Thursday, December 26, 2013

Schultz Service 2013 "Making A Difference"-From Brian

Christy's family started a tradition last year where the adults chose in lieu of giving physical gifts to each other, we would give the gift of service. We would choose a name of a family member and instead of giving service to that person, we gave service to someone else, and hopefully along the lines of something that meant something to the person they chose. For example, if the person loved apples, then the service was hopefully something that had to do with apples.  Then after the service we write about it with pictures and then read all the posts on Christmas Day among our family.

Brian chose my sister, Amber.  He did a really great job giving service in her name.  Here is a copy of his write up.

"I've always thought of Amber as a person that is very concerned with making sure that everyone around her is included in anything.  Whether it be a family gathering, or feeling like they're a special part of Christmas.  I can't imagine her being happy if she knew that someone got left out.

When it came time to thinking of service that I could do on her behalf, I struggled for a little while; until I heard about the Angel Tree program they do on the army base for those less fortunate.  For those of you who don't know what that is, it's where you pick a name off the tree of a child who is in need of a toy at Christmastime.  I didn't like the idea of some of the children over here not having much of a Christmas; especially when one of their parents might be deployed or gone for the holidays.  So I went down to one of the (several) "trees" that were to be found in our area and found a 3-year old Boy and a 2-year old Girl that I could try to help make Christmas a little better for this year.

The boy loves Barney.  That was a challenge, since it seems that Barney isn't the most popular toy these days.  I checked three or four toy stores, but didn't have much luck.  But fortunately, walking through an electronics store I came across a 3-DVD set of classic Barney episodes.  Then, Spencer wanted to help, so he suggested that the boy would surely love some Thomas trains.  So we added two Thomas the Tank Engine metal trains to the gift bag.

The girl wanted a doll that she could dress up.  So I had to ask Christy for a little help there.  We searched a few toy stores until we found a toddler-safe doll that had plenty of accessory packs.  Here are a few pictures of the toys we got.  There were a few pictures of me holding the toys but I can't find them now.  I was also taken aback at how many people also participated in the Angel Tree program when I dropped the gifts off.  Especially because when I had first picked the names off the tree there were still so many that needed to be filled.  And that continued on for about a week.  But now the tree is empty and the box is full.  No kids will be left without a Christmas around here!

The second thing I did in Amber's honor was take part in the Mrs. Claus project Christy's friend started last year.  Over here, and even in the states, there are many families whose spouses would be deployed on Christmas.  A lot of times these spouses don't receive Christmas gifts because it takes too long to get to them.  Or many times their husband is coming home in month so they can bring the gifts then, or they simply just don't have the money.  Many of them are disappointed, sad and a little depressed not to have something to open on Christmas Day.

When Annie first heard of this she knew these spouses left behind needed a little something to be opened on Christmas Day. And who knows better about being left alone on Christmas than Mrs. Claus.  Thus, the Mrs. Claus Affair!

Each spouse is nominated and then the Mrs. Claus Affair finds volunteers to fill a basket with about $50-$75 worth of gifts and bring it to them before Christmas Eve.  Here is the nomination email and instructions of what we're supposed to do.

Andrew writes:

"Amanda is a volunteer dance instructor, for children.  She dances ballet, hip-hop - everything for fun as well.  My wife is good friends with her and says she really wants a “Nutcracker” , the character from the ballet.  I guess it is at the christmas store in the BX (I have know idea, being a man!).  She also likes dogs - has two of them.  She would like to travel more around here.  Probably likes girl things like the spa and facials and things like that.  She is a very sweet 25yrs old, first time on her own for the past 4months away from her husband.  She is not able to take off Christmas because of her job here, so she has decided to make the most of it and will volunteer at the USO on Christmas day.  Overall, Amanda is easy-going and would be happy with any token of appreciation.  We just wanted to try something nice for her since we will be away from the holiday.

Thank you again,

Do not feel obligated to get her a nutcracker, I say have fun shopping for whatever you want to get her she sounds fun and easy. 

So here are your instructions:

1. Shop for something fabulous that you think is appropriate. Whatever you can give is appreciated. Remember, we want her to have something to open.
2. Write a PERSONAL LETTER including your address and contact
information so she knows who was thinking of her.
3. Wrap gift with your letter included.
envelope and write, "READ ME FIRST" on the outside. 
5. Deliver package!

Christy and I shopped for quite a few things to make this basket beautiful, even shopping for a handmade nutcracker at the Wiesbaden Christmas Market.  Here are a few of the items we put in the basket.

Here's Christy running it in to the girls.  We got to meet her and she seemed genuinely shocked and overjoyed that we would think of her.  I left my email just in case she wanted to touch base with us.  But at least she wasn't one of the ones who were "left behind" on Christmas!

