What a time for our pocketbooks, our shopping frenzy, the economy!

CHRISTMAS! HANUKKAH! KWAANZA! NEW YEAR!

What a time for our pocketbooks, our shopping frenzy, the economy! I know some folks who start buying gifts for the following holidays the day after the present holiday! For weeks and even months, most of us have been caught in a whirl of holiday advertising of wonderful, colorful, super giftsfor everyone!

Sometimes it's a good idea to pause a few minutes in the midst of holiday gift-giving excitement to think about GIFTS.

One wonderful Saturday I went to Duxberry Park Alternative Elementary School to catch the scene at a Cardboard Challenge happening.

Principal Nikki Henry led me to the packed auditorium where almost 200 people of all ages - from infants in strollers to great grandparents, students, teachers, families - were creating fantastic treasures out of boxes, toiletpaper and paper-towel rolls, egg crates, assorted pieces and items usually tossed but now cherished. Working alone and in groups, the joyful, energetic crowd created such works as typewriters, animals, space stations and houses.

When I asked two middle school boys carrying a huge phoenix above their heads on their way to their car what will they do with their creation, they answered, "This is a Christmas present for our grandmother."

When I bought a large container of colorful beads and a thick roll of string with me to Chicago while I baby sat two grandchildren for a week, I thought making bead bracelets and necklaces would keep my Callie and Ryan (ages 5 and 8) occupied for an hour or two. To my utter surprise and delight, we sat at the breakfast table, still in our PJs and strung beads til late afternoon. We made about a hundred gifts!

"We can give everyone a gift - for their birthdays, for Hanukkah, for Christmas, for EVERYTHING!" they announced joyfully. And they did!

Sometimes the best gifts come in small cards packed in decorated envelopes. A friend used her best colors to print coupons for her children:

THIS COUPON IS GOOD FOR A WALK TO THE NATURE CENTER OF BLACKLICK WOODS.

THIS COUPON IS GOOD FOR A STORY EVERY NIGHT BEFORE BEDTIME.

She stuffed all the coupons in a large colorful envelope that read: Christmas Gift Cards. The kids loved them.

Yes, we will be caught in the excitement of holiday gift giving. But let's make room under the Christmas tree, near the Hanukkah and Kwaanza candles, let's make room for a few handmade gift cards of some works from our hands, time together and songs and stories to brighten up the winter season.

Happy Holidays!

- "Mamaloshen" is the Yiddish term for "the mother tongue" and we have adapted it here to represent the wisdom of Columbus arts educator, author and allaround inspiration Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, who is on a mission to help parents raise happy, healthy, creative children.