Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First Date: McDonalds

This little girl has managed to capture the Caboose's heart. You can certainly see why, she's a total cutie!
And just like any smitten boy, the Caboose wanted to woo her with a nice meal - at McDonald's. And he wanted to pay for her. I told him it wasn't necessary, but he thought that "It would be nice to do." He earnestly saved up his money until he had $6.00. Enough for two happy meals. He worried "What if she orders something more expensive? What do I do Dad???" Diamond just laughed and said "Amen brother!"
The Caboose wrote the date down in his calendar and counted down the days. When it was finally time, he gathered up all his money into a baggie and the three of us headed to McDonald's.
They had a great time, running and playing and his little friend was kind enough to bring money for two ice creams. If this was my thirteen year old, or even my ten year old I probably wouldn't have been quite so on board with everything. But at five years old, I find the whole thing terribly adorable.

But then I heard the Caboose come out with these gems: "Sometimes I get thirsty chasing the girls" or "I'm kinda fast 'cuz I chase girls." Yeah, I probably need to worry.

Monday, January 9, 2012


It's seems as if World War II is the theme for about half of these books. You have to realize that I taught history, and my favorite era is WWII, so I may be a bit biased...

New York times #1 best seller Unbroken, tells the true story of Louis Zamborini who was first an Olympic athlete to Berlin in '36 and then a pilot in the Pacific during the war. But that's only the beginning of his story. When Louis' plane crashes he manages to survive for weeks on a drifting life raft, only to be picked up by a Japanese ship and made a POW. The horrors of the Japanese prison camps are almost nauseating, but I was left inspired by how Louis maintained his dignity despite his situation. His is a story of courage and strength and individual power. It's long (and you could probably skip the first 75 pages) but I found his story amazing and ultimately uplifting.

Written by the author of Devil in the White City,Larson's In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, tells the true story of the American Ambassador to Berlin the mid 1930s. While the author stays completely faithful to history, he manages to provide the details and dialogue that makes Garden of Beasts feel like a novel. It's crazy how you can see things start to happen and feel the devil taking hold. Ambassador Dodd struggles to maintain diplomatic relationship with these evil personalities and all the while you know that it's going to end badly. It really gave a sense of the time period and you can see these historical figures as real people. There was sex and power and intrigue. An excellent book!

The Spy Wore Red is the third of the nonfiction World War II reads. This autobiography follows a young American women who becomes a spy for the US in Spain during WWII. It was interesting to learn about life as a spy and to see the role Spain played in WWII. At times her story feels a little exaggerated, but it was still a good story.

OK, enough of WWII. The premise of Life As We Knew It is that an asteroid hit the moon, which forced the moon closer to the Earth with disastrous results. The bulk of the books follows a single mother with her three teenage children as they try to survive. It's like The Road lite. The author does a good job capturing the voice of a teenage girl (the book is set up as her journal - whiny at times, emotional at times, strong at times.) It was a quick and interesting read, leaving me thinking about what I would do in such a situation.
I had seen the Hitchcock movie Rebecca, and loved it and so I was excited to read the book for our book club. The story is great - as a young bride settles into her new life she finds herself dwarfed in the shadow of her husband's dead first wife. It's a bit creepy - a perfect read for fall. It was a bit long, but if you haven't ever been exposed to Rebecca, at least rent the movie.

In my continuing effort to read the classics, I picked up The Secret Garden. What a sweet little story! Spoiled rotten Mary comes to live with her uncle in England and as she begins to explore the grounds she discovers a locked up and neglected garden. What is great about this story is how she, and others come to life as they spend time working and cultivating the garden. I love the idea of how being outside and getting wrapped up in nature allows for growth, healing and happiness.

Me Talk Pretty One Day was a crack up! It's a funny, witty autobiography that was perfect for reading over Christmas break. There are a few shady moments (I skipped the entire chapter about his brother,) but otherwise it was really clever and very enjoyable.

If I didn't end up hating this book I probably would have really liked it. Big Boy #1 had to read Homeless Bird for school and answer a million ridiculous and annoying questions about it all. It wasn't even my homework, and it annoyed me! Thirteen year old Koly is forced into an arraigned marriage only to find herself widowed shortly thereafter. She ends up struggling to survive in the big city in India. Really, if I wasn't for the schoolwork BB#1 had to suffer through, I really would have liked it a lot.

I have a whole list of books to read right now - and lucky me, I got a Kindle for Christmas to read them on! I'm so excited! I love it when there are bunch of books I'm anxious to read. Yay!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Going Platinum

Diamond has reached Platinum status with Marriott. And it's AWESOME!

Normally, a person has to travel quite a bit to reach this level of service. Diamond however, knows how to work the system and managed to earn the upgrade even with his moderate travel schedule.

Marriott had a deal that once you had so many "stays", you would achieve platinum status. Each time you checked in is considered a "stay", whether you stay one night or a week. Knowing this, Diamond spent a week in Toronto changing hotels every single night - daily checking in and out in an effort to accrue the required "stays". And when people came into town for a work conference, he would kindly checked them into their Marriott hotel rooms - under his member number.

