Saturday, January 22, 2011

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Last Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In honor of MLK, Jason's school has participated in a school service project on this day for the last several years. This year, his school, Wawona, teamed up with Dailey Elementary and Fresno High to beautify Storyland and Playland. The three schools regularly work together since they are all International Baccalaureate (I.B.) schools. One of the draws of this global program is that it is very community-minded. Over 300 people gave up their "day off of school" to help clean and paint both parks. Jason decided to bring Grace with him and his team was in charge of painting fences and the lion drinking fountain. They had a great day together! Since Jeremy and I stayed home, the only picture I got of Jason and Grace was this one.
Later in the day, I had the chance to watch Oprah (I only watch a handful times a year since I'm usually working when her show airs). The show was dedicated to MLK and she recapped shows related to MLK and racism that she has done in the last 25 years. Grace wandered in and as she sat there, she began asking questions- I found myself stumbling in my words as I tried to explain to her in age-appropriate terms what the show was about. I ended up getting choked up and started crying when I told her that there was time when people who had different skin colors couldn't be together. It suddenly dawned on me as I was looking at my intelligent, sweet, innocent, beautiful "bi-racial" daughter that if it hadn't been for people like MLK and the difficult lives of many who came before us, it's likely Jason and I never would've been able to be together. Grace and Jeremy wouldn't be in my life... "There was a time when it wasn't ok for people with white skin to marry people who didn't have white skin. It would have been very, very hard for Daddy and Mama to get married back then." Grace said, "But Mama, you're white, too." Her comment made me realize that we really are just at the beginning of Grace's journey (of cultural awareness and self-identity) to understanding all it is that makes her unique. What a moment of revelation! I will never look at Martin Luther King Jr. Day as just a day off of school ever again.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Winter Break

Since starting off the school year in August, I have been working non-stop. When I devote so much of myself to working, there is a tendency for me to get burned out. I have always struggled with this, and even though I was doing ok for the first few months of the school year, my life began feeling out-of-balance right around Thanksgiving Break. I definitely felt myself getting burned out and I began counting down the days until Winter Break. With school starting up again on Monday, I can say that my Winter Break rejuvenated me- I was intentional about spending time doing things that I enjoy and spending time with family and friends. Here's what we've been up to!

-The first week of Winter Break was spent getting ready for Christmas. I usually don't Christmas shop until school gets out. Some might think I'm crazy, but honestly, Christmas wouldn't feel the same to me without the lines and hustle-bustle!

New Year's Eve
-For several years now, we've wanted to celebrate New Year's at Jason's family's cabin at Shaver Lake. We finally got our chance this year! We have typically spent New Year's Eve with the same group of friends. This year, we went to the cabin with the Wiens, Lee, and Co families. It was a packed house with all of our families, but everything turned out great! On New Year's Eve, we helped the kids ring in the new year before putting them to bed. Then, the girls sat around, snacked, and chatted (Jill & Christa made our annual batch of New Year's Cookies). The guys did their annual beer tasting. This year's judging included 11 beers- the contest was North America vs. Europe. For the most part, North America's beers came out on top.New Year's Day
-When we arrived the night before, there was already a lot of snow at Shaver. However, on New Year's Day, it snowed non-stop. We were determined to head outside to enjoy it. The first run the guys created for sledding was fun for the adults, but the kids didn't enjoy it because it was too fast. They kept getting snow in their faces, and it took a while to climb from the bottom back to the top. After lunch, the kids made a snowman and played in the snow. Then we headed to a sloped street nearby. It was perfect for sledding since the road was completely snow-covered ice. It was a ton of fun!

Apparently, it snowed throughout the night because everything was completely covered by snow when we got up the next morning. The guys spent several hours digging out the cars. To make things even more interesting, the power went out right during breakfast!

We had a lot of fun ringing in the New Year with our good friends at the cabin- we hope this year is the first of many to come!

San Diego

-We left the cabin and headed straight home to get our bags for San Diego. After some time on the freeway, we learned that the Grapevine had been shut down due to snow. For those of you who don't know why snow could cause a major freeway to be shut down, it's because the Grapevine is extremely steep. Many cars and drivers down here aren't equipped to drive in snow and ice. Anyway, we took an alternate route through Tehachapi, as did everyone else it seems. What was supposed to take 5-6 hours ended up being the worst car ride EVER. Due to all the snow (obviously not normal for Southern California), other roads and mountain passes were shut down. Police shut down northbound traffic on Cajon Pass but escorted limited groups of vehicles southbound. Due to this, traffic was at a complete standstill for hours. Cars would start up, we'd move a mile, and then stop until the next hour. There was absolutely no where to go. Traffic started moving slowly as Cajon Pass was opened up to more traffic. By the time we got to our condo in San Diego, it was past 5am. The car ride took us 15 hours! We are still amazed at how well the kids were- simply amazing! They slept through the night so they woke up at their regular time once we were settled at the condo, but they played well together so that Jason and I could sleep in.

