Thursday, January 2, 2020

For the Elf in You

Hello -

With a feeling, the times, and families we alter Aviana's Elves and each year because of you—grow. The reason to give may vary but what seems similar is seeing people as people, feeling their struggle, sharing in the overwhelm and giving with a lifted spirit in return.

A heartfelt thank you because each year we watch donations extend a helping hand, lift the weight, lighten shoulders, bring smiles, and warm cold homes and bodies. 

Your donations feed healthy snacks and dinner. They provide educational books, laughter around board games and outside activity so parents can focus on important tasks at work and around the house.

Although we shopped physically—boxes arrived constantly. 

A big thank you to The Spanier and Prero family for shopping. Thank you also for front door delivery! We can't tell you how much we appreciate and loved seeing gifts through your eyes ♥️✨

We knew there were only four families this year but four in need, so with emphasis. 

We had offers to help wrap (thank you!) but thought we could handle the amount on our own.

By the time deliveries were made, we were  d.o.n.e. with wrapping! 

But wait, what about our family and friend gifts 😆 Back to tape, scissors, and paper.

Things got wild and somehow spidered to every leg of our house. 

I'm happy my brother was visiting to box one night.

Jeff - box/label

Dave - box/wrap/no label (illegible writing)

Me - wrap/ribbon/label

We've never ribboned all the gifts before. I thought, four families, "I can do it!" Towards the end, I wanted to but couldn't stop because the gift looked bare in comparison 🌲

Rainey & Halen - Entertain and look cute.

Midway through, Rainey and her cousin Halen tuckered out.

Our hope was to bring Aviana's Elves internationally, yet closer to home. 
Thank you for helping us realize our dream, in a big way! 
We purchased every item and more on the lists and donated to Laos too.

This year for the family gift we made gift bags including warm hands and toes, Godiva Ferrero Rocher and Ghirardelli chocolates, Pokey sticks and Yan Yan, cookies, our letter, gift cards, and I can't remember what else...

A little about each family.

On a cold snowy Saturday night, we had mom and the girls over for dinner. While mom, Dave and I were busy in the kitchen making chow mein, the girls chose Rudolph, gymnastics, Frosty the Snowman, Spot It, all the while bouncing around with Rainey. After dinner we made triple chocolate chip cookies, hot chocolate, and fresh whipped cream from scratch. 

The girls are please, thank you, hugs and kisses, goofy, and rough and tumble. In their own unique way, each is perfect. And so is mom. Our home is filled with fun and love but that night, the girls energy reminded of what we try hard to remember... and forget.

They stayed late and K fell asleep on the drive home. I couldn't stop staring at her in the rearview mirror and picked her up out of the backseat, handing her to mom who laid her on the couch. Next for dinner, the girls want to stay the night. We want too because physically and emotionally where one can't the other can. And isn't that what a reciprocal relationship, a friendship, and giving is about.   

While the girls were at school, I delivered the gifts the week before Christmas. Mom was overwhelmed by the amount of gifts and generosity. She handed me a beautiful plant, card, and two framed pictures of the girls. Through Google translate, she's written a lot about God's blessing, how grateful they are and how the girls wanted to give the pictures as a souvenir.

The day they opened gifts, she sent many attempted videos and pictures but the majority didn't come out.

We delivered on a cold night. JD answered the door. What a kind and good looking dad. He was in the middle of cooking dinner for his son, who was sitting close by on the bed. I used the little Spanish I know trying to tell JD  how good his cooking smelled, but quickly learned he and his son speak little English. Two and two came together in his need for pots, pans, and silverware.

Dave and I made about three trips back and forth filling their place with gifts. We suddenly felt awkward in taking so much of the little space they had. Much of our communication was in body language. J D had a sweet and grateful demeanor. We thanked him too and wished he and his son Feliz Navidad.

As we drove away, tears fell fast. I was unsure why, so on the short drive to our next family tried to answer my own question while pulling myself together. The tears were for this father cooking a warm meal on a cold night for his son. For a new and uncertain life in a different country than their own. For two making their way together. For being separated from their family for a "better" life. For how challenges vary greatly for people. For sharing time with them, if only for moments and although we couldn't communicate verbally.

