Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Our New Obsessions

We have a new passion in our home. When we first got the Wii, we had fun with the sports. It was fun to interact with multiple generations and compete. Now, it has blossomed into a lifestyle.

The Wii fit is truly amazing and everyone is involved with our Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics, and Balance activities. McKayla is unbelievable at the ski jump. Madison can walk the tight rope like no other. Maya is amazing at the push ups. I have excellent balance and posture in Yoga (or so my trainer says.) Monterey can head those soccer balls far better than on a real field. Ryan, well so far Ryan has been supportive. Poor thing can't get on with everyone else fighting over it.

Our other lifestyle change is Rockband. I thought the girls would enjoy it. But it is more like an obsession. McK and Mad love the guitar. Maya is usually the drummer (unless someone else takes over and then is is on the side mimicking.) Monterey is either the singer or the back-up singer. (The pictures also feature Madison's friend, Lyndsey.)

We now have to listen to the rock station on the radio. Their little hearts skip a beat when one of their songs come on - and they usually know it is their song by the fourth note. They sing along. It warms my heart to hear my four year old belt out, at the top of her lungs: "Put on the red light, put on the red light, put on the red light."

When the Wii is off and in the corner (to make room for the Wii Fit) Monterey is on the drums singing some of her standards with a rock style. Among her favorites: I Think I'm Paranoid, Jingle Bells, Dirty Little Secret, I Am a Child of God, Dead or Alive, and B-I-N-G-O. Yes, it is an interesting mix.

So now we are a family of rockers. The other night, when I came home, McK had been babysitting. Maya came running to me crying with her hand extended. What could possibly be wrong? "McKayla made me play the drums the whole time you were gone." She had developed a blister on her poor little five-year-old hand.

All I can say is that there better be a successful rock career at the end of all this.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Madison's Eleventh

A week before her birthday, Madison's class had the "January Celebration." The teacher has the January birthday people divide up the party: Madison volunteered for the cupcakes and was very specific that she wanted lemon and chocolate cupcakes. I made them and Monterey helped decorate. I must say that Monterey was pretty meticulous about the sprinkles. I was really impressed. She insisted on creating a photo-montage of the experience. She was saying "Take a picture of me putting on the sprinkles." "Take a picture of me putting the cupcake here." Believe me, this is only a small portion of the pictures taken.

Next in the list of the birthday festivities, Madison got her favorite lunch delivered to school. I did offer to check her out, take her to lunch, and then bring her back to school. But then her classmates could not witness her ecstatic engorgement of her In-n-Out cheeseburger, fries, and coke. Apparently the food tastes better when there are other people sitting around you drooling in envy.

For dinner with mom and dad, Madison wanted to go to Roy's. And not eat off the kids' menu. She loved her scallops and tiger shrimp over pad Thai noodles. She was even willing to share the lobster potstickers. But not her dessert.

For the actual birth-day, we went to Disneyland. Just mom and Madison. All day, whatever ride she wanted. Whatever snacks she wanted. Where ever she wanted to eat. It was so much fun just to have time with her and her alone. We did not even listen to the radio going or coming home. On our way, we saw a rainbow in it's full arch. That is pretty rare and really cool. We did all the coasters-several times. We ate lunch at the Blue Bayou (the restaurant in the Pirates ride) and visited Pixie Hollow. We only took about 80 pictures. I only posted a few here.

For family dinner on Sunday night with the Caress extended family we had Madison's menu: Broccoli Cheese Soup, Panera bread, and a salad bar with about thirty different toppings. It is all about the toppings. We had Citrus Punch and water to drink and Citrus Cake for her birthday cake. Can you guess this girl loves citrus? Lemons, limes and oranges. Not only the flavors, but also the colors.

Here is the traditional birthday questionnaire:

All About Madison
What is Madison's favorite color? green
Who is Madison's favorite princess? Belle
What is Madison's favorite scripture story? Esther
What is Madison's favorite thing to do? play Wii with the family
Who is Madison's favorite friend to play with? Lyndsey
What is Madison's favorite subject in school? math
What is Madison's favorite ride at Disneyland? Indiana Jones
What is Madison's least favorite subject in school? Social Studies
What is Madison's favorite primary song? When I Am Baptized
What do you like best about Madison?
Mom: everything - her laugh, her sense of humor, her organizational skills, the way she loves to make a list, her helpfulness. Grandpa Tom: her sweet, loving nature, always willing to help. Chris: her cooking and her sense of fashion. Kym: she loves to cook like me! her fashion sense, her optimistic nature. Maya: hugs and kisses and I'm so glad to be her sister. McKayla: her smiles, her laugh, her pretty face and her love for Twilight! Grandma Diane: Madison is a sweet girl and always fun to be around. She is full of conversation. I love her enthusiasm. She is a great cook. Dad: her sweet spirit. Matt: she is a peacemaker, fresh, sensitive to the spirit. Monterey: her freckles and I love her is my sister.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rockin' O'bottom

