Sunday, December 30, 2012

Adventures in Girl Scouting

I want to start off by explaining that I was never a girl scout.  I wanted to be, but I wasn't.  Now, if you ask my mom, she'll say she did put me into Brownies, and I didn't like it, so that was that.  I have no recollection of this at all.  I do remember my sister being a Girl Scout, and my brother being a Boy Scout.  So I guess they wouldn't have any real reason for me not to have attended a meeting or two.  It's not like my parents were against the institution or anything, but again, I have no memory of any girl scout experiences.  And it seems like it might have been something I would have remembered, doesn't it?  At any rate, Bunny is very nicely allowing me to live vicariously through her by being in Girl Scouts herself.  Isn't she sweet?  And the Girl Scouts (not her troop specifically but the group as a whole) invited girls to go on down to the Rose Bowl to talk with some Rose Parade experts, see some floats up close and personal, and design one of their own.

So last Friday, I bundled up Bunny and together with two other girls in her troop and their Moms we all met up at the Rose Bowl for a Rose Parade Girl Scout Adventure.  We got into the last of two Girl Scout events taking place that night.  And for as late as it was (7:30-9pm) the place was pretty packed with Girl Scouts and their parents. And even though we were in tents, all the kids were bundled up tight.  It's cold out there people!

This year's Rose Parade Theme is "Oh The Places You'll Go"

And the girls got to listen to several former girl scouts who have not only walked in the parade but are still involved with the event talk about volunteering to help, earning their Gold award so they could be part of the Tournament of Roses Troop and one of the former Girl Scouts was even a Rose Princess.  If that's not enough to get a bunch of girls excited about the parade, I don't know what is.

They got to listen as Nicki Miller and John Ramirez from Artistic Entertainment Services explained how they take a float from design to completion and even got to see a short video about how it all comes together.  Their example was Jack In The Box's Samba Carnival float (design pictured above).  Then several of the girls got a chance to ask questions about floats, the parade, volunteers and participation.  All in all, I say it was very well done.  Then they broke the girls up into two different groups so go on a Scavenger Hunt and design their own floats.  Meanwhile, the parents were shuffled off to go on a tour of their own.

We got to have a close-up look at some of the VIP cars that will be used in the parade.  Many of which are still being decorated for the big day.

We also learned that Jane Goodall is going to be the Parade's Grand Marshall of this year's parade.  The renowned chimpanzee researcher and environmentalist - yes, that Jane Goodall.  And they're decorating a carriage up perfectly just for her with a few chimps! 

In another tent we got to see lots of volunteers hard at work putting contact cement on the backs of flower heads.

And watch as they put the flowers onto various aspects of the floats.

It's not all flowers of course, some of the coverings are seeds as seen in this beautiful butterfly.

And while they weren't attached yet, one of the floats is adding Cherries!

We also got to see the blenders grinding up all the seeds.

And then? Then I saw it.  My heart skipped a beat and happiness was mine, as this incredible John Deer float came into view.  This better win a prize!

We got back to the girls just in time for them two wrap the whole event up with one giant Friendship Circle where a hand squeeze is passed from one girl to the next until the circle is complete and they sing the Friendship song.  All in all, a pretty amazing night for girls and parents alike!

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pre-Christmas Craziness

This holiday season for us, has been a mad house.  We packed so much into the week leading up to Christmas I didn't think we'd get it all in!  So in the spirit of Monday Night Football (which has nothing to do with nothing) here are the highlights!

Bug and Bunny taking their yellow belt test..  We won't find out until January if they passed.  I think the parents are more worried about this than the kids are!

We took a trip down to San Diego to visit with our friends Tamlin and Joanne and were surprised with the bonus of Tamlin's son (who I need to find a fun nickname for).

We met him about 5 years at Tamlin and Joanne's wedding, but honestly, I didn't remember anything about him.  Now that I've re-met him I can declare him good people - if in desperate need of some geeky education.  We introduced him to Eddie Izzard - specifically the Star Wars Canteen..

