Saturday, December 29, 2012

Annual Ugly Christmas Gift Exchange

For the past few years, we've had an Ugly Gift Exchange with the Wienses.  I actually don't remember how we came up with this tradition, but it's definitely one that we have a blast shopping for.  We got together for dinner at their home this year.  In the past, I've always planted the idea in our kids of getting gifts for others.  This year, our kids actually expressed that they wanted to exchange gifts with Charlotte and Levi, and that made me happy, to know that our kids wanted to express their love for their friends through gifts.
Grace "knew" that she wanted to get Charlotte a journal/diary, and Jeremy "knew" that he wanted to get Levi some Hot Wheel cars.
As for the ugly gift, Christa and Aaron got us a bride/groom figurine that lights up, and we got them a mermaids sign.  Hilarious!  Now we have to display our Ugly Gift for an entire year.  Luckily, ours is a little smaller so it won't be hard to find a place for it- good luck, Wienses, finding a lovely new home for your mermaid sign! :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas 2012

Our Winter Break didn't start until the weekend before Christmas.  We had Jason's family's gathering on that Saturday.  Here are just a few pictures of our time together.
The cousins!

The Isaac family's dinner tradition is to snack on appetizers all afternoon and then finish off with soups: Mom's amazing Clam Chowder, and our Tortellini Soup.
It is actually really hard to coordinate schedules, believe it or not, so it is truly cherished when our whole family can be together.

Christmas Eve is our family's get-together.  We have loved having Jason's mom join us for the past few years.  After our traditional meal (Jason makes an incredible beef tenderloin), we go to our church's Christmas Eve candlelight service.  When we get back, we have cookies and hot chocolate and listen to the Christmas story before opening our gifts.  This year, we actually had the kids reenact the Christmas story using our Fisher-Price nativity set.  We really like opening gifts on Christmas Eve because then Santa doesn't get all the credit!  We've made it clear that we give each other gifts to remember that God actually gave us the ultimate gift in the birth of his son, Jesus.  We've tried for years not to get caught up in the commercialism of the season, and hopefully, our kids will remember the reason for the season as each year goes by. 

 Since we got Jeremy a light saber, of course we had to get Grace one, too.  Who else would he duel against?

Di Dao always gifts the kids a Christmas book, and this year, they also got toques and an Angry Birds game. We almost missed the last gift under our tree- it looked like just a piece of paper that the kids had colored, but it turns out that it was paper they colored and used to wrap their gift for us. Inside were tons and tons of snowflakes that the two of them had made.  We have no idea when they did all of this! Grace taught Jeremy how to make snowflakes, and after they were made, they wrapped them and put them under our tree.  They were so excited to see us open up their gift.  "Look what we made you!"  I teared up- this gift is one to treasure... It was a gift that was truly filled and given with love. I was so touched!  Our kids showed that they DO understand what it means to give!!!!  I definitely will never forget these snowflakes...
In the morning, we enjoy breakfast together before we see what Santa has left in the kids' stockings.
 For Christmas Day this year, we hung out at home.  Jeremy put together some of his new Lego sets (he impressed us by needing minimal help with what looked complicated for a 5 year old) and Grace played with her new Just Dance on Wii.  It was a blast watching her, Jason, and Grandma take turns dancing!  Later in the afternoon, we headed to the movies and saw Wreck It Ralph.  There were a few scary scenes and some inappropriate language, but overall, it was good. 

Such a fun few days celebrating Christmas!  I am so thankful and feel incredibly blessed!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Blur of December

It's almost the end of the month and boy, did this month just fly by.  Part of the reason was that I got really sick this year.  I ended up missing 5 days of work (in my 12 years of teaching, I have never missed 5 days due to illness!) and it wasn't until just a few days ago that I finally felt fully well again.  I had strep and due to all the medications I was on and the fact that I wasn't eating a whole lot, I also ended up getting an ulcer.  I found out the hard way, ending up in the ER at 3am.  We are so thankful for good friends who have been helping us out immensely this month.  Aaron came in the middle of the night and slept on our couch so that we could go to the ER without dragging along our kids...  Michelle made my last minute sub plans when she found out I wasn't going to be able to make it to work...  And Jamie provided dinner for Jason and the kids since it was such a crazy day!  The support we've gotten from so many people has been incredible and made me realize the amazing network of people who genuinely love and care for our family.  This has been a recurring reminder for me in this holiday season... I am overwhelmingly blessed!!!!

Now for a recap of the "good" events that took place this past month!

Trip to Cambria: My good friend Christa, was able to get a great deal on a weekend stay in Cambria.  She invited me, Jamie, and Jill to join her as part of a girls' getaway during the first weekend in December. 

(view from our rental house)
We had a fun time- we talked (and talked), went wine tasting, ate, and did some shopping.  If you know me at all, you know that I get carsick really easily.  So, unfortunately, my experience with wine tasting wasn't that great- I was very, very nauseous as we drove the windy countryside to get to Justin Winery and Opolo Winery.  The drive was horrible- once my Dramamine kicked in, I was less nauseous, but then really drowsy.  That part was a total bummer... However, spending time with close friends- that was wonderful and I am so glad that I got to be included in this getaway with these special friends. 
Grace's School Program:  Grace was Rudolph in her program, and though she had no speaking parts, she had been looking forward to it for weeks.  I was in immense pain (level 8, what I would imagine swallowing razor blades to feel like) and decided I would have to stay home.  However, when I told Grace, she started to cry... So, despite the pain, I went.  It made her feel better, but I sure paid for it the next day. :(

Children's Program at Church: Jeremy has been in the same Sunday School class for years now, and every year, the songs his class performs are the same. He sang more of the songs than in previous years- maybe next year, he'll sing all of them (he'll be in the same class again next year).  Grace moved up to a different class this year.  Her class did a retelling of the Christmas story and she was a wise(wo)man.