Once again. My sweet four year old has butchered a word and I feel inclined to publish. Yesterday, because we were all over the place, we DVR'd 4 1/2 hours of the festivities. After dinner, we sat down to watch the inauguration as a family. Madison popped popcorn and we all cuddled together. Monterey explained that Rockin' O'bottom was the new president. (She also brought home an "I have a dream project" that when I asked her about the dream, she explained "No, Miss Marion had a dream." Miss Marion is her teacher.)

I grew up in a place and time when racism existed but was looked down upon. It was not socially acceptable, but it was not history. Yet. Now when I look at President Obama I have hope that we have evolved. Then I overheard the statement: "Today is Black Tuesday." I wonder what it will take for people to move beyond it. Luckily many Americans voted for a black man, not because he was black, but because they believed he was the best choice. Luckily there were some Americans who voted against a black man, not because he was black, but because they truly believed he was not the best choice.

I hope President Obama is the greatest president who has ever lived. I hope he makes Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt look like amateurs. I love America and the only thing that will save America is a great President. Those who want him to fail either do not believe we are in a crisis situation or do not love America. Either way, please keep your opinions to yourself, because I don't want to hear them. I want success. I want hope.

Here are some excerpts from President Obama's speech that I liked:

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, "The time has come to set aside childish things."

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned.

Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill.

Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.

We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled.

In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words.

With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

I loved these lines from the poem read and composed by Elizabeth Alexander:

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self." Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need. What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to pre-empt grievance. In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun. On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Pseudo Vacation

Whenever there is a holiday and the girls have the day off, we always desire to do something. Something, anything. Well, for this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, we really had nothing. Yes, we would celebrate diversity and progress. But we were mainly going to celebrate by cleaning the whole house, top-to-bottom.

Then Ryan emailed me some reservations: Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert. Two nights in a super-cool resort about 15 minutes away from home. Well it is better than staying home and cleaning I guess.

I did not to have to explain it to the girls and hear their whining about it really not being a vacation. So I told them to pack and told them we were going to a surprise location. They were very excited and we hurried and did our laundry and cleaned as much as we could. I planned the meals since there was a kitchen and dining room in our suite. Some food from home and a rip to Fresh & Easy on the way and we were set.

All the girls were pretty excited about staying there. Except Maya who was not impressed. She explained that she was not really counting this as a vacation. However, when they discovered three TVs and their own bedroom and all their favorite treats AND a totally awesome pool and water play area; let's just say she was won over.

We still went to church. It was kind of weird being on vacation but still being home.

The pool and play area was definitely the most fun of all. Apparently Ryan forgot that our camera is a waterproof, underwater camera. We snapped pictures until our battery died. These were my favorites.

Not bad for January. Not bad for 15 minutes away.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A New Car for Ryan

Poor Ryan. He has been driving the same car for 10 years. Hey, we got our money's worth. He logged 150,000+++ miles on the speedometer. Again, we got our money's worth. He is a big guy driving a relatively small car. He is willing to take one for the team.

The problem was, a few months after we moved to the desert five years ago, I backed into his car smashing the front left side. He has been enduring driving a beat up car and ALL the guilt was on me. Some may ask, why didn't you get it fixed? I have this philosophy that if we got it fixed, someone would hit it. Because we would have to pay out of pocket for it and money has been tight since I am no longer working, we just endured it. Or, more correctly, he endured it.

It wasn't even just cosmetic. Dips and turns would cause the tire to rub against the dent. (I did say smashed, didn't I?)

So here is his new car. A nice Honda Accord in blue. He can finally hold his head up high and park in front.

Uncle Gary's Cardinals

Well, the Cardinals are going to the Superbowl. We will root for them for one reason and one reason only: Uncle Gary.

