Yesterday was my third time at the Polynesian Cultural Center and it hasn't gotten old yet! It is amazing. The sight of the Samoans scampering up the coconut tree, the Tahitians shaking their hips, the Tongans banging the drums - it is all amazing and fun!
We got a fairly early start on our Monday by arriving at Hanauma Bay in time for a 7:45 a.m. orientation film. We spent a little over 4 hours snorkeling with brightly colored fish! I could not believe the quantities and varieties! A couple were so big they were almost scary! They aren't afraid of people and would be awfully close. It was amazing!I still found a little time to lie on the beach and enjoy the view of the blue skies as seen through the palm trees. Here's the view of Haunauma Bay from the top of the hill. It really is pretty big. Then we drove to the other side of the island (the west/north side). We stopped at the Dole Plantation to see a few pineapple plants and enjoy a pineapple whip (the real reason for the stop). Then we drove on to see one of my favorite things - the sea turtles! There was actually FOUR on the beach! We drove on up the North Shore to Sunset Beach where we especially enjoyed watching the surfers. There was some faily high waves. We headed home and stopped off in Haliewa for a shave ice. Yum!
Brief recap - snorkeling with gorgeous fish, pineapple whip, sea turtles, and shave ice -- this is truly paradise!!!! I may never go home!
Yesterday (Sunday) we went to church in the Honolulu Tabernacle. It was a beautiful setting with a reflecting pool, an enormous Banyan tree, flowers, and greenery.
Later we went to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific or the Punchbowl as it is more commonly known. Then a drive up Pali Highway to Pali lookout (again - but we had to show Todd and Jill the gorgeous views). Then we drove to the eastern coast and stopped at this scenic view... before continuing on to Makupu'u Point Lighthouse to watch for whales. We even hiked to the lookout. We actually saw many spouts, one tail, and a couple fins. And finally, had this incredible sunset on the walk back down. A beautiful ending to a lovely day!
Kevin and I are now in Waikiki! We flew to Maui on Christmas Day and then took an interisland plane to Honolulu. It was 9 degrees when we left SLC and we arrived to a temperature in the 80's. It made the EXTREMELY long 7 hour flight worth it! One of our first adventures was to obtain dinner. We went to the international marketplace and had Greek food. Then, just for the fun of it, we decided to try a Thai fried banana. Does Kevin look apprehensive? It was actually pretty good.Here's the view from our hotel room. Who can beat that? It's gorgeous! Yesterday, we drove the Pali highway and stopped at Pali lookout. More gorgeous views! Then we headed to Kaulua and Lanikai beaches (rated two of the best beaches in the nation) where we relaxed on the white sandy beaches, snorkeled in the warm water, and walked from one end to the other before picking up Todd and Jill from the airport. The four of us headed back to the International Marketplace for dinner. Todd and Jill enjoyed Filipino food while Kevin and I tried Korean. Yummy! Then a moonlit stroll on Waikiki beach - I may stay here forever!
Alec received the best possible present from his friend, Jacob, who takes him to every Riverton High basketball game -- an official Riverton basketball jersey! We've hardly managed to get Alec out of it since he got it! I hope he doesn't try to wear it to church today since I'm not there to stop him!
For me, Christmas is all about the traditions. We have a few Christmas Eve traditions. We go bowling as a family then to The Pie (SLC's best pizza). Then we come home and celebrate Christ's birth (with homemade ice cream) and we all give Christ a gift. Our gift to him is a spiritual goal that we will work on throughout the next year.
The bowling was so much fun! Four of the six of us bowled over 100 (that's good for us). I was not one of those. My high was 96. I love bowling because everyone can do it. Alec is actually a really good bowler.
One of the great things about Christmas is that I get to bring out a few of my favorite things! My mom made these wonderful stockings for me one year for Christmas. I truly love them. I get so many compliments on them and am proud to tell everyone that my mom made them for me. They are one of the best gifts I have ever received because not only are they gorgeous but I appreciate the love and time that went into them!
