Please meet the four airmen trainees we hosted Thanksgiving day. Awesome guys. Families: They’ve got some shout-outs for you.
Malcolm from Illinois
Gustav from Colorado
John from Georgia
Carlos from Florida
Lots of phone calls home! Gustav has 12 siblings. Let’s just say the cordless phones had to be recharged.They took turns in Julia’s room for more private conversations than the game room would allow.
The trainees eat breakfast very early (we picked them up at 7:30 a.m.), so snacks around 10:30 went quickly. We baked brie wheels for the first time, and covered them with pineapple Habanero sauce. Omigosh. So totally scrumptious.
Have you tried this sauce yet? You need to. HEB had it BOGO last week. We’ve had it on pork and turkey before, and just poured over cream cheese as a dip. But smothering the baked brie? Ummmm!
Lois’ 20thbirthday was on Thanksgiving, too. And considering she was born two months early, her birthday is cause for special gratitude. Julia was determined she not enjoy a birthday nap.
Thanks Linda and John, and Malcolm, Gustav, John and Carlos. Carlos has friended me on Facebook – c’mon Gustav, John and Malcolm!I want to keep up with your service and travels.
Now that we’ve enjoyed a season of THANKS, we can express more joy in the season of celebration.
Now….anybody need some leftover fried turkey, or a bowl of Spinach Madeline?!
I know the Christmas season is short this year. I know retailers depend on its purchasing lure. I, too, enjoy Christmas music, and my Christmas Fiestaware, and everyone’s trees, and the caramel corn, and the cards. I love digging out my 10-year-old Christmas sweaters, hoping that maybe one day of December will be cool enough to wear one.
But darn it – can’t we enjoy Thanksgiving first? Can’t we – as individuals, families and a nation – stop for one day and say, “Thank you, God, for that with which you’ve blessed us” before we crash headlong into a credit card and wrapping paper frenzy?! Abraham Lincoln set aside a day for national reflection and called it “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father” – not “the day before Black Friday.”
The day after Thanksgiving – our tree will be up. Our cards will be getting ready to mail. Our Christmas CD’s will be playing. And – most happily for me – I’ll be perusing every Christmas card for pictures and news of ones we love.
(l-r) Julia (13) and cousin Laura (10) in the front. (My brilliant niece) Sarah, Lois (19), cousin James (6), Rachel (22) and Hannah (17) in the back.
But until that “day after” – we’re going to enjoy the “season of.”
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. Thanks, Abe.
What that means: 234 children in desperately poor circumstances will receive a shoe box gift containing school supplies, some kind of clothing (T-shirt, socks, or gloves, etc.), toys, candy and the story of the Nativity in the child’s language. Each box also contains a photo and Christmas greeting from our family, or from friends who help pack. The photo isn’t ego – it’s joy for the child to think of real people creating this gift. The box itself is plastic, so it will last. The most commonly-observed use of the plastic shoe box is to carry water.
We buy/store “stuff” all year long, then start pulling it out of cabinetry, Target bags, cardboard boxes, etc. as we approach the packing party. I start by just seeing what we have (and may have to run get), then start putting piles together of all school supplies, all toys, etc. We bought colorful storage tubs at Sam’s a few years ago that really help organize, and we keep three folding tables for just this purpose.
If you use Facebook, I urge you to “like” Operation Christmas Child. The stories, the packing tips, the encouragement – their posts are just awesome as a source of both inspiration and education in your news feed.
Our lives and our house are pretty much all about the boxes the week before Halloween through delivery. Julia’s friends Sophia and Emily had come over to “rainbow loom” with her, however, I asked them for 20 minutes@ punching out toothbrushes from packaging. I think Julia was a little embarrassed, just as Rachel, Lois and Hannah were in years past. There’s so much dirt work to be done before packing. I have no pride. If you’re in our house during box season, no matter who you are, you’re likely to be asked to punch, pack, peel, stack or count.
This was Julia’s idea – stacking the boxes in the small hallway between her room and Lois’ room to give us a bit more space in the game/packing room. She and Hannah pre-packed the boxes we had on hand with a photo, label, bag and beanie cap. Julia and her friend Sophia took turns standing in this hallway during the packing party, handing each box to a packer and reading aloud the age/gender for which to pack.
This was the first year we didn’t have a full-sized box of crayons for every shoe box. Made me a little sad, but we did have the next-best thing: Our friend Kelley’s re-formed crayons. In addition to preparing a small bag of re-formed crayons for each shoe box, Kelley and her mother Paula handled all the “bagging” this year, and there was plenty of it. We ziploc bag every cloth item to keep it clean, plus the bag becomes part of the gift. All candy has to be bagged, too. I estimate these 234 boxes used 1,500 – 2,000 ziploc bags.
