Monday, December 31, 2012

Angle Tree 2012

Another huge part of our Christmas season this year was the Prison Fellowship Angel Tree program at our church.
I have helped out in years past, but this was my first year to be the coordinator.
Members of our church provided gifts for over 80 children this year and we had a huge Christmas party for the children and their families.
Over 200 people (including volunteers) came to the party and it was a joy to see everything come together the way it did.  My heart was very full that night.
Several restaurants including La Playa Maya, Chuys (this is already my favorite restaurant in Fort Worth and their generosity made me love them even more), McAllister's Deli and the Culinary School of Fort Worth donated tons of food - enough for every family to take home to go containers!

 The children were able to take pictures with Santa and then Santa read the children The Legend of the Candy Cane.  He was the star of the night.
 Not everyone could make it to the party so I got to deliver some gifts to a few families and it was neat for the girls to be a part of that.  I tried to include Anna in as much of the whole Angel Tree process as I could and she asked me many questions about it (including asking me if I was going to go to prison :).  I pray she will have a heart to serve others as she grows.
There were MANY people who helped pull all of this off including my wonderful husband who did so much, but since I was ultimately in charge, it took so much of my time and energy.
There were a few times that I didn't have the best attitude about it and was resentful that I was having to spend so much time on Angel Tree when I wanted to do Christmas activities with my family (I was also overseeing a kitchen remodel in one of our Austin houses which added to my stress).
Seeing the children at the party and going into a few homes, humbled me and reminded me that this was probably the only Christmas activity that most of them would get to do and my children were getting a whole month of fun with our friends and families.  Ultimately, it was a small sacrifice on my part to serve these children and families and I was truly blessed by it.

 Here are a few memories I want to remember:
1) As the gifts were brought out to one of the caretakers, she just got overwhelmed and started weeping.  She said she was just blow away by the entire evening and had a WOW moment that night.  She grew up with her dad in prison and never had anything like Angel Tree.  She has since visited our church and said she's never felt so loved.

2)When another little boy got his presents he was so excited.  Someone from our church told him that his mom really loved him and wanted him to have those gifts, and he said "you don't understand my mom is in prison, these aren't from her".  When it was explained to him that the gifts were in fact from his mom because she signed him up for Angel Tree, he couldn't believe it and just hugged the gifts and would not let go of them.  Angel Tree provides a tangible way for incarcerated parents to give to their children which is very meaningful to the child.   

3) While Santa was reading the story, I sat down next to a 4 year old girl I'd never met.  Immediately she scooted right up next to me and was leaning on me.  I enjoyed having a few minutes to love on her.  Later in the gift line, I walked up to a little boy and asked him to show me the ornament he decorated.  He held it up and then gave me a big hug for a long time.  What precious children! 

 4) Only one home I delivered gifts to had any kind of decorations up and it was a small white tree with hot pink and purple ornaments.  I commented on how cute and different is was and the lady who lived there told me that this year, she dedicated the tree to her 7 year old niece who had passed away.  It was a simple and beautiful way to remember her at Christmas.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ushering in the Season

Decorating the house and the Christmas tree was more fun than ever this year!
Somewhere, I read the idea to begin decorating by setting up the nativity first so that is what we did.
The girls were excited to unwrap each figurine as we talked about the Christmas story.
 When it was all put together, Anna put her hands on her head and was jumping up and down with excitement.  
It brought tears to my eyes as I was experiencing the true magic of Christmas through her.
 This little one was more interested in playing with me than decorating and I finally put my own agenda aside to just enjoy her.  
I'm usually the one behind the camera so am thankful for these precious pics with her and I.
 Anna on the other hand was very focused and helpful.
 O come let us adore Him.
 After watching her sister, she finally got into it and wanted to do anything Anna was doing.
So sweet of these two. 
What a good, loving and patient daddy he is to his girls. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pajama Time!

My mom bought all the cousins Christmas PJs from Carters after Thanksgiving.  
   We have gotten good use out of them as I wash them probably every other day.  

At the beginning of December, I hosted a Christmas PJ playdate and it was so much fun!
Dana, Christy and Magen from my old mom's group in Dallas did this every year and I wanted to continue the tradition in Fort Worth. 
I knew I had to host it at the beginning of the month before I ran out of steam from all the other Christmas activities.  
I enjoyed talking about and planning the party with Anna and seeing her excitement over it.  
She went with me to pick out decorations and it looked like the Christmas section of Dollar Tree exploded at our house.  
I loved it!  
This has to be the most fought over toy ever invented.  
Glad they found a way for the 3 of them to play with it at the same time!
 Lil' Lily looking cute dressed like one of the Stamps girls. (lol Lauren)
Since photo booth pictures are all the rage, I decided to do one with all the moms and kiddos.  
I had envisioned making props like you see on etsy or pinterest, but I ran out of time and the Dollar Tree hats worked just as well.  
This could be my favorite pic ever of me and my girls!
 Holly and Leo
 Camille with Henry and Elliot
 Ashley and Emilynn.  
Her shirt says 'Tis the season to be pregnant.  So true...4 of the mamas there were!
 Lauren with Andrew and Lily
 Carmen with Hudson and Amelia
Somehow I managed to not get a photo booth pic of my sister and nephews, but they were all there.
 We met up with them a few days later to go to the Polar Express Pajama Party at the IMAX.
There were lots of little fun activities to do before the movie started.  
Here they are making bracelets with jingle bells.

 And just to keep it real, here is Anna on the floor in the middle of all the joyous fun having a tantrum while I am helping Haven get her bracelet on. 
 The movie was an hour and a half long so I planned to spend about half of that time in the cry room, but never had to.  
Brad had the great idea to buy a large popcorn.  
Haven basically ate the entire bag but sat still for 1.5 hrs. which has never happened in her life.
 The intro at the IMAX is always very loud, so Anna covers her ears.  
She sat like this the entire movie.  
I tried to convince her that it wasn't loud anymore but she would not let go.  
Not even to put her hand in the popcorn, so her sweet daddy was hand feeding it to her (when he could sneak some from Haven).  
This picture might not show it, but she actually loved the movie.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Thank You Day

 Anna heard that saying on a cartoon and was saying it all during Thanksgiving.  I thought that was a great way to put it for a toddler to better understand what the day is all about.

We started out the day by running walking the YMCA Turkey Trot, something I have always wanted to do and hope will be a tradition.
 Lucas ran the kids 1K and did great.  I think cross country may be in his future.
 The girls did well in the stroller for the first couple miles and ended up on our shoulders the last mile or so.

This year, my mom hosted us at her apartment and made this turkey veggie tray from pinterest as well as a traditional turkey. 

 Her place isn't very big and doesn't have many things, but the girls love it there.  Since Gigi was a teacher, she has different books and activities for each holiday and season and sets them out for the girls to play with.
 We stopped over at my sister's to watch the UT game and let the cousins play.  Anna has been pretending to be a cat for several months now.  Marcus usually plays along with it and that night, he used a ribbon as a leash.  He was walking her all around the house while she meowed.  This was definitely more entertaining then the football game!
 The next day we headed down to the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center with Brad's parents.  The girls had so much fun getting up close and personal with the animals and weren't scared to hold their hands out to feed them.  It has been on our list of things to do for awhile now, so I was glad we had the chance to go. 
 I love baby profile shots with little noses and big cheeks.  And yes, she is still a baby.
 This year, we have more to be thankful for than ever.  These two smiling faces are at the top of our list.