Another favorite item is the incredible advent calendar that my Aunt Vicki made for me! (okay, she made them for all of us kids, but I still feel special just to have received one!) We get to add an ornament to the tree every day of December until Christmas Eve at which time we always add the star to the top. These are truly prized possessions and I love unpacking them from my Christmas boxes and hate putting them away in January.
I honestly NEVER, EVER, EVER thought I'd say this - but sometimes I actually enjoy sewing. Truly I do. I still don't like big projects or complicated patterns but I like the cute fabrics that are out there. I have had fun this year completing a few small projects. Here's the turtleneck that I decorated up for my niece. I think it's cute.
A friend mentioned to me the other day that her brother, who is a teacher, hates substitutes. The reason is that he feels substitutes come in, be all nice and lenient, and try to be the well-liked sub (the good guy).
I understand his point of view. Very frustrating for a teacher who is probably very good but still has to impose some sort of order and discipline. I get it.
I thought about it, as a seminary substitute myself, and decided there is another side to this. One, as a sub, I generally don't know the names so it makes it harder to tell a particular student to be quiet. Two, at least in seminary, you have to get fairly good reviews from the students to get called again. The criteria may not be niceness but you can't be mean or rude or hurtful or too boring! Three, I don't know the class' routines, what the teacher allows or expects, or what standard procedures are. I have to make my own rules for what I can live with. Four, I don't know the background of any particular student. Heck, I don't even know if they are LDS (some of them aren't). I don't want to be the one to drive them away from the gospel, so I probably do err on the side of leniency.
Maybe my seminary teaching experience doesn't fit the general substitutes but I hope everyone realizes subs are doing a tough job and doing the best they can. And, as always, there is two sides to EVERY story!
Here's the photos from the 8th annual scrapbooking Christmas party: The party really is one of the highlights of my Christmas season. It is so much fun! I have great friends who give great gifts. I always end the party with more loot than I get on Christmas day.
This year I made aprons for everyone. I tried really hard to match the fabric to the person. I intended to take a picture of all 7 aprons but forgot until they were all nicely wrapped. So, then I thought I'd just make everyone put them on when they opened them and I'd get my picture then. Guess what? I forgot again. (What does this say about my memory?) So, just picture 7 different aprons made from a Flirty Skirty pattern by a not so great seamstress.
I've gotten going on "Alec stories" and now I can't stop. He truly makes my life an adventure. Besides, this is an "Alec story" that happened at Christmas time so it fits.
Every year my family hosts a Christmas open house. We invite our neighbors/ward members (in Utah it's practically the same thing) over for warm drinks (after all, hot drinks are not for the body - hee hee) and homemade candies and assorted breads. We visit and eat and enjoy ourselves.
Two years ago, Alec looked out the French doors and noticed police lights on Bangerter Highway. I should have been on alert because Alec is drawn to the sirens and lights of emergency vehicles. However, the party was wrapping up and Kevin was getting ready to fly out so there was chaos. Things had just quieted down when I got a phone call. The caller identified himself as a member of the Utah State Highway Patrol and told me he had Alec on Bangerter. He said Alec had been throwing rocks at cars. I was shocked because regardless of the hoodlum-type stories I have told about him, that really is not typical behavior for him.
I hurriedly drove over to pick him up. The cops actually had him in the back of their car and imagine my horror when Alec got out of the car in HANDCUFFS! No kidding. The cops had handcuffed him before putting him in the highway patrol vehicle (they justified it as standard procedure). I am sure a 15-year-old with Down syndrome and the understanding of a 4-year-old poses a considerable threat!
I drove Alec home not really knowing what to say. Honestly, I was in a stupor. That is, until I got home and told Brakston all about it. Brakston started laughing and then so did I. We actually got a little bit hysterical we were laughing so hard. (The absurdity of putting Alec in handcuffs!)