It was a lot of fun, looking for toys for kids and giving a package to someone that will hopefully make their Christmas even brighter and makes me hope that maybe they'll have a happier, or more joyful Christmas morning.

Love you Amber!!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How We Spent Christmas Day

I have to say that this Christmas made me a little nervous because it was our first one as our small little family.  We decided this year not to go back for Christmas and spend our money on a cruise last summer.  We've never spent Christmas together.  Even back in the states we traveled to California to spend with our cousins or the girls visited their Dad in Utah.  The girls were pretty nervous and because they're one of the older cousins in the Schultz family, they really hold the Christmas traditions as super important.  They were pretty nervous they wouldn't have a good year, but I assured them that most of the extended family was doing their own thing anyway.  They gave it a chance.   I think it turned out awesome.  Here's how we spent Christmas Day.

Christmas Morning
The favorite tradition!  waiting on the stairs for Christmas presents.  They wait until everyone is ready and then when the parents are ready at the bottom, they run down the stairs to see what Santa had brought.  They're allowed to look into their stocking and open any presents inside.  Then we started passing out the Homemade Presents.

Homemade Presents
To see what our Homemade Present tradition is, click here for the first post.

Present Opening
After we opened our Homemade Christmas presents, we also opened the rest of the presents under the tree. Another tradition the girls love is handing out the presents one at a time.  Then we all open one present at the same time, then go around the room and show everyone what they got.  This year I think was a really great Christmas. They got almost everything on their list and I was, for the first time, not nervous they were going to be disappointed.

I didn't catch very many pictures, but here are a few.  There's a video about 3 pictures down, which is of the big present we're getting them this year. We couldn't get a real one because of other circumstances, so we'll have to look in the next few weeks.  

Christmas Dinner
Xoe and Xanthe love having people over for dinner, so we invited a family for Christmas Dinner.   At the last minute they all got sick.  We weren't sure what to do for Christmas Dinner until at the last minute we received an invitation from the Bushman family.  My friend, Jenni, was visiting with her friend, Sammy, and I hadn't been able to see them yet.  I was so excited to go see them and it was perfect timing. we had a fabulous time.

One of my favorite moments was when Jenni's mother asked us to sing.  We weren't prepared so we just sort of sat down playing through Christmas songs.  We didn't sing anything as a performance, we just sort of sang at the piano.  We had such a great time, a lot of laughs and a ton of Christmas Spirit.  One of my favorite Christmases for sure.

Christmas Movie Night
One of our long-standing family Christmas traditions is to go to the movies on Christmas Day.  We left the Bushman's house to go to the movies on base.  The only movie was Walking with Dinosaurs in 3-D, one that Spencer has been counting down the days to see.  The girls reluctantly joined us but it was a fun family night.

What a great Christmas!!!  I love our little family!

Homemade Christmas-From Xanthe

Many of you know we started a new tradition last year.  For a very long time I've felt the loss of the "spirit of Christmas" and mulled many years on how to bring it back.  I hated the feeling of too many obligations (attending parties and giving random presents).  I wanted my family to start focusing on what it feels like to have the "Spirit of Christmas."  One of the ways was by having a homemade Christmas.  Each person puts a lot of thought into making a homemade gift for each member of the family.  It doesnt' have to be elaborate, but just personal and homemade for that person.

Last year was such a success.  Not only did each person spend most of the Christmas season thinking of what to make for their loved ones (instead of what they were going to "get"), they had more experience really FEELING how good it feels to give to another person.  And even though I was the one planning it, I insisted someone help Spencer make a gift for me.  Not that I cared about getting gifts, I just wanted Spencer to have more opportunities to feel how good it feels to give, more than receive.  

My favorite memory of last year was watching Spencer's excitement as he found his gifts he had made and watched each person open it.  He was shaking with anticipation and a huge smile was plastered all over his darling face.  It was exactly what I had wanted and anticipated he would feel.  Because this year we got to watch the videos from last year for him to relive his excitement and remember how good it felt to give more than receive.

My friend, Annie, caught on to the homemade Christmas idea and not only adopted it with her own family (which was a huge success), but she wrote an article for the local newspaper with about 20,000 readers.  Here's the link if you'd like to read up on it.

So without further adieu, here is our 2013 Homemade Christmas.  

These are the gifts made and given by Xanthe...  She did such a great job and I am finding out how creative Xoe and Xanthe are!  Great job Xanthe!

For Dad

A personalized notebook with his initial on it.

For Mom
Coupons for lots of homemade gifts and services.  Yay!

Cookies in a Jar.
 For Xoe
Fingerless gloves.  The girls' favorite kinds.  Annie helped Xanthe with this.

For Spencer
Xanthe hand painted this picture of a steam engine. It's a Paint by Number but a very intricate one. It took her almost two weeks of working on it every night.  Such a great job, isn't it?

For the rest of the family, I have created separate posts. They are immediately following this post.