After we got up, we decided we didn't want to waste our day, so we headed out. For lunch, we got some burgers from Hodad's (featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) and headed to the beach. It would've been perfect if it weren't for how cold it was outside and how we were completely circled by birds that waited to swoop in on our meal. The kids were treated to Hodad's chocolate milkshakes (delish) for being so good on our trip down. Then we let them run around on the beach for a bit before we headed to Balboa Park. While there, we decided to go to San Diego's Air & Space Museum. This was a big hit with Jeremy. I loved seeing his excitement as he pointed out all of the different planes. We spent the rest of our day relaxing at the condoSeaWorld

-We went to SeaWorld on Tuesday. It seemed as if we had the park to ourselves- there was barely anyone there! We got great seats to see Shamu, and we loved seeing all of the amazing sea animals. Jeremy's favorite was the "whale show," Grace's was the "dolphin show," Jason's was the "pet show" (at SeaWorld, of all places), and mine was seeing the kids excitement over everything. We enjoyed SeaWorld, and since we got to fully enjoy the park without lines and crowds, we maximized our day there. I don't think we'd return- one visit enabled us to enjoy everything.

Old Town San Diego

-Jason's mom took Amtrak down to join us on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, we woke up bright and early to try out The Mission, a highly recommended place for breakfast. It was delicious! Next, we visited Old Town San Diego. What a great area! We learned a lot and got to visit some unique shops (eg. the kids got to dip their own candles, and we also visited a candy store).

Point Loma

-Jason checked the tides and we headed out to Point Loma in the afternoon at the perfect time. We had a blast climbing along rocks and finding sealife in the tidepools. We saw a lot of anemones and hermit crabs, but we also saw several sea stars and even a sea snail. We eventually made our way to the visitor center and lighthouse before heading back to the condo.

-Jason's mom offered to watch the kids so Jason and I could go out to dinner. Based on reviews, Jason decided on Blue Water, a seafood restaurant. It was a long wait, but definitely worth it. The food was fantastic!

-This was highly anticpated by our kids. The next day, we left San Diego and headed north to Carlsbad for Legoland. Again, it seemed like we had the park to ourselves. The kids enjoyed this park immensely. We highly recommend this park for younger kids (ages 4-10)! Thrill-seekers would be definitely disappointed with this park. At age 6, Grace was able to enjoy almost every single ride, and there is tons to do if you're a young kid! We bought our passes at Costco, so for the price of a regular admission, we actually got a 3 month pass. This allowed us to return the next day. It was nice to take our time exploring the park, and since it was so empty, the kids got to go on the rides many times over. I imagine that it's probably very busy in the summer- it would be hard to wait in long lines for short rides. Go during non-peak season for the best experience! Later that night, we found a bbq place that we'd definitely visit again. It's called Felix's BBQ and it was wonderful!

Despite the crazy ride it took for us to get down here, we had a great family vacation. We are now headed back to Fresno and plan to do absolutely nothing tomorrow (Sunday) to prepare for our regular day-to-day to begin on Monday. Good bye, Winter Break! (I took way too many pictures to post here- check out the photo album for tons more!)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas 2010

Some highlights of our holiday season:

Children's Program at church
-Grace is in the 1st/2nd grade group this year, so for their performance, she had to say one verse of a poem by herself into the microphone (she says she was very nervous). She did a wonderful job!
-This was Jeremy's first time on the stage with his 3-5 yr. old group. We practiced the songs with him every night for two weeks leading up to his performance. He knew most of the songs, but he was like a deer in the headlights while on stage. Maybe next year, he'll actually perform.

Cookie Exchange
-I feel incredibly special that I still get to participate in my friend Nancy's annual cookie exchange. It is a gathering of teachers I used to work with at my former school. I always look forward to it- we eat, chat, fill each other in on what has been happening in our lives. This year, I made 10 dozen Chocolate Mint cookies!

Christmas Eve
-We invited Jason's mom to join us for our annual Christmas Eve dinner- beef tenderloin with a port sauce, roasted potatoes, and holiday salad. Before our meal, we read Luke 2 (the Christmas story from the Bible) together as a family. This year, the kids followed the story using one of our nativity sets.
-We attended our church's Christmas Eve candlelight service. I grew up going to church every Christmas Eve, so I can't possibly imagine celebrating Christ's birth without going to church!
-We opened up gifts after having hot chocolate and cookies. I got the best gift- Jason went way overbudget and got me my very first laptop!

Christmas Day
-After a special breakfast, we did stockings. Stockings were the only things that Santa left for our family this year (and every year from now on). Even though we didn't give Santa very much attention this year, our kids are old enough that influences from school and friends (and family) still left a huge impression. However, I feel like we did a better job of focusing on Christ. We used the advent calendar I got last year from my friend, Christa. This past month, we read through one symbol related to Christ during dinner (I posted about the advent calendar last year. Click here for more information). -Our friends, De and Jed, came over for most of the day to hang out. We feel privileged that we got to spend such a special day with great friends!

Boxing Day
-No shopping for me (in Canada, Boxing Day is like Black Friday here in the US). We had dinner with our friends, Aaron and Christa, and exchanged our 2nd annual White Elephant gift. The rules are: the gift must be less than $10, and it must be on display all year. The gift we got them came from Goodwill- it came in waaaaay under budget and was the 1st thing that caught both mine and Jason's eyes (it's an UGLY bright colored clown piggy bank, except that it's missing the rubber stopper).
Here's what they gave us:
Isaac Christmas
-On the Tuesday following Christmas, Jason's family got together at his mom's house for the Isaac's family Christmas. As usual, Jason's family was extremely generous- we are so blessed!

-All day long, we exchanged presents, ate, hung out- it was a wonderful, laid-back day together! Later in the evening, family friends, Bob and Dot dropped by. We enjoyed spending time with them, catching up.

Hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful time with their family this Christmas! There are more pictures in our photo album on the right hand side.