Christmas 2013

Mele Kalikimaka everyone!  We hope you all had a wonderful holiday and that you were able to spend it with loved ones!

Last year, Johnnie was deployed for Christmas.  It didn't feel like Christmas.  There was no joyous Christmas morning with presents to open and loved ones to hug.  I opened gifts as they came in the mail.  I didn't Santa didn't even get Cameron anything because she was too young to know any different and already had everything she could need.

This year was so much different and so much fun!  Having a child (who is now old enough to enjoy things) brings an excitement back to Christmas that I haven't felt since I was young.  We bought and decorated a real Christmas tree and we stockpiled presents underneath it.  Family members sent presents for Cameron which I wrapped for her to open Christmas morning.  Santa brought presents for everyone.  We hung out all morning in our pajamas opening presents, video chatting with family, and enjoying homemade apple cinnamon rolls that I made.  After Cameron's morning nap, we went to church and were mesmerized by how amazingly beautiful Christmas songs sound when they are sung in the Hawaiian language... seriously, wow!  After a day of lounging, we went to a friend's house for a delicious Hawaiian Christmas dinner and laughing good time.  It was a wonderful Christmas... especially because we were together as a family this year.

Cameron is too young to understand Christmas, Santa, and traditions this year so that gave us a grace period.  Next year we'll have to up our game and get started early.  I really want to have some Christmas traditions that we do every year and some take time to prepare!  Here is my tentative list (which is really a reminder for myself):
  • A family trip to get a Christmas tree
  • Decorating the tree
  • Hanging stockings
  • Elf on the Shelf (maybe... we haven't decided on this yet)
  • A Christmas countdown or Advent calendar
  • An early mailed package from Santa that contains Christmas pajamas, a book, a movie, popcorn, and hot chocolate
  • Watching Christmas movies
  • Reading Christmas books
  • Sending Christmas cards
  • Listening to and singing along to Christmas music constantly
  • Doing some anonymous good deeds for others
  • Baking Christmas cookies
  • Taking a night drive or walk to see Christmas lights
  • Setting cookies and beer milk out for Santa
  • A photo of Santa in our house
  • Opening presents in our pajamas Christmas morning
  • Making a special homemade Christmas breakfast treat
  • Making and eating Christmas tamales
  • Going to church together for Christmas mass
  • Cutting a slice of the Christmas tree trunk to use as a keepsake ornament 
I used the app icaughtsanta again this year (see last year's photo) to put Santa in our house with Dulce.  You can also upload a photo to the iCaughtSanta website to create a photo of Santa in your house instead of using a smartphone.  To get this photo, Johnnie stood to the right of the chair to get Dulce to look in that direction.  

Hawaii is one of Santa's last stops of the night so he was pretty tired when he got here ;)

Cameron got quite a few presents from family but only a few from Santa.  We really don't want to overdo Christmas by having Santa bring a ton of presents every year.  We are fortunate enough to provide things we want and need throughout the year so we would like to keep Christmas simple and meaningful.  There is a little rhyme that I've seen many times on Pinterest and know that some of our friends have done for their kids this year.  It goes like this:

"One thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear, and one thing to read."

That's right... only four presents from Santa.  I really love this idea and we did it for Cameron this year.  It really helps with choosing gifts and alleviating some holiday shopping stress.  Besides, combined with what Cameron got from family, she still made out like a bandit this year.  I think that in future years, Santa will bring those four things and we parents may add one more "want" present.

Cameron, age 15.5 months, got the following things from Santa this year:

We didn't wrap her larger presents and she was pretty amazed when she saw them.  She had a good time ripping the wrapping paper off of the other presents, doing better than I expected with that task.

Dulce's big present this year was a new elevated food and water dish.  I recently discovered that Dulce loves drinking warmer-than-room-temperature water... strange isn't it?  I refill her new water bowl every morning now, as opposed to the water-dispensing bowl she had before.  I put treats in the bowls when I wrapped them and she had fun sticking her nose in to get them out :)

I didn't expect to get any Christmas photos for our card this year since Cameron will not stay still for a photo - until I found out that Cameron hates the sand and does not like to walk in it!  I was able to sit her down and she actually stayed put.  Dulce is extremely easy to pose and photograph (and will even wear a hat for a treat).  Cameron, on the other hand, is quite difficult to get to look at and smile at the camera.  I wonder if anyone saw me jumping around and making noises trying to get a smile on the beach that day...