--scrappinsoccermama swears she is doing her best NOT to raise juvenile delinquents!
I've said it before - I could fill an entire blog with "Alec stories". Since it's his birthday weekend, he merits one more. This is one of my all-time favorites.
Several years ago our neighbors went to Disneyland leaving behind their 18-year-old son, Mike. They received a frantic call from Mike one evening. He was really freaked out that someone had been in the house while he had run to the store. His parents quizzed him as to how he knew someone had been in the house. Mike said two popsicle sticks had been left on the counter. His parents started laughing and assured him there was nothing to worry about.
That's right. Alec had entered their home and helped himself to a couple popsicles.
It wasn't the first or the last of Alec's unlawful entries but it remains my fave.
Alec is 17 years old today. He still makes me laugh while wanting to pull every strand of hair out by its roots. I could fill an entire blog with tales of Alec's escapades over the years. I think many of our neighbors love to swap "Alec stories". He is truly a one-of-a-kind character!
For today, I'll reminisce about the day of his birth. My mom had decided to spend the night at our home rather than going to California for my cousin's wedding. She just had a "feeling" - thank goodness for a mother's intuition. I woke in labor. Brakston took forever to get here so I was not in a panic. In fact, I tried to go back to sleep (over and over between almost paralyzing contractions). Finally, I got up and took a shower. Then, I told Kevin "We're going to have a baby today, but don't worry, we've got plenty of time for you to shower and eat breakfast."
I went and talked to my mom and told her the baby was coming. We chatted for a couple of minutes and suddenly, I knew I should panic! I ran and told Kevin to get out of the shower because we needed to get to the hospital. My water broke in the car during the 20-minute drive. We pulled up to the hospital and I had to convince Kevin this was an emergency and he could park in the red zone until he got me into the hospital. I made it to the nurses' station and clutched the counter unable to move. They pushed me into a wheelchair and stripped my clothes off as they wheeled me down the hall. They got me into the bed, checked me and announced I was fully dilated. Then they begged me to wait for the doctor. The nurses assured me the doctor only lived 5 minutes away.
When the doctor walked in he said "Let me check you" as he pulled on his sterile gloves. I replied, "Just catch" and he leaned down and pulled out Alec. It was the fastest, easiest delivery I would ever experience.
It's a good thing too since the moment we left home, Brakston had managed to lock he and my mom in the bathroom. (My mom was grateful that at least they'd have water and a toilet - a few basic necessities taken care of.) When we couldn't reach her by phone to tell her Alec was already here, I sent Kevin home to rescue them.
Alec has not always been the easiest of children to raise but he has certainly always been an unexpected adventure. I should have realized when his birth caught me so off-guard that it was a harbinger of what was to come.
Today Kevin and I celebrate being married for 22 years!
That sounds like such a long time.
So, how did we celebrate? I Jazzercised, came home and said hello, and then I was off to teach seminary while he took the girls to the dentist. I came home on an extended lunch break and made dessert for the ward Christmas party, tea rings for our family Christmas party, and dessert for our extended family party while Kevin ran some errands. I went back to finish teaching while Kevin worked on the computer. We actually did go somewhere together - Kohl's to buy Brakston some pants for Christmas. Then I wrapped presents while Kevin ran to the post office. We attended the ward Christmas party together for about 1 hour before Kevin flew off to Lewiston, MT.
Aren't we a romantic couple? (Just can't get enough of each other. lol)
Seriously now, we are going to Hawaii together in one week. That will count as a great anniversary celebration!
Life has been so frantic lately that I haven't even had time to look forward to our trip to Hawaii. Kevin and I are spending Christmas to New Year's in Oahu. I am gving myself permission to spend the next 5 minutes doing nothing but dwelling on thoughts of sandy beaches, fresh pineapple, sea turtles, and boogie boarding.
