Saturday, November 17, 2012

Operation Christmas Child

The holidays are coming and I think AJ is at the age where it's time to start learning about the real meaning of Christmas. Of course, he's 4 and so he is all about presents. I get that and I am ok with that, but it's time he learn that it's better to give than receive. I have always tried to explain to him that not everyone in this world has all the things he has. He understands the concept of "donating". We often go to the Goodwill together to donate things we no longer need or use.

I found this wonderful organization called Operation Christmas Child. They are a Christian organization that helps children and families in need all over the world. I decided that AJ and I were going do what we could to help out.

We decided to fill up 2 shoe boxes with toys, toiletries and other things and donate them. AJ chose one boy and one girl between the ages of 5-9. We don't know who the kids are or where they live, but we know they will be happy when they receive their Christmas presents from us!

For the boy we got socks, soap, toothbrush, jump rope, hairbrush, mittens, some Hot Wheel cars and a few other things. The girl is getting much of the same but with some princess things in there too:)

We put a note in each box that includes our address - we'd LOVE it if they wrote to us!- along with a picture of AJ and I, wrapped the boxes and will drop them off a nearby church this weekend. The website says we can track the boxes online to see where they go. I don't know how that works yet, but I'll find out.

I tried really  hard to have AJ donate a toy or two of his that he no longer uses, but he just did not want to. I get it. He is young. He doesn't fully understand. He got very upset when I asked him- I think he thought I was going to force him to give away his toys. But I want him to want to donate something so I let him make the final decision.My hope is next year he is old enough to realize how great it would be to donate something of his.

I love that we did this together because it really opened up the discussion of others not having everything he has and teaching him the importance of appreciating all the things he has.

Here's a picture:

Fall Activities 2012

AJ and I have had such a fun Fall! We've done a ton of crafts and other fun things. It's gotten cold and we've had some snow already which has made it really feel like the holidays are coming! Here are some of the things we've been busy doing.
Of course we carved pumpkins

I told AJ that when I was a kid Pop broke out the drill to carve pumpkins. He asked if we could do the same.. "Why not?" He LOVED this!
One day we made caramel apples covered with M&M's. He took them to school and the kids were THRILLED (not sure the teachers felt the same?)

I found a recipe for these DELICIOUS pumpkin spice Hershey Kiss cookies... My gosh, they were dangerously good!

This is Donk. We named him. We love to feed him and the other 10 or so horses near our house.


We went to Jason's neighborhood on Halloween to trick or treat. AJ found some other neighborhood boys and was running from house to house. Was so cute!

We also made a pumpkin cinnamon strudel. This also was SOOO delicious! We both love to cook together- and I love to keep a tiny bit for AJ and give the rest away :)

AJ's school pumpkin! He won "best alien" award :)

He also dressed up as Captain America

Our Astronaut

AJ and I made a Thankful Wreath. A friend shared this idea and I just love it! We made the wreath and then each day we add another thing we're thankful for.

Our church puts on a Barn Dance each year and this is our 2nd year attending. They have many fun things to do there. A pony train, pony rides, hayrides, face painting, and of course dancing.

Pony Train :)

This is Rudolph. We got him at Build A Bear. He's AJ new favorite pet and goes everywhere with us. His nose lights up and and sings THE ENTIRE "Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer"

US 2 at the Barn Dance

Hawaii 2012!!

We recently returned from an AMAZING trip to Hawaii with our family. AJ and I were away for 11 days and I’m thrilled to say that we not only survived, but we had a blast!
We left on Friday and flew into California. We were lucky enough to spend a day with Pop & Grammy Cory. We went to lunch at Ruby’s on the Huntington pier, walked around Main St. and then went to the park. It was so good to see them- even for a short time.
These two couldn't get this thing to work. Leave it to Mom to be the only one to figure it out!

AJ and Grammy walking the pier

AJ gave Pop a run for his money at the playground :)

Silly Pop!

