Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Letter '09

Merry Christmas to all!

Al Gore has asked me to send out our Christmas letter electronically this year...either that or I don't think our friends and family are worth the price of a stamp....you decide. We've enjoyed receiving all kinds of letters from you, everyone seems to be doing very well. And you could add us to the list of those who are richly blessed. We live a fantastic life. Here's a quick update on our stellar family, try not to be too jealous of us. (Also remember that I tend to exaggerate).

Abby, 5, is the princess of our home. She sings, dances, and then demands that we do what she says. If she weren't so darn cute, we'd say 'no'. But Daddy's little girl gets what she wants. She's becoming a fan of pop music and has even memorized lyrics from such talented artists as Hannah Montana and Taylor Swift. Unfortunately Abby's voice hasn't quite matched her skill of memorization. The howling dogs and coyotes can attest to my opinion. She also started taking piano lessons this year from her Grandma Foster. And despite my protests, Abby has joined a cheer leading squad that correlates with Caleb's basketball league. I'm sure I deserve having a daughter as a cheerleader, I was just hoping the God would punish me in other ways, like being burned at the stake or living during a famine. But Abby is very happy and growing into a wonderful young lady.

Caleb, 7, is our nearly perfect son. Years ago, when we were trying to have kids and I was dreaming of what my son would be like, Caleb was exactly what I was dreaming about. He continues to love sports, playing soccer, baseball and basketball. We play together all the time at home until it gets dark or I fall over, which ever comes first. We've also been catching a lot of the minor league, college, and high school sports that are played in Spokane. Caleb's in 1st grade and loves school and all that it entails. He loves riding the bus, school work, lunch time, reading, teasing girls, and of course recess. His new found love this year is reading, he's probably read more books already than I had through all high school. He lays in bed each night reading before falling asleep. I've even checked on him an hour after he's gone to bed and he was still reading. Mon and I couldn't be more proud of both our kids.

Monica keeps our house afloat. Our kids' success in school and other activities, is because of her efforts. Plus without her, Caleb and Abby would be getting really tired of frozen pizza and canned raviolis. Aside from all she does for us at home, Mon's business continues to stay strong. I joke that she's making us rich $.75 at a time, but for a business that was started from scratch, she has built an amazing company with her website, message board, and subscription services. http://www.transparenttouches.com/ is her passion and being able to do it from home makes it a perfect fit. In her business travels this last year, Mon has bumped into several C-list celebrities this year including Alfonso Riberio (from the TV show 'Fresh Prince of Bel air"), Joey Fatone (from the pop music group 'NSYNC), and Paris Hilton (why is she famous again?). Kinda strange we know, but growing up in Medford and Spokane, this was very exciting for us.

What about me? Thanks for asking....I'm still a nurse... blah..blah... Dad...blah...blah.. Husband...blah..like sports... blah..blah... third nipple...read a lot..blah..blah..and I love to work around our house. That basically sums me up.

Though I've been slacking as of late, we try to keep our friends/family updated with our family blog. Everyone is welcome to visit http://www.jailfreewallacefamily.blogspot.com/ and stay posted on our adventures. We hope this message finds all of you full of happy thoughts and laughter.

Merry Christmas from the Wallaces

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sports time

I've been catching a lot of slack for not updating the family blog. But I'm getting back on the horse...or is it the bandwagon?...whatever it is that I'm suppose to get on..I'm on it!!! That didn't sound right either.
Sports!! I love sports, and both Caleb, 7 and Abby, 5 are getting there fill of sports these days. We've tried to take advantage of living in the 'big city' by following the local teams. There are teams that most of you outside Spokane have never heard of, but to Caleb, the best player on Spokane Chiefs Hockey team might as well be Wayne Gretzky.
The downside? Every team has some sort of cheerleader or dance team, and it's those dancing chicks in short skirts that seem to make the biggest impact on Abby. Shortly after high school (when I did love watching the cheerleaders), my brother and I both agreed that cheerleading should have no part of sporting events, they're just a nuisance really. And I also feel that it's a little degrading to women to have them wear their skimpy outfits and jump up and down in front of the crowds....oh, I sound so mean, I know. And because of my cruel thoughts, how has karma paid me back? It made my daughter fall in love with the idea of being a cheerleader...now that's mean! What's happened to my brother, you ask? He's only parented boys thus far, but how sweet would it be if one of those boys was a cheerleader? Sorry bro.
This winter, we even decided to let Monica join us for a sporting event and invited her to come to a hockey game with us. She was a good-luck-charm for the team though, not only did they score six goals (free Chalupas for everyone!!), but one player scored three goals for the first hat-trick on the team in years!
Basketball season is now upon us and Caleb and we have some sweet systems when watching local high school teams. Remember that my love for sports is quickly followed by my love to not spend money. We either try and get in the gym during the J.V. game, avoiding having to pay, or use other methods of free admission (which may or may not include Caleb walking past the ticket window as a little innocent boy and running to the other side of the gym and opening the door for pops!)

