Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Deep thoughts on Life and Teddy Grahams

I'm here visiting my parents in IL. Tomorrow we leave on a roadtrip to Washington, DC for the Benac Family Reunion. Last Friday, my cousin Angela and her family, including 5 children, were passing through on their way to the same reunion, only their trip from Utah is a three day affair. In Chicago after day two of driving, Angela was prepping their van for day three, stocking the snack pockets with assorted foods. She remarked "We're not eating enough Teddy Grahams."

Then my dad asked me: "Is that the kind of life you wanted?"

An instantaneous moment of deep thought. Family. Kids. Travelling. I guess in a sense, Teddy Graham allocation is all part of the package, and it is definately the life I wanted. Perplexed by such an unusually timed question I responded, "I think so. What do you mean?"

He had been asking about the bowl of Life cereal he had bought that day which I had just poured into a bowl for myself.

But what a moment of reflection.

Oh, Chicago, How I missed your...

  • Humidity.
  • Rain.
  • Thunderstorms.
  • Green.
  • Frizzy hair.
  • Brick cheese.
  • People of color.
  • Nasal vowels.
  • Lightening bugs.
  • Pop.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Vote for Me

I found this in my parents' basement today. Who knew I was a women's advocate at nine?!?!

(spelling, grammar, and punctuation are original, which was also written in lovely cursive)

11-11-92

Hi I'm running for Secretary in our class election. I am nine years old. I am the youngst in my family. I was born in Winfield, IL.

The six reasons I chose to be Secretary is one, I like writing. Two, I am healthy. I was never absent once this year. Three, I am on schedule. I have never been late for school. Four, I listen to directions so that I know what to do and how. Five, I am not a quitter. Six, I am fair because I don't brag about myself.

Girls in high office! Why copy grown-ups? Vote for me for class Secretary!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

On callings and stealing

I got a calling today! I haven't had a calling since I was released as RS President in our last ward in November. Thankfully, I'm not RS Pres, and this is my first calling ever that is not in the Relief Society at all, and contrary to my biggest worries, it is not in Primary or Nursery either. I am the new Mia Maid Advisor! I am so excited to work with the Young Women (and maybe go to Girls' Camp next year, hence my post last week...)

Anyway, here is a talk I gave in May in our new ward on Virtue. I should have known it would get me a calling in the Young Women! (There is a particularly funny part about accidentally stealing a skirt, below with the **stars** , it could be a post all its own...)

----

It hasn’t yet been ten years since I graduated from the Young Women’s program, but in that time two significant additions have been made to the Young Women’s theme. First to be added was the statement that we are preparing to “strengthen home and family” and the second and fairly recent is the addition of the eighth value, Virtue. It now reads:

'We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places" (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, Integrity and Virtue.We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.'

It comes as no surprise to me that being prepared to strengthen home and family is something that requires virtue.

When I was given the subject of my talk for today, I knew immediately that the most recent General Young Women’s meeting would have been about virtue, having just added virtue as a Young Women value. The addresses from that meeting and from Sister Dalton’s address last October are the source of my talk. And while virtue is often something we think of only in the context of young women preparing for marriage, I hope today to discuss the quality as it relates to your life, man or woman, young or old.

'Virtue “is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards.” (Preach My Gospel (2004), 118) It encompasses chastity and moral purity. Virtue begins in the heart and in the mind. It is nurtured in the home. It is the accumulation of thousands of small decisions and actions. Virtue is a word we don’t hear often in today’s society, but the Latin root word virtus means strength. Virtuous women and men possess a quiet dignity and inner strength. They are confident because they are worthy to receive and be guided by the Holy Ghost.[i]'

It would not be possible to list comprehensively the influences that surround us requiring special attention to the value of Virtue. You know what they are. You know what you see and hear every day—around every corner. When you turn on the TV or the radio, do an internet search, peruse the magazine covers in the checkout line, watch a movie. There are so many things that represent low or no moral standards.

The Destroyer seeks to take advantage of this time in what Spencer W Kimball described as this, the great day of his power,[ii] so as covenant people, with the knowledge of the true and restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we are held to an even higher standard of righteousness. We must strive daily to exemplify virtuous attributes.

