Homemade for the Holidays

Even a jaunty hat couldn’t turn Mr. Bill the Ornament’s pipe-cleaner frown upside down.
At this time of year, I’m a sucker for heartwarming. So when my children were young, I worked hard at maintaining holiday traditions, some more successful than others. When we had a house full of babies, children and Michael’s 60%-off coupons, we started making a homemade Christmas tree ornament every year.

At first, everyone was into it - even my daughter, who was in charge of watering down the glue with her drool. We made wax paper stars edged in gold glitter, an idea I got from my son’s first-grade teacher. It was wildly popular, because of the part where you get to pour a bottle of glitter onto the glue, shake it around and then try to scrape it back into the bottle so that the next one could do the honors. I had glitter in my carpet, glitter in my red sweater, glitter in that night’s dinner, and glitter on my eyelid that never did come off. I think my skin grew around it and swallowed it up. It’s probably still somewhere above my eyeball. I’m hoping it will float up to my iris someday and I will see stars without having to submit to a head injury.

We got fancier fast. I bought clear bulbs and we rolled them around in the leftover gold glitter from the year before, adding some red and green glitter to boot.

If that wasn’t fun for the whole family, I don’t know what was. Painting on the drool-glue mixture permanently ruined all of our paint brushes. More trips to Michael’s ensued. A fun time was had by all.

Then my son had to do a solar system model and we had a few Uranuses left over (or would that be Urani?), which gave me the idea for little snowman heads. My kids named them and gave them short bios and facial expressions. Fa la la.

Then it was back to the clear bulbs for two more consecutive years. First we opened up the tops and poured some paint in and swirled it around. The instructions showed a beautiful swirly masterpiece that looked like it was done on a Spin-Art. We may have used too much paint. We swirled and spun those suckers for about an hour. And then we set them down to dry and ended up with a puddle of paint at the bottom. So we ripped up some Christmas wrapping paper and red ribbon and tossed it in there to soak up the liquid. Worked like a charm.

Older and wiser now, our next ornament was filling the balls with tinsel.

“It’s not fancy enough,” one of the kids said. No problem! We’ll just glue some ribbon on. Oh holy night.

There were some lazy years. Here’s an egg carton cup painted red and strung up like a bell. A bell without a ringer. Hark how the bells all seem to say . . . nothing, because there is no ringer.

“Maybe we should get a kit,” one of the kids said one year.

“No,” I insisted. “Kits are for wussies; and people who have color coordinated themed trees. Unfortunately for you, you weren’t born into that family. Now go get the Tub o’ Glitter.”

Next we got back to nature. Picked a ton of pinecones up off the ground in the woods behind our house, spread them out on newspaper on the driveway and spray painted them white, throwing multi-colored glitter onto the wet paint. A few were also adorned with ants that had been living in the pinecones and which tried to crawl out, but got stuck in the paint.

We all soon tired of glue and glitter. We made these mini presents, which doubled as a lesson in How to Wrap Mom’s Gift Without Using So Much Tape That She Breaks a Nail. Joy to the world.

I have no explanation for this next one. I found a recipe for dough that turns into cement when left to dry. It was amazingly like cookie dough before the invention of sugar. We mixed up a batch, rolled it out and, using our Christmas shape cookie cutters, cut them into shapes, let them dry and then painted them. We only have a few of these left. My daughter found this one when we were decorating our tree this year.

“Is this angel wings without the angel, or is it just a blob?” she asked.

“Are you blind?” I said. “It’s a bow painted as a VR Trooper. Duh.”

Subsequent years had us decorating old Christmas cards . . .

. . . wrapping strips of fabric around cardboard circles . . .

. . .and poking squares of fabric into styrofoam balls. ♫ “In the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas!” ♩♪

As the kids got older, they were less and less interested in making the Christmas ornament. One year I had to beg - out and out beg - my oldest son to string miniature jingle bells onto wire with me. Another year we cut shapes out of Fun Foam and didn’t decorate them at all. What Child is This?

As you can see, I still have almost all of our homemade ornaments represented on our tree. Some of our creations we gave away as presents. (Although, now that I think of it, I haven’t seen any of them on anyone else’s tree . . .)

I could never have a theme tree, like I’ve seen in the Martha Stewart magazines. Unless the theme is Glue, Glitter and What’s On Sale at Michael’s.

Labels: , , , , , ,