Abby "cheering" at a Lady Gonzaga game. My idea of showing her that girls can play the sports too backfired after she was given these pom poms.

I think Wayne Gretzky is down there playing?

Great looking fam!..celebrating free Chalupas from Taco Bell

At a minor league baseball game last summer

Monday, November 2, 2009

Safety Second

As an ICU nurse, I catch a little slack from docs and nurses about letting my kids ride there 4-wheeler and motorcycle, but I don't think I'd have it any other way. I won't bore anyone with my opinion of our "safety first" society and how it's smothering our own kids' confidence as well as there sense of adventure, but please note, I'm not in agreement. I'm more of a "laugh-first, safety-second Dad.

The new ride this summer is the Honda CRX 50. I bought it off Craigslist last Christmas for a smokin' deal, but it took me about 8 months to get it running (remember that I am a nurse). Caleb has taken to the motorcycle with a lot of excitement, and it's been a fairly easy transition from his 4-wheeler. It only took a couple times of falling over to remember when he stops, the needs to put his feet on the ground.
Abby has been wanting to ride the 4 wheeler for a couple years now, but this summer was the first time that we let her drive around without me running behind her. She does a great job and is loving every second. Her biggest challenge is when the camera comes out, she's more interested in posing for the photo rather then watching where she's going (see video).

Some videos from Wallace Park

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kneebording summer

Our typical day at the lake started by doing some yard maintenance then heading out on the boat. As good parents, we let the kids play first, but that meant we had to bring out the dreaded tubes. I realize that for most people, tubes are a blast. They're easy to ride, can be a ton of fun, and require no teaching/learning. But for those of us who frequent the lake a lot, tubes can also be a total drag (get it?) They hog up time and gas, all the kids want to ride them going slightly faster than a walking pace, and frankly it's boring to watch.

The last month of the summer I heard a friend of mine explain that had the same feelings about tubes and had made the rule on his boat that his kids had to do anything else, whether is being wake boarding, knee boarding or even just dragged behind the boat with only a rope, all before the tube riding began. It was great idea and I gave it life on our boat and it worked like a charm.

Not only did the kids love to knee board, but the last few times this summer, we didn't even bring the tubes with us...blissful times. Here's the proof

And video evidence

So. Cal Day 7: Disneyland

We spent the last day of our trip mostly at Disneyland. It was on a Tuesday during the off season and again we were blessed with relative short lines. We were at the gates before they opened and we stayed until the park closed (which is earlier than during the summer). We even made a quick trip back over to California Adventure to catch the Pixar Parade and some of our favorite rides. We were able to get on every ride in the park that the kids wanted, and even some that they didn't want. Here are some quick highlights.
*Abby got to spend more time with her Princess friends. I'm pretty sure she thinks that most of them are real. It's hard to tell. But one thing is for sure, she loves looking at the likes of Snow White and Tinker-bell.