Woo Hoo! Today is my 8th annual scrapbooking friends Christmas party! I really look forward to this get together. There is 8 of us who get together regularly to scrapbook/sew/make jewelry, etc. I host the Christmas party each year. We have SOOOO much fun.
We relax. We laugh. We eat. We talk. We laugh. We create. We laugh. We eat. We exchange gifts. We eat. We laugh.
Today's menu is: Stuffed Mushrooms Cranberry Pork Roast Funeral Potatoes Spinach Salad Homemade Breadsticks Cranberry Cake with Hot Butter Cream Sauce Orange Almond Drink
Here's the list of books I've read in the past month. Though the number is down considerably from most months, I am surprised I've read as many as I have. There hasn't been much time for reading lately. Luckily, two of the titles are youth fiction and very quick reads. I've ** the ones I highly recommend.
**Diamond Willow by Helen Frost Night Kill by Ann Littlewood **Life of Pi by Yann Martel Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler Specials (Uglies #3) by Scott Westerfield Saturday by Ian McEwan
I believe I have the funniest brother in the world. Ben keeps us laughing! He has such a wonderful sense of humor! Yesterday I emailed my siblings with the assigned roles for their children in acting out the nativity scene at our family Christmas party this Saturday at 10 am. I also asked if anyone had a doll we could use as baby Jesus (no one gave birth this past year). Here is Ben's reply:
Hello to my wonderful favorite family. I am looking forward to the party and nativity scene and all that stuff this weekend. Mostly, I've been thinking about the food. I can't wait. In preparation for this shindig, I decided to make a few small adjustments here at the residence. I am moving some walls, excavating some soil, pouring some concrete, and some other small stuff like that. Don't worry, it will all be done by 9:45 A.M. on Saturday. Despite the work, I have managed to install a few Christmas lights and decorations outside to promote the Christmas spirit. If you want to swing by early, about 5:30 A.M., I will turn the lights on so you can see them. If you choose this option, please bring some quarters to contribute to the electricity fund. In regards to dolls for the Nativity scene, I am pleased to report that we are able to offer several options for you. We have multiple dolls of various sizes, genders, ethnicities, clothed, partially clothed, unclothed, and so forth. If somebody promises to take the doll with them at the conclusion of this lovely event, I will not charge anything for the doll's services. This offer is valid on many other toys as well. Just ask me for details. Thanks. Love ya. Bye.
This story was sent to me via email. I loved it so much I had to share. Enjoy. (It is best enjoyed with a hot mug of cocoa and a kleenex).
The "W" in Christmas by Vickey Pahnke Taylor, Meridian Magazine, Dec. 10, 2009
“Last December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations - extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.
“My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six-year-old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant." I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
“So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song. Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as "Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer.
“So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by its bold title. Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row- center stage - held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."
“The performance was going smoothly until suddenly we noticed her- a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down -totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W". The audience of First through Sixth graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her "W". Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together.
“A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:
I have my very own couch potato. Well, okay, that's not really true. I've had to adopt this couch potato in order to be able to say I have one. My children aren't really couch potatoes. They like to keep moving.
Here's McKayla's schedule for the last 24+ hours. Yesterday 6-7 pm - swimming at the rec center (part of cross-training for soccer) followed by basketball practice from 7:15-8:15 pm. Then she, Dakota, Shanley, and Tylan stayed up half the night making up dance routines. McKayla then had a soccer game today at 10:40 am followed by a noon basketball game. She spent a couple more hours sledding with friends, babysat for a couple hours, and is on the way out the door to go to a stake dance.
--scrappinsoccermama is very aware of the need for the Sabbath (a day of REST!)
I have my own personal Christmas tradition. Every year when I make all of my Christmas candy and dip the chocolates, I watch some of my favorite movies. I watch "Sense and Sensibility", "Bed of Roses", "While You Were Sleeping", "Return to Me", and "A Walk in the Clouds." (Yes, I love romances and romantic comedies!)
