Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Memories

This Christmas may be the first that both kids actually remember. We spent lots of time with extended family this week.

After last week’s post, we joined Mike’s parents and cousins Haydn and Alie to watch the Bell Canto Ringers perform in Simi.

On Tuesday, we went to the dentist and saw Aunt Emily. Everyone got their teeth cleaned along with clean bills of health. We then stopped by Grandma and Grandpa O.’s house on the way back to our house. Eliza loves to play with Shep the dog!

Landon continues to create unique and exciting LEGO contraptions.
This one comes complete with a projectile launcher and spinning ninja knives.

He lucked out this week to be the only one at his gymnastics practices on both Monday and Wednesday. This meant lots of time perfecting his skills.

We’re thankful to all those who sent us cards and updates! Your greetings hold a special place above our fireplace. We still need to get something out to you. . . (does the blog count? J ).

Christmas Eve finally arrived, much to the kids’ delight. Grandma and Papa M. came over, and we had some snacks and presents as we waited to catch a glimpse of the Santa-In-Lights. Unfortunately, while we had clear skies and a beautiful full moon, we had gusty wind, so Santa got delayed (read “flyover canceled”).

Landon and Eliza both left notes, cookies, and egg nog for the big man in red for his eventual arrival, and Mom and Dad stayed up late to make sure he got all the presents delivered.

Santa was too quick to capture on film. This time. 

Maybe our kids are a bit unusual, or maybe we do a good job tiring them out, but everyone woke up at a reasonable time on Christmas morning. By the time Eliza came to get the parents up, she was already dressed for the day. Landon even fed the cat without sneaking a peak at his presents by the fireplace and under the tree.

At this house, Santa fills stockings and leaves his gifts by the fireplace (have we mentioned how nice it is to have one?). The kids came down and dove into their stockings (which they very much enjoyed – especially the fancy Kinder Eggs) and read Santa’s reply to Landon’s note.

Eventually they noticed the bike and large package that were also parked by the fire.

The TV is well-positioned to act as an artificial fire, as we didn’t need the heat of a real fire (because, realistically, the real fireplace is just for show in our climate. Still, have we mentioned how much we enjoy having a real fireplace?).

Later on, we drove over to Aunt Emily and Uncle Mike’s house for Christmas dinner prepared by Uncle Mike and visits with grandmas, grandpas, and cousins from both sides of their family. Good stuff!

On the way home, we made a stop at Grandma and Grandpa O.’s, where the kids harassed cousin Haydn (always a good sport) and opened gifts from the grands. All in all, we had a full couple of Christmas days appreciating the gift of our extended family’s presence.

On Saturday, Mike and the kids accompanied Grandpa O. and Shep to Corriganville Park, site of the former Corriganville Movie Ranch, famous for its sites and vistas used in movies and 1950s TV westerns. Woody from Toy Story would have felt right at home here, back in the day. We spent a couple of hours climbing on rocks and hiking a leisurely couple of miles along the trails.   After a visit with Grandma and Alie back at their house, we came home and played some.

Later in the afternoon, we went to the Freedom Park. Eliza was thrilled for the chance to go riding, but Landon didn’t quite share her enthusiasm, so he opted out. Too bad, because Grandma and Grandpa and Alie came out to see everyone ride. Before sunset, at least, we had warmer weather and less wind in Camarillo than in Simi, but after the sun set, it got chilly, at least as far as Mike and Landon were concerned. Could it be that the boys have already adapted to the mild California winter?! 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Force Awakens, and the Children Slumber

The boys got caught up a bit in the hype around the big movie this weekend, one of but many reasons to be excited, what with school parties and rain to liven up the week.

We’ll start with art.

Landon and the other cub scouts competed in a marshmallow snowman making contest for pack meeting this month. His creation was very tasteful. 

Santa came to visit Eliza’s class. He has a great sense of humor and gets the kids talking. Hallie remembered how funny Santa was from last year and was hoping it would be the same man. Yeah!!!! The preschool kids are hilarious in the way they interact with Santa. Laughter is the best!

Landon had several art projects as part of his class party.

Landon had a follow-up at the doctor’s, and since we were there last (less than six months ago), he has grown an inch. No wonder he was looking taller to us and others. Landon also received his trimester grades and did very well. We are very proud of Landon’s hard work and how successful he has been this school year.

Early in the day, Eliza and Hallie headed to Westlake to help Hallie’s mom celebrate her last day of working for the Conejo Valley Unified School District. For 23 years she has served the kids of the Conejo Valley. Grandma received lots of nice gifts, kind regards, and yummy food to celebrate her last day. Eliza was a hit with her new twirly whirly dress and those big brown eyes. Hopefully now the kids will be able to see Grandma more often!

Eliza passed off a new skill in gymnastics, a front pull over. Eliza loves going to gymnastics and loves doing things on the bars even when Coach Dee is not looking. Both of the kids run a mile a minute. We have been so happy with Victory Gymnastics Academy, and the staff are amazing! Even coaches who have not had our kids know their names and treat them with kindness. All of the girls and boys teams had a Secret Snowman activity during part of gymnastics. It was held far out on the gym floor, so no pictures were taken. Hallie has commented how she appreciates that, even though Landon is on pre-team, they include all levels in the different team activities. Landon was thrilled with his gift from his Secret Snowman, a new book. After gymnastics on Friday, the boys’ team was having an in-house meet, and we stayed after a bit to watch. It was great fun to see them in competition attire and for Landon to see what he could do in the future if he desires.

