Keeping the Magic Alive


, ,

My holiday guilty pleasure is watching cheesy Hallmark movies about Christmas. The couple finally gets over their misunderstanding and they lean in for a kiss …

Gwen: That’s so dramatic! (eye roll) Why do you like these dramatic movies so much?

*sigh* The movies lose a bit of the magic when I watch with my family of mood killers! It’s ok. I still like to watch the movies.

A common theme among these movie plots is a kid getting his letter to Santa answered. Every time I see a story like that I get a little Grinchy as I think how unrealistic it is. Nobody really responds to those letters do they? That’s only for the movies.

Parker is getting to that age. He’s about the age that Gavin was when he found out about Santa. I still feel bad so let’s not talk about it.

I don’t know what Parker thinks about the guy in red. He did read Superfudge on his own. When I read it out loud to the kids I wisely skipped the Santa unveiling part. But Parker read it. He never said anything to me. I’m sure he has friends at school who talk. I did at that age.

Between my friends’ theories and seeing gifts from my parents wrapped in the previous years “Santa paper,” I more or less figured it out. I don’t know what Parker believes. Enough evidence supports Santa’s unveiling for Parker but he wrote a letter to the man in red anyway.

I didn’t want him to send it. I don’t believe the postal service does anything more than chuck those letters in with the paper recycling. But Parker insisted on taking his letter in the sealed envelope out to the mailbox. I tried to blow him off about a stamp. Heath told him he could have a stamp and I was out of excuses. At least he put our return address on the envelope. I expected to see the letter return in a couple days with “Return to Sender” or “Undeliverable” stamped across it.

Even if there is truth to the movies, who would respond to a child with a long list of toys they want? I would imagine if anyone responds to those letters they would only answer the pleas for their parents jobs or possibly diseases to be eradicated. Not a long list of toys.

Gwen is Parker’s rival and could not be outdone by her brother. She also wrote a letter to Santa. She sealed it in an envelope and completely botched our return address. Heath was preoccupied when Parker put the letter in the mailbox. I’m not sure he realized Parker did that until Gwen proudly handed him her own letter to Santa. Heath furtively handed it to me later and told me to hide it. He doesn’t believe in the goodness of the postal service either.

Last night we came home after running some errands. Heath went out to check the mail and came back in with a couple envelopes. One was a festive green envelope addressed to Parker.

Santa had responded.

It was lighthearted talking about how Santa is excited about Christmas too. Santa liked the pictures Parker drew in the margins of the letter. Inside the envelope was a pencil and a Santa head eraser.

Parker was thrilled. It was just the miracle he needed. I think he may have sent the letter as a last ditch effort to find out for himself what the truth about Santa really is. And Santa responded. Or at least some elves in Oakland whose job is to keep children’s hope alive.

Gwen’s letter is still sealed in an envelope in the top of my closet. She wondered where her letter from Santa was last night. Today she has forgotten. She doesn’t need a miracle this year. She’s not quite 7 years old yet and her belief in Santa is iron clad.

But Parker needed to know.
And for another year the magic is still alive.

Christmas Surprise!


Recently we noticed a lot of water on Heath’s side of the garage. It had been raining but it seemed like more water than just rain dripping off a car overnight. There was a white froth along all the seams in the concrete floor. And the water didn’t seem to ever go away.

When Heath was at work and his car was out of the garage I was able to more easily see the water heater. It was sitting in a pan full of water. I’m no expert but I didn’t think that was right. I didn’t see where the water was spilling over onto the floor but I knew the heater was the origin.

So Heath sent out an email to our landlord last night. This morning we got the response that someone would come over today to look at it. Luckily Heath was already working from home! Our handyman and his trusty sidekick showed up and installed a new water heater since the old one had rusted through.

Merry Christmas to us we get a new water heater. And the best part is we don’t have to pay for it! There have to be some benefits to renting.

The handyman will also fix a few other things for us. A downspout on the side of the garage blew off in a storm. That will be fixed. The handyman noticed paint peeling on the outside of the garage. That will also be fixed. He’s a weird guy but he does do a good job in taking care of us. We’re impressed with our landlord and his quick responses that we have come to expect and appreciate.

