Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Fiesta with a Johnson Twist

We suspended this week's Friday Fiesta by the pool to do some visiting. Meilani went on a field trip to Grandma Christene's office and Mama went to go visit another new baby.

Christine and Chris Johnson had little Caleb Rodney this morning by C-Section. Christine has had many complications with her pregnancy so the beautiful, healthy Caleb was definitely a miracle. He was born at 8 lbs. 2 oz. and was happily breastfeeding within a few hours.

Christine looked great although she has a few more days in the hospital for healing. Chris is a proud daddy holding his boy and snapping photos. While Mama was visiting baby Caleb, Meilani enjoyed meeting all the friends at Grandma's work. She raced down the halls of the doctor's office and waved coy hellos to the cute old men in the lobby.

And now we're off to camping in Santa Barbara with Nana, Papa, Unc Paul & Auntie Michelle, and, of course, the famous dog, Buster. Stay tuned for new pics on Tuesday!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Meilani Makes a Lunch Delivery to Daddy & Dines with our Armenian Cousins

We are trying to visit Daddy at least once a week this school year to bring him lunch at school. He has a long lunch break and Meilani enjoys hanging out with the high schoolers. Tuesday we brought Ericlee his Turkey-Pita Burger and investigated his new cubby/office area at Fresno Christian School.
This year Daddy has a busy schedule teaching elementary school P.E., junior high pre-algebra and coaching high school sports. He is coaching cross country right now, then basketball and track & field in the spring with us. Meilani had fun negotiating the steps to the junior high classrooms. But she wasn't interested in math class. She wanted to go UP and DOWN the steps as many times as possible.
Tuesday evening some of Ericlee's cousins (his mom's first cousins) came to Fresno for visiting and dinner. We met them at a Mexican restaurant where Meilani was the entertainment for the evening. She danced a Mexican Hat Dance for her willing audience.
Meilani really enjoyed playing with cousin Jan who showed her peek-a-boo with a hat and brought her a special pop up book called RUFF! RUFF! Where's Scruff! Any book about dogs is definitely a hit with this little lady.
Meilani also made Grandma smile. She sat on Grandma's lap and helped herself to taco salad. Her favorite were the black beans and chicken. She even got a chip into the salsa and into her mouth before we noticed. "Hot,Hot,Hot" she announced her critique of the salsa.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Burger Bonanza: A Cooking Club with some Heat

Steam rose from the grill as the smells of sizzling burgers mixed with tangy vegetables and and sweet pineapple wafted through the air. Ericlee and Chris Johnson perched near the grill - ready with tools for flipping burgers and turning peppers, pineapple and zucchini. Meanwhile, the kitchen was abuzz with ladies gabbing and getting the rest of the meal ready, including two homemade salsas and a variety of "buns" for the burgers. The Burger Bonanza menu? Teriyaki Burgers on Whole Wheat Buns, Parmesan turkey burgers on pita bread, All-Beef mushroom burgers on buns, chips and homemade salsa, grilled peppers and zucchini and a surprise seasonal dessert.

This Saturday we hosted our Cooking Club. This collection of our friends, mostly married couples, gathers together monthly to cook and eat together. Each month we have a different theme, such as Spanish, Thai, Italian, Brunch, Super Bowl Bites, I Scream for Ice Cream or Crazy Casseroles. This time we focused on burgers and grilled sides.

Part of the fun of Cooking Club is all being in the same place at the same time. The girls especially loving catching up while we cook. This month the theme of conversation was babies. Susan Holman brought her new little one, Niana, to show off to the crowd. Marcy Pusey brought Corban who is just a few weeks old now. Stacie and Forest gave the special announcement that they are in the process of adopting a baby from Ethiopia. And the real surprise came from Mary and Antonio who announced they were pregnant. Yes, married 10 weeks, and 6 weeks pregnant!

