Monthly Archives: November 2013

30 days til Christmas…let the frenzy begin

English: The evolution of artificial Christmas...

English: The evolution of artificial Christmas trees to adapt to modern styling trends. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Christmas. Not so much the actual day, but the preparations. I like decorating the house, baking, choosing and wrapping gifts. There’s not much I don’t like about the pre-Christmas season. I even like Christmas music, although I draw the line at Mariah Carey singing “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

What I don’t like about Christmas is how stressed I get. I put a lot of pressure on myself to find just the “right” present for everyone on my list. In recent years, I’ve tried to make as many gifts as I can, plus make my own Christmas cards. I want the house to look perfect and unique. Every year, I find myself failing to finish half the projects on my “to do” list. Not only do I inevitably end up making a mad dash to the mall the week before Christmas, but by the time December 24 rolls around, I also end up feeling like I’ve failed. As if the “to do” list is some sort of test. Not surprisingly, this takes quite a bit of the fun out of the whole Christmas experience.

This year I’ve decided to do things a bit differently. I’m cutting down on the number of pre-Christmas projects. I usually make the nibblies and sweets for our an annual holiday, but this year, I’m going to rely more on store bought items – nothing wrong with a cheese tray. M and I will still make cookies, but probably just enough to serve at the party and give to friends and family, rather than our usual 80 – 100 dozen. Thanks to a card-making course I took in late-October, I got a head start on my Christmas cards and I finished the last one last week. I’ve got 21 cards (plus a few leftover from last year that never got sent); now all I have to do is send them out!


Christmas cards – ready to send out

As for my Christmas shopping, I’m making progress. I’m lucky to have a friend who, like me, is a craft-fair junkie. If I can’t make it myself, I’d prefer to buy a gift from a local artisan, rather than purchasing a mass- marketed product from a big-box store. We’re fortunate that from early November to mid-December, there’s at least one craft fair every weekend within a 30 minute drive. One of our favourites took place a couple of weeks ago, and I was able to cross a couple of people off my list and pick up a ideas for a few others. We’re looking forward to a couple of events in December, including one in the community centre that’s co-located in M’s school – it’s a mix of artisans and part-time crafters. There’s always a few gems mixed in with the tole painting and crocheted toilet paper holders.  At last year’s sale, I bought Mr. Magic a beautiful photograph of boats in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, from a photographer who lives just a few blocks from our house.

This year, I’ve also decided to wrap as I go, rather than waiting to do it in one fell swoop. What I’m going to do on Christmas eve, I’ve no idea. But this way, I can make my own tags and fuss with the wrapping.


Gift tags

Where I’m really cutting back this year is on home-made gifts. I have mixed feelings about this, as I get enormous pleasure out of making a unique, one-of a-kind gift for a close friend or a family member. However, I’m involved in a big project at work that runs until at least mid-December. I’m already working late almost every night during the week, so why put extra pressure on my skinny shoulders?

Here’s my (short) list of gifts to make:

– multi-strand stretch bracelet for some teenage friends (similar to a couple I found on Pinterest from Avon)

Colorful Multi-Row Stretch Bracelet

– a pair of earrings, like these great Magma Drop earrings from FusionBeads, as well as a complementary necklace for my friend, the craft-fair afficienado

Magma Drop Earrings | Fusion Beads Inspiration Gallery

– a necklace with a Jennifer Jangles flower charm for my best friend’s daughter

Itty Bitty Ceramic Flower Links, Set of 2

– a laptop case for a MacBook Air (this is for me) – lots of tutorials available, but I like this one from arstechnica (but I might iron my fabric first – lol).

I also have a couple of more projects on my list, but I’m keeping them under wraps for the moment (just in case the would-be recipients read this blog).

‘Tis the season…good luck with your holiday preparations.



My kid is failing art…should I care?


Picasso (Photo credit: Nathan Laurell)

M got his first term progress report last week and I was pleased to see that he was doing reasonably well in most of his classes. Except art. According to the teacher’s notation, M hadn’t handed in any of his work. Not surprisingly, she rated him as “does not meet expectations.” Basically, he’s failing art.