I haven’t taken the time to enjoy the Christmas Spirit this year. There have been too many other things on my mind, like planning the Christmas activities for others to enjoy. Anyway, today felt like a Christmas moment. The blessings of this day have been appreciated.

Escalating Excitement


, , ,

It was a very busy Wednesday for the kids in our family. Gavin had his Frosty the Emo presentation, Parker had his California Mission presentation, and Gwen had a field trip to the North Pole. You can imagine how they raced to the van after school to tell me all about it!

Gwen got there first with her Christmas bell. Parker was close on her heels breathlessly digging in his backpack. He finally produced the most exciting grades.


He kept saying how it was almost a perfect score. I told him teachers don’t give out perfect scores very often and he should be very proud of this score. We will practice a little bit longer for the next presentation so he doesn’t rely on his notecards as much.

He did all this work himself. His teacher sent home information about the project but she never seemed to want any of the work done at home. Parker was very confident about his work but I was starting to worry. This was a major project. At parent teacher conferences his teacher assured me they were working hard on researching at school.

She also described what she was expecting out of the power point presentation. When Parker showed his gimmicky slides to me I just bit my tongue. I knew she wanted the kids to have fun with distracting transitions. Heath bit his tongue too but not as hard as me. It is his number one pet peeve to see slides like that.

Parker has gleaned from us though. When I started to say something about complete sentences on his slides he interrupted me. “I know, I know. She expects complete sentences on each slide.” Alrighty then. When he was copying the content of each slide word for word onto note cards he interrupted me before I could finish the question. “She wants us to read the whole slide. That’s the presentation. The note cards are so I don’t look away from the class to read the slide.” Okay.

He’s in fourth grade. He loves his teacher. She loves him. Her teaching style discourages too much parent involvement. I walked away and let Parker fly.

The model of the mission was a different story. Parker basically made a large Lego box. I wasn’t impressed but it did look like the picture he printed from the Internet. His mission has a very simple design. There is only so much you can do with it.

It drove Heath crazy though. So the two of them sat down together on a Saturday afternoon and put together a butt kicking model of the mission. We even went to the Lego store to see if they sold arch pieces. They didn’t so my boys improvised the arches.


Behold Mission San Antonio de Padua. Father Junipero Serra is the guy in red standing in front. I love that they didn’t just build the outside of the mission. They built the chapel and an office, two rooms Parker talked about in his power point.

I walked with Parker to his classroom this morning. Gwen was too excited to see her friends. We were stopped by three young boys. They were mesmerized by the Lego mission. A mom complimented it and several kids Parker does know. Everyone was impressed.

Then he took it into his classroom. His teacher gushed over it. She said her son tried to make a Lego mission. “We failed!” I asked why it was a failure. She said he just made a big box that looked like Mindstorms. I’m so glad that Heath worked with Parker to improve his mission. They spent quality time together and Parker learned a lot of new techniques.

Gwen enjoyed her field trip to the North Pole via the Polar Express. She was disappointed she couldn’t keep her ticket. But she loved the experience and she loves her bell. Other than that she won’t say much. None of my kids have ever said much about this particular first grade tradition. All I know is they get to wear pajamas to school and they get on a train in the library. They always come home so excited but not super chatty about it.

Gavin’s presentation was postponed until later. So I don’t know how that will go. I still love his Frosty the Emo. It’s too funny.

Eight days until Christmas and the excitement keeps rising!

Frosty the Emo


, , ,

Two snowmen are chatting in a field. One says to the other, “Funny, I smell carrots too.”

Gavin’s English teacher assigned “Frosty the Snowman Extreme Makeover!” The students were expected to act as image consultants to Frosty. They needed to create an image that was a little more appropriate for MTV.

I thought her directions were a little tricky. She wanted all of the information on one sheet of printer paper. It had to fill the entire page, including the title and author of the piece. It had to be in color. That was worth 20 points! He’s a snowman!

Not only was there supposed to be a colorful picture, the students had to write two paragraphs describing in detail the changes they had made to Frosty. Then they had to rewrite portions of the song to fit the changes made. This all had to fit on the page with the picture and the title and Gavin’s name and all that. Good luck right?

Gavin told us about the assignment and we had fun brainstorming as a family how to update Frosty’s look. I love what Gavin came up with. He made Frosty an emo! I love how this group of “crows” always seems to exist. They identify themselves by a new name every decade or so. I knew them as Goths. Short for Gothic. Now they are emotional and call themselves Emo. They are a major group as popular (or maybe a better word is well-known) as jocks and cheerleaders.

