Friday, December 31, 2010

December 2010

December has been a busy and relaxing month, all in one. The boys were in a couple performances and were adorably cute in both. First Caleb had a Winter Music Concert to show all he’s learned in his home school music class and band. Sam Flores and a few others of Caleb’s home school friends also performed with him in the choir and tone chimes. I thought Caleb might be nervous, but he wasn’t at all. He truly enjoyed performing. He said that playing his trumpet was his favorite part. Caleb is the only one of his close friends old enough to be in the band. That starts at 4th grade. He’s come so far in the few months he’s been learning the trumpet. I’m really proud of him. He sang a few songs in the choir and played a couple songs on the tone chimes too. I really enjoy the tone chimes. They’re so soothing and just make me smile. Granny and Uncle Jeremy got to watch too! We were really fortunate that Jeremy happened to be in town recording. After the show we went out to Ruby’s for some celebratory milkshakes with the Flores family. Caleb and Sam each got a whole shake to themselves for the first time! They were in ice cream heaven!!!

Then Caleb and Ben were both in the children’s Christmas performance of Wise Guys and Starry Skies at our church. Caleb was a camel boy and Ben was a star. They have worked so hard for months, practicing, memorizing songs, and practicing some more. The show was great. Ben seemed oblivious about what movements he was supposed to be doing, but he sang and looked super cute! Caleb did great! All his practice paid off. He was all smiles (except when he had to take a photo with his mom after the show) and glad that his best friend Sam came to watch.

Juan wanted to surprise Tracy with a surprise birthday dinner in Laguna with her friends at sunset. I was so pleased that we could be a part of that. And the best part is that Jon and I got a date in the daytime! Juan dropped his kids off with us in the early afternoon so he could take Tracy down to Laguna early and surprise her with an art class. Then we took our kids and Juan & Tracy’s kids down to another friend’s house. She watched all of our kids, plus her own four kids, from 3pm until the late hours of the night! Thanks so much Morena!!!! It was so weird and amazing for Jon and me to be driving down to Laguna in the day time with no kids. What a great gift! We had so much fun that night and the sunset was breathtaking from our view at the restaurant. Good friends, good food, good view! Can’t get much better than that!

The last two months our home school friends and I have done a fun and educational event at my house. They were such a hit that the ladies have decided that we’re going to make it an official monthly event now. Hopefully all the hands on stuff that the kids are learning will be super memorable and more likely to stick in their little heads. This month we decided to do an International Christmas theme. Each family chose a country and presented its Christmas traditions and brought a traditional Christmas food from that country. Caleb chose Australia because he liked that it’s summer there in December. He also liked their legend that Santa gives the reindeer a break and lets 6 white boomers (kangaroos) pull his sleigh over Australia. Caleb gave a verbal presentation, read an Australian Christmas song, and had everyone sing an Australian version of Jingle Bells together. It was great! We made Pavlova for our food, which is a traditional Australia Christmas dessert. It was a hit and everyone gobbled it up! It’s kind of crunchy/wafer-ish on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside. It’s topped with freshly whipped cream and fruit. Hanukkah, Germany, England, and Mexico were also represented. Then the kids made gingerbread houses out of milk cartons, graham crackers, icing, & lots of candy. They had so much fun…especially eating the houses up when they were done!

We had an early Christmas with Granny before she flew off to Kauai for the holidays. The boys had so much fun opening early presents and they loved every minute of it.

Then my parents came down to stay at Melanie’s apartment while she was gone. I hope they enjoyed their beachy Christmas vacation. Too bad it was pouring rain their whole trip. Oh well. The one afternoon that the rain let up I decided to take my parents and the kids to Roger’s Gardens. I love that place and I’ve wanted to take the kids; they’ve never been at Christmas time. We spent a lot of time watching the train and I soaked up a lot of the Christmas cheer.

I enjoyed the couple weeks of rain and my parents’ visit. It so seldom rains here and I loved the warm coziness of my home, my Christmas tree, and my fireplace this month. I’m also glad for the break of having to water all my herbs and pepper plants outside every day.

One evening, my home school mom friends and I got together without our kids for the very first time! My mom came over for a bit too. How fun to have her close by for things like this. We each brought a tasty appetizer to share and passed around the wine glasses. I even got my mom to taste almond champagne. Then we had an impromptu chocolate tasting. I have a set of dark chocolate that I’ve been waiting for a year for Trader Joes to get back in stock, as it’s a seasonal item. There are eight different dark chocolates, each from a different country, and each with a distinctly different taste: earthy, grassy, fruity, flowery, nutty, dry, rich…yum – I like them all. We read the descriptions of each and passed them around for everyone to take a nibble. It was so fun! Then I taught the ladies to make cute little fabric covered magnets. We were going to have one of the other ladies teach us to make peanut brittle as well, but it was almost 1am, and we had run out of time. So we did a part two and a couple ladies came over the next day to learn the fine art of peanut brittle. Yum!

Christmas morning was filled with warmth, love, and sausage balls. Without Granny here to make her traditional Christmas morning snack, I had to do the job. I got them ready to stick into the oven the night before, so that Christmas morning I could concentrate on getting our Christmas feast into the slow cooker. The sausage balls turned out yummy, thankfully. The kids loved their presents. We really missed all of our extended family, especially our Texas family (I still call you all our Texas family even though you live in Kauai). But the upside was that the kids got to open each present one by one. Then they got to set up each toy and really check it out before we moved onto the next person’s turn. I really enjoyed the lazy pace we had. I only made one present this year and Ben was the lucky recipient. I made him a puppet theater and then bought him a bunch of puppets to play with. Both boys are having so much fun with it and we enjoy watching their imaginative shows. For our Christmas feast, I deviated from the traditional and made rosemary French beef dips slow cooked all day and served with au jus. Then I made Pavlova for dessert. It was so tasty and still festive for the season.

We gave Caleb an Ipod dock for Christmas. Now the boys can listen to music in their room, and they do, and they love it! It makes me so glad. Caleb has been listening to his favorite band over and over again, The Bear Hug Band. He saw them perform at Calvary Chapel during VBS (Vacation Bible School) over the summer and he was thrilled to get the CD for Christmas. We gave Ben the first Psalty the Singing Songbook CD for one of his Christmas presents. So far the boys haven't latched onto that because they can't stop playing the Bear Hug Band. They jump and dance all around their room when it's playing. So cute!

One afternoon after Christmas, my parents and I drove down to Laguna Beach in search of the Pottery Shack. It was a place my mom loved to visit years ago. Jon & I had a chance to check it out early in our marriage and I remember loving it. Well…we found it…parked the car…walked over…saw the big statue in front that says Pottery Shack…and then learned that the store closed in 2004. Now there is a restaurant and a bunch of small shops all fit into the space of the old shack. It was a little bit sad, although I kind of want to go back and try that restaurant. The patio looks very cozy. We walked through all the little shops and then walked down to the beach. The boys climbed some rocks we found and we all had a nice little refreshing moment. There is just something about the ocean that is like a reset button…a fresh start.