“It’s something I can do.”
Re-forming crayons, bagging, organizing – it’s all got to be done before the packing party.
Thanks, Amy, for supplying dinner! Gotta eat before you can pack!
View of the upstairs game/packing room. I didn’t count, but I think we had about 35 friends over through the evening. The game/packing room was cozy.
A fun new thing this year: I found some small, colorful food storage cubes in the HEB clearance bin. Turns out they were each just big enough to hold three wrapped pieces of candy. Paula and Kelley filled them ahead of time for friends like Travis and his mom Angela to select for their box.I filled my grocery cart with them; wish I’d bought a second cart full.
For the first time in years, we had a notepad for each box. Friends Connie and Theresa packed early, and could be design selective. Also for the first time in years, we had some T-shirts that weren’t corporately-branded.
From upstairs packing to downstairs fit’n'finish – topping off with candy bags and other “littles,” peeling of the box label, taping the age/gender label to the box top, using three large rubberbands to secure the box, tallying on the stroke sheet then stacking.
Like our friend Kelley – friend Kendra (orange shirt) is blind. With four kids. And teaching classes at church. And a returned worker from the foreign mission field. And….what was my excuse again?
Downstairs: One of our youngest helpers – Cameron, 5, and our most senior helper, “Aunt Ment.” Notice the hospital bracelet on Aunt Ment, who had been released that morning but insisted on coming to help.
Five-year-old helpers Maddie and Mabry stacked completed boxes at first by gender, but later (with direction) by box design. It’s easier to stack all boxes of the same kind together (6.5 qt Sterlite boxes stacked together, 6-qt. Rubbermaid boxes stacked together, etc.) The kids helping were one of my favorite parts of the evening. Their strong, young arms and legs performed most of the box transport from upstairs packing to downstairs fit’n'finish, then stacking. Kids learn by doing, not by lecture. I admire their parents for really training them, not just stroking their egos.
Our friend Bart – who holds multiple PhD’s – chose to fill bags with late-arriving candy all evening. I’m sure some would sniff at his use of time – my goodness, isn’t he wayyy too educated and important for that? I think – like Kelley – it’s “something he can do” and he’s glad to share, which is a sign of wisdom and not mere knowledge.
Desiree handled boxes brought fresh to the packing party – inserting a photo, label, mesh bag and beanie cap into each before sending upstairs to fill.
At the end of the evening – 234 boxes all done! And – amazingly – the game room in great shape, thanks to good friends who cleaned up as they went along (stacked empty boxes, threw away scraps of paper, etc.) Wow, what a treat! I’d taken off two days for clean-up alone but – thanks to them – only needed one, leaving me a day to have some fun.
We delivered the boxes today, so, last night – loading the car.
Julia’s friend Sophia plus the neighbor kids helped us get the boxes to the curb so they could be loaded in the car. After about my 20th trip up/down our front steps carrying boxes, I was well aware of my advancing age.
Saturday night loading boxes in the dark. Not a fan of the time change.
Keith fit all 234 boxes in the Expedition. I didn’t think it could be done which, of course, was his incentive to do so.
View from inside the Expedition this morning, where Hannah loaded boxes onto any passerby…
…like handsome little helper Elias, on his way to the sanctuary.
Finally – 234 boxes stacked under a map of the world. Fitting. We know some of our boxes have gone to Eastern Europe and Mexico. We don’t know about the rest, though it’s always fun to speculate. The girls and I hope some of ours have gone to Russia. We know someone’s went to Moldova.
So – a great year for boxes. Our generous friends supplied the “stuff” and labor to complete 234 boxes toward the Samaritan’s Purse goal of 10M. That’s more than we’ve ever done before, but….it’s not about the number. It’s never been about the number. The only “number” that matters here is “3:16.”
I have not attempted to mention everyone who helped. The list is long, and most of our friends would be mortified to have their generous gifts called out. It’s not why they gave them.
I am a little worried about next year. I am not sure my corporate friends have any more store rooms to clean out, and Target has really sucker-punched us on clearance merchandise (reducing to only 50% instead of 70%, plus jobbing much of it out to a location/merchant we can’t seem to find.) Plus the children of many of my friends are older now, and there are far fewer Happy Meal toys to store – unopened – in our game room.
So please – be alert to opportunities to gather/buy for the boxes. You may come across 15 outdated-from-the-volleyball tournament-last year T-shirts when you least expect it. Or maybe at that trade show, you picked up two decks of cards and a dozen pens you don’t know what to do with. Or you have extra favors from a birthday party, or you hit the mother lode of cheap Matchbox cards at Wal-mart. Who knows? Leave yourself open for the possibility, and it could come.
To paraphrase Kelley – “it’s something we can do.”