Friday, December 31, 2010

Vacation Activity-palooza 2010

Oh my, we've had a fun-filled two weeks vacation from school. Yes indeedy, we have!  I have decided to do a recap in one post, so bear with the length!

--Saturday December 18--Full-on jammie and couch potato day.  Oh, the bliss, but for obvious reasons, no pictures.
--Monday, December 20--My good friend Missie has a daughter, R, who is Kendra's bestest buddy, and this year we decided to take the girls out for a "girls night" instead of having them swap gifts.  We took them out to Chili's (kids eat free coupon plus a gift card---whoop, whoop) and then headed to downtown Fort Worth to see the lights, big ole Texas sized Christmas tree, and a visit to the really big Barnes & Noble.

 When you see a really large vine-covered bovine, you must have a photo with it.  Clearly.
 Kendra and R are the two tiny people on the left.  That gives a good perspective on the tree's size, eh?
Both girls grabbed this book and plopped down.  Missie and I talked for probably 30-40 minutes while they just read and read.  Ahhhh....

Tuesday, December 21:  We went to the Movie Tavern with our Ballards to see Narnia:  Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  The Movie Tavern is a place where you can order dinner AND watch a movie.  I expected so-so food, but was amazed at how awesome it was!  I had this delicious chicken/cranberry/sprout/lettuce/other stuff I can't remember pita sandwich and it was divine!  We also had these melt-in-your-mouth fresh baked chocolate chip cookies that had a roasted marshmallow in the middle.  Woah.  You sit in these really lux seats and there is a swinging tray table-ish set up for your food.  And the movie was incredible.  Highly recommend it.  It was a top dollar movie experience, but definately worth it for special occasions!!! 

Wednesday December 23: The Ballards invited us to join them on their family pass to the Fort Worth Science & History Museum. This is a really great place full of cool stuff. The big exhibit was one on Egypt and they even had a real mummy.   I learned a ton of stuff about pyramids and mummies and other neato things.  I love history!

Kendra and Livvy lovin' it up by the Christmas tree at the museum.

 Ridin' the trail...

Luckily, this camel doesn't spit.

I already posted about Christmas eve and Christmas...see previous.

Sunday, December 26:  We packed up the car and headed to Alabama to see my brother and his family.  My mom and her husband Troy came down from Michigan, too.  It is a long drive from here, about 11-12 hours, but it was great to see them.  Kendra and I had gifts from my dad, mom, and sister's family so it was a second Christmas!

(can you believe these girls are only 9 days apart in age?)
Kendra got a new pair of pjs from my dad and step mom Janice, a cute shirt and a ZhuZhu pet from my sister's bunch, and a new outfit for her AG dolls from my mom.  I got a new kitchen knife and sharpener, a nail buffing kit, and money from my mom and Troy, and a pack of really nice dish cloths and a Whirley Pop popcorn popper from my dad and Janice.   I was super excited about the Whirley Pop because it makes the BEST popcorn!  I used the money my mom and Troy gave me to buy a Ninja Master Prep machine, which is sort of like a blender and a food processor in one. 

While we were in Alabama, we did several things.  We went to this quaint little downtown area called Fairhope where we strolled around town and window shopped.  We all went to the movies---mom, Troy, the girls and I saw Tangled (loved it!) and my brother, his wife, and Briggs went to see Little Fockers (which they gave a thumbs up).  We also played a bunch of games and just hung out.  The "biggest" event, though, was the fashion show put on by Kendra and Marina.  It was planned to a T, with everyone having assignments.  Briggs was the announcer, my mom was the background helper/dresser/hair/makeup person, Jena was in charge of music, Brendan was in charge of lights (did a great job rigging Christmas lights and using a flashlight for spotlighting!), and Troy and I were photographers.  They did four costume changes and each clothing change had a song/dance routine with it.  Quite the show!

 The runway...sporting their new shirts from my sister's fam.
 Um, yeah, she isn't going to wear makeup for a while.  Makes her look too old!!!
 Ignore my all-boy nephew in the background.  Jeez.
 Certain my sis in law will disapprove of this photo.  She doesn't read my blog though!  :-)  It is the only one that I got of the two of them the whole trip, so there ya go!

The girls with their "dresser", my mom.