I love everything Gavin wrote. It’s perfect. Parker said, “If you don’t win your teacher is an idiot!” A bold statement but we all agree.


This is the finished product before I remembered it was supposed to be in color. So Gavin pulled out the colored pencils and made it look great. Doesn’t Frosty just look sad and pathetic? Very emo. I have to say, the song is my favorite. Black lipstick bringing Frosty to life? Hilarious. “Don’t you cry it’ll make your eyeliner run.” Too funny. Slumpity slump slump. Where does the kid come up with this stuff? Gavin is a fabulous writer. I am so impressed. He had a blast with this assignment. I couldn’t have done it better myself.

By the way, don’t steal my son’s work! Use proper attribution please.

The Mother of All Storms


, , ,

It has been eagerly anticipated, dreaded, and talked about for at least a week now. Based on how Wally Weatherman talked yesterday I was starting to wonder if the Mother of All Storms would be a bust for anyone south of Sonoma. Oh no. Mother Nature delivered.

The news was on much longer than usual this morning. I would laugh and say they were giving drop by drop coverage of the storm but it was an intense storm. Heath said they had video of people kayaking in a Safeway parking lot. Cars were stranded on the flooded streets all over the Bay Area. A car reportedly came down a hill and did a 360 at the bottom. If you’re going to spin out go all the way around. Then you’re facing in the right direction when you’re done!

We had wild wind all night that turned into heavy rain showers just in time for Parker to go to school. As soon as he opened his umbrella it turned inside out. He was really upset that he had to walk in such crappy conditions. I should have grabbed a jacket and put on my boots so I could walk with him. Instead I told him to put his hood on, fold up his umbrella, and run up the path. He did and seeing him run like that made my heart break. Poor little guy.

Gwen loves the rain so she had no problem with the heavy downpour she got to walk to class in. She had her hood on (so glad we found that yesterday) and tromped happily in her boots through the gates. I decided it was too windy for her to even bother with an umbrella.

Gavin left the house the same time I left to take Parker to school. I drove Gavin to the bus stop and am so glad I did. I pulled over to let him out at the bus stop. When I looked up I saw the bus on the other side of the street. It still needed to turn around in our circle but holy early bus Batman! Good thing I drove Gavin to the stop. He couldn’t have walked that fast. Although I would expect the bus to stop for him. He’s been riding every morning since school started. I would hope they recognize him by now.

Heath is working from home. He was starting to feel bad about that last night. He says we have lived in Northern California until we have become soft. But the Mother of All Storms was coming! It’s a little less impressive when the news reporters say it’s the worst storm the Bay Area has seen in the last ten years. This is the worst drought California has seen since they started measuring that stuff but it’s the worst storm in only ten years. Less impressive when you put it that way!

I’m glad Heath stayed home. I told him if I blew into Kansas I wanted him close enough to help me. The news showed several people standing around San Francisco after they were told to go home for the day due to power outages. Heath’s building was one of only a few that still had power! The last report I heard this morning there were over 80,000 PG&E customers without power. Several BART stations were closed due to power outages, including the one Heath uses. Other BART stations were closed due to the parking lot looking more like a swimming pool with all the flooding.


He’s had phone meetings all day long. Which meant I had to drive the kids to school. The sidewalks were mostly dry when I left to take Parker to school. Rain was pounding hard and wind was sweeping the huge raindrops across the roads. It was intense. But Heath had a 9:00 call so he couldn’t take Gwen to school for me.

Gwen pulled out the homework laptop and set up a little office for herself this morning! She wanted to work like Dad. She took a couple quizzes on Raz-Kids (a reading site) before I had to take her to school.


The school gets lots of puddles on any rainy day. But this picture best illustrates what the streets looked like this morning. There was pooling even on the highest parts of the road. The gutters were flooding so much that I had an impressive rooster tail splashing across the street as I drove. I couldn’t change lanes to avoid it since I needed to turn left. It was crazy!