Huntington Beach Pier 10/2012
On Sunday morning we all got up early and headed to LAX. No traffic, easy parking, quick shuttle and short security lines at the airport made this trip start off wonderfully! I was grateful to have Grandma and Papa on our flight- I thought I would need them to help out with AJ on this 5 hour flight. Thankfully, AJ was wonderful for the first few hours and then slept for the last 3! It was a quick trip and super easy.
I had been talking to AJ about this trip for months. I feel like he had a really good idea of what we would be doing in Hawaii. He was truly excited to spend time with his family. He LOVES his family so much. It’s so sweet to see the love he has for everyone.
When we got there, we hit Costco (thank you Papa for keeping him entertained while Grandma and I did the shopping) and then headed to our BEAUTIFUL timeshare. We stayed at the Westin Kaanapali Villa’s. We’ve stayed there a few times and it’s fantastic! They have amazing pools with slides, beautiful restaurants, bars, gorgeous views and a quick walk down to the ocean.

Our beach..

From our balcony!

Our home for a week!
On our trip we did not to make tourist-y type things. We mainly hung by the timeshare pools and the beach. One night we did go to the Old Lahaina Luau- it’s the best! I made the mistake of telling AJ that they cook a pig and then we eat it at the luau. He wasn’t quite sure why they would do that.. And then he really did not want to eat it. But, when I offered him some of my “chicken”, he could not get enough J He loved watching the dancers, but was a little bummed that they didn’t do fire dancing. I think I told him they would be and he was looking forward to that. We had a great time!

The BEST Luau in Maui!

Hang Loose!

With Auntie Kristin and Uncle Matt

With Grandma and Papa

Matt & Kristin

The group!
We spent a lot of time in the water. The timeshare has 2 pools that we spent a ton of time at. AJ’s favorite pool was the pirate ship pool of course! This pool was awesome! It was very shallow and had a pirate ship in the middle of it so kids could go down slides on it, play with the fake cannons throw balls around and just have fun together. We were there most days J AJ was really good about finding new friends to play with each day. Also, right by the pool there was a small playground that he enjoyed too. The other pool was more of an adult or older kid pool for the most part. There was a kid section but no fun toys to play with- or a bigger section with a slide, but he didn’t want to do that.

SUCH a fun pirate pool!

He met tons of new friends

Such a cool playground!

He met some great little boys he and had such a good time with them!
We also spent a lot of time in the ocean! I was INCREDIBLY proud of how brave AJ was this entire trip. The first morning he and Papa went out to the ocean and just played around

I was incredibly proud that he went out there on our first morning. It doesn't look too far out, but he can't touch

We rented snorkel gear and I took AJ out many times with me. He never “snorkeled” but he did go out on a raft a number of times- a few times to the very end of Black Rock and he was never afraid. I tried so hard to get him to put his face in the water with a mask, but he was afraid. He did tell me he could see some of the things I saw- a few bat rays, turtles and tons of fish! It’s so clear in Hawaii that I think he probably did see!

Uncle Matt jumping off Black Rock
AJ also learned to body surf! I was soooo impressed! We would go out just past the shore break and when a wave came, he would ride it in. Over and over and over! He loved it! One time Matt was in there with him and they were playing “dolphin”. It was so cute!

Ready to ride the wave!


Each day, Matt, AJ and Papa made sand castles. And each day they got bigger and bigger! AJ loved that they were a “guys club” and that this was only for the guys to do. The girls were pretty happy laying on the beach watching J One morning the “guys club” went to a blow hole together and they had fun!

1st sand castle

Hard at work!

Waiting for direction from Uncle Matt

Boys club ice cream!

The sand castles got bigger and better every day!

This stuff is hard work!

I think this trip, we did many things right. AJ napped everyday which made life easier on everyone. He was exhausted and because we knew we would be staying up late we wanted him to be happy and rested. He typically woke up about 5:30am and while that was earlier than I wanted, it wasn’t NEARLY as early as our last trip. (1:30am most days?) We got into a routine of him watching TV until the sun came up, then we’d sit on the patio and each breakfast, then be at the pool or beach by 8:30 daily J Naps around 1 and BBQ’d dinner by the pool around 6:30.

More random pictures:

Breakfast with Papa

Testing out his snorkel gear (the first and only time he used them)

Happy boy in the sand

One morning we decided to feed the birds on the balcony. At one point, we probably had 50 birds!

AJ found this adorable girl to play with one day

They had such a fun time! She really helped him be more brave in the water.

AJ and I went to the Banyan Tree one morning. We also went to see the little pigs on Front St., but sadly their weren't any that day..

Front St. Lahaina

Uncle Matt is SO silly!

Cooling off in the pool with Grandma

Matt & Grandma

The last day hangin with Papa