Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gilmores celebrate an early Christmas in Fresno with Mom & Larry

We celebrated Christmas a week early with Ericlee's parents this year to allow for some travel time. Nama Chris prepared a fabulous Armenian American dinner for us complete with her famous pilaf, kufta and souberag. After dinner we dug into the mountain of presents Mom spoiled us with. I made Grandma this special photo cube for her desk to hold memos and pictures.

Meilani ripped into her first (and most exciting) present, which was a set of twin dolls. Now Meilani girl can mother her babies just like mama takes care of Giada and Nathanael. The babies came with a crib, car seat carrier, seat for the table, front carrier and several sets of clothes. Such fun!

Giada mostly enjoyed tearing through the paper and eating the bows but she did take notice of a few gifts like her first Bible from Nama.

Daddy Santa enjoyed a night of reading his new sports book and the little testament.

Meilani and Grandpa bonded over a new food-making Play-doh set. Grandpa totally dug his new U2 360 CD. We were very blessed by some family time together with just the six of us.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas in Community: Traditions for little ones

This year we tried to incorporate some new traditions and old traditions to celebrate the season with our girls. We started out by following an advent calendar. In my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group at church we made a special advent calendar with envelopes for our kids to open every day for the four weeks before Christmas. We hung a felt Christmas tree on our refrigerator and each day Meilani opened an envelope, which contained a felt ornament that symbolized a different part of scripture. She really looked forward to opening the envelopes and reading the Bibles stories as a family as we anticipated the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve.

Our traditions also included going out to Cobbs Ranch and cutting down a tree. Meilani's favorite part of Christmas decorating is setting up the nativity scenes. She helps with Nana Maria's collection and this year she helped with our (breakable) one. She loves arranging all the people and making up stories about how they all arrive at Bethlehem. One afternoon I found her on the kitchen floor with our (kids) nativity pieces piled inside trucks and cars in a long parade. I asked her what she was doing. "Mom, the nativity are riding in their hybrids to Bethlehem." If only Mary would have had that option.

Giada loved all the Christmas wrap and bows. She also marveled at each and every ornament she could get her hands on. She experiences the world through her sense of taste right now. We giggled at her *tasting* the ornaments and made sure to put the breakable ones up high.

We also started a tradition my sister did through the years with her kids. We wrapped all of our Christmas books and then starting December 1st each night before bed we would open one and read it together. Since I'm such a lover of kids picture books this was a real joy for me to share with my girls.

Giad even got in on the action of opening some of the books. She has taken a real interest in books lately and loves to page through them herself. We may just have another reader on our hands!

This year we continued several family traditions. We extended our usual Walk Down Christmas Tree Lane in Fresno to five of the families we are closest to through our church. We hosted a Soup & Salad party at our house before hand. Everyone brought something to share and we stocked up on hot beverages before heading out for the walk together. What fun to have all these little ones in the same buzzing house!

I'm posing here with my friend Brandy Freeland. I actually have known her a few years through other moms but we had the chance to travel to Haiti together this summer and all those bumpy truck rides cemented our friendship. She is the mama of five and married to Nathan. Their family has been a gift to us as we continue to journey through life here in Fresno. We especially appreciate their heart for adoption and the needy. They have a daughter, Aeniah, who is Meilani's age and adopted from Russia. The Freelands have encouraged us as we are pursuing adoption from Haiti.

Meilani loves hanging out with the Freeland five. Here she poses with Ashton, who has a special heart for my girls. He loves playing with Giada and taking Meilani under his wing. He's like a big brother to her.

The other families included the Fords, the Vasquezes, the Puseys, the Schmidts and the Benedicts. We are so blessed by a community of friends who are like-minded and raising their children in ways we admire. Meilani rode in a wagon with her friend Josiah Ford and oohed and ahhed at the lights. How these two have grown since last year!

Our double jogger was awfully popular - even with the older kids who kept switching and pushing each other in it. Meilani and Giada (our social butterfly girls) loved being surrounded by so many friends.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sixth Annual Cooking Club Christmas party goes Green

This past weekend we hosted our 6th Annual Cooking Club Christmas Party. There are 10 families in our group and we meet monthly to cook, eat and fellowship together. Our annual Christmas party is the only "adults only" event of the year. This year the theme was a "Green Christmas" and we tried for a menu full of local and organic specialties.

