Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Break

Christmas break is nearing its end. I'm happy, though, about how many fun Christmasy things we were able to do since returning from Mexico.

We went ice skating three times (Portia went twice and is learning slowly, but Bianca really flies around the rink and she's working on twirls now) at the South Jordan free rink. You can't beat the price!

I took the girls skiing up at Brighton on the bring-nonperishable-goods-and-we'll-give-you-a-$20-lift-ticket day. Santa was even skiing around on his skis. Portia went to the all-day ski school while Bianca and I rode all over the mountain. This is the first time I've opted not to put Bianca in lessons and to see if she's ready to go without. I was shocked that she was able to go so fast. I'm impressed with how good she is! This is awesome too because SkiUtah did a fifth-grade pass where fifth-graders could ski free three times at each of Utah's ski resorts. Yay!!! It was snowing really hard though but we muscled through it.

Bianca and I stopped at the restaurant to share a huge plate of nachos and have hot chocolate. We also bought a couple cookies from a girl who was selling them "for a good cause." Bianca started eating a cookie before lunch. I looked at her and said, "Bianca, what are you doing?"

She responded with, "Well, I thought you were my snowboarding buddy so. . ."

"Yeah, well, I'm still your mom first."

Bianca and I stopped over on the bunny slope to see how Portia was doing. I was a little disconcerted when I went to pick Portia up at 3:30 when Portia told me, "I fell off the ski lift." I didn't understand at first, surely she meant she fell down when skiing down the ramp. But no, she actually fell off the ski lift. I thought a teacher should be keeping her safe. I'm just glad she didn't get hurt.

I want to make an effort to get us on the mountain more. It is a lot of work to get out all the ski stuff, pack the car, put all the stuff on, do the skiing, take half the stuff off, pack the car, take the rest off, hang it all up so it can dry, then put it all away. I'm tired just remembering it.

The rest of the two weeks is a blur of messy house, clutter everywhere, wrapping paper and scissors and tape strewn about. But the girls had a great Christmas morning. I decided to adopt the Santa-only-brings-stockings idea at my house from now on. This is how they do it in England with Father Christmas only bringing stockings. Then Mom and Dad bring three presents each, to represent the Wise Men bringing three gifts to Jesus. I had themes for each gift. Bianca had (1) creating things--crochet and knitting kits, with a gift card to Hobby Lobby to buy more yarn; (2) music--this year Bianca asked for a guitar; (3) exercise--a Zipfy sled that steers. Now if only we could get some snow already. Portia got (1) better sleep--a Minky, a koala pillow pet and an "alive" koala; (2) art supplies--lots of them; (3) exercise--a walrus sled. Again, where's the snow? I got some cozy slippers and a whip-cream maker from Williams Sonoma.

We had church for an hour and then headed off to Bruce and Joanie's with our Bread Pudding Quiche topped with raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and bacon. It was so good! Bruce and Joanie gave the kids an aromatherapy bear and monkey, to Bianca and Portia respectively, which I'm hoping to snag once Portia loses interest. It smells of mint and lavendar and can be microwaved to get them warm. Here's Portia loving her monkey up.

We spent all day laying around (I believe each of the moms got a much-needed nap in the afternoon), playings games, snacking, and visiting. I love our Christmases with the Quigleys!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Preschool Christmas Program

Portia's preschool's Christmas program was last week. They do a recap of a lot of the songs and poems they learn the first part of the year. It astounds me how very many songs and poems these little children can remember. This year, the kids get a weekly French lesson by Madame Danielle. Here is a song they learned in French class.

They sang Jumbo Elephant.

They also sang Suzie Snowflake, played the bells for Jingle Bells, among other things. Here is Portia with her teacher Miss Melissa.

