Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Story

I found this on a friend's blog and decided to repost it... Very good story and very good tradition (completely made me cry while Todd laughed at how emotional I was getting, but he liked it too)! Todd, Gus:) and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!! Love you all!

“For the Man Who Hated Christmas”

by Nancy W. Gavin

It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas--oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it--overspending... the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma--the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think ofanything else.Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike.

The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortlybefore Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took everyweight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids - all kids - and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.

For each Christmas, I followed the tradition--one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.

The story doesn't end there.You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.Each of our children, unbeknown to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope. Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The last of our adventures...

I know I'm blogging again and this will probably turn into a long post but after today I probably will never blog again. So, enjoy:)

Yesterday I went into the city early to go to MoMA. I haven't been to a museum since Europe. I guess Europe wore me out when it comes to museums (or it could be the fact that Idaho doesn't really have all that great of museums...) but it was exciting to experience the arts again. I am a fan of Expressionism and Impressionism painting so I thought the MoMA would be my best fit. Here are some highlights of my trip... the good and the strange...

This guy was playing the piano IN the piano... he was good

Now I have never really understood Abstract and Pop art. This is a famous painting by Andy Warhol but I don't get it...

Umm yeah...this is by far my favorite piece in the museum... I call it wall on wall... I don't get it...

Hmmm let me stick this wheel in this chair.... by goodness, it's a masterpiece!!!

This is called "Big Red" and I love it... I don't know why but I think it is so pretty. To me it looks like a bunch of poppies.

"A Starry Night" by Van Gogh. This was so beautiful in person. It still remains one of my favorite paintings. And I love that it's big, not tiny like the "Mona Lisa"

This is a painting by Seurat. I like his work because he paints in a serious of little dots; it's pretty neat.

This thing is huge!!!! This is one of Monet's "Water Lilies." I would have to say that Monet is by far one of my favorite artists. I also enjoy a lot of stuff from Degas and Pissarro (he painted another one of my favorite paintings "Boulevard Montmartre at Night")

I thought this one was very cool. It's like the woman is walking through a very colorful waterfall... I think it's pretty.

The center one is called "Trafalgar Square" by Mondrian... it's famous, but Todd and I couldn't really pin point how we knew that....

I really made it only through two floors which is pretty good in two hours. I saw a lot of stuff that I liked and loved but a lot of stuff I was like "huh?" But I was glad I went. I can officially say, that I have seen all the paintings that I wanted to see in my lifetime (I mean the ones I have known about and loved... not that I want to stop seeing paintings).

Ok, so for the next part of the evening...
Todd met me at MoMA and we made our way to Rockefeller Center. We kind of got lost but in the end we were found. Here are some highlights of evening in the city...

This now concludes our New York Adventure!

 Tonight we are actually going to JB's (Todd's boss) house for dinner and tomorrow is cleaning and packing day (oh so fun). We have seen everything we have wanted to see and we have done everything we have wanted to do; I suppose it's time to come home. Todd is very excited to come home and I of course have gotten attached to this place (not Jersey City) and will miss it. It has been so fun to go in the city whenever we have wanted and enjoy the city life. I'll miss Central Park and all the hustle and bustle of the greatest city in the world. We will not miss Jersey City, parking in Jersey City, parking tickets in Jersey City, traffic jams in Jersey City and paying twice as much for groceries in Jersey City. I will also enjoy not hearing sirens all the time and not having the streets smell like garbage. The only thing I will miss in Jersey City is the noon bells that ring pretty songs everyday:). The last thing I will miss is just having it be Todd and I (and Gus). Besides all the guests that have come to visit, this time has really just been Todd and I. We had no guy friends or gal friends to go hangout with, we just had each other. I have a feeling Todd and I will see less of each other this next semester because both of us will be so busy. I am thankful that I have been able to embark in this great adventure with my best friend and we have had the opportunity to grow together. I'm thankful that Todd is adventurous enough to take a job clear across the country and to work so hard for our family. This really has been an amazing couple of months and I will always be grateful that the Lord has watched over us here and allowed us to have this adventure.
We are excited to see all our family and friends and to spend the holidays at home!! I'm praying for a white Christmas, so hopefully Utah gets a lot of snow (after we get there). Thank you all for your love and support. We can't wait to see you all!!

And they lived happily ever after... THE END!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Countdown Begins...

WARNING... this blog post might be very long... not for the faint of heart!

