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The Best 12 Days of Christmas Ever

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3.   Son Mark had asked for a bike.  We got one at a used bike shop.  It wasn't pretty, but it was sturdy.  We painted it, put on new grips with fringes and a Clarabell the Clown type horn, lubed and adjusted, and voila!  A "new" bike for a pittance.

4.  We made a bike rack from 2 x 4's, painting them with paint scrounged from trash piles.  This held our older daughter's bike, our son's new Christmas bike and the tricycle he passed down to our younger daughter, also painted, gussied up with new grips, and a horn.

5.  We made a tetherball, with a 2 x 4 sunk into a round of concrete.   A piece of clothesline and an inexpensive dime-store ball made a great game.  A second one the same size, and it doubled as a set of posts to tie the net from a cheap badminton set.  

6.  We made one of those triangular games with marbles (usually played with pegs) - for the life of me I cannot remember what it was called.  The wood was scrounged out of a trash pile, we cut, sanded and drilled holes for the marbles, and they had a game that lasted until they were grown.  We also made a Chinese Checkers board from a piece of scrap plywood, using the same marbles to play.

7.  We made a large easel with 1 x 4's, Masonite, and some 1/4 inch plywood to make a "bin" on either side for paint, chalk, brushes, pens, etc.  Some discarded window chain on either side kept it from opening too far.   We bought a small can of flat black paint, and made the Masonite into a blackboard.   Clothespins held sheets of paper.  We bought an eraser, chalk, water colors, poster paints and cheap brushes, and a roll of white butcher's paper at the local meat market.  The roll of paper was hung on a broomstick, attached with wire clothes hangers and eye bolts to a shelf, so it would stay clean and be convenient.  It seems to me that the roll of paper lasted as long as their childhood did.

8.  We made a "balance bar" from a 2 x 4 set on edge on crossbars.  The kids learned to "walk the bar", increasing their sense of balance.

9.  We made stilts out of sturdy 2 x 2's;  one side had footholds close to the ground, the other side higher up for the more daring.  We also made block stilts about a foot tall, pieces of 4 x 6 with a rope loop to hang on to.  Two pair, and the kids could race on them.

10.  We hung a tire swing.  Only expense on this one was a really sturdy large rope.

11.  We bought a live Norfolk Pine tree at a nursery, in a can.  We decorated it with home-made decorations - paper chains, strung popcorn, a few small glass balls and shiny metal angels and frilly "snowflakes" made from tin can lids.  We let the kids take turns donning gloves and cutting the decorations with tin snips.  After Christmas, only slightly worse for wear, we planted it in the front yard.

12.  We let the kids make home-made cookies in holiday shapes, decorating them in colored icing.   We made fudge and nougat and other candies.  Some of these we wrapped in foil-lined small boxes and the children gave them to the neighbors and friends as gifts.

It was a truly loving and exciting Christmas all around.  In subsequent years, even though we had more money to spend, we still made most of our decorations and edible treats, and many of the children's gifts - a toolbox with inexpensive tools for our son, a pair of hand puppets out of a fabric with pile,  a Dalmatian spotted pile coat with purple satin lining with matching purse for teenage daughter Beth, a Theremin - an electronic musical instrument you played by passing your hand over it, and a battery-run dexterity puzzle that buzzed annoyingly if you did it wrong....   One year (many years ago....) I made Floyd a Nehru jacket.  Remember those?  Aha, showing your age, are you?  Except for the Theremin and the Nehru jacket, I think most of these things were around and enjoyed for many years, unlike the faddish plastic toys lavished on children today.  

So you don't have children or family, little extra cash, and the holidays are a depressing time?  Get off your duff, and take yourself to a homeless shelter, a nursing home or hospital, or any other place that can use your volunteer services.  That will be your Christmas gift to the world - and to yourself! 
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