On our last night in Alabama, we had the most amazing thing happen.  I had planned to take my brother's family out to dinner to thank them for their hospitality.  Their whole family loves Red Robin, and Kendra's dad  had given us $40 in gift certificates to there, so that is where we went.  Funny enough, the closest one was in Florida, so we went to Florida for the night!  Really, it was only 30 minutes from their house, but it was funny to say we went to Florida!  So we got an appetizer and enjoyed dinner very much--excellent service, great food, etc.  I got the bill--it was what I expected at around $65, so I put the $40 gift cards and my credit card into the bill thingy and the waitress took it away.  About 10 minutes later, the manager comes to our table, sets down the gift cards in front of me and says that they can't take them.  Apparently, they were for a franchise of restaurants only good in Utah.  Go figure.  Then came the amazing part.  He said, "We can't take the gift cards, so I just took care of your meal.  It is on me."  WHAAAATTT????  Jena, Brendan, and I just stared at him in shock for a good minute, and the my brother sputtered out, "But why?" and the manager said, "Just because.  Merry Christmas!"  Oh my goodness.  You just don't hear of that kind of thing anymore!  Well, I asked him how I could tip the waitress, and he said he'd just charge me for a drink and I could do the tip on that.  He sat down and chatted with us for a while after that---talked about Michigan and other things, and he was just so nice!!!!  I ended up paying $16 for a really nice meal for six of us!!!  Isn't that amazing????

After dinner, we strolled through the mall where the restaurant was, and we went to a pet store that had puppies.  We got to play with a few of them.  Here are some pics of us and the puppies we DID NOT take home (even though some pleading glances were sent my way). 

 This was a King Charles Cavalier that was so happy to be out to play---the pic is blurry because she was really active!
My lovely niece Marina with the blurry/moving puppy!

Me with a tiny pug we dubbed "Stella".  Doesn't she look like Stellaluna???

We had a long but uneventful drive back to Texas on Dec. 30th.

Today, December 31st, the last day of 2010:  We went to pick up Livvy and went to the American Girl store in Dallas.  Kendra had Christmas money and wanted to get one of the dresses for Felicity before they sold out, but sadly we were too late.  They were all gone.  She settled for a cute little purple dress for her dollies instead.  We had lunch at Applebees (a gift card from a student paid for that!) and now we are having Livvy for a sleepover to welcome the new year.  We plan to have popcorn from the Whirley-Pop and Frozen Hot Chocolate shakes made in the Ninja while we watch How to Train a Dragon on the BluRay player and then watch the ball drop. 

Wow.  What a blessed life we lead.  Awesome family and friends and so many opportunities to enrich our lives.  Welcome, 2011!  I'm sure it will be another fantastic year!!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I love Christmas 2010!

Kendra and I had the best Christmas!  After a delightful Christmas Eve together, we got the goodies ready for Santa.  Four chocolate chip cookies, milk in a Santa mug, and 9 mini carrots, one for each reindeer.
Kendra wrote a note, as always, and thanked Santa for all he brings her each year.  This year she also left a selection of polished rocks for him to choose from as a souvenir! 

Kendra slept like a rock, but I woke up almost hourly!  Crazy.  As per usual, I woke up first, and I tried sneaking out to start the breadmaker for our brunch with the Ballards, but Kendra heard me and popped right up.  She came out to see the bounty under the tree...

All those gifts are for Kendra!  Goodness.  Mr. Claus and I need to keep a list next year as we shop---this might have been a bit overboard!  Kendra's gifts seemed to come in twos this year---two nailpolishes, two lip glosses, two games (Monopoly Electronic Banker and Bop It), two movies (How to Train a Dragon and Toy Story 3), two Wii Games (Wii Resort and Daring Games for Girls).   She also got an American Girl outfit for her dolls, a pillow buddy frog, a book, and assorted other cute things in her stocking.  We also got her a Snuggie, and there is a lady that my friend told me about who makes AG doll clothes who custom made a Snuggie for her doll!

Next, we got ready to head over to the Ballards to spend a wonderful day with them.  We had a brunch spread, and Kendra and I brought Panera bagels (YUM), homemade bread, some flavored butters and cream cheeses, and fresh pineapple. 