It seems that time has gone fast and it is almost time for us to scat (I was going for a rhyme there... I'm not so sure it worked). Since we have been here, we have been working on our NYC list (mostly my NYC list but meh). A good portion of the list was completed in the first month we were here but some just had to wait till this wonderful holiday season. This past weekend my sister in-law Jenn and her sister Jamie came out. My brother told me he didn't get invited, but apparently he lies like my dad and he just didn't want to come... but we were glad Jamie came out. The two arrived Saturday night. So you might be wondering what we did on our last Saturday here out east, well we partied hard at Wal-Mart. Not so glamorous but we needed to get a few more things for our last week here and our journey home. You might be thinking to yourselves, that we probably had time for other stuff besides Wal-Mart... well you'd be mistaken. Going to Wal-Mart out here is a full day's adventure. I think it took us an hour and a half to get home from a place that takes about 20 minutes to get to. Anywho, back to the more exciting stuff. That Saturday night we all went to an Italian restaurant here in Jersey City and took Jenn and Jamie to the pier to get a good look at Manhattan. Sunday, Todd and I had to speak in Sacrament and teach in Primary so Jenn and Jamie ventured into the city themselves. Sunday is also the day I discovered a... COCKROACH!!!! For some reason I am deathly afraid of them and almost didn't want to come out here because I knew they would be here. I found it after I took a shower and I must say I handled it very well... I calmly called for Todd to come put it out of it's misery. I now am scared of finding one without Todd....eww. Our talks went well I suppose and we did Jeopardy for our last day in Primary (to review lessons of course). So there is this boy named Thurman and he is a boy after my own heart. He loves chocolate and the last Sunday he said "You should bring chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for your last Sunday... it's the least you could do." hahahaha gotta love a boy who loves his chocolate. Since it was the least I could do, I made chocolate cupcakes. We have very much enjoyed our time in Primary and will miss those kids!

We came home from church and finally did our "UP" picture with our chairs...

 I think we did a pretty good job... haha. I have decided for our next family photo shoot I want the pictures vintage looking and with balloons... I can't wait!

Monday morning, everyone left Gus and I and headed into the city. I met up with them all at 1:00 pm and we headed to Central Park to do some ice skating. Monday was going to be the warmest day this week so we had to take advantage of it. Having the experience to ice skate in Central Park is kind of spendy but we had a great time. Todd had told me he was bad at ice skating... he lied... but I am bad at ice skating. It took me a minute to remember how to do it but I did pretty good... I am not as fast as Todd but I'm scared of speed (traumatic rollerblade accident caused my phobia). The ice was a little choppy but how many times can you say (especially if your from Idaho or Utah) you ice skated in Central Park?
Todd even had to show off by making a jump... he almost didn't make it though:)

After ice skating Todd left us and we headed down to Macy's. I only got us lost once, and not really lost, I just headed east instead of west. Macy's is huge!!!!! In hindsight we wish we would have gone to the MoMa (Museum of Modern Art) but oh well. Funny note, so I have been here for about 3 and a halfish months, I have walked by Macy's a handful of times and yet I have never seen the Empire State Building up close (only from skyviews). Low and behold, I looked up at Macy's and saw this...

That's right folks, the Empire State Building has been above me the whole time... I don't know how I didn't realize this... it's like a block away from Macy's. The Empire State Building was our next destination and Todd met up with us again. The wait was only 15 minutes and it technically wasn't a wait, it just took us 15 minutes to get through everything and head up (it was awesome). The views from the top were amazing but man, oh man was it cold. We had to go back inside to warm up to brave the chill again.

Todd, Jenn and Jamie 

The Chrysler Building and other buildings

Jenn and Jamie

It was a tad windy...

South Manhattan, area where the Twin Towers used to be

Cold but happy photo!

After the fun filled day, we headed back to Jersey City to pick up Gus and went out for dinner. Tuesday, I didn't come into the city till around 3:30 pm. I have to mention this because it has only happened to me once... I hit both trains right on... walked down the stairs at Grove ST... Boom, the 33rd train... walked down the stairs at 33rd St, Boom the "M", I made it into the city in about 35 minutes... new record for me! Todd and I met up with the girls by the Gershwin Theater and headed to dinner. We ate at the"Stardust" which is a 50's styled restaurant and the waiters and waitresses sing. The food was pretty good, our waiter sucked and the entertainment was pretty good, but it still ain't got nothin on Rupes! 

After dinner we headed to the Gershwin Theater to watch "Wicked." Todd and I were so excited to watch it again. The show was even more amazing the second time. I kept getting chills and cried more:). We were very thankful to Jenn for taking us again. Jenn and Jamie both loved it as well. I still want to play Glinda... sigh...

That ended our time with Jenn and Jamie. We had a great time with them and are thankful for everything they did for us (you guys can come visit us and stay at our place anytime you want!!). 