'What does it mean to return to virtue? We are calling for a return to moral purity and chastity. Virtue is purity. Virtue is chastity. The word virtue has also been defined as “integrity and moral excellence, power and strength” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Virtue,” at scriptures.lds.org; see also Luke 8:46). The core of a virtuous life is sexual purity, and yet this definition has almost been erased by the world. The prophet Mormon taught that chastity and virtue are “most dear and precious above all things” (Moroni 9:9). They go together. You cannot have one without the other, and “we believe in being … virtuous” (Articles of Faith 1:13).[iii]'

And let me add to that list that the price of a virtuous woman is far above rubies. Prov. 31: 10

'Virtue brings peace, strength of character, and happiness in this life. Our Heavenly Father knew that we would be faced with many choices and challenges, and virtuous living would prepare us to succeed.[iv]'

Purity. Chastity. Integrity. Moral excellence. Let me add to that Truth. These are high moral standards from which we must pattern our thoughts and behaviors.

As parents and leaders, it is our responsibility to teach children and youth the standards required for a virtuous life. Let us teach them how to identify righteous thoughts and behaviors and translate them into daily patterns, and ultimately a lifestyle of virtuous living. And let us be an example to them. Let us show them line upon line and precept upon precept.

Moral Purity. I’ll turn to the account of Joseph of Egypt and his encounter with Potiphar’s wife. Day by day, she cast her eyes upon Joseph and begged him to lie with her. Joseph knew it would be wickedness and a sin against God to do so, and he continually refused. Her last attempt to seduce him went like this: “12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.” (Genesis 39) I will never forget my 6am Seminary teacher’s animation as she demonstrated what it would be like to "get you out" of this type of situation.

I use this example to show that Joseph understood the moral values of virtue and chastity. He had been taught right principles, and it had become a pattern of living for him. Having already established the pattern of virtuous living, Joseph instinctively knew what the right choice would be when Potiphar’s wife was standing at the door luring him in.

Let me share a few personal examples of how certain standards were taught to me and how making them a pattern has blessed my life and given me strength.

When we were old enough to count to ten, my Dad started giving my siblings and me an allowance of ten pennies per week. It was in order to teach us the principle of tithing.
(1) I was taught the standard.
(2) It became a pattern.
(3) I always remember the action that is to be taken in order to live this principle.

Because the pattern is already established, there is never any question about how many pennies out of each dollar will go to tithing. When the temptation comes to pocket that money, and it does, it is confidently dismissed, with the reassurance from the Holy Ghost that I’ve made the right choice.

It is in this way that we can establish patterns for ourselves and teach them to our children.

****Another example. This week I indulged in some shopping at the mall. I tried on a couple of things, tossing each item on top of the stroller as I went. Then I went to the register to make my purchase, had a friendly conversation with the cashier, and went my way, not realizing that I had waltzed right out of the store with two skirts still sitting on top of my stroller. An hour later, as I was heading to my car, I looked down in horror to see the skirts unpaid on the stroller. My blood ran cold. The kids were tired and hungry and we were on the other side of the mall and so I sighed “What a pain” but there had been no question in my mind that they should be returned immediately and with a profuse apology. I am so glad that I had already established the pattern of honesty years before, so that in moments like this there would be no question as to the action that I should take.

It is in the moment of truth, in the moment of a test, that we act upon that knowledge we have and upon the standards that we wish to live. It begins with daily effort.

Elder Bednar said, “Small, steady, incremental spiritual improvements are the steps the Lord would have us take. Preparing to walk guiltless before God is one of the primary purposes of mortality and the pursuit of a lifetime; it does not result from sporadic spurts of intense spiritual activity.”[v]

Brothers and Sisters, choose now to establish good habits of prayer and scripture study and church attendance. Choose now to establish patterns of worship and temple worthiness. Choose now to establish patterns of chastity, honesty, integrity, and discipline. It is not too late. If you’ve gotten all the way to the parking lot, or all the way home, it is not too late to return the skirt. It’s not too late to walk out of an offensive movie. Or to dress modestly. It’s not too late to change your behavior towards another person, or to change the subject of conversation. It’s not too late. Choose today and every day what patterns you will establish so that in the moment of truth, you will have the Holy Spirit with you to guide you and strengthen you in making right choices.

Okay, the big question. What if you brought the skirt home and wore it out?

