My favourite tradition: New ornaments

by Karen (Original unedited post published last December on Karen's Chronicles) Brandon is enthralled by the Christmas tree this year. He spent 10 minutes walking around signing and saying "tree" one night. It's been a long time since I got really excited for Christmas. Usually I get excited about the things I get to do that I really enjoy - like decorating the tree/house. It should be noted that this year I got pretty sentimental about this part of the process. With each ornament that I took out of storage, I was reminded of pivotal milestones that we have experienced in our time together over the last ten years. That was special and it was also the first moment that I started to immerse myself in the spirit of the season.

2000 - Our first Christmas together. This year, because of some changes to extended family plans, we're spending Christmas day at home for the first time ever. Just the three of us. At first, I wondered what we'd do. We've never had to spend a holiday alone before so it's a real adjustment, this not spending the day with extended family. Then I decided that this is the perfect time for us to establish some new traditions of our own. To create memories that will build anticipation for future Christmas celebrations.

I've really missed some of the traditions I grew up with - like stockings. Matt and I have never done stockings because he didn't do them in his family. With just the two of us, it didn't seem to matter that we didn't do them. But Brandon's getting to an age that I want to start introducing him to the things that I enjoyed and in my family, we loved the Christmas stocking. Filled to the brim with candy and special little (mostly) inexpensive items, we always looked forward to dumping them out and foraging for hidden treasure amongst the pile of chocolate and mints as we munched on our Christmas candy treats.

2008 - Our first Christmas with Brandon. In our house, the stockings didn't match. There were no names on them and we didn't always get the same stocking every year. We also had more stockings than we had family members, so if we had a guest, there was always a spare for them. The only way you knew which stocking was yours was because they were hung in the same order Dad, Mom, Brother 1, Karen, Brother 2. Oldest to youngest.

Every Christmas Eve night, just before bed, we begged to be allowed to open one gift each. Eventually, it became part of our family tradition - one that I don't think my parents were ever too thrilled about. But it was fun for us kids and I think it may have even netted the house a half an hour of extra sleep since we'd already whetted our appetite for gifts. I don't think I'm going to institute this tradition just now. Perhaps in a few years if Brandon decides to ask.

2010 - Ten terrific years. :) On Christmas morning, we mixed it up. Sometimes we could convince our parents to let us unwrap presents before breakfast, but never before we read the Christmas story. As soon as we read the Christmas story (and sometimes after breakfast), we would unwrap presents. Another tradition in our family was that Mom, my brothers and I would stay up very, very late Christmas Eve wrapping presents. My mom and  I in particular would get quite creative and fancy with the wrapping, making them as pretty as possible. We loved creating beautiful packages to put under the tree. As the wrappings came off, we saved every bow to be re-used for years to come (very "green" of us).

As I prepare for this Christmas and the changes it's bringing, most of all I'm looking forward to spending more time with Matt and Brandon - separately and together. There is truly no better gift than that.

Our seventh winner of a Family Pass to the Canadian Mint is Marielle!

If you leave a comment on any post for the duration of the giveaway, you are entered to win. Additional comments are not required and won't increase your chances of winning (though they are always welcome).


Royal Canadian MintWe are going to be giving out one pass a day for the next 6 days. To enter leave a comment on any one of the giveaway posts or tweet about the giveaway:

I’d love to win a family pass to the @canadianmint from #kidsinthecapital this holiday season!

Only one entry will count and you can only win once.

Winners will be picked each day from all comments and tweets received by 8:00pm. If you'd like to know more about this giveaway and the Canadian Mint, please read our introduction post.

What are your favorite traditions at Christmastime?

Flashback post: Teacher gifts 101

Tis the season again to start planning for teacher gifts.  Here is a great post Angela wrote last year! by Angela

“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” - Oren Arnold

To a teacher…a mug?

What to give the person who shapes your child’s life daily? Or, as it is more common, the “people”, as it is rarely one educator these days who cares for our children day in and day out.

What is appropriate? What is too much? Too personal? Too cliched? What if you don’t like your kid’s teacher? What if you just don’t have the money this holiday to gift the teachers you want to?

Who knew Christmas time gift giving at the school was rife with so many questions…

There are no rules about “having” to give your child’s teacher a gift at Christmas ( or any other time of the year). Teachers do not expect gifts…but we as parents often feel a great responsibility in recognizing their service with a yuletide gift. I have been giving teacher gifts for 11 years now. My oldest is in grade 10 and I admit to having been swept up in the gift-a-thon that can become the tissue strewn school hallways that last day of class before Christmas break.

Over the years, I have become more relaxed in my gift giving habits. And this is a good thing. Lessons learned from over doing. I have my teacher gift giving down pat now. No more last minute rush to Winners, overspending in panic and guilt ;) .

