Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas 2007

Christmas started on the 21st with my mom and sister Karen coming with Santa's sleigh. They literally brought a carload of presents and we did our gift exchange then. They left Sunday morning to spend time with other family members while we had a Caress year.
We went to the Caress grandparents on Sun. night. Melissa was there cooking up a storm. We also went to Candy Cane lane to look at lights. This is something we have missed since moving from Valencia. It was fun to get back to this tradition. Notice how, even while merely eating a sucker, Maya has to strike a pose. Here she is with Melissa. I have always claimed that Maya is the most Caress-looking of all my children-from the moment she came out of the womb. When she is crying or sad she looks so much like Grandpa Tom's mom Ruth it makes me do a double take. But this picture of her and Melissa gave me pause again. I think they look so much alike in this picture, and in ways I never saw before.

Christmas Eve was spent at Kym & Chris's with the whole Caress & Knight clan. Kym once again outdid herself with a complete Mexican buffet. If you think I am exaggerating, let me just list everything here: queso, salsa, chips, mini-burritos, shrimp skewers, empanadas with chutney (that was the appetizers) then salad, a taco bar, rice and beans, tamales and chili, sweet corn cake (that was the main course) and the dessert bar was so vast that I will merely represent it with a picture which is literally worth a thousand words. Now, granted a few of us brought a couple of things to help out, but Kym really did the majority of the cooking and ALL the planning. A few games later and we were home, going to bed so Santa could come. Early night for the girls. Late night for the parents.
SANTA CAME. He brought McK a new bike. He brought Madison her own phone and alarm clock combo. The big girls got a doll house. From mom & dad, the girls received the following: Mck got pajama pants and backgammon, Mad got pajama pants, slippers, and the game Battleship, Maya got a Cheetah Girls guitar and outfit, Monterey got a trunk full of dress up clothes.

Next came all the presents from the extended family. Between my family and Ryan's family there were plenty of gifts and fun times. We had a breakfast of German Pancakes, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, juice and Martinelli's. We were joined by Tom, Diane and Melissa.

On to Christmas at the Caress grandparents. For Christmas dinner, my assignment was rolls and vegetables (I did creamed corn and creamed spinach.) So while I started the rolls, everyone else played and got ready for the day. We headed over at 1:00, formed the rolls for the second rising and then did the gift exchange with Matt, Meagan, Sterling, Kym, and Chris. Appetizers, dinner, and desserts followed by movies, games, and relaxing. We played a new Scene-It game in teams. Ryan and I won because we had to end early with a quick "all-play to win" and we got one that I happen to know. Otherwise Chris and Kym would have beaten the pants off of everyone since Chris is a walking encyclopedia of movies. We went to see the new National Treasure movie (Ryan and the big girls opted out.) We went to bed with a pile of presents and wrapping in the living room and a sink full of dirty dishes, paraphrasing Scarlet O'Hara: I'll deal with it tomorrow, after all, tomorrow is another day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Favorites for 2007