When we got to the Ballards, the family practically pounced on me and told me to hurry and open my present.  As always, we were spoiled ROTTEN by our dear friends.  My gift was the ginormous, awkwardly wrapped item right there in the doorway.  Because of its shape, I knew what it was before tearing off the wrapping, but I kept shaking my head the whole time and saying, "You really didn't."  Here are Kendra and Olivia on my gift.
I have been saying since I moved into my house almost three years ago that I wanted an elliptical skiier machine for my front room because I have no means to exercise easily.  Seriously?  I had NO idea this was coming, and I am thrilled beyond measure!  Look out jeans, you are about to get looser!  By the way, coincidentally (or not?) my Gift for Jesus (see post previous) involves being healthier.  Wow.

Next, we had the Ballards open their gifts from us.  Our gifts are paltry in comparison--I simply cannot out-do their generosity with us, nor do they expect it one bit.  This year, we got them all the same thing---just different varieties...

Yep, I got them all Nerf Blasters!  I had them rip them open all at once, and you should have seen the chaos of them all trying to get their blaster out of the packaging fastest so they could be the first to attack!  These two were the biggest kids in the bunch, I think...

I think Sophie might have told me she loved me about a dozen times.  She loves those things, apparently, and has wanted one for a while!  Happy to oblige, and what's wrong with encouraging a little family violence anyway??  :-)

Kendra had yet to open her gift, and I knew what was coming so I had my camera at the ready.  Kendra had one item on her list this year that her parents and Santa were not going to fulfill.  She had already received her laptop as her HUGE gift from her dad and I, and in our house, Santa doesn't bring big ticket items.  But her heart still wished and wished for one thing...Felicity the American Girl doll who was being retired this year.  They will not be selling Felicity after the new year, and Kendra has wanted her for a long time.  She was trying to finagle ways to obtain her before she wasn't available anymore, but she doesn't need to now....

I wish I had run video on this instead....the scream that came as she tore open this package was HUGE.  I had tears in my eyes as her wish came true thanks to our amazing friends.

Olivia got the Elizabeth doll, which is also being retired because she is Felicity's best friend.  Fitting that these two girls, who are so very close, got best friend dollies for Christmas.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing, visiting with Scott and Sherry's parents, and playing.  I watched a movie on the big screen with Sophie and Belle (Inception---holy cow, that is a thinking movie!) while Kendra and Livvy played.  All in all, quite the perfect day.  Happy sigh.

One last photo...if you look closely, you'll see a few orange blurs as the Nerf Blaster posse discharged all their ammo at me in the sake of photo opportunity!

Merry, Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

My kind of Christmas Eve

It was a rather soggy day here, and we had a few errands to run.  We took Grady to get his nails trimmed, grabbed bagels at Panera Bread for tomorrow's brunch with the Ballards, and ran to Kroger for other items for the brunch.  The word of the day was patience as we dealt with many, many folks out doing last minute shopping in the rain.  We came home and just lazed around for the afternoon, which also included a glorious nap for me! 

Kendra and I have many wonderful friends here.  We were invited to spend Christmas Eve with several of them, but we decided we wanted a quiet night at home instead. We turned on the fireplace, lit up the tree, and settled in to a nice evening to relax!  Kendra's primary teacher and two of her adorable children came by with a treat and sang to us!  I think that might be the first time I have ever had carolers at my house!  So darn cute.  My house smells like baking bread as I fired up the breadmaker that has been in retirement for about 9 years and baked the first of two loaves for tomorrow as well!  YUMMY!

I've been enjoying reading (my breaks-only pleasure) and Kendra's been crafting and vegging in front of the TV (I know...not really great parenting but hey, she's on vacation too!). 

Staying home = mismatched comfy clothes!

Soon, we will do this...
Borrowing a tradition from a friend, we started a "gifts for Jesus" box several years ago.  We each decide upon some area of personal improvement we want to make as our gift to our Savior.  We read the gift from last year and write our new one each Christmas Eve.

Then we will read this...

And also this...

Kendra will tuck into my bed, because she tends to wander in during the night anyway and we wouldn't want her to stumble upon Santa.  I'll turn off the fire (so as to cool in time for the man in the big red suit) and head to bed myself after I do my Elfish duties.  All in all, this is my idea of a perfect Christmas Eve! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Quadripusses (or is it Quadripi?)

