Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pageant Traditions

Today our school had our annual Christmas Pageant, which is one of my favorite days of the entire year.  I tend to be a very sentimental person, and the pageant brings it out big time.  This simple retelling of the story of Christ's birth, in which every child in our school participates, is as much a part of our Christmas traditions as pajamas on Christmas Eve and leaving cookies out for Santa.  I can still vividly remember the first time I saw it, when J was in pre-k.  I was amazed at how much this humble little performance touched my heart.  Twelve years and twenty four performances later(two shows each year), it still moves me to tears.  I have loved watching my babies grow up participating in it.  Each year is a little bittersweet, signifying the passing of time and the speed at which they're growing up.  The first grade angels are my favorite part and tonight I watched my last angel make that walk down the church aisle, sassy smile in place.  I've been the head homeroom mom since J was in 5th grade and N was in kindergarten, which means I'm responsible for overseeing a lot during pageant week.   I, along with my dedicated group of homeroom moms, assist with costumes  rehearsals, and prop repair.  The day of the pageant, we set up for the reception that follows the evening performance, assist with dressing kids in costumes, and generally do anything that needs doing to ensure the pageant goes off without a hitch.  Pageant week is both exhausting and exhilarating, and I love nearly every minute of it.  During the reception, I enjoy standing back and watching families come together, kids congratulating each other on another great performance, alumni having mini reunions and reminiscing about their own pageant years.  At the end of the evening, as I'm locking up the parrish center, observing the school and church in the dark and quiet, I'm struck how much I love our school family, and how lucky my children have been to grow up surrounded by the love and faith our little school has in such abundance. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Official

A while back, within another post, I told you that Coach C would be coaching the 18u TP team this upcoming summer.  While we've known this for a while, he hadn't made an official announcement to the rest of the team.   Well, yesterday he sent out an email to the team, announcing that he would be coaching the 18's, so I can shout it from the rooftops now.  J is thrilled to know that he will have two more summer seasons playing for Coach C.  Okay, we're all thrilled and so looking forward to the summer season, which will begin in May.   The upcoming year is an important one for J and I feel so blessed to know that Coach C will be there to coach and guide him through this very important and special time in his life.   Great things are just around the corner.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Celebrations

Hard to believe that Christmas is just over two weeks away.  Like everyone, we're in a frenzy of holiday preparations.  The kids still have two weeks of school before the break and it's business as usual with all of their activities.  However, despite the frantic pace we do have some fun things planned to enjoy the season. Some have already happened and some are hovering on the horizon.

N's chorus had two concerts last week.  The first was a performance with Christmas with the Celts at our local performing arts center.  The second was a holiday concert with an adult choir and a bell choir from a neighboring town.  Both performances were an outstanding kick off to this month of celebrating.

Our school had a float in the annual Christmas parade this weekend.  A rode on the float dressed as an angel.  She smiled, waved, and sang the entire parade route.  Hubby and I walked the parade behind the float, while J participated in the float of one of the local Little Leagues.  N missed the parade in order to participate with some of the other school kids in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat at the local playhouse.   They sang two songs as the chorus in the production, participating in five shows over four days.

This week, I'm hoping to get to my holiday baking.  I usually bake an assortment of goodies to share with friends and family. I also need to finish up my gift buying, which is nearly complete.  Friday night A has a performance with the baton team in the Christmas show the dance school puts on.  Saturday we're going over to Busch Gardens for Christmas Town with some of my family and some of my brother's work friends.  They're supposed to have light displays, special Christmas shows, visits with Santa, and some of the roller coasters will be running.  The kids are really looking forward to it.   On tap for Sunday is dinner with Coach C.  He's coming to the house and I'm going to cook a Chinese feast.  I'm hoping it turns out well since I'm just starting to delve into Asian cooking.  We also have some Hanukkah gifts for Coach C and it will be nice to spend some time with him, visiting and catching up.

Next week will be a busy one since our annual school Christmas pageant takes place late in the week. It's my favorite holiday activity and the true kick off for Christmas in our family.  This year N will perform in the choir and A will be a first grade angel, one of my favorite parts of the pageant.  I'll for sure be keeping a tissue handy because I cry every year at this beautiful telling of the Christmas story.

After that, the kids will be out of school for two weeks.  We don't travel anywhere for Christmas.  Most of my family is right here, as is hubby's mom.  We'll host the annual Christmas Eve get together for the family, complete with new pajamas for the entire family.  The pajamas are a tradition started back when my brother and I were kids that continues to this day.  Kids and adults alike all have new pajamas to sleep in on Christmas Eve.  I'll take the kids to Christmas Eve mass in the afternoon.  My mom and I will return to church for the midnight service as well.  Christmas Day begins at our house as soon as the kids are awake, which will be early.  You'd think A, being the youngest, would be the first one up.  However, J is without fail always the first one awake, wakes up his siblings, and calls the rest of the family so they can get here in a hurry.   Everyone will gather to open stockings and gifts from us.  Then we'll move onto to either my mom's or my aunt's to open gifts there and have breakfast.  The gift opening will conclude at the third house where we'll have Christmas dinner.