***Favorite present ever received:
Ryan: whatever my wife gets me
Lisa: McKayla
McKayla: love from my family
Madison: my ipod
Maya: a car
Monterey: shoes
***The best thing about this Christmas:
Ryan: family
Lisa: seeing the little ones reactions to everything-they are old enough to get it but not too old to believe
McKayla: I am turning twelve
Madison: the M & M Club
Maya: opening presents
Monterey: presents
***Favorite Christmas food:
Ryan: yams with marshmallows and pecans
Lisa: my dad's mashed potatoes and gravy
McKayla: tamales
Madison: tamales
Maya: peas, corn, apples, and rolls
Monterey: pizza
***Favorite Christmas Eve activity:
Ryan: eating tamales
Lisa: caroling
McKayla: look on the Internet (NORAD) to follow Santa's flight path
Madison: reading scriptures as a family
Maya: building a snowman
Monterey: sleep
***Favorite Christmas movie:
Ryan: Christmas Vacation
Lisa: A Christmas Story
McKayla: Meet the Kranks
Madison: Eloise: Christmas at the Plaza
Maya: Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas
Monterey: Elf
***Favorite way to remember Christ at Christmastime:
Ryan: serving others
Lisa: attending the 1st Presidency Christmas Devotional
McKayla: singing Christmas songs
Madison: playing with wooden Nativity set
Maya: playing with wooden Nativity set
Monterey: playing with wooden Nativity set
***Favorite present you ever gave to someone else:
Ryan: gift card
Lisa: redecorating McK & Mad's room
McKayla: love
Madison: a picture of our family
Maya: my old shoes
Monterey: love
***Best Christmas ever:
Ryan: this one
Lisa: when McK made me a mom
McKayla: this one
Madison: last year
Maya: last year
Monterey: last year
***Favorite Christmas candy:
Ryan: chocolate
Lisa: fudge
McKayla: my mom's hollies
Madison: fudge and carmel mix
Maya: Trader Joe's chocolate
Monterey: Christmas candy
***Favorite place to go see the decorations:
Ryan: the temple
Lisa: Solvang
McKayla: Valencia
Madison: Utah- Salt Lake City
Maya: Kail's house
Monterey: our house
***Favorite religious song:
Ryan: Silent Night
Lisa: Some Children See Him
McKayla: Angels We Have Heard on High
Madison: Picture a Christmas
Maya: One Little, Two Little, Three Little Jesus
Monterey: Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
***Favorite one-stop shopping location:
Ryan: In-N-Out
Lisa: Target
McKayla: Target, outlets, mall
Madison: outlets
Maya: Trader Joe's
Monterey: Chuck E Cheese's
***Favorite Christmas story (other than
the story):
Ryan: The Night Before Christmas
Lisa: O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi
McKayla: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
Madison: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Maya: Frosty the Snowman
Monterey: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
***Favorite Christmas dessert:
Ryan: cookies
Lisa: yule log
McKayla: yule log
Madison: corn flake hollies
Maya: frosted brownies
Monterey: chocolate
***Favorite Christmas activity:
Ryan: eating and playing golf
Lisa: decorating the house
McKayla: opening presents
Madison: the ward Christmas party
Maya: visit Santa at the mall
Monterey: playing with our dancing Santa
***Favorite Christmas TV show:
Ryan: Tiger Woods Golf Tournament
Lisa:
Charlie Brown Christmas
McKayla: Charlie Brown Christmas
Madison: Charlie Brown Christmas
Maya: Frosty the Snowman
Monterey: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
***What I want for Christmas (NO limits):
Ryan: new golf clubs
Lisa: a new car
McKayla: cell phone, clothes, camera, shoes, sunglasses
Madison: chocolate cell phone
Maya: a whole castle
Monterey: dollhouse
***If you had to travel somewhere for Christmas, where would you go:
Ryan: Europe
Lisa: Paris
McKayla: New York & Utah
Madison: New York
Maya: a hotel in Tokyo
Monterey: McDonald's
***Favorite Christmas beverage:
Ryan: Dr. Pepper
Lisa: Egg Nog
McKayla: Martinelli's
Madison: Apple Cider
Maya: cranberry juice
Monterey: Apple Juice
***Favorite Christmas decoration:
Ryan: food
Lisa: Sister Thaxton's camels
McKayla: golden swirl tree with jeweled ornaments & the stockings
Madison: popcorn & cranberries strung on the tree
Maya: football ornament
Monterey: Singing Rudolph
***Favorite Christmas Album:
Ryan:
The Partridge Family Christmas
Lisa:
The Partridge Family Christmas
McKayla:
Elvis Presley; It's Christmas Time
Madison:
The Partridge Family Christmas
Maya:
Jack Frost
Monterey:
John Denver & The Muppets Christmas Album
***What I want for Christmas (and might get):
Ryan: my bills paid
Lisa: a piano
McKayla: cell phone
Madison: a Bath & Body Works gift card
Maya: Rapunzel doll and castle
Monterey: shoes & princess clothes
***Favorite treat on
the cookie plate:
Ryan: All of them
Lisa: BYU Mint Brownies
McKayla: Peanut Butter Blossoms
Madison: Cornflake Hollies
Maya: Ballerina Cookie
Monterey: chocolate
***Favorite Christmas tradition:
Ryan: eating
Lisa: making and delivering cookies
McKayla: cookie plates
Madison: The Tamale Festival (Indio)
Maya: decorate the tree and open presents
Monterey: eating Christmas Chocolate
***Favorite Christmas stage production:
Ryan:
Rockettes Christmas Spectacular
Lisa:
A Christmas Carol at the Glendale Center Theatre (in the round)
McKayla:
The Nutcracker Ballet
Madison:
The Nutcracker Ballet
Maya:
Frosty the Snowman
Monterey:
The Incredibles
***Favorite non-religious song:
Ryan:
Silver Bells
Lisa:
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
McKayla:
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Madison:
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
Maya: O
ne Little, Two Little, Three Little Santa Claus
Monterey:
Hello Kitty Christmas

