Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas 2009

Ahhh... Christmas... What a wonderful week of celebrating we've had! We were joined on Christmas Eve by Jason's mom and we shared an amazing meal before heading off to our church's Christmas Eve service. I grew up going to church every Christmas Eve, so the night would feel incomplete to me if we didn't continue doing that.
The first gifts the kids opened when we got home were pajamas, which they quickly changed into. We had hot chocolate and cookies, and then continued with opening gifts. It was so much fun to watch our kids open presents, especially Jeremy! His facial expressions are priceless. To downplay and minimize the "give me, give me" attitude and commercialism of this holiday, Jason and I have decided to give the kids just 3 Christmas gifts- something to wear, something they need, and something they want.
In the morning, "Santa" left goodies for the kids in their stockings (sigh... don't get me started on the issue of Santa (Jason and I pretty much have agreed to disagree- I do feel though that we have tried to keep the focus on Christ this season). Jason's mom made a delicious breakfast and we hung out until Jason's sister, Jennifer, and her kids came. More presents were opened, we played Wii, and then we had another fantastic meal (can you tell that I loved the food?!). It was a nice, laid-back day and we value the time we got to spend with family. Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! (more pictures in the album on the right)

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Gift of TIME with Friends

One of the best gifts we got this holiday season was time to be with friends! Here are some highlights of get-togethers we had this past month.

Grace's class celebrated the last day of school with a "Polar Express" party. The kids got to wear pajamas to school, watch the movie, decorate cookies and drink hot chocolate.
That evening, I was invited to a Cookie Exchange. I taught with Nancy years ago at Herndon-Barstow, and they are kind enough to still include me in social gatherings. I love being able to catch up with these ladies- they continue to be such important people to me (I forgot my camera that night- the food was awesome, and so were the dozens of cookies I brought home!)

The next day, our family went to the Schlesselmans' home in Dinuba to watch Fresno State play against Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl. While there, Evelyn let the kids decorate sugar cookies, something that Grace absolutely loves!
I love to get together with my girlfriends, but we're always so busy! Somehow, I was able to spend individual time with my girlfriends this past month, despite how busy we all were... So grateful for that!
Jason plays in a band with Dan Ray, JT Hughes, and Jed Carpentier and they practice every Monday. Last Monday, "the girls" were invited to come over to the Rays' home, too- turns out, we were there to celebrate! Our good friends, Jed and Deanna got engaged the day before! YAY- so excited for them!Last week, we headed out to Madera Ranchos to have dinner with the Lee family. The tamales we had were so tasty (no pictures, sorry)! This week, we were able to get together for dinner with the Wiens family. We've decided to start a new tradition with them- a White Elephant exchange! I can't post a picture of what we gave them, but here's what they gave us (a picture frame/wall hanging). Rules? The item has to be displayed for a year, and it has to cost under $10... The tackier, the better. Fun!
This Christmas season, we are so thankful to have such wonderful friends in our lives!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Beary Special Person

Everyone in Grace's kindergarten class gets the chance to be the Beary Special Person for a week, and it was Grace's turn last week. The Beary Special Person is the special helper for the week, gets to help the teacher during calendar time, and sits in the coveted "Bear Chair." In addition, he/she gets to bring in a show-and-tell item every day and bring in pictures that are displayed on a bulletin board. The bulletin board also displays an All About Me questionnaire that highlights the student. Here's how Grace answered:

My name is: Grace Isaac
I live at: my house
The people in my family are: Mama, Daddy, Jeremy, and me
Together we like to: spend time together
My pets are: 2 kitties, Cali and Berta
I like to: play with my Polly Pockets, bake, play the Wii
My favorite food is: macaroni and cheese
My favorite toy is: my Polly Pockets
My favorite story is: The Lion King
My favorite subject in school is: all of it
After school, I like to: play with my family
I have a special collection of: love from my family
When I grow up, I want to be: a kindergarten teacher
For show-and-tell throughout the week, Grace brought in a Princess Storybook collection, a Tinkerbell toy, her soccer trophy, and since she and I bake every Tuesday, we baked Double Chocolate M&M Cookies to share with the class. Regardless of the week, Grace will always be a Beary Special Person to us!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rainy Day at the Zoo

Jeremy and I went to the zoo today! My close friend, Jill, her husband, Adam, and sister, Jenny, wanted to take Micah to the zoo because they hadn't visited in a while. Jeremy and I were invited to join them. I am glad we have a zoo membership (a gift from my 5th graders from last year- thanks guys!) so we can go any day we want and we can stay for as long (or short) as we want. Tomorrow is Jill's birthday, so it was great to spend some time with her. It was overcast and started raining here and there, but that didn't stop us from making the most of our visit! Happy Birthday, Jill!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay

