Christmas Disney Surprise - TAKE TWO!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Here we go again!  O.K. You should all know by now Kenneth is obsessed, free 3-day park hoppers have been burning a hole in his pocket and he once again found killer flights and suggested we fly down for the weekend. Ready or not, here we come!

We managed to pull this off last year and the trip was a big success!  As seen in last years video, the big reveal was much slower as we woke Awsumb up telling him we were going to some crazy early morning sale and promised he would see Santa later that day.  I didn't even plan to video tape his reaction and wish I would have as I just ended up with a dark iPhone video  taken when Awsumb started asking why we seemed to be driving to the airport.

This year, as a "too cool for school" 10 year old he was a little more reserved and knowing I was video taping he didn't exactly give me the screaming and jumping for joy reaction I thought he would... but by the time we actually out our shoes on and started loaded up the suitcases in the car he was pretty hyper about our little adventure.

I am glad we were able to pull this off as a surprise because Kenneth was so excited he kept openly talking about it in front of our little guy!  ...  leaving me constantly scrambling to cover it up.

I sure hope he doesn't think we are doing this EVERY Christmas!

The first day was beautiful, and a little crowded.  The second day was POURING rain!  Which was fun for us because all the locals stayed home leaving no lines for us!  Check back for pictures from our rainy Christmas at Disneyland!

Crackers and Cheese

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why does Christmas music have to be so cheesy?

And I don't get some of them anyway...Let's start with Pine Cones and Holly Berries, which the elementary school choir teacher tortured us with every. single. year.  I still get this song stuck in my head today...

"Popcorn for you, apples for me"

Why can't they both have popcorn AND apples? Who is depriving these kids? Does one of them have braces? And if they do wouldn't apples be bad too?  These are the things I think about and it's just a downward spiral from there...

"Nutcracker handy"

Who wrote this song?  Meredith Wilson is who pops up on a quick internet search and apparently his parents were too poor to afford both popcorn AND apples.

And then there's Jingle Bells, which plaques me at all time of the year.  But at least it's a tune I can actually hmm or drum and get someone to recognize (remember, I'm tune deaf!)

Basically Christmas music can be an OCD nightmare... and not in a good way.   After all who wants to be stuck with some of these songs running through your head while your gardening IN JUNE?!

So in an effort to keep The Soundtrack of Kenneth's Life going he searches high and low to find me the very best NON cheesy Christmas music.  This year we give you....  CRACKERS AND CHEESE!
Kenneth's comments regarding our selections:

"This Time of Year", The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.  On the surface this track might sound a little anti-Christmas and some of you might like that about this song.  For me this song is opposed to many of the consumer-oriented customs of Christmas - massive consumer indulgence and Griswold-style Christmas lights - while emphasizing the feeling that "gets me and never lets me act like I don't care" and remembering that Christmas is special "cause all of us get together."

"Happy XMas (War is Over)", Sense Field.  Originally recorded by John Lennon, this Christmas song was intended as a call for peace.  At the end of the year, "what have you done" to help the "weak and the strong", the "rich and the poor ones" and everyone else have a "very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year?"  Someone else asked those questions a couple thousand years ago.

"One Silent Night", Ffh.  This track takes the spirit, setting and even snippets of the traditional Silent Night and wraps it all up in a mid-tempo pop anthem.  It's a really pretty version.

"The Lights and the Buzz", Jack's Mannequin.  This is the time of year when Awsumb always wants it to snow.  He says, "if it's going to be this cold anyway, we could at least have some snow!"  Sometimes the stress of life can keep us from feeling like it's Christmas.  Even if "life has been no holiday", the Christmas break can "remove the splinters" and remind us that "it's good to be alive."

"I Hope That it Snows", Madi Diaz.

"Forget You, Santa! (Cee-Lo Greeen vs. Jackson 5)", Voicedude.  Didn't get what you wanted from Santa this year?  I love a mashup and this song humorously mashes up the Jackson 5's Santa Claus with "Forget You" (the friendly version of the big 2010 hit song from Cee-Lo Green) and for good measure overlays some lines from great Christmas specials and movies.

"We Three Kings", Greg Simpson.  Now pretty hard to find, but it sounds like the Three Kings are driving across the desert, "following yonder star" with their gifts secured in the back.  You know, with their hands out the window riding the wind...

 "A Cradle in Bethlehem", The Beautiful Mistake.

"Rudolph (You Don't Have to Put On the Red Light)", mojochronic.  Another great holiday mash-up combining The Police's Roxanne with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - and sound clips from the classic animated show.  You will never hear another Rudolph like this!

"I'll Be Home for Christmas", Matchbook Romance.

