Friday, December 31, 2010

Another Week Gone...

Obviously, Christmas was the highlight this last week. We had Christmas with my family on Christmas Eve, then traveled about six hours to have Christmas with Robert's family on the 25th. Thankfully, the traveling was uneventful, unlike our first long road trip. It was wonderful to have two Christmases this year... I hope Grace doesn't think it always lasts two days!

The cousins pose for a picture.
Will they ever all be looking at the camera at once?

The girls are ready for bed. Looks like Gracie was
ready about an hour before this photo was taken!

Gracie was very excited when Papa and DeeDee brought gifts that we put under the tree:
Is this one for me? (Yes, it was.)

Can I open it now? (No, you can't.)
Although she did open it two days before Christmas,
despite our "barrier"!
We visited a local farm that sets up a major display for Christmas each year. They have a train ride, a snow machine (it doesn't snow here), animals and lots of fun displays:

The train pulling into the "station".

Our family on the train - and cousin John too!

Ta-Da! Instant snow fun!

Gracie's first look at snow. Notice she's wearing NO gloves?

Gracie and Daddy get into the Christmas spirit.
Christmas Eve morning we had a blast pretending it was Christmas, and opening lots of gifts. Grace got tired after about the third gift though, and finally just stood up and walked out of the room! Maybe she was wondering what the point of opening all those fun toys were, if we were just going to pile them in a heap off to the side and make her open another one.

Are you also going to take this one away
from me when I'm done?

Hmph. Next please! (What a face!)
Despite all the fun pictures of my cuties, cousin John definitely wins the prize for "Best Christmas Surprise Face":
Wow! It's an Iron Man!!
Mark got into the Christmas spirit with a little help from Daddy. Mostly he just ate the wrapping paper and wondered what the chaos was all about. He was really good at modeling his new Christmas clothes though!

It's a reindeer! It's a Santa! It's...
Super Christmas Mark!

Like this dad? Do I get to keep mine, or do they
go in the pile like Gracie's?

Ooohhh, wrapping paper. My favorite!

Mommy was thrilled to get her very own sewing machine! Can't wait to learn how to use it in my spare time... uh oh. I'm never going to learn, am I?

You can see how disappointed I am...
On the "real" Christmas day, we were with Rob's family, and had fun all over again. Grandma and Grandpa had flown in from Florida, and Uncle Mark and Aunt Kristin endured the four of us under their roof for five days. Mark and Kristin are expecting their first baby in March, so it was great practice to have a teething infant and curious toddler around. Well, that's what we told them anyway. *snickering*

Grace was better at the gift opening thing this time, and even Mark remembered what to do:

See Auntie Kristin? I'm a pro!

Yay! This one has no packaging!

Don't worry dad! I've got this one covered!

Okay, a little help here... how do you
open this one??

We spent most of the week relaxing with the family. We went on walks, went to the park, and even went to a unique animal "zoo" at the local university where students learn to train exotic animals! Grace loved seeing all the animals, as we've never seen any wild animals up close before.

Keeping up with Grace was a full time job.

Mark and Grandma were perfectly content to sit
and chat with one another.

At the end of the day, Gracie sat in Mark's
car seat, and looked as tired as we felt!

I hope you still have some energy left to celebrate the new year tonight... This year has been an amazing one for us, and I'm so thrilled to have found a way to share it with all of you. I can't wait to see what 2011 brings!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas Grandma

This December marks the tenth year of Christmases without my grandma. My mom's mom fit the portrait of a grandmother perfectly. She was always smiling, always cooking, and always offering something to eat. My favorite was when she had made cookies, usually oatmeal raisin.

She would read her Bible each morning, and when my sister and I got to spend the night, she would always read Our Daily Bread with us before saying our prayers and tucking us in. Sometimes we would sing. Grandma had a beautiful voice. She was an alto, like me, and I was always amazed at how she could harmonize without missing a beat. I loved to hear her sing the hymns.

She loved to play games, and taught us how to play Flinch and dominoes. Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune were on every night, usually accompanied by a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

One night, we watched as she applied her cold cream, then wiped her face clean with a tissue. Then she put perfume on. Our curiousity peaked, my sister and I gave each other "a look". My sister had the gumption to ask why grandma had used the perfume. "In case I meet the man of my dreams!" she replied, a twinkle in her eye.

