Monday, December 22, 2008

Back To Bethlehem

Last night we took the kids back in time to a little town called Bethlehem.  Our church hosts this very elaborate production where a portion of the church property is transformed, literally, into Bethlehem.  The kids entered into a world of the past when our Savior was born.  Some of the things they were to experience included visiting with carpenters and stone masons. . . 

pressing olives into olive oil. . .

feeding and petting sheep and goats. . .

and petting a donkey similar to the one Mary rode upon on their journey into Bethlehem. . .

There were also basket weavers, women making bread, potters, people selling their spices and fruits & nuts, shepherds, angels singing in the distance, the Inn which had no room to spare, and a stable with Mary and Joseph holding their newborn baby Jesus.

It was really cool to give the kids a chance to "see" the nativity and experience what life was like when Christ was born.  It can be so hard to imagine a different time and place, especially for children who know no different.  We can also become so comfortable with the story of Christ's birth that we forget so many significant details of the time period.  This was a great holiday tradition for our family, our church, and for the community.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes, Virginia. There really is. . .

. . .a Griswold family.
If only pictures could really capture the extent of the decorations and lights.  Merry Christmas from the "Christmas House" in Simi Valley!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree

This morning Calleigh serenaded us as she dressed for school.  One of her songs of choice was Oh Christmas Tree.  However, she altered the lyrics a little.  Here is her lyrical version.  You will have to provide your own musical soundtrack.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree
How lovely are your branches
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree
How lovely are your branches

My Savior reigns
My Savior reigns
My Savior reigns
My Savior reigns

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree
How lovely are your branches (imagine this last line sung long and drawn out)

My heart smiles for my little songbird.  Only Calleigh can turn a song about a tree into a worship song.  Although I am pretty sure she intended to sing "rains" instead of "reigns" since she has no concept for the latter.  :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are fun.  Not only for teenagers trying to win some really cool prizes at a church youth group event.  They are fun for little kids, too.  Yesterday our kiddos experienced the fun that can be had with such events.  

We attended our very first Christmas scavenger hunt.  This tradition began years ago with Sandi Seal and the Johnson family.  She bought little gifts for the Johnson kids, Haleigh and Dayne, and then hid them around the house.  Last year the Cunningham family was invited to join in the fun.  So Colin was able to experience a scavenger hunt along with Haleigh and Dayne.  This year we were invited to join the fun, and I am so glad we did.  Each child had ten little gifts (that is 50 gifts total!) and they were all hidden around the Johnson's house.  They took turns finding one gift at a time until all of the gifts were found.  Then they were sorted into stacks of ten and the kids ooohhed and aaahhed over their pile of presents.  

(the kids and their stack of presents)

After a quick dinner (the kids were anxious to open their presents!), the kids took turns opening their presents.  Their squeals of delight when they opened their treasures was priceless.  The present that had all of the boys laughing (and the grown-up laughing, too) was the "tooting toy" - you put your finger in this can of gooey stuff and it makes a tooting sound.  It sounds so realistic!
(Haleigh and Calleigh) and (Dayne, Colin and Carson)

Today they have enjoyed playing with their goodies - floam, puzzles, cars, etc.  It was great fun.  Thank you Johnson's for hosting and Sandi for including Carson and Calleigh in your Christmas tradition. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mystery of the Manger

This weekend the children's choir  performed their Christmas program, The Mystery of the Manger.  I was impressed that a group of young children could memorize not only the words to all of the songs, but also all of the choreography for the whole production.  It was somethin'!

