Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Spirit Abounds

Our Christmas came in a flurry of friends, family, love, and presents, of course. The kids didn't want to forget the true meaning of Christmas, so on Christmas Eve, they dressed up and performed a play about the birth of Jesus. :) Megan narrated and played a strange flute (I think it added to the mood!), Gracie played the glittery Christmas angel, Emma was Mary (wearing the Pocahontas outfit) and Ian was Joseph. Adorable, silly, and hilarious.

The girls got sleds and snow gear from Santa. Jeff is chompin' at the bit to take us to the snow. We're planning to spend the day in Arrowhead with some friends, and then later we'll pay a visit to Grandpa Tom and Grandma Patty in Bishop, where we'll sled our little hearts out. Our house feels like a toy store right now, with Grace's Hannah Montana barbies, stage, headset, and game, and Emma's horse ranch, Littlest Pet Shop town, and Webkins. Jeff got a new ipod (he's thrilled) and I got every single item I had "hinted" to my dear husband about: Clinique perfume, and iced tea maker, a Bath and Body Works Lotion basket, and Burt's Bee's stuff. (Love it!)

We hosted Christmas Eve again, and that night we also stopped by The Woods house for Open House- really it was to see their new baby, Kathleen, who was adorable in her Santa suit. (Our friends The Byuns were there as well with Mikail and Jade. Note in the picture that sweet Mikail had eaten something that made his lips blue. ) Other friends, the Saylors, had a beautiful Christmas dinner at their house a few days before Christmas. On the day we got out of school, Nicole also spent some time with us looking at Christmas lights and letting the girls exchange presents. (See the pictures of Grace and Josie dressed up and performing puppet shows.) Also, Jeff's dad and Kelly had a beautiful Christmas at their house, complete with Jeff's mom and Tom, my parents and grandma, and ALL the cousins except Matthew (who was missed!) They catered the dinner with enchiladas and tacos (YUM) and had the most beautiful spread of desserts I've ever seen. :) Weight Watchers is currently calling my name after the food this Christmas! The girls got all kinds of fancy "stuff" for their American Girl dolls- Nicky got an entire ski outfit and Kit got a bed. It was DOLL HEAVEN this Christmas.

This year I feel blessed for my family's health, my wonderful friends, my job, my house, my pets (hee hee), and my sweet husband who seems to live to make "his girls" happy. I also adore watching Emma and Grace becoming bigger and more clever. They CRACK ME UP every day, and they are such a joy (and challenge sometimes...especially when they fight!) I know that 2008 will bring such changes in my girls; I just want to savor each moment with them as they wrap their arms around the experiences life brings them.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tis the Season to be Jolly!

Our city does a really cute event for Christmas. Every neighborhood has a giant star on one of the streets and a special night when Santa visits. He comes aboard a "sleigh" of carolers, along with Frosty and Rudolph. He collects canned food for the needy and gives out candy canes. The carolers sing, the kids in the neighborhood visit with Santa, and the grown ups in the neighborhood hang out talking. When it's time for Santa to come, the girls listen each night for the police sirons, which go off through the neighborhood while they announce, "Santa is coming! Santa is coming!" over the loudspeaker. (I guess the police aren't too busy with crime here...??)

The girls were also in a Christmas play at school called "The Littlest Reindeer." This year, every student had a speaking part. Emma and Gracie practiced their parts for weeks, and all around the house, we were singing the songs from the play. A lot of their friends were in the play too, and it was so cute to see all of the first graders singing without hesitation. They don't care if they are slightly out of tune, or a little "off" from the music. They just sing their little hearts out. I wish we were all like that. :)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Christmas Time is Here...

Christmas time is here!Grace welcomed Christmas by creating Santa's sleigh on our couch with all of our stuffed Christmas animals and some red crepe paper. I love that child's imagination. Emma is not feeling well (we're all a little sniffly around here) so she's in her pink elephant slippers and Cinderella robe, cozed up on my bed watching movies. It's mid-morning and the girls and I are still in our pajamas. My plans for today? Danielle and her sniffly kids are coming over to watch a bunch of movies. Later, I'll grade some essays, wrap some presents, and plan my Christmas Eve dinner, which was so much fun last year.