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

. . . like a lightbulb.

The last Saturday of the season. Maya's team did okay, but she was more interested in the trophy than the game. Every time she came for a water break she asked: Do I get my trophy now?" So here she is with her very first trophy. Thursday night is her pizza party and then we are done.

McKayla's team won 3-2. It was a tough one because the team is number four and McK's team is number two, so they were there to move up. On top of that, they had Stephanie, who we knew from a few years back. She is amazing and if she gets past the mid-field, she will score. So it was a little stressful. Luckily, they held her off and she only scored twice (but once was on McK-it was indefensible.) They ended the season with 8-1-1. Play-offs start in Jan.

Madison's team lost 0-2. The other team was one of the best teams and there was no score until the fourth quarter, so at least the team thought they had the possibility of tying or winning up until that point. So they were 0-10-0 for the year. They are still in playoffs. More humiliation to come.

So I got through the ward party, the lesson on Revelation, and McKayla's birthday. She earned her Faith In God Award at church and enjoyed her first official day in Young Women's. She is so excited and we are so proud.

At family dinner that night, the Caress extended family came over to celebrate. Blessed McKayla wanted spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad (the easiest meal on the planet) and I found a cheap, but good, watermelon to round it out. She is not a cake girl so she wanted a mango-raspberry-vanilla ice cream bombe.

Hooray - I made it through my horribly busy week. However, I am not picking up any new books until after Christmas, since I still have not bought a single thing for Christmas.

On Monday, Ryan left for Kauai. So of course Maya starts throwing up. The van is in the shop. And we have a 2 hour power outage just as it got dark because a rat chewed through a wire (about four city blocks were affected.) I love how everything falls apart when Ryan leaves. I know it is just so I will appreciate him more. Well it works, because I cannot wait for him to get home.

Tuesday was COOKIE DAY. All baking and assembling on Tuesday. Non-baked items on Monday. Delivery on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ever since I was little, my family always made cookies, usually just frosted sugar cookies for people we wanted to thank. As I got older, I added a few things here and there. As I moved out, I took over and developed my own style. The only time I did not do cookie plates was on my mission. (There are simply no ingredients for cookies in China-butter, brown sugar, chocolate, dairy - does not exist.) Every year they got better, bigger and more a production. Sometimes I would do them with others (like my BYU roommates) and other times alone. The list of who gets them can range between 20 and 65, depending on how much service was given me through the year (- the year my dad died and Maya was born was my 65 year - I was VERY needy.) This year was 40. This is probably the biggest tradition of the year.

This year the plates had the following: chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, molasses, tropical checkerboards, lime snowballs, peanut butter blossoms, chocolate-cherry cookies, Santa hats in gingerbread, trees in sugar cookies, chocolate-mint fudge, raspberry fudge, chocolate-pistachio, carrot cake sandwich, chocolate-peppermint sandwich, mint brownies, white chocolate dipped pretzels, and cornflake hollies.

Here they are . . . ready to go . . . all forty of them. This year was the easiest yet because McK and Mad did SO much.