We watched the latest Star Trek movie - which he'd never seen and while we mentioned Firefly, we're really going to have to sit him down for a day and force him to watch all the episodes.  You can watch below some of their highlights!  I have faith we'll bring him to the dark side.. we have cookies after all.

We also went sailing.  Technically we were supposed to be whale watching, but we didn't see any.  We did see some dolphins which was fun.  And we saw this lovely little guy sun bathing.

The Tweedles got to play "I'm King of the World" under the careful supervision of "Uncle" Tamlin.

And we wrapped up the weekend at a BBQ joint where Bunny and The Hubs played a rousing game of patty cake.

We went to the Christmas Eve Children's service at our church whose halls I must say were decked.

Bunny sang in the service while they told a very humorous version of the Birth of Jesus.

And it all culminated to walking into our living room 6:45 am Christmas morning to my Tweedles cuddled together in The Hubs recliner watching cartoons waiting for the rest of us to get up.

All in all, it has been a very Merry Christmas.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Spirit Moo-ving On Up

I think having all of the Christmas presents (but 2 and the "Santa Gift") purchased including all of my stocking stuffers and having the Christmas lights up and some of our interior decorations going has helped lift my holiday spirits.  The Christmas music is now playing again in my car and my Pandora and quite frankly, I'm starting to look forward to the Holiday.

So much so, that I wanted to introduce you to some little friends of mine.  Now, it's no secret that I love cows.  Having been raised every summer on a farm full of them, it's hard to imagine not loving cows. I  mean, how doesn't love a little cow tongue? (That's LW - not me).

A few years ago The Hubs and LW/GG got me these really awesome holiday cows.

They're from Mary's Moo Moos Collection.

And they have to be the cutest things I've ever seen.

Turns out there's a ton of these little cows and not just for Christmas either!  I'd love to get enough of these to have my own little Mary's Moo Moos Holiday village, and then I'll start in on the other holidays.

Does this make me sound a tiny bit crazy?

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

All You Can Do Is Love Them

Yesterday, when the news first announced the terrible tragedy unfolding in Connecticut, I am not ashamed to admit, I cried.

I cried for the fear and uncertainty the kids and teachers at the school must have suffered.

I cried for the first responders whose duty to secure the building came first over the emotions they must have felt seeing the devastation at a school their kids likely attended.

I cried for the heart wrenching terror of the parents who had to sit and wait.

I cried for the parents who's children came out that day.

And I cried for the parents and families who's children didn't.

I cried for my son, who is the same age as many of the 20 children who didn't come home -  knowing how easily it could have been him.

I cried when the president spoke and was moved not only by his own reactions and obvious heartbreak, but also by his words.. "Their children are our children."

And then?  I prayed.  I prayed for all the families, the community, the first responders and the souls of the lost.  And when my kids came home, I hugged them.  ALL of them.  LW and GG came home first and I cried with them, and told them they couldn't ever leave the house again.  And they smiled and were indulgent even though we all knew that wasn't possible.  And then Bug and Bunny came home and I hugged them, and told them I loved them and snuggled with them.

 I send my kids to good schools.  But so did those parents.  I teach them about safety tips and who to trust and who to go to if they need help and I'm sure those kids were taught the same.  My school has safety protocols and so did that school.   The harsh and cruel reality is, those parents, that school, the community did everything right, and it still wasn't enough.  I think that's the part I'm having the most trouble with.  This is a crazy mixed up world we live in people.  And no matter how hard you try, you can't protect your children from everything.

All I can say is the best thing you can do is love your kids.  Tell them every day even if you think they know it.  Even when they're older and it embarrasses them.  Tell them, show them, make them feel every day how much they mean to you.  Because even when you do everything right, bad things can happen.  And the only consolation you can feel is knowing that your friends, family, children knew they were loved every second of every minute of their life.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Friday, December 14, 2012

If Wishes Were Fishes

If wishes ..

were fishes..

the sea..

would be full..

and we'd be headed to the farm for Christmas...