I still remember watching Grandma peel potatoes, each strand going into the plastic produce bag whose sides she had carefully rolled down. I do that too. And every time I peel potatoes, I think of her. Looking back, I can now see that Grandma had what most would call a "hard life". There was never quite enough money for her family of six, and Grandpa had high expectations of what his wife and home life should be.

Grandma had very little money; as a child I never thought about such things. I only knew that every Christmas, there was a gift for each of her nine grandchildren. Sometimes it was a pair of slippers, or a small purse or stuffed animal. Now I know that she must have saved and sacrificed to make sure we all had something under the tree every year.

Like most young adults, I never really took the time to talk to my Grandma about HER. It was always about me. Sometimes, I was so centered on myself that I didn't even want to spend time with my grandparents when there was something more fun going on with my friends. Now I know better. Now that I'm older, and see the value of family. Now that she's gone.

Merry Christmas Grandma. I wish I could call you up to get some advice on why I can't make your mock cheesecake come out just the way yours did. I wish I could ask how you managed to make such great meals on a small budget. I wish I could tell you that when I think of the most Godly woman I've ever known - it was you. You're celebrating Christmas with Jesus this year. I'll bet he's having the best oatmeal raisin cookies he's ever tasted.

To My Readers: I know this isn't a normal Sunshine SAHM post, but Grandma has been on my mind a lot lately. Probably because so much of my life is now mirroring what I remember of her - being at home, dealing with the cooking, cleaning, parenting, budgeting, cooking, and doing my best to try and serve the Lord.

The holidays are the one time of year where we usually see our extended family. If you are lucky enough to see your grandparents, great aunts, uncles or even a cousin that doesn't get into town very often, be sure to appreciate the time you have with them.

Luckily, my dad's mom is still here for me to talk to. She flew across the country to come see us after Mark was born. This time, I made sure to make the most of the opportunity. I asked her about her first husband, about what it was like to have to put her children in an orphanage, and working hard to get them back home. I heard about her brother who died in a plane crash, and discovered that my great grandparents toured the country in their RV. She was thrilled to share, and I was fascinated. Merry Christmas to you too Grandma, I love you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Another Week Gone...

What a week! Somehow we have managed to fit at least two weeks into one - at least it seems that way. As you know Grace helped Daddy rake up the leaves this weekend:

I'm ready to work! Let's go!

Daddy, you hold the dustpan and I'll push the leaves in.
It will take me two hours...  your back is in great shape right?

OK, so I'm not so good at raking yet, but I can
throw them in the bin really well!

Supervisor Gracie driving around to inspect how many
more leaves need to be raked... (A lot!!)

Grace heard that Mark had helped wrap presents, so she wanted to help too:

She brought me that red bow, then tapped herself on
the head so I would stick it in her hair. Silly Gracie.

Daddy insisted on getting a picture of me with the kids, since I'm always the one behind the camera:

Grace cried in the first four pictures. Mark cried in the
last three. At least we got one to turn out. Sort of!

We took the kids to the park, and reached another milestone for Mark - he got to sit in the stroller instead of being in his carseat where he can't see! He and Grace thought it was great fun.

Yo, Ho, Ho, Ho, the stroller life for me!
(Gracie just appears to be bursting into song in the picture) 
Grace was really upset about having to go to the park again...

Look mom, now that I have all my teeth, I can ask
for somethin' else for Christmas!

Mark got to swing, and he loves it. Even when we pushed him at a decent pace, he never looked worried or scared. Cutie.

Look ma! No arms!

Grace, on the other hand, is scared of the "bridge" connecting the play structure. She is actually frequently afraid if the ground doesn't "appear" solid. For example, we have been in a number of stores with very shiny tile or concrete floors. When she realizes the floor is reflecting the lights from above, she stops immediately and then asks for me to pick her up. If I ask her to walk toward me, she gets scared and will timidly (if at all) walk over and beg to be picked up from the ground. Since the playstructure has holes in it and the bridge portion has a little "give" to it, I think that freaks her out. Here is how she gets to the slide:

Where there's a will, there's a way! Even if it's a little
closer to the ground than usual...

The kids are still learning how to play together, but they laugh and entertain each other quite a bit now. I walked into the play room last night and found this:

See Mark? You don't have to learn to hold your
own bottle, no matter what mommy's blog says!

Um, Grace? I think I may need to learn if this is the best
service I can get...

I'm pretty sure you're supposed to tilt the bottle...
not my head.

Aw, who cares if we don't get it perfect?
Mommy will do it for us anyway, right???

