Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sunday Morning

The Caravan of Dreams...
...or, all of us lined up to go to the Community Center.

When we were in Indiana, Sunday morning, we went with some of our Indiana relatives to serve breakfast at a community center on the east side of Indianapolis. This was the brain child of my mom and her brother, my uncle, who I call Unk. They thought it would be nice to do something good for others as a family. Then, my mom did a lot of research to find something that kids could participate in, and then, thanks to someone else canceling, she was able to schedule it when we were home.

It was so funny - she sent this email to the whole family - it said, "Good news! The family scheduled to work at the community center on Dec. 28th had to cancel!" I know she meant we would be able to all work together when we were in town and she was excited about it. But, the sentence on it's own made me laugh out loud. "Whew - someone canceled on feeding the needy. Close call." Funny.

Some of the food.

The center serves a community that is very low income. Buses go around to pick up the residents and bring them to the center so they can have regular meals.

And more food.

We provided one of these meals. Breakfast. The center tells you what to buy, and about how many people they usually serve. It being a holiday weekend, we figured we'd either have hardly any people or tons. When we arrived, on a very cold, blustery morning, there was some issue with getting the door unlocked. I had some time to shoot those food photos. We froze for a brief moment. Then, we went inside.

It was a nice, well-stocked commercial kitchen.

We went right to work once we got inside.
That's Bevi, Unk's better half, and Unk unloading groceries over there.

S and I lined up these french toast sticks to be baked.

Steve and mom got the sausage ready for the oven.
The sausage is apparently a favorite.

The kids helped put out the cereal...

...didn't they do a great job?

The kids also helped put out the drinks.
Bevi and Deacon are lining them up in this photo.

S cooked the french toast sticks and sausage in these here ovens.
And he wore that manly oven mitt very well, yes?

There were also apples and bananas to cut up.
Lori, Unk's daughter and my cousin, and Unk really enjoyed that task.

Then it was time for the community to arrive.
Bevi made last minute preparations...
(that's Isaiah, Lori's son)

...and the kids took their places.
(the two older girls are volunteers, but not related to us)

Cora, not being much of an early bird, (and 4) wasn't too into all of it...

...but the other kids really enjoyed serving.
Bevi and Lori were on french toast stick and sausage detail.

During a break in the action, Deacon told Bevi the ways of the world.

Unk, S and Mom visited in the kitchen.

As it turned out, the crowd was light. This allowed for some down time - we gabbed in the kitchen, catching up and passing the time.

Terri, still-not-awake Cora, and Steve.

Then, when it was evident we were going to have LOTS of food left over, the kids sat down to have some breakfast. After they ate, Bevi single-handedly kept them all engaged, as you can see below.

Bevi and her posse: Isaiah, Veda, Cora and Deacon.

After everything was cleaned up, everyone washed their hands with soap.
And we went home.

This activity was new for us this year - we did it in lieu of a gift exchange, thanks to Unk and Mom coming up with that plan - we spent money we would normally have spent on gifts on the food for this breakfast. We already have too much stuff - it was a good use of the funds. And, a good way to give back to the community, to remember how fortunate we are, and to spend time together as a family. It was a good new holiday tradition.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Indiana Christmas 2008

We had four very full days of visiting and Christmas-ing in Indiana last week. Today's post is sort of an overview of all of that. I'll comment in more detail on some things later this week. So, here we go. Hold on to your hats - it's gonna be a whirlwind tour!

First of all, I must bring to your attention this song, and full lyrics here, sung by the group Straight No Chaser. It pretty much sums up how excited I am to get to Indiana each year around Christmas - we aren't always there on Christmas, but we are definitely there around Christmas. And, I think this group has done a great job of summing up why I can't wait to get on that plane!

I should also say all of these photos are SOOC (straight out of the camera) except some slight editing on the group shots. I had to work fast to get something up today. Let me also say that I probably have skewed toward the early events on number of pictures, because as I kept moving it got later and later. So, if you were there and I didn't highlight your favorite part or person, it isn't because I didn't like that part or person - it's because I was working really fast through lots of photos. And, one more caveat - I have to say I wasn't that thrilled with the total of all the photos this year - I was trying a new lens, so the focus was sometimes off, and I should have turned on the flash more to get less blur. But, other than that, here we go!

On Christmas Day, we opened presents with mom at her house and S made us pancakes for breakfast.

For some reason, S decided to wrap up in this blanket and wear a hat.
He's showing off his new shaving brush he received from Mom for Christmas.

