Tonight I moved on from online shopping to selecting photos for the annual calendar I make of my kids to give to relatives as Christmas gifts. I say relatives but I mostly mean my mother. I mentioned last year that she came right out and asked for another one. As she's generally the sort of person to buy whatever she needs and never has much on her Christmas list besides socks, I figure I can at least produce a nice calendar every year.
It's generally a six hour project. Six hours going through every photo I've taken that year, picking out a nice variety and arranging them just so. Since having a second child, I also pride myself on using an equal number of photos of each one. I know. Way more work than it needs to be. But, if I can share one thing, it's worth it. Once a month, my mother tells me about flipping to the new month and what she thinks of that month's pictures. Sometimes it's how cute one of the kids looks. Other times it's how it reminded her of something she'd forgotten about. She hangs it at work so other people can admire her grandchildren and stop to chat. It's by far the second best gift I've ever given anyone and I get to give it every year.
As for the best gift I've ever given, hand's down that's the new television I surprised my grandparents with. It wasn't even for a special occasion or anything. Back when I was in college, they sent me $500 to take some extra curricular class after they read an article about something or other in the paper. It was completely random and the class didn't interest me in the least. But I figured if they could part with the money for something frivolous for me then it'd be okay to go ahead and cash the check and use it to treat them to something they should have treated themselves to long ago. Their old television only got two channels and neither of them was the channel that showed the St. Louis Cardinals games and my grandma lived and died Cardinals. It also had no remote. My Grandpa used to sit on a ottomon next to it flipping until they found something they wanted to watch.
I picked them out a new television with a remote and threw in a built in VCR for good measure. The VCR was a last minute brainstorm so we could mail them movies we knew they'd like without having to worry about talking them through how to hook up a VCR. That television was gold, baby. Gold. Something they needed. Something that improved the quality of their lives. And not given for any particular occasion. Just because I could.
They loved it. Loved that I thought of it. Loved the surprise. Used it every day. Delightful. My best gift ever.