So far in December, I've hosted Grandma Otti's 91st birthday (it was a hit!), gone to our school's adorable Christmas play, Charlie Brown Christmas, with a bunch of my teacher friends and their kids. (We even met early for pedicures and dinner, and met afterwards for dessert! I had snowflakes painted on my toes!) I've decorated the house, done 3/4 of my Christmas shopping, finished and mailed my Christmas cards (including my Christmas poem!) and planned a Christmas outing to Corvette's Diner and the Del Mar Racetrack light show. Everything "Christmasy" is in place. Still, nothing will come together until the last day of school, when I grade that last final, enter in the grades, and close up my classroom for three and 1/2 weeks. THAT will make it feel like Christmas. I love that feeling of focusing on my husband and my kids, and not feeling spread so thin (even though I adore my job.) Some days, though, it feels as if there is just not enough of me to go around. I'm ready to zero in on the people who need me the most. I want to make dinner for Jeff instead of asking him, "What do you want to eat? Should we go out?" I want to sit in my cozy chair next to the bookshelf that Jeff built (my favorite room in the house!) and read books to the girls. I want to decorate Christmas cookies and package them up to send to the neighbors. I want to put my feet up and have a glass of wine. I want to hit those last few stores with my mom and Danielle, and then go to lunch. I want to sit with Grandma Otti and ask her some questions about when she was a little girl. (She tells a bunch of funny stories, but then denies she told them.)

Thankfully, a teaching schedule gives me huge chunks of time to relax and soak in my family. I'm grateful for all of it- the hectic schedule AND the down time. I truly know the meaning of BLESSED.

PS. Our Christmas card this year- a decorated pony. We had so much fun putting red bows all over Pony Gypsi, and she didn't mind it a bit. :)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The End of October

The end of October brought us the southern California wildfires...they were devastating. Thankfully, our little valley remained sandwiched in between all of the fire activity, but as it filled with smoke and ash, we knew that we were merely lucky that it wasn't us on the news, being evacuated, having to leave our homes, and praying to be spared by the fires. School was cancelled for two days because the air was so bad it hurt your lungs to be outside. When Jeff returned home from work the other night at 11:00, he called me out to the street in front of our house. From that vantage point, you could see the flames on the mountains south of Temecula. That REALLY freaked us out, but apparently what we were seeing was in Fallbrook, which is a safe distance to the south of us, but at night the flames looked so much closer! Luckily, the fires have been contained and our area was spared. When a tragedy of this magnitude happened so close to our house, it made all of us reflect on our blessings and how easily things of this world can be taken away. We are keeping the fire victims in our prayers. I can't imagine losing everything.
Finally, the smoke cleared, and it was time to celebrate Halloween. I loved Halloween as a kid, and my girls talk about their costumes from October to October...last night they were already talking about what they would dress up as NEXT year.
Emma dressed as Gabriella from High School Musical. She wore a brown wig and a red outfit, and refused to put on any makeup except a bit of lip gloss. Grace was Hannah Montanna (of course!) with her rock star outfit, fancy wig, and headset. Grace wore oodles of makeup and it freaked me out to look at her little face...a tiny hint of the made-up teenage face of the future. Scary.
We trick or treated with some of our teacher pals and their families, up and down our neighborhood, and then came back to inspect, eat, and pass out candy. The dogs dressed up as well: Livvy the ballerina, Sophie the Bumble Bee (again) and Marty the ladybug. (He was embarrassed...not a very manly costume!)

At one point during the evening, Megan rang the doorbell. She was with a million of her girlfriends, all dressed up to trick or treat. Some of the girls (including Meg) had dressed up as skater boys. When they left, Grandma Otti said, "Isn't it funny how the girls are so much taller than the boys?" We said, "They were all girls, Grandma!" She didn't listen to us, but proceeded to pick through each kids' Halloween candy, pulling out the really good stuff to stash in her underwear drawer. (She'd never admit it, but we all know that's where she hides the candy she doesn't want share.)

Hee heee hee.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bedtime Story

Tonight when I was putting the girls to bed, I told them a story about a sad mama. This mama was sad because she wanted a baby more than anything else in the world. She prayed and prayed for God to give her a baby, but alas, her arms were empty. Years went by. The sad mama stopped going to church because it made her too sad to see all of the babies dressed up, or to hear the babies crying, or to watch the babies getting baptized. The sad mama cried, and prayed, and cried and prayed. "Please, God, give me a baby," she prayed. "Please, God."

