A Homemade Christmas

Denisa and I wanted to switch things up a tad this year. The kids are definitely getting old enough that they really ought to be participating in the whole gift *giving* scene, as opposed to straight up gift receiving. But at the same time, we didn’t want them to feel like they had to buy expensive gifts. They’ve got a limited budget, after all. So after some brainstorming and discussion, we came up with a plan. We exchanged names, and everyone had to make something for the other person. No buying allowed.

This seemed like a grand plan, at first. I envisioned the kids getting parents, and the parents getting kids. It didn’t quite work out that way, of course. Denisa got DC, DC got TRC, TRC got me, and I got Denisa. And that’s when it hit me: I was going to have to actually make something for my wife. And for some reason, that was more than a little daunting.

The cop out would be to write her a story, I supposed. But there were a few things I didn’t like with that idea. First off, I’d already written my Christmas story for the year, and there’s only so many short stories I have in me at once. I had very little in the way of desire to write another, and I was totally out of ideas. Second, even if I had an idea, it would take me too long to get it to a point where I was happy with it enough to give it to my wife.

I’ve written poetry before, and I could do that again. But once again, I didn’t really love that idea. Yes, it could win points on the sappiness scale, but I didn’t really want to go for sappy. I’d have to keep thinking.

In the end, I came up with quite a few ideas that Denisa would like, but the one I went with and followed through on was putting all of our home videos onto DVDs, sticking them in a case, and wrapping that up. We have a fair number of videos from over the years, but they’ve always been on mini-cassettes or on my computer’s hard drive. Actually watching them has been something that was hard to do, ironically. So this was something I could do that would let her see videos from the last 13 years or so–and let the family see them, as well.

As with all things technical, it ended up being a lot more difficult than I’d planned on. (Writing a short story would certainly have taken less time.) The videos were in an outdated format that I had to convert over to a different format with one free converter I found, then use another free converter to get it to a DVD format, and then find a DVD creation program for the final step. And in the end, I had to buy a converter anyway. (Moral of the story? Save yourself some time in the long run. Pay the $15 and make life easy on yourself. I probably took four or five hours rigging a “free” approach, meaning that even if I’d been able to avoid buying a program, I still would have basically paid myself $4/hour to do it for free. Silly Bryce.)

That said, the final product went over fabulously. Easily Denisa’s favorite Christmas present of the year. How did the other presents fare? TRC made me a Magic the Gathering card holder–he came up with the idea himself, and executed it all on his own, though I think he realized after the fact that everyone else had spent a fair bit more time on their presents than he had. That’s okay–there’s a learning curve. Denisa made DC two new headbands that she loved, and DC made TRC a Magic the Gathering dice bag that he adored.

In the end, I’d say it was a very successful experiment, and one that I plan on repeating next year. It was great to see everyone thinking of what they could make other people, and to see kids sneaking off to rooms to work on their creations. And it was very nice to sit back with the fam on Christmas Eve (when we opened the homemade presents) and watch some home videos from nine years ago.

Good times.

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