Friday, December 31, 2010

December 2010

December has been a busy and relaxing month, all in one. The boys were in a couple performances and were adorably cute in both. First Caleb had a Winter Music Concert to show all he’s learned in his home school music class and band. Sam Flores and a few others of Caleb’s home school friends also performed with him in the choir and tone chimes. I thought Caleb might be nervous, but he wasn’t at all. He truly enjoyed performing. He said that playing his trumpet was his favorite part. Caleb is the only one of his close friends old enough to be in the band. That starts at 4th grade. He’s come so far in the few months he’s been learning the trumpet. I’m really proud of him. He sang a few songs in the choir and played a couple songs on the tone chimes too. I really enjoy the tone chimes. They’re so soothing and just make me smile. Granny and Uncle Jeremy got to watch too! We were really fortunate that Jeremy happened to be in town recording. After the show we went out to Ruby’s for some celebratory milkshakes with the Flores family. Caleb and Sam each got a whole shake to themselves for the first time! They were in ice cream heaven!!!

Then Caleb and Ben were both in the children’s Christmas performance of Wise Guys and Starry Skies at our church. Caleb was a camel boy and Ben was a star. They have worked so hard for months, practicing, memorizing songs, and practicing some more. The show was great. Ben seemed oblivious about what movements he was supposed to be doing, but he sang and looked super cute! Caleb did great! All his practice paid off. He was all smiles (except when he had to take a photo with his mom after the show) and glad that his best friend Sam came to watch.

Juan wanted to surprise Tracy with a surprise birthday dinner in Laguna with her friends at sunset. I was so pleased that we could be a part of that. And the best part is that Jon and I got a date in the daytime! Juan dropped his kids off with us in the early afternoon so he could take Tracy down to Laguna early and surprise her with an art class. Then we took our kids and Juan & Tracy’s kids down to another friend’s house. She watched all of our kids, plus her own four kids, from 3pm until the late hours of the night! Thanks so much Morena!!!! It was so weird and amazing for Jon and me to be driving down to Laguna in the day time with no kids. What a great gift! We had so much fun that night and the sunset was breathtaking from our view at the restaurant. Good friends, good food, good view! Can’t get much better than that!

The last two months our home school friends and I have done a fun and educational event at my house. They were such a hit that the ladies have decided that we’re going to make it an official monthly event now. Hopefully all the hands on stuff that the kids are learning will be super memorable and more likely to stick in their little heads. This month we decided to do an International Christmas theme. Each family chose a country and presented its Christmas traditions and brought a traditional Christmas food from that country. Caleb chose Australia because he liked that it’s summer there in December. He also liked their legend that Santa gives the reindeer a break and lets 6 white boomers (kangaroos) pull his sleigh over Australia. Caleb gave a verbal presentation, read an Australian Christmas song, and had everyone sing an Australian version of Jingle Bells together. It was great! We made Pavlova for our food, which is a traditional Australia Christmas dessert. It was a hit and everyone gobbled it up! It’s kind of crunchy/wafer-ish on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside. It’s topped with freshly whipped cream and fruit. Hanukkah, Germany, England, and Mexico were also represented. Then the kids made gingerbread houses out of milk cartons, graham crackers, icing, & lots of candy. They had so much fun…especially eating the houses up when they were done!

We had an early Christmas with Granny before she flew off to Kauai for the holidays. The boys had so much fun opening early presents and they loved every minute of it.

Then my parents came down to stay at Melanie’s apartment while she was gone. I hope they enjoyed their beachy Christmas vacation. Too bad it was pouring rain their whole trip. Oh well. The one afternoon that the rain let up I decided to take my parents and the kids to Roger’s Gardens. I love that place and I’ve wanted to take the kids; they’ve never been at Christmas time. We spent a lot of time watching the train and I soaked up a lot of the Christmas cheer.

I enjoyed the couple weeks of rain and my parents’ visit. It so seldom rains here and I loved the warm coziness of my home, my Christmas tree, and my fireplace this month. I’m also glad for the break of having to water all my herbs and pepper plants outside every day.

One evening, my home school mom friends and I got together without our kids for the very first time! My mom came over for a bit too. How fun to have her close by for things like this. We each brought a tasty appetizer to share and passed around the wine glasses. I even got my mom to taste almond champagne. Then we had an impromptu chocolate tasting. I have a set of dark chocolate that I’ve been waiting for a year for Trader Joes to get back in stock, as it’s a seasonal item. There are eight different dark chocolates, each from a different country, and each with a distinctly different taste: earthy, grassy, fruity, flowery, nutty, dry, rich…yum – I like them all. We read the descriptions of each and passed them around for everyone to take a nibble. It was so fun! Then I taught the ladies to make cute little fabric covered magnets. We were going to have one of the other ladies teach us to make peanut brittle as well, but it was almost 1am, and we had run out of time. So we did a part two and a couple ladies came over the next day to learn the fine art of peanut brittle. Yum!

