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:
video
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!