*Caleb's favorite ride of the day was Thunder Mountain. It's a wild roller-coaster with a train theme. There was no line at all, we rode it 5-6 times in a row while the girls were admiring the princesses. During one of the rides on Thunder Mountain, Caleb kept dropping his head over like he was retching. I was trying to ask him if he was OK, but with the bumpy ride we weren't able to communicate very well. Finally after a few minutes of me worried that he was sick, the train came to a slow incline and I asked him if he was 'OK'. He looked at me with a big grin and said that he was fine but that he saw a quarter on the floor by his foot and he was trying to reach it during the ride despite his little body being thrown around. And yes, he did finally get the quarter, which I'm pretty sure got him more excited than anything else that day. He just kept talking about how lucky he was to find $.25. Someday I'll tell him how much it cost us to get into Disneyland, until then he continues to think he won the lottery.
*California Adventure closed that day at 6 PM and we kinda lost track of time. Around 5 PM we decided to jog across the border from Disneyland and see the Pixar parade over in California Adventure. Once there, Caleb kept talking about going on the Screaming California Roller coaster again. As soon as the parade was over we went to a ride that both Monica and I liked, expecting it to be our last ride before closing. But as we were on that ride (California Soaring), Caleb asked if we could run to the California Screaming Roller Coaster (CSRC) afterwords. I fully expected that we wouldn't make it before it closed, but decided to give it a shot. So we ran through the park, dodging young kids and strollers for a good 1/2 mile. Just as we got to the CSRC, the young girl pulled the chain across the entrance. I couldn't believe it, we were literally 3 seconds late. So as she turned her head I stepped over the chain and Caleb and I ran up to the line. I was sure that she saw us, but she ended up standing behind us for the entire line (making sure no one else got on) and didn't mention anything. I felt bad that Caleb had to see his Dad defy authority and jump the chain, but drastic times called for drastic measures. We were officially the last two riders on the CSRC that day, but it got better as the line shortened. When we made our way to the front of the line, the coaster was full.....we were not only the last to ride, we had the next coaster all to ourselves. Of coarse we chose the front row again.
*While we were the only riders on the Screaming California Roller Coaster, I still heard a lot of screaming??? That's right, leave it to Walt Disney to pipe in the sound of people screaming.

*Several of Caleb's friends had told him that their favorite thing to do at Disneyland was the Jedi Training. But Caleb's not a big Star Wars fan and when we stumbled upon the training, he wasn't interested. But just as much as Caleb despises being in front of crowds, Abby longs for any chance to be on stage (see Hannah Montana). So Abby became the first Jedi of our famliy. I'm now fairly certain if the Dark Side wanted us, Darth Vader would be moving in tomorrow. See Video for proof.

*As with any trips that involve Monica, pictures are taken..in abundance. Though she is much better than she use to be, her passion for taking pictures is starting to bother Caleb. Let's see if you can find the pictures that Caleb didn't want to be in.

Bye bye Disneyland!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

So. Cal Days 4-6: Beach Time

The next 3 days we spent at the local beaches and in the pool. It was perfect weather, even warmer than usual for San Diego and we soaked it all in. From our condo, it's just a short walk to the beach. Plus we spent one day down on Mission Beach in San Diego.

I bought a cheap Boogie Board with plans to use it for the three days, but Caleb shut down that idea after I showed him how to surf the waves. He was hooked. He surfed the shallow breakers for hours without as much as a short visit to the rest of us. We learned to set up our towels near a life guard station after the first day since Caleb would be gone for so long and by the time he was ready to come in, he'd be 1/2 mile down the beach. So we made sure he knew we were next to station #12, and he found us every time.

Abby gave boogie boarding a try, but it didn't interest her much. She spent a lot of time jumping in the waves, taking naps on the beach and collecting sea shells. She was very cute while hunting for shells. Every time she found one, she'd pick it up and hold it to her ear in an attempt to "hear the ocean". Even the shells that were the size of a dime, she said that she could hear the ocean....."psst..Abby, you could hear the ocean because it's 15 feet away from you"....Ahh kids..
Monica took in the days by being a hotty, catching some rays, and taking pictures. I think she was also spending a lot of time thinking about eating at the Crab Shack Restaurant since we seemed to end up their for dinner.

With my boogie board hijacked, I rented a surf board and tried surfing for an afternoon. I knew surfing for a beginner would be difficult, but I figured my wake-surfing experience would help some...I was wrong. The boards they rent are the long boards, and made of foam. So I started out among 20 teenagers looking like the surfing equivalent to a grown man, waiting for the short bus, with a helmet on. I just tried to stay out of their way. After several attempts, I started to get the hang of it. I was able to stand and head straight to shore, but their wasn't much carving going on.

The days at the beach and by the pool were perfect for us. And except for Mon's buckets of king crab, the price was good for us too...free! It was all very relaxing and enjoyable. I can see why leaving near a warm coast is so enticing...you know what would be even better? Living on a sailboat in the tropics...yeah baby...2017...that'll be us.