Well I best be getting ready... I'm going into the city to go to MoMa (Todd doesn't want to go). The MoMa has "A Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh and it is one of my favorite paintings; I'm excited to go, even if it is by myself. I'll meet up with Todd after he is done with work to go to Rockefeller Center. We have three full days left here (including today) and it is crazy how time has flown by. After today my list will be complete so I guess it's ok if we come home:).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Christmas Spectacular!!

Last night, Todd and I had the opportunity to go the "Radio City Music Hall: Christmas Spectacular!" The title is already making a big claim on the show, luckily it lived up to it. I met up with Todd at Sony and we went to dinner to a place called "Burger Heaven" (it ain't got nottin on Rupe's). Monday night Todd and I watched "Home Alone 2: Lost in NY" and it made me really want to go check out the lights at the Plaza so we headed over there. I was so paranoid that our battery would die, mostly because the whole night it had a picture of a battery with a slash through it... I don't think that's good... so I really didn't get that good of pictures but it was magical. I have this thing with Christmas lights:), I'm sure a lot of people do, but I absolutely love them. Our house one day will be covered with Christmas lights. I find them magical and for some reason they make me believe in the unbelievable. The lights in NYC are great... but I believe they could do more, after all NYC is known for it's Christmas, live up to it. We also stopped at Schwarz (again) but mostly to get warm and pick up Liv's Christmas gift. Todd is really excited about the gift, I tried to talk him into something else but he didn't listen, sorry Liv. Ok, so I love Christmas and Christmas lights and Christmas trees, and I live in NY... I have yet to see the Tree at Rockefeller Center. Todd didn't want to go and it's killing me not to see. We were a block away and we still didn't go... I haven't even been to Rockefeller Center. Todd assures me we will go before we leave but it looks questionable to me.

Radio City is an amazing place. It is definitely old glam Hollywood (well I should say old glam NYC) and I love it. Everything looks how it did when it was built in the 30's. The coolest part about this place is the bathroom... well actually the toilet:). In the lady's lounge the toilet's have an automatic toilet seat cover and you just push a green button and it will change to a new one... it was pretty cool, Todd was jealous that men's lounge didn't have one.

The show was amazing! The second Act was shot in 3D which was fun to watch. I love the magic of Christmas and this show celebrated it wonderfully. I still would like to be a Rockette but something tells me I should've started working on those kicks awhile ago. Those girls have precision, they were always in sync; it was amazing! I told Todd we had to go to this every year now, he said no way because he thought the show was only in NYC. We shall see how these traveling shows are next year and see if it will become an Altom Christmas tradition. We kept saying afterwards how we can't wait to take kids to this, I mean we found it magical, can't imagine a 4 year olds reaction to it (ahh makes me happy thinking about it).

It's Santa... we were a lot closer than this picture gives us credit

I never got these girls kicking... and they kick a lot

This was one of my favorite Acts... it was the Nutcracker... giant and alive teddy bears... need I say more?

The Live Nativity! Very pretty and real camels (watch out, they spit)!! This is how the show ended; perfect ending to a magical night!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Favorite Cartoons?!

Once again, I have began to reminisce about my childhood and the fact that TV isn't what it used to be. The new facebook challenge has made me realize that they don't make cartoons like they once did. As most of you know, I am a huge Disney fan, but the new Disney shows are lame!!!  I think back to the days when I would wake up to watch a show, or come home from school and watch my favorite shows with some cookies and a glass of milk. I even remember the amazing Saturday morning shows, and alas, the shows now stink (although I did get into this cartoon over the summer about the American Revolution, educational yet fun). I really think Todd and I wont have cable. Our kids will just watch Disney movies and if I ever get my hands on good ole shows, those too. So I'm making a list of my top favorites and you all should take a moment to reminisce about your favorites from the past. Here's mine:
-Mickey Mouse Club (the morning show... right after the lady did Disney aerobics... anyone remember that lady... haha)
-The Gummi Bears (Gummi Beary, Gummi Beary Juice)
-DuckTales (woo-ooo)
-My Little Pony Tails
-Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers
-Smurfs (reliving this one through the IPhone App)
-Busy, Busy Town
-The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
-Rugrats (I learned in college that you shouldn't name a preschool or daycare this... just fyi... Jersey City didn't get the memo)
-Saved by the Bell
-Kim Possible (call me, beep me, if you want to reach, when you want to page me it's ok...)

I keep thinking of more shows...
-Home Improvement
-Boy Meets World
-Clarrisa Explains it All

I find myself singing all the theme songs as I type. What shows helped shape your childhood?