Here are two of Portia's friends from preschool, Naomi and Shelby.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Concert

When I was in high school, my band director Mr. B. asked me to play the bells for a couple songs for a concert that had a bell part. Probably he picked me because I could play the piano and it converted over nicely to the bells and although I'm not proud to admit it, I really was dispensable on the flute. But because I had to stand up and walk back and forth between the two instruments, I got a new dress for the occasion. For me, this was a big deal. I remember it clearly and can still see the floral-printed, ruffly dress in my memory. I still remember the banana clip I wore my curly permed hair in that night.

Last week was Bianca's elementary school orchestra's Christmas Concert. Bianca decided she would play double bass for the songs that had a separate bass line (not the same as the cellos) and she would play viola for the songs that did.

Here's Bianca playing bass in a Christmas medley.

Next is one of my favorite Christmas songs that you don't often hear. It's supposed to sound like the camels traveling across the desert on the journey to see the baby Jesus. Bianca's plucking (as opposed to bowing as she was on the first video) on double bass here.

Then Bianca played a solo on her viola of "I Wonder as I Wander."

Bianca had her friend Hayle spend the night after the concert. We stopped at Menchie's for frozen yogurt on our way home, which is a tradition that my parents started to stop for ice cream after a concert or special performance. Here are the girls at Menchie's.

Strangely, this black-and-white dress is a Christmas dress from like four years ago Bianca chose because they were supposed to wear black and white. Yes, that's my ten-year-old daughter wearing a size six dress. Remarkably, it still fits. She is small, which makes the fact that she plays the double bass even funnier. But still, this is a far cry from the special new dress I got for my concert, but hey, that's what she chose to wear.


I was driving carpool a week ago and was singing along with a Steve Miller song that was playing on the radio. As I sang, "I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker," the little girl Ava who I take to preschool with Portia gasped.

I quickly turned to her and explained, "No, I'm not really a smoker. I'm just singing along with this song."

Portia chimed in, "But my dad's a smoker."

I turned to Portia and said, "No, he's not, Portia. Your dad isn't a smoker."

"Yes, he is," she replied. "He smoked a turkey on Thanksgiving."

I hate to think of the other things that get misinterpreted. Gotta love innocent children!

Monday, December 19, 2011


The final stretch the ship had to travel back to port was a little rocky. Bianca got a little seasick, but slept it off with an afternoon nap. On the first night, they had family karaoke. Bianca sang 3 songs (one with her dad) and Eric sang some '80's metal song with the real band. Susannah and I even sang an '80's Madonna song, Crazy for You. Because we have a very similar voice, it made me feel that it wasn't really me singing.

 We had sea days on the Friday and Saturday so there were a lot of fun activities for the kids and us too. We discovered tea time at three, where the servers dressed in tuxedos and they served little tea cakes and treats. Mom and I did tea both days. Eric and Bianca joined us on Friday.

Eric played trivia a couple of times. I mostly read out on the deck.  Portia's age group had a pirate day one time. More face paint. She loves this.

Bianca's age group did scavenger hunts around the ship and they made t-shirts. In fact, Bianca made a really good friend her age, named Jocelyn, from right here in Utah. They ran around the boat together the entire last day.

We had the last elegant night, so we all dressed up one last time.

We were surprised to find our towel creation that night. Here's Portia after we found the monkey hanging from our ceiling:

With all the excitement of being out to sea and the warm weather, it was difficult to remember that it was December and as such, Christmas season. Every once in a while, we'd run into a Christmas tree on the ship but not often.

On Friday, they actually had a Christmas show with the kids from Camp Carnival doing a couple of things. Bianca's age had prepared a dance routine. Bianca did it, even though she's not so fond of dancing. Portia's age group wore reindeer antlers and sat on the stage while the narrator told a Christmas story. One of the ship's dancers took a liking to Portia and had Portia sit in her lap the entire time. After the show, they even created snow on the ship using bubbles that fell from the very top all the way down all the ten levels of the ship. Now we have snow in Utah. A lot. But it's amazing how extremely excited Portia was to see it snowing on the ship. I don't think she caught a snowflake in her mouth, thankfully, although she'd given it her best shot.