I turn to President Monson’s words: “If any has stumbled in [his or] her journey, there is a way back. The process is called repentance. Our Savior died to provide you and me that blessed gift. The path may be difficult, but the promise is real: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”6 “And I will remember [them] no more.”7[vi]

'Remember, it is the cleansing power of the Atonement that makes it possible for us to be virtuous. We all make mistakes, but “because the Savior loves you and has given His life for you, you can repent. Repentance is an act of faith in Jesus Christ. … The Savior’s atoning sacrifice has made it possible for you to be forgiven of your sins. … Determine to partake worthily of the sacrament each week and fill your life with virtuous activities that will bring spiritual power. As you do this, you will grow stronger in your ability to resist temptation, keep the commandments [remain clean], and become more like Jesus Christ” (Young Women Personal Progress [insert, 2009], 3). [vii]'


Blessings of Living a Virtuous Life
When I was in high school, my parents had a spell of several years where on two separate occasions they were wrongfully accused, and another instance where they felt their prayers were not answered over a certain subject. It was a rough patch for them.

At times they felt alone. But they had not betrayed their standards or forgotten their covenants. Even though openly mocked and falsely accused, they knew they were in good standing with the Lord, and that the Lord trusted the decisions they would make. Through counseling with their Bishop, and through counseling with the Lord in prayer, they were reassured. It is by living virtuously day by day that we are able to withstand temptation and “the hail and mighty storm [that may] beat upon us”, (Helaman 5:12). It is then that our righteous patterns pull us through—we can receive the guidance of the Holy Ghost and strength and forgiveness from our Savior, Jesus Christ.

'As you climb, don’t allow yourself to descend into the willows. Stay high on the mountain. You are God’s precious daughters [and sons]! Because of the knowledge of our divine identity, everything must be different for us: our dress, our language, our priorities, and our focus. We must not seek guidance from the world, and if our true identity has been clouded by mistakes or sins, we can change. We can turn around and repent and return to virtue. We can climb above the willows. The Savior’s Atonement is for you and for me. He invites each of us to come unto Him.[ …] As you live a virtuous life, you will have the confidence, power, and strength necessary to climb. [ … ] As you grow and blossom, your personal purity will enable you to become a force for good and an influence for righteousness in the world. I truly believe that one virtuous young woman [or man], led by the Spirit, can change the world. [viii]'

[i] Elaine S. Dalton, “A Return to Virtue,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 78–80
[ii] Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Tambuli, Aug 1977, 1
[iii] Elaine S. Dalton, “Come Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2009, 120–23
[iv] Mary N. Cook, “A Virtuous Life—Step by Step,” Ensign, May 2009, 117–19
[v] David A. Bednar, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 80-83
[vi] Thomas S. Monson, “May You Have Courage,” Ensign, May 2009, 123–27
[vii] Mary N. Cook, “A Virtuous Life—Step by Step,” Ensign, May 2009, 117–19
[viii] Elaine S. Dalton, “Come Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2009, 120–23

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stupid things I've done this week

  • I turned an entire load of whites into a load of pinks. It may be a secret, but how is a man supposed to feel manly when his undies are pink?
  • I dropped my phone in the toilet. It still works except for the outer speaker, which means my pants will always vibrate when you call me.
  • I posted the following status to Facebook at 3:30am: "baby keeps pooping all not, aggravated my serious diaper rash"
  • I thought it would be fun to teach Leah how to play Mario Kart.
  • I lightly sprinkled Mexican Spice Blend on our enchiladas tonight. It was so hot that the kids and I had crackers for dinner and Chris didn't even want to keep the leftovers.

I think thats a pretty good tally for one week. Hmmm...next week I fly solo with two kids, two car seats, at least 2 bags, one layover, and only two arms. There's some defininte potential for stupidity...

Book Review: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

My sister and I both read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" and did a comparative book review. Here is the link.
Enjoy!

Michal asked me to raffle the Bingo game again, so the new winner is Teacher Eli!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Memories of Girls' Camp

The winner of their own personalized Bingo game is Michal & David! This will be a great tool to help you stay focused during Sacrament meeting. Thanks for all your ideas. We tried the little cup of snacks method today and it just turned out to be a continuous Goldfish refill service. I think we'll go back to "Reverence practice" during the week.

Today in Sacrament Meeting the Young Women reported on their experiences at Girls' Camp. It made me reflect on some memories I had in my years at Girl's Camp. Ah, those were the days!

