Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And the fun continues . . .

On Friday night we went to Santa Monica to check out the lights on the temple where Brandon and I were married. The temple is located on Santa Monica Blvd. and surrounded by city so it's always nice to go through those gates onto the grounds. It's beautiful anyway, but with the Christmas lights and balmy, cool weather it was just what we needed to kick off our Christmas break. Kate and I fought over the camera all night and ended up with a lot of great pictures.

I think this looks straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.
The mushroom tree. This light tent was HUGE!
Elizabeth under the mushroom tree. Look at those gnarly roots!
Kate and I must have stood under this tree for 15 minutes smelling the flowers.
Brandon and I took a wedding picture under this tree almost 15 years ago.
Kate took this one with downtown Santa Monica in the background.
There is a huge expanse of grass between the walls of the grounds on Santa Monica Blvd. and the temple itself. During daytime hours when you can see the grass from the temple and the street I would never let my kids do this, but there was something about the air, the darkness, and the lights that led to my family running races and rolling head over heels down the grassy hill. It was dark enough that my kids persuaded me to run and roll too. I felt like a kid playing on the front lawn of some heavenly home.

This is the shot of the evening. I balanced the camera on a sweatshirt.

Afterward we met up with Trenton and Laura who live just a few blocks away and they took us to a part of town with tons of Japanese restaurants and stores. (Brandon is dying to go back to a particular bonsai nursery.) This is one of their favorite frozen yogurt places: Yogurtland. The Japanese LOVE to put "land" at the end of the name of any establishment. I remember going to an onsen in Nagoya called "Lucky Kenko (Health) Land". Whatever - these guys make good frozen yogurt.

Elizabeth didn't get the message to take only two toppings.
I tried a bite of this mix and it was disgusting. Frozen yogurt joints are a good place to learn this lesson: all good things combined together do not necessarily make one big, good thing. Case in point, my bridal shower. I invited all my favorite people from all my various "lives". None of them knew each other so when they were all mixed together it was slightly awkward and not as fun as when I was with them separately. M&M's and kiwi fruit are best enjoyed separately.
The kids were all over Aunt Laura - she's so fun!
Rachael working her spoon skills.
"Tokidoki" means "sometimes" in Japanese so I don't know what this means. But the Japanese are famous for not making sense when using English. If you don't know what I mean, click here. I miss Japan.
Heading back to the freeway at the end of the night I couldn't resist a picture of our van mascot, Bob, with the temple in the background behind the city.
I always love to see downtown L.A. at night.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Finally Fall

My least favorite time of year here is "fall" (September and October) because there is nothing fall-ish about it. Sometimes it's hotter than summer, and nothing changes. Fall arrives just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here are some of my favorite pics.

Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza . . . Happy Holidays!

The parties and programs continue! Here we have pictures of Elizabeth at her kindergarten program where she held a Kwanza candle and sang "This Little Light of Mine". They sang songs from all three major holidays (I don't know if Kwanza is a major holiday, but I presume someone out there observes it or we wouldn't be singing these songs at our schools, right? I think I'll take a poll among my African American friends and find out how many of them actually celebrate Kwanza. Maybe I'll be surprised!) The program lasted all of 15 minutes and was packed with camera toting parents and grandparents, all bearing assigned plates of cookies (recipes included in the obligatory kindergarten cookie cookbook - love it!) which amounted to LOTS AND LOTS of cookies! We made "Gingerbread Babies" - the recipe was taken from the pages of an adorable Jan Brett book about the Gingerbread baby. No programs for the older kids - just sugar laden class parties.

Of course the church party was all about recreating the Nativity. All the little girls were angels, the boys were shepherds, and the very little ones were sheep. I couldn't get a good picture of Will, and Rachael would have nothing to do with a sheep costume so it's just more of Elizabeth.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Piano Recital

But first, for your viewing enjoyment, cuteness personified:

The kids are getting quite good on the piano, thanks to their nurturing yet intense Romania teacher Anca. She pats them on the head and calls them 'pumpkin' in one breath, and in the next her hands are up in the air and she is saying 'what is this?' in her adorable accent. She goes crazy at recital time, and was out of her mind about Will's "Parade of the Toy Soldiers" duet with another boy his age. She had them come together for extra practice about 25 times it seemed. In the end, everyone did just fine and Anca is happily taking the rest of the month off. She's probably in the Mediterranean by now.

After the recital. I've gotta get her started too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Let the festivities begin!

Every year in December our little southern California town brings some snow down from the mountains, dumps it in our city park and the kids go wild. They also have some reindeer on hand, some mediocre live music (I'm being generous), and of course - Mr. & Mrs. Claus.

Here's Rachael working on a snow angel with some cute little guy who thought he'd do it too.

There's not much snow to begin with and it gets beaten down pretty fast, so this is all we could manage for a snowman. Pretty sad after growing up in Iowa where I can remember making snow caves out of the snow drifts in our front yard . . .

Waiting expectantly for the arrival of Santa.

The line is always obnoxiously long, so this year I made a point of getting in line early. We still waited close to a half an hour. The kids were getting goofy from both excitement and boredom.
Especially Will.

Kate was not about to sit on Santa's lap, but as we were taking pictures of the three kids, Santa himself motioned for Kate to get in the picture too. She's smiling here, but she was mad about it for the rest of the night. (The town newspaper also shot a picture and she was mortified at the thought of showing up in the newspaper! It just makes me laugh.)
Had to include this one. It reminds me of Beeker from the Muppets.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tree Trimming

Thanksgiving weekend at our house is pretty much devoted to getting ready for Christmas. The Saturday after Thanksgiving is Get-The-Tree-Day. We originally went to this place in Valencia about three years ago because it was the closest cut your own tree farm. (I'm a sucker for any cut/pick your own whatever farm.) Come to find out, the only "Christmas" trees that grow naturally here are really not great Christmas trees. So we bought one of their pre-cuts and it smelled so good and lasted so long we've gone back the last two years. (We were also persuaded to return by the Claim Jumper restaurant nearby . . .)

Apparently the monkey bars were more interesting than picking out a good tree.
The next time Kate's BYU sweatshirt comes through the laundry,
I'm going to hide it.
Could she be any cuter?
I like the palm trees in the background. Christmas trees and palm trees.
I climbed up there with the kids for this fun pic.

This random tractor in the middle of the farm made me miss Iowa, especially with the obnoxious power lines in back.
Mission accomplished.
It took Brandon two weeks before he got the lights on the tree, but as of a week ago we are fully decorated and ready to go!
This is just so funny I had to include it.
Next project - presents! Not only did Elizabeth put her name on this and circle it, she took a picture of it. She means business! I never did turn our cable back on after cutting it this summer and I have to say it's been so nice in so many ways. One of those ways is that my kids have hardly asked for anything for Christmas because I think they don't know what they are missing due to the absence of commercials. But then these catalogs starting showing up in the mail . . .

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