Mom, checking out the necklace that S and I got her.

After breakfast we did some cooking.

The photo above shows some sugar and spice cookies I made. A colleague of mine at work brought me some of these cookies in a holiday bag of treats. I thought they were so yummy I tracked down the recipe and wanted to make them for my mom. It has one sort of unusual ingredient, and that is masa. I'm not sure we found the right masa at the Super Target in was instant masa...but I forged ahead to make the cookies. When I was done, my mom didn't really like them. So, I took them to the other gatherings to share them around. I still think they are fabulous. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.

Chex Mix in the oven.

The boxes of Chex cereal now say to use the microwave - it takes off like an hour of time. But, I was leery - how would it crisp up right and brown? So, this first batch I made in the oven. The second batch I made in the microwave. It was just as good. Microwave from now on, baby. Of course, my microwave at home is so small that I'm not sure I can make Chex Mix in it, but I'm gonna try!

In the afternoon we spent some time at my brother Steve and sister-in-law Terri's house visiting and eating. We saw what Santa brought the kids and played with some of their toys with them.

Veda showed Grandpa her new Nintendo DS.

Cora showed S how to play with the doodle pro.

This is just to show my brother Steve's house also has elves.

Deacon and S played Lincoln Logs.
I remember Steve playing with these as a kid.

Veda, me, Terri and Cora played Cootie.
Man, is THAT a long game.

And Steve installed a ceiling fan.

Terri really cleaned up at Christmas this year. Not only did she receive a ceiling fan, a microwave, an under the cabinet CD player for the kitchen and a jewelry armoire among other things, Steve installed all of that stuff all on Christmas day. The installation part was the part that really put her over the top and made it an extraordinary Christmas, don't you agree?

Later, Nana came over and brought presents to the kids. Some of the presents she brought them she had made.

Nana made matching nightgowns for Veda and her doll, Kit.

Deacon received a Cars pillow for his bed.
And, look at those cute dinosaur pajamas.
He'll hate this photo when he's 16.

Cora got a new blanket, made by Nana.

Cora needed a new blanket because Steve was in a car accident earlier this year in the family's minivan. Cora's blanket was in the car at the time of the accident, and full of glass. So, it had to go with the car to the dump. Nana made her a replacement, though. She was thrilled.

S got birthday cake on his birthday, too.

The day after Christmas, we went to my dad's for a larger gathering of all my brothers and their families and dad's wife, Torchy's kids too.

There were lots of munchies.

And Rolen was there.
He's sitting in grandma's lap in this photo.

Another gratuitous shot of Rolen with his great-Grandpa.
Babies are the cutest subjects.

Me and S with Rolen.
Doesn't he look thrilled? (Rolen, I mean...)

A self portrait of me and S during a break in the action.

Almost 17 year old Austin was there, too.

And Kylie was there.

And Ryon.

And Nathon.

And Jess, Veda, Cora, Deacon and Morgan...
I think everyone was there except Rolen's daddy, John.
He had to work.

This one doesn't move the story forward.
I just had to include it.
Deacon and S acting silly.

A shot of present mayhem - 22 people in a room really big enough for 5.

At the end of the night, we took a family group photo.

The next day, Saturday, we got together at my mom's house with her side of the family.

Deacon and Isaiah entertained us with their guitar playing.

And we all sang along as they played.
Cora took photos with my camera phone.
Isaiah announced she was his manager. Funny.

We ate, again.

The big kid's table and the little kid's table.

We also played some games. Before dinner, we played a rousing version of Catch Phrase. Then, after dinner, the kids played a kid game in the other room and we played Mad Gab. Boy, is it fun to watch people figure out those cards.

Mom, Veda, S, Terri and Steve checking out the card.

Veda and Nana during the game.

At this gathering, we also took a group photo.

On Sunday, among other things I'll talk about later in the week, we met Uncle Kenny and Aunt Sally, Mike, Robin, Gabe and Caleb for lunch. Candy and family were also going to come but they had a rough night.

Mike, Robin and Gabe...

...and little Caleb, who slept through the action.

Sunday night, we flew home. Whirlwind, yes? It always is when we go to Indiana. There are tons more people we'd love to visit with and see each time and there just isn't time. We didn't get to see any snow this year, which of course was just fine with the Indiana folks. And, we flew in and out of the new airport, which I'll document here later. It was a fast and furious Indiana Christmas, but I wouldn't have missed it for anything.