I later spoke to, Adela, the translator who graciously helps us and these families dearly. We were deeply entrenched in conversation about the delivery of each family. She let me know how J D is so involved, how much he loves his son, and how he attends classes on nutrition. She also let me know when she inquired about "needs" J D's answer was "two forks, two spoons, a pot, and two glasses." I didn't think my heart could melt further for this man and his son, but it did. I heard glasses. That was new to me, so we're going to purchase them and soon drop them by.

We drove from JD's to this family. M opened the door, right as Dave was about to knock. M holds the record for cutest jumpy scared person I've ever seen. She invited us in and we introduced ourselves to K and E. E invited us to have a seat on the couch, "Oh thank you, but we'll be right back with some gifts." As we we're stacking gift upon gift, K appeared and offered help. As she was walking, she slipped on ice. I'm still unsure how she caught herself and the gifts she was carrying. Quite bendy. After many trips, the couch and most of a bed was full of gifts. While M was busy making dinner in the kitchen, E motioned to a two person kitchen table and offered tea. We thanked him but declined. After talking with K, M, and E for a short time, Dave and I were off to dinner.

In retrospect, I think we maybe should've accepted their offer to sit, visit, have tea. The truth is, I'd hit a wall and had a one track veg at dinner brain.

I've run back to the house two more times for late arrival books, so Google translate's opened conversation. M's a sweetheart and they make a beautiful family. M texts expressing their gratitude, while I thank her for opening her home. While leaving gifts, K's fluent in English, so we've had many conversations about school and her family back home. I feel deeply for how they are separated from their family, culture, and are unable to visit, celebrate the holidays, but instead focuses on what she has here. I admire her bright outlook. She's a doll, just like her sister. 

From talking to Adela (our translator) mom reminds me of our nephew's mom and my brother. She seems to struggle and isn't easy to get a hold of or pin down. For that reason and just like our nephew, her son D suffers the consequences. At the same time, I see how our nephew grew fast and learned quick. He retains those early lessons in his every day life today. I hope D follows in our nephews footsteps.

On the second time delivering D's gifts to the elementary school, Adela took me to meet him. D was on his way from P.E. back to class. He's a cutie. Fresh from Guatemala, we exchanged few words, but I could imagine him in the clothes we chose and zooming down the street on the lime green bike and black helmet. 

Adela called the second to last day of school and explained they had yet to reach mom for pick up or delivery. The principal and staff bounced ideas and came up with throwing a party for D on the last day, surrounded in students, letting him open his gifts. She wondered if I was okay with that. Of course! I wasn't able to make the party, but wondered how he would take his gifts home. They were going to put as many as would fit in his backpack.

We've been thinking about this little, hoping he's having a good break.     


All those gifts and we still had a substantial amount for Laos too!

Andrew's appreciative and thanks us again for our kind and wonderful efforts.

He asked if we'd like him to use the funds towards sponsoring a child in the nursery or to support the milk program at the orphanage. I thought both sounded great, so let him know whichever program's most in need.

On our way to the airport leaving Laos last February, we spoke with our driver, Ouseng, about how best to help in Laos. His answer looped to Andrew.  

Early last year, I asked Ouseng if he could send pictures of the students that to share with donors.

 He included all.

   There are so many videos of Andrew and the great work he does in Laos. Here's one of many.

~ Our letters were on thick light blue textured card stock this year ~

Ahhh... it's too dark to take the picture and the scan came out black and white (ick)! I'll replace this with a better one soon, but can't let one more day go by.

This letter is long overdue. Thank you for your patience. The donations you give mean so much to us, to our families. We witness the affect in a variety of ways. What I've written barely scratches the surface of what these eyes see, so I struggle with how much to include in the final letter. I want to write a lot, but know it's a lot. 

When the heart speaks the body moves, so our path shifted this year. With these families and Laos, all is well in mind, body and spirit.

Together we did so much!

We love you,

Dave, Jen & Rainey 

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others" 

- Ghandi


  1. You guys are just the best of Christmas. Thank you for allowing me to be part of it.

  2. You guys are the best and very interesting.

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