 "Maybe This Christmas", Ron Sexsmith.  Another beautiful Christmas wish that we can find peace on earth, in our own families as well as in the world.  "Maybe this Christmas will find us at last in heavenly peace, grateful, at least, for the love we've been shown in the past..."

"Leaving Heaven (feat. Vince Gill)", Matthew West.

"(It Must've Been Ol') Santa Claus", Harry Connick, Jr.  This song captures the excitement of a child on Christmas Eve.  He's old enough to have doubts about Santa, but young enough to imagine amazing things.  

"Hey Santa!", Straight No Chaser.

"Elf's Lament (feat. Michael Buble)", Barenaked Ladies.  "Girls and boys, before you wish for what you wish for...  consider the price to an Elf."  Christmas is the time of year to think about others.  This is the theme song of "Occupy North Pole."

 "Angel (Holiday)," Jack Johnson.  Christmas is good because it reminds us to think about how much we care about those we love.  I am lucky to have someone who lights up Christmas for me and makes our home a beautiful place to be, especially at this time of year.  "I've got an angel...  She give me presents with her presence alone, She gives me every thing I wish for, gives me kisses... just for coming home..." (Anyone who's groaning right now better stop, because we warned you!  This mix is called Crackers and Cheese, right?)

"Do You Hear What I Hear", Sawyer Brown.

"To Be Alone With You", Sufjan Stevens.  This unique artist is known for making independent "chamber pop" and has a seriously great Christmas album (four discs!) that sounds like no other Christmas album you'll hear.  This song is not from that album, but is sweet and powerful and reminds us what the Savior did for us, and is a great way to close this mix.

Previous blogs regarding Christmas music you may be interested in: Mixed Christmas and The Sounds of Christmas

What Christmas music is on your playlist this year?

A Christmas Card

Monday, December 5, 2011

This year we are reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, who also happens to be one of my favorite authors.  The first time I was introduced to this story was by Donald Duck and his little Nephews in Mickey's Christmas Carol.  Some say Dickens wrote it to revive Christmas traditions which seemed to be dying out.  And of course to remind man to forget about himself and give to those less fortunate.

Although some have called A Christmas Carol a secular story, it’s clear to whoever reads it carefully that without Christ, the "mighty Founder" of Christmas, there is no reason to celebrate. As Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, explains, nothing about Christmas can be separate from "the veneration due to its sacred name and origin." This is what gives meaning to Scrooge’s resolution at the end of the story: "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God Bless Us, Every One!

If there’s hope for mean old Scrooge, Dickens is saying, there must be hope for each of us. And there is hope for each of us, through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Charles Dickens left his children with his own testimony of Christ and requested it not be published, but that it should be kept in the family. After the last of his children died, the family decided to share the book with the world and published The Life of Our Lord by Charles Dickens.  The book begins...

"My Dear Children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him. No one ever lived who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in any way ill or miserable, as He was."

I can't think of a more beautiful gift, than your own testimony.

Making Christmas, Making Christmas!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1st and so it begins... To some it truly is The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Last year at this time I was putting together 150 Christmas boxes at the office.  Shredded cardboard was all over the conference room and crinkle cut stuffing was flying about as red and green dust began to fill the air!  It was the job nobody wanted to do, but still the office felt obligated to do up special Christmas boxes each year.  Although they could have done something as simple as gift cards or a small bonus, they insisted on these frilly boxes and I totally loved every minute of it!  Because I cared about sharing something with these people to thank them for a job well done and wish them a Merry Christmas.  What's so bad about spending a few hours making mountains move (seriously, I was lost in mountains of gift boxes!) and listening to my favorite Christmas music?  This was totally my theme song!
Making Christmas - Nightmare Revisited

Rise Against

Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my favorite movies and I have to watch it every year.  Jack, the King of Halloween grows restless, looking for something  more.  One day while wandering in the woods he finds Christmas land.  Curious about the joy and wonder he finds he brings all sort of things home trying to get down to the bottom of this thing called Christmas.  Why was it so magical?  What was it all about?  After kidnapping Santa and making a complete nightmare out of Christmas, Jack never really understands the meaning of Christmas because he spent all his time analyzing the "things of Christmas."

The Corner Critic's review of the movie said, "It is a carefully crafted satire against the blandness of traditional holidays, about how their meanings become diluted to the point of nonexistence."

Tim Burton was inspired to write this story after finding himself in a holiday display at a department store. "Christmas decorations were being combined with Halloween decorations – that was the genesis of the whole concept. So routine are our holidays that department stores almost cannot wait to decorate for them."

