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Award time ... Bonita Fest perforamnce

Guess who was "student of the month" at Monterey Heights on Friday???

Not one Howard girl.......

But TWO!!!

Arissa AND Mariah were both selected Student of the Month. We received a letter a week ahead of time letting us know, but it was a surprise for the girls. Mariah had no clue at all of course since "student of the month" is a new concept to her, but Arissa knew something was up when our morning started off kind of different:

"Mommy, why aren't you going to work?"

"Um...I am, I'm just going in late cause I have a dr appt."

"Mommy, why are you curling our hair?"

"Well, I don't have to rush to get to work, so why not?"

:O) And then when she walked in for the assembly, she saw us and knew for sure. I was pretty proud that both girls were the first ones chosen....I know they both deserve it, they're both such GREAT students and friends and "peacebuilders", which is important at their shool.

And this sweet girl, not one to be left out, is Star of the Week this week at preschool! She gets to make a little "all about me" poster, and bring in things to share. This is a big week for the Howard Girls!!!

And this shot I just had to share....look at those eyes!!!!! I'm so jealous!

And then we had ANOTHER big day on Saturday. Arissa performed with her Drill Team at the Bonita Fest. For the past 20 years, it's been a parade, but this year the city decided not to have the parade portion of it, so the girls did their routine on a stage. But it was their first OFFICIAL performance as this new team. Official, hand-sewn uniforms. Hair done to exact specifications (dictated by the instructor). All-out makeup, glitter in the hair, ALL of it. We spent an hour the night before, doing the hair. We had to douse it in hairspray and gel, then put it up in PERM rods, all to get the exact perfect curl. Poor Arissa cried herself to sleep because her hair was done up so tight. But it was worth it the next day, to see all those bouncing perfect curls.

Arissa & her friend Avery:

The team:
You could not find a better group of girls. These girls are SO sweet, so happy and excited all the time. When Arissa shows up to practice, they all run over and hug her. At the end of each performance, the girls all come around and give each parent a hug and say 'thank you' for their support. The best part of the team, I think, and what makes it worth all the hard work is how the girls learn to support and trust and appreciate and encourage eachother. It also helps that they're all around the same really they are close friends who get to spend all this time together. It's wonderful.

So proud:

End of the day:

**** EDITED:

Here's a video of the performance (scroll down and turn off the music first):

What Heaven looks like:

Hydrangea Way
Originally uploaded by mothernature
You know how some people say Heaven is different for each person, based on the things we individually love?

If that's true, I hope mine looks a little like this:

belated pics and what I've been up to....

Here's Mallory on her first day of school (which was about a month ago! It took me forever to upload the photos). Notice that she's posing just like Hannah Montana on her shirt:

This is Mariah at our most recent dance recital (and Mallory's super cute thumb in the foreground!):

And here's Arissa, her first time performing with the official drill team, in full uniform. She did AWESOME. Their first parade is this coming Saturday!

And here's what I've been doing a lot of lately.....

I've been painting! Actually technically I've been doing "mixed media", which is basically painting but adding scrapbook papers and embelishments to the process. My first try turned out WAY too cartoon-like (I seem physically unable to make correctly proportioned heads), so I've been trying to work on that.

Here's my first attempt:

And this is what the words on her dress say:

And this was my 2nd attempt, which I liked much better (even though she still has a bobble-type head):
(The little line on the right side of her is the seam of paper underneath, not as visibie when it's not so close):

And the words on her dress read:

And here's my most recent one (her eyes are CLOSED, not GOUGED OUT, as Jesse thought):

I outline this one w/ ink instead of charcoal, which next time I don't think I'll do. But I like her hair, and the 3-dimensional butterfly. :O)

what I'm reading....

So everyone, absolutely EVERYONE I talk to or hear from has read the Twilight series books and is crazy about them. Everywhere I turn, I keep hearing about those books. I most generally don't read those kind of stories though, so I didn't jump on the bandwagon right away. But finally after I heard so many different types of people raving about it, I thought "FINE, I'll just read it and get it over with and see if it's as good as everyone says".