How can anyone fail art?” You draw  or paint what ever the teacher tells you to do and you pass. I know it’s not M’s favourite subject – he indicated at the beginning of the year that he didn’t think he was very good at art.  His dad and I told him that he didn’t have to be good. His teacher, we explained, didn’t expect him to be Picasso – he just had to do the work. We did suggest he talk to his teacher, which he did, but I gather she wasn’t very sympathetic.  She told him that she’d heard the same thing from other kids in previous years. She added that many of these kids had ended up liking art. Apparently M remains unconvinced.

From time to time, I asked him how art was going and M would grumble about his fact that the teacher wasn’t very nice to him. I didn’t pay too much attention, as M has never been a “glass full” kind of kid – if he doesn’t like something (or someone), then it “sucks,” no matter what anyone tells him.

A couple of weeks ago, his homeroom teacher called to say that M was having problems with some of the other teachers at school. If a teacher M didn’t know and/or liked asked him to do something (or not do something), he was frequently rude and confrontational. Not a big surprise to me – M’s not a big fan of following instructions and he rarely does something just because an adult tells him to do it. In elementary school, he often got into conflicts with supply teachers because they asked him to do things that he was unaccustomed to doing (sitting still, for example) or in a way that was different from the normal routine (such as standing in a line, rather than always being first).

Fortunately for M (and his parents), his homeroom teacher is terrific. He “gets” M and understands that he needs to know why he has to do a particular task before he does it.  In addition to taking him around the school to meet other teachers, he explained to M that sometimes a teacher doesn’t have time to give him a full explanation of why he needs to get down from the tree he’s climbing or stay on school property. However, his teacher also laid down the law and told M that talking back and being obnoxious was not permitted. I understand this was followed up by a meeting with the principal and the vice-principal.

After talking to the teacher, M’s complaints about the art teacher made a bit more sense. She may have been crabby with him from time to time, but I figured that this was probably a reaction to something he said. However, when I read his report card, I was surprised to find out he hadn’t submitted any of his work in art class. M’s still getting used to doing homework (his elementary school had a “no homework” policy), but all the art assignments were in-class, so he didn’t have a really good reason for not completing anything.

When I talked to M about his art grade, he blamed the teacher – I heard a lot of “she’s not nice to me,” plus some “she’s a terrible teacher.” I pointed out that I’d had plenty of teachers I didn’t like and more than one who were downright awful, but that a difficult teacher wasn’t an excuse for not doing the work. “Not as bad as my art teacher,” replied M. I told him that I’d had plenty of horrible teachers, including, one of my Grade 4 teachers, who was about 101 and had an enormous hairy wart on her armpit. Since she favoured sleeveless dresses, even in winter, I saw a lot of that wart. Plus, I distinctly recall that she didn’t like kids. Then there was my Grade 6 math teacher who yelled at the class all the time.

While M’s rudeness is inexcusable, it does sound like art class is probably not that interesting for him. The last few weeks have been spent learning how to draw lines, which in his words, is “boring.” For a kid with ADHD, who’s already defensive about his art ability (or lack thereof), drawing is probably a tough assignment. It requires patience and practice – neither of which is M’s strong suit.

In the long run, failing art won’t make or break M’s academic career. But he needs to learn how to get along with people he doesn’t like. More importantly, he needs to learn to get along with people who don’t like him. He’s been fortunate to have had a number of very good teachers and he developed very strong relationships with them. However, the further on he goes in school and in life, the more likely he is to encounter people he just doesn’t get along with – and he needs to be able to cope. Particularly when that person is in a position of power, either a teacher or in the future, a boss. I’ve worked for plenty of people I didn’t care for and vice versa, but I still had to show up every day and do my work. It’s not fun, but that’s life.

M also needs to figure out how to manage in all his classes, not just the ones he likes. He has a tendency to give up when confronted with a subject or task he doesn’t like or feels he isn’t good at it. M used to complain about French, but he recently got 100% on a French test and realized that he’s very good at congugating verbs (my least favourite part of elementary and high school French class).

So maybe art isn’t M’s thing. But unlike math, there’s no right answer, so it’s hard to fail. After Grade 8, he never needs to take another art class again. For the moment, he just needs to put pencil to paper and hand it in.