Finally, after days, weeks, months, and years went by, the sad mama had given up. She didn't think that she would ever have a baby to hold and kiss and love. A giant hole filled the mama's heart...only a baby could fill it. The sad mama did other things to try to find a baby, but each time she tried to do it herself, she ended up with empty arms and enough tears to fill a bathtub (or so it seemed.) Finally, the sad mama decided to give it ALL to God. He was in charge. He knew her destiny. Whatever was meant to be would be; it was all in His plan. The sad mama vowed not to be angry at God, but to love him with all of her heart, even if she didn't get what she wanted. She went back to church. She thanked Him for everything she DID have. She prayed for a baby.

One day, everything changed.

God gave the sad mama her wish. The sad mama was no longer sad. She was the happiest mama ever! She called everybody she knew. "I'm going to have a baby! I'm going to have a baby!" After a few days, the mama went to the doctor's office, and the doctor used a special machine to see inside her belly. On the television screen next to her, the happy mama saw her baby...a round circle with a tiny, beating pulse in the middle of it. It was a beating heart! The happy mama cried tears of pure gratefulness. She had never been so happy! The doctor moved the machine a bit and suddenly the happy mama saw TWO round circles and TWO beating pulses. Two! The mama could not believe how blessed she was. She was going to have TWO babies.

Months went by, and the happy mama's belly grew bigger and bigger. She went to the doctor again, and this time he used his machine to show mama if she was having boys, girls, or one of each. Secretly, the happy mama wished for at least ONE girl, but she felt guilty even thinking it, because she was so grateful just to have babies in her tummy (not just one...two!) She didn't want to be selfish about her wish. The doctor moved the machine over one of the babies and said, "Congratulations, you're having a girl!" The happy mama became even more happy. She wanted to jump for joy, but instead, she allowed the doctor to move his machine to see the other baby. "Thank you, God," the happy mama whispered. When the doctor moved his machine over the second baby, once again, he saw a baby girl. TWO babies! TWO girls! The happy mama wanted to run into the streets (hospital gown and all) and yell and shout! She wanted to kiss the doctor, and the nurses, and the people in the waiting room. She wanted to sing at the top of her lungs. To keep her dignity, and not to embarrass her husband, the happy mama didn't do any of these things.

Instead, the happy mama said a long prayer, thanking God for knowing the desires of her heart and for blessing her with the greatest gift she would ever receive on earth. She vowed to raise her beautiful baby girls with all of the joy and love she'd felt in that hospital room.

Now, sometimes after a long day, when the happy mama is walking up to the front porch with her two six-year-olds in front of her (they are arguing over who is going to open the screen door first) the happy mama thinks, "Two, God! Two!" The happy mama says a big thank you to God for the beautiful ladies who make her life full. Nothing on earth is more precious to her than them.

Art Shows, Princess Girls, and Royal Pugs

The other night, Grace decided to have an "art show" in the hallway. She set up her easel and got out various stools, art supplies, and pictures. She set up a chair for the "audience"- Emma, the pugs, and me. She gave us a whole presentation about her drawings. "This drawing is made out of glitter. When I made it, I realized it needed something shiny. This drawing is of the sun. I colored it orange and yellow. That is the color of the sun."
On another recent evening, Emma and Grace decided to play "princess and horse." Emma took Grace into my bathroom and did her make-up. Grace came out with pale white eyebrows and smeared red lips, along with her princess attire. Emma was Princess Grace's horse. She whinnied and galloped around the house with Grace on her back, and even held the royal pillow. Sooner or later, Sophie and Olivia joined in the royal event, each donning the princess crown for a short while.
I love all of the estrogen in this house! Shiny tiaras, art shows, and crowned pugs...all of these things make me incredibly happy.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Mission Inn for Brunch

(Almost) the whole family met at the Mission Inn in Riverside on Sunday for brunch to celebrate my mom's birthday. It was such a beautiful day, and we ate in the courtyard outside. The brunch was delicious--just the dessert bar alone was like a scene out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! There were pastries that looked like little wrapped presents, pies, cakes, and scrumptious bread pudding. Our eyes were taking it all in as we planned eating strategies, but our stomaches were full after just two trips. (All except Ian...he ate continuously throughout the brunch!)

I'm glad we stopped on the way out to have this picture taken...we're only missing my poor Jeff, who had to work for the evil corporate empire instead of enjoying his family (and poor Jeff missed the food...he wouldn't have let a single morsel go to waste!)

