Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Winter Break Fun 2017

The week after Christmas we wanted to spend some quality fun time with our kids,
and there were some really amazing things to do around our area!! 
Maybe you saw this episode of the Great Christmas Light Fight
 on ABC earlier in December?
If you did, you saw the blue house in Cedar Hill, TX that won!!
Watch a clip of that here.
That home is literally 10 minutes from our house, so one chilly evening,
we piled everyone into our toasty warm van and drove over.
We arrived just in time to find a side street to park on and walk over to
their Cul-De-Sac before a huge line of people started wrapping the street!!
It was truly magical and absolutely deserving of the $50,000 prize!!
My pictures don't even do it justice.
And how gracious the owner was to let people just line-up his drive
 and walk in single-file all the way around his property!!
Truly the spirit of Christmas!!

This year, the Dallas Zoo did something brand new that we absolutely loved!!
After the animals were in for the night, you could meander around very large
gated spaces of the zoo that were completely covered in lights!
As a part of our zoo membership, we could get in for free
and it was delightful just taking a relaxing evening stroll
 around the zoo property and seeing it in a different light!!
Definitely doing this again next year!
Afterward, we stopped into our local favorite Italian spot for the most delicious
pizza and helpful customer service around!!

Another day we took time to just do some fun things out-of-the-house!
The Dad took the boys to do some practice shooting, and I took the girls
to do some "After Christmas" shopping.
We dropped in on Grandma that afternoon as well and scored some
fresh baked cookies!!!

Finally, there was the afternoon we visited with our friends who we do
our homeschool co-op with.
What fun we had just sitting around planning the big girls' graduation
in May, sipping hot chocolate, munching Christmas goodies, and playing games!!

This year's winter break felt deliciously long and unrushed
and we were very refreshed and ready to get the New Year started!!
So thankful for God's rich blessings in our lives!!!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

You've Been RACK'd!!!

Right at the beginning of December, I was looking for a new activity
to make our season of Advent more meaningful this year.

For several years now, we have assembled a small tree that we use
as a "Jesse tree," and we use this material for beautiful family devotions
as we ponder the "waiting" for the coming.

Advent began on the first Sunday of December,
and just a few days before, I stumbled across this beautiful idea!

I quick printed off the first stack of these cards
and we were off!!

RACK'd = Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

We had such a blast leaving these cards with candy canes tucked
into the windows or windshield of unsuspecting shoppers at our local
grocery store!!
My girls loved trying to sneak them onto different vehicles before 
the owner came out.
Sometimes we almost got caught!!

One morning, we handed one of these treats to the kind cashier
who we see weekly at our local Aldi.
As we were bagging our groceries, he came over to Aryn
and handed her the can of Pringles potato chips he heard her begging me for
but which I had made her put back on the clearance rack.
He said, "It's the least I can do," with a smile!

Another morning, we took a package to our local post office to mail internationally.
Our post office is not known for its speed or efficiency,
and I was bracing myself for a long and arduous wait.
To top it off, I did not have any packaging tape at home nor
a mailing label, but seemed to remember that the postal employee
happily supplied those items for me when I previously mailed packages.
We jumped out of our vehicle, popped some RACK's cards with candy canes
onto nearby car doors, and got in a surprisingly short line in the post office.
But alas, my glee was short lived.
Upon arriving at the cashier, she looked down her nose at me and told
me I would have to buy the packaging tape before she could help me.
So I got out of line, grabbed the tape, taped up my box, and began
filling out what I thought I remembered as the necessary documentation
for my taped package.
Standing in line, fuming a little, I heard another lady being told
by another postal employee that they did not provide packaging tape anymore.
I piped up, "You can use mine!" as I held the roll high in the air.
She thanked me and passed it back to me.
By then, I was back at the cashier with everything I needed.
Or so I thought.
No. That form did NOT double as a mailing label.
I needed to buy a mailing label from off the rack before I could mail the package.
So I got out of line again, grabbed the label, stuck it on my package,
and got back in line.  
This time not so cheerfully.
As we stood waiting for the third time, another lady was told
they did not have packaging tape for customers to use!!
I held it up again, and said, "Here!!!  Please use mine!"

By this time, I was up at the cashier again where she told me she didn't
mean for me to wait in line again, but that she appreciated my patience,
and the other clerk offered very publicly to pay for my tape
because I had offered it to so many people.
I simply raised my arm and waved, and said,
"No need!  Merry Christmas!"
My two youngest girls were with me this whole time
and after we climbed back into our van,
I used that opportunity to point out to them how a little
kindness can turn a sour situation into something fun and bright!!

We had a great time making up some goodies for Sunday School teachers
and quietly leaving surprises for other folks who mean so much to us!

Several times, we taped quarters to our little cards,
 and then subsequently taped them to some unused carts at Aldi.
The most interesting thing happened.
Not one time did we see anyone use the quarters,
but several times we saw people toodling around the store with the card
and the quarter still taped to the handle.
It was almost like they chose to not read the card and accept the gift,
but yet were fine with walking around with a very colorful card stuck
on the handle?
We couldn't figure out why, if they felt awkward using the gift,
why they didn't just grab a different cart?

Nevertheless, this was a super fun activity that my children truly enjoyed
and we are already stocking up our supplies for next year by checking 
after Christmas clearance sales so we're ready to start early
and able to bless as many as we can!!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmastime Family Service Project 2017

The Christmas Holiday really is "the most wonderful time of the year!"
People are typically more willing to be generous with their money
and open their hearts to those in need.
There are so many needy families in our own community!!

We want our children to look for ways to help those who need a helping hand
and a great teaching tool we landed on comes through a community project
 already set up for Christmas.
Last year our family helped wrap presents collected at several drop-off stations
throughout town and later delivered to needy families.
It was an incredibly satisfying experience, and one that
each of our children wanted to participate in again this year.

How amazing to hear the squeals of the children as we stack the presents
in their homes (some with a Christmas tree and some without),
and to see the wide range of emotions from the parents/guardians
as they are presented with a turkey and other goodies for their Christmas dinner.
The Mom in our favorite home this year had tears streaming down
her face as she told us she had 8 children
 and no way of affording presents for them!

We always head home with such gratefulness for what we have
when the last bundle has been delivered,
and an increased desire to find more families that we can encourage
with the love of Jesus.

What are some ways you look for people who need
encouragement and help them in a tangible way during the holidays?