Have you seen the Jimmy Kimmel clips of parents giving their kids terrible gifts for Christmas, like a potato or a rubber band, and then the parent pretends like it’s the greatest gift in the world while the kids get super upset? Kindergarten is like those videos, except the exact opposite. I’m the one getting those presents from kids and while the gifts seem ridiculous, they actually ARE the greatest gifts in the world. You wouldn’t believe the gifts I’ve gotten from kiddos! Here’s what I’ve discovered about kids, at least in my own personal experience. For all the talk about kids needing to learn how to share, they are truly the most generous people on the planet. They like to give gifts, but the problem is that they have no money, so they give what they have. I can’t tell you how many battered stuffed animals, dolls with ratty hair, and scratched up matchbox cars I’ve gotten from my students. Those are by far the most precious gifts because I know that I was given that Rapunzel doll with tangled hair (no pun intended) because my students know she’s my favorite princess, and I know how much the gift of those matchbox cars means because they’ve brought them for share and I know those are their favorite toys…and you better believe I keep them all.
My favorite gift I got for my birthday last week was…a straw! No kidding! I pulled out the tissue paper from a gift bag and out fell a purple straw from coffee bean! My precious kindergartner knows that my favorite color is purple, so why not!?! I love the way my littles give what they have. I love the way they give me anything and everything that reminds them of me whether it’s a very loved Rapunzel doll, or an individual purple sequin (yes, I have actually received that gift), or a wrapped nickel and penny (which I happen to know constitute all the coins that student owns). Deuteronomy 16:17 says, “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which he has given you.” Kindergarteners truly give as they are able. May we too give as we are able, whether it be money, time, a scratched up purple matchbox car…or a straw!
Saturday, January 23, 2016
The magical, epic, thrilling, stressful, crazy, lovely, beautiful, exhilherating birthday proposal and how it got pulled off!
A year ago today, we pulled off the most gigantic plot I could imagine in order to get Kate and Neill engaged. So many details....so many secrets. I love being in the know, but it got to the point that I was scared to even open my mouth due to the amount of secrets I was involved in! And amongst all the details, secrets and craziness let me say first and foremost, it was 100% worth it! I love the story, the drama, the comedy, and that I was privileged to be involved in it!. While there were a few hiccups, in the end they were engaged and in a majorly magical way! So grab some popcorn, sit back, relax, and enjoy this crazy, magical, beautiful, stressful, exhilarating, dramedy from the secret-master’s point of view.
Summer 2014 – Neill sent me pictures of rings to critique while I was in Tanzania
Christmas 2014 – I walked around the Arcuri’s block talking to Neill about Proposal ideas including the Pantages and Disneyland
Jan 10th – I asked Monica for Jim’s number to incorporate the Dapper Dans
Jan. 15th – Neill snuck into kindergarten to talk about Disneyland Ideas
Jan. 19th - I spent the day in Disneyland (without telling ANYONE where I was) to scout out possibilities, talk to turtle talk people, scout out a proposal spot after seeing that the wishing well (our first choice spot) was closed for construction, bought gifts for the treasure hunt, started writing the welcome letter and clues, texted Neill and talked to him on the phone while he was hiding in the bathroom at the open house, etc.
Jan. 20th – wrote all the clues and didn’t sleep hardly at all because I had so many details running through my head…got mom in on the plan
Jan. 21st – sat in McDonalds with mom to explain every bit of the plan and the entire layout of Disneyland and the timing of everything…got home at around 10pm and stayed up with Neill until 1am finalizing clues and figuring out the stationary and how Neill was going to print everything and where to leave everything (clues, confetti, sharpies, tape, reserved signs, etc.)
I woke up at 6:00am totally wide awake with details coursing through my head and prayed for the day. Jo woke up right after that and at 6:20 Kate’s alarm went off and she got in the shower while Jo got in bed with me and and we whispered about a few of the details. We were ready to go by 6:50am and Ashley drove us to TO and dropped us off and Neill and Ricky picked us up. We stopped at McDonalds for breakfast and then were on our way down. We got stuck in horrible traffic. I had been texting mom to make sure she was on the road and had everything she was supposed to have for the day. She texted me when she left and then when she got on the tram and sent me a picture when she got to the park of her “incognito” look (dark sunglasses, and Gilligan hat with her hair all tucked inside).