Carson and Calleigh were both excited to perform their musical.  I think in Carson's mind, this is his High School Musical moment :)  Calleigh preferred to wear her enthusiasm on the inside, much like her daddy does with his feelings of overwhelming excitement.
Carson had his moves on for the performance, but kept his smiles tucked away as well.  Although, he said he didn't smile because he was too nervous and did not want to mess up the moves/songs.  A little case of stage fright, I might say.  
Regardless of their outward appearances, they had fun and they continue to sing the songs and recite the lines.  Even at the top of their lungs while standing in line for rides at Disneyland.  Who knew my kids would evangelize in song to the throngs of people on vacation in the land of magic?!  I loved every minute of it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Welcome

While my mom was here to visit in November, we spent some time decorating our house for Christmas.  One of my favorite spots that we decorated is our front porch.  We found this cute little train and tree at a decorating store in Simi (it is an amazing store!) and we added our santa that we used in years past.  It makes a cute little holiday welcome.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Round of Applause

Each trimester, the kid's school has an awards assembly to celebrate the hard work of each student from the previous trimester.  Today Carson earned the Academic Excellence award for Outstanding Reading Skills.  This award is presented to the students who are meeting and/or exceeding the majority of the academic requirements as stated on their report card.  In the words of Ms. Radloff, the principal, "academically these students are doing very well in school.  These students are the ones that I expect to shake their hands when they are getting Honor Roll and Principal's List later on in their school years."

Calleigh earned the Eager Eagle Award award for outstanding effort.  This award is given primarily to kindergartners who have worked exceptionally hard during the first trimester to acclimate socially to kindergarten and strive toward academic excellence.

Way to go, kiddos!  We are very proud of you!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankful.  Simply defined as feeling or expressing gratitude.

This week marked our first family Thanksgiving in California.  The day brought new traditions for our family.  It also brought a time of reflection and a renewed sense of thankfulness.  Here are few of the things for which I am thankful:
  • An amazingly wonderful husband who has a heart for God, loves me completely and passionately, and is an incredible father who models Christ's love to his kids
  • Two healthy children who never cease to amaze me and fill me with an overwhelming sense of love and joy and awe
  • My parents - two of the most wonderful people in my life - who raised me in a loving home and demonstrated daily what it meant to love God and serve others
  • Wonderful friends who encourage me, love me, and stand by me no matter where life takes us
  • The chance to live in the beautiful state of California and experience living with the beach and the mountains in our backyard
  • The blessing of living in The United States of America where we have freedoms, safety, and opportunities beyond measure
  • Most important - I am thankful for my God.  He is faithful, a comfort, a provider, and a friend.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope your Thanksgiving Day is wonderful!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Two Thumbs Up

We took the kids to see Bolt in 3D on Friday night.  It was an unplanned movie quest, but it turned out to be a much better movie than I anticipated.  The overall messages of perseverance, heroism even if you don't look/act like a superhero, and true friendship is a great message.  The kids laughed.  Michael laughed.  I laughed.  I think we all had different characters who were our favorites.  I personally liked the pigeons.  They were fabulous!  With their head wobbles, neck bends, and glowing colors were incredible!  The little hamster was a nutcase who had Michael laughing out loud.  The kids loved the dog, Bolt.  I highly recommend this movie to anyone with little ones.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How Do You Know. . .Thanksgiving

Remember my post about how one can tell the seasons changing in SoCal?  If not, then click here and you can read that post before proceeding with this post.  If so, then here you go.   This is how you know it is Thanksgiving season in SoCal. . .

Happy Thanksgiving Season to all!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happiness in a Box

This weekend I posted on Facebook that "Andi is wishing she was not so homesick today."  Several of my dear friends commented on that status.  One person not only commented, she had a brilliant plan to cheer me up.  The plan. . .a field trip to Sprinkles in Beverly Hills.  If you have not heard of Sprinkles, let me just tell you that they are little cupcakes packed full of yumminess.  Everyday they bake different flavors of cupcakes, so I went online this morning and made a list of the cupcakes I wanted to buy and bring home.  I couldn't resist the pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting (I LOVE pumpkin flavor stuff!).  But then I hear the red velvet cupcake is out of this world.  I'll test that one later and let you know how it tastes.  :-)  And the kids wanted a simple yellow cupcake with chocolate icing covered in chocolate sprinkles.  Michael wanted the dark chocolate with dark chocolate icing & sprinkles.  And one can never go wrong with their black and white - a simple chocolate cupcake with cream cheese icing and chocolate shavings.  They are so yummy.  Each and every bite.  Here is a look at the beauties. . .

