Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Outgoing Mail: Christmas

Well, poo. I was hoping to take some notes and some pictures to share- especially since I am sending so much stuff- and then remembered to do those things after I taped up the box! So I offer my apologies for a disjointed post of hazy recollections (and no pictures), but since I put my Christmas stuff out in the mail for the kiddos this week, I thought it would be a good time for an Outgoing Mail post!

Before I get into the Christmas details, let me tell you what else is on its way! 

We have lot of upcoming birthdays in October and November. Brenda, Prayer, Said, Carlos, and Mary will all be having birthdays soon. I put together a folder for each of them: Said got one with elephants; Mary got one covered in glitter (I hope she likes it as much as I do- I will admit to patting my hair with it in the hopes of some slight sparkle transference), Carlos got a manly blue folder which I decorated with giant soccer ball stickers, Prayer got a cool holofoil tie dye folder, and Brenda's was scratch-and-sniff with pictures of candy, because she has talked about candy several times in her letters (including telling me her best friend is her best friend because he shares is candy with her!) Inside each letter I included a birthday card, some activity sheets (United States seek-and-finds, among others), some sticker sheets, and a drawing done by yours truly. I'm always telling my kids I like to draw, and I like their pictures, so I hope they like the ones I sent them, too! I also sent a small gift for each of the kids. Carlos got a Spanish world atlas, Mary got a pretty journal, Said got a small coloring book for older kids, Prayer got a connect the dots book, and Brenda got a princess coloring book. As an added bonus, I included a fun Mickey Mouse workbook for Jayid, because he said in his last letter that he is working on English lessons. The book had a page for each letter of the alphabet, along with practice sentences and fun activities. It was basically a phonics book for younger children, but he's not that old and English would be his second language. I hope he likes it! 

And now onto Christmas! This was quite an undertaking- lately I have just been sending a few gifts at a time, for birthdays and special occasions. I actually made a chart/checklist for my kiddos to make sure that all 26 of them got everything I intended to send. I wrote out each of their names and numbers, along with a place for me to put a check mark for a card, a letter, and a gift. Then I marked each of the kids who spoke English, because I did have a few possible gifts to send that would work best for English speakers. Then I got to work! I wrote out a Christmas card for each child, and included the following inscription: "I hope you and your family have a happy Christmas and a blessed New Year! Lots of love, 
Jessi." Simple and easy to translate. All year long (well, since last Christmas) I have been setting aside Christmas cards that would be appropriate for sponsor kids- no mention of piles of presents or other stuff that wouldn't apply to them, no focus on snow, etc. I have leftover cards from years past, cards from the dollar store, cards that my aunt received as  thank you gifts from various charities, and cards that my mom got on clearance last year from her store. All in all I have enough cards for my own kiddos, plus about 150 left over to send to unsponsored kids! 

For my Christmas letter, I basically write out what my holiday routine is. I don't really talk about presents other than to say that my family members exchange gifts on Christmas Day- it would be inappropriate to talk about quantities or say something like "each person gives everyone presents," because even that sounds like a lot. By just saying "exchanging gifts", I leave it open to interpretation. And our kids want to know, too. In some countries, kids don't receive Christmas gifts until AFTER Christmas, because of cultural traditions. Or sometimes people just do gifts on Christmas Eve. By keeping it vague yet informational, I'm satisfying my kids' curiosity about my culture and my traditions while still staying sensitive to their own situations. A lot of my kids also like to talk about food in their culture, so I usually throw in a mention of my family sharing a meal together, and may add something like "one traditional food to have for Christmas in my country is turkey. Do you have turkeys where you live?" Again, I'm providing some vague information without going into great detail about the sheer volume of food (most of it incredibly unhealthy) we consume over the holidays. I also like to share a bit about snow in my Christmas letters, and tell my kids that where I live, snow is unpredictable- but it is lots of fun when it happens on Christmas. I ask them what the weather is like in their countries during Christmas, too. 

Finally, we get to the gifts! I know a lot of sponsors are always looking for fun ideas for stuff to send to their kids. I can't remember exactly what I sent to each child this year, but I can try to write down what I do recall. Hopefully my list will help if you are looking for ideas for gifts- and I'd love to hear about what other people are sending their kids, too!

  • The 12 youngest kids are getting small, super-skinny Christmas activity books I found at Hobby Lobby (pack of 12 for 4.99, continuously 40% off.) Even if they can't read the instructions on the activity pages, they can still color the pictures and share them with their friends! 
  • Two kids are getting student planners- probably Mary and Victor because they are the oldest English speakers. They are weekly planners with helpful tips like measurement charts, grammatical advice, and other nifty things. One had a car on it and the other had a butterfly. 
  • Some of the kids are getting mini wall calendars. Michaels has tons of designs for $1 each. Some of them are pretty yet gender-neutral, such as the calendar with colorful pictures (a rainbow lollipop for this month, a close-up of a pack of crayons the next.) There were also hot air balloons, lighthouses, kittens, puppies....and my favorite, dogs dressed in fancy costumes. Like, tiaras and feather boas. I know I sent that one to Patricia because for some reason I had the feeling she would get a kick out of it. 
  • Two of the kids got skinny drawing pads from Target's dollar spot. And one kid got a writing pad from the same place (it had Sesame Street characters so it wasn't as boring as it sounds!) 
  • One child got a pack of origami papers with instructions- it might have been Barry because I saw that the instructions came in English and French, and being from Burkina Faso, he speaks French. 
  • One child got a "sticker by number" kit from the Dollar Tree, which is exactly like paint by number, except with stickers
  • A few of the kids got coloring books, including Sofia the First, Sesame Street, and Bible stories
  • One or two of the girls got journals I found in the clearance bin at Michaels (regularly a dollar, they were 50% off!) 
  • Carlos got a mini Max Lucado book in Spanish
  • I found a Spanish word book thing at the used bookstore for one of the younger girls. I couldn't understand what it said, but I gathered that it was like a seek and find- "in this picture find one gorilla, two giraffes, three ostriches, etc.) It was skinny and paperback and I was happy because it was Spanish! 
  • Caleb got an atlas
  • Jayid got a Batman activity book, because Batman is semi-universal and he would have English help if he needed it. 
  • The littlest kids got super cute nativity coloring books my mom pulled from last year's Chrismas clearance. I've been hanging onto them all year!
  • The neatest new find: bookmark calendars. It's a stack of bookmarks bound together like a little flip book. When a new month starts, you can tear off the next bookmark- it has the calendar for the month on there along with a little picture (butterflies, lighthouses, Psalms, kittens, whatever.) The bookmarks, bound together, come in at just under a quarter of an inch, and because they are flexible and meet the requirements for Compassion and customs, they can be sent as-is. They're really neat- they can be found at Michaels in the dollar bins. Each bookmark calendar comes with three magnetic bookmark clips, which of course can't be sent to the kids, but you can just take everything out of the package, pop a label on the calendar, and voila. You have new magnetic bookmarks (I have a ton of them now!) 
All in all, between my stuff and the birthday folders my mom sent in the same box, we filled a large priority mail box to the brim! I hope all the kids like what I'm sending- now I need to work on restocking my box of paper gifts! I pretty well cleaned it out!

What are you sending your sponsor kids for Christmas? Have you found anything cool to send recently that you haven't seen or thought of before? 

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it so fun finding stuff to send our kids?? I loved hearing what you sent!! I especially love how you're always finding cute extras and something special to send!!! My stash for the year is finally getting low.... It'll be just about gone come December. I'll have to restock it for 2015!!


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