Saturday, December 26, 2009


Why wait until New Year's Day?  I feel like I've eaten so much sugar and junk in the last week or two that the day after Christmas is a great day to start a Better-Eating-Resolution.  Of course, this is the morning that Chris declares that he is going to make Eggs Benedict for breakfast.  Way to test my resolve, mister!  And so, to combat the yumminess, I have decided to post a couple of fabulous book quotes.  Maybe I'll print them out and tape them to my fridge.

First, is a depressing one (in case I find myself entering the happy delusion that fudge doesn't have calories and cinnamon rolls are practically vegetables)  from So Long See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell:

"Without meaning to, she has grown heavy but she eats so little that short of starving to death there doesn't seem much she can do about it."

And next is a funny one to cheer me up after being so depressed...from Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout:

"Olive is a big person. She knows this about herself, but she wasn't always big, and it still seems something to get used to.  It's true she has always  been tall and frequently clumsy, but the business of being big showed up with age; her ankles puffed out, her shoulders rolled up behind her neck, and her wrists and hands seemed to become the size of a man's.  Olive minds--of course she does; sometimes, privately, she minds very much.  But at this stage of the game she is not about to abandon the comfort of food, and that means right now she probably looks like a fat, dozing seal wrapped in some kind of gauze bandage."

And with that, my friends, I'm off to find something to eat for breakfast that will rival an amazing hollandaise sauce or the best cinnamon rolls on earth with a negative amount of calories.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to All

What I love best about Christmas is family.  I love that Chris takes time off work, that we all take the time off from school, and we are able to spend some time with each other.  I love being able to show these amazing people how much they mean to me.  It's also tons of fun to be around kids at Christmas.  Here are some pictures  of the craziness.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Parties #8, 9, & 10

I think we've made it through the mad stream of Christmas parties for now...all that remains is our drive up to Tahoe and the day the kids have been anticipating anxiously for more than a month (before that it was more of a non-anxious anticipation.)

Party #8 was a midsized mixer that Chris and I went to near San Diego. It was hosted by the group that handles our finances in a restaurant right on the beach. I wish I was able to get a picture of the waves approaching the windows, but the camera on my phone wasn't talented enough. Instead, here's Chris in the distance inspecting a yummy beef tenderloin appetizer: (look hard, he's kind of hiding...pretend it's "Where's Waldo?")

Party #9 was at our house on Friday night. We wanted to have the chance to spend some time with some our friends before Christmas, even if it meant tired kids and back-to-back-to-back parties. Great food, great friends, and absolutely incredible mulled wine.

Party #10 was the annual Valle Family Christmas Party (Chris' mom's family). As always, it was a great crowd with a very entertaining white elephant gift exchange. The night ended with a fabulous video montage of old family footage put together by my brother-in-law, Jon.

And now, we're off to Tahoe to greet some proper winter weather, (I've had enough of SoCal's tank top weather for now,) bears that really should be hibernating, and all kind of packages needing wrapping. Merry Christmas all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Parties # 4, 5, 6 and 7

Parties #4&5 are without pictures...though for different reasons. The first was our work party, where I needed to dress up somewhat and was almost constantly conscious of the fact the I am the "boss' wife". Not a role I naturally feel comfortable in. So, for multitudinous reasons of discomfort, I completely forgot to take pictures. The second party was my book club party. This one was so fun and relaxing that I forgot to take pictures.

Party #6 was not a party in the formal sense of the word, but it was great fun all the same. When the kids were attending Tahoe Montessori School, they were able to buy gifts for family for 50 cents each...each family would donate used items in good condition to stock the shelves. This was really nice because the school made a little bit of money and the kids got to pick out something very unique (believe me...there are stories to back this up). Since we no longer have this option, and I am not interested in spending an additional small fortune on gifts, I decided to have the kids buy small gifts at Cost Plus World Market for each other. We decided to open these before Christmas for a couple of reasons. First, because the kids could hardly contain themselves, and secondly because it would be that much more that we would NOT have to fit in the car to take up to Tahoe. It was a night of many hugs!

Party #7 was our celebration with Gramps & TuTu. As usual, there was good food and wine, and this was followed by a tradition that the kids all love: new Christmas pajamas. I somehow missed pictures of this night almost altogether, except this silly one at dinner:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Party #3...kind of

Thursday night we all went to Timothy's Christmas Concert. He plays percussion in the 8th grade Wind Ensemble at school. As is usual with these types of events, the children who were not participating in the performance needed to have a reminder lesson about WHY we were there. Contrary to what they seemed to believe, we do not go because we enjoy trying to sit still for 2 hours. The stage in the church outshined the performers visually, but the students all did a great job.