I'll be honest and tell you that this is a composite photo - meaning that I combined two photos using Photoshop to create it.  Getting a dog and a toddler to both look at the camera and smile is next to impossible.  I took the photo of Cameron that I liked and superimposed it onto the photo of Dulce that I liked.... just like magic ;)

The photo below is not a composite.  Cameron would not move from that rock and Dulce sat patiently next to her.  I told Cameron to pet Dulce (which she understands and does often) and she reached over and patted her on the back - picture perfect!

"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the
presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other."
~Burton Hillis

Family Friday: Pipe Masters

This week I was busy prepping for Christmas and Johnnie was busy finishing the two Master's classes he has been working on.  Christmas cards have been mailed out and present shopping is done (almost all online this year).  I didn't get any cookies baked but I'm kind of relieved not to have that added stress and calories :)

In the midst of our busy schedule, we managed one awesome day out to see some of the Billabong Pipe Masters surf competition on the North Shore.  I missed the huge waves and competitions last year so I'm very thankful that I can cross it off my list now!

Giant waves are only seen during the winter here and only on the North Shore of the island.  There are three surfing competitions that are held at Ehukai Beach (also known as the Banzai Pipeline) at the end of November and into December every year when the wave heights are at their peak.

The beach was crazy crowded, the weather was perfect, the waves were 10-15 feet high, and the excitement of the crowd was contagious.  This was a very cool experience!

We got to the beach just in time to watch Kelly Slater and John John Florence catch their few final waves.  Kelly Slater ended up winning the Billabong Pipe Masters competition for the 7th time.

After the competition was over, many surfers went in to try their luck at the waves.  We sat watching them and relaxing on our beach blanket.

We often wonder if Cameron will remember any of parts of our life here in Hawaii...

"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf"
~John Kabat-Zinn

Family Friday: 15 Months Old

Cameron and I headed over to the softball fields on Hickam Air Force Base at sunset for this month's photo shoot.  We took along the practice ball I was given at the Pirates vs. Mariners game that Johnnie and I went to in Pittsburgh earlier this year.

When Johnnie was young, he knew that he wanted to become either a baseball player or a pilot when he grew up.  He became a pilot (and a very good one) but is still a huge baseball fan and plays on softball teams when he can.  I don't know what activities Cameron will be interested in as she grows but one thing she will do is learn to play baseball.  I hope she loves it and from watching her at the field for these photos, I think she already does :)

At 15 months old Cameron just about has 12 teeth.  I say 'just about' because only the tips of all four of her molars have broken through in the past month.  It may take a while for them to come in completely.

Cameron is now wearing size 4 diapers, size 4 shoes, and sizes 12 and 18 month clothing.  She sleeps 12+ hours every night with a bedtime of about 7pm.  She takes one long (2+ hour) nap each day, usually in the morning unless we're out and about.  If we are home in the afternoon, I put her in her crib for a while.  Sometimes she sleeps and other times she simply plays with her sleep sack and talks to herself.  Regardless of what she chooses to do, the quiet time to herself really helps alleviate afternoon crankiness.

Cameron has been saying words like mama, dada, and baba for months and she has recently added a few more.  We will officially say that Cameron's first word is "this".  Definitely not what we expected but she began saying "this" with perfect clarity while she was playing.  She would pick things up and put them in a purse or in a box or in our hands and say "this. this. this." with every item.

Cameron calls me "Ma-ma" and she calls Johnnie "Dad" which I find hilarious!  I refer to him as daddy but she chooses to say Dad.  She says dada to him occasionally but that is her general term for everything.  "Dad" is specifically for Johnnie.

At 15 months old, Cameron has a spoken vocabulary of nine words that are all consistently used correctly: Mama, Dad, baba (bottle), this, that, no, yes, woof-woof (dog), and uh-oh. Cameron's unspoken vocabulary (words she understands but can't say) is huge!  She follows oral directions very well (therefore I know she understands the words) and is a great little helper.


Cameron loves Dulce, all dogs, music, books, and dolls.  She loves phones, cameras, remote controls, and keys.  She loves pushing big things, climbing on things, and putting things into bags and boxes.  She loves to eat and loves to sleep.  She loves playing with water but she hates sand and waves.  She will blow kisses and give (open mouth) kisses sometimes, but she won't give hugs.  She loves to sit in laps which is her favorite way to cuddle.  She loves going up stairs by herself but prefers to be carried down the stairs.  She knows and uses sign language for moreplease, and thank you.  She hates being told no.  She is generally a very happy child but if she is tired then every tiny thing will cause a major meltdown.