Christmas morning was filled with warmth, love, and sausage balls. Without Granny here to make her traditional Christmas morning snack, I had to do the job. I got them ready to stick into the oven the night before, so that Christmas morning I could concentrate on getting our Christmas feast into the slow cooker. The sausage balls turned out yummy, thankfully. The kids loved their presents. We really missed all of our extended family, especially our Texas family (I still call you all our Texas family even though you live in Kauai). But the upside was that the kids got to open each present one by one. Then they got to set up each toy and really check it out before we moved onto the next person’s turn. I really enjoyed the lazy pace we had. I only made one present this year and Ben was the lucky recipient. I made him a puppet theater and then bought him a bunch of puppets to play with. Both boys are having so much fun with it and we enjoy watching their imaginative shows. For our Christmas feast, I deviated from the traditional and made rosemary French beef dips slow cooked all day and served with au jus. Then I made Pavlova for dessert. It was so tasty and still festive for the season.

We gave Caleb an Ipod dock for Christmas. Now the boys can listen to music in their room, and they do, and they love it! It makes me so glad. Caleb has been listening to his favorite band over and over again, The Bear Hug Band. He saw them perform at Calvary Chapel during VBS (Vacation Bible School) over the summer and he was thrilled to get the CD for Christmas. We gave Ben the first Psalty the Singing Songbook CD for one of his Christmas presents. So far the boys haven't latched onto that because they can't stop playing the Bear Hug Band. They jump and dance all around their room when it's playing. So cute!

One afternoon after Christmas, my parents and I drove down to Laguna Beach in search of the Pottery Shack. It was a place my mom loved to visit years ago. Jon & I had a chance to check it out early in our marriage and I remember loving it. Well…we found it…parked the car…walked over…saw the big statue in front that says Pottery Shack…and then learned that the store closed in 2004. Now there is a restaurant and a bunch of small shops all fit into the space of the old shack. It was a little bit sad, although I kind of want to go back and try that restaurant. The patio looks very cozy. We walked through all the little shops and then walked down to the beach. The boys climbed some rocks we found and we all had a nice little refreshing moment. There is just something about the ocean that is like a reset button…a fresh start.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 2010

We've updated photo albums for November. It seems that we keep ending up taking photos with the cameras in our phones because I seldom take my camera with me these days. So if you’re confused about the grainy looking photos, that’s the reason, but better grainy pictures than no pictures. As I mentioned in my last post, there are a few short videos I put in a new video album, also taken with our phones. I hope they play okay for you. If they seem to pause too much, just let them buffer (pause it until the bar at the bottom makes it all the way to the right. Enjoy!

We started the month off with a big multi family garage sale in our front yard. The funny thing is that we weren’t selling anything, just hosting. We did make up a big, yummy breakfast for our friends. Ummm…pumpkin waffles with apple cider syrup!

Caleb’s school had its annual Art Fair. It’s kind of like their version of a back to school night. This year’s theme was the Wild West and the kids had a blast playing all the games. They even learned some square dancing. Caleb was so resistant to the dancing, but his mean ol’ mom made him. I saw a smile sneak out a few times while we were dancing, so I know it was worth it. Vida, on the other hand, was a dancing machine! She sure can boogie for a girl barely three.

One Sunday morning we decided to check out a new park begin developed in Irvine, the Orange County Great Park. We’d been there once at night a few months ago for a free summer in the park concert, The Blind Boys of Alabama. It was so fun! The former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro is being transformed into the first great metropolitan park of the 21st Century. The park spans more than 1,300 acres (nearly twice the size of New York’s Central Park). It is in the early phases of development and will likely be most enjoyed by our grandkids (weird thought). But there is still plenty to enjoy for our little family now. We ate some shave ice and delicious crepes from the food trucks, took a few spins on the carousel, let the kids go nuts enjoying the huge climbing rocks and tunnels that make up the kids rock playground, and perused the farmer’s market. We spent the most time pouring over the garden beds. There are twelve large themed garden beds in total, including an “Ethnic Garden,” “Fruit Salad Garden,” and a “Sensory Garden,” that introduce you to some new and interesting produce, plant life, and gardening techniques. My mind was spinning with all the things I want to implement in my own backyard. They also have a big compost teaching area. Ben liked peeking under the tarp at all the worms in the compost. We didn’t go on the world’s largest helium balloon. Caleb is still warming up to the idea. The Great Park Balloon is the Orange County Great Park’s first major attraction. All flights are free and it has the ability to hold up to 25 to 30 passengers, and soar up to 400 feet above the surrounding landscape. All in all, it was an unexpected and entertaining morning.

We hosted 14 kids for 5 hours for a big Thanksgiving home school event. Can you believe it! All the moms pitched in, so I wasn’t alone. We read the Pilgrims story, made a turkey craft, had the kids test fruit for vitamin C levels to help the Pilgrims fight scurvy, did an Indian trails math lesson, made butter from heavy cream by shaking it for a long time, and smeared the delicious butter over freshly made corn bread and gobbled it up. We talked about how the Indians helped the Pilgrims be more successful with their crops by planting fish into the ground with their seeds. So the kids also got to plant corn seeds with a fish into dirt. Then they ate it up! Don’t worry, it was really candy “seeds”, gummy “fish”, pudding “dirt”, & crushed cookies “top soil.”

