Saturday, December 31, 2016

Closing Out 2016

We close out our second full year in Camarillo with some well-needed rain, the kids at least as wild as ever, and Hallie almost half the woman she used to be. As this was a staycation week spent near home, we didn’t do a whole lot or take many photos. With Grandpa’s birthday, our friend Jenny’s visit, and New Year’s celebrations, we did have fun to round things out.

On Monday, we saw Sing at the movies with Alyssa and Abbie. After the movie Eliza went to Abbie’s house for a couple of hours. The two girls had a lot of fun together, and we are so happy to have these newer friends in our lives. Mike went with wild abandon to Van Heusen to spend a gift card he received on new clothes. He did an excellent job picking out a new blazer!

It was good having some down time before gymnastics on Tuesday. Hallie took Landon to gymnastics in the evening while Mike and Eliza ran some errands. Our total time has not changed at gymnastics but the way practice is structured has changed, and Hallie mentioned once this week that it was a religious experience. Having two kids with one amazing coach for two hours was great!!! One errand including picking up some yummy tamales from the Berro family. Thank you!

On Wednesday Eliza had gymnastics. Joe Dixon on Level 10 at gymnastics signed to go to UC Berkley tonight. It is fun to see the boys succeed, and Landon loves being a part of the Victory Family.

Even though it is Christmas break Mike still met with one student in person and another by phone in the evening.

Aunt Breanne went into labor a few weeks early on Thursday, and her and Riley’s twin girls Norah and Harper were born healthy and are in the NICU putting on a little weight before coming home.

Mike worked in the late afternoon, Landon had gymnastics, and Hallie – who joined 3 Elements (the gym in the gym) yesterday – committed to coming to her first class tonight. 3 Elements is class based, and it was hard, but Hallie lasted the whole class, which was the goal. Yay!!!
Friday afternoon Jenny came to visit, and it is always nice to have Jenny in our home. Eliza especially loved Jenny’s visit and the time she was able to spend with two very special American Girl doll twins. Mike made a very yummy chicken, bacon, and spinach spaghetti dinner. We had to celebrate National Bacon Day! In the evening we went to Grandpa M’s house to celebrate his birthday. It is always fun to be with family.

Landon, Hallie, and Jenny spent time on a walk on Saturday morning after we had a bout of rain. It has been so nice to receive so much rain in our dried-out neck of the woods. We celebrated New Year’s on Saturday night with a movie and Martinelli’s. Church starts bright and early at 9:00 a.m., so we’re in for early mornings all 2017 long.  

Sunday, December 25, 2016

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

We kept busy our first week of break with short trips around the Southland. Everything culminated with church and visits with family on Saturday and Sunday. 

On Monday, Hallie took Eliza with her to get blood work done and have Hallie’s eyebrows threaded by a lady we know whose children go to Las Posas. Later, Mike graded papers, and the rest of us did some last-minute shopping before going to gymnastics. Mike and Hallie and the other parents of the boys’ team met with the coaches to discuss some upcoming staffing changes/challenges. As we discussed the issues, we saw that we may have to rethink gymnastics moving forward. Sobering notion.  

We went down to Westwood for our semi-annual teeth cleaning on Tuesday. Everyone had a clean bill of health, even Landon who had a bloody mouth the week before from gymnastics. Yay for brushing and flossing! Afterwards, we surprised Landon with a trip to the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood to view Rogue One. Part of the experience included getting photos with Stormtroopers, seeing props and models from the movie, and experiencing a wild opening to the film which included Stormtroopers invading the theatre and Darth Vader’s menacing mechanical breathing over the speakers. Spooooky! We enjoyed the movie. Good times! Mom surprised the boys with popcorn and drinks as part of a package deal to make the event top notch.

Eliza and Mom went to the Grove to have lunch at the American Girl Store. Unfortunately, the café was all reserved, so instead they used some Christmas funds from Grandma and Grandpa O. to buy a little canine companion whom Eliza named Trixie, “because she does tricks, see?” (She caught the first part of her little pun but the way she said it brought out the whole thing. Too funny!) The girls topped off their outing with a trip to Magee’s eatery at the Farmers Market. No meal is complete without a little dessert, so the girls hit up Dylan’s Candy Bar for some sour Jelly Bellies.