I was also on my own to drive for my endocrinologist appointment. That only took all day. I left early thinking the rain would make the drive longer. Instead I hit every light green and got there nearly 45 minutes early! The nurse felt bad that I was bored waiting. Once she called me into a room I waited another 30 minutes for the doctor. His appointments were running late. My appointment was at 11:30 and I got home well after 1:00.

I was supposed to tutor today but yesterday Mrs. M told me I didn’t have to come in if I didn’t want to. She knew the Mother of All Storms was coming and she was trying to be nice. I appreciated it. I told her I may be depressed after seeing my endocrinologist so I may take her up on her offer to stay home. I have to pick up my kids from school no matter what. I could go early and tutor or wait till school is over. It doesn’t matter either way.

In the end I stayed home because I wanted to breathe after getting home so late and eating lunch so late. Plus I wanted to park in the back of the school to pick up my kids and not the front. If I tutored we would have sat in the parking lot forever waiting for our turn to get out. Once we do get out the street is so congested with cars. It takes 10-15 minutes longer to get home on my tutoring days than when I can park in the back.


Check out all this water! Gwen was in puddle jumping heaven. Look how deep the water was in the gravel. It’s almost covering the top of her feet.


Heath has been watching the chocolate river rage all day. He says the water level has gone up some but you can see we’re in no danger of flooding. He told his coworkers the water is about 10 feet deep. We have seen lots of interesting things floating down the river like huge logs.


He saw a mother and baby crane having a bug feast at the water’s edge. This is the baby crane.


If you look closely you can see the mom. She’s the white spot in the middle of the picture. She kept flying too far away to get a good picture.

The rain has not let up all day long. It will continue through tomorrow. We need the rain and when I don’t have to drive in it I really enjoy it. I’m happy that we’re all safe in our nice warm home. Bring on the Mother of All Storms!

Detective Work


, ,

We have one of those jackets where the hood zips off. The hood has never been unzipped that I know of. If it was ever unzipped it always managed to find its way back in place. Until now.

Somehow the hood became unzipped when Gwen wore the jacket on Monday. Yesterday we checked the lost and found with no success. Gwen didn’t have time to search her classroom. The only other place she had gone was to the Science Lab. The jacket was worn there.

Parker went to Science Lab today but he forgot to ask the teacher if she had seen the hood. So I asked the secretary if we could check the Science Lab. No hood. Gwen still hadn’t checked her own classroom so we walked over there. I was afraid her teacher wouldn’t be in there. I was happy to see her just outside her door talking to another teacher.

“Gwen has a jacket with a hood that zips off and she lost it on Monday.”

Both teacher’s eyes lit up as I was talking. Everything seemed to happen all at once.

“Is it a green hood? Who was holding up that hood? Do you remember?”

The two teachers searched their memories. Another teacher had found the hood in her box. Gwen’s teacher gave me instructions to find the classroom of the teacher she was pretty sure found the hood in her box. We walked to the classroom.

I knocked on the door and explained the situation to the teacher. She got very excited and said that she did have the hood and she would meet us at the other door. She opened the door holding the errant hood. She was so surprised that it belonged to a family she had never seen before.

“Great detective work! How did you trace it to me?”

I explained our scavenger hunt across the school. She was very impressed. I was just grateful we found the hood. I have no idea how it got into the teacher’s box but thankfully we were able to find it. We walked back to Gwen’s classroom to let her teacher know we found it. She was planning on emailing teachers to find it for us.

The other teacher we had seen earlier was happy to see us carrying the hood. She said that those types of jackets are always losing their hoods. Even her husband loses his zipped on hoods. I said it made me feel better to hear that even though I was still a little skeptical. It’s not like zippers just spontaneously unzip themselves.

We walked in the classroom to announce our success to Gwen’s teacher. She was happy too. We both reminded Gwen not to unzip the hood. As we left the school Gwen told me that she never unzipped it. She thinks someone in her class did it. I don’t know what happened.

It was a strange journey to find the hood but I’m glad the school staff wouldn’t let me give up. I was ready to when we didn’t find it in the Science Lab. Thank heavens for Mrs. M! Tomorrow the Bay Area is supposed to experience the Mother of All Storms. This jacket will be perfect. It’s much warmer and more waterproof than the flimsy little “rain jacket” I bought a few months ago for Gwen. Having the hood zipped back on will certainly help!

When in doubt, eat chocolate!