Kendra is a fan of crafting and the other day she was browsing on the Family Fun website looking for something to make.  She asked me if we had any spare gloves she could use.  Gloves?  So she showed me this cute little craft and after we dug up some gloves she made one for herself and her friends Olivia and Ben.  We went out with those very friends last night, and when she gave the cute things to the younger two (Olivia and Ben), their older two sisters and their three older girl cousins all declared they wanted one, too!  I was a little surprised that they were so enamoured...but teens are unpredictable, aren't they?!?  So Kendra and I had a crafting bonanza today and made five more Quadripusses (or is it Quadripi????) for the older girls. 
The one in front is one of the original three that started it all and belongs to Kendra.
Kendra did most of the hand sewing (you tuck in the thumb and sew it shut and then sew the wristband of the glove shut once stuffed) and she picked all the colors, button coordination, noses, etc.  I was the bow-designer/creator and hot-gluer. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

George has arrived...

In a previous post, I told about the sock monkey that I won from Terrace Hill.  Today, the monkey who Kendra named George before he was even shipped arrived!  He is very cute, and the owner of Terrace Hill, Chadley, even sent along a little scarf and hat.  Included was a note saying that she wanted to send the hat and scarf in case he gets cold, since he is from California!  I thought that was so cute, but also a little funny seeing that we had a high in the low 80's today on December 20th!!!!  Kendra adores George...what a sweet little early Christmas present.

Poor Kendra has had a sinus infection....I just noticed you can see it in her little bags under her eyes!  She's on the mend, though, and will hopefully be completely well by Christmas! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reprising her role....

If you read two posts down, you read about Kendra's story in which she got the role of Mary in the 2nd grade program.  Her friend, D, was Joseph.  Here they are in their 2nd grade cuteness:
This year, the 2nd grade teachers did not want to go to the trouble of doing a time honored school tradition (ahem, excuse my irritation).  But that didn't stop our AMAZING music teacher, Wendy Price.  The 2nd graders learned the songs, but Wendy recruited 4th and 5th graders to play the parts for the program.  The kids were thrilled, as they had participated in their 2nd grade years and loved it.  So, the Performers Club was formed, and guess who got to reprise her role as Mary?
And yep, you guessed it.  That is D reprising HIS role as Joseph, too!   Cuteness beyond words.   I love seeing the difference in the pictures!  **Side note:  these two have had little crushes on each other for years.  Of course, Kendra would deny that.... :-)  He is a really great kid from a really great family--at least I know she has good taste! 

They did a different song this year called "In The Window" which was a Hanukkah song.  I really wish I had recorded video on was lovely.  Kendra got to be in that song, too, and since her Mary costume went with the Hebrew/Israeli look she didn't even need a costume change.  Here are a few pics of her doing some of the choreography.

It was particularly fun for me to watch not only my own kiddo, but many of the Performers were either current or past students of mine.  What a wonderful way to celebrate the season!  Only in Texas can you have a school program in which the nativity story is shared!

Friday, December 17, 2010

I won!

I follow many family and friend blogs, and just a few craft/recipe blogs, too.  One of my fave crafty ladies is Vanessa at V & Co, who happens to be a personal friend of one of my sister in laws.  She makes beautiful things, especially quilts.  Wow.  Anyway, she had a giveaway from Terrace Hill, who makes AMAZING gorgeous aprons (seriously, who knew a functional item like an apron could be so cute?) and also DARLING sock monkeys.  So she was giving away one sock monkey and an apron/towel matching set, so I entered of course.  And I won!  I won the apron and towels.  Are they not absolutely gorgeous?????

But Kendra was really bummed that we didn't win the sock monkey because apparently she has wanted one for so very long (really?).  Anyway, I posted on FB that I was so excited to win and happened to mention that my sweet girl wishes I had won the monkey instead but that I was THRILLED to win!  Within minutes I had an email and the very kind, talented lady at Terrace Hill offered to switch my prize to a sock monkey for Kendra!  Kendra just about came unglued and is so excited (of course I took her up on the switch!)

If you are in the market for either item, go to her shop.  Oh my goodness they are lovely, every one!

Thank you so much Vanessa and Terrace Hill!  Merry Christmas to us! 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Award Winning Writing!