I realize that we've been back from Hawaii for some time now, but it was only yesterday that I finally was able to get the pictures from our disposable underwater camera! I have to share them, because I am so proud that I actually snorkeled! For most of my life, I have had a fear of drowning. The idea of going to island to vacation is more like a nightmare, so you can imagine how much it took for me to: 1) get in the water, 2) put on snorkeling gear, 3) learn how to use the gear, 4) actually use it to see underwater! It was hard for me, and I won't lie- I didn't go very far out. BUT, the thrill of seeing so many neat fish has left a good memory, and I might consider doing it again in the future!
Jason ventured out farther with some friends, hoping to catch a glimpse of a turtle. Wouldn't you know it, he did come across one! Amazing! Unfortunately, we didn't stay at Hanauma Bay for very long because it was overcast, rainy, and windy. I would've loved to have stayed and done some more exploring!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Children's Christmas Program at Church

We always look forward to the annual Children's Christmas program at church because it's always so cute to see all of the little kids and what they do when the spotlight is on them. Do you remember how Grace did at her preschool performance back in June? She was amazing! Today wasn't a "rock out" type of performance but she certainly did a great job singing praises to our God! She seems very comfortable being on the stage- we asked her if she got nervous at all and she said she didn't. The kids were ages 2-5 and they sang several songs. Here's a very short video clip:
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I tried desperately today to get pictures of both kids together! I've come to realize that I don't have that many of the two of them together... That's probably because Jeremy can't stand/sit still for very long, but still- I really, really wanted at least one picture. So after many failed attempts at church today, I finally gave in and... bribed them! They each got 3 Skittles if they would just let Mama take some pictures of them. These are the result of my bribes!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Advent

As followers of Christ, Jason and I desire to raise Grace and Jeremy to know Him and to have a meaningful relationship with Him. Holidays such as Christmas are significant times in which we are able to teach our kids more about God and His love for us. A few weeks ago, Grace made the comment that she couldn't wait for Christmas so that Santa could come and give her lots of presents! I realize that this is developmentally appropriate and pretty normal, but as Christians, we want her to associate Christmas with the birth of Christ and not of Santa Claus, with a spirit of giving, not of receiving. Since that conversation, there have been many more related to both Christ and Santa Claus.
I have actually been talking with several people about this. Should we go ahead and encourage our kids to believe in Santa, or explain that he's make-believe, or just flat out deny his existence? We know of and have heard of so many children who grow up believing in Santa and then are crushed when they discover he's not real. Neither of us had issues once we found out Santa wasn't real, but who's to say that Grace or Jeremy won't?
I would really like to help my kids learn that Christmas is when God gave us the ultimate gift-His Son. Advent is a time of waiting, a time preparing, a time of anticipation. Grace frequently asks, "How many more days until Christmas?" I thought about getting an Advent calendar, but then I noticed a special one at the Wiens's home last week. I immediately thought about how it would not only help in our countdown to Christmas, but would be such a great tool to use to teach Grace more about Christ. Christa immediately offered to help- I bought from her a set of 25 Christmas tokens. I then went to the Dollar Store and purchased mini gift bags, cut up paper, and printed off numbers to assemble a Christmas Tree Advent Calendar. The tokens symbolize something significant about our faith and they each come with corresponding Bible verses. Each day leading up to Christmas, we open up one bag, read the verses, and see how the verses and token relate to Christ. We started our countdown on Dec. 1 and Grace has been excited to open up each little bag, to listen to the verses, and examine the tokens. We just put up our Christmas tree today, so the bags are now hanging on our tree. Each night, Grace will have to find the appropriately numbered bag. For example, today is the 5th day of Advent. After finding bag #5, inside was a slip of paper that reads: "You could make some noise with this, but it would not have bothered a certain man until he met Jesus. Read Mark 7:31-37." The token is a little bell. Isn't this such a great idea?! If you're interested in getting a kit of tokens for yourself, let me know and I'll get you in touch with Christa (or you could visit her blog, Wiens World- there's a link on my Blog List).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Happy Belated Thanksgiving

