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Crafting for Christmas

Joy McClain little boy playing with dinosaurs
HOMEMADE JOY: Joy’s grandson, Jackson, age 3, plays with his brother’s birthday gift. Their grandma is good with a glue gun!
Joy’s Reflections: Creating a diorama sets the stage for homemade Christmas gifts.

I wanted to do something unique for our dinosaur-loving 4-year-old grandson. Every time he comes, he drags out tiny colored eggs I use during Easter for his dinosaurs to sit on. Being that we don’t buy gifts that require batteries, I racked my brain trying to figure out how to create a dino-topia (yes, I just made that word up).

I’ve always enjoyed looking at the dioramas at the county fair. They often have a farm theme. The details are fascinating — little rows of corn, barn lots and cattle scattered across a vast pretend pasture.

After a quick shopping trip to the craft and dollar store, my glue gun and I got down to work. Three hours later, my husband walked through the kitchen, casually throwing out, “Looks like you missed your calling.” Apparently, I have a knack for diorama(ing). And Christmas is coming. “This could be epic,” I thought to myself.

Dried moss and resin-based water isn’t appropriate for infants and toddlers in the family, but the 3-year-old will surely squeal when he sees his ocean complete with sharks and whales. Our 7-year-old is into big cats who should feel at home in their tropical jungle. The 9-year-old, a real 4-H’er, will get supplies to create his own diorama. I vow to keep my glue gun to myself, and my mouth shut in case he wants to enter it into the fair. Oh, the joy that will be underneath the tree this year.

With two little princess granddaughters, I decided to go all out with every parents’ nightmare: glitter. There is beautiful, pastel, miniature everything coated in gorgeous shades of mostly white-and-pink, sparkly glitter. Tiny reindeer, trees covered in snow, wee wreaths on front doors — simply magical.

Thanks to the women who hurricane-proof their hair, I’ve discovered Aqua Net hair spray makes the most resilient lacquer. Have you ever seen a blue-haired woman’s curls move in the wind? Of course not. They use Aqua Net. After choking through three cans, I’m confident the glitter is flake-proof.

Mom is a bit of a challenge. The farm? Her loving room? A landscape for her collection of porcelain cats? The woman spent years receiving handmade gifts from me when I was a kid. Surely, she wouldn’t mind one more. Yet I don’t want to risk the siblings getting upset about the enviable gift the baby of the family bestowed upon her, so I have decided to go with warm slippers instead.

Early training

Give me a pile of twigs, rocks, a glue gun and some paint, and it’s like opening day for the avid hunter. I think it all started when I took my Barbie outside. Tree moss made the best rugs. Sticks tied with string became shelters and teepees.

My Barbie didn’t have an extensive wardrobe. She was usually stuck in the great outdoors in her miniskirt and pink pumps. It was good training for my current career as a pro diorama person, as well as for this year’s Christmas gifts.

If anyone has connections, I’m available for judging those neatly laid-out farm and landscape scenes at the county fair next July. If you happen to see one in our county made by a particular first-year 4-H’er that is epic, I promise I kept my glue gun to myself.

McClain writes from Greenwood, Ind.

TAGS: Farm Life
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