Ice Skating at the Dallas Galleria

Three out of four of us love ice skating and playing hockey.  So we were happy to take our annual trip to the Galleria in Dallas for ice skating around the giant Christmas tree.

The tree is beautiful and it is in the middle of the rink.  Even this picture below doesn't do justice to how tall it is.

Eventually I felt the tug to get out there too.  It was fun, especially with my sweet husband holding my hand.

Stuart and the kids all have their own skates that fit them perfectly.  I had rental skates which were hurting my feet so I didn't skate for very long.

I love watching Stuart skate and play with the kids.  Rachel loved holding her Daddy's hand while skating.

Nicholas was too fast to keep us with.  He was skating backwards a lot of the time and he was still faster than us!

Nicholas acted like he was giving Stuart a hug but then dropped some ice shavings down his back!  That's my silly boy!

Rachel, on the other hand, likes giving real hugs.  She is always tender and sweet.

Although the giant Christmas tree will be down soon, there is still ice skating fun to be had.  They are located inside the Galleria at 13350 Dallas Parkway. Admission is $11.00 per person with $3.00 skate rental.  They also offer skating classes.  Call them at 972-392-3361 for more information or check out the Galleria Ice Skating Center website.

Chimney {Elf on the Shelf}

Chimney is the name for our Elf on the Shelf.  He appears in our home once the Christmas tree is up.  He quietly watches us, listening for gift ideas to tell Santa.  Once we are in bed, he flies back to the North Pole to rest and talk with his elfin buddies.  The next day when we awake Chimney is back and hiding in a new place.  Rachel loves to hunt for Chimney each morning.  

Rachel and her friends had been at our house making homemade Christmas cards for children who would be in the hospital over Christmas.  She had left out some of their card making supplies along with a card that she made for Chimney.  The next morning, she found Chimney had played with the Christmas stickers overnight!

The next morning she found him still covered with a few stickers but taking what looks like a nice hot tub bath in the crock pot.

We had been to a Christmas party one night and I had worn a Santa hat which I just tossed on my desk when we got home.  The next morning Chimney was found snuggled down inside it.

Rachel loves it when Chimney hides in her room.  On this morning she found that he had carried her slipper to the top of her bookcase and hidden in it.  Silly elf!

Elves love toys so it was no surprise that one morning we found that Chimney had built himself a house out of MagnaTiles.

That night Rachel left him a treat to enjoy before he headed back to the North Pole.

One morning we found him hiding in Nicholas' LSU hat.

Sometimes Chimney likes to study up on his history.  Ancient Greece must have interested him on this trip because we found him hiding in the Spartan helmet that Rachel made when we studied ancient times in school.

He was hard to find the morning he hid by the red yarn by the sewing machine because it was a little like camo for the little guy.

He must have practiced some sailing skills as we found him hiding in the little sailboat on the shelf in our bathroom.

Elves can be mischievous.  One morning the kids found that he had wrapped toilet paper around their bathroom!  Can you find him?

There he is wrapped up in toilet paper!

The sweetest time was when we found him watching over Baby Jesus in our nativity scene.

Amazingly, Chimney finds us even when we travel and stay in a hotel.  On Christmas Eve, Santa comes to deliver presents and he will hop in the sleigh and ride back with the big guy and we won't see him again until next year.

Gingerbread Houses

I'm just now going through some of pictures from last month because we had a rough bout with various illnesses among us over a few weeks around Christmas.

I love having the kids decorate Gingerbread house.  I just hate building the houses because the walls NEVER stay up and it is no fun to decorate a falling house.  This year I found 2 kits at WalMart that had the houses already built!  Yay for me!  The kits included a lot of colorful candies and some icing but I bought a few extra things for the kids to have fun with, especially these adorable Christmas gummies!

When the kids decorate their gingerbread houses, I always set out plenty of supplies for them and then I step back.  It can be tempting to get in there with them and try to help direct where to place each candy to make the best looking house.  But there is something bigger going on here.  It isn't about the final product.  It is about the process.  They get to design it however they want.  

I encourage them to experiment and try silly things and see what happens.  They have so much more fun with it that way, even if the house doesn't end up looking like something from Pinterest.

Even if they choose to decorate their house to look like some kind of Christmas monster!  

Wait a minute!  What is that blond hair above my son's lip?!  He's 13 years old and he's been saying he "has a mustache" but I haven't been able to see it until just now with the light reflecting off of that peach fuzz!  Savor the days because our sweet babies grow up too fast!

This sweet one is so proud of her gingerbread house.  She wouldn't have been nearly as proud if I had jumped in and helped her make the "perfect" house. 

This was all about full creativity for them.  I loved watching them have fun and I love both of their creations!

Salvation Army Angel Tree {Volunteer Opportunities for Kids}

Our church has an amazing outreach program through their Next Steps Center.  We volunteer there regularly and we enjoy always having different projects to work on there.  This time Rachel and I volunteered with the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program.  The Angel Tree program has Christmas trees up in various places around town.  The Christmas trees are covered with "decorations" that are cards with the age and gender of a child and their Christmas wish list.  You can choose a child to sponsor by pulling their card off of the tree.  Then you shop for them and bring the gifts to a designated drop off place. 