She explained everything at guest services and left clue#1 with Esteban (who wrote our names on buttons and got everything ready). She also went and bought the locker and wrote the locker number and combo on the note. By this time we were exiting on Disneyland drive and finally made it to the parking deck. I had to make the first “changing plans” decision of the day and decided not to do Toy Story Mania first because we had a time sensitive morning due to Mickey and the Magical Map at 12:15pm. As we parked, mom texted me to tell me that the left hand register in the Emporium was closed and that they said they couldn’t hold our gifts there, which meant we had to find a new place to leave the gifts and we had to change clue #2 that was waiting at the kiosk. We were getting on the tram at this point and I sat by Neill and whispered a little of what was going. Mom said that she could leave the package for us at the Newsstand but she needed time to change the clue at town hall, so we had to stall. Jo and Rickey bought their tickets and mom hadn’t texted me back yet, so I suggested we go to Toy Story Mania first and we started walking over there when mom texted and said the clue was changed. Kate was asking about getting birthday buttons so I backpedaled and said, “ok, lets just go get our birthday buttons first” (and steered her over to Disneyland because she was then talking about getting a birthday button in CA adventure! Yeah, NO!) So we walk into Disneyland and up to the kiosk where Brandon (who had helped mom change the note so Kate wouldn’t recognize her handwriting) was and we asked him for birthday buttons, which he wrote and started sending us on our way…no pre-prepped buttons, no welcome letter, no clue #1, nothing! Heart attack #1 of the day. Kate and Jo and Ricky started walking away and Neill whispered to Brandon, “Do you have a clue for them?” and then Brandon called us back over and said there was something special for us and handed us the buttons and welcome letter and clue #1. Whew! Kate was really confused and then really excited as she read the welcome letter out loud and then clue #1.
Welcome to Disney on your special birthday
I hope that you're thrilled and ready to play
You've done much for me, spreading magic and cheer
Putting smiles on kids faces after earning your ears
It wasn't all easy, there were harder parts too
Now it's time to repay and make magic for you
I've set up a hunt, filled with treats on the way
Lots of surprises to mark the day
Go and have fun along with your friends,
my big birthday surprise waits at the end
So let's get this going, be on your way
On this lovely, twintastical, magical day!
For the first ride today, through galaxies you'll race
As you whirl (don't hurl) through deep outer space!
Once you are done and out searching again
Open clue two, but wait until then!
The first clue took us to Space Mountain and as we got in line mom texts me and says that we’d have to have a yellow pick-up slip in order to pick up our gifts at the news stand and she would have to meet up with one of us to get us the slip. By then we were almost through the line and then when we came out of the ride clue #2 was going to direct us to the newsstand for the presents. I texted mom and said there was no way we could meet up with her and asked if she could maybe leave the slip with Brandon at the kiosk and we would just have to go get directions to the newsstand from Brandon. (I usually don’t think well under pressure, but I swear, God just dropped that one in my mind). We got done on Space Mountain and opened Clue #2 which directed us back up mainstreet to the Newsstand, which we didn’t know where that was, which was perfect!
Now what's a birthday without lots of treats
So go past the castle and back up Main Street
To the Emporium Store where you'll find the next clue,
Along with fun presents just waiting for you!
*Enter at the fire station entrance and find the register on your right. Tell the cashier you're the birthday girls and they'll know what to do
*I know you never got anything from your secret Santa on the ship while Beth got sweatpants and the Tangled CD! I thought it was about time to correct that situation. By the way, if you don’t want to carry these gifts around all day, go check out locker # ____ with the combination _________________!
There was a line at the kiosk so Neill suggested we go ask someone else until I gave him a “cut it out” look behind Kate’s back. As soon as we got up to Brandon, he said that he had something else for us! He handed the yellow slip to Neill because the birthday girls weren’t supposed to see it and he told us how to get to the newsstand and we got a quick picture with him.
At the newsstand Kate and I very tentatively said, "we’re the birthday girls” and the guy went into a back room and brought out the bag. Kate took out the sweatpants first with the funny note from Mickey as well as the locker number and combination to put our gifts in. Next we pulled out the aprons and the mugs and walked back over to Brandon to ask him where the lockers were (of course Neill and I knew full well where they were but we couldn’t say that).
Brandon directed us to the lockers inside the park (not the correct ones) and Kate, Neill, and Ricky went off on the rabbit trail to the wrong lockers while Jo and I went to the bathroom. While I was in the bathroom I stationed Johanna outside my stall to alert me in case Kate walked in and I called the Dapper Dan’s to see about when and where we might be able to set up them singing to Kate. I talked to the manager and figured out exactly what time and where and we came out of the bathroom in time to find out that they had realized they’d gone to the wrong lockers and we all went to the right lockers outside the park and stashed the gifts inside. After that we opened clue 3 which took us to the Jungle Cruise (and we got pictures with Aladdin and the Genie along the way).