And don't forget the Christmas Music! Our family gets a kick out of Straight No Chaser's hit song The Christmas Can Can... because after just a few errands, you've heard them all! And just as Tim Burton discovered the typical store really can become The Nightmare Before Christmas!

The movie is a commentary on how our culture robs symbols of their meaning and mixes them together until they serve a different purpose all together.  And every year I notice more and more traditions that just clutter up Christmas and are really more about fueling consumerism.
And it's those things that create holiday stress make the season a nightmare to some people. Maybe Jack and The Grinch need to get together. Jack could never figure out what all the Christmas stuff meant... But Christmas doesn't need to be saved... because as the Grinch knows, even without all the stuff, Christmas comes anyway!

Adults who are asked to remember Christmases when their parents didn't have much, often have fond memories about what they did do or get that year.  Kids are more likely to remember a small or special thing than a lot of meaningless things.

What are your plans to create a simple and more meaningful Christmas for your family?

Previous blogs you may like to read:

Don't Let the Grinch Steal Your Christmas!

The Gift of Nothing

The Present


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Have you ever walked over those purple glass blocks in Seattle and wondered what they are? Or wondered about the original city planners and what they were thinking?

In hopes of preserving Seattle's history Bill Speidel started giving tours of the Seattle Underground. If you love history, comedy, dark underground tunnels filled with debris, don't miss these guided tours, which run year round. I have been on this tour dozens of times and it never gets old. Usually raunchy and irreverent, sometimes sentimental no tour is the same.

After all these Seattle Skylights might not be around forever!

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Historic Seattle check out Sons Of The Profits Or, There's No Business Like Grow Business! The Seattle Story, 1851-1901 by Bill Speidel

School Photos

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Me - 4th grade
Wow this picture is so embarassing!

I volunteered to help herd the kids through the school picture day line up this year at my sons school and it finally answered my questions about why my sons school photos are more of a mug shot than a portrait.

First I was so surprised to see how nervous so many of the kids were...  I quickly realized they just needed to relax and as I was the last person they saw before I assigned them a photographer I tried my best to joke around and be silly with them as a way to distract them from feeling like they were about to visit the dentist.

But it was watching the actual photographers that really shocked me. Throughout elementary school I remember having the same photographer year after year.  He makes jokes and poked fun at the kids to help everyone relax and smile.  I remember every year he would make a joke about me being Peppermint Patty from Charlie Brown as he did to all the red heads. This bugged me to no end because she was a tom boy and I didn't want anything to do with being a tom boy!  But at least he was attempting to make some sort of connection with each child.  These photographers were more like the lady at  the DMV, stand over there look over here... click... 

For some reason I still feel compelled to order a package of these mug shots each year for tradition sake... but now I really see why they never capture who my child is. 
Awsumb is now in the 4th grade. At his school 4th grade is more like middle school.  There are about 13 kids in his class.  The kids have a home room, and different teachers for each subject.  The students are required to begin learning how to organize a school planner with their assignments.  4th grade continues to study Spanish and begins learning Latin, which has quickly become Awsumb's favorite subject.  He also gleans the most from simple classes like P.E. and music by asking for more details and history behind the songs and games they learn.

Each year during the many conferences scheduled with Awsumb's teachers I walk into them trying to prepare myself to get ready to hear all about how he talks to much... which often leads to other discussions about him learning to be more respectful and not arguing with teachers.

This week it was so refreshing to hear that his skills of communication are finally paying off and to hear how valued he is because of his leadership and communication skills. Awsumb's teachers also report that he shows empathy for all the children in the class and they know they can count on him to acknowledge other students ideas and to bring other students who may feel left out into the group.

But what I am even more excited about is his voracious need to learn everything he can.  Awsumb comes out of any lessons, a music lesson, Latin class, etc. with slips of paper on which he has written topics and things he plans to research further... because, he just can't get enough!

Awsumb regularly spends the first 30 minutes after I pick him up, talking nonstop about specific lesson he had during the day. He will repeat it word for word and then tell me all the questions and ideas he has regarding the subject.  I am so excited that he has fully gleaned the most out of the Montessori classroom and that he can now see that his education is his responsibility, that if there is anything he wants to learn about to go ahead and read and research and ask all the questions he needs until he gets the answers he is looking for.

And the best thing to hear was that his teachers don't see a disrespectful bone in his body, that they think it would hurt him, to the core, if he thought he had disrespected them in any way.  Here I kept thinking he needed to have more fear of adults so that he would be respectful out of fear, but once again, he teaches me, showing me that respect grown out of the desire to be respected in return is soooo much better than fear.