At the Next Steps Center, the Salvation Army and volunteers had already gathered the gifts together and sorted them all by family.  They were ready for the families to pick them up.  Rachel and I would be working to get the gifts out to each of the families as they showed up to the Next Steps Center.  The majority of gifts were in bags that were sorted by family.

This section was for oversized items that couldn't be grouped with the rest of a family's items in the large bags.  There were lots of doll houses, play pens, ride on toys, car seats, and so much more.

The families started lining up outside to pick up their gifts.  I couldn't help but smile as I noticed the 5 mission statements above the heads of everyone in line.

1. Engage with those in need in our community.
2. Advocate for the underserved in the community.
3. Build strategic partnerships.
4. Develop community kingdom leaders.
5. Equip and release people to meet the needs they see.

I love volunteering here!

So back to the Angel Tree.  There are hundreds of bags to get out to all of these people in line.  It seemed a little overwhelming at first until I understood the system.  It was quite an impressive system!

Each family has a ticket to turn in at the desk.  The volunteer looks up the family and writes down the last three digits of their assigned number on a ticket and hands it to a volunteer in the back (that's us!)

The bags are all lined up in rows and organized into numerical sections.  So if you had ticket 801-825 then you would go down the row to the right in this picture.

Here we had the ticket and gift for 575.  The green ticket told us we had one oversized item to pick up as well.

We would then bring the items to the front to be given to the families.  There were so many smiles on their faces when they received their gifts.  What a wonderful way to get in the Christmas spirit by blessing others! 

Outside of the Next Steps Center were these stacks of  "Boxes of Blessings".

Each box contained non-perishable food items to make about three meals.  Each family that came to pick up their Angel Tree gifts was given a box to take home.

I have enjoyed doing many volunteer projects like this with my kids.  It is a special time that we spend together "doing the most good".  They learn to reach outside of themselves to help others and think of how they can bless the community around them.  These are lessons that our society today is desperately in need of.  If you are interested in getting your children involved in volunteering, start by asking at your church to see if they have some opportunities there in which they can serve.

Blessing Teachers at Christmas {Volunteer Opportunities for Kids}

One of our recent volunteer opportunities was through Valley Creek Church's Next Steps Center.  The Next Steps Center has partnered with a local public school and we have let them know that we are here to help the school, its teachers, and students, in anyway we can.  As one way to serve them, the Next Steps Center recently hosted a Christmas party for the teachers and staff of the school.  The more we can love on the teachers the more they are filled and nourished to love on the children.

Rachel and I volunteered as greeters for the party.  We smiled and welcomed everyone in.  Rachel did such a great job!  Everyone that came in was so nice and friendly.  We even saw our previous next door neighbor whom we love dearly.  I knew she was a teacher in LISD but she was at a different school the last time we talked to her so it was such a surprise to see her!

The party was a success.  They had delicious food and a fun auction.  Everyone seemed to have a great time.

As guests began to leave, we were told to bless each of them with a candy filled apple and a copy of our pastor's amazing book, Follow the Cloud.

Tied to each book was a special invitation to attend our Christmas services.  I do pray that this reached some of those sweet teachers and they are able to come to one of our services.

Rachel and I enjoyed our time with our fellow Next Steps Center volunteers as well as the teachers from the school.  Serving others has been such a blessing for us during this Christmas season and I love finding ways to serve alongside my children.

ICE! at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine

It has been really warm for December and that can make it hard to get in the Christmas spirit.  What better way to find the chill of winter than to visit ICE! at the Gaylord Texan where it is always a brisk 9 degrees.  This year's ICE! theme is 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.  

The Gaylord Texan brought in 140 Chinese ice sculptors to turn 2 million pounds of ice into an amazing colorful storyland.

As we walked through each room, we read a few more stanzas of the story and enjoyed new ice sculptures and creations that went along with what we read.  

The Gaylord provides everyone with their fashionable blue parkas but don't forget a hat and gloves because it is still really, really cold in there.  Remember I mentioned 9 degrees?

It is just amazing that everything we saw was made of ice.

We found Santa and his reindeer!

The kids' favorite part was just past this giant Christmas tree where two-story stair rails were actually 5 amazing ice slides!

Rachel wanted me to get this video of her going down a slide.  They had so much fun here and they waited in line over and over again to do it "just one more time".

The last room was my favorite.  It is an enchanting Nativity scene made of clear ice.

After the exhibit, we enjoyed some hot chocolate with our friends and then headed to the snow tube area.  We have never done the snow tubes before but they kids had a great time.  The employees were cool and gave the kids an extra little spin before releasing them to give them an especially fun ride.

ICE! continues through January 1st and you don't want to miss it!  We have gone on the weekend in the past and the crowds were just too much so I strongly recommend going during the week.