Monday, December 15, 2014

Making a difference one bike at a time

About 5 years ago the Stow soccer team got involved with a local non-profit organization called "Elves and More". Each December, this group made up of hundreds of volunteers build about 1,000 bikes which are then brought to a neighborhood known for poverty and open their trucks so every child gets a bike for Christmas.
Elves and More has been doing this work for the last 9 years. Kyle has been going for about 5 years with his soccer team and their parents. This year, they had a pretty big group.

Grace and I joined their group for the first time last winter. This photo from 2013 was on the Elves and More Facebook page taken by their professional photographer.
This is our second year going as a family.
Grace took this photo using my big camera.  Not bad!

On the bike build day you have to get up early and go to a cold, kind of dirty warehouse which looks like this when you first arrive. The boxes along the back store the bikes and the red cups are to collect the covers for the tire caps (where you inflate the tires).
Everyone hustles all morning building bikes, hauling boxes to be recycled, filling tires with air, and moving the bikes to the storage areas until the trucks come the following Saturday to pick them up and they are delivered the next day.  It is all kept very secret until the last possible minute.
Together, the volunteers built about 1,100 bikes this year. It is a great experience and a good chance to do something nice for the holidays.
Even though we don't get to see the children who receive the bikes (we think they are going to Canton, OH this year) we know we helped make a difference in someone's life.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hey, that's my hat!

My hat looks so much cuter on Grace! (She's wearing my gloves, too.)  Hmmmm.....

Saturday, December 13, 2014

All Aboard!

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs a "Polar Express" each winter between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We went a couple of times when Grace was really little but haven't gone the last few years.  Last year, she asked about it and I felt bad that I couldn't get tickets at that point since they always sell out.

Each Christmas we hang this photo on the refrigerator of our first Polar Express ride.
Grace wasn't too happy to meet Santa that year.  It was 2008 and she was about 1 1/2 years old.  We went that year and the next couple of years with Kellie and Dawson. Look how cute those two babies were!

And look at their little diapered, baby butts taking a peek over the seats.
This year I bought a membership to the CVSR so we didn't miss the opportunity to choose our night and the tickets we wanted.  The train leaves Akron's Northside Station for about a 30 minute drive to the "North Pole".  During the ride the elves lead the children in singing Christmas carols, the conductor punches their name in their ticket, and everyone enjoys some hot, hot chocolate and cookies.   When the train arrives at the North Pole riders are greeted by lots of Christmas lights, elves, Mr. and Mrs. Winter and their dog, and Santa and Mrs. Claus who drive by in their own little train and wave.  The woods past the town are even illuminated by the Aurora Borealis! No one gets off the train at any point and there wasn't any snow this year, but no one seemed to notice.
Grace was SO excited to go on the train ride and had a lot of energy during the trip.  It made Kyle and me really happy to see that innocent belief in the magic of Christmas.
She was much better with Santa this time....but, she has talked to him dozens of times since that first encounter in 2008.  And, Grace knows he will bring her presents if she is NICE!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How many years make a tradition?

This was the fourth year Grace and I went to see The Nutcracker at the Akron Civic Theater.  It is a nice, local production that utilizes the talents of dancers from a dance studio as well as brings in principal dancers from other parts of the country.  After 4 years, I notice that some of the same adults are in this performance year after year and the children who are students progress through the roles as their dancing skills improve.

Thanks to Nana and Ba we bought this AMAZING nutcracker to add to Grace's collection.  She now has three.  If you are keeping track, that is one for each year except the first year when Grace was afraid of the nutcracker and didn't want to take one home!
This one is standing on a silver sparkle tray of cookies that he looks like he just baked. Hanging from his belt are a set of measuring spoons and a wafer cookie to match one of them on the tray. We love the glitter that matches the others in the collection.
Grace's piano teacher also has a nutcracker collection.  So, Grace chose the silver one as a gift for her.
When I asked Grace what she liked best about The Nutcracker she said, " I can't choose.  It was all so good!"  I think it had more meaning this year since she is starting to understand the discipline and athleticism that ballet requires.  Her teacher, Eric Carvill, is in Hawaii for the next two weeks performing in The Nutcracker. I think that is great!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Country Lights

We have a little gem called Lake Farmpark nearby. It is a working farm that is part of the Metro Parks system.  They hold fun events and hands-on opportunities for kids and families all year round. But we have never been there. Until tonight.
A few weeks ago some friends at work were talking about the Country Lights event where the children get to see Santa and his "elves" help them use real power tools to make a wooden toy in Santa's workshop.  It sounded like a fun thing to try.

The "sold out" event ran from 5-9pm and when you buy your ticket you are assigned a time in the toy factory. We decided to drive up there early to do all the other activities before Grace made her toy. This turned out to be a good decision.  Even though we arrived a about 5:15 this is how dark it was already.

It wasn't too crowded yet so we walked right in to see Santa and only waited a few minutes to ride the horse-drawn wagon to see all the Christmas lights.

Santa told me that Grace asked for magic sand, an Anna costume so she can play "Frozen" when a friend comes over, and Anna, Elsa, and Cristoph dolls.

We stopped by the model trains, rode a pony, laughed at the antics of the dogs showing off their agility, and visited the dairy area where 5 different types of cows were eating their dinner.

The cows were my favorite part.  Sure, I have seen cows before but never 5 different breeds side-by-side so you could compare them.  It was interesting to see their different sizes and to learn how much milk each one produced in a year.  And, at least Anabelle didn't mind having her picture taken!

After some hot chocolate and a snack we got in line for the toy workshop.  There had to be 50 different types of wooden objects the kids could assemble.  Grace chose a minion from "Despicable Me".  Her elf, Jen, helped Grace use a power drill and a hammer to assemble it and then right in the middle of their work, an elf dance party started!

The elves got up on the tables and started dancing. Grace jumped right in with her elf, although I am not sure what she thought of the whole thing!  And before we knew it, snow (soap bubbles) was falling on us from the sky!  Funny!

Grace painted her minion and adorned it with a googly eye and LOTS of glitter!  She was really proud of it when we got home.  I am sad that she wants to give it away to a friend.

Kyle told me that as we were leaving, Grace said, "I wish we were just getting here.  I had so much fun I want to do it all again!"  Now THAT is cool.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Handprint art

My little helper made sure that all our Christmas decorations were "just right".  We decided to do a project together by painting Grace's hands.  Then we all added thumbprint lights on the tree.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Second grader

Our second grader has a mind of her own! Grace didn't like the grey background I picked for her school picture so on picture day she told the photographer to change it to pink!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Queen Elsa

After trick-or-treating tonight, Grace sorted and counted he candy and made a list of what she got - all 89 pieces.  That was a great exercise in math and writing, but it is going to make it more difficult for Kyle and me to steal some without her knowing!  I hope Queen Elsa doesn't get angry and turn us into ice!