For the next stop today, oh so many to choose
Why not a wild, adventurous cruise!
Hippos and lions, go and have fun
But be sure to get clue #4 when you’re done!
*Tell the dock workers as you exit that you're the birthday girls and they'll know what to do.
We once again had to tell the dock workers, “we’re the birthday girls,” and they were so sweet and excited to give us the next clue!
Show time anyone? Do I have any takers?
Come see me with all of my fellow map makers
But please don't feel rushed, oh no, for fear not
I've saved just for you the most magical spot!
*Show starts at 12:15 so just be there by then
The next clue told us that seats were being saved for Mickey and the Magical Map and we had about 45 minutes before the start time so we had to decide what to do while we waited. Kate tried hard to convince us to go get Beignets and Juleps, but I kept saying we should do it later after we were more hungry (since the next clue was going to take us to New Orleans square). We ended up going to It’s a Small World which is right across from the theater for Magical Map (where mom was standing and was the only person in line)! Luckily our backs were to the theater as we got in line and got on the ride. By the time we got off the ride there were a few more people in line, but it was a scary moment as we passed by! We walked over to ride the carousel and as soon as we got on, I could see that the spot we had so meticulously chosen for the actual proposal was walled off for construction! I died a little bit inside! How could they do that?!? I texted Neill who was on the horse in front of me, but I honestly had no ideas how to fix this one. So there Neill and I were freaking out inside while Kate was happily singing Cinderella songs as we went round and round on the carousel.
When we got off it was time to walk over to Magical Map and when we got there the cast members had no idea what we were talking about and had moved our reserved seats that mom had waited over an hour for (listening to Jingle Bells on repeat compliments of It’s a Small World). Oh well. We still got good spots, just not quite as magical. When we walked into Magical Map, Mom had escaped by train (like a bandit!) over to New Orleans Square to order the Beignets and Mint Juleps and set them up prettily on the table.
Anyone hungry or need something yummy?
Things refreshing and sweet to put in your tummy?
I've got it, don't fret, I know just where!
A scrumptious treat waits in New Orleans square!
I was frantically waiting throughout the show for mom to say that the table was ready. She finally texted as we started over to New Orleans Square. When we got there the table was right where she said and no one had messed with it and it looked so beautiful with our “reserved for the birthday girls” signs and pink confetti and green Mint Juleps with Cherries and bags filled with beignets!
Ricky and Neill both ate six Beignets each and Kate, Jo, and I each had two! After eating the Royal Street Bachelor’s Band started playing right in front of us and Neill and I went to the bathroom and quickly whispered what to do about the proposal spot on the way (not in the bathroom of course). We figured that the proposal was the important thing, not the background so we decided to keep it as is (it would have been nearly impossible to change it at that point and not worth that kind of stress and mad dashing). The next clue was waiting on that table and told us to go to the World of Disney Store to pick up another gift.
Time for another quick trip to a store
For something you’ve looked at many times before
But this time you’ve got it to take out the door
Because this time it’s actually, finally yours!
* Go to the register in the art room of Wide World of Disney and let them know you’re the birthday girls! You know the drill!
By this point Mom’s phone was dying so she was looking for a place to charge it while we went to get our gifts. When we got to the store we went up to the lady at the specified register in the art room who seemed so happy to see us (she’d been waiting for us since the morning when Mom dropped the gifts off). She went in the back room and brought out two Disney bags, each with a birthday button attached (mine had Pascal drawn on it and Kate’s had Lumiere drawn on it) as well as a Rapunzel pin on mine and a Belle pin on Kate’s. Inside was an autographed big glossy photo of Mickey ad Minnie and…drumroll please….the Tangled and Beauty and the Beast Thomas Kinkaid canvases!!!! It was so thrilling!
While we were in the store we celebrated the minute that Kate was born and sang her happy birthday and then 45 seconds later the minute I was born and they sang happy birthday to me! The last clue was in Kate’s Disney bag and it told us that my surprise was waiting by it’s a small world and Kate’s was waiting on the backside of the castle by way of Frontierland.
Well the moment is here for that birthday surprise,
Full of magic and dreams and all that implies
As this comes to an end, there's no better way
for me to say thank you on this special birthday
Than through two unique gifts I'm leaving you two
May your day fill with magic and dreams coming true!