After reading some reviews and feedback from people who had seen the new Star Wars movie, we decided to let Mike take Landon to see it. Landon got so excited that he literally could not sleep all night. So, rather than going to a Saturday afternoon showing, Mike took Landon with him, out to TO, and they watched a 6:00 am showing before Mike went up to the office. 

Landon kept asking when Luke was going to show up, and he actually commented that he was a bit bored during the first half of the show. But then some more exciting parts happened, and the boys had a good time. Mike looks forward to when Eliza gets old enough to see the movie. Rey reminded him of his own feisty little Jedi princess-in-training.

Several displays at the theatre showed off Hollywood props and other themed memorabilia. 

As we rushed out the door without breakfast, we needed sustenance. We went to Foster's Donuts on TO Boulevard. Some of the flavors in the display case had a definite Voodoo vibe, such as their maple bacon and fruit pebble bars. We may need to come back. Word to the wise: Cash only.

They came back home at around 11, and on the way home, Landon fell asleep. He woke up long enough to walk in, walk upstairs, and fall back asleep in his bed. We tried rousing him a couple of times in the afternoon, and we were afraid he’d suddenly pop up wide awake just as the grown-ups were getting ready for bed, but he continued sleeping all through the night. He felt a bit upset Sunday morning when he found out that he had missed most of Saturday. Some say all of this sleeping was a Christmas miracle, and Hallie could not agree more. 

Eliza both had her hair straightened and cleaned her room while the boys were out. Then she went out into the rain and lost all the straightening. Then Mom straightened her hair again. Eliza earned a Merida doll for her efforts between hair straightening sessions. 

While the young Skywalker was asleep, Eliza and Hallie went to the outlet mall to a local Stride Rite store that is closing and managed to score some good deals on shoes for the kids in the future. Mike watched a football game where one side did all the scoring, then the other side scored not quite as many points. Today it's good to be a Ute. . . .

Later, Eliza fell asleep earlier than normal on Hallie’s lap while they watched It’s A Wonderful Life. What a wonderful moment!

Everyone in the house is trying to keep colds and allergies at bay, so only Hallie attended sacrament. The children seemed to be doing well while she was gone, so Hallie ran home and got them for Primary. Landon and Eliza greeted her at the end with graham cracker nativities, so darling. Eliza had eaten most of hers before they got home so no pictures were taken. Sorry. We do have a closing pic of Eliza in her Sunday best.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sing, Choirs of Angels

This week was marked with songs of the season as Hallie and Landon participated in the Camarillo Community Christmas Concert over the weekend.

Mike spent most of the week on jury duty between hearing evidence and deliberating. The jury ultimately convicted a young woman who took a knife to a fistfight. We had to determine whether she acted in self-defense, and we determined that she had deliberately used the knife she brought to the fight to stab the victim with intent to do harm rather than to use in an act of self-preservation. There were extenuating circumstances that threatened to muddy the waters, but ultimately the fact that the defendant suffered minor wounds consistent with the victim’s story and inconsistent with her own carried the day for the prosecution.

It didn’t help that the victim herself was no angel on the day of the fight. She definitely egged the defendant on through some bad behavior of her own earlier in the day. Still, words, threats, and even mutual consent to a fight did not justify the defendant, who brought the hurt on quick and early based on the evidence and then may have realized too late that she bit off more than she could chew. In an even match, the defendant would have experienced a world of hurt at the hands of the victim (and to be honest, based on some of the background we gathered from witness testimony, the defendant may have suffered past harm, herself, that led her to believe that bringing the knife was necessary and justified, hence the protracted deliberations). Word to the wise, people: Don’t rise to the bait, don’t bring a knife to a fistfight, and above all don’t take on a mama bear even when you think you have stacked the odds in your favor. She will take you down, and pronto.

We received additional information from the prosecutor after the trial that independently corroborated our conclusions, and it appears that in the two years since the incident, the victim has made a clean break from the circumstances that led to the fight. While we of the jury felt sorry for the defendant, we also felt that justice had been done for the victim.

Eliza wrote her dad a little love note that she sent with his lunch on the last day of trial deliberations. So adorable!

Hallie received amazing chocolate delights from Canada (that of course will be shared with the family. Wink, wink).

On Friday, Landon went on a school field trip where they saw a children-acted version of the Nutcracker. In the afternoon Hallie picked up Landon from school, and they headed over to Starbucks to spend a few minutes together on a mother-son date. Landon thought their candy cane brownie bite needed its two seconds of fame.

We're getting winter-themed art from school. So funny to see art with snow in it. . . .

We had several nights of lovely sunsets due to El Niño-related cloud cover. Not a lot of rain yet, though.

Mom and Landon spent Saturday morning practicing for the concert and everyone was happy to be rewarded with Rolling Pin donuts, and the concert took place on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Landon is definitely moved by the song A Hallelujah Christmas. Every Sunday when he comes out of practice he is singing the chorus at the top of his lungs. What a great way for him to recognize and feel the Spirit, learn a new talent and experience to cultural arts.

Hallie has really enjoyed getting to spend this special time with Landon.

Hallie has enjoyed getting to know people from the Stake she has never met before. This is Debbie Morris. We even have 6 degrees of separation between us. Debbie is so much fun and Hallie loves her sense of humor and her willingness to be so friendly.