At Tiny Tots, the big girls had a little holiday show. They sung six songs in their little Santa hats then had a breakfast and Santa came. While they were singing Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Maya exhibited her knowledge of the echo lyrics. It went something like this:
45 voices: "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer"
Maya: "reindeer"
45 voices: "had a very shiny nose"
Maya: "like a lightbulb"
45 voices: all of the other reindeer"
Maya: "reindeer"
45 voices: "used to always say it glows"
Maya: "like a flashlight"
. . .

You get the idea. Needless to say, it was not supposed to be like that, but even when NO one else did it, she kept on going all the way to the very end, completely oblivious to the fact that no one else was doing it. I was so proud.

Santa was quite feminine this year. Both girls explained what they wanted, got their candy cane, smiled for pictures, and were convinced that they had communicated well enough what Santa needed to bring them. Now lets hope Santa can find it in the stores in the next couple of days.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Few Things to Check Off My List . . .

My apologies to everyone I cursed in my last post. I was just having a little breakdown and I needed to vent. I am sorry and restitution will be forthcoming (remember my guilt issues.)

McKayla and Madison decorated the tree for me. We made the gingerbread stained-glass cookies and dehydrated the oranges and apples a week ago. We have been stringing popcorn, cranberries and golden raisins all week. But thankfully, my girls stepped up and did it all. What great girls I have.

Ryan's Christmas Party at The Parker was last night. Very cool setting. The interior design was straight out of the late sixties/early seventies with many original items. Cool lighting fixtures. The salon looks like a set from the Sonny & Cher show. The Parker is a very old hotel here and was recently featured as a new reality show called The Parker. It will be on soon.

When we got home I planned out my Friday and then got back to work on the book. Finished at about 11:00. Yeah! It will make a wonderful movie.

Up at 5:00. Two turkeys in, shower, wake up girls. We finished the New Testament today! (That was our goal for the year for Family Scripture reading.) Load the car school by 7:45. I did not get any pictures because I was running back and forth to drop off girls (THANK YOU Tabitha & Kodi - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU) and then picking up the turkeys. We had great volunteers, lots of donations, and plenty of food. We gave all the leftovers to a couple families who were struggling financially. What a relief to have it over. But what a success.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Do not start this book at a time when you are impossibly busy. . .

Holly, I rue the day you born. Don't you ever, ever loan these books to anyone the first week of December.

I have Ryan's work party tonight. I am doing the PTO Teacher's Luncheon tomorrow (80 teachers and staff, full holiday dinner with turkey & ham-which I am cooking and all the fixings-which are all being donated, coordinating decorating, coordinating over 50 volunteers.) I have the ward party Saturday night (which I am crazy busy with.) Three soccer games. Teaching Sunday School on Sunday (on Revelations-which I am lost on.) Hosting Family Dinner Sunday night. McKayla's 12th birthday-complete with party and all day festivities all weekend. Helping Ryan get ready for his week-long business trip (dry cleaners, etc.) My tree is still not finished. I have not purchased a single Christmas gift. And I am just getting over a cold.

So what am I doing?? I have reached the point of not being able to put it down. I am not finished, but it has reached that point.

Curse you Holly and every one of you (you know who you are) who could not stop talking about this ridiculously sappy, teenage romance dribble, kooky vampire nonsense, fictional fluff that CANNOT BE PUT DOWN.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Thrill of Victory . . .The Agony of Defeat . . .

I needed to document a weekly ritual of soccer season. The tragic repercussions of two young girls and only one snack bag. One of the best parts of playing soccer, for a young girl, besides the uniform of course, is getting the snack bag at the end of the game. And these are not the snacks of old. Nowadays they are more like party favors. Parents fill them up with something sweet, salty, a candy, a juice, and sometimes even stickers, socks, or other cute little toys and knick-knacks. So each week Maya gets a snack bag after her game. (When she has missing teammates, sometimes a generous parent will give a bag to Monterey. But if not, then Monterey gets nothing.) It is a dilemma because on the one hand we want Maya to enjoy her reward for a valiant effort on the field. On the other hand, we want her to learn how to share. Thus begins the weekly Shakespearean melodrama: Maya checks out her snack bag and gets very excited. They shared the cheese & crackers. They shared the Cheetos puffs. They shared the juice. But then the big prize: this week there was a strawberry-flavored push-up lollipop that was really cool. The top photo is Monterey looking at it longingly. The next photo is Monterey asking for it and Maya refusing. Then we have Maya tormenting her because she does not have one. Notice the evil smile. Now Monterey is physically trying to wrestle it out of her hands. Maya runs. Monterey runs. Maya out runs her. With the protection of a chair between herself and Monterey she begins the tormenting again. Monterey, unable to outrun her sister, again looks longingly at the strawberry-flavored push-up lollipop.