Here are a few lot. You don't have to read them all.
  • My first year of girls' camp landed on the week of my 12th birthday. The family rule was that you can wear makeup and nylons when you turn 12, so I got nylons at camp, but I don't think I wore them until I got home. My mom was our Beehive leader at the time, and my assignment that day was to clean the latrine. On my birthday. I did not get any special treatment in this respect and still had to do it, and I was grumpy the whole time.
  • That year we also used a particular kind of dishoap (a white bottle of Ivory soap) that I still like to get because the scent reminds me of that aspect of girls' camp.
  • There were two particular girls in my age group that were not very nice to me and my friends. In fact, they were actually really mean and cruel. If you were there, you know who they were. They liked to pull pranks. One year, I remember them saying "Don't get mad. Get even!" It was pretty good advice when you are a relatively good kid-just not as an adult.
  • One year our camp theme was "Hearts knit together in love and unity." At some point in the week, we were hit by a huge thunder and hail storm. While it was scary, we were all soaked, our tents blew over, the power went out in the administration building, and a lot of people were scared, I thought it was pretty exciting. Some of the ward leaders thought we should pack up and go home, even though no stake leaders had authorized it. I remember thinking that to do so would not exemplify "hearts knit together" in love or unity. We stayed.
  • One year, I had "Ironic" stuck in my head the whole week. Some other campers nick-named me "Alanis," which I though was really cool. That was the year I learned to make a fire with dryer lint and a 9v battery. It was also the year I became a pyro!
  • Liz-didn't we fall out of a canoe once?
  • Kathryn's dad was the driver of the rental truck that brought all the gear. I got to drive in the truck with them on the way home one year. Backing up, the rear step of the truck got hooked on a tall tree stump and we tried for an hour to get unstuck. It was my idea to cut the tree trunk with a chain saw and it worked!
  • One year a girl prayed at a campfire that the racoons would go to the leaders tents instead of ours. What a scandal!
  • Speaking of racoons, my journal got some little dirty racoon footprints in it!
  • Liz or I correctly guessed the number of skittles in a disgustingly large jar and we ate all of them. We were so sick of skittles, and I still can't eat that flavor (tropical).
  • I wore sandals and brought a walkman one year, both of which were strictly prohibited.
  • The poolhouse had a boys locker room and a girls locker room, but of course there were no boys. The leaders posted a sign on the boys room that said "Nude women" so that we knew not to go in there unless we wanted to shower sans swim suits. I used the other bathroom.
  • As a junior leader, I took great pride in carrying one of the four coveted walkie talkies around camp. My mom, who was the lifeguard, had one too, and accidentally jumped into the pool with it on her suit, and it became a standing point of humor. The same camp leader that distributed the walkie talkies gave Chris and I a set as a wedding present and we still have them.
  • The kitchen leader always brought a sign that said "Roadkill cafe."
  • Mom nailed the stake leaders in a water fight and planted giant fake bugs in their sleeping bags.
  • There were a couple male camp staff members that managed the camp and chopped wood and took out garbage, etc. Of course we singled out the only guy under 30 (and who wasn't a stake leader) and tried to flirt with him. He told us his name was Elmo, but we knew he was lying.
  • Liz and I knew all the camp songs, and we even made up a couple which I still remember.

Here's one that was too depressing that we had to write a second verse to reunite the sad couple :

Boom boom my darlin', boom boom my darlin'
Gonna get along without ya know.
Gonna find someone who's twice as cute
And I didn't love you anyhow.
I'll miss you much, I'll miss you much,
But don't come back to me,
We're apart for good, we're apart for good
And thats how its gonna be.

(Here is the verse we made up)

I love ya darlin', I love ya darlin'
You came right back to me.
I said you shouldn't, you said you couldn't
Go on livin' life without me.
So now we're happy all day and night
And that's how its gonna stay.
And if you up and leave again, I'll love you anyway.

Here's one we wrote on the bus. I think I memorized it without ever having to write it down, and I still remember it. I think we got the Stake to put it in the camp book. I wonder if it is still in there or if anybody knows it. It is loosly to the tune of "It's a small world."

It's a camp of racoons, a camp of bugs,
It's a camp of spiders, a camp of slugs,
It's a camp of tears and a little fears,
It's a camp for girls.

It's a camp of laughter, a camp of love,
It's a camp with help from the Lord above.
Lots of friends we make, memories we take,
It's a camp for girls.

Naperville camp really ra-ah-ah-ocks,
Naperville camp really rocks,
Naperville camp really rocks,
I will go back soon!

And in case you are still reading, here are some more favorites. I am writing this down because I know that some day I won't remember them anymore.

