Steak, roasted potatoes, green beans and pie were on the Christmas dinner menu for President Obama and his family Saturday at their oceanfront holiday home in Hawaii. On Christmas Eve, Mrs. Obama helped kids track Santa Claus' travel around the world with the assistance of NORAD radar.
The Obama Family Christmas in Hawai
For years, the Obama family has traveled to Hawaii, Obama's native state, to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. The Obamas' are staying in a rented a house in Oahu about 12 miles from Honolulu. In years past, Obama would also use the trip to visit his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham and his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng and reconnect with school friends. Dunham died just before polls opened in the 2008 presidential election.
Chicago pal Eric Whitaker and his family are vacationing with the Obama's in Hawaii -- they were together last year -- and another Chicago friend, Marty Nesbitt and his family will be joining them. On Friday, Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha hung out at the Pyramid Rock Beach on a military base. On Thursday, the president played golf.
Mrs. Obama Tracking Santa
Since 1955, the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command in Colorado Springs, Col. has tracked the progress of Santa Claus as his eight (or nine, some years) reindeer fly around the world. The tracking started by accident; a newspaper Christmas ad misprint featured NORAD's number, prompting a youngster to call asking about Santa. NORAD has played along ever since.
For 40 minutes on Friday afternoon Hawaii time -- already dusk in parts of the U.S. -- Michelle Obama took calls coming into NORAD's Santa tracking line. The first lady talked to kids and traced the big man's whereabouts: when she started on the call Santa and his sleigh were in South Africa. And he was flying mighty fast because by the time she finished, he had flown over several African nations and was already moving above Italy, Slovakia and Austria.
Several times, Mrs. Obama, mindful of her healthy eating agenda, urged youngsters to not only put out cookies for Santa's reindeer, but veggies too. Talking to an eight-year-old girl, Juliana, Mrs. Obama said that her daughter Sasha, 9, is "bouncing off the walls. I know you are, too."
One caller, Sean, told Mrs. Obama he got an e-mail from Santa.
"You got an e-mail from Santa? Well, he's really moving up. He's pretty high-tech now," Mrs. Obama replied. "... The important thing to remember is that he doesn't come to your house until you're fast asleep, no matter where he is in the country. So you've got to make sure you get a good night's sleep. Leave out your cookies and some vegetables for the reindeer and you should be good to go."
In one exchange, a child named Austin asked Mrs Obama if being first lady was a hard job.
"You know, it is not as hard as being the president. My job is fun because I get to do stuff like this. I get to come to NORAD and look at the radar and help them track Santa. I get to work with kids like you guys and help make sure they're staying healthy. So it's a fun job. Thanks for asking," she replied.
Austin had another question. "Is it hard to have all that security around you?"
Said Mrs. Obama, "No, because the security -- the Secret Service, they're really professional and they're really nice guys. So they're fun. They're good with the girls... they do their jobs, but they're really nice guys. It's almost like they're family after a while. So it's not that hard having them around. And they're there to keep us safe, right? You can't be mad at that, right?"
Mrs. Obama asked Austin, "What else do you want to know?" And he said, "Is it hard to like be married to the president?"
Answered Mrs. Obama, "No, he's a pretty good guy. I mean, it's a tough job and sometimes you want to do everything you can to help him, but it's pretty easy being married to him. He's kind of funny -- fun to hang out with."
After that, Mrs. Obama gave Austin a Santa whereabouts report.
"All right. Hold on, let me look at the radar. Okay, it looks like -- all right, they've got a lock on a glowing object and they can confirm that it is in fact Santa's sleigh. It's over Africa right now -- Algeria, Africa. And they can see from here that it's pretty full of toys. Pretty full. So hopefully you've been good this year. But Santa is not going to come to your house until you go to sleep."
The Obamas' Christmas Message
In a rare joint appearance in a Saturday video address
taped at the White House, the Obamas urged support for the nation's military families. Helping soldiers families is one of Mrs.Obama's key agenda items.
"As first lady, I've had the honor to meet members of our military and their families on bases and in communities all across the country. I've gotten to know husbands and wives doing the parenting of two while their spouse is on another deployment... children trying their best in school but always wondering when mom or dad is coming home... patriots putting their lives on hold to help with a loved one's recovery... or carry on the memory of a fallen hero," she said. "When our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve, too. And they're proud and glad to do it. But as long as that service keeps the rest of us safe, their sacrifice should also be our own. Even heroes can use a hand, especially during the holidays."
The president added, "So we're encouraging Americans to ask what you can do to support our troops and their families in this holiday season. For some ideas on how to get started, just visit Serve.gov