One Saturday, while Jon had to work, I enjoyed one of those rare times that I got to just do something for myself...I started making a snuggly quilt, just for me. Although I'm sure it will be an unusual moment indeed when I won't have little snuggle bugs cozying up to me :)

Another weekend we decided to just go for a drive. We ended up at The Ocean Institute in Dana Point. I was impressed by the friendly and knowledgeable staff. They really made the experience come alive for the boys. I think the most memorable lesson the boys participated in was a lesson about pollution run-off into the ocean. They also really enjoyed checking out the plankton and life cycles of brine shrimp in the microscope lab. The highlight for me was when we stumbled upon the scenic walk to the Dana Point tide pools. It was a very chilly and windy day. We were bundled up, surrounded by beauty, climbing rocks, and exploring nature together. It made me really happy.

We spent Thanksgiving with my brother and parents in Hanford. We had a great time. Ben enjoyed helping Grandma make yummy apple pies on a stick and Caleb enjoyed his special craft time with Grandma. Uncle David and Jon played Legos with the boys for hours and seemed to have just as much fun as the kids. We played games, ate a bountiful meal, and watched The Simpsons Movie together. Weirdly, my dad saved that movie especially for Jon to enjoy, and we all did. I fell asleep right at the end though. I guess that’s what happens when you wake up at 4am to drive to Hanford Thanksgiving Day.

We left for home the next afternoon and ended up taking an impulsive side trip. We went to check out the Giant Forest in the Sequoia National Park. I love impulsive side trips! On our way up the mountain we got stopped for about 40 minutes because the road was down to one lane and an emergency vehicle had to rush down the mountain. So we decided to make the best of it and we got out of the car to play in the snow at the side of the road. Ben was thrilled because he finally got to make and throw the snowball he had been going on and on about in the car. He had been worried he wouldn’t get a chance to enjoy the snow. While we were playing, we saw a wild bear! It was off in the distance and just ambling about. It was a thrill! The road finally opened up and we made it up to the sequoia trees and General Sherman (the largest tree in the world). They were breathtaking. We arrived just about at sunset. What little light was left was filtered by the trees. It was a gorgeous sight; not so good for taking pictures, but great for living in the moment. There was snow and ice everywhere. Jon and the boys even got to slide down multiple flights of steps back to the car because they were completely iced over and no longer resembled steps. I was the first to find out that you couldn’t walk down them, even if you held the rail really tight. Ben was delighted getting to sit on Jon’s lap for the ride. Our dog did fantastic traipsing about in the snow, which was a pleasant surprise. Our detour ended up adding 7 hours to our 4 hour ride home, but it was definitely worth it.

Jon and Caleb spent the Saturday after Thanksgiving starting their new project in the shop. They’re building two loft beds (kind of like the top part of a bunk bed, but not so high up). That way Ben and Caleb will each get a new bed and a secret fort underneath. They got a lot accomplished, but there’s still much more to be done.

After church on Sunday, we went to Granny’s (Melanie’s) for dinner, conversation, games, and PIE!!!! Yum Yum! We had a great time and then came home to fall into bed.

Ooh! I’m pleased to share that we finally have our heater fixed in the house after 2 frigid years with no indoor heat!!!! Yay!!!! I'm not bundled up like an Eskimo in my own home :) This is big news people.

November was a good month and we’re thankful for all of you, our family and our friends. Thanks for being a part of our lives. Thanks for your prayers and time and love! We love you all!!!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Aug, Sept, Oct 2010

My previous post described the possibilities we’d been presented with over the past few months of where to live and be…Texas, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa...? Well, the Lord quickly told us that Texas was not where we were supposed to be right now. We spent a lot of time driving around Santa Ana looking for a good home, in the same neighborhood as three different families we enjoy, for a greatly reduced price to our current rent. Finally the Lord settled the matter and told us to stay in the home he already gave us for now. It is such a relief to have direction and I immediately felt peace. I promptly wanted to finish settling into this house, 2 years later, and hang up stuff on big bare walls that I’ve never quite known what to do with in the kitchen/dining room/school room.

I’ve sold 4 out of the 5 coffee cozies I put in my online shop. Yay! Just one left to go. I’ll probably make more in hopes that they sell for the holiday season. I have 25 cut out and ready to assemble and sew. I really don’t like mass producing, so I’m done after this next run. I much prefer labors of love.

We spent many of our summer days at our friend’s pool just down the street. It’s a community pool for their apartment complex, but very nice. Our biggest accomplishment of the summer is that Caleb finally learned to swim!!!! It’s been a sometimes difficult process, but we’ve broken through the fear and conquered!!!! Yay!!!! Ben got much more comfortable in the pool as well. Hopefully we don’t backtrack too much when next summer rolls around. I can’t wait.