Lastly, we had gone looking at Christmas lights in town last Saturday. There is a house here that has an amazing display. They also have a Santa who gives out candy canes. Gracie got her second candy cane (the first was at the parade) and I saw her take a bite... and then I didn't see the candy again. I figured she must have just dropped it with the wrapper, as neither was to be found. She didn't complain though. We came home, and she saw the reindeer that Daddy had put up in the yard that day:

Overheard: "Hi Mama reindeer! *kisses* Awww... *hugs*"

She loved the reindeer, and went to each one to pet it, hug it, and give it a kiss. We finally had to head inside, as I discovered where the candy cane had gone, and why I couldn't find it earlier:

Well hello there mister candy cane! Was Gracie saving
you for later?

There really is no need for this picture. I just couldn't
resist her cute red curls!

I hope your week was filled with sweet surprises too. Only one week until the Christmas festivities begin! We can't wait...

We will be on the road Christmas Eve, so for the first time, I may miss my self imposed deadline next Friday morning. Since we will be out of town with family for Christmas week, I will not keep to my regular schedule, although I may be compelled to share my little elves with the world...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Restaurant Rules for Infants

Dear Mark,

I know that you just turned eight months old last week, and it may seem like a bit much to add "reading letters from Mommy" to your long list of to-do items for the day. However, I hope that in between eating, sleeping, chewing on your socks, pulling your sister's hair, dashing for any open hallway door (especially the bathroom) and the ever vital mission to find crayons your sister has left on the floor, you will take the time to read this.

We recently had an opportunity to eat dinner at a local restaurant. I know that you are not too familiar with these types of establishments, as dining out is considered a treat for our family. You should know however, that we will be doing this again from time to time, because Mommy will have a mental breakdown if she never gets a break from cooking for the family. This seems like a good time to add that dining out is something the family (especially Mommy) really looks forward to, and wants to enjoy when given the opportunity.

As you may recall, you were given a unique privilege at the restaurant. For the first time, you were allowed to sit in your own highchair at the table with everyone else, rather than being strapped into your carseat the entire time. As you will learn, dear son, with privilege comes responsibility. This letter is to clarify the responsibilities that come with sitting at the table and the behavior that will be expected if you don't want to stay strapped into your carseat being fed from a baby spoon until you're twenty-one.

First, you must keep your hands and feet inside the high chair at all times. (Well, at least until you learn to feed yourself.) Kicking the nearest dinner companion, grabbing everything within reach, and arching in an effort to fall out of the chair as quickly as  possible will not be tolerated. The reason there is a five point harness on your car seat is because we are on to you little boy... we have seatbelts and buckles at the ready, and we are not afraid to use them.

You should also know that you are to eat your own food, and not someone else's. I know the container of salsa on the table must have seemed vastly more palatable than the rice cereal you were eating, but trust me - had you gotten any of that salsa into your mouth, you would have felt differently.

Luckily for you, the salsa bowl flipped over and splashed your pants leg, the high chair, both of your socks, and Daddy. While you didn't seem embarrassed to have lost half of your clothing and fifteen napkins during the clean up, you should know that this is not acceptable. I'm certain that even though your pants and socks could be removed with nary a glance from other patrons, if Daddy had tried to pull the same stunt, we would have had a much different reaction.

Also, you are allowed to flirt with the waitresses if you must. However, if this flirting interferes with our service, you really need to tone it down. We came to have a nice relaxing dinner with our family, not our family and half the restaurant staff. Being as handsome as you are, it is inevitable that you will draw lots of attention as we are out and about. If this attention affords us better service or we find that our waitress stops at the table more often as a result, we will find a way to live with this. However, if your cooing and shy smiles draws attention every five minutes, we shall never eat another meal in peace.

Lastly, we are there to eat. A restaurant is a very fascinating place, but when Mommy is trying to feed you, please try to refrain from looking in every direction except the spoon. When you do manage to get a bite, please keep the food in your mouth. No one thinks that rice cereal dripping past your two teeth onto your chin and landing on your bib is attractive (no matter what the waitresses say). Learning to keep your food hidden behind your teeth is something that will serve you well the rest of your life.

I am so proud of the fact that you were able to join us at the table, but please try to observe the above rules so that the entire family can enjoy our next outing without having to request extra napkins, a mop, a change of clothes and more salsa.

Until we eat again,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Autumn in December

I know for most people, these are the kind of pictures you see in the fall, but hey - this is California.

Usually these would be in my "Another Week Gone" posting, but I couldn't wait an entire week to share these adorable fabulous cutest pictures ever...