Landon had gymnastics in the afternoon, but we were only a little late. Everyone stuck around with the other kids whose siblings were out on the floor. It’s our own little club. One of the moms brought the boys’ team hot cocoa with all the fixings. The Gamboa family is very generous, and the boys loved every minute of the hot cocoa bar. Some of the sisters were even rewarded for hanging around. Oh, and this! Our friend Carrie caught on film this evening's amazing sunset. So beautiful! 

On Wednesday, we mostly stuck around home. The ladies who came to clean last month came again and left the place squeaky clean. Mike enjoys speaking with the ladies in Spanish and getting insights into Christmas traditions from Mexico and El Salvador.

Right about the time the rain started Hallie ran out to Van Gundy Jewelers in the Las Posas Plaza to see what someone could do to fix her problem of a wedding ring that is too big. During her visit Hallie met a very nice sale consultant and had a nice chat while the jeweler fixed her ring by adding a piece of metal to the ring to make it smaller. Can you believe that the ring is an 8 and now she wears a 6 ½?! The store did not charge Hallie, and we definitely will go back with any of our jewelry needs.

Hallie had an early Christmas present of a trip to see Nathan Pacheco and David Archuleta sing down in Costa Mesa at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. She left Mike and the kids to go to gymnastics. The kids had a sock-themed gift exchange and other treats. Mike took advantage of the time to do some last-minute shopping at the local Target and get some yummy dinner, things Hallie usually does when she takes the kids to the gym.  

Hallie got home really late, so we tried to sleep in a little on Thursday. Landon had a doctor appointment, then Hallie had a hair appointment, so the two of them went to the Valley and Westlake before going to Landon’s gymnastics. The late nights have caught up to Hallie. When getting to gymnastics early Hallie shut her eyes for just a minute, and next thing you know gymnastics was starting in four minutes. Yikes! Meanwhile, Eliza and Mike stayed home and ran a few pre-Christmas errands. One of our neighbors recently installed a cute little neighborhood lending library, so we took a few of our books over and traded them for a few in the box.

We spent a quiet day at home Friday. Well, everyone except Hallie. She braved the rainy weather and the shoppers and stocked up on groceries for Christmas meals. We didn’t have gymnastics, which was nice. We also got some real rain throughout the day, a welcome respite from the ever-present threat of drought.

Hallie had asked Mike to make her some cauliflower pizza bites, so he ground up the veggies, added the cheese and sauce, and made an approximation of pizza (it was great but not quite regular pizza) for her while the rest of us had big box store-bought. We watched The Secret Life of Pets.

The morning before Christmas dawned somewhat less rainy but cold (again, for California). While Hallie got her nails done (and also took a trip to the Maygrens to pick up a last-minute gift for Mike), the rest of us spent the morning tidying up before Mike set to work on a chocolate peppermint cheesecake Hallie had found online. Hallie has wanted to make a cheesecake for a while but used Shad’s love of cheesecake as her excuse to have us try our hand again. We also baked some cookies!

In the afternoon, we went out to visit Grandma and Grandpa O. and Alie and Haydn. We had a tasty meal of Red’s BBQ and fun time chatting around the dinner table. The kids both young and young at heart enjoyed all of their amazing presents from the grandparents and running around in the backyard with Haydn and Alie. We get a kick out of seeing Alie and Eliza playing and visiting together.

We had the kids open one gift before going to bed: PJs. They're a touch on the large side. . . .

Christmas morning came very early with Eliza’s arrival in our bedroom around 6:00 a.m. Shortly after her arrival she went and woke up Landon to join in on her shenanigans. We were able to stave everyone off until 7:00 a.m. We had a great time in the morning opening presents and eating breakfast together as a family. It was a joy to Facetime with Diamond and to hear all about what is happening in her life. We miss her so!

Shortly before 11:00 we headed to church, where Mike was the narrator of our combined ward program and Hallie was in the choir. We are grateful to the Talleys and Suzanne Shutte who helped entertain the kids while we did our duty.

In the late afternoon we headed to the Maygren/Hopkins household to spend time together and to eat yummy food that everyone had a hand in preparing. Eliza, Landon, Cru, and Sawyer have so much fun playing together, and sometimes it gets a bit wild but all in good fun. The icing on the cake is holding Finnley and watching Mike the baby whisperer rock her to sleep. Mike’s cheesecake was a great hit, and it came out amazing! Just like the picture from the website!
(Has Mike mentioned lately that he has a hot wife?)