Our neighbor just had a new baby girl.  Seeing that tiny baby, it is hard to imagine Cameron once being that small (3+ lbs smaller actually).  It is amazing how fast babies grow, learn, and develop.  When someone asks how old Cameron is, I always answer in months.  People who have children understand, people who don't have children often say "so she's 1."  Well yes, technically, but 1 is a very special age and should not be lumped into a single number.  A 13 month old is vastly different than a 20 month old although they are both technically 1.  Our little girl isn't simply 1, she's 15 months and is learning new things every day.

"The more we observe, the more we understand and appreciate the enormous amount
and speed of learning that happens during the first two or three years of life."
~Magda Gerber

Tower Lighting and Celebrity Sighting

This past Friday night was Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam's 44th Annual Freedom Tower lighting celebration.  Johnnie had just flown out on a work-related trip so Cameron and I walked over by ourselves to check out the festivities.

The Freedom Tower (named in 1985) is an octagonal-shaped water tower on Hickam Air Force Base that was built in 1938.  This well-known landmark stands 171 feet high and held 500,000 gallons of water when it was in use.  Historians say that the tower survived the Attack on Pearl Harbor unscathed because enemy fighters thought that it was a religious structure and were therefore afraid to fire upon it.

The tower lighting celebration is held every year and is free for anyone on base to attend.  The tower is at the far end of a large grass field and people were encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs to sit on.  There were a lot of free activities such as photos with Santa, craft stations, bouncy houses, and trampolines.  There were many food booths selling snacks and dinner plates, and there was also free hot chocolate and cookies.

A stage was set up at the base of the tower for performers.  The Air Force Band of the Pacific played a wide variety of music for a couple of hours.  There was a guest performance by young ukulele star, and YouTube sensation, Aidan James.

The grass (or actually the roots of the grass?) are extremely thick making it difficult to walk on and push a stroller on - it was like walking on a thick, cushy mattress.  Cameron couldn't walk more than two steps in the grass without falling so we sat on the curb right in front of the stage.  This turned out to be a great advantage later!

There was a little mosh pit of children dancing in front of the stage and Cameron loved watching them but didn't join in.  She stayed near me, swaying her shoulders to the music until she saw him... her first crush.  She cautiously walked over to him, hands clasped behind her back, and smiled shyly.  He smiled back and she laughed.  She reach out and touched his glowing necklace so he took it off and handed it to her.  She laughed, played with it for a minute, and then tried to put it back on him.  He put it back on and then she wanted it again so he gave it to her again.  This game continued for at least 5 minutes.  Finally he had to leave but he let her keep the necklace.  He was such a sweet young man to be so patient with a baby :)

Right before the tower was lit, some celebrity guests made an appearance on stage - Emma Stone and Bill Murray!  Cameron and I were already by the stage so we had a great view but as you would expect, a tidal wave of people suddenly surged up behind us.  I grabbed Cameron in one arm and my big DSLR camera with the other and got swept forward with the crowd.  At that point Cameron started screaming from the sudden movement and noise.  I didn't dare put her down because I knew she would get trampled so I balanced everything and did the best that I could to quickly snap a few photos before we got out of there.

Filming started at the end of September here in Hawaii for a new still-untitled Cameron Crowe military-comedy-romance movie starring Rachel McAdams, Bradley Cooper, Bill Murray, Emma Stone, Alec Baldwin, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, and John Krasinski.

Synopsis: "The movie sees Bradley star as celebrated military contractor Brian Gilcrest, who reconnects with lost love Tracy (played by McAdams) after returning to the site of his 'greatest career triumphs'. But as with any Hollywood love story, there's another person in the mix - a hard-charging Air Force watchdog (Emma Stone) assigned to Gilcrest, whom he unexpectedly falls for."*
Much of the filming is being done here on Hickam Air Force Base and many of my neighbors and friends got parts as extras.  I'll see if I can snap a few photos of some of the filming locations to share with you all in another post.

Here is a YouTube video that someone posted of Stone and Murray's little speech:

All in all, the celebration was well worth keeping Cameron out past her bedtime :)

"At Christmas play and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year."

~Thomas Tusser