, , ,

The halls have been decked but the stockings are still not hung by the chimney with care. Mostly because I keep forgetting to look in the holiday section when I’m at Target. I saw some mantel hooks I liked but I keep forgetting to buy them!

Decking the halls took several days. I’m not in the holiday spirit this year. Christmas sort of feels like it sprang out of nowhere. I have been planning Christmas activities for Primary but Black Friday came fast this year and suddenly Christmas was upon us. I wasn’t ready to decorate. Now that I have I still don’t feel all that Christmassy.


These guys do. They love helping me decorate. One year they will remember that I decorate on my own. Over the years I have become so particular about my decorations that I just can’t have help. Too many cooks! I do it my way when I feel inspired.


This little tree is kid domain. They love being completely in charge of decorating the tree with their own ornaments. Parker kept trying to pose and show me the ornaments as I snapped pictures. It was fun listening to them talk about the ornaments.

“I remember this!”
“This was from first grade!”
“Is that me when I was in Nursery?”


I love how she’s standing with her hip out. Such a little woman.

The magic of the season is still strong for my kids. I do love having an excuse to buy stuff for them. I can’t help but want to spoil my kids with gifts.

Heath and I decided that we don’t want to buy any toys this year. We have said this in the past but it doesn’t end up being reality. The problem with toys is that we have so many toys in our house. Two of the kids don’t even care about toys. After years of racking our brains trying to figure out toys our kids are interested in, I have come to the conclusion that Parker just likes new stuff and the G’s don’t care about toys.

Gavin loves technology and Gwen loves paper. Parker loves toys, particularly stuffed animals and action figures. He is actually starting to build his own creations with Legos. I think we have some good ideas for our kids based on their personalities, hobbies, and talents.

I also like to wrap practical gifts like clothes they need. Santa always brings underwear and toothbrushes. This year Santa knows not to give Gwen new underwear. She just got a new pack. I think he’ll get her footless tights instead.

The boys need new shoes. Unfortunately Parker couldn’t wait. His shoes were in too rough of shape so he’s wearing his Christmas present already. I asked if they helped him run faster for Running Club today. He said, “Not really. If they had springs in them I would be faster.”

Gwen will get a pair of rain boots for Christmas. I bought her a pair last week. She needed them with all the rain we have been getting around here lately. I just hate that California gets rain in the winter but the stores here don’t carry rain gear until spring when the rain has stopped. It’s pretty stupid.

The boots I got her were the only pair that kind of fit her. She wanted the snow boots because she thought they were cuter. They were cuter but she would have melted in snow boots. We don’t go into the mountains to see the snow. We got home and I realized her rain boots weren’t even a matching pair. One was a size 2 and the other was a size 3. I’m not kidding.

They were the only boots in that style. Somewhere out in the world a little girl has size 2 and 3 rain boots too. At least there was a left and right boot! They were on sale for less than $10 so I don’t even want to bother taking them back to complain. I found some cute boots on Amazon in her size. She can have those for Christmas.

Gavin can wait until Christmas to get his new shoes. He knows I will wrap them. I may wrap Parker’s shoes too on Christmas Eve when we’re not going anywhere! Parker now wears the same size shoe as me. Men’s size 7. Gavin jumped to an 8 1/2! He wore the fancy dress shoes I got from my Dad’s house to church yesterday. Those are a size 8. I hope they fit Gavin! He is almost as tall as me now. It’s amazing how big those boys are getting.

I bought them some do-over Christmas jeans since they needed the ones I already bought. I made sure to buy the next size up for each boy because the other jeans were almost too short!

Gwen put on a coat this morning that Parker wore for years. It’s a size 8. The sleeves are too short on her. I give up with my growing children! They are all getting so big I can’t keep up with the changing sizes. Dawn had to add length to the skirt she made for Gwen. The pattern is sizes 7-14. The 14 is too short for my 6 year old daughter!

I’m going to be the shortest one in my family sooner than I thought. My birthday was yesterday and now I feel old. I feel old, short, and depressed. So far two of my Christmas gift ideas have already been needed before Christmas. *sigh*

The halls have been decked, the trees are trimmed. The stockings are still lying in a heap. Christmas is just around the corner but it doesn’t really feel like it. Even after all the repeat shopping I have done. That’s okay, the Ghirardelli peppermint bark is certainly a welcome decoration.