Unfortunately, all of my old favorites are on VHS and this year our VHS player quit working. I started on my candies and tried to turn on my movies and no joy! It was SO very sad. I finally rented a few DVDs and watched some new movies - "The Accidental Husband", "Julie and Julia", and "My Sister's Keeper".
Here's my unofficial, un-asked-for movie review. I don't remember ever even hearing about "The Accidental Husband" but thought it was a really cute romantic comedy. I enjoyed it. I think "Julie and Julia" might have been good if it weren't for the vulgar language. Crude language in movies really disturbs me. It offends my ears and makes me think the writers are too illiterate to express themselves in an intelligent way (I have always associated swearing excessively with "white trash"). "My Sister's Keeper" has a different ending than the book but the movie was still very heart-breaking and a great story.
Still, I missed my usual movies. Next year, I either have to get a new VHS player or find my old favorites on DVD. Some traditions should not be broken!
We have a plethora (I love that word) of snow right now. Whiteness everywhere.
God is snow. He is pure and white. He comes down in a perfect, whole form. He makes the world beautiful and sparkling with His presence. He covers up the dry and the dead. Then, He makes it possible for life to begin anew in the Spring.
I, on the other hand, am much more like rain. I come down in an incomplete form (less whole and perfect than snow). I am slightly dirty and once on the ground, get dirtier still by mixing with the dust and dirt. However, when I'm warmed by God's love, I can rise up again to meet Him.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us. It is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
One of the things I love doing at Christmastime is attending the FM100 Christmas mini-concerts. The radio station hosts 1 hour concerts every Tuesday and Thursday at a nearby mall. It is actually two 30-minute concerts of fabulous local musicians. (excuse the picture - for some reason, I felt really stupid taking a photo and had a bad angle anyway)
One of my favorites is Peter Breinholt. I first heard him at one of these concerts and liked him so much that Kevin bought me tickets for his outdoor summer concert for my birthday. Who knew I liked folk music so much?
Anyway, nothing like great music to get me into the appropriate Christmas mood! I usually make it to two or three of these concerts each year. Utah has definitely got some talented musicians.
Last night was a party that I look forward to every year - our annual Circle Christmas party. I don't know when the tradition started (we've lived here for 17 years and it was going before we got here - the previous owners of our home actually used it as a selling point) but it is really fun. Most of the neighbors on our circle enjoy lots of dinner and lots of laughs together. We have followed the same format for years: a progressive-type dinner followed by games.
This year we started at Colemans' home for appetizers of shrimp, warm dip with crackers, veggie platter and stuffed mushrooms. Then we headed to Hansons' for a salad bar. Tonya Cole hosted the main dish of chicken cordon bleu, baked potatoes, green beans, and homemade rolls. Then Kevin and I hosted dessert and games.
I made chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake and my specialty - French Silk pie. Yum! One thing we regret is not taking pictures every year. It would be so much fun to look back at the photos and see how everyone has changed. Also, to see photos of the few people who have moved. I have only missed once in all the years we've lived here. This is a party not to be missed! I really am blessed to have great neighbors! Brian and Linette Thacker, Lew and MaryAnn Shaw, Terrie and Keith Coleman, Gail and Ted Hanson, Kevin and I, and Tonya Cole.
Tuesday night we took all the YW to a live nativity. I loved it so much that I wanted to take my boys as well. So, Thursday evening we arrived early to meet my parents and stand in line. We were there half an hour before it started. Then it took us almost 40 minutes for our turn to walk through. It was worth it because I enjoyed it just as much the second time through. (Unfortunately, the wait was too long for my parents who had a previous time commitment and had to leave before they got in.) Maybe the long wait in line helps you relate to Mary and Joseph's journey. All I know is that when the innkeeper waved us on and told us there was no room in the inn, I felt sad and bereft. I felt sympathy for Mary.