We produce calendars every year. I use the word ‘produce’ very specifically. This year, we made 54 calendars to give away to family and friends. I know! It’s crazy!
It all started innocently enough when Alice, my first daughter was 5 years old. I had gotten the idea from someone to make a calendar with pictures and artwork for grandparents. She had grandparents and aunties and uncles on my side, but we had regular contact with her biological family and there were grandparents and aunties and uncles there, too. So we started the project early in the year and made a couple of handfuls of calendars with pictures and artwork of and by Christina. They were VERY well liked and she got a lot of praise for them.
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The next year, she asked if she could give one to her teacher. So we added another. Then it was her favorite social worker, then her therapist. She soon wanted to give one to her bus driver…. you get the idea. EVERYONE loved them and she loved that feeling. She was also very artistic and enjoyed anything crafty. It was a fun activity for us to do together as the months went by and became an evening routine to do a few pages at a time. We had to do 12 January’s, then 12 February’s, etc.
A few years later, when Beatrice joined out family, we had to add calendars for HER biological family and HER teacher and HER therapist. Soon they wanted to give one to our favorite musician at church, and the pastor, of course. I drew the line at giving one to our favorite grocery cashier and to the homeless guy we frequently gave food to on a particular corner on the way to gymnastics.
Once we added Clara to the family and then Freddy, making calendars had become a beast of it’s own. But it was a fun, friendly, family activity beast. Different kids liked different aspects of the projects. Clara grew to love photography and would at times contribute photos and/or ideas. Alice continued to love hands-on crafting. Beatrice, not so much. She loved the ideas and wanted to help, but doing the same “craft” twenty times (or whatever number of calendars we were up to) was boring. She’d say, “But I already DID this!” Still, I could bribe her to help with cutting while we watched a movie, since TV was not an everyday thing.
Over the years, the quality of the artwork and calendar pages has waxed and waned, specifically the cut work. Those scissors can cut perfectly along the edge of a picture if the particular child is older and/or persnickety about doing things ‘just right.’ Those scissors can also have all kinds of adventures all over the page if the child is younger and or easily distracted, and the photo or design may or may not have borders, or someone’s left foot may be missing if he/she cut corners. But all get to contribute and all gifts are welcomed. The 4 year old twins were new to scissors this past fall and they were probably the most diligent cutters I had. They were SOOOO proud of cutting pictures and shapes. I will tell stories about this calendar for them, and they will grow up knowing they were as valuable in contributing to our gifts as the older kids were.
I’ve come to see the projects as one of the best gifts I’ve given my kids. They come, sometimes, without routines, or a sense of giving to others, or any traditions. If they had family traditions, they are often lost to them when they join a new family. But this is so simple, so family oriented, and such a treasure, that I hope the memories stick with my kids. They each get a copy of the calendar for their own room or memory box, so I hope they have many stories to tell their own kids. This past Christmas, we made 54 calendars…. 9 went to the kids themselves and the rest are scattered far and wide…. classrooms, homes, church, different states, and the gifts are given for different reasons, but all with one loving heart (or our ten hearts).