It paid off. Being a Platinum guest with Marriott, comes with certain privileges. We get any available upgrades, have access to the concierges lounge and we always get a "welcome gift". (Like this tray of Haagen-Dazs ice cream and sodas!) Since the upgrade, we've stayed in hotel rooms that are bigger than our first apartment. And I'm becoming a bit of a princess - expecting to have a good breakfast (free of charge) and pouting when the person at the desk tells me no upgrades are available. The boys are even worse!

We have a year to enjoy the finer things of life before we go back to living the life of regular travelers. But who knows? Diamond has a week long trip to Vegas coming up. Maybe he can earn some more "stays" if he's willing to live the life of a vagabond. 'Cuz really, I've grown used to my welcome gift...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas 2011

Christmas speed by again this year. Here are some of our highlights. The Caboose went to see Santa at the library. (Where Santa told the kids that his favorite cookie was chocolate chip, despite our tradition of leaving sugar cookies. The whole time we were decorating the cookies, the Caboose kept telling me we were making the wrong kind of cookie. Oh well.) This year he wanted a pirate ship.

As excited as he was to see Santa, the Caboose really, really wanted to see the Grinch. We saw him last year and the boys loved it! The Grinch gave him a broken candy cane and the Caboose thought it was SOOO funny! He talked about it all year, and would laugh "That silly Grinch!"

We were so excited to have my niece come spend Christmas break with us. Here the kids are making gingerbread houses at Nanna's with cousin Kari.

This is a tradition my mom started back when I was a kid! It's a ton of work for her but we all just love it!

Here's how BB#2 described it in a school writing assignment: "So much candy made in to a house?  You can't miss!!!  You feel like a gingerbread builder when you build a gingerbread house.  It makes you very happy.  But then eating it thebest part.  You say "Destroy" and crush the house to pieces.  It tastes so good.  The taste is so good, it's indescribable.  You feel like a giant going to destroy a city."

Can you even FIND the house for all the candy on this thing? Their goal was to cover every possible inch with candy. I think they achieved their goal. Crazy! (My favorite part is the little pond - melted Jolly Ranchers - complete with candy fish.)

One treat for me this holiday season was when my old college roommate came into town. We had lunch and went shopping. SO much fun! She's from Arizona and was mesmerized by the snow - "Look! We're leaving footprints as we walk!" Ha!

This year was a white Christmas with lots of snow. On Christmas Eve Diamond took the boys sledding. Except for Big Boy #2, who had walking pneumonia all break.

From BB#2's paper: "The snow feels like needles hitting your skin.  You flip and flop but still try, try again until you amke it all the way down the steep hill.  Sledding is one of hte most fun activities of the season."

Christmas Eve is always celebrated at my parents house. Dinner and the nativity. Here are the wise men (wise boys?)

The nativity with all the cousins:

We always have the kids play their musical instruments as part of the program. This year Big Boy #2 performed on the trombone for the first time:

Another tradition is that we have some kind of hunt or activity where the kids 'earn' their new jammies. We did a variation of the Amazing Race for the pajama hunt this year. One of the tasks was organizing these drawing of the life of Christ in chronological order. The kids also had to memorize what the angels said to the shepherds and eat some goat cheese and olives.

After the pajama hunt Christmas Eve. (This years jammies have the helmets of all the NFL teams.)

All the cousins in their new Christmas jammies. (BB#2 is doing the Tebow.)

The boys call this the Christmas Club. On Christmas Eve they all gather in Big Boy #1's bedroom to play games and eat snacks while waiting for Santa. They go so far as to drag in an extra mattress.

After Santa came: This year's big gift was a new TV and entertainment center for the family. (Thus the huge boxes.)

Big Boy #1 was thrilled to get a 'chalker' - the device that sprays chalk on sports fields - for the backyard. The Caboose's favorite gift was a light up scooter. And they all were excited for the new wii game, Madden 12.

Big Boy #2's favorite gifts were a Bronco's coat and tickets to the opening night of the Nuggets.

Since Christmas was on Sunday this year, we took a break from the festivities to head to church. We normally have church at 9:00am, but they moved it back to 10:00 for Christmas day. Thank goodness! I was about to launch a full rebellion over having such an early service! Here are my handsome boys!

After church we headed over to my parents for Christmas Part II. (The kids regularly say that Nanna and Grandpa are better than Santa.) Probably the biggest surprise of the afternoon was when Dad got Mom an iPad. She was so surprised! I love her expression.

At Nanna's, Big Boy #1 scored this programmable, electronic sign. The perfect addition to his diet Pepsi Center! He spent the whole afternoon playing with it and getting it to say cool things.

The Caboose scored a Nintendo dsXL. He LOVES it and plays on it waaaaay too much.

At BB#2 scored a nice, new bike. As well as some new ds and wii games.

Overall, it was a great Christmas. My favorite part is that we enjoy so much down time without all the hustle and busyness of regular life. No school, no scouts, no sports, nothing but family time. Merry Christmas!