Eliza fell asleep shortly before home. Hallie spent time finishing her Lego build, Landon read one of his two new Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, and Mike did a bit of cleaning up. We were so excited to spend a bit of time talking to Bryce and can’t wait to see him in just about a month’s time. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

You Know It’s a Good Party When . . .

. . . you’re too busy to take pictures!

Party season is in full swing as we wind up the year and celebrate the Yuletide. We got so caught up in the festivities that we forgot to take pictures. Then some of us got sick. Here’s hoping words will suffice.

Mike had his last classes of the semester on Tuesday. Now for grading. . . .

On Wednesday, Hallie dropped Eliza off at gymnastics, and she was hoping to go buy supplies for the crafts for the kids’ class Christmas parties until she realized that she had left her wallet at home. Bummer.

So, after working with a student in Oxnard, Mike helped Hallie out by going shopping for some of the elements we needed. In the meantime, while Landon was at gymnastics, Hallie ran errands with Eliza which included stopping off at the Maygren/Hopkins house where Eliza helped Uncle Shad and Cru put up Christmas lights on the house. She loved going up the ladder even in the rain. Hallie went with Carly, Sawyer, and Finnley to Costco, where the girls behaved so well. It is fun being the aunt to little ones. After leaving Thousand Oaks, Hallie and Eliza stopped by Ross for a last chance effort to find pajamas for Mom for the next day of fun at school. We walked in, found the pajama area, and discovered that Ross had one pair in Hallie’s size. Hallie tried it on for good measure and was so excited that a Large fit. “What a great benefit of losing 92 pounds!” Hallie exclaimed.

Realizing a bit late that a fair amount of prep work would need to happen if we were to get the projects completed in a timely manner in class, we ended up staying up really late (for us) gluing and pre-packaging the materials. We made hot cocoa mix reindeer heads, glass globe reindeer, and reindeer food, and clothespin snowflakes. Perhaps we should have stuck with the reindeer theme because the clothespins were a lot of work! 

Friday’s theme was all about mornings. At Las Posas, we had Pajama Day. We all wore our pajamas to school. We’re so thankful for the moms who came in to lend support. We probably are too ambitious for our own good trying to do multiple activities, but it must be that “go big or go home” mindset that keeps us coming back for more.

We didn’t have a lot of time to rest after the parties before we were back on the road, this time to meet up with cousins at a Primary Christmas party in Thousand Oaks. They served breakfast, so we (still in pajamas from school) were dressed exactly right for the occasion! Grandma and Grandpa O. dropped Alie off so she could participate and also get the chance to stay overnight with us.

Eliza woke up crabby on Saturday, so we kept her home from gymnastics. She took a long nap in the morning, got a burst of energy that she used to help Mike hang up Christmas lights (yay! More ladder climbing! Up to the roof this time!), and then played cuddle-up-to-Mike and fell asleep again until Hallie and Landon got back from gymnastics and dropping Alie back off at home. For the rest of the day, Eliza cuddled up to Hallie. This may explain why Hallie started feeling under the weather by evening.

Mike and Landon went to the ward Christmas party in the evening. Earlier in the day, Mike had been asked to participate in the program by reading the story Trouble at the Inn by Dina Donahue. He managed to hold it together through the treading (it’s a tender tale).

We all stayed home sick or looking after the sick today. Maybe all that partying finally caught up to us! 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

700th Post

This entry marks our 700th blog post. Wow. Considering we’ve been keeping track of our comings and goings here for some 12 years now, it shouldn’t be so surprising, but still. While other parts of the continent experienced real crystallized frozen water falling from the sky over the past few days, we have had to console ourselves with the autumn-like weather that has finally settled in. The trees that turn colors have finally reached their prime, and rain misted the ground on a couple of days. We may get a green Christmas with a few more days like these! In the meantime, we make approximations of snow out of paper, data bits, and sugar, and we watch shows where people dream of winter wonderlands.

Most of the week went by with the same low level of intensity that happens with all our busyness. Mike found time on Monday to get a Cal Lutheran ornament of sorts. It’s a magnet, but it has a plastic hook, it’s a lion (king of beasts) for the CLU Kingmen, and it came from the Chelsea Teddy Bear Company in Michigan! We’re sorry to find out that the store in Chelsea no longer offers factory tours. We have been there, and it was a cute little place.

Hallie and a friend from church went visiting teaching for the first time together, and the visit with their friend Susan was marvelous!  This was our first full week of our new gymnastics schedule, and the kids and Hallie are still figuring out how they will make it everywhere on time.