Friday night I got to stat home and play "cook" and "chaffeur" while Chris and Timothy went to their own engagements. Chris went to a Christmas Concert at a church in Hollywood where a friend of ours was performing, and Timothy went to a party for the Praise Team he is on at school.

Saturday was Gingerbread House Day. We went to a friend's house and got to be creative.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering why my son is wearing a "Satan" shirt, it says "Satan is a Nerd". :-)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Party #2

Yes...already! Sunday evening was spent at Gramps & TuTu's house, with great finger foods and desserts, and the decorating of a Christmas tree. I made some eggnog cookies, and Chris made a warm spinach dip (with artichoke hearts and fontina cheese--yum!). I'm sure the kids had too much sugar, but no major catastrophes ensued. A lovely evening.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Party #1

With the first weekend of December arriving, we have officially entered the season of Christmas parties. To kick off the impending craziness, our family went to Chris' brother's house bearing gifts of sweet potato pie and cherry pie--both made from scratch of course. There was also some classic Christmas music, the original Grinch on an original VHS, and some appetizers to start the evening off.

The main event of the evening was the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade, which was taking place just down the street. (Belmont Shore is a beach community in Long Beach that was recently featured in Sunset Magazine, and where Chris used to stay when he commuted from Tahoe for work.) We (well, the guys) toted 3 park benches down the street so we could sit in comfort.

There was quite the crowd gathered, with a Starbucks on one corner:

and a Peet's on the other, true So. Cal. style:

The parade lasted for about 2 1/2 hours!! The kids were so exhausted by the time we got home, the they were all miserably grumpy and the girls fell instantly to sleep. 'Tis the season.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Out of Focus

I've recently found myself somewhat disillusioned with my purpose for homeschooling.  There were a few reasons for this: flu for a month, lack of sleep, new kindergartener, entering the school year feeling unorganized, lack of sleep, new teenager in a new school, unplanned house purchases and listings and showings, lack of sleep...I couldn't catch up--couldn't even stay behind at the same rate.  Apart form the basics: math, reading, and language arts, academics were uninspired and faltering.  The kids seemed to have made much improvement last year, but this year I felt they were only maintaining, not gaining on, the learning curve. 

I made lists (one of my favorite mental organization tools) and realized that my main reasons for homeschooling are not necessarily for amazingly superior academics resulting in kids graduating college when they are 17, but for social, emotional, relational, spiritual reasons.  And really, regardless of how ill-behaved my children might be at any given moment in time, overall they are so much improved in the last couple years that it is impossible to mistake the cause.  I know without a doubt that my relationships with each of my children is better than it would have been if they had never homeschooled. I can see them develop positive social and emotional skills; I have experienced the deepening of their faith.

I had an example of this recently when Melinda came home from a friend's house (one we don't get to see very often anymore) wanting to share with me a revelation she'd had.

"Mom," she said. "I figured out why [my friend] and [her sister] are always fighting."  She paused to make sure I was listening and then continued.  "Her parents don't ever go to church--not EVER.  They don't even WANT to!  They say they hate church and they don't believe in God or Jesus at all."  She paused again, and then--in a quieter voice--said, "[My friend] and [her sister] think their parents are stupid and retarded."

At this she teared up.  As I welcomed her into my arms for a hug and to tell her that we would start praying for them every day, I realized what an amazing blessing it is to have children who know without a doubt that I love them and am on their "team". 

You must understand that this daughter of mine is the child in our family most likely to be dramatic and take offense.  No stranger to sibling arguments is she.  Also understand that this family she speaks of is a normal, functional family.  These children have attended private school for most of their schooling and are generally well behaved girls.  But my precious 9 year-old could sense a difference in the family dynamics and was troubled by it enough to ponder it in her easily distractible mind.  And what she discovered grieved her.

If homeschooling my children, for whatever amount of time it may be, can make such an impact on their spiritual lives, my burden is light.  I have many years left in my parenting journey, but right now--today--I am simply thankful for a God who is real enough to make a difference in daily life, who IS a tangible love, who will cover you in a deep seated peace and fill you with a bubbling joy.  I am grateful for the opportunity to share my God with some incredible children, and so very glad that He is there to put things back in focus.