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Concerts - Bunny

School Holiday Concerts hold a special place in a parent's heart.  The kids get to dress up.  They get to go up on stage before an adoring audience.  They get to wave.

Then they get to sing in front of an audience who loves them even if they're off key, even if they don't know the words, even if they can't seem to smile and sing at the same time.  The kids know it.  In this moment if not any other, they are assured of our complete admiring attention.  And. They. SHINE.    Because frankly, these kids are loved.

And isn't that what the holiday spirit is all about?  Love.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blue Christmas

Usually, the holidays are my favorite time of year.  I love the smells of turkey and goodies baking in the oven, of peppermint hot cocoa and pine.  I love decorating the house with all of our Christmas stuff and seeing the twinkling lights start to appear in everyone's yards.  I love love love Christmas music as you saw in my last post.  I usually can't seem to get enough of it.  And the presents!  Oh my the presents.  I usually have all of my shopping out of the way months in advance for two reasons.  One, I love Christmas so much, I like to try to integrate it all year round, and two because with three birthdays and Christmas all happening within a month of each other, I find it more cost effective.

But this year, something is off.  I'm not even sure what it is.  I still haven't finished making all of my Christmas purchases (not to mention stocking stuffers which I haven't even started yet!).  I bought the main dish for Christmas dinner, but I'm not excited to make it and we've done zero holiday baking unless you count the Chocolate Chip cookies GG made for the Tweedles to eat after singing to the Seniors as part of a church event.  I have nothing wrapped.  I have nothing ready.  The only decoration we have out is our 6' santa and honestly, where would we put him?  And I've stopped listening to my holiday music - completely.

It just doesn't feel like Christmas.  I think part of it might be that we have all just been so busy.  Between work, school, and events, there hasn't been a whole lot of down time for any of us.  The Hubs just wrapped up finals last week and is still working his day job.  LW wraps up her finals this week and GG wraps up hers the following week.  The Tweedles have holiday presentations starting Wednesday (which I'm still not sure I'll be able to attend!) as well as Brownie events, increased Church events and testing to see if they can get their yellow belts in karate class all before the holiday.  And me?  I've been working pretty much all the time between my day job and contract work. The money is great and is helping us afford all the extra expenses, but it's tending to dampen the mood.

So, here's my question for you my friendly readers, what gets you into the holiday spirit?  What is it about the holidays that gets your heart pumping, gives you that holiday glow and makes you want to embrace the season?

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Few Of My Favorite Things

One of my very favorite things about the holidays is the music.  I could, and do, listen to Holiday music all year round.  Annoying to most, but some special few get me when it comes to this and can't help but smile when a song about Old Saint Nick comes blaring out of my speakers in July.

I have several all-time favorite holiday songs.

In 1977 Bing Crosby was readying to make his 42nd Annual Christmas Special.  In his 70s, he asked for someone young to help draw in the younger crowd and David Bowie was suggested.  David Bowie a big Bing fan agreed to appear in the special and in September of '77 they met to film singing a Little Drummer Boy duet.  After the first run through, David - yeah, I call him David because we're close like that - didn't like how his voice sounded so the producers created a second melody Peace on Earth.  They spent only an hour rehearsing before shooting the show and nailed it in only three takes.  A month later Bing had a heart attack and died after winning a game of golf.  A month after that they aired his final holiday special in his honor.  This has always been one of my all time favorite tunes - holiday and otherwise.

The first time I heard Trans Siberian Orchestra's Christmas take on Pachebel's Canon, it gave me chills.  Taking one of my classical favorites and turning it into a holiday song was brilliant!  And every time it comes on I make sure all of my family knows how much I absolutely love it.  What really makes this song for me are the children's voices.  So sweet and pure and innocent - all the very best things about the holidays.

Last Sunday, The Tweedles sang for the very first time together at our church at the evening service for the lighting of the first Advent candle.  This is Bunny's third year in the children's choir and Bug's first.  In fact, this was Bug's very first time standing in front of the whole congregation and singing ever.

