Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year!!

The Bay Area is one of the most culturally diverse areas in the entire world. You can't imagine how difficult it is to memorize some of the names of kids on our baseball teams! It's amazing! It has allowed us many opportunities to share what we believe and learn about others beliefs. The first big chunk of our married life was spent in a ward that included all of the Tongans south of San Francisco. It was WONDERFUL! The love, strength, testimonies ( and food!) of those Tongans left lasting impressions on our lives.

For the last 11 years, we have been in a ward that includes all of the Chinese on the East Bay. Once again, it has been an amazing experience. We are immersed in more ways than we realize. Just last week, Gracie put on a cowboy hat and yelled, "Ni Hao" instead of "Yee haw!" "Ni Hao" means "hi" in Chinese. Our kids learn primary songs in Chinese, every church meeting is translated into Chinese, and for Enrichment meeting we learn how to make pot stickers. It's awesome!

One of my callings is the Activities Committee and this last week we learned how to throw a Chinese New Year party.
Brett happily had the job of transferring the fish to each bowl as part of our centerpieces. (Yuck!)

Here's a little quiz:
Which of the following ISN'T a true Chinese tradition?
a. fortune cookies
b. Chinese jump rope
c. Chinese finger tortures (you know those things you stick your fingers in and the more you pull the harder it is to get your fingers out.)
d. rice candies that have the cellophane paper on them. ( I may be so immersed that I assume everyone has had these. I could be so wrong!)
e. soy sauce on white rice
Answer: All of the above!! What a shocker to us as we thought of fun ideas for our party. Everything "Chinese" that we knew had NO connection to the Chinese. Fortune cookies originated in San Francisco. Who knew? The Chinese in our ward had no idea what Chinese jump rope was, and they'd never heard of the finger tortures or the rice candy. When I mentioned that we might want some soy sauce for all of the white rice that was coming, I just heard gasps. I learned that the extremely poor in China put either sugar or soy sauce on their rice to give it flavor. :)

They roasted a full pig.

And I can't even begin to tell you how yummy the food was.
And it kept coming!!

Our party was "American-ized" because there was a HUGE amount of (my favorite) chow mein which isn't a true Chinese dish.

Chinese New Year is a time for families to be together. It is also a time to give "red envelopes" to the kids. (Kind of like Christmas for us.) The kids are given little red envelopes that are filled with money. My kids were into that one.
They also had a "ribbon dance" for all the kids. My boys weren't so great at following the lead dancer and ended up doing their own rendition of Stayin' Alive from the back row. :)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

A few weeks ago I was reading an email out loud about a 5K family fun run for Valentine's Day that the city was putting on. Ben latched on to it and decided that he really wanted to participate. I didn't think much of it, but he would go out and run on the treadmill periodically to "get in shape for the race." Last night he asked when we had to be up and ready. Matt and I looked and each other with a look that said, " I guess we are running tomorrow!" Thankfully it was a beautiful day. Here are the boys "getting ready." I don't know why they are stretching - I was the one that ran with the double jogger filled with Brik and Gracie.
Actually, what I really needed was my ipod to drown out the complaints that it was taking too long and that I wasn't running fast enough and that the snacks were all gone. Those comments really help you on your run! Here's Ben about to cross the finish line. As soon as he crossed, he took three steps towards me and bent over and puked. The puke was worth it. He took first place in the 7-10 year old division as a 7 year old. Way to go, Ben!

Brett came in right behind him (and has been fighting bronchitis for two weeks).

Ben is getting his box of chocolates from the Valentine Dude after the race was over.

I'm sure we'll do it again next year!
Brett wants to show Ben who is really the boss.

The Pinewood Derby

Ben and Brett managed to pull in 1st and 2nd place at the Pinewood Derby this year. Way to go, Matt!! :) We always watch the movie "Down and Derby" the night before the Pinewood Derby. If you haven't seen it - and have ever participated in any part of a Pinewood Derby - it's hilarious. We had a dad or two at our "derby" that wouldn't let their boys touch the cars. The dads were at the finish line and would carry the cars up to the start for their next race. The boys just got to sit and watch!! So funny!

If you need a few tips - I'm happy to share all of Matt's secrets! :) Just let me know.

Our late Christmas present - Maui!

Boy, do we love Matt. Did I mention that we love Matt? We had so much rain through January that I thought I would cry! I am a sun loving girl and boy did Matt pull through. We were able to finagle a trip to Maui right in the middle of the huge storms that were pounding the heck out of California. It was pure happiness for me. Love you, Matty!
The bugs in Hawaii are amazing. The boys found a huge preying mantis and had so much fun "playing" with it.
They even managed to get it to eat ice cream from their spoon. Gross, I know. (In case you are wondering, preying mantis' are spelled "preying" instead of "praying." We had one as a pet and named it "Enos" for the "Praying Mantis." The more we studied them we found out they are pretty serious carnivores and got the name "Preying Mantis because of it. There's your science lesson for the day.)

While we were there, the Skins Game was going on and Matt was in heaven.

The boys managed to get signatures from all the players and were even called out on the course - during the game - for this one!
Can you see how pumped they were? :)
Gracie hated every second of it. She didn't like being told to be quiet while the players were hitting. She complained that it was hot and she wanted to either go to the pool or go shopping. That was lovely for all of us.
Matt likes to think he makes good sandcastles - but I'm the master. Anyone up for a challenge?

The boys loved doing crazy back flips off the hotel rope swing.

Gracie didn't shy away from the challenge, but was a little more traditional in her entry.

Thanks again, Matty! Love you.

A Day in the "City"

We started out with a hike through Muir Woods to see the amazing redwood trees.

Then stopped off at the Marin Headlands for a beautiful look at San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. I never get tired of this view!

Isn't this an awesome view? It's taken from the WWII bunkers that were built to protect the San Francisco bay from attacking ships. You can still walk through the bunkers on both sides of the bridge. The boys loved this!!

Of course a day in San Fran isn't complete without a stop at Pier 39, a view of Alcatraz (see it in the background?) and . . .

Boudin bread bowls filled with clam chowder and an ice cream sundae at Ghiradelli's. Yum.

Where have we been?

December found us . . .

At the Oakland Temple organizing a ward "hot cocoa and treats" night.
(Don't you love how we know how to close our car doors?)

On the roof, hanging our Christmas lights. (Gracie was FINALLY allowed to help, and she loved every second of it.)

Ben and I spent the greatest night volunteering at a kids toy drive. We spent hours helping organize toys for over 25,000 needy kids in the bay area. (We are organizing a group visit next year so let me know if you want to join us! Space is already filling up fast!)

Below is the "wrapping room" that was buzzing with activity.

This is 1/3 of the toys that we helped organize. There were warehouses filled like this one in numerous parts of the building. It was the most amazing way to feel the spirit of Christmas. Every single homeless shelter in the bay area had a specific gift for every child there. It was awesome!

Mom and Dad joined us and hustled just as fast as the 7 year old! We were sweaty when we were done!

We braved the rain and trekked through the Santa Cruz mountains for our annual "Chopping of the Christmas Tree."

Found it!!

The rain wasn't bothering Gracie!

Christmas night also found Gracie, and her best friend-in-the-whole-wide-world-partner-in-crime-cousin, Kate, in Mom's bathroom with her brand new, Christmas gift make-up ALL OVER their faces.

It was a moment to remember.
(We owe you some eye cream, Mom.)