And that because of this respect, Awsumb has taken it upon himself to approach teachers when he needed more specific direction or to work out a plan to catch  up on work he had fallen behind on.  But even better is that he seeks them out because he values their friendship and is so excited to share his ideas and passions with them because, "We just have so much in common!" as he says about  his teachers.  He truly considers them mentors and friends and I appreciate the time they have each taken to develop a personal relationship with him.

Oh, how I just love, love, love being the mother of the most Totally Awsumb little boy ever!

Arches National Park

Monday, November 7, 2011

Awsumb Kenneth Hardy
10th Birthday at Delicate Arch
October 19, 2011
I have been dying to take Awsumb to see some of Southern Utah.  So this year when we planned to visit family in Utah I made sure to plan a few days for us to drive down to Arches National Park.
Awsumb was so excited and kept asking, "So we are really going to be IN Arches ON my birthday?" and then there was the "Can I wear my new leather jacket?" questions...  He didn't realize how warm it could be in Southern Utah even in October. 

First thing, Awsumb was dying to go to
After a steak dinner at Jeffrey's Steakhouse
(organic grass fed beef and local veggies)
it was time for bed to rest up for the long day of hiking.
When it comes to accomodations,
Moab leaves much to be desired.
Awsumb was especially excited to see Balancing Rock
 because it was featured in an Indiana Jones movie. 
Awsumb and Kenneth
sporting his new T-shirt
I wouldn't want to be under this rock this when it falls!
This place makes boys feel like men! 
(the base of Balanced Rock)
placed by rangers and visitors
mark the trails throughout the park
Tree at Balanced Rock
Awsumb snapped this photo of
 some Awesome Rock Climbers
 Park rules state that no named
arches or spires should be climbed.
We named the below rock
Kid Rocks! 
Can you see it?
Looks a little like a Lego Mini-fig?
Tourette Arch (from the Windows)

The Windows
Wendy and Awsumb
Kenneth under the arch
Awsumb photographs the arch
Awsumb's photo 
Through to the backside of The Windows 
Both Windows

Parade of The Elephants
Elephant Arch 
My favorite, so beautiful! 
Let's climb up! 
Awsumb enjoyed exploring under these arches,
he wished he could explore the caves,
 also seen in an Indiana Jones movie
Awsumb's thought the Kangaroo Squirrel were cute 

A Little Birthday Picnic Lunch!

Delicate Arch
A moderate 1.5 mile "trail" up steep rock,
ending with a short distance on a high cliff
until you finally round a corner
and end up on the edge of the
big bowl including Delicate Arch. 
Awsumb has a fear of heights and I knew the hike to
Delicate Arch would test his ability to cope with that,
but that he would feel so accomplished after,
so I pushed him along and in the end he had to wait for me!
 Awsumb was more than just a little nervous walking
around the steep bowl and even had
 to sit down because he felt so dizzy.
About this time Awsumb decided to tell everyone
about a friend of ours who had an accident falling 100 feet... 
Yeah, not a converstation to have just then!
And when he finally made it to stand under Delicate Arch...

Awsumb's shot: 
And not too long after this the sun begins to set..

Arches National Park is beautiful at dusk
Fins create a Fiery Furnace!
Dinner at Beck's and BED!
Awsumb was so tired he didn't even
 want to take a swim in the pool!

Arches National Park - Day Two
Proud of his Jr. Ranger status
after completing all requirements
 and of course having a long
 converstation with a Ranger
regarding his questions and ideas!
Just a short walk through the fins and sand to...
Sand Dune Arch
Kenneth and Awsumb
The cool sands are perfect place to cool of on a hot afternoon. 
I remember playing here for quite some time when I came as a teen.
 There is so much exploring to do. 
 As usual, Awsumb wasn't so interested in digging in the sand!
The day before we left my father gave Awsumb
 this official US Army Air Chemical Test Kit. 
 Awsumb thought it was so great
and filled it with his first aid kit,
pocket knife and compass. 
He carried it all over the park
and had to explain to everyone what it was!
 Thanks Dad!

This arch is free to be explored...
we saw people climb all through
and up to the top edges of these fins

 Skyline Arch
(previously called "An Arch in the Making"
before a huge chunk fell one day!)

Arches is a great park for all ages. Most of the arches can easily be seen in one day.  And most of the hikes are pretty easy... Even Delicate Arch can be viewed from a choice of two easier trails (though at a distance).  But there is also so much to explore in Arches and you could spend days here or come back again and again. Who knows maybe over the years you will be witness to some of the erosion process!

And then it was off to hunt for DINOS! 

The Awsumb family at Delicate Arch in the 80's
Brian, Wendy, Jennie, Katie and Dennis