With the end of summer brought the end of my summer garden. We waited too long to take the corn off the stalks. We seasoned, buttered, and grilled it…and it was pretty gummy. We ate it anyway. Ben ate his and Jon’s; he didn’t mind the extra chewiness. Ha ha…Ben loves eating! We got a good (and tasty) harvest from everything else; squash, green beans, lettuce, and cucumbers. I’ve learned a lot from my first experience with a garden. I think the most important lesson is the new ability to stay diligent with its care. That’s a big deal to me. Previously I was seemingly unable to keep plants alive and thriving. I wasn’t able to be consistent with watering, let alone any other needs they might have had. I think the diligence and consistency I’ve been learning is naturally carrying into other aspects of my life too, and for that I’m thankful.

In my summer garden I had a few different chiles/peppers that just weren’t doing well. With space now cleared out in the garden, I replanted the remaining chiles/peppers, and spread them out so they have lots more room. I didn’t think they would survive the transplant, but I’m pleased to say that I was wrong. Without competition for the nutrients, the plants are finally starting to thrive! I’m finally getting bell peppers, anaheim chiles, lots of jalapenos, and cayenne chiles. My poblanos still need a little help. I planted cilantro too, which is growing well. All my herbs are doing fantastic. I thought my sage and lavender had died, but I was persistent, and they’ve come back and are doing great. My tomatoes never did so well. One plant got infected with kneeled treehoppers and after many attempts to get rid of this nasty pest, I just threw away the plant. I still have one tomato plant left, but I’ve never gotten any tomatoes from it. I’ll just have to try a different type of tomato next summer. Oh, and my new favorite, I got two blueberry plants now! One has a unique and tart taste. I love it! The other will produce blueberries next summer. That one will be super sweet. And to top it all off, the boys made me a planter box for my blueberry plants. Every day the boys are excited to hunt for blueberries to nibble. Yum Yum! What a super healthy treat for them.

August brought with it my 31st birthday. We celebrated by having a fun family day at Sea World. We were disturbed by the creepy eels, attempted to pet the dolphins, fed fish to the sea lions, pet the manta rays, held the star fish, watched fun shows, and sat for a long time mesmerized by the killer whales. I think that my favorite part of places like this is when the crowds thin and you really get to soak in an animal. Just leisurely sitting, drinking coffee, and really taking in one animal is peaceful and wonderful to me.

Summer was fantastic and the school year has started off strong. Caleb is in 4th grade now and, in addition to the work we do at home, is taking a weekly tone chimes, rhythm, & choir music class, a band class, a 4th/5th grade class that covers grade standards in all subjects, and a monthly science class. We also meet at the park with his good friends once a week. I am so thankful for all these free resources that our program provides. It also means that we have to be especially structured & disciplined in our work at home to be able to fit it all in. So far we’ve been doing great. I even started doing a little pre-school work with Benjamin. We’ve covered an alphabet letter a week…or so. A…apple (motion: bite apple) ahh ahh ahh, B…bell (motion: shake bell) buh buh buh, C…cat (motion: hold and pet cat) kah kah kah, D…dog (motion: shake your behind like you’re wagging your tail) duh duh duh. Ben is especially adorable wagging his tail J

Caleb went into his first band class at school planning on playing the drums. He came out with the desire to play the trumpet instead. I was glad that he found something he wanted all on his own. When he found out that was the first instrument Jon played as a kid, he really latched on to the idea of the trumpet even more strongly. We surprised him with a trumpet on his birthday and he was thrilled! Jon was really surprised that Caleb & Ben were both able to belt out some good toots right off the bat. We’ve got some musicians in the making here.

September brought more visitors and Caleb’s 9th birthday. My parents and brother came for the birthday and David stayed on for the week. I can’t believe it has been over a year since we’ve seen him. Caleb’s birthday was magic themed. Granny made a beautiful cake, yet again. Thanks! We had a make your own mini pizza bar that was a big hit. Caleb taught his friends card tricks. Each child got a deck of their own as a party favor which they had to find from a big follow the maps and clues hunt game that Caleb put together. There was also quite a bit of fun kid mayhem. Jon dragged all the kids by his ankles back and forth from the kitchen to the living room for at least 10 minutes. He is like a human jungle gym and the kids love it.

Part of Caleb’s birthday gift was a trip to Legoland. We had a lego-rrific day with the Flores family and Uncle David. Caleb and Sam were big enough this time for lots of the bigger and faster rides. They even braved some of them. I’m so glad they have each other. Best friends are a gift from God! Caleb found a little Ewok keychain that he just knew I would love…so of course I did love it “wink wink” and promptly bought it and put it on my keychain. Its little things like this that I love about being a mom.