Holidays are more special with special friends!

Mrs. Karen and Mr. Darrell:  We are so blessed to have these two amazing people in our lives.  We met them when I was pregnant with Grace and they have been a part of our lives ever since.  Since I don't have parents in town, I am so appreciative of how they have looked out for me in countless ways.  Most recently, they came and got our kids when I was sick and spent the whole day with them so Jason and I could both take it easy (Note the Boston souvenirs our kids are wearing from their latest trip out East).

Nancy's Annual Holiday Get-together: I used to teach at Herndon-Barstow, and even though I'm no longer there, I am still privileged to be included in some of their get-togethers such as this annual one that is hosted by Nancy.  It has been a cookie exchange, but this year, everyone brought an appetizer or dessert instead.  I absolutely love getting together with this group of women.  I had already missed my staff's holiday party, and I was determined not to miss this one, too.  I went despite not feeling well, but I left feeling so glad that I went. I always leave feeling uplifted and loved on- these women are good for my soul!

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day: I guess it's an annual tradition at my school now- the staff dresses up in our ugliest Christmas sweater.  This year, Michelle and I decided it'd be funny to have our grade level dress up in the same shirt, so we made them.  We even made one for Mike!  Unfortunately, we didn't remember to get a picture of him before the end of the day!
With everything that happened this month, I am glad that we made it to Winter Break!  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Oh, Jeremy...

Jeremy's Thanksgiving poster-
He drew a picture of his preschool friends and added his "friend that's a girl."  He even made a cute little bow for her hair "because Audrey likes to wear bows."  So cute!  It made me happy that he said he was thankful for family and Jesus, too.

Jeremy's December project:

He was given a gingerbread man template and told to decorate it.  I am so proud of him- he came up with the idea himself, and with just a little guidance from me, cut and glued everything on.  Adorable!

Jeremy and his Gingerbread house-
Jeremy's class decorated gingerbread houses and he was so excited to bring it home to show us!

Jeremy and Union Square-
On our trip to San Francisco, we walked through Union Square.  On the entire front side of Macys was this huge ad of Brad Pitt.  Jeremy noticed it right away and said, "Hey, it's Jesus!"  Jason, Sarah, and I started cracking up- it was so hilarious!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Gosh, I can't believe it! I don't have any pictures of our Thanksgiving!  I still wanted to blog about it for memories' sake.  We spent it at the cabin and for the first time ever, Sarah joined us this year.  I was so happy that she got to come!  She got to enjoy my "favorite holiday meal of the year" and to see the cabin, a place that I've told her about all these years.

We had a wonderful week-long visit with Sarah and then we had to say goodbye... We won't get to see her until summer time.  I was extremely emotional and so sad to see her go. I'm very blessed to have a sister who I consider to be one of my closest friends. I'm thankful that she chose to spend her vacation time with our family.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ice Skating in Fresno!?

I grew up in Edmonton, where every school has its own outdoor skating rink.  Ice skating was a pretty normal outdoor activity in a place where snow covers the ground for at least four months of the year.  As we raise our kids in Fresno, known for its heat, I never thought that we'd ever take our kids skating, much less at an outdoor rink!  This year, downtown Fresno has an outdoor ice rink (albeit small, but a rink)!  Our family went together on Veterans Day with some friends, and the kids took such a liking to it, we ended up buying a family season pass.  I was shocked by how well our kids did.  They fell plenty of times, but had great attitudes and got right back up.  Pretty soon, they were skating from one section to the next without any help.  I was joking to Jason that it must be the Canadian in them, hahaha.  We went again during Thanksgiving Break with the Wiens family, my sister (who didn't get into ANY pictures), and brought our friend, Jackson, again, too.  We plan to go a few more times this season!  Fun times!  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Welcome to San Francisco

At the last minute, my sister decided to visit us during Thanksgiving Break.  She has the least seniority in her new job, which means that her coworkers got first choice to take time off around Christmas.  Sarah knew that no one would be wanting American Thanksgiving, so she decided to head on down.  This worked out great for our family since all of us had the week off. 

We went to pick Sarah up at the San Francisco Airport on Sat. morning. Our kids have never been to San Francisco, so we decided this would be a great weekend to be in the city!  Since it was raining off and on, our first stop was the California Academy of Sciences.  At Grace's school carnival last year, we bid on a family pass to the Academy at the last minute and won.  Our family got to go for $40 instead of the $120 it normally would've cost!  Wow!  Our kids had a great time as we explored the rainforest exhibit, the aquarium, and we even saw a show in the planetarium.  There were baby ostriches on display and we even got to experience their current Earthquake exhibit.
On Sunday, we did all the usual touristy things that a first time visitor would do- went to see the sea lions, Pier 39, looked at the naval submarine/ship at Fisherman's Wharf, discovered Musee Mecanique (museum of antique arcade games), ate clam chowder at Boudin's, had amazing sundaes at Ghiradelli's, rode a cable car, and shopped!

Before heading back to Fresno on Monday, Jason wanted to take some time to drive around the city.  He has signed up to run the San Francisco Marathon in June, and he wanted to have a visual of the route.  So, we drove the course and discovered an area on the west side of the Golden Gate Bridge.  We never did find the name of that area, but it had old bunkers and an amazing view!  We drove across the bridge and ended up walking partway across.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect! 

Before we left the Bay Area, of course we had to visit an Ikea.  Jason even stopped at the outlets in Gilroy for a little shopping (in which he came home with tons more than I did) before we drove home to Fresno.