Whatever your holiday traditions are, I hope the season is filled with much love and joy for you and your loved ones.  Remember to slow down long enough to enjoy the traditions and celebrations unique to your family, and to count the blessings in your life.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Worthwhile Cause

A few days ago, Coach C called to ask if it would be alright if he sent me some information regarding a philanthropy project his fraternity is involved in to raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network..  I of course said yes, and told him I'd happily share the information with as many people as possible.  I've since shared it on my Facebook page, emailed it to several friends, and have decided that posting it here will reach the few people who may read this blog.  I'm going to let Coach C speak for himself here, since I think he very movingly describes the work being done for the Children's Miracle Network.  If you feel moved to donate to the cause, I'm including the link to Coach C's personal donation page at the bottom of the page.  The following words are from Coach C:

Dance Marathon at UF is considered the most successful student-run philanthropy in the southeastern United States. During the event approximately 800 students will stay awake and on their feet for 26.2 hours to raise funds for Shands Hospital for Children, our local Children’s Miracle Network hospital right here in Gainesville.

Over the past 18 years, Dance Marathon at UF has raised more than $5.3 million for pediatric research, leading-edge medical equipment, and diversionary activities for children who must endure long hospital stays. Your support means a great deal to these patients and they are at the heart of Dance Marathon. Here is my thank you letter from last year which defines my experience with this incredible cause:

To My Family and Friends,
As I write this letter to you, I have just come back from UF Dance Marathon, and thanks to your generous contributions to this unbelievable cause my fraternity won the Miracle Cup for the second year in a row by contributing $31,000 to our team total. Thanks to all of you, and the thousands of people just like you, UF Dance Marathon is now the largest run student philanthropy in the country as it raised a staggering $866,000 dollars for the Children’s Miracle Network. I’m writing you this letter to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your donations, because today I learned the true importance of your contributions.
This was my first year participating in Dance Marathon. I had always believed in the cause and mirrored my fraternity’s enthusiasm for the philanthropy, but I never fully grasped just how incredible this event is until I had the opportunity to experience it for myself. For those of you who don’t remember the email, UF Dance Marathon is an event where dancers, backed by a large support staff, stand for 26.2 hours straight to raise money for life saving equipment in the Pediatrics department at Shands Hospital. I worked on the Morale staff this year. My job was essentially to help the dancers in anyway possible, keep spirits up during the marathon, and provide entertainment to keep the dancers occupied. I worked 20 of the 26.2 hours and I can honestly say that I have never been more emotionally touched in my entire life. Throughout the event families and their children whose lives have been saved thanks to this amazing charity tell their stories to the dancers and the staff. Their unyielding strength despite insurmountable odds made a lasting impact on myself and put the gravity of the entire event in perspective; however, none made a more lasting impression on me than a young boy named Justin. I met Justin while in the family relations area of the O’Connell Center, which is the arena in which we held the event. He was throwing a ball around and we started playing catch and talking. He told me he was 14, loved baseball, and that it was his dream to play in the Major Leagues one day, preferably for his beloved Tampa Bay Rays. For the next hour I gave Justin lessons in both hitting and pitching, and by the end of the hour he had improved substantially. As he ran to go tell his parents all the new things he had learned, his jeans rode up to his ankle as he ran, and I saw that Justin had a prosthetic left leg. Not once during our time together did he ever mention his disability, nor did he let it affect his play. After seeing this, I had to excuse myself so he wouldn't see me crying. His resolve, his fun loving nature, and his courage to dream big despite his chances being so small, rocked me to my very core. Justin is a testament to the results of the money you contribute to Dance Marathon. Thanks to you, this remarkable young man was given the chance to live, and was able to become the unbelievably brave person he is today. 
Justin is just one of the 100,000 children Shands treats every year, and each of the children who came with him to the marathon were different in ailment, but equal in spirit. I am so proud to have been a part of this wonderful cause. It has had such a huge effect on my life, and it is with all my heart that I thank you for your generosity and your kindness. It has meant more then you will ever know. Thank you.

Your dollars can truly make miracles happen for these children, and I ask you to give what you can. There stories have touched my heart and my experience with them has changed my life. Thank you for your time.

Follow this link to donate  click here to be taken to the page to make your contribution.