Mom finally intervenes and sets up a compromise: everyone needs to share and sit in their seats and cheer on Madison. By the way, regardless of the dreary forecast, it was quite sunny and pleasant.

Here are the results of the games: Maya lost disappointingly. The Munchkins (that really is their team name) pounced on them. Maya was demoralized and burst into tears in frustration. Ryan and I love that she is passionate. We just need to work on the part where you give your all during the entire game, even when hope is shattered on the rocks below.

McKayla's team won again, the score was 7-0. She played defense, goalie, and forward. In a heroic attempt to keep the score from getting astronomical, the coach changed the defense to offense and vise versa. McKayla did really well and almost scored.

Madison's team lost again 0-2. But this time they looked pretty evenly matched. The other team got a couple of lucky shots and the we missed a couple of unlucky shots so it did not feel like a complete blow out. We have one more chance. One more week.

The girls got some new outfits: new to them at least. Thanks to our friend Mia's growth spurt. They loved their new princess velour outfits. Coming right in time as the weather got cooler, since mom has not looked for any winter clothes. The desert is tough because you don't even know if it will get cold enough to need winter clothes. So I need a cold week to figure out I better run to Target and get some long sleeves and long pants. They are recently really into modeling everything. I'm not sure where they got the moves from, but they do have moves.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Madison's teacher wrote this about her in the weekly newsletter:

"We welcomed a new student to our room on Wednesday - Vivian Perez. Madison Caress has been doing a wonderful job orienting her to our system. Thanks for taking on the extra responsibility and having empathy for a fellow student who is feeling a bit unsure."

8th week of the season & more Christmas

With a week off, it seemed like forever since we did a full soccer day. But even then it was not a full day thanks to a very unique occurrence in the desert. It is a rare phenomenon known as "rain." It rained enough on Friday, and through the night that fields were pretty soggy. Maya's game was cancelled so she was just a spectator today. The older girls, since they are in competitive divisions, have to play in any conditions, except lightening. No lightening, so they were out there. It was pretty nice until the wind started. Then it was cold and difficult because the wind was blowing so hard that it would stop the ball in midair. Trashcans were rolling all over and a couple trees were down. But the teams kept playing. McKayla played goalie (very boring when surrounded with a good offense and defense) and defensive back and middle. They won 7-0. Madison's team was hit with the wind a lot harder. They lost 0-5. She played goalie too, in the only quarter the other team did not score. Maybe we will have a special fast that Madison's team will win a game this season. (just kidding-even I am not that sacrilegious.)

Madison had three parties on Fri. & Sat. and she still managed to squeeze in her favorite Christmas activity: eating her way through the Tamale Festival. We try to go as a family, but two out of four times it has been too cold. So just Madison & Lisa went. We bought for everyone and left with three big bags of beef, pork, chicken, cheese, sweet corn, and pineapple & raisin tamales. Plus a caramel flan and tres leche cake (Lisa's favorite cake ever.) Oh, did I mention the funnel cake that was consumed while we were still there? When we got home we started our dinner by having a little taste of each. We went to the booth that won first place-I'm not going to argue with the experts, and to a couple of places we remembered were good from last year. We ran into Kym, Chris, Matt, Meagan, and Sterling while they were in line for theirs. Madison LOVES tamales, as we all do, but she is quite passionate.