The Nutcracker Ballet


The tickets are free and they go fast. We got online 15 minutes after tickets became available and felt fortunate to find 5 tickets for the Friday night performance. Saturday was already sold out. A friend of mine got online 20 minutes after tickets became available. There were no tickets left.

I’m grateful we were able to get tickets to the event. We have never been successful in all the years we’ve lived here. I know a lot of people who are jealous of us for our tickets. It’s kind of stupid since they have been to the ballet before. We put in the effort to get the tickets. It’s our turn to go to the ballet!

We dressed nicely but casually. Gwen wore a dress. She and I wore necklaces. She loves borrowing my necklaces because it makes her feel so fancy. I wore the diamond necklace Heath got me for my birthday just before Gwen was born. I let Gwen wear the kangaroo necklace my mom got in Australia with the Australian opals in it. She felt so special wearing real opals.

A rainstorm was supposed to come through around noon. Noon came and went with no rain. We left for Temple Hill around 5:30. Tiny little sprinkles started dotting the windshield. In the blink of an eye we went from sprinkles to heavy rain. By the time we got on the freeway the rain was so heavy and so intense we couldn’t see. It was like driving through Oregon all over again. Mist came up from the ground. The wipers were swishing off bucketloads of water. The air itself was a wall of water.

I started praying. “Please let us get there safely. Help us make good choices while we drive. Help us to see.” You know it’s raining hard when you instinctively start praying.

It was a wild freeway drive where going 35 mph felt too fast at times. Eventually we made it to the Oakland Temple and the rain slowed then stopped. We walked from the furthest reaches of the parking lot where we finally found parking, to the Interstake Center without getting rained on. Misty sprinkles came after that when Gwen needed a restroom and couldn’t wait in line anymore.

I wonder how much the rain affected attendance and how many of the empty seats were there for the stand-by patrons. There weren’t a lot of empty seats but there were some. The rain did affect start time. The ballet was scheduled to start at 7:00 pm. It started 10-15 minutes late. They wanted to give people a chance to arrive and get to their seats.

Heath decided we should watch from the balcony. I’m glad we did. We could see perfectly up there. We had a group of women in front of us who work together. They were really nice. The tallest girl was sitting in front of Gwen. She claimed she was lazy and didn’t mind scrunching down. Since we were in our seats so early I think she realized that scrunching was going to be uncomfortable. She moved to the end of the row so there was an empty seat in front of Gwen. That was their coat and purse seat.

Behind us was a cute little family. The girls were maybe 2 an 4 years old. They were completely engaged in the first act. They whispered a lot of questions and their dad would explain what was going on. It was really cute. Gwen was pretty well mesmerized herself for the ballet. Parker had a hard time sitting still. I think he was bored. Plus it was a million degrees. We were all sweating. I kept wanting to take my boots off. I never did though.

Act I was about an hour long. Parker thought the whole thing was over at intermission! He got this big smile on his face and said he loved it. He grabbed his coat and was ready to go. Oh the painful disappointment that washed over him when he realized it wasn’t over! Poor kid.

The ballet was danced by a local dance company. A girl who used to live in our ward danced with that company and even performed in the Nutcracker before her parents divorced and her mom moved. They did a great job. It was fun seeing all the different age groups highlighted in Act II with the international dances.

Parker survived Act II by reading the program and telling me what grade the dancers were in. Gavin sat on the other side of Heath so I’m not sure how he felt about the ballet. I thought it was well done and made for a fun evening.

Gwen loved watching the dancers. I think she is even more interested in dancing now. Her little friend at school is having a birthday party at her dance studio. She had already given us the information about the dance studio hoping Gwen would take classes. It may be a Christmas present for Gwen to start taking lessons. That girl was born to dance. She just needs someone to teach her.

We were able to walk through the temple grounds on our way back to the van. We didn’t take our time and we didn’t rush. Gwen wanted to see the Nativity. She said that’s her favorite part of the Christmas decorations at the temple. When we got back to the van I was so surprised to see it was 9:50 pm! I had no idea the ballet would be so long. Heath had promised the kids at intermission that we could go to Starbucks on the way home for some hot chocolate. I don’t think Starbucks stays open past 10 pm. It specializes in coffee after all!