Most people would say that one of the most significant things about Thanksgiving is spending time with loved ones. This year, I was fortunate enough to get to spend time with my family in Hawaii leading up to Thanksgiving, and then with Jason's family upon our return. Since moving to Fresno after Jason and I got married 10 years ago, we haven't returned to Edmonton during the winter, so we've never celebrated Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or New Year's with my side of the family. This year was the closest we've gotten! We had to board our plane on the evening of Thanksgiving Day, so knowing that we wouldn't have a lot of time, we made no "special" plans for dinner. It was a simple meal out, but significant to me because it was spent with my parents, brother, new sis-in-law, and sister. We got back to Fresno on Friday morning, so the rest of that day was spent relaxing, napping, and unpacking. On Saturday, we headed up to Jason's sister's house for Jason's family's annual Thanksgiving Dinner. It is my favorite meal in the entire year! We chat, hang out, and play games while eating appetizers. Then later in the day, it's time for the big meal. The turkey has been prepared the same way for 12 years (because it's so delicious, I can't imagine Thanksgiving without it), and we always have green bean casserole (yes, of course the can-type!), pine nut and sausage dressing, sweet potatoes (up until this year, only Jason's mom and I ate it- this year, Grace and Jeremy loved it, too), mashed potatoes, salad (with Asian pears, feta cheese, cranberries), and bread... The desserts are always amazing, too! I always stuff myself and this year was no exception.

I love Thanksgiving! It doesn't matter what a person's religious beliefs are- Thanksgiving is a special time to reflect on what you've been blessed with. Hope everyone enjoyed time with family this past week! Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Family Vacation in Oahu

I really don't know how I'm going to blog about our week-long trip to Oahu! It was nice to have a family vacation, but the main reason why we went at all was for my brother's wedding. There's so much to share, and I'll try not to ramble on too much... Okay, here we go!

Day 1














-Got to the airport at 5am, but due to "weather" in L.A., our plane got delayed 4 hours. That's right- we were stuck at FAT for 4 hours! Needless to say, we missed our connection from LAX to Honolulu. We flew with Northwest, who is currently in the process of merging with Delta. A complete nightmare- in a nutshell, we were supposed to arrive in Honolulu at 12:40pm and didn't end up getting there until 8:20pm. The kids got really restless during all our waiting in the airports, but considering the 5 1/2 hour flight, I'd say they did "ok" on the plane. I will remember that day as the worst travel day we have ever had.

-For our trip, we stayed in a 2 bdrm. suite at the Aqua Waikiki Pearl. This was the perfect place for our family to stay! It was reasonable in cost, we had our own kitchen and balcony, and we were so close to everything (International Marketplace was across the street, beach was 2 blocks away, tons of restaurants nearby, etc.). My parents stayed with us, which was extremely helpful. Since they go to bed early, we were able to put the kids down for the night and then leave to go hang out with friends!



Day 2

-Headed to the beach and spent many hours there! Grace and Jason were able to go to the beach every day except our last day.

-Family dinner at a Korean BBQ place (yum!). It was the first time my brother's (Peter) and his fiancee's (Teresa) families met.

-Several of us girls took Teresa out for her "bachelorette scavenger hunt." We had to complete tasks such as ask a guy to marry us, get a free drink from the bartender, get a piggyback ride, get a guy's number, dance with 10 guys, etc... Teresa won!






Day 3

-Went to visit Pearl Harbor (got an audio tour of the USS Bowfin, a submarine, and then also visited the USS Arizona Memorial)-Got our camera broken by a docent (we have the worst luck with cameras! Jason ended up having to go to Costco later that day to buy me a new camera)

-Went to Germaine's Luau (Jeremy was completely mesmerized by the whole show)
Day 4

-Took an island tour of Oahu by car.

-Hung out at Kailua Beach (rated one of Oahu's most beautiful beaches), visited a macadamia nut farm, ate at a shrimp shack at the side of the road, got to see prawns close-up, tasted fruit at fruit stands along the highway, saw surfers surf at North Beach, and visited Dole Plantation where we ate delicious pineapple ice cream and took a touristy tour by train.
Day 5

-Peter and Teresa's wedding was held at the Kahala Hotel & Resort. It's known for being a beautiful resort, but also for having a dolphin lagoon (people can go swim with the dolphins).
-Reception was held at the beautiful Moana Surfrider. Day 6
-Went to the Honolulu Flea Market held at Aloha Stadium (it's huge!)

-Experienced snorkeling for the first time at Hanauma Bay (this was an incredibly huge feat for me- I have a real fear of drowning). Up until this day, the weather had been pretty nice, but it was overcast while we were at Hanauma Bay and even started raining- it was cold! (we took more pictures with a waterproof camera- have to develop those to see if any turned out!)

-Ate dinner at Oceanarium, a restaurant that has a huge aquarium lining one of its walls. This place was a big hit for the kids! We ate so much food- crab legs, salmon, sushi, seafood pasta, oysters, etc.



