Do-It-Yourself Gifts: or Do-It-Not

Photo Credit: Flickr user Amanda Krueger


I know what you’re thinking.

“Ooh! An article about DIY gifts! I can’t wait to see the pristine pictures of near-angelic craftiness and perfectionism just in time for me to run to my local craft store and spend wads of money on ingenious thoughtfulness!”

Well, my deepest apologies, my good-intentioned friends. You are in the WRONG place.

Let me tell you a story.

Last year, my little family was invited to a darling Christmas Eve dinner. Along with bringing the assigned yummy Costco tortillas, I thought I’d bring along a little holiday treat for the sweet children to celebrate the magic of the evening.

Enter Santa Hat cake pops here.

Let’s talk cute for a second. How could you resist a sweet cake-and-frosting pop decorated in bright red and white hues, complete with meticulously placed sparkly nonpareils? You couldn’t and WOULDN’T. Only Mr. Scrooge would pass up a charming treat like these. My Santa Hat pops would be the hit of the party, the pièce de résistance. And in the rush of my plans and creations, I saw my future whizz past me: Bake shops, reality show competitions, catered parties, all wanting my infamous Santa Hat cake pops. I’d laugh with Oprah, stump Martha, and the baking world was mine, mine, MINE, all because of my genius decision to make cake pops out of a boxed cake mix and a jar of frosting. (I’m ambitious; what can I say?)

Sigh. Here the story takes a tragic turn, folks.

Instead of magical delight, the poor children got Santa Hat pops that more resembled the lesser-known dwarves: Lumpy, Frumpy, Bumpy, and Stumpy. Their anticipating, twinkly eyes dulled, and they chose the stale cookies over my old-sock-looking, soggy Santa Hat pops.


I was devastated.

For about 13 seconds.

Then I remembered from the foggy recesses of my brain that this dream-shattering incident was not a solitary one. My life was RIFE with DIY disasters!

Those cute “snow-globe-gift-card-holder-wow-so-magical-it-has-a-gift-card-inside-the-snow-globe-i-wanna-make-one” that I had made years earlier had sprung a glittery leak and had demagnetized the gift card. Uh, Merry Christmas?

What about the fancy Pinterest coffee mugs that I had hand-painted for some gals to show them how much I genuinely cared about them? Well, I washed the mugs after stenciling cliché phrases of encouragement, and, suddenly, “You are beautiful” turned into “u a   b   t,” which I thought could be misconstrued as, you know, an insult. So I threw them away, and my friends never got any “love mugs” and have no idea that I care about them (I do have about 15 extra mugs in my cabinet, though, so that’s a win).

That’s not all. The handmade calendar was too embarrassing to be used in public, and the vinyl-decorated tile was snaggle-tooth crooked. I found my homemade cake plate in the trash (thanks, darling husband of mine), and I still haven’t finished my DIY outdoor pumpkin décor. My upside-down-muffin-tin-cookie-cups melted and burned my oven beyond recognition, the fail-proof French bread failed me, and I still can’t make EZ Christmas Caramels that don’t taste like burned pot-bottoms. I am “NAILED IT” waiting to happen. My creative ambitions belong on a Pinterest Fail website.

I have TRIED. And TRIED. And I really hope there’s some truth in the old adage that “it’s the thought that counts,” or else I’ll weep unabashedly while sucking down a large Dr. Pepper and eating burnt cookie cups scraped from the bottom of my oven.

Tumblr _lvhjjoa SVs 1qi 91auo 1_500The pressure of the homemade got to me, man. It overwhelmed me. I wanted to immerse myself in that world and be the queen of DIY. But I kept messing up. I kept disappointing myself. So I made a decision this year: I’m canceling DIY Christmas. The Grinch is here to stay. You should expect a gift card to the least likable place of your choice. No more Santa Hat cake pops or Rudolph cupcakes or homemade snow globes.

But, wait.

I was sitting on my bed last night when my 5-year-old daughter brought me handmade tickets to a movie showing in her DIY movie theater. We watched a Netflix special cuddled in the box, er, theater.

And I just received a candy cane reindeer from my preschooler, complete with tangled pipe cleaner antlers and a half-eaten red hot nose. But she was so proud.



And I see my little ones creating and crafting and gluing gifts for their special friends. “What is that?” I ask. Marching hats, houses made out of popsicle sticks, pipe-cleaner stick people, tissue paper flowers, Christmas cards, construction paper cookies, Perler bead pumpkins, and so many more gifts for holidays and birthdays and just because. And what is unparalleled is not how remarkable the gift turned out but how these special childhood DIYs (although sometimes unrecognizable) radiate love, thoughtfulness, and kindness, three traits that I need more of in my life. The world needs more love, peace, and joy.

And, maybe I “puzzled and puzzled till [my] puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch (me) thought of something [I] hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, [I] thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!” No, really. Maybe there’s something about doing it yourself. The handprint ornaments. The gingerbread houses. The popcorn garland. The homemade birthday cards. The construction paper turkeys.

The thought DOES count!298253811_d 4f 6bc 3551_m

After watching my sweet little ones exemplify that perfection, self-criticism, and mockery need not exist in creating gifts for others and that love and kindness really ARE all you need, I think my heart grew three sizes that day!

So, my well-intentioned friends, go ahead and turn on those hot glue guns and stick your hands in the Mod Podge. But, I challenge you not to compete with others around you, but DIY to spread feelings of peace, love, and joy that should exist always in the world around us.

But if you’re like me, maybe stick to tying a ribbon around a gift card or discreetly paying someone else to make some gifts of course you can say you made them!). Or, you know, give it a try. Now that I think about it, I know someone who would LOVE this really cute white-washed pallet wood art that I saw today, and you only need fourteen power tools, sixty different colors of permanent acrylic paint, and some micro-stencils. It can’t be that hard, right? After all, it’s the thought that counts.


Photo Credits: and Flickr user Angela


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