So Jesse and I went into Barnes & Noble on our date night a few weeks ago, we marched right in and I was dead set on getting the first book of the series. I picked it up and headed to the checkout.

On my way there, though, I walked past this, and since I couldn't justify buying BOTH books, I went for the one that intrigued me more:
It is SUCH a great book! It's so light and easy to read, and it takes place in the UK which I like because of how they talk (calling a line in a store a "queue" and the toilet a "loo"). Plus, even though I won't go far enough to say I'm a shopaholic (I can't afford to be), I totally relate to the girl in this story! Which makes me laugh because the things she does and thinks are pretty ridiculous and are meant to be purely funny, but I recognize myself in a lot of it. Like when she picks up a total impulse buy/splurge, knowing she should only buy what she "needs", then through self-talk, she convinces herself that she does in fact need it. I do that ALL THE TIME. :O)

I'm counting the hours until I get off work so I can settle into my seat on the trolley and finish the last few pages of this:

Even though I don't have lots of time to read, somehow I finished it in less than a week. Usually the books I read are either self-help, parenting, biographies, sometimes classics, or books that are challenging and require complete quiet for me to follow the story (i.e.: War & Peace which I attempted last summer). But this book is so light and fast, and hilarious. So it's going to be awhile before I can try out the Twilight series, because I've got these on my bookshelf, lined up and ready to go:

Trying to change it up a bit for lunchtime on the weekends.....I made these "fruit kabobs", and the girls liked them so much they didn't even notice that there wasn't a beloved peanut butter & jelly sandwich on their plates! And the following day, we had a fancy three course meal....the courses, in order, were: graham crackers, blueberries, bananas, strawberries.

Last weekend I completed my bookshelf bookshelves (& the books on them of course) are probably one of the most favorite things I own. But I aquire books at a higher rate than most people, and was running out of room. I was going to have to start boxing some books up, which made me sad, and then I got the current issue of Oprah's "O at home" magazine, in which there was an article by an interior designer or something who gave tips for organizing books so that there's space and so it's also pleasing to look at. So I took off the doors that were on one of the bookcases and using up 2 shelves, and then whereas my books were all just lined up striaght, I switched it up a little bit and rearranged my trinkets. It all should be a little more spread out, but again, I have space issues so this is the best I could do:

(this is 2 of the shelves on one of the bookcases...I have 2 and each one has 4 shelves)

And in between the bookshelves, we hung this other thing which is on my list of favorite things I own: a new light fixture! Now I know it's a little tacky that it's not actually affixed to the ceiling and just hangs there, but still I love it love it love it. As opposed to the regular lamps we had before, it adds a really beautiful GLOW to the whole room. And then in the daytime, when it's off, it's still just as beautiful. i love it!

Mallory's new past-time:

.....listening to my ipod! Every morning, every time I call during the day, every day when I pick her up, and every night until bedtime, she is asking me "can i hear your ipod?"! She's obsessed with it. And she will just sit there forever listening to it, contented as can be! And it's super cute because she can't get the earbuds to stay in her ears, so she holds them in her ears the whole time. It gets pretty tiring, as you can see!

un autre jour d'anniversaire!

Yet another special birthday to celebrate!

My dear friend/penpal Francoise's birthday was on September 4th!

Now I have only known Francoise for about a year, and have never met her in person. And yet, I truly do consider her my friend.

A year ago, I went searching online for a French penpal, because after not having spoken French since 1998 in highschool, I wanted to refresh all I had learned and learn more. A website connected me with Francoise, who lives in France and was trying to brush-up on and improve her English. And from there, we've emailed each other pretty consistantly every 2 weeks or so, and I always eagerly look forward to receiving a message from her. Francoise has always graciously answered my questions about the language, and life in general in France. I have learned stuff I never otherwise could have learned. And along the way, we have of course shared personal info and gotten to know one another and become familiar with each other's families and interests.

Being that she views my blog every now and then, I wanted to make sure and say:

Une tardif Joyuex Anniversaire a mon amie tres speciale! J'espere que ce jour la a emmene a toi beaucoup de plaisir!

special day!!!