New Daddy Jeremy (who belongs to Corban and Marcy) chatted in Spanish with Daddy-to-be Antonio. Meilani went swimming and checked out the two babies. She even cooked up a special smoothie in her own kid kitchen with Auntie Danna who made the drive all the way from San Jose for the Bonanza.
We swatted flies and downed a ferocious meal for carnivores (sorry to Forest who is on a vegan diet). The winner of the burger contest was the teriyaki burger (recipe at right) and we LOVED Mary & Antonio's spicy salsas. We rounded out the meal with roasted peaches topped with a pistachio cookie crumble. Bon Appetit!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Fiesta, Part 3: Meilani's Cleaning Frenzy

We started our Friday with a cleaning frenzy. For those of you who have ever lived with me, you know that there is one thing (and there aren't many) that inspires me to clean and that's a good party. In that way, our Friday Fiestas in our pool have been great inspiration to get to cleaning on Friday mornings. My new inspiration is also Meilani. We have discovered that she loves to clean. She swiffers. She sweeps. She wipes the floor, her high chair, her mouth. She even helps me with laundry. (Of course, sometimes that means unsorting the piles.)

She also helped prepare this week's special lunch, which included these star-shaped and seahorse-shaped watermelon. Meilani's job was taste testing all food items. We also made homemade pizza with a honey-wheat crust, cheese and veggie toppings. We even made our new favorite - berry lemonade sweetened with honey.

Today's swimming guests, included Josiah Ford, who is pictured here. He love, love, loves all Meilani's musical toys like this star stacker. What kid doesn't like playing with another friend's toys? Josiah was a pro in the pool, leading the rest of the crew in belly flops off the edge. He also threw the ball for Meilani. What a stud!

Gannon Ganzenhuber and his cousin, Esperanza, enjoyed their lunch after a hearty swim. They also made us a special dessert - S'more brownies decorated with chocolate teddy grahams, marshmallows and chocolate chips. They were so cute and yummy too!

The queen of the day was Bethany Ford who dutifully slept the ENTIRE time. She was not bothered at all by the screaming contest and splashing in the pool. She cuzzled up in her carrier and snoozed all afternoon, giving Mommy Beverly a nice break. We are so glad our friends could join us for another Friday Fiesta. Until next time...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Friends from Haiti return to Fresno

Our friends, Walquis and Gerby, have returned to Fresno from Haiti for another semester of school at Fresno Pacific University. (They were my English students when I lived in Haiti in 2002.) When they left Fresno a year and a half ago, we had no idea if they would be able to afford to return for another semester of training. The big surprise: the kids at Oak Hills Vacation Bible School raised the money this summer for air fare and schooling. Ericlee's mom attends Oak Hills church and they decided to raise money for Haiti for a mission project. Within a week, they had enough to fly Walquis and Gerby to Fresno and cover schooling. What an incredible blessing!

Meilani and I hung out at the pool with Walquis, Gerby and Grandpa Larry yesterday. I got to catch up on all the latest news on my friends in Haiti. It's hard to believe it's been almost two and half years since Ericlee and I were there. We have plans to return in March 2008. I know our friends are so anxious to meet Meilani and I can't imagine how big all the little ones are from our sports camp ministry.

Meilani was a bit shy around Walquis and Gerby at first but soon she was inviting Gerby into her baby "hot tub" and splashing him with water. They became fast friends.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Meilani's Milestones: Hello 15 months!

Now that we are back in Fresno and settling into a new season and new routine, we are noticing a lot of changes or milestones Meilani is making. She is no longer our little baby. Now she is our sprinting, babbling, climbing toddler and we are into a new phase of parenting. I thought I would share a few of her recent milestones, especially for our loved ones far away who don't get to see her on a regular basis.


-throwing a ball (That just happened on Saturday for the first time - much to Daddy's delight)

-climbing on chairs (especially in the kitchen where she sees Mama doing that to reach things on high shelves. Yes, they do parrot our every move.)

-talking a lot more (She copies words and beginning sounds and identifies many things like parts of the body, hot and cold, people like Grandma, Nana & Papa, Yes and NO with lips protruding.)

-negotiating stairs with no problem

-learning to feed herself with a spoon and fork (She usually gives up about halfway through a carton of yogurt and goes for the old hand dip but there is definite progress.)

