was a mother, my kids got thrift store presents and were really happy with them.

Then I got married again. And my income quadrupled. We weren’t rich, my monthly income was just that low to start with. And Christmas took on a different feeling. We could afford to buy expensive electronics and other gifts for the kids, so we did.

This year, our the economy and some personal choices have caught up with us. For various reasons, our income is reduced by about a third versus this time last year. We aren’t hurting–we aren’t struggling in the way I did as a single mother with $1200 a month coming in. But we also aren’t as flush as we once were (and we’re good with that.)

So Christmas this year is far more mindful than it’s been in a long time. Instead of blindly buying iPods and gaming systems, we’ve had to really think about what would make our kids super excited to open on Christmas morning, and leave out the fluff. Here’s what we came up with.


I have a gift certificate from Amtrak that was the result of a rather disasterous cross-country trip this past summer. We’re using it to buy train tickets for Adrienne and I to go look at a college she’s interested in. This is her big main gift, and it was free. We will have to spend two nights in a hotel, but she would have needed to go check out this college anyway, so I’m not counting it in our Christmas budget. Total: $0

Kevin found her a three piece luggage set for $20. This is a great tie in to the trip, and will also serve her well as she flies the nest next year. Total: $20

I picked up a really cool book of intricate coloring patterns for $3 on Amazon, and Kevin bought her a set of good colored pencils for $7. Total: $10

The only thing she asked for this year was the Glee soundtrack. Total: $10

Total for Adrienne: $40 plus the trip


Nick loves his Xbox, which we got two Christmas’s ago at a pawn shop for him. But he’s been wanting a wireless adapter for as long as he’s had the system. He wants to be able to connect to other players. I found a generic one on Amazon, and this is going to be his wow gift. The one that makes him pump the air with joy. Total: $40

Nick likes to take apart and put together bikes. He’s always using Kevin’s tools. We got him his own set. Total: $20

We found a Black Friday Mp3 player that will make Nick happy. He loves music. As is common with autism, he struggles with sensory integration. Listening to music helps to block out the overwhelming stuff and eases him when he’s under stress. Total: $14

I always get my kids something arty for Christmas. Nick, as he usually does, got a sketch book and charchol pencils. He loves to draw cartoons. Total: $10

Another Black Friday online purchase was a heavy winter coat for Nick. Total: $7

Total for Nick: $91


I made Ruby the coolest EVER doorway puppet theater. I’ll get a picture up soon. I am so pleased with how well it turned out. It’s just beautiful. I had to buy fabric, three dowels, and ball fringe. Total: $15

Kevin and I together made Ruby a doll house out of foam board. It also really turned out well. We had to buy foam board (two 20X30 sheets), eight 12X12 linoleum tiles, and four large paper gift bags (I used these to paper the walls). Expect a post about how this came together–it’s really cool. Nick and I made her some doll furniture out of the pieces of two $1 kits that were meant to build wooden trucks.  Total: $20

When Kevin was in Vegas he found some clearance doll house furniture at Toys R Us. It has all these teeny tiny things like food and dishes and shampoo bottles that Ruby is going to faint over. This busted our budget a little, but it’s something she’ll play with for years. Total: $20

I bought a lot of a dozen Dr. Seuss books from eBay for Ruby. Total: $15 with shipping

When I was a kid, my grandma had these HUGE cardboard building blocks for us at her house. Big enough to build a really cool fort with. We found a set of 40 for Ruby, and again this is a gift that will carry through the years, and that she’s going to just be so excited about. We could have got a set of 24 for about ten dollars less, but the fort building is important to the big brick experience. Total: $30

Total for Ruby: $100

I also made each kid a pillow in the shape of their initial. I used fat quarters from our local variety store, and already had the stuffing. Each pillow cost about $3 to make. If I’d thought about it, I’m sure I could have found some fabric in my gigantic stash of vintage clothes that would have made these even cooler. A lesson in thinking outside the box.

Each kid, and Kevin, is getting a handmade fleece hat and scarf. Kevin found me fleece on sale in Vegas for $3.99 a yard, and bought a total of two yards, so each set is $2.00. Not bad!

Kevin is SO hard to buy for. And to make it worse, his birthday is the 23rd. Here’s what I found for him though.

The day after thanksgiving the variety store had a coupon for half off one item. I was able to get Kevin a really neat digital frame keychain (he’d mentioned he wanted one) for $5. I’m going to put pictures in it and give it to him for his birthday.

We live in the COLD, but Kevin didn’t really have a medium weight jacket. Something for when it’s not sub-zero, but a sweatshirt isn’t enough. I bought him a lined plaid jacket for $25.

I also bought him a movie he wanted ($10), and for a silly gift a set of Sham Wows for $10. He loves As Seen on TV things. I have no idea why, but they fascinate him. I think it’s the idea of inventing something and marketing it that captures his imagination.

I wanted to make something for him. I’ve been working on making a Hipster PDA for myself, and realized that this is something he’d like as well. So I’m putting one together for him as a gift. (I’ll post about my Hipster a little later.) Total: $.79 for index cards, plus ink

So, about $50 for Kevin. He spent about the same on me. I picked out some patterns and a couple of books, plus there will be surprises.

We got a digital frame for Kevin’s parents that we loaded with pictures. Total: $40

So we spent a total of about $400 this Christmas. I’m sure we could have spent less, but when compared to our normal of about $2000–it’s a nice reduction. Christmas had become something that didn’t balance with the way we want to live, or the way we want to raise our children. It had become about materialism and the rush to buy. This year is different. And I’m more than glad.

We have a super busy weekend planned. We need to finish the doll house, wrap all the gifts, I have to make those hats and scarves, and we need to bake cookies and pumpkin bread for gifts to other family members. (We have a rule in my extended family that we only buy for the kids. Unfortunately, we have the only kids. So we give baked goods because I can’t see everyone buying for our kids and us not bringing anything at all.)

Oh yeah! I also need to paint the peg dolls for Jen. 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under spirit