The Zulu king with the big nose ring fell in love with a sweet young thing
And every night by the pale moonlight, 'sounded like this to me:
Baroom, *kiss*kiss*, baroom, *kiss*kiss*, Baroom diddle-ee-ya-dee-ay
Baroom, *kiss*kiss*, baroom, *kiss*kiss*, Baroom diddle-ee-ya-dee-ay
Oh, we'll build a bungalow big enough for two, big enough for two,
My darlin' big enough for two.
And when we're married how happy we'll be, Under the bamboo
Under the bamboo tree, if you'll be M-I-N-E mine I'll be T-H-I-N-E thine and I will L-O-V-E love you all the T-I-M-E time.
You are the B-E-S-T best of all the R-E-S-T rest and I will L-O-V-E love you all the T-I-M-E time! The Zulu king.....

--

I'm a little acorn 'round, lying on the cold cold ground
Every body steps on me, that is why I'm cracked, you see.
I'm a nut *click*click*, I'm a nut *click*click*, I'm a nut, I'm a nut, I'm a nut.

Called myself up on the phone, just to see if I was home
Asked myself out on a date, picked me up at half past eight.
I'm a nut....

Took myself out to the show, sat me down in the second row.
Put my arms around my face, got so fresh I slapped my face.
I'm a nut...

I can sing and I can dance, I wear ruffles on my-Oops! Boys, take another guess!
I wear ruffles on my dress!
I'm a nut *click*click*, I'm a nut *click*click*, I'm a nut, I'm a nut, I'm a nut!

--

Announcements, Annoouncements, Announcements!
A terrible death to die, A terrible death to die!
A terrible death to talk to death, a terrible death to die.
Again! Again! She's bugging us again!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Artists and Musicians

Yesterday Leah and Samuel sat at the coffee table and colored in their own coloring books quietly and peacefully for fourty-five minutes. That's unheard of. And Samuel didn't even eat more than two crayons!




























Leah and Samuel drumming while I made dinner one night. Give them the right tools and they will be entertained for a half hour. And this is why my wooden spoons are broken. It's a small price to pay for peace in the kitchen. (Okay, not quiet peace)














Leah is great at faces:


Translations

Samuel is now 18 months old. Did Leah say this many words at that age? I can't remember.

Here are some of his favorites. Context is everything.

pa-bee (potty)
bah-bee (baby)
gog (dog)
djee (cheese)
baba (blastoff)
baow (ball)
nigh-nigh (night night)
bubye (bye bye)
bap (bath)
beej (please)
gae-goo (thank you)
waa-je (water)

Here's a little something from Leah.

Yesterday I was examing my toenail that got squashed by a mattress when we moved. Its gross. I'll spare you the details, but I was kind of picking at it. Leah asked what I was doing and I explained in a way she could understand, that my toenail was broken. She was very concerned and near tears, begged me not to do it. Is this some kind of phobia of nasty nail syndrome? I asked her why and this is what she said:

"Because God gave you toes!"

And here's a picture. The kids are watching The Incredibles on the PSP in their pajamas before bed while I cleaned up dinner. Leah has her arm around Samuel, which is super cute and uncommon.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes

Here's a quickie for you.

video

Mom: "Samuel, Ready, Set..."
Samuel: "Go!"
Mom: "One, Two.."
Samuel: "Go!"

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Supermoms! Unite for Sunday sanity!

Kids in sacrament meeting. How do you do it? We have a few rules, like no snacks or activities until after the Sacrament, and they must sit on our laps or on the bench quietly during hymns and prayers. Then they can color or play quietly. We downsized from a big bag of Sunday toys to one toy per kid because it was just getting out of hand. One week was so bad, we actually practiced 10 minutes of reverent time and pretended we were waiting for the sacrament at home a couple nights throughout the week--the following Sunday showed marked improvment. But after that, we were back to our old, crazy, impossible Sacrament struggle. (Do you like my alliteration?)

Here is my latest One-Hour project. It is a one player bing0 board and the task will be for Leah to listen in the meeting and put a Sunbeam on the image when she hears the word mentioned: music, Holy Ghost, Missionaries, prieshthood, etc. You get the idea.
If she were older, I would have used more pictures with more complex principles.

The project consisted of sleuthing out some photos that represent concepts simple enough for a three year old to understand and putting them on a grid chart I made in Word. Then I printed it and laminated it and adhered a sticky velcro dot to each square. Then I did the same with sunbeams, and voila! It took me about an hour, so I made two. I even made a little pocket on the back to store all the little sunbeams in. Tomorrow will be the true test of its effectiveness.
Project break down:
  • 10' roll of adhesive laminate: $20 (I'm so glad I didn't buy that $60 laminator, because this stuff works just fine for my purposes)
  • 75 sets of adhesive velcro dots: $8.
  • Of course, it helps that we already have a really good printer.