But I wondered…is what I choose to give every year the right thing? Is it appreciated or unnecessary? The holidays are expensive…no one wants to give a gift that is not wanted. But even more importantly, I want to give gifts that really say “thank you”. Being blessed with a large circle of friends who are teachers (even a few who have survived my kids) , I decided…who better to ask?

Skip the potential teacher gift fails and listen to the people who know!

So, teachers from Alaska to Long Sault, Ottawa to San Diego were all polled this week in a search for the perfect teacher’s gift.

To be honest…I was a little surprised by how absolutely similar their responses were, across the land. Teachers love interesting books and wine but mostly?  Little things made by the students they love. Pretty straight forward.

The big surprise? They’re not such big fans of home made food. Now, I think this would depend on your familiarity with the teacher…but several mentioned a bit of an aversion to home baked food gifts.

Except chocolate, of course.

According to my completely unscientific survey…a most definitive “yes please” was given to the following gift ideas, from my posse of educators: -something handmade *by the child* -handmade cards ( no gift ) -a book you *know* they would enjoy ( about a shared interest, not random) -unique book related gifts – bookmarks! Handmade? Even better:) -gift cards were appreciated for coffee and…books:) -wine (if permitted)

What teachers wish you would not buy… -pencils, pens, stationary -homemade food -those super cheesy #1 teacher things (ornaments, mugs, pads of paper)

Overwhelmingly, something heartfelt and handmade by the child topped all their lists…even more than wine. Hard to believe, I know.

It seems almost too easy. And a reprieve from the thought of braving the dollar store with your child/children, allowing them to purchase with their own money, some chatchke that will likely just end up in a corner of a desk…when something crafted by their hands would sincerely warm their teacher’s heart.

So, where to find these heartfelt, handmade ideas?

Time for an admission…I am not a crafty mama…the thought of making versus purchasing makes me a little antsy…so I took the time to explore some ideas for homemade, teacher loving, child manageable, parent tolerable ideas that will leave everyone feeling warm and fuzzy:)

Here are my three favourite ideas to get you started…for you non naturally crafty types;) (and those crafty ones among us, please share and post your best successes in the comments)

For little hands – Frames decorated with buttons, stickers or flowers (sorry…you didn’t escape the dollar store after all…). Easy for your preschool or kindergarten child to glue and fill with a hand drawn picture ( that can be switched out for a photo later).

For your middle elementary school child – NoSew Pillows. We received one from a babysitter once with my daughter’s initial on one corner. It was adorable. With some fleece, a pair of scissors and some batting, you have a charming gift that can be personalized with an initial or beads or a iron on patch if desired.The easiest directions I  found are here.

NoSew Scarves are another fab option, easy and funkifiable – and good for a male teacher! (These were my two favourite guides)

For your high school kid…just kidding. Apparently secondary school teachers are just plain out of luck. No gifts for you according to real life educators everywhere.

Another option for Christmas gifting at the school, if you are looking at having to buy gifts for several teachers for several kids plus the school secretary (who is so good to you when your kid forgets her pizza money and covers for her out of her own pocket for the third time this year), is to provide a gift for the staff room or front office.

My daughter has two homeroom teachers, a music teacher, a science teacher and a drama teacher…it can get expensive quickly. Staff gifts are thoughtful and share the Christmas joy:). A gift of coffee and flavoured creamers for the school coffee maker, or a Timmies gift card for the front office are lovely ways of saying thank you. A FarmBoy fruit plate on the last day of school has also been a big hit in our school – healthy and refreshing and not much over 20$ for the whole staff. Or a gift basket, filled with candies ( may I suggest local Ottawa giftbasketeer ?). I know it is more food…but who can resist candy?

My other favourite Christmas thank you speaks to the love of books that all the teachers mentioned. Bring your child to the bookstore ( the clearance section offers up some of the best deals )  and let them choose a book for their classroom, in the name of their teacher. If appropriate, have them write a Merry Christmas 2010 message inside the cover so the gift can be shared over the years in the classroom. Perhaps for younger siblings to enjoy later on!

After all this polling and Christmas present rethinking, I have decided to change my gift giving habits…

This year my little guy is going to be giving frames decorated with flowers, glued on by him. And likely to him…but that will be part of the fun:).

My daughter will be giving scarves to her teachers, designed and made by her. Likely with some bling or at the very least, a little monogramming.

I hope they do not miss the wine ;) .

Angela is mom to a teen, tween and toddler, wife of an intrepid businessman, master of two big dogs and she loves her camera-baby very much. She is a displaced montrealer living in Long Sault, Ontario. She blogs at From the Dock.

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