Another cool part of this field trip is that the Sprinkles store is right off Rodeo Drive!!  Rodeo Drive, Baby!  Think Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and Alicia Silverstone in Clueless.  And so as to not be underdone, the holiday decor along the light towers on Rodeo Drive are crystal chandeliers suspended in glass boxes.  I kid you not!  They are beautiful, exquisite, and VERY Beverly Hills.  :-)
The best part of the field trip was driving in a convertible with a sweet friend who took time out of her day to help cheer me up.  Thank you!  Hopefully this will be the first of many more field trips to come.  This is one happy girl. . .

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sing, Sing, Sing

The children's choir led worship in "big church" at church this weekend.  This is Carson and Calleigh's first time to be a part of a choir, and their first time to be on stage in front of the congregation.  They both said they felt very nervous and shy, but they did great!  Here are some pre-show pictures:
Aren't they the cutest kids?!

The choir led three worship songs and then performed one song from their upcoming Christmas Program, "The Mystery of the Manger:  It's The Gospel Truth!"  Here is a clip from their practice tonight:

The kids will sing again tomorrow morning in both services.  Now that they have essentially "been there, done that" with the Saturday night service, maybe they will be more relaxed and animated tomorrow morning.  The only thing that would make this any better would be to have my family here to see the kids.  Miss you all so very much!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Art Fair

Big Springs Elementary School hosted an Art Fair today.  The cafeteria was decorated with displays of framed watercolor paintings created by each of the children at Big Springs.  The students in each class painted a picture based upon a specific topic.  The children in Calleigh's class painted a picture of their family.  The children in Carson's class painted a picture of a flower.  During the Art Fair, parents were given the option to purchase their child's framed paintings, and a portion of the proceeds goes back to the school.  It is a great fundraiser!  Here are the kid's paintings:

Calleigh, Carson, Andi, Michael, and Sammy.  Great job, Calleigh!

Red flower - it has great texture because he put salt crystals on the wet paint and it gave it this wonderful 3 dimensional look.  Very cool.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Karate Kid

I sat at the computer this afternoon answering e-mail, and what to my wandering eyes appear?  A vision of Calleigh in the midst of karate moves.  She did not know that I was watching.  She only knew that she could see her reflection in the sliding glass doors.  I very carefully pulled out the camera, slid open the sliding glass door, and videotaped my karate kid in action.  She was a little surprised and embarrassed when she saw me with the camera.  But it was too cute to not tape it!  Here she is. . .don't know why it is so fuzzy, but you'll get the idea of her talent.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Work of Art

This weekend we nursed Calleigh back to health after a very rough battle with the stomach flu.  She is a great little trooper - she even smiles when she is sick!  I must admit that I have never watched more Barbie and Dora and God Rocks! DVDs than I watched this weekend.  Wow.  

I was pleasantly surprised at how well Carson handled the weekend seclusion of Calleigh and constant attention towards Calleigh.  He proved how self-sufficient he can be when necessary.  But he also prove how deep his love is towards his little sister.  He loves to draw and took it upon himself to make Calleigh pictures of the movies that she watched.  Here are a few of his weekend artwork projects:

Dora and Boots

Sugar Plum Princess (love the phonetical spelling!  and check out the eyelashes!)

The Nutcracker (from Barbie and the Nutcracker - again, cute phonics!  but what is up with everyone having only 3 fingers?!)

Carson has such a tender heart.  He constantly peeked his head around the corner of the room to get an update on how Calleigh was feeling.  He wanted to buy her a Barbie toy from Target.  He drew her pictures.  And on Friday night, after he was tucked into bed, he came down the stairs and told me that he couldn't sleep.  I asked him what was wrong and he simply replied, "It's hard to sleep when Calleigh isn't in her room."  Awwww.  They DO love each other!  Sigh and smile.