The girls and I drove Grandma Otti to the brunch since my mom met us there from Bishop and Danielle and Jason's car was full. On the way, Grandma kept falling asleep. She was sitting in the passenger seat of my truck, and when she'd nod off, her jaw would open wide and her head would drop...I kept trying to get her to wake up so that people driving next to me wouldn't think I was transporting a grandmother who was no longer living! That woman can sleep ANYWHERE, I tell you! Not even the girls and I rocking out to Hannah Montana music stirred her from her slumber. When you're 90, I guess that's one of the perks. Swiping dessert from your great grandchildren's plates...another perk. Still another: swatting your grandchildren on their bottoms with your cane when you're feeling feisty. A day out with Otti is rather entertaining. A day out with (almost) the whole family? Priceless.

(Click picture to make it bigger...and to see the dreaded cane!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Emma Spotlight (Along with First Grade Firsts)

The first day of first grade arrived already, and I can hardly believe it.

A cute story from the first day:

The girls started out in separate classes. (They are now in the same class...but that's a long story. It was more because of a teacher thing than a kid/separation issue thing.)

Anyway, in Kindertgarten, parents walk to their child's room and pick them up every day, but in first grade, the bell rings, and kids scatter throughout the school to wait at one of the entrances. The girls and I planned on a place to meet, but I was skeptical about them being able to find it in all of the chaos.

On that first day, traffic was a nightmare. First, I had to leave my high school and get through all the yucky first day of school mess, and then I had to drive a mile to the elementary school which was also backed up down the block. I finally parked and made it to the pick up spot, and all around me, thousands of kids were running every which way. (OK...not thousands. The school doesn't have that many. But lots, especially to a mom relying on two six-year-olds to navigate their way through. I saw more High School Musical backpacks than I have ever seen in my life!) Looking through the horde of kids, I realized that Emma and Grace were nowhere to be found and I started getting nervous...then, I spotted them. They were holding hands, walking through the crowd, as if they were each other's life preservers. It was the sweetest thing I've ever seen. Emma had walked to Grace's class and "picked her up," and then they had walked with locked hands the whole way through the school to the gate.

I know I just wrote a whole synopsis of my wild child Grace, but my Emma deserves an entry of her own. She is sensitive, sweet, empathetic, smart (oh my gosh...really smart!) and curious about everything. She is a first grade superstar, and even though she was off to a bit of a rough start with her teacher, she is taking it well and has even expressed concern that she's "hurt her old teacher's feelings" by leaving her class. I am very proud of my beautiful daughter, and yet I know from experience that FEELING your emotions that deeply can be really tough! It's what poets and writers are made of...their hearts on platters for the world to see. I wouldn't change it about myself...I think it makes me the mother I am, the teacher I am, and the person I am. It's what makes me sit and think and write these blogs (more for ME than for anyone else, even though it's fun to get a comment once in a while.) Emma's heart will break over dogs at the pound, kids who are bullied, and a teacher's hurt feelings. She will get her feelings hurt a little too easily sometimes, and she will cry as though God has the hose ready to turn on right behind her little eyelids. Surely she will find a profession where she can give of herself enough to make it all worthwhile...she may not save the world, but those who are touched by Emma will be lucky. :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gracie Girl, Flower Child

These pictures are a little montage of Gracie through the years.

One of my first entries of this blog (in 2005?) was about my free spirit, Grace. Grace is a groovy girl. When she dances, it reminds me of my experience at a Grateful Dead concert watching those fluttering, hippy women with bangles on their ankles and butterflies in their hair. She lets the music move her rather than moving to the music.

I went through a MAJOR hippy phase in high school. I wanted to get a dancing bear tattoo on my ankle (thank GOD I never followed through with it!),wore birkenstocks, went veggie (which I am again as of recently), and wore sundresses. There are very few pictures of me from my senior year when I'm not flashing a peace sign. Later, I discovered The Descendents and fell in love with punk rock. Apparantly, the flower child inside my heart decided not to go away quietly, and instead made a reappearance in my darling Grace.

I adore it when Grace comes out dressed for school in the morning. The ensembles she puts together are creative, original, and do NOT take into account want any other kid might think. Grace will start trends rather than follow them. She LOVES Hannah Montanna, so she started wearing her hair long and straight like Hannah's. She also noticed that Hannah likes layering outfits, so Grace often comes out in the morning with pants on under a skirt, pink cowgirl boots, and a funky hat.

Tonight, Grace said, "Mama, I wish I wore glasses. I look REALLY good in glasses. I'd want pink ones."

She discos. She boogies. She shimmies. She does the worm. She hopscotches, jumpropes, spins and smiles and sings...not a thread of self-conciousness or worry. I hope she never questions who she is and conforms to "normal."

Man, I adore her!