To answer a question: Dept 56 is the company for pretty little Christmas Village sets. They make lots of stuff. (That is where we got most of McK's accessories for her Paris bedroom.) They are most famous for their Christmas Villages: their regular, Dickens, North Pole, etc. I have some of their North Pole set. These are two of mine that I love too much to see broken. So I will just look at them lovingly and try again next year. They are kind of pricey and are a passion for collectors. I am a total amateur. I just have five pieces. This company makes the original snow village and more detailed than others imitators. Everything else you see is a copy of this (like the Kirkland stuff at Costco.) This is a link for their site: Dept 56.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Getting Ready for Christmas

I know I should give the "Official" Thanksgiving post with a thorough description of everything, but I think it will suffice to say that it was the usual outstanding food with lots of family. We ate outside, by the pool, taking advantage of the still warm weather surrounded by the Caress Family members. The next day we went over to spend some time with Ryan's sister, Melissa who lives in Utah. We don't get a lot of time together so we always look for opportunities. The girls went swimming with her thanks to a splurge in heating the pool for the holiday by the Caress parents. Here are all four with Melissa and Jake, Ryan's cousin. He is a sweetheart and we got to spend some extra time with him and his brother Luke on Saturday night. (The smaller pictures are from Melissa's collection.)

We are attempting to get out all of our holiday stuff. (At least the stuff that will not break. That means the stuff I really like stays in the boxes for one to two more years until I know the little ones can be trusted with my good dept. 56 stuff.) So here is what we have so far: this is our bright red and green section. Complete with our dancing Santa and Rudolph. We keep all of our stuffed animals in boxes so they only come out at Christmas time so they are special. The tall Santa is an advent calendar. We have four. We also have four of the ones where you get to eat a piece of chocolate each day in December to countdown. This way each girl gets to eat her chocolate and put something on something each day. This is the most fun they have each year. It is the fun of the countdown that adds to that climatic moment.

WARNING IF YOU LOVE FAKE TREES, STOP READING NOW!!!!: We will not be putting up our tree for another week because we always get a real tree. I love real trees and cannot bear the fake-although I know it is an investment and it is convenient and a dozen other reasons. I have to have the smell of a real tree for me to feel like it is Christmas. And candles don't do it for me. I get horrible headaches from an allergy I have to artificial scents and perfumes. My side of the family is also close friends with Oliver Holt and his family that are the Christmas tree providers for most of the San Fernando Valley's businesses and homes (along with personal deliveries to the rich and famous.) I worked for him and my sister still does. He has brainwashed me over the years to love the real tree and resist the fake. I cannot have the fake without feeling a little sense of betrayal towards Oliver. Ryan and I have had the battle. He likes the fake. He bought the fake. I was nauseated every time I walked by it and complained constantly. After three years, we donated it to charity and we now only get real ones. (I rarely win any battle with Ryan, so I have to gloat a little.) Now this is not to say that I do not like all your trees. I think they are nice and sometimes even really pretty. I just have to have the smell of a real tree in my house. Enough of my pontificating: to each his own. (But yes, Oliver, we know that nothing beats a real tree.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Preparing for Thanksgiving

After seeing Lizzie's fall leaves, Madison just had to try. So Mad, McK, and I did these the night before Thanksgiving for the dessert buffet.
Once we got into our groove, I think they turned out pretty well. The girls are already planning for Christmas cookies.

The girls got new shoes on Monday. Of course they had to be the same style and color. I swear they were babies just the other day. In these shoes, with their backpacks and sweaters tied around their waist, I think they look like mature little school girls. Nothing makes a girl happier than new shoes.

For Tiny Tots on Tuesday, the girls had a little musical performance. They sang some songs and then each child said what they were thankful for. Maya said: "I am thankful for my family and rainbows." Lately she has drawing a lot of pictures of rainbows and various family members. Monterey said: "Jesus." Who would have thought that she was our religious fanatic. Afterwards, they had a Thanksgiving Feast with most of the fixings (fried chicken substituted for the turkey which was a good call.) All the moms brought stuff and we got to eat also. Here is Maya with her good friends Kail and Kate. The boy sitting next to Monterey is Ethan, Maya's on-again-off-again boyfriend.