I have lots of laminate and velcro left, of course, so I want to make one for you! Here's how to get one. I want to hear how you keep your kids occupied during Sacrament Meeting. What are the rules you have? Do you allow snacks and activities? What kinds? If not, why not, and what do you do instead to keep order?

I'll report back after we've tried my new Bing0 game for two Sundays (So, July 12), and then I will pick a random winner among the commentors and I will make you your own bing0 game (and I will even put your family picture on it instead of mine!).

Happy commenting!

Friday, July 03, 2009

You know it's bedtime when...

This is what happens when you ask Leah to try to put her pajamas on by herself.

A cookie in each hand, but still the tears pour down like rain.
But don't put it past this little guy to brighten up as soon as the camera comes out. He even said "Geee!"











Wednesday, July 01, 2009

San Francisco Top 10

View Album --hundreds of pics from our trip!

First and foremost, Samuel is allergic to cashews. We found this out only two hours away from our destination (and after ten hours already in the car), and subsequently got to experience emergency room care in Auburn, California. We were there for four hours; we figure one hour per cashew. His reaction consisted of constricted breathing, vomiting, whole-body hives, and hot, itchy skin. We're grateful for the GPS that we bought for the trip, because it led us straight to a hospital in about 5 minutes.

Oh, and driving across country was much more enjoyable for me this time considering that for all the other road trips we've taken in the past few years I was pregnant and puking in the gravel on the side of the road. Soooooo much better when you're not puking!

TWO--Sam is a graduate! The core of our trip was to cheer for and support Chris's cousin Samantha, who just graduated high school and celebrated her 18th birthday. She is the next oldest grandchild after Chris and his brother, and the only girl of their generation. Filipinos sure know how to party!

THREE--Chris has moves. He really got to bust out his break dancing and popping during Samantha's big birthday party. He complained of foot pain for weeks afterward, but he said it was worth it. The kids had some moves too. As soon as I'd put them down to dance and they'd start crying instead of dancing I knew it was time to put the kids to bed.

FOUR--Leah is not shy. She treated the entire party to a solo of Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star by microphone, then lectured on flowers and lights and houses and cameras and other unconnected random things that only make sense in the mind of a three year old..

FIVE--Great food. Chris got a full dose of seafood at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. (at Fisherman's Wharf) and I managed to find something on their menu that wasn't fishy at all. We spent $60 on one lunch--the most we ever spent for two on one meal. Ouch. Chris's friend Rebecca Hamburg from his high school years in Japan treated us to some authentic Japanese food. We also got lots and lots of Filipino food!

SIX--The Sights! Rebecca also gave us a guided tour of San Fran and drove us down Lombard Ave (crookedest st). Chris and I spent a day at Fisherman's Wharf, enjoyed the sights, entertainment, and of course, the shopping. We scoped out the seals, and for the love of chocolate, ventured over to Ghirardelli Square. We also spent an afternoon at Golden Gate Park for a picnic with Lola and to give the kids a chance to ride the carousel and run amok at the park. The kids playground in Golden Gate Park is a definite site to hit if you are in SF with kids. This park had just about everything you could want: sand, swings, slides, climbing, water--you name it.

SEVEN--Alcatraz. They let us out. Whew! By far the best self-guided audio tour we've ever done. We highly recommend the Alcatraz tour to anyone visiting SF. Plan to spend several hours there, and you'll definately enjoy it more without kids in tow. Chris wants to do the tour again at night next time, after he reads his new book "The Ghosts of Alcatraz." OOohh...

EIGHT--The kids got to see (and pee in) the ocean for the first time. I didn't expect it to be quite so cold and windy!

NINE--Lola loves her grandkids. She was a ready babysitter and took 10 pictures per minute! She was so great to play along with Leah's "I'll race you to the potty" game...

TEN--Family. Chris got to spend some much needed one-on-one time with his mom. We were graciously hosted by the Rafaels, and CJ even gave us his bedroom. We've decided that we are not going to wait for another 10 years to pass before seeing his extended family again!

Here are a few video highlights we managed to capture. I'll let you figure out which one goes with which description (I think you'll be able to do it...)

video

Transcription of Leah's first public address:
So everyone has flowers on their table so they can help their lights be comfortable.
Because at their house they have cameras and toys and they have lights.
You’re welcome.