Anna Swink returned for a visit on her way back through to Kauai. We had fun, made delicious gourmet food (ummmm…the lemon thyme baby bundt cakes drizzled with an orange Muscat glaze were heavenly), and went to a Muse concert in LA. It was a good night and a very entertaining show. We sat in the last, last, last possible row to sit in, but it didn’t even matter. Well, Kat and Anna wished that we could be standing up right in front of the stage…which would have been awesome for them but miserable for me. I was glad to be able to sit and soak in the musical fun.

Jon had a random surprise and was given the best gift - a surfboard custom made just for him by Chuck Johnson, followed by a surf lesson. Chuck’s only contingencies were that Jon use the board and that he read the verse Chuck put on the bottom of the board out loud with his sons.

"But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land." -Acts 27: 43-44

Check him out at We’ve gone once to the beach every weekend since. A couple times at daybreak. The deal is that if we get to the beach while it’s still dark, the boys get donuts. It’s pretty good motivation for them to get out of bed, especially Ben. Again…Ben loves food, especially treats. I think, after 12 years, we might finally be a family that goes to the beach. We got Caleb a skim board and Ben a boogie board. Caleb really enjoys trying to get the hang of the skim board. Both boys are terrified of the boogie board. With practice and persistence we’ll get them there…

We’ve already attended quite a few fieldtrips too. Let’s see. We went to the Environmental Nature Center, the Laguna tide pools, the Miramar Marine Base Air Show, a Revolutionary War Adventure, and the Long Beach Aquarium. I love the boys getting all this hands on learning. Home school is wonderful! At the aquarium, the boys each got to participate in an hour long class taught by the aquarium staff before we got to roam around. How fun! It was Ben's first official school class. He got to learn about sharks and Caleb got to learn about the mysteries of the deep oceans.

Caleb is going through a weird baby talk stage. We have to keep reminding him to knock it off and try again with a strong, confident voice. This is working well and this phase is winding down. Ben recently started lying…innocently at first, but then for convenience sake. So we cracked down and figured out that immediate punishments don’t work on this problem for him. We remembered how food oriented this child is and how lying has long term consequences in real life…so if he tells a lie, for any reason, he doesn’t get the next treat that the rest of us get. This has worked so fantastically! He really thinks now before he just spurts out a lie. Yay us! All in all, we’re doing great. God is still working in our lives and growing us all up more and more.

October started with pie. Our peaches were on their last leg, so I made pie one night. Jon announced that he would gladly NOT eat fresh fruit if it meant that pie was on the horizon. Booo! And he said it right in front of the kids while we were all eating my super delicious pie. Bad message...but good pie!

Grandma Ower turned 91 and we went out to lunch with the family to celebrate. Keep them coming Grandma!

Halloween weekend was wonderful. My parents came down and we all went to the beach at sunrise. We had an unexpected treat; most of the regular surfers were dressed up in costumes. We saw the Cat in the Hat, Elvis, and many more catch waves. Bam Bam & Pebbles both caught a wave at the same time. It was hilarious!

We went trick-or-treating with our friends at the Allen’s home. Claudine made delicious chili and corn bread. My mom did little crafts with the kiddos. Caleb helped Sam carve his pumpkin. We carved ours the night before with Granny and my parents. That was a fun night too! Caleb’s best friend Sam was Mario and Caleb was Waluigi (the evil Luigi). Ben was a shark and Vida was a dinosaur. The Jenkins family had a movie theme going. Everyone was super cute and we had a good time. We topped the night off with our new tradition of watching the Charlie Brown Halloween Special. We were a tired group after being up before sunrise and going to bed late, but we were happy. I’m thankful for good family and good friends.

Random Ben Antics:

Ben was asleep in bed with me one morning (he sneaks in when the sun comes up and then falls back asleep with me & Jon) and he woke up counting. It was so weird. And he did it while stretching so his voice sounded all stretchy. Seeeevvveennnnnn....Eiiiigggghhhhtttt...What was he dreaming about?

Ben just said, "Mom, I have some good news." I said "What?" He said, " It's Dad." Jon is Ben's good news! It warms my heart.

As I sat up in bed one morning, Ben comes down the hall towards me with his hands behind his back. He then says to me, "I don't have anything behind my back." So then I said that I don't want him to lie. So he showed me. He had a handful of gummy worms (which were on top of the fridge) that he knows he isn't supposed to have. Oh Ben. I love that he threw himself under the bus. Ha ha!

Ben one morning, while snuggling me in bed, said "Mom, when I grow up I want to be a kangaroo."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

June & July 2010

We’ve had a full and wonderful summer, and it’s not even over yet. Here’s the overview: Swimming, gardening, watching fireworks, moving Granny from one beach house to another, Vacation Bible School, visiting with lots and lots of wonderful people, considering moving to Texas, considering moving to Santa Ana, considering staying you are all caught up on the last 2 months of our lives. We did get a job offer in Texas that we seriously considered, but the timing wasn’t quite right and the Lord didn’t release us to do that. We are keeping our eyes open for a cheaper home in Santa Ana in a beautiful neighborhood where quite a few of our friends all live. But for now, we’re just staying here until the Lord opens the next door for us.