It is moments like this that I will treasure and recall on those days when they want to beat the living tar out of each other.  Yes, love comes in many ways.  Apparently sibling rivalry is one of them.  But for now, true and genuine concern for one another is their form of love.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It is exciting to see your child find reading an exciting adventure.  It is cool to walk downstairs at 7:00 am to find your child already dressed for school and reading his book on the couch.  It is fun to listen to your child recount the mysteries and wonderland of which he just read.  Carson has discovered the Harry Potter book series and does not want to put them down.  On his own, he has read book one and book two already.  He is now on to book three Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  I just think it is cool that reading is associated with fun.  Way to go little man!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Andi:  You were a beautiful ballerina tonight.
Calleigh:  I know.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Carvin' Out Some Fun

This weekend we went to an annual pumpkin carving party hosted by Lynn and Neil Johnson.  There were lots of families there to participate in the carving fun and enjoy some fellowship with friends.  Calleigh stuck to carving a traditional jack-o-lantern.  Carson strategically planned to carve a Dallas Cowboys pumpkin, complete with a star, "D", and football carved into the pumpkin.  He did this with the assumption that Lynn and Neil, avid Dallas Cowboys fans, would be the people judging the pumpkins.  You have to admit that was smart thinking on his part.  The only thing was Lynn and Neil were not the judges.  Better luck next year, buddy!  The pumpkins that did win were very elaborate and way beyond my creative ability.  They were impressive!  Here are my little pumpkin carvers with their pumpkins. . .


Friday, October 24, 2008

Introducing. . .The Beautiful One

Andi:  Do you feel beautiful today, Calleigh?
Calleigh:  I don't feel beautiful.  I am beautiful!
No lack of self-confidence with this little girl.  :-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

She stands in awe. . .of her hair

Picture this. . .Calleigh slept in braids all night so her hair would be all crimped for school.  As the braids are removed from her hair, she stands wide-eyed looking at herself in the mirror.  After several self-proclamations of how beautiful her hair is, she proceeds to have this conversation with Michael.

Calleigh:  I still love you daddy.

Michael:  Okay.

Calleigh:  Even though my hair is beautiful, I still love you.

All of this said while she continues to admire herself in the mirror.  

I have to admit she really did look cute.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How Do You Know. . .

For those of you with little princesses around the house, you probably think I am about to break out into Giselle's song "How Do You Know" from the movie Enchanted.  Although it is one of Calleigh's and my favorite songs to sing around the house, I will spare you the dramatic entertainment.

Instead, I want to share how you know when the seasons change in Southern California.  The weather here for the most part is a consistent 70-80 degrees.  The sun always shines.  The leaves stay green and on the trees.  You can swim in your pool year round or go to the beach (granted, wearing layers due to the breeze off the ocean).  So it is hard to tell the difference between Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.  However, I have noticed one very tell-tell sign that the seasons are changing.  Inflatables.  So far I have witnessed inflatables of every imaginable size.  They rest in the yards of well-manicured homes.  The sit on top of high rise office buildings.  Seriously.  The take up every inch of yard space in the homes of some overly zealous season fanatics.  Inflatables are everywhere.  Right now we have pumpkin inflatables.  I hear that I will also witness giant turkey inflatables, gingerbread houses, Santa with palm trees, etc.  I am really looking forward to the changing 
of seasons.  For now, I'll leave you with this picture.  I'll be sure to post more pictures later as I encounter more seasons and more inflatables.

If you really want to hear the song How Do You Know from the movie Enchanted, you can click Enchanted and prepare to be enchanted.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What I Learned

