Thursday, January 13, 2011

Christmas Ornament Swap

For the past several years our kids have joined in on an ornament swap. Families who use the same unit study based curriculum we use, Five in A Row, put their names in a hat together and we end up in small groups so our kids can swap ornaments.

Now, if you know us you know this wouldn't happen without a really funny story so brace yourselves. First off, I have to say this is an annual thing and we know the date the sign-ups start (August) and were eagerly awaiting them because we'd picked out what we wanted to make based on a book we'd "rowed" from the FIAR curriculum earlier this year. We were set.

The sign-ups didn't come. So a parent asked about them, and the former organizer just didn't feel up to it this year with so much extra on her plate. She asked if anyone else would be interested in putting it all together. I offered and it was accepted.

There weren't quite as many people as normal signed up, but there were a lot of issues last year with getting ornaments to their proper destinations, and in one piece! It most likely played a role in the small turn-out, but either way we ended up with enough people to break the names down and have a few families on each list.

Crocheted treetopper/bookmark/leave it on the trees boys or I'm going to scream!
I'll admit, Mr S helped me break all the names down. We started by putting families who had specific needs (didn't want to be on the list as someone else because they were all making their ornaments together; international addresses, etc.) and filled in the blanks around them. I had the tendency to close my eyes and point to someone and then Mr S slapped that name on a list. It was all fun and games until I got to the end and said, "Oh my I seem to have an extra person. That's not possible!" So we revamped the lists.

Owl Moon (and yes I know the photo is blurry!)
Then the boys and I set about making our ornament. It required a drill and the men folk in this house aren't keen on using power tools, but I personally have no qualms about it. The drill came out, I set myself up and I began drilling away. One ornament later I proudly displayed the efforts. The guys weren't that impressed. I set to work on the second ornament and promptly broke our drill bit. Bummer.

Snowflake Bentley 
I called every hardware store within an hours drive of us and each and every man who answered the phone was first confused by my "accent" and then utterly bewildered by what I wanted until I explained what I was drilling. Then suddenly the lightbulb went on. I'm still blaming my accent, all though I honestly had one fellow get rude with me telling me there was no such thing and so on. Then I heard him shout over his shoulder to someone else about it and they said, "Yeah, but we don't stock them!" I muffled a giggle.

Hanna's Cold Winter -- I love hippos!
Needless to say our project went on the back burner while I continued my fruitless search for what I was after. It was all to no avail. No one stocked the drill bit I needed, and those who did have one had it on the wrong size. In fact, when I pointed out how small I needed my bit to be they all said the same thing, "What on earth are you drilling?"

The Raft
Two weeks after our ornaments should have been mailed.. and may I just interrupt myself to say we've never been late with mailing them out before. Ever. We're always early. I figured that since I was reasonably capable of getting our's in the mail on time I could coordinate it, and then I go and mail mine so late no one received them by Christmas!  Yeah, so two weeks after our ornaments should have been mailed, I sat the boys down and told them, for the umpteenth time, that we had to rethink our idea.

The BoxCar Children -- Beyond Five In A Row
They weren't happy, but they succumbed to the inevitable. Only, as happens, they couldn't agree on what to make. So I had to help them narrow their choices down. I pointed out that we'd studied a lot of books this year and covered a vast amount of topics. We needed to pick just one we all loved and still remembered lots about. They both agreed that would be the Revolutionary War. We'd made headway.

Snowflake Bentley
Unfortunately, it went downhill a bit after that because both boys had different opinions on what we should make. I had a hard time sorting them out. The thing is, we mail our ornaments and keeping them flat and safe is important. The flatter they are the easier they are to mail. I was all for Jayden's idea with the British and American flags. Morgan wasn't keen on that for some weird reason. Honestly, I think he wanted to craft a bit more then coloring and cutting.

GingerBread Boy -- Morgan's absolute favorite, he's obsessed with Ginger Bread Boys
Five minutes later we all agreed making wooden soldiers would be reasonably quick and simple. So we did. I pulled out the leftover dolly pegs from making our own and the paints. Both boys got to painting while watching a Christmas movie. I cut out the felt hats and added little brass buttons. It took us a total of 3 days to make the ornaments. 1 to paint them in, 1 to realized we'd forgotten to add white riding pants & then to add them, and 1 to make the hats and secure them.

The birds that normally live in that little tree..
It all started going terribly wrong with the hats. Really, it did. I cut the felt hats out and told the boys I'd put the dab of hot glue on the soliders head they could gently press it down. This worked well until our hot glue gun started pouring hot glue out the wrong end. No matter what we did it wouldn't come out the right way. There was glue on the hats, me, the floor, trash, etc. It was a hopeless case and I told the boys to back away before they got hurt. They no sooner walked away when the gun blew up.

Paul Revere's Ride -- Our own Ornament.. yes I know it's blurry.
I don't mean died, I really mean blew up. With a great big, terribly awful, loud BANG! I screamed and jumped a mile in the air. When I landed again I noticed the silly thing was now smoking out it's back end too. I managed to salvage just enough of the still dripping glue to finish the project before surveying the damage. It wasn't pretty. The thing went off with enough of a BANG! that it flipped a fuse and I had to wrestle spiders to flip it back on.