Jon’s work is going well. He and his partner have finally merged their shops and are under the same roof. He’s busy, busy, busy.

We started off June celebrating Ben’s 4th birthday. It was fun. He requested fruit smoothies and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for his party, his favorites. It was a fun afternoon of kid mayhem. He loved it. I thought it was adorable when he thanked all his guests for coming and for his presents. It was so cute seeing him address a group of people.

Grandma Jean got to visit for a week or so with us. She intended to be here longer, but was ill/hospitalized in Kauai and had to delay her trip. Thank the Lord that she made a full recovery and didn’t need surgery!

Then we had a visit from Kelly (Ower) & Steve Eastmond. I hadn’t even met 3 of her kids or her husband, and had only seen her oldest when he was a baby. I’ve been wishing for so long that all of our kids could meet and play together. I have such happy childhood memories of being with her family and playing with her and her siblings, my cousins. I just wanted the same experience for our kids.

I had a friend cut about 8 inches off and a ton of bulk out of my hair. I’ve never had a friend cut my hair before. She did a fantastic job and I love it.

Our next visitors were Trish & Kai Blake. Caleb and Kai were best friends when they were babies/toddlers. We saw him last summer on our way through Colorado, but that’s the only other time we’ve seen Kai since the kids were 2. He and his mom Trish came for a weekend visit and the boys had a blast. They made orange juice and played at the beach and just had fun hanging out. It was a busy weekend, but well worth it.

Next to stay with us were my dear friends Laurie & Anna. Laurie came from Washington D.C. to meet up with her missionary team to head off to Kenya. She came a little early so we could have yet another girl’s week extravaganza. Anna came out from Colorado for it. I’m so thankful we all have been able to get together about once a year. My college girlfriends are just so special to me.

Not 24 hours after dropping my girlfriends off at their respective airports, we picked up cousin Anna from Kauai. She stayed with us for about 3 weeks. I’ve never had the chance to spend so much time with her and I cherish it. I really hope she gets another chance to linger here before her life gets too full for long carefree visits. Ben had a moment today when it sunk in that she wasn't here anymore and he buried his head into me overcome with sadness. It was so sad, but utterly adorable. I’m glad that he loves Anna so much! I'm relieved she’s going to come back for a few days at the end of September. We got tickets to go to a big concert together when she’s back. I'm not quite ready for a long goodbye.

Jeremy, Jon’s brother, was in town for a week to record another album. Jon spent all his evenings and weekends working on the album with Jeremy. They got a lot done and I’m glad they got to play music together. Uncle Brother, as the kids call him, took the boys on an uncle/nephews morning, so Anna and I got to have a girl date. Yay! We had a great day. We ended up chatting at Gypsy Den, one of my favorite cafes, for awhile and then browsing at a consignment shop. Then we picked up the kids and went to the park for over 4 hours. I love easy going days like this.

I finally, finally, finally opened my etsy shop. Last year I set myself the goal to open up for business sometime this year. I hoped to do it earlier in the year, but due to a very full school year with homeschooling Caleb, I knew it would have to wait until summer. But I did it! Yay! I'm very excited and proud of myself. I made 5 coffee cozies to start with. I will likely make some magnets or baby items in the future. People are always telling me "Oh, you should sell those," when I make them gifts. I've never been inclined to because of the cost & time of sewing homemade. It's a labor of love. But...I guess I wondered if anyone out there in the big, big world would like what I make. So here it goes. Wish me well.

Setting up my etsy shop took way more work than I thought...shipping costs & policies, linking paypal accounts so I can accept payments, reading rules & laws & regulations, CA sales tax...not to mention all the work taking photos, selecting photos, cropping photos, reducing photo size, uploading, product descriptions, and on and on. I was so excited though when I saw the finished shop. Take a look and spread the word.

I’ve also been a busy sewing lots of little baby goodies because 2 of my good friends each had their babies…and on the same day nonetheless! Tracy is all settled at home now with her sweet new baby boy Noah and Meg, a homeschooling friend, also had a baby boy, Jonathan. That means I get to have plenty of baby snuggling time and that makes me smile.

I also spent a good amount of time this summer gardening. We’ve gotten the most delicious yellow squash, salad, cucumbers, green beans, and herbs to grace our dinner plates. I’m really looking forward to the corn. It’s ready. We just have to pick it and eat it. I recently pulled out the lettuce and most of the squash plants. The lettuce was very overgrown and messy. The squash was covered in powdery mildew and wasn’t doing well. But I got so much squash from that plant that I am completely satisfied. In the next month or two our tomatoes and jalapenos will be ready. Yum!