Tuesday morning Hallie had a follow up at her surgeon’s office, Dr. Billy and in the last month she has lost 7 more pounds, and the nurse Melissa seems to be very happy with Hallie’s progress. This week in order to try and be more consistent with her vitamins and supplements Hallie is now taking her pills in a skin patch type form that you change each day.

Landon felt ill Wednesday morning, so he ended up staying home. Hallie had a bit of a busy day with crossing guard duties in the morning and afternoon. In addition, her visiting teachers came over, Eliza had gymnastics, and Hallie met Eliza’s “twin” Ellie’s mom Marina at the Children’s Place so we could get matching outfits for Twin Day at Las Posas Elementary on Friday.

Mike hung the snowflakes he has cut so far this year on the door of his office to make things a bit more festive.

He also hung the flake ornaments we used to hang from the tree in the back window. 

On the subject of paper snowflakes, Mike found a blog written by Jill Buckley (the Quilt Rat), someone who takes them to the next level. 

Mike tried his hand at something more intricate. He's getting there. 

He and Landon played some on Make-a-Flake too. Landon's a chip off the ol' block. 

On Wednesday night, the Girl Scouts had an activity at the Roxy Cinemas, where we watched the movie Moana. We met our friends Marina, Mark, and Ellie (who is in the troop with Eliza) there, and we all sat together.

Thursday Landon stayed home again from school because of a sore throat, and in the evening Hallie attended her last support group meeting with Kaiser Permanente for her bariatric surgery. Not enough people are coming to our group, so Kaiser has decided to cancel the support meetings. It is the only time Hallie sees her friends from class, so she is a bit bummed.

On Friday morning, Mike and Landon decided that after having had a couple of days to rest that Landon should try going to school. He possibly could have stayed home for the extra day, but it’s hard to catch up if you’re out for too long. Mike volunteered in both his and Eliza’s classes, and after Landon's class, Mike took the boy home. It might have helped if Mike had remembered to give Landon his medicine going out the door. On the positive side, Landon did complete a quiz based on homework he and Mike had worked on the night before. Interestingly, after getting home, his health improved steadily over the course of the evening.

Eliza and Ellie got to wear their matching dresses for Twin Day. Mike helped them make applesauce/glue/cinnamon "gingerbread" ornaments (he drove to Ralph's on a resupply mission) and taught the kids how to play the dreidel game. 

Mike and Eliza went up to his work before the two of them drove up to Grandma and Grandpa O.’s to visit before going to the Simi 3rd Ward Christmas dinner. Part of the dinner included a nativity play, definitely something that you don’t see all the time. We could really see all the hard work and love everyone put into the production!

While Mike and Eliza were out in Simi, Hallie was busy arranging for Eliza to be a last minute helper at the Camarillo Christmas Parade. A lady on the Moms of Camarillo Facebook Page does makeup, and her Cindy Lou Who had to drop out from riding in her Grinch-themed float. Hallie volunteered Eliza’s services as the wee Who.

After a late night here at home, Saturday dawned too early for us. Our friend Tiffany did Hallie a solid and came over and used her amazing talents to design Eliza’s super cute hairdo. Mike and Landon had to run to gymnastics (making it to Newbury Park in 13 minutes – a new record. When all the lights go your way, it makes a real difference!), and Hallie and Eliza had to run to the parade.

Hallie got a lot of steps in while Eliza rode in the back of the Grinch pickup truck. They saw former LA Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda (the parade’s grand marshal) and friends from Las Posas Elementary, Church and Eliza’s Girl Scout troop.

We went shopping at the Oaks Mall in the afternoon, and we saw and visited with Santa. Both kids made the nice list. Dad thinks something is faulty with the results.

"Insanity is merely an opinion." Indeed.  

We had a special stake conference session on Sunday, where Elders Wilde and Hallstrom of the Quorums of the Seventy and Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke. We appreciated hearing from them and took home advice to help us remember the season and have a more harmonious and loving home.

While Hallie went to choir practice,  Mike made gingerbread houses. The missionaries came to visit later in the afternoon.

After savory ribeye steaks and roasted potatoes for dinner, Hallie went out to Thousand Oaks to see Papa M. sing at the TO Stake Christmas program, and Mike took the kids out to see the lights on Gemini Street. After driving around some, it appears that it’s still early for the full-blown displays. Either that, or the plywood cutouts have gone out of vogue.