-loving her baths (She is quite content to sit in there and play for hours - her favorite part? drinking the water - yech!)

-cleaning up after herself (She definitely has Daddy's genes. She especially likes sweeping the floor and mopping with a rag. The other day I caught her pouring water from her sippy cup onto the kitchen floor and then mopping it up with a bib. Go figure!)

-paging through books (She loves to find the animals in the pictures, especially dogs and cats. She always pauses to smell pages with flowers on them.)

-trying to long jump from a standing position (She puts her arms way back and sort of flops forward like Daddy taught her.)

-loving our pool (She definitely has no fear of water after a summer in the university pool with Daddy. She will jump off the side into my arms and has recently learn to blow bubbles - the first step of swimming.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Feeding Those Who Feed Us

On Saturday, we helped out with an outreach project through our church. About 50 volunteers from the Bridge took a little road trip to Madera to one of the migrant centers. As part of a program called FEEDING THOSE WHO FEED US, we helped reach out to the 40 migrant worker families who live in this community. This is the second year we participated in this project and this time my parents joined us in serving. Doctors and dentists offered medical help to the families in the afternoon. Our church gave out bags of groceries to each of the families and backpacks to the kids with school supplies.
Other volunteers led games and story time for the kids. The water competitions were a big hit with the little ones under the hot valley sun. Meilani made some new friends at the playground. One little boy let Meilani try out his tricycle. She was also fascinated by a soccer ball that she could not quite kick but she could pick up and pass to a patient little boy who let her play with him.
Meanwhile, I was in charge of the food for our meal to feed approximately 300 people. My friend Cori and I made the Mexican rice and we had chicken, beans and tortillas from a local grocery store. We served watermelon and cookies for dessert. My parents got in on serving the food. Mom got to use some of her Spanish. I got a taste of what it would be like to be a caterer. (It was fun but I much prefer my smaller dinner parties to cooking for this quantity.)
After dinner, a dance group from a local Hispanic church did a performance and their pastor shared. My favorite moment of the day was giving out clothes to a young mother and her two daughters. Our church had collected some items and several bags of clothes and linens were left at the end of the day. The two girls came to me and politely asked in Spanish if they could look through the bags. I helped them as the laughed and squealed with delight at their new clothes and a Hawaiian print comforter for their bed. They could not believe the items were free. It felt like Christmas in August.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Fiesta, Part 2: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

We hosted our second Friday Fiesta today at our pool. The party included four Meadors girls, three Schultz girls and two Gilmore girls. In this photo, Alexandra Meadors & Meilani play in our makeshift hot tub just outside the big pool.
Here is a good cry from Meilani who wants to be outside of the gate with her friends instead of inside the gate with Mama who is setting up lunch. We enjoyed a feast of quesadillas (for the kids, tacos (for the mommies), cantaloupe, chips and bean dip and strawberry-grapefruit lemonade. We made an upside down cobbler with a recipe compliments of Auntie Michelle Lazo. We used white peaches and plums for our cobbler and there were even leftovers for Daddy.
Ruthie Meadors flashes her dazzling smile for the camera. She is the smiliest baby we know! She is 6 months now and so happy-go-lucky. She loved splashing Meilani and she would giggle with delight. She was totally content to watch her older sisters and friends as they basked in the sun and rolled themselves up like burritos in their towels. Meilani is definitely getting to see lots of *little* babies lately and learning what it is like to be a big girl.Meilani and Addison played with the Little People circus after a good swim and a yummy lunch. Tessa Schultz tried out our mini rocking chair. Ranging in age from 4 years to 6 months, the six girls actually got along well. Meilani enjoyed having some girl time and the older ones especially showed her how to play with her toys in a whole new way. Georgie Meadors, the oldest of the girls today, gives instructions to the younger girls on how to make soup out of curly ribbon in the kid kitchen for the daddies. After all this excitement, Meilani went down for a good, long afternoon nap. We are so thankful for our friends in Fresno. TGIF!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Luau Lunch for A New Baby & Friends