Day 7

-Hiked to Manoa Falls, one of the island's tallest waterfalls. It rained almost the whole time so it got really muddy and slippery. Jeremy was not feeling well and Jason had to carry him more than half the hike.
-Shopped at International Marketplace (actually, we visited every day on our way to the beach!)-Headed for home on a red-eye flight. Luckily, there were no delays this time. However, since Jeremy wasn't feeling well, he didn't sleep for very long on the flight. He was cranky and irritable, which made the flight home miserable for all of us.

-Got home at around 9:30am (and then napped until 2pm!)


Waikiki is definitely touristy, but there were plenty of other areas to explore, too. We were able to do a lot on our trip- we relaxed, shopped, napped, toured, explored, ate, hung out, learned, discovered, etc... All in all, it was a good family vacation! If we get the chance to go back, we definitely would (it'd be a really different experience without kids!!!). Next trip for us will be in February when we go to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver- without kids!!! (There are more pictures in the Family Photo Album on the right).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Childhood Friends

Grace met her friend, Shannon, when she was 2 and they went to the same home daycare. They went separate ways last year, but met up again at school this year. The girls are in different classes, but have been able to remain friends. There was no school today (due to teacher inservices) so Shannon spent the day with us. Grace really enjoyed getting time to play with her special friend!
Shannon gave these roller skates to Grace for her birthday, so we thought it'd be fun to try them out today (Grace did really well for her first try!)I remember a time when she hated having her picture taken- now look at our little poser!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grace's Soccer Season

Yesterday was Grace's last soccer game. She actually has one more game next Saturday, but we'll be missing it (Hawaii, here we come!). Overall, most of the games were tie scores, but the Kickers are ending their season on a positive note- they have won the last two games. Grace scored one goal a few weeks ago and she has improved over the season, but we'll have to wait until next year to see if she still wants to play. We have always wanted her to try out different things- so far, she's taken swimming (a few times), gymnastics, dance, and soccer... Hmm... wonder what she wants to try next?

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Grace and Her Bike

Grace learned how to ride her bike with no training wheels today! Our neighborhood's roads are pretty bumpy, but there's a church near our house that has a big parking lot, so we decided to have her try out there. It was exciting to watch- I was nervous that she would get hurt and then be discouraged. Luckily, on her first shot, she started off with Jason holding onto the back, and she kept going after he let go. I almost started crying! She needs some practice pushing off and stopping, but I'm sure it won't be long before we'll be able to go on family bike trips around the neighborhood. Yay, Grace!

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween

Our family enjoyed a wonderful evening tonight. For us, it began with pumpkin carving. Grace and Jason carved the two pumpkins Grace got on her two trips to the pumpkin patch earlier in the week. It was cute that she drew a picture of what she wanted one of the jack-o-lanterns to look like. Next, the kids got into their costumes and we headed to our church's carnival where the kids played on the inflatables, played some carnival games, we ate dinner, and chatted with friends. Grace dressed as Tinkerbell this year (or depending on who you ask, a fairy or a princess), and Jeremy was supposed to match as Peter Pan (or some people guessed Robin Hood). Jeremy lasted in his costume for about 20 minutes- he undid his belt, the hat was thrown on the ground, and he bent his sword soon after that. Grace didn't want to wear her wings or carry around her wand, so Jason and I ended up carrying around all of their accessories.You might be surprised to know that Grace has never been trick-or-treating before. She discovered this year through classmates at school what it is, so of course she has been asking all week if she could go this year. Before heading home, we went with the Wiens and Lee families to a few houses near the church. I am surprised to admit that it was fun watching their excitement. Since tomorrow is Daylight Savings, we decided to take advantage of having an extra hour by having the Mack family come over to hang out after we went trick-or-treating. I'd say that tonight was a pretty Happy Halloween- the kids had a great time and we got to spend time with many good friends! (more pictures in the photo album on the right)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween at School

Very few schools in Fresno allow kids to dress up for Halloween anymore. Grace's school is one of the few that still do. The principal was actually hinting that this might be the last year of dressing up! Well, Grace will have at least one memory of participating in a school-wide costume parade. This year, Grace asked to dress up as Tinkerbell. I was able to go and help in Grace's class this morning (a huge thanks to Jamie for her willingness to watch Jeremy!), so it was neat to be there to see all of the kids' costumes in their school's parade. The atmosphere was a lot of fun. The fun continued during her class's learning centers, and of course on through the party. Grace and her classmates got to decorate pumpkin-shaped cookies and then eat them afterwards. She had a wonderful day at school!