We've lived in SoCal for four months now, and I can honestly say that we are official Californians.  We've experienced the fun things like Hollywood, the beach, and Disneyland.  We've experienced the uniquely Californian things like earthquakes, Santa Ana winds, and wildfires.  Now that we've had our first wildfire experience, I can look back and reflect on what I've learned from the past two days.
  • The month of October is known for the Santa Ana winds and wildfires in SoCal.
  • The Santa Ana winds really blow.
  • The Santa Ana winds magnify the destruction of wildfires.
  • You just never know when it comes to wildfires.  The fire may be moving one direction one minute, and then the complete opposite direction ten minutes later.  There is no guarantee because the wind and the fire have a life of their own.
  • Much like native Texans view tornado watches as "just" a tornado watch and don't really feel a sense of urgency until a tornado warning is issued, those who have lived in SoCal for any length of time view wildfires as "just another fire" and they don't prepare for evacuations until the fire has reached the house next door.
  • In fact, they really don't call for evacuations until the fire is right upon your house.
  • Face masks are not just for mowing lawns.  They are a necessity.  The smoke lingers for days.
  • It really does rain ash.  Looks a lot like large white/grey snowflakes coming down.
  • You get used to the smell of smoke on your clothes.  Even when they are fresh out of the dryer.
  • Some people don't have a clue what they would take in case of an evacuation.  Other people have a list of what they would take.  Whether or not they know where those items are is another thing.  Me - I have my things in Rubbermaid tubs on a shelf in the garage ready to load into the car.  The only outstanding  items to grab in the house are medicines and Eddie & Myrtle.  I guess I suffer from the I'm New To California And I've Never Done This disease.
  • The helicopters and airplanes that bring water to the fires are really cool.  And they are huge!  And they retrieve water anywhere it can be found.  The golf course in our neighborhood, for example.
  • You get really tired of hearing the same helicopters and airplanes constantly flying overhead.  And then, when they are gone, you kind of miss their noise.
  • The people here are really generous and thoughtful.  Many offers came our way to camp out at their houses in case we needed to evacuate.  SoCal people take care of each other.
  • Schools and businesses close for fire days instead of ice days.
  • Everything is just material.  It's all stuff.  You find out what is really important to you when you have to fit it all inside of a four door sedan.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Part I - Driving up to church yesterday morning, the kids and I noticed a cloud of smoke in the distance.  It was immediately apparent this cloud was a result of a wildfire.  Seeing this as a teachable moment (you know me!), I explained to the kids about the threat of wildfires and how the Santa Ana winds play a factor in spreading the fires rapidly across the mountains.  We said a prayer that the firefighters would be safe as they attempted to put out the fire, and that anyone living in the path of that fire would also be safe.

Part II - Michael and I awoke last night around 3:30am to the electricity flickering on and off and the sound of high winds (the forecasted Santa Ana winds finally arrived).  Eventful enough. . .so I thought.  

Part III - I turned the news on as the kids were getting ready for school and noticed that same wildfire from yesterday plastered across our tv screen.  It not only was not contained, it was spreading quickly.  Thankfully, I noted that it did not appear to be coming our way, the kids and I said another prayer for safety, and I carted them off to school.  

Part IV - In the midst of my Monday morning errand runs, I walk out into the parking lot and see this. . .
which quickly turned into this. . .

I rush home to check out the news and learned that the winds accelerated the spread of the fire and shifted the fire in our direction.  The visual of brilliant blue skies assaulted by orange/grey plumes of smoke was surreal.  The smell of smoked quickly filled the air.  It really was something I have never experienced before.  This is what it looked like when I pulled up at home. . .

In the meantime, Michael is at work.  The news reports state the fire is spreading into Porter Ranch and Chatsworth, right where our church is located.  Celeste calls to tell me the church pre-school is being evacuated.  Michael checks in to tell me that he is safe, but needs to remain on the church campus to ensure everyone gets evacuated and everything is in order at church.  A little later he calls to tell me the land surrounding the church is on fire, the fire department is using our church parking lot as a staging area to combat the fire, and they are stuck (literally) at the church as all roads leading to/from are closed.  From his vantage point he can see the fire coming over the mountain heading to the church. . .

the fire approaching the lower church parking lot. . .

the fire approaching the upper church parking lot. . .
the fire surrounding the church property. . .

 and the amazingly braze men and women fighting hard to keep our city safe. . .

The vast majority of Michael's day was spent under a cloud of unforgiving orange/grey smoke.  The winds changed direction and the fire moved away from Simi Valley.  The smoke cleared.  The charred effects of a day of wildfire remain on the land, but our church and our home remain untouched (see pic below).  I was blessed by friends who called to check on us and offer their home as refuge should we need to evacuate.  I was thankful for the word, "Do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  I was blessed by family who called to check on us and solicit the prayers of their church family.  We are so very thankful.

Part V - After a long and very exhausting day for all involved, Carson gave Michael this bit of consolation, "I'm glad nothing happened to you today daddy.  Cause mom would have to remarry and I wouldn't have anyone to play football with."  Interesting train of thought, son.  Goodnight to all.  I am exhausted!