One afternoon I noticed a ton of empty flower pots that our neighbor was getting rid of. He was glad to let me have them. Anna & I went nuts at the local nursery choosing herbs and flowers to plant. It was fun getting started plants. All the other plants that I’ve grown were from seeds, which are wonderful, but I liked the instant gratification. I’m most excited about the chocolate mint plant!!! It’s really smells & tastes like chocolate mint. It’s divine. And we got a lemon thyme hybrid herb. It’s wonderful too! Oh, we got so much…oregano, rosemary, sage, lavender, serrano chile, and a few different flowers. Jon built me a shelf to put it all on. I love the final result.

Last Saturday I was spoiled with the most perfect day! Anna, my friend Kat, and I spent the day in Temecula. We did an olive oil tasting at an olive oil bar, antique shopped, and had the most delicious and gourmet lunch at Ponte Winery. Then Jon surprised me with a date he had secretly arranged. We dined at a superb French restaurant in LA. I even ordered in French..Assiette de Fromage et Crevettes a la Ratatouille. To translate, we started with an assortment of cheese and had grilled shrimp served over ratatouille for our main entrée. I thought ratatouille was soup, but it turns out, it’s vegetables in a thick red sauce. It was all extremely delicious. Then he took me to see South Pacific at the Ahmanson Theater. “Oh my goodness” is all I can really say. And I’ve had a little French song stuck in my head ever since I saw the play…

La vie est belle,
La vie est gai,
Chere Mad'moiselle,
Est-ce que...Parce que
Vous m'aimez?

Chere Mad'moiselle,
Est-ce que...Parce que
Vous m'aimez?

Then we had an unexpected visit one evening from Jon, Susan, and their sweet little baby girl Ella. I wish I would have taken a picture. Oh well. I’ve known Susan since Jr. High and I’m so thankful for the moments we get together. She is a dear friend and I truly enjoy her family. Her husband works for government and they usually are living abroad. It was so nice to catch up with them and see how much little Ella has grown in a year. Susan even brought me gorgeous silk from Thailand! The gift made me feel loved and known. That’s a good feeling. Thanks Susan. What to make with it?

So, one more month of summer and then back to regular life and school work. But for now I think we’ll just try to get as much time in the pool as we can.

Monday, May 31, 2010

May 2010

May started off with a fun game day Caleb organized all by himself. He thought of this great idea to plan games and have his friends come over to play. It was all Caleb. He planned ahead and even made his own invitations that he passed them out to his friends the week before. He was so creative and proactive. He planned at least 10 different games & activities. I don’t think they even got around to play them all. I didn’t do ANYTHING other than sit back and drink tea with the other moms. They built Lego cars and raced them down a ramp, threw water bottle caps into different size containers worth different points, drew monsters with washable markers and then raced to melt the monsters off by shooting the monsters with water guns, and so on and so on. Hours and hours…and hours of fun. I am constantly aware of how lucky Ben is to have such a wonderful big brother and such a full childhood.

We had a short visit with Grandma Jean on her way to Kauai. She’ll be back in June. Can’t wait.

Then we got to celebrate Mother’s Day and my Mom’s birthday. My parents came down for the weekend and we had a lovely time. Jon’s mom came over for the morning. Jon made a big fancy breakfast to honor us moms. He knows how much I love gourmet food. He made Dutch Baby pancakes, eggs, and bacon. If you’ve never had a Dutch Baby, you’re missing out. A Dutch baby pancake, sometimes called a German pancake, is a sweet breakfast dish that comes out of the oven big and fluffy. It is then served with fresh squeezed lemon, butter, and powdered sugar. Oh my goodness was it good! And to top it off he did all the dishes! He is a thoughtful and sweet husband. Thanks Honey!

After my Mother’s Day breakfast I transplanted all my little seedlings outside into the garden bed and into pots. They’ve been growing inside for about 6-8 weeks and they’re ready for a little more room and sunshine. It was nice to have my mom’s company while I worked. I hope they thrive. I love going outside and looking at all the little plants. It just brings me joy. I can’t wait to have before and after pictures of the progress of the plants. For now they are all very little. Growing from seeds sure takes a long time. A friend of mine started growing about when I did but she bought started plants. Her plants are all a few steps ahead of mine and it’s very helpful to get a look ahead. I’ve already learned a lot about what to do different next time.

We spent one Sunday exploring the Bower’s Museum in Historic Santa Ana. It offers one free Sunday a month that we took advantage of. We enjoyed its new exhibit "Secrets of the Silk Road: Mystery Mummies from China". This exhibit is touring outside Asia for the FIRST TIME! It was really interesting. Caleb got kind of scared of the mummies so he decided to sit that part out. They had an adult mummy and a recreation of the burial site. There was also a mummified baby on display. The baby really got to me. All in all, it was fascinating for Jon & I. The museum had lots of other exhibits that Caleb really enjoyed. There was a big one on Pacific Islander masks and a bunch of stuff from head hunter tribes. He drew pictures of his favorite exhibits. I like to see what he finds interesting. There was also a Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival going on in the courtyard of the museum. The kids saw some traditional Japanese dances and drumming, ate mochi-a favorite rice treat, and made special art projects. Then we walked down the street to the Bowers Kidseum and the kids got do hands on things that related to the exhibits they saw at the Bowers Museum. They tried on lots of masks and played different kinds of drums that represented cultures all over the world. I love when fun and learning blend so perfectly.