All good things must come to an end. I was actually done by the seventh and final day. Portia said she thought we should live on the boat forever, but I was  ready to head home. We disembarked in the morning on Sunday and began our 10-hour-drive home. Fortunately, we didn't run into any real snow so the drive was wonderfully uneventful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Doorways of Puerto Vallarta

I thought it'd be a fun project to take pictures of doorways and doors in Puerto Vallarta to make my experience (and photos) a little more unique. Both girls were on board at the beginning.

Here are some doors at the cathedral. First, the tiniest door (I'm pretty sure this is a tithing or donation compartment):

Next, is another small door, although a little larger than the first. It didn't actually open.

This next doorway looks right into the cathedral where people are sitting and worshipping. Wow, it's beautiful!

After we left the cathedral, we just stopped in front of random buildings and houses.

Halfway through my doorway project, when Bianca's smiles started turning into sneers from too much picture taking, I decided to carry on with Portia only.  At four, there's much less attitude.

This one is probably my favorite door of the day. I love the wooden door behind the wrought iron gate with carved fish in it.

These next two look very similar, but they're not the same.

I love this little heart door with the red-and-white surround. It would make a nice Valentine's Day card.

This one might be my very favorite. Inside the wrought iron was an abandoned shop:

The most decrepit door of the day. It was boarded over with corrugated tin. This one was in the jungle.

I love this one of Bianca because it was the doors to a girl's school and we even captured a cute Mexican schoolgirl waiting on the steps. Bianca's only a little surly in this photo.

This door was huge. Another of my favorites.

I'm going to include one last door. It's one you've seen already, but I love this picture because it actually captures my 10-year-old Bianca who sometimes seems like she doesn't need me anymore loving me up.  I'll take what I can get.

Puerto Vallarta

When we awoke on Thursday morning and the ship was docked at Puerto Vallarta, I didn't think it was anything special. Not like the first glimpse of Cabo San Lucas. We didn't have a plan. So we got off the ship and went for a van ride with "Hector" in his white van.

Our first stop was Wal-Mart Mexico where Eric was trying to find the "cane sugar" Cokes. Because it was all in Spanish, we couldn't read the ingredients on the can and the poor Wal-Mart worker must have thought we were a bunch of crazy Americans trying to know whether there was sugar in a Coke. Whether it was made with sugar or not, I got a Coke. Bianca bought a cool Mohito Squirt, which I wished I'd gotten. It was amazing.

After that, Hector took us to a catholic cathedral.

We walked down to the beach from there. Bianca had to use the bathroom so we learned a little Spanish "Banos, por favor." The bar by the beach didn't mind. The Burger King later, however, when Portia had to go said we had to buy something before we could use the banos. We'd have to wait. We wandered up the beach, visited a marketplace, and made our way back to Hector in the van.

Next, Hector took us for a quick stop at a jewelry store where they didn't mind letting us use the banos. Then we went higher up in the city to see some scenic views. Wow, this city is picturesque!

 Here are mom and Eric:

Our next stop was at the jungle. There was a restaurant there but we didn't eat. In fact, the entire day, no one even mentioned food at all. Not even Portia. We really had been eating way too much on the ship. In the jungle, we just explored. A lot. Most of us (even those in tennis shoes) got our feet wet trying to walk across the stones in the river.

I love this tree trunk. It looks like it could wake up any moment and slither away.

Bianca with her cousins, Ethan and Aidan. 
There was plenty of dueling with their walking sticks.

There were even some parrots there.

Our last stop was the beach. The kids played in the water and Bianca got her hair done while sitting on the beach. We bought a handkerchief dress for Bianca and a swan ring. Portia didn't ask for anything except for water to splash through. She definitely got that.

Surprisingly, Puerto Vallarto was my very favorite place on the trip.