Our past Christmas party themes have included Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Mediterranean and French cuisine. I had a tough time brainstorming a new type of food our group has not tackled before. Then I thought of a very obvious choice: Our family has been on a healthy living journey for the past couple of years. We've spent a lot of time changing our lifestyle to avoid processed foods and incorporate healthy choices like local and organic fruits and vegetables and even meat. This theme seemed natural for us.

Dorina Gilmore, Cori Schmidt, Shawna Thiessen, Christine Johnson
Stacie Benedict, Brandy Freeland, Allison Vasquez, Mary Andrade
Susan Holman & Marcy Pusey

Our menu included:
Sleigh Driver Punch
Organic Spicy Greens, Fuyu persimmons, Feta cheese
Sweet potato and Red Onion Galette
Oven-roasted Butternut Squash with Garlic & Parsley
Pomegranate Beef served over Quinoa
Upside-down Gingerbread with Cinnamon Whipped Cream
Enjoy the recipes!

The fun part was we bought most of our ingredients at the local farmer's market or gathered them up from our own gardens or local farms.

Susan and Antonio get props for tackling the toughest job - prepping the butternut squash.

Stacie is always a wonderful sous chef. You can put her to work on anything. She helped this time peeling pears for our Pear Gingerbread dessert. This one surprised us and stole the show. We all were scrambling for seconds.

Nathan, Forest and Chris helped with setting the table and, of course, chipped in with clean-up along with the other men. Meanwhile, the ladies snuck in a few rounds of Scattergories.

All the guests brought new or used cookbooks wrapped in something recycled. This is our second year bringing cookbooks. It's not surprise that the girls get really competitive with this gift exchange. There is a certain strategy to getting the cookbook you want when your man is sitting next to you.

Nathan & Brandy stole the much-coveted subscription to Eating Well magazine in a recycled lunch bag.

Troy & Allison somehow pulled off taking home three cookbooks.

Cori & Darrel scored the vintage French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child. Bon appetit!

Ericlee and I enjoyed a grand evening celebrating local food and community. Ericlee asked each person to share one specific way God has blessed them in 2009. We were blessed to hear all the stories of God's provision, new jobs, new babies and more.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Christmas carols: A sign of the Season

One of our favorite signs of the Christmas season is the Christmas music we hear everywhere. We have been singing Christmas carols each night with our girls since November to gear up for the caroling. Meilani's Preschool Sunday School class performed at our church the first Sunday in December. She diligently practiced the songs for weeks.

Meilani has become increasingly brave about singing on the stage. Her first year she was struck with stage fright and just stared at the people. The second year she eeked out a few words after much prompting from mama. This year, she led the line for her class and belted out the words for "Joy to the World," "Silent Night" and "While by My Sheep" (complete with the Baa-baa from the sheep).

In her mothering way, Meilani also showed great concern for helping her friend Mia get on stage with her own paper sheep. It was very sweet and they both got in some baa-baa-baas just in time. We're all ready for Christmas caroling on Christmas Eve with the family.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Girls Night Out: A New Christmas Tradition

This Christmas Ericlee and I have been brainstorming ways to make our giving more intentional. For our kids, we are starting a "Three Gifts" tradition. Just as the three kings or Magi brought three gifts to Jesus, we plan to share three gifts with our girls. Looking around our office/playroom and digging in our closets, it's clear these girls don't really *need* any more toys or clothes.

Meilani, our 3-year-old, is a quality time girl. She feels special and loved when we intentionally spend time with her. This fall I have been offering childcare for two additional children besides my own. This means Meilani shares my attention and helps out a lot. I decided we needed our first "Christmas Girls Night Out." My friend Allison scored us $10 tickets to the Nutcracker Suite Ballet in downtown Fresno. We dressed in our best "ballerina" fancy outfits and headed out for a night on the town. Meilani just loved all the music and sets. She sat on my lap and together we noticed the nuances of the costumes and the sounds of different instruments. She's been dancing the whole month long like the Sugar Plum Fairies.

We saw our friend Mia at the ballet. After the show, the girls twirled and twirled in their matching fancy dresses. This was Meilani's first special gift celebrating time together with mama instead of more "stuff."