But wait!, that's not all! We carefully wrapped each finished soldier up in bubble wrap and attached a small note. We printed out everyone's addresses and cut them apart. Then I put everything in a bag with extra tape and a pen and told Morgan to take it to the car. Two minutes later Jayden and I joined him. We drove off and were quickly stopped in a road block due to construction.

Twenty minutes later and my battery light flashed on. Another fifteen minutes later and we were drowning in our own sweat. I managed to pull off the road and turn around and go the other way. Forty-five minutes later we pull into the post office only to discover Morgan has left the bag of solider at home. I attempt to stay calm, but before I can help it I said, "What?! You left them at home?! So you went out to the car with nothing" "I grabbed my book!"

We drove back home and completely avoided the construction mess on our return to the post office. I start addressing envelopes and put Morgan in the terribly long line (it was out the door, but that's not saying much, 5 people in line and it's out the door) for customs forms. The girl at the desk took pity on him and called him up and then was aghast he wanted 10 customs form. He returns and I fill each and every one out. You must put your address, the addressee's address, your phone number, contents of the package and sign it. I did this. 10x.

Jayden sealed each and every envelope and Morgan kept the gawkers at bay. Finally we proveceeded to the counter, patiently waited our turn and when they called us I put one  package on the counter. I look the women in the eye, the same one who got so cross with me last year she's never smiled to see me walk back in, and I said, "I'm really sorry about this, but I've got about 10 of these that need mailing out."

She smiled, and said, "Oh you'll need to go fill out 10 customs forms." I smiled back, "I have." Her smile faltered for a moment. Her husband came out of the back room took one look at my packages and ran back in while she shouted after him, "Help!"

She slaps one package on the scale, asks for my id and then informs me it will cost $9.90 AUD to mail each package. I look at her, my smile now faltering. "Um, okay. So I won't mail all of them then. I'll just mail the one you've all ready done."

"But what on earth will you do with all your other packages?"
"I"ll take them home and save them for a rainy day!"
"Won't people be expecting them?"
"I think so."
She stared at me for a minute, hit a few buttons on her computer and says. "Flat. You really have to keep them flat. I can't fit it through the letter slot or I could save you a bundle!"

Her husband is now peering through a slit in the backroom. He still remembers the very first year we participated and I mailed 30, yes 30! of those little packages with 30, yes 30! customs forms. He's been terrified of me ever since, and the only kind words he's spoken to me were, "Lester Flatt! I know about him." I didn't bother to tell him my parents are living in Lester Flatt's grandparents home and it's rumoured he, Lester, was born there. Nor did I tell him Lester's house is in walking distance of my parents place and that I once helped chase someone's runaway goats up there. Nor did I tell him I use to live in a road named after the fellow and the only thing anyone knows about that road is that it has the world's most dreaded hill. I really don't talk much to the postman..

So there I am with a handful of packages and the lady staring at me open mouthed and then in a moment of genius, or pure insanity, I throw them all on the scale cackle menacingly and say, "How much to mail them all  to the same address!" I struggled very hard not to say that I was mailing them to Lester.

The Postmistress says, and I'm not joking around here, "STACKS ON THE SCALE!" My kids honestly tried to jump on it. The other folks in line were beginning to plead desperately with their eyes to the other lady working the front counter. They probably thought whatever was going on was contagious!

Two minutes later she's hit another half dozen buttons on her computer and she says, "$9.90." Then she looks at me and at all the packages and we both start laughing. So I crab another envelope off the shelf and cram everything inside of it. I scribble my parents address on it slap a previously filled out customs form on it and paid the lady $10.

She was still laughing, but I'm convinced it was of total relief. She was really seeking a better way then having to record my ID ten times. As I walked out of the post office I whispered to Morgan, rather loudly, "We'd better rush home and warn Lester that those packages aren't for him!"

When you pick yourselves up off the ground from laughing.. I went back in the post office 24 hours later with a stack of Christmas cards. The same lady was working at the desk and she looks at me and she says, "Oh! It's you." I nodded and said, "But this time, all I want is to mail this one letter to America!"


Michele said...

We just love out FIAR ornaments! You're ornament arrived on Monday and the boys went crazy over it! Thanks Kendra!

Beth said...

Oh My Goodness....that is hysterical!! I especially love the whole bit about Lester...We're from Indiana and I often send things to my daughter's boyfriend in England. I think that our little tiny post office lady is scared of me, too! They're only open a few hours each day...AND they take a whole hour off for lunch. I think she panics when we walk in! By the way, I found you by the FIAR website...I just ordered the books for my newly adopted little boy! Blessings! Beth

Beth said...

OH Goodness....I guess in my prior comments, I should have said the lady who WORKS in our tiny post office...not the tiny little post office lady. She's not tiny...she's regular size....haha......