How adorable are these two in their choir robes?  Pretty cute no?

This was actually a blend of three of the children's choirs at our church.  Separated by age, Bug is part of the youngest group (kinder and first graders), Bunny is part of the second group (second and third graders) and the last group seen here at the top levels were the fourth and fifth graders.

And all of these kids sang their little hearts out.

Bug is hard to see from this view, he's at the bottom behind our choir director

I think I have a new holiday favorite.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Winding Down and Gearing Up

Well, NaNoWriMo is over and I did complete my 50,000 words.  Is it the world's greatest American novel? Yeah, probably not, but I am glad I stuck to it and finished.  I learned so much about myself, about writing, about why they call it a "process".  I even celebrated into the wee hours of the morning on the 30th with friends who'd also taken up the challenge.  Something about all of us coming together and sharing our frustrations and our triumphs just made the whole experience even more amazing.

Here's the thing about NaNo that I think everyone should take away.  The whole point of this is one great big writing exercise.  It's to get people to commit to writing every day and to get them into the habit of it.  Because, and I know this will sound obvious, writers - write.  I know many of my friends and family have toyed with the idea of being a writer.  I think many of us do as we're going through school and maybe even college.  I know for a while I played with the idea of being an English major with hopes of going into publishing, before my interests turned elsewhere. But they don't write, which goes against the whole idea.  I always considered myself a wanna-be writer. Not a real writer.  But the reality is, I already was writing almost every day, here with this blog.  And maybe nothing I write will ever be published or on the NY Best Sellers list, but I am a writer.  I am a writer because I write.  I think that's the most exciting thing I've learned from all of this.  And I think I'll add it to my list of personal accomplishments.  I am a writer. It will go somewhere under Mother and near Artist.

A lot of my friends who took up this challenge with me, absolutely hate their story.  Hate it.  And that's okay, because after all, this was just a writing exercise.  Now that they got all that rubbish out of the way, they can move onto their next idea, a better idea and just the mere fact of putting 50,000 words to paper has helped them grow as writers and the next piece will be so much better for it.

I on the other hand, love the basic underlying story of my book.  I think it's a good story.  It needs a lot of work, but I'm still happy with most of my characters, happy with how the story came to life, and happy with where it went.  I started this challenge with a vague scene ending, no idea even the name of my main character and certainly no knowledge of what events led up to the ending, so this was a real journey for me and for them.  It was enlightening and frustrating to want my characters to move in one direction only to have them seem to have a mind of their own, taking my story in directions I never anticipated. This process is something I've always mistaken for proof I wasn't a writer.  If I couldn't even get my own darn characters to do what I wanted, what was the point?  But I found through this challenge, that most writers experience this, and it's a joyous thing when your characters take on a life of their own.   And boy did mine ever.  I know of at least one or two characters that never made that leap, and that's something I'll work on.

I've had several people ask when they get to read it, or what do I do with it now.  My plan for right now is to ignore it until after January 1st.  There's a whole lot of holiday to get through first.  However, I think I will go back to it.  There are lots of parts of the book that I love, but so many more parts that I cringe to even think about.  I'll work on those parts, tighten the story up and maybe, just maybe, if I get up enough courage, I'll see if my story will interest a literary agent.  I'm not holding my breath, but I think it's important to follow this as far as it will go.  Who knows what might happen right?

Until then, I took the last 3 days to catch up on some contract work I'd been pushing, and some extra work at my day job that really needed to get done.  We celebrated Bug, Bunny and GG's birthdays and with those finally out of the way, we're ready to focus our attention fully and completely on Christmas.  It seems like this year has just flown by, so I want to see if I can slow things down and really enjoy the holidays this year with my family.

I'm switching gears back to writing here every day.  It's quite a switch from making up your own stories to telling the one of your life.  So far this post alone is a little rough, but I'm sure in a few days, things will get back to normal.  So, start checking back in folks, I promise to get back to attempting to entertaining you with my gibberish.

Seriously.. Thoughts?