Tonight we have big plans to watch Elf. Heath bought Twizzlers for the occasion and we’ll pop popcorn. Parker has been wanting to watch Elf all week. It’s just hard to fit in movies on school nights. Maybe we can get some hot chocolate and caramel apple cider first. That would be cool.

Merry in Monterey


, ,


The kids pose in this shell every time we go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They’re funny.


We arrived soon after it opened. Since we are members it’s really quick and easy to get in. We have seen the penguin feedings a couple of times. This time we really wanted to see the otter feedings.

The otter exhibit spans two floors. Upstairs was crazy crowded because of the upcoming feeding time. After trying upstairs we decided to just stay downstairs. We enjoyed watching the otters play under water before their feeding time. There are several flat screen TV’s downstairs that show the live feeding, so we didn’t miss anything.

Later we went to the theater to watch a show about Luna the sea otter. It was an interesting documentary. Luna was separated from her mom in a storm when she was just days old. Luckily she was found by an aquarium scientist who was able to help her. He failed to find her mom after pacing the beach for quite some time. So he took her to the aquarium to feed her and let a vet check her out.

Over the years scientists have learned that the best way to care for baby sea animals is to hide human identity from them. Otherwise the animals bond with the humans and cannot be reintroduced to the wild or maintain their own instincts. Luna was introduced to a surrogate sea otter mother and bonded with her. They said Luna went on to successfully have many of her own babies. It was a great story. Sea otters are so adorable. I love our otter family. Qualmie the river otter from the Seattle Aquarium with Becky the sea otter and her baby Einstein from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.


This octopus puppet is much more elaborate than our octopus puppet Marty. We got Marty in June soon after the tentacles exhibit opened.


I love this exhibit. The sea creatures are fascinating.


Can you see the octopus? It’s behind the two red shrimp. It’s changing colors. It wasn’t as dramatic with the color changes this time as the last time we came. That time we were the only people in the exhibit for a while. The octopus was awake and alert and kept changing colors to match the clothes of whoever was standing right in front of it. It was so wild to see it turn white to match my jacket as soon as I stepped in front of it.


It looks more white here. Maybe it’s matching Gavin’s white shirt.



Do you want to play little guy?



I think the tentacles exhibit is my new favorite. I still love the jellyfish but I’m getting bored of the groovy 70’s experience in the jelly exhibit. There were a lot of changes this time around. They had new jellyfish we hadn’t seen yet. Sea creatures are just fascinating to me.

We had lunch at the aquarium’s restaurant. It was very popular the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We put our name on the waiting list and had to wait until 2:00 for a table to be ready. The food is okay. The owner has a very posh and popular restaurant in Napa. My problem with the food is it’s mostly seafood. I don’t like seafood. After spending the day at the aquarium where they have so many subtle and not so subtle save the planet plugs, I wonder why they serve seafood at all! Save the fish, eat a cow. I had a grilled chicken sandwich.

My other problem with the restaurant is they are so environmentally conscious they only have paper straws. The last time we ate at the restaurant we learned that paper straws disintegrate quickly in Diet Coke. This time we opted for water so we could drink it without a straw. The kids also had water but they had straws in their kids cups. We learned straws disintegrate in water too. Other than that the food was good and the waiter was nice.

I heart Monterey. We said goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa and our kids that evening then had the place to ourselves! Party! We did not eat dinner because our late lunch was more than enough food. We just hung out at the mall until my feet were hurting in my sexy high heeled boots.

Oh, I forgot to say that on Monday night we found a great little Italian restaurant called Giani’s. The kids thought it was called Giants! It was one of those hole in the wall type places. I was concerned as we walked through the crowded restaurant and only saw tiny tables for two.

You are supposed to seat yourself and order at the front counter at your convenience. They give you a number for the table and deliver your food when it’s ready. That’s as much service as they provide. It was a little weird to me until we found a table. An employee saw us wandering and asked how many people were in our group. I told him we had seven. He led us to a quiet section that I thought was reserved for parties. It was quiet and the food was the best Italian I have had in a long time.

On Wednesday when we were kid free, Heath and I enjoyed walking around Cannery Row. We bought Christmas gifts at the aquarium. We didn’t stay longer than that. We had already seen everything the day before! We went to the Nestle Tollhouse Cookie shop and bought cookies that we didn’t eat until after everyone went to bed that night! Heath bought us two bottles of Diet Coke that we sipped while we sat on the well loved couches in the shop while talking and listening to the 60’s MC channel on the TV.

