I admit that sometimes I feel a little guilty that I don't hand-write as many letters as I used to. I have circulation problems with my hands, and they get icy cold when I use them in repetitive motion for a while- like when I'm crocheting or writing with a pen. And then it gets so bad that I can't feel my fingertips. It's lame- and it also means that I very rarely hand-write letters to our sponsor kids now. I write out Christmas and birthday cards, and I've sent out a batch of "just for fun" cards, but that's it for the last five or six months. Everything's been written online (except for Christmas letters, which I typed and then printed.)
Because I'm not sending hand-written letters, but I'm still on the watch for little gifts for the kids, I'm creating quite the backlog of papery items. The box that I keep them in, which is already pretty big, is overflowing. I sent gifts with Christmas cards and letters and continue to send out birthday folders stuffed with extras, but I wanted to do something more. I started brainstorming for ideas for something to do.
I took a bit of inspiration from my friend Shelley, who always mentions her Compassion anniversaries in her Compassion Joys posts each month- meaning, Shelley keeps track of when she became a sponsor for each of her kids, and mentions it in her posts! I always thought that was so sweet. I decided to start sending "anniversary" gifts and cards to my kids!
I started off compiling a list of the anniversary dates. Have I told you how much I love Google Drive? It is just the best. I can make documents and save them to the interwebs, and access them anywhere I have wifi. Right now I have a document showing when I've heard from each of my sponsor kids (or for those I haven't heard from, the date that I became their sponsor or correspondent.) That way I can see when we've been waiting a little too long for a letter (six months for the new kids) or even when to expect a letter in the mail (about every two months for Peru and Kenya, for example!) Then I have a document where I keep track of the kids' birthdays, for easy reference. They're divided up by month, so I can plan two months out to send their birthday gifts. This new document is a bit like that one- I started by typing up the name of each month, and then I brought up the "My Sponsorships" section of my Compassion account. I went through and looked at each child, noting the date they were sponsored. So, for example, under the July section, I typed up "25- Tasya (2010.)" That way I can also easily see how many years I've been writing to the kids! Only two of these are slightly off, as I picked up Jayid's sponsorship after his financial sponsor dropped him (so the date I have is when I started the financial sponsorship) and the date I have for Carlos is the date when my friend Jim offered to take up his sponsorship and keep me as a correspondent!
So after making up my document, I took a look at the anniversaries coming up. For January, we have Caleb and Eduardo (one year) and Brenda (two years.) I also wrote down the February anniversaries, too- just Sharifa, at one year. Then I got to work on getting some presents together!
Recently, I found a good deal at the Dollar Tree. They carry discounted, name-brand greetings cards at great prices. They're just older or discontinued designs- most of them are 2 for $1, and you can see the manufacturer's suggested retail price on the back- some of the cards originally sold for $3-4 each! Then they have these packaged cards from American Greetings, Hallmark, and other companies- usually 8 to 10 cards per pack. Most of them are thank you notes and invitations, but some are just blank cards. At my last trip to the Dollar Tree, I picked up two packs that would be good for boys (green and blue with smiley faces and grey and green stars) and two for girls (purple flowers, and pink paisley print.) They're good quality cards, and you can't really beat the price! I used these cards to make my anniversary cards for the kids. On the inside, I wrote up something like this:
Happy anniversary! I became your sponsor on January 2, 2014. By the time you receive this, we will have been friends for one whole year! I have loved getting to know you over the past year, and I know we will be friends for many more years to come. I love you, and I am proud to have you as a part of my family.
Love and hugs,
Then I worked on shrinking my overflowing supply of gifts for the kids! I realized in going through my things that I have a ton of Spanish language stuff for little kids, but I really need to work on finding more things for teen boys, since I have so many of them now! Here's a list of what I'm sending out for these gifts:
Eduardo is getting a Transformers paint with water book, because that's the most mature-looking thing I could find in the box. : )
Caleb is getting a small book about a killer whale rescue, and another little book about rainforest ecology (I found the books on clearance for $0.25 each at Half Price Books!)
Brenda is getting a winter paint with water book (I forgot I had them!) and the Spanish version of "If You Give a Cat a Cupcake!" I found that and another book in the series at Half Price for $2.49, which is a pretty good deal- and I also have an educator discount card for an extra 10% off each purchase (which comes in handy because I buy so many books for the kids there!)
Sharifa is getting a Lisa Frank coloring book, but she's also getting a birthday folder in this mailing, so there's more coming to her!
I hope all the kids enjoy getting anniversary presents in the mail- and I hope that I'm able to keep up this new tradition!