Today is Audie's 28th birthday!! I couldn't pass up the opportunity to post about my very best friend.

I don't even know where to begin! I've known Audie now for TWENTY THREE years. We met in 4th grade, when I was new to Monterey Heights elementary school and the two of us happened to be in the same class. What's more, she lived on the same street as my grandma....and I remember my grandma telling me to look for a little girl named Audie that she knew lived on the street. So I did, and we became friends. We used to walk to and from school together, and of course spent countless hours outside of school together. Back then it was a group of about 4 of us girls who lived within two blocks of eachother and became best friends (technically it was only my Grandma who lived there, not me, but I spent most of my time there). Yet Audie is the only one I talk to regularly and still consider a best friend.

We could sit around and just rattle off all the different memories for hours! And sometimes we do. Sometimes I call her up out of the blue just to say "remember when....". Audie is that friend that could (and has) come over when I'm looking my worst or not feeling well, we can just BE----not doing anything, and have as much fun as we do going out. She tolerates the things that are annoying about me, and I can honestly say I can't ever remember us having a fight. Even an argument really. Even when we would spend weeks at a time together. Can't think of really anyone else I could say that about.

Though I have friends now that I love and cherish, no one will be as good of a friend to me as Audie. We were friends, as I said, through the better part of my childhood. We were friends through every single impactful-time of our lives. My girls being born, my mom and grandpa passing away, our marriages, her son being born, new jobs, new homes, and every happiness, dissappointment, and hard time imaginable.

When I was pregnant with one of my girls and was so sick I couldn't stand up, I vented to Audie about how the house was just a mess and I couldn't stand it....but I couldn't do much about it without throwing up and laying back down. So she came over and cleaned my house, spent an hour on my bathroom alone! I'm not sure that I would do that, cheerfully, for anyone!

On a Valentine's Day just after highschool, when she had a steady boyfriend and I was alone and lonely, she and her boyfriend (husband now) stopped at my house and brought me a bag of m&ms and a Valentine's card.

She has come to every one of my girls' recitals, school programs, etc. Even though for most of them she had a brand new baby, she came and sat until he would start to cry, and then apologized that she had to leave. There's very few activities that would get me out of th house on a tired weeknight, especially lugging a newborn, but she did it and the girls saw her there and felt special.

Arissa was named after Audie (her actual name is Arissa, Audie is just her family nickname). When Jesse and I were choosing names, I had 4 different baby name books and had alphabatized lists with the origins and meanings and all that, but we couldn't agree on ANYTHING. Then, when I was like 8 or 9 months pregnant, I said "what about Arissa?" and instead of opposing it, he said "yeah, I like that". So that's what we stuck with, and I think it's the perfect name and I'm so glad it occured to us to use it. Becuase for all of my girls' names, I tried to pick names that didn't just sound, but ones that were personal, special, and had meanings. So it's only fitting that Arissa be named after the person who was there for me through every event, major and minor, for basically my whole life. Not to mention that Audie has always been someone I looked up to....she is beautiful (she can't NOT look pretty if she tried), she is always genuinely happy, she's never without a smile and NEVER EVER in a bad mood. Seriously. She is funny beyond measure and kind and thoughtful and creative and silly and talented.

At this point, we're both married, me with three kids and her with one (plus a roommate and a foreign exchange student), we talk/email fairly frequently but don't hang out very much, which is to be expected I guess. But I know that even if we end up living on opposite coasts someday, we would still be able to remain the best of friends, and pick up right where we left off. Audie is the closest thing I have to a sister, and she is just as special to me as if she were family.

"Kristen & Audie: the friendship in photos":
(but not in chronological order)

This is us in 4th grade, at my grandma's, dressed up & ready for Halloween. (I'm the 50's girl, she's the clown)

Thanksgiving @ my grandma's:

At Arissa's birthday party.

Graduation 1998.

At the Del Mar Fair, which came to be almost like a tradition to go to together.

Photobooth fun.

What we affectionately refer to as "the mushroom haircut". We both got the same cut at the same time....and hated it just as much.

Pajama day!

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