*Reminder that you must visit the website to view the vidoes, they're not available via email*

Sunday, September 20, 2009

So. Cal. Day 3: Disney's California Adventure

We spent Friday at Disney's California Adventure, a park that we didn't go see last time we were here. It's not nearly as famous as the original Disneyland, it's only 10 years old, but it's gaining a reputation as having better rides. We all had a great time. Caleb was tall enough to ride every ride except one and Abby saw dozens of characters (I think she still believes they're real).
We were again thrilled to see the lack of people. The majority of the day was spent with no lines, not until the evening did we even have a wait of more than 15 min.

*It took some coaxing (I had to pay him the first time), but Caleb went on the California Screamin Roller Coaster with me. It's one of the fastest and longest coasters in the world. It's a great ride that combines the feel of the old fashioned coasters with new smooth technology. For example, instead of climbing a big hill and dropping, it slingshots to 75 mph from a standstill and flies over the first big hill...awesome.
*The last ride of the day before it closed, Caleb and I got placed in the front row of the California Screamin...some people wait hours for this privilege, but we were just lucky.
*Due to the lack of crowds, we were able to get our pictures taken with a lot of characters. Usually there is a long wait to stand next them, but we found them walking around the park all day.
*Abby was able to watch a street show featuring High School Musical....sigh...Is it a highlight realizing my daughter likes girly stuff?
*Caleb's description of how he felt while on the giant Mickey's Ferris Wheel...you have to watch and LISTEN to the video down below. Beware, it's rated PG-13.

It's amazing the detail that Disney puts into their theme parks. Every square inch seems to be created to match the corresponding theme. We've now gone to several amusement parks, but Disney really goes all out in their decorations and creativity. Though, I'm not sure the kids appreciate it yet, I do.

We left California Adventure at closing at 8 PM and walked across the street to Disneyland, apparently we shared this idea with about 100,000 other people since it was shoulder-to-shoulder crowds for the 1-mile walk to the Disneyland Castle.

We have never really gotten into watching some the of the theatrical shows before. But we made time for some 4-D shows, the night-time spectacular (firework show with a flying tinkerbell and dumbo), and Fantasmic (light laser and water show featureing Micky Vs. evil witches), and they were all worth the crowds and long waits.

You can view all our pictures on our web album from Picasa here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So Cal: Day 2

Our vacation has been booked for almost a year, yet we haven't really planned anything. We have had a great summer and the Southern California vacation never really came up. Then school started and we realized that with a late start, it meant only a few school days and then we'd be pulling the kids out of school for a week?? oh well. So here we are, in sunny So. Cal. We have a paid-for Condo for 8 days and money to burn! (the money part was for effect).

Our first day was spent driving from the airport south on Hwy 1 from LA to Oceanside in the rental car (note: I LOVE driving rental cars for obvious reasons), frolicking in the ocean surf, and then ending our day in the condo's pool.

Day two we headed to the safari part of the San Diego Zoo. I had the idea a week ago or so to look on the Internet for cheaper tickets to the amusement parks and zoo but I didn't find much. But this morning I had the idea of checking the local Craigslist for tickets to the zoo. I drug my feet some in the morning since I had little confidence in the plan even though we planned on leaving the condo at 9:00. To sum the plan up: I checked Craigslist at 8:30 AM, sent two text messages at 8:45 and picked up 4 tickets for the zoo at 9:15 saving us about $90. I love technology.

We knew we were here in the off-season, but we didn't think we'd be lonely in the zoo. It felt like there was only 100 other people in the place. We enjoyed a great day seeing all kinds of animals. We also were lucky enough to continue our streak of seeing animals peeing and pooing, a great thrill for Caleb and Abby.

Highlights of the Zoo:

*seeing the Gorillas being fed, one of them refuses to eat bamboo that has touched the ground, apparently he's kind of finicky. You're a gorilla! You'll eat what we feed you! Is everything in this country spoiled?
*feeding the lorikeets (small birds), for a couple bucks we bought some nectar and usually a few birds would fly over and eat out of your hands, but apparently my sweetness was very attractive to a bird size brain.
*during a bird show in which trainers had birds show off some talents, one of the trained birds was none other than a northwest wild turkey. I can actually train one of those things? As soon as I get home, I'm going to train dozens of turkeys from crapping on my lawn.

Also similar to the last time we were in So. Cal, we're enjoying temperatures way above normal. We topped off the day with a crab-fest meal at a seafood restaurant, Monica even donned a bib for the meal (sorry no pictures were allowed).

Here's some pictures and videos:

**remember you need to visit the website to view the videos**