See ya real soon!
Your pal, Mick
(Your final birthday surprises are waiting in two locations, Beth's is waiting at the Pooh meet and greet in critter country and Kate's is waiting just behind the castle. Meet up once again in front of the castle after receiving your surprises!)
We walked down mainstreet together and parted ways at the castle. As soon as we were out of sight, Jo, Ricky, and I made a mad dash for the armor store by the backside of the castle where Mom was waiting in her sunglasses and Gilligan hat, hiding behind the counter.
I staked out my best vantage point for pictures and suddenly they were there! I hid behind a suit of armor as Kate read the letter Neill had left there for her and clicked away on Jack as he got down on one knee and she nodded her head yes!
He put the ring on her finger and people started clapping and cheering! I kept clicking away as he twirled her around and finally after what seemed like a very long time they looked around and saw me behind my suit of armor and I ran over to give them hugs with Jo and Ricky and then sprawled on the ground in such relief that that whole crazy operation was done and that it had actually been pulled off!
I ran back into the armor store to find mom who I didn’t see anymore. I called her and realized she was crouched down behind the counter with the shop owner and I told her to come see Kate! Lots of hugging and laughing and jumping ensued. The Fairy Godmother walked up right then, and Kate and Neill took pictures with her and she was so lovely!
After the big surprise was over Neill and I had to figure out a way to stall and not go over to CA adventure for about half an hour so Neill said he was really thirsty and we stopped to get tea and lemonade. Afterward I casually said, “Oh, the Dapper Dans are singing in three minutes” so we walked down mainstreet and arrived right when the Dapper Dans came out. They sang happy birthday to us (lifelong dream fulfilled!) and then called Kate and Neill up by name to do the “Let me call you Sweetheart” shtick which was so precious!
We spent the rest of the day in CA adventure and then having dinner with the family and retelling all the details that had been so meticulously kept from everyone, especially Kate!
Thursday, January 14, 2016
I walk circles around my house while I pray. Living room to hallway, past the study, through the dining room, into the kitchen and back again to the living room, over and over, around and around. It reminds me of the Israelites walking around Jericho. As I look around while I walk, I see reminders, Ebenezers of God’s grace and faithfulness. In the Old Testament, the Israelites would set up piles of rocks in places where the Lord had moved or provided a miracle. Ebenezer means, “Up to this point, the Lord has been faithful.” Future generations of Israelites needed to remember the good things that the Lord had done for their people.
I need to remember too and I can see Ebenezer’s surrounding me in my house. As I walk through the living room I see pictures from our wedding, a reminder of God’s goodness and provision. I look at the couches and can almost see myself and a group of girls who come together each Wednesday night to share in life together and to celebrate our God. I walk by my bedroom door and I can hear a rain machine humming to keep my husband asleep. He’s been at the hospital for 24 hours and has just retuned home at 7:00am, right as the rest of the world is waking up. These long nights save lives and bless others as well as providing for our own little family. I walk past the study where I can see Neill’s piano and am reminded of our first Christmas Day advent service together with Neill playing the old keys as we sing Joy to the World at the top of our lungs. I also see the prayer chair, where I sit every morning to read my Bible. A quilt sits in the chair that was made by my Aunt Mary for our wedding. Wrapping up in its warmth each morning remind me of God’s warming goodness. Cosette’s blanket sits on the floor because she can’t stand to be in another room from me. She is, in fact, following me as I circle around and around the house. It’s a prayer walk for the both of us! I walk through the dining room that’s bare, a reminder that we’re still just starting this life together. I enter the kitchen and am met by the smell of pinto beans on the stovetop, which my husband prepped before coming to bed this morning. Later today he’ll add the hambone and grill Jalapeno sausage and we’ll have a good Texas dinner. Above the coffee maker is a chalkboard with Psalm 23:5 over it: “My cup overflows with your blessings.” And next to it, a phrase from an old, beloved hymn: “Bind my wandering heart to thee.”
I walk in circles. I pray circles around the people that I love the dreams that I have. I ask for the faith of the Israelites as they marched around Jericho, believing the miracle before it had even happened. I cry tears for the pain of living on this side of heaven, and I cry tears of awe and wonder at the amazing goodness and grace of our God. I walk circle around this house asking for big dreams and big miracles and I believe He will make them come to pass! But today, as I look around, I can also see so many reminders of “up to this point, God has been faithful,” so many Ebenezer’s.