Yesterday we took a "luau lunch" on the road and delivered it to new baby Delia, her big sister Ella and my friend and college roommate, Jen VanderMeulen. They live in Escalon - about a 2-hour drive from our house - so we made it a road trip. Meilani gazed outside at the farmland of Central California and Mama had some good thinking and phone time to catch up with friends.
When we arrived, we served up our "luau lunch," which included an Asian cabbage salad, pineapple juice cocktails with neon-colored straws, banana-macadamian-nut bread, Fruitaboos for the kids and a peanut butter-chocolate pie for dessert. We served the lunch on Hawaiian party plates from Meilani's birthday party and brought along our leis and grass skirt for the festivities.
Baby Delia, who is now one month old, was sooo sweet with her round, kissable cheeks and her delicate skin. Meilani learned how to "gently" touch the baby. She was fascinated by Delia's tongue and toes. She looked very much like a baby doll Ella carries around.
Meilani (now 14 months) and Ella (2 years) had their usual rip-roarin' time, hauling out all the toys Ella has from her older friends. They had out the dress-up things, the Little People, the kitchen stuff and even had a hula dance on the coffee table. Of course, the best part was Auntie Jen reading alphabet books to Meilani and Ella while Auntie Dorina got to hold Baby Delia and coo and sing to her.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Meilani takes Papa to Fig Fest

Today we indulged in one of Fresno's features: fresh produce from local farms. Meilani and I took my dad to the Fig Fest, an annual event at our neighborhood farmer's market. This festival showcases the valley's fresh figs. About 15 local restaurants showed off their best fig recipes, including everything from melt-in-your-mouth chocolate fig truffles to chicken wings with tangy fig barbeque sauce. Tasters get to vote on their favorites and then enter to win gift certificates at local restaurants. They even had a live jazz band.
After our fig extravaganza, we headed to the farmer's market right next to the big tent to stock up on some of the local produce we missed so much when we were in Virginia. We stopped by to see our friend Rebecca from Torosian Farms. She gave us a bag of gi-normous peaches, nectarines and champagne grapes for Meilani.
We also scored some poblano peppers for this week's enchiladas, heirloom tomatoes for BLT sandwiches and some red onions for broccoli salad. The find of the day was raw milk, which was on Ericlee's list. He's been reading a book about healthy living and raw milk (unhomogenized and unpasteurized) is packed with important nutrients our bodies need. This milk is safe for lactose intolerant folks (like me) and helps combat allergies and asthma for kids Meilani's age. Meilani loved the lady wearing the cow costume who was helping promote the milk.

Overall, we had a fabulous Fresno outing. And the real goal was keeping Meilani and Papa busy while Ericlee and Nana were home working on their teacher preparations for school starting next week.

Friday is for Fiesta!

We decided to start a new Friday tradition - at least for the month of August. We are inviting our Fresno friends to join us for Friday Fiestas in our pool. After a summer of swimming at Hollins University in Virginia with Daddy, Meilani is a big fan of the pool in our very own backyard. Mostly my friends showed up today - Mary, Susan, Christine and Laura. Susan brought her new baby Niana (Knee-ah-na) but she's still a little too sleepy to play with Meilani. She's in that eat, sleep, poop, and then eat again stage of life. So hard to understand for a 14-month-old who is ready to conquer the world.
Meilani was VERY excited about the little baby Niana who had on a matching outfit. She was especially fascinated by the little toes and the little lamb cry. Meilani kept trying to share food and toys with 3-week-old Niana but she wasn't really getting any love. Christine's baby boy is coming August 31st so Meilani is still holding out for him.
The best part about Baby Niana (in Meilani's eyes) is that she's willing to share her mommy. Auntie Susan took time to read Meilani a few books and tickle her on the couch so Auntie Dorina could remember what it feels like to hold a newborn.

See y'all next Friday for the fiesta!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Meilani's First Bout with Baseball

Last night our friends, the Toslands, invited us to the Grizzlies baseball game. The biggest lure was the cooler temperatures we've been experiencing the last few days after the record highs last week. And, of course, Meilani wanted to see her friend Isaiah.