One of my new fourth grade teammates (Adam) came up with an idea to have a whole-school writing contest.  Each grade would have a winning writer (because you can't compare kindergarten writing to fourth grade writing, after all).  Each grade level team would decide how we wanted to handle the writing, and my team decided we would do it as a one-hour timed free-write.  The whole school wrote on the same topic--their favorite memory at our school.  Each teacher was to choose their top two writers to go to the "semi-finals" and Adam was to judge and decide upon a winner per grade level. Well, since I am teaching Kendra, I wanted to be sure nobody had reason to accuse me of bias so I had Adam also select my top two writers--I even had the kids only put numbers on their papers instead of names.  Well, Kendra's writing was selected as one of the top two in my class.  She was excited. 

Today, our principal stepped into the room and said he was there to pick up the fourth grade writing contest winner.  I was thrilled that the winner was in my class!  It was either Kendra or the other little girl in my top two, who is a very good writer.  Mr. D. said he would read the first line of the story to tell the winner, and as he started reading, up popped KENDRA saying, "YAY!!!!!"   What an awesome moment as a mom AND as a teacher!  Below is Kendra's story.  I publish this blog into a book each year, and I want to have this story included!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 

Who is it? Could it be me? I was at school and I was in second grade. It was a month and a half before Christmas. Ever since first grade I knew second grade did a Christmas play and the role of Mary was out there. I really wanted to be Mary. I really thought I had it because I had dreams and every time Mrs. Kougias talked about it she looked at me in “that way”. I thought, “This was it. It had to be me.”

I waited for what felt like 5 billion years. Whenever we went to the carpet, I always said it must be my moment. Day after day. No, no, no, no, no, no. Then the day finally came. Mrs. Kougias said, “I would like to give out parts now.”

I told myself this is the big moment. My body automatically went into cross-everything form. I kept on saying silent prayers. A couple of days before, I heard Reagan ask Mrs. Kougias if she could be Mary so I was worried the part would go to her. I felt like I was going to burst. I was shaking so fast. I kept on getting more and more worried. My teeth were chattering like a skeleton. I said, “If I don’t get Mary, it will be ok”. So many people were getting their parts. But then I heard, “ DUN DUN DAAAAAA! The role of Mary goes to Kendra!” I almost jumped out of my socks. I did not scream out loud but I did in my head. Everyone clapped for me. I was so happy.

Before I knew it, it was time to go home. I tore through the halls to tell my mom. I went down the ramp screaming, “Aaaaahhhh!” I wanted to tell everyone from China to Israel! I was so happy to get the role. I learned that one tiny thing can make one big day amazing!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nativity and Early Christmas

Kendra and I continued our tradition of attending a Nativity display given by one of our church congregations nearby.  I will admit I was disappointed;  they scaled down the display a great deal this year.   There were only two or three rooms with nativities this time, whereas in year's past they had the entire cultural hall and every classroom filled.  The most popular feature was the dress-up nativity photo opportunity and Kendra and I had our picture done for the third year in a row.  It is a really nice service!  They dress you up, take your picture, give you a 4 x 6 print, and send you a link to a site to access the electronic versions, ALL for free!  Here are our shots from this year.

 Usually Kendra wants to be Mary, but this year she wanted to be the angel...
So that means I was Mary.

I also took a few pictures myself that night. 

Kendra's dad came into town for an early Christmas with Kendra.  We have done this for the past several years...he comes in a few weeks before Christmas and she gets to open her "big" gift from us.  She opens the rest of her presents on Christmas morning.  This year she got a REALLY big gift.  We usually don't spend this much on her, but it was a gift of semi-necessity.  She got....

A laptop!
The necessity part is that we have one computer at home--my laptop--and I have to use it all the time for work.  She can rarely use it (I work a lot!) and she is getting to the point in school where she needs access to a computer.  Even in fourth grade, her teacher gives online homework :-) (yes, yes I do!).  So when Kirk and I were talking about what to get her this  year, this was our choice.  She was very excited! 

We also got her a wireless mouse and she loves the color green so she was thrilled with this one.

Kirk gave me (us) a new flat screen TV (WOW!) which I got earlier in November, and surprised us with a BluRay player when he got here (DOUBLE WOW!).  We got him a Oral B professional sonic toothbrush, a couple of boxes of gluten-free pasta (he is eating gluten free and can't find it in Utah), a picture frame Kendra made at school with a cute picture of her in it, and the best gift that Kendra made herself was a nativity she made out of clay.
Kirk was shocked that she made this herself.  She really enjoys making things out of clay and had a lot of fun making this for him.  I think it is adorable!