Monday, December 26, 2011

Our Christmas Celebration

If you know me very well, you probably know my stance on Christmas and gift giving.  It's Jesus' I feel pretty strongly about doing something that at least attempts to honor Him, rather than just aimlessly buying gifts.  Especially things no one really needs/wants.  (My poor nieces/nephews are screwed, ha!) ;)

So this year, instead of getting gifts for each other, Matt and I decided to adopt a family through the Don Bosco Holiday Friends program.  We both pretty much buy whatever we need for ourselves throught the year, and he surprisingly shares my stance on Christmas, so it just worked out perfectly for us! 

I filled out the application online and we waited anxiously for a phone call...which took at least a week.  But we got our family:  a single mother who is barely making ends meet (her husband is in jail), and her two sons, ages 11 and 13.  We got a little profile on them and a list of things they "needed" and things they just "wanted."  The need column really shocked us.  They NEEDED socks, underwear, pajama pants, warm hat/gloves, a warm coat...  And the wants were mp3 players for the boys, and some pots, pans and bath towels for the mom.  The recommended amount to spend per person was $50, but come on.  How can you not get them everything on their list!? :)

So we went to Wal-Mart the week before Christmas...and got every single thing they needed - and almost everything they wanted.  (One of the boys wanted boxing gloves, and we couldn't find those.)  Shopping for our family was so much fun!  We were so excited picking out different items for each of them...and thinking about the whole family unwrapping them all on Christmas morning! We definitely filled up a cart (and his trunk) with goodies for them!

I'm not going to lie, I think we hooked it up for our family this Christmas!  Each person had 7 wrapped presents when it was all said and done.  We even had fun wrapping them (and they looked pretty good, if I do say so myself)!

Each family member had their own color and style of wrapping paper.  The mom had the striped paper in the front and white tissue paper in the gift bags.  One boy had blue and the other had green, so they could easily tell which present was for which person.

One of the cool things about the Holiday Friends program is that you can be as involved or uninvolved as you want to be.  Matt and I both really wanted to deliver the gifts ourselves and meet the family.  We even called the mom before hand a couple of times to ask about some of the things on their list.  However, if that's not something you want to do, you can just buy what you want off the list, drop the gifts off at the Bosco Center, and they will take care of the rest.

Loaded up and ready for delivery!

Getting to meet our family and actually deliver the gifts ourselves...and see the excitement and greatfullness in our families eyes...was just priceless.  They had a little tree in the corner of their family room...and not one present underneath it.  As we kept bringing in more and more presents, the mom just stood there in shock with her hands on her head, saying, "Too much!  Too much!"  (She didn't speak much English.)  It was just SO fun to be a part of making their Christmas a little brighter.  Matt and I both agreed we got WAY more enjoyment out of that than we would out of any store bought sweater (or whatever we would have picked out for each other).  And we now have our first Christmas tradition together!  We definitely will be doing this every year! 

Oh, and to top it off, the mom made us a big bag of amazing homemade tamales - which we ate that night and again for lunch the next day!  I forgot to get pictures of them, but I called her and we're going back for more next week!

We did do a little something for ourselves for Christmas, too...just not in the form of a wrapped gift.  We went out to dinner on the plaza with my brother and sister-in-law!

Dinner was at Grand Street Cafe...

 ...and dessert (plus champagne) at The Melting Pot!


And lastly...the whole family at my house on Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas w/ the Kids

Last Saturday, we celebrated Christmas early with my niece and nephew, who will be out of town this Christmas. 

Aren't they just the cutest little family!?

Allie and Brody were super excited for the early celebration, and got some cool gifts (Justice clothes for Allie and walkie-talkies for Brody were the big hits).  Hunter, however, just wasn't in to opening his presents too much this year.  In fact, he slept through almost all of it.  Maybe by next Christmas he will be a little more excited!

Just like last year, the kids got some quality time from me instead of a present!  (Not too sure how they feel about that, ha!)  So once they had opened all their gifts from other family members, Matt and I took them out for the afternoon form some hot chocolate, ice skating, and ice cream! (This is the 3rd year in a row I've taken Allie ice skating, but this was Brody's first time!)

She's really getting good!

Brody was really excited about ice skating in the beginning, but it's a lot of work for a little guy who doesn't really know how to do it.  Needless to say, the skating didn't last too long for him.  So after a hot chocolate break, Matt took Brody on a walk around the area while Allie and I kept skating.

(They found a cool tractor, so that just made Brody's whole day, of course.)

I finally convinced Allie to get off the ice after at least an hour, and we treated ourselves to some Italian gelato before heading back home.

Merry Christmas to the two best kids in the world! :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

NYC - Sunday

After the crazy night we had before, getting up at 8:30 for 9:30 mass at St. Ignatius Loyola was seriously a struggle.  We contemplated going at all (Matt was trying to pull the "travelers dispensation" card ;) ), but we ended up making it just on time.  It was a beautiful church, and within walking distance.

After mass, we grabbed a bagel (with LOTS of cream cheese and cinnamon sugar) and took the subway down to the 9/11 ourselves.  Angie and Luke went to Chiefs vs Jets game in Jersey, and Denzil didn't answer his phone - too much partying! ;)  We reserved passes the day before to get in to the memorial at noon, so we had to get down there to pick up the tickets before hand.

The 9/11 Memorial just wasn't quite what I had expected.  I don't know about Matt, but for some reason, I had in my head that this was going to be big museum kind of thing.  Not to down-play it, because it was still really cool to see, but all it is right now is two giant fountains with all the names of people who perished written around them.  The actual museum doesn't open until next year!

Since we had allocated way more time for what we thought was going to be a "musem," we had an hour or so to kill.  Time for shopping!  We both wanted to check out Uniqlo, a new Japanese clothing store that has advertisements all over the subways.  It was a pretty cool place with decently cheap prices, so we both bought a couple things (like a turquoise cashmere sweater)! 

Matt and I did really well managing the subway system by ourselves.  We didn't get lost or confused once - and we even switched subways! ;)  We made it back to the apartment to drop our purchases off and packed up before heading to meet Denzil for lunch.  We got some soup and bread from Le Pain Quotidien and ate it on a park bench outside of Central park before saying goodbyes and heading in to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

That place is one HUGE museum.  Way too big for us to handle that day - especially since we were already worn down from not much sleep and lots of walking. We looked at a couple things, but after about 30 minutes, we sat down on a bench a and decided to just go back to the apartment for a nap instead...but not until we found the musical instruments, which turned in to be quite an ordeal.

(taken from the bench we just could not pull ourselves up from)

When we got back to the apartment, we saw that Angie and Luke had left us a cute good-bye note on the mirror in the bathroom.  They're just the sweetest!  And as we were leaving the apartment to catch a cab to the airport, we actually ran in to them on streets (they were just coming back from the Chiefs game).  We were all so glad we got to see each other one more time to say bye!

We had some decent food at the airport, boarded the plane, and both slept the entire flight home.  I remember waking up when we took off - a few times to readjust sleeping positions - and again when were getting ready to land. 

It was SUCH a great weekend, and we'll definitely miss Angie, Luke, and Denzil until we can all get together again! :)