It was just fun. I remember dates like that as a teenager were filled with stress. There was always the pressure to talk and get to know the other person better. Well when you’re 13 years into marriage the pressure is gone. You pretty well know each other and silence can be peaceful. There was never any pressure when Heath and I dated before marriage anyway. Everything about our relationship has always felt comfortable and easy.

We browsed in a couple souvenir type shops. Those are fun to look at. They have a lot of overpriced junk no one really needs. We also looked in a high end jewelry store with expensive art pieces for home décor. They had pretty things and I imagined it would be the kind of place my dad would like to shop in. But none of it called my name. I couldn’t imagine any of it adorning me or my home.

We walked past one store that I wanted to go into based on the Christmas decorations in the window. As soon as I took one step inside I realized it was not the type of store I was expecting. The decorations were for the window only. There was a festive table in the back but that was it. I immediately said I was done. But Heath was really excited.

What I thought were wine bottles were actually bottles of olive oil and vinegar. He was in heaven looking around the Olive Bar. It’s a chef’s dream of a shop! I was bored until we started sampling some of the stuff. He ended up buying three different specialty oils. One that smelled and tasted like Thanksgiving that he planned to use on the Thanksgiving turkey. That was the rosemary infused oil. He also got a chipotle infused oil and California garlic infused oil. Both were really good but I really like the chipotle one. Merry Christmas Heath!

Despite our last disappointing lunch at Johnny Rockets,we decided to go there for lunch. Luck was on our side since we got the waiter we were coveting the last time we were there. He is the best waiter! He’s very attentive and personable. Our previous waitress made ketchup smiley faces for the kids. They were plain old anyone can do it smiley faces.


These ketchup faces actually look like us! I was impressed. It was a fun lunch before heading home. The whole Santa Cruz and Monterey trip was wonderful. We must do it again. Oh wait, we go there a lot. Because it’s so much fun!

Train Cruz


, ,


On our way to Monterey we stopped at Roaring Camp in Santa Cruz for another train ride. The boys were not super impressed the first time we did this. Gwen was so excited for the train ride as a baby. She loved trains then and continues to love them now. She didn’t believe she had really been on that train ride before. I was glad when my 2009 blog book arrived. I could show her pictures of herself.


It was such a beautiful day. I left my jacket in the car without thinking of the fact that we were taking a train ride up the mountain. It was a little chilly but nothing to complain about. Barely jacket weather.



The train always stops at the top of the mountain for a short break before heading back down.


There was a trail of decorated trees. Stars, Easter eggs, baseballs, butterflies, teddy bears. A lady was decorating while we were up there. A few trees had buckets with decorations sitting on the ground waiting to be decorated. Gwen loved all the fun Christmas trees.

After the train ride we went to the gift shop. A black cat was napping on the counter in the sun. I will admit it surprised me to see a live cat on the counter. Everyone did a double take. At least I thought everyone did. Gwen somehow must have missed seeing the large black real cat purring in the sun.

We were slowly wandering through the store browsing. The cat must have woken up and sauntered toward a curtained off portion of the store in the back. I really didn’t see what happened. All I knew was Gwen was screeching in three short bursts like some sort of siren. I jumped and pulled her toward me for a hip hug while thinking, “What the heck?” At the same time Heath and the boys were laughing. Heath was trying to tell her it was just a cat and that she must have scared the snot out of the poor creature!

After that Gwen wanted out of the store. She kept tugging on us to leave. But I saw some stick horses and had to have one. Gwen unclenched slightly when she realized I was buying a toy for her and her boys. The weird thing was the cat was still sleeping in the same place on the counter with the sun shining on it. In my mind that cat never moved. I never saw it walk into the back of the store. I just saw Gwen lose her mind and everyone else laughing about it. The cashier lady kept talking about how the cat was very sweet and would never hurt anyone.

We all have to laugh at Gwen. She loves cats. Loves them. After the store she swore she hated cats. She didn’t know what to think when we pointed out that the lovey she brought was her pink cat Sparkly from Build a Bear! Silly silly girl.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 192 other followers