Not because they are from Arizona and we love it there and we are close to Phoenix and we are neighbors with Arizona and we have friends from there.

Not because we particularly dislike the Steelers.

Not because my favorite color is red.

Not because we like the team and we think they have a better chance of winning.

Not because, having followed the season, we have become fans over the last year.

We are not fans because of geography, because it is trendy, because we have money on the game.

We are fans because Ryan's Uncle Gary (Diane's -Ryan's mom- brother) has been a fan for years. Even when he lived in Denver (through their two Superbowl wins) he never wavered. Even when they were the worst team ever, he never doubted. He went to the training camp and would always point out what went wrong and why they were going to do better the next year. He put up with a lot of teasing through the years. And I mean a lot! But never did he think to turn his back on his beloved Cardinals.

He lived in Denver for years. They decided to retire in Arizona. Why Arizona? Because his children live there? NO, they all live in the Denver area. Because he wanted to be able to go to his beloved Cardinal games. He has season tickets. He moved to Arizona for the Cardinals (there were a few other reasons but they would have been non-existent had the Cardinals not been there.) How many fans would do that?

So here's to Gary. The longest fan. The most devoted fan. For the years and years and years of having to endure the mockery: This one is for you.

May the Cardinals win so you can finally have your moment. (Just don't get too drunk to enjoy it!)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Winter Ball Beauty

Here is my gorgeous beauty on her way to the Winter Ball. She is with her friend Elly.

Last year, we did not let McK go. Since she is our first, we are still trying to figure out what rules to live by. We keep figuring that we better err on the side of caution because the rest of the girls will hold us to the rules. When all the pictures came back, it was evident that the "dance" was more about hanging out, dancing with, and taking pictures with your BFFs.

So this year she went. She got her outfit, did her hair and got the shoes and accessories. She was glowing and had a wonderful time.

They served Lamppost Pizza Hot Wings as an appetizer, which is McK's favorite. Her friends had to persuade her to stop pounding them long enough to dance.

At the end of the day, she was glad she went. Dances can be a big disappointment when your expectations are too high. McK's were pretty high. But at the end of the evening, she was glowing more than before the dance.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mommy & Me Day

Maya has been so excited for this day. Last night she was so excited she could not sleep. This morning, she explained that this would be the best day of my whole life, because ... (drum roll, please) ... today was "Mommy & Me" day at Kindergarten.

It started with a "hug" greeting as we came into the room, followed by an introduction of each mom. The children stood up and told everyone: "This is my mom and her name is ____." Pretty straight forward, right? Except one little girl, who is very bright and outgoing, burst into tears and would not speak. Her mom had to explain that she does not know her first name because they (both parents, I presume) don't want their children to know their first names. ????? Are they spies? I don't know, but it just goes to show you that every parent has their little "thing."

Anyway, I digress. Our illustrious teacher explained all the centers and off we went.

The first center was M&M graphing. We each got a little cup of M&M's and went to town counting and sorting and coloring and graphing and, of course, eating. Don't you love when math and munchies merge?

The next center was Mouse-r-size. We went outside and took off our shoes and stepped on the mats. We did our work out together to the Mouse-r-size CD which is really cute because it combines the Disney characters voices and lots of Disney music and exercise. Afterwards we had mimosas (OJ and Sprite) to help refresh ourselves. Although it was only a fifteen minute workout, it was in the sun and in the 80's. Boy, life is hard. It is January and the coldest day of the year for many throughout the nation (according to the news this morning) and I am complaining about the heat!

The last center was writing and illustrating a book. I drew all the pictures of Maya and she drew all the pictures of me.

So here is the book:

Next, we met together in the whole group as the teacher shared pages that the student wrote, illustrated, and narrated. It was so much fun.

The last activity was presenting the portraits that the children painted of their moms. Maya did an excellent job. Not to brag or anything, but I look pretty good. Especially compared to some of the other mom who have problems applying their mascara, strange growths on their heads, severe acne, significant scarring from accidents, etc.

Afterwards, we discovered that the "Daddy & Me" day in on Feb. 26th. Ryan is so lucky. I told Maya that afterwards, daddy should take her out to lunch. She said great idea and you should take me out to lunch! So I reluctantly agreed. She wanted to go to Panera, which of course, everyone knows what a sacrifice that is for me. I took her picture and she took mine. We chatted about our wonderful day.

Best day of my life? Pretty darn close my sweet Maya Papaya.