We enjoyed catching up with Josh and Amy while the kids ran around. We probably talked more than we actually watched the game. (This is not your Chicago Cubs...) Josh and Amy are expecting their second baby in September (hopefully August) we got to hear about their summer and plans for a new little one.

Meilani and Isaiah loved giving each other high fives much to their coaching daddies delight. They squealed with laughter each time they "fived." Next we teach them to "hit the fist."

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Indulging in the best of California

This weekend we breathed a sigh of relief to be home in our own house, cooking in our kitchen, sleeping in our bed and indulging in all the things we love about California.

Meilani spent the day in her bathing suit. On Saturday, Grandma Chris brought us lunch and we all enjoyed our warm-as-bath-water pool. Our friend, Rob Foshee, has been cleaning our pool and keeping it sparkling while we were in Virginia. August is the best time for enjoying it.

We really missed our grill when we were in Virginia. We never realized how much we used the grill (summer & winter) until we had to do without one for seven weeks. Saturday night we decided to have both sets of parents over for a summer meal on the patio.

Mom and Dad Lazo brought some steaks. Mom Karlyn made her famous Armenian pilaf. We grilled corn and red peppers and made a green salad with strawberries, almonds and a balsamic vinaigerette. Dorina used fresh peaches and blueberries from a friend's garden to make peach-blueberry cobbler. This was California cuisine at its best. We felt like we were in Sunset magazine.

Mom and Dad Lazo brought us gifts from their life-changing mission trip to Rwanda - a scarf and purse for Dorina, a mini purse and apron for Meilani and a hand-carved wooden turtle for Ericlee. They also brought a hand-dyed table cloth and napkins for the whole family. The work of the Rwandan women is absolutely beautiful and adds to our world-themed house decorations.

On Sunday, we were thrilled to be back at our home church at The Bridge for some rockin' worship and a great message by Pastor Scott. Of course, it's always good to experience new churches and explore other cities but it sure makes coming home that much sweeter!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

How Sweet it Is: Home Sweet Fresno

How sweet it is to be home!
We arrived at the Fresno airport at 2:30 a.m. We plane hopped from Rocky Mount to Raleigh, from Raleigh to Las Vegas, and then from Vegas to home. We were greeted at the airport at this ungodly hour by the grandparents holding homemade signs made with glitter and markers. Really, the signs were for Meilani. Yes, she really is spoiled! And so are we. Mom and Dad Lazo stocked our fridge and made our beds. What a wonderful welcome home after two months of traveling. We're working on our jet lag now...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Slip Slidin' Away: The Gilmores visit North Carolina

Last night we arrived in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to visit Ericlee's cousins. Sean, Amy, and their son, Whitaker, extended a warm welcome. They took us to Mario's Italian restaurant. The adults enjoyed a deluxe pizza and the kids shared a plate of good, messy spaghetti with meat sauce.

Today, Amy and Whitaker took us for a bike ride through their neighborhood on all the "secret sidewalks." After lunch we headed for a little water park near their house. Meilani and Whitaker went down the triple slide together.

Whitaker is 4 - going on 5 - and we've decided it's the perfect age spread between kids. He is doing such a great job showing Meilani the ropes and taking care of her so she doesn't get hurt and make too many messes. They splashed together in the sprinklers at the park.

After the adventures in the water, we rode the train (Whitaker's favorite activity) and the merry-go-round. Meilani got to pick out her own horse and this time it actually moved up and down (not like the one in the mall in Roanoke). She galloped on the white horse and Daddy helped hold her in the saddle.

We headed home for an afternoon nap. Cousin Sean (aka the favorite cousin) joined us after work for dinner. Amy and Sean made us a wonderful summer meal with grilled chicken, pasta and veggies from the garden. After dinner, Whitaker got out his new Slip 'n' Slide - bought with his very own money on sale at Target. Meilani jumped onto the Slip 'n' Slide with her clothes on and started off the fun slip slidin' away.
The two kids squealed with delight as the water splashed over them and the dads dragged them down the runway. The four adults loved watching them and hanging out on the patio. What a great way to spend a steamy hot day in North Carolina.