I started an exercise regime. My plan is to go for 6 months working out daily. I figure it will be easier for me mentally to make a daily habit than to shoot for a few times a week. So far it’s working pretty well. It takes me about 45 minutes each day. I’ve amended it already to taking Sundays off. I really need that day of rest. I’m still adjusting and just doing my best to do something active and healthy each day. A few people have noticed that I look a little thinner. Our friend Tracy has challenged Jon to a weight loss contest once she has her baby. Ha ha…I hope they actually do it.

Tracy’s sister and I threw Tracy a baby shower at my house. My patio was transformed. I always hate cleaning up from parties like this because it looks so pretty that I just want to leave it that way. We draped gauzy fabric over the patio lights in the backyard and set our tables with sterling silver tea sets and porcelain tea cups and saucers. It was really special to me because I got to use the sterling silver tea set that I inherited from my Grandma Carol for the first time. I love her so much and it reminded me of her for the whole day. Add a few fresh flowers from my garden and ta-da…a beautiful and breezy afternoon tea/70’s fondue party. As strange as that sounds, it turned out wonderful. I started with a ceasar pesto salad with homemade croutons. Then, I served a creamy havarti and racelette cheese fondue with various cubes of bread. The next course was marinated steak and chicken that the guests cooked themselves in a very hot wine broth fondue. In addition there were lots of yummy veggies and potatoes to cook in the wine broth fondue. Then they got to take the cooked meat and veggies and dip them in one of the yummy dips I made: garlic lemon dip, blueberry dip, green goddess dip (very herby), and peanut cilantro dip. To end up the meal we had a chocolate fountain and I made a peanut butter white chocolate dessert fondue. Oh my…food heaven. Gifts and games and friends and fun…we had a good time celebrating Tracy and the soon arriving baby boy Flores.

Random fact: We signed up for Netflix to save a few bucks on movie rentals. For only $8.99 we get to watch unlimited movies/television episodes through the Wii on the television. Netflix gave us a special streaming disk to put into the Wii that makes this possible. It is connected to the internet so we choose what we want to watch online and then it automatically goes to our Wii. It looks and sounds almost as good as a DVD. I like that they have a big list of VeggieTale movies for the kiddos, as well as lots of Saturday morning cartoons from my childhood that I get to introduce the kids to. Additionally, we get one DVD mailer at a time. I’m so glad not to have to deal with the late fees and whatnot that we were getting with Blockbuster’s new policies for in-store rentals.

Ben’s funny antic of the month: Ben was hugging Caleb to apologize for throwing hard toys at him. Then he started squeezing too hard and I asked why and he said to get juice from him.

Friday, April 30, 2010

April 2010

We've updated April. Enjoy!

We're good. God has continued to provide for us and we've been fed and rent has been covered in one way or another for 3 months. God is more than good.

He is an amazing magician. One day, earlier in the month, we got an anonymous envelope stuck onto our front door with money inside and this message written on the outside

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
And all these things shall be added to you. -Matthew 6:33

This verse has been rolling around in our brains since. God wants us to abide in Him and He will take care of us. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:19.

This last Sunday at church, God told me to just “praise Him.” Sing praises, speak a family praise Him. So I have, and surprise-surprise, He is holding us up! He’s already done a couple sneaky things in the last couple days to show me how! Praise God!

The summer is starting to book up already with lots of visitors! I love it. Grandma Jean is coming for a couple weeks at the beginning of June. She’ll get to be here for Benjamin’s 4th birthday. WooHoo! Two of my closest friends are going to visit at the end of June. One was able to book a ticket already. I can’t wait for the next installment of “Girl’s Weekend Extravaganza!” I love that my dearest friends and I have managed to get together at least once a year since college, regardless of wherever we’ve ended up living. They are truly part of my family. Also, Jon’s cousin Anna just booked her tickets to visit us. She's coming out for all of July. I can’t wait! She is a remarkably precious person. I love her. Yay!

I got to see Gone With The Wind on the big screen with one of my girlfriends. I can't believe I hadn't seen it before. It was amazing and I'm so glad my first time seeing it was on the big screen. I love classic movie night at the movie theater! Now I want to read the sequel, Scarlett.

We got treated to a visit to the Discovery Science Museum for Bubblefest 2010. It’s nice to have a friend with a press pass. It gets us into some fun places for free. It was an unbelievable show. Bubbles and laser lights filled every square inch of the room and we were all laughing, grinning, and just having fun (not to mention choking on bubbles)! Too bad no pictures were allowed in the show. We had a great time enjoying the rest of the museum with our friends. It is a very hands-on place of learning for the kids. It’s nice when fun overlaps with learning. This totally counts for science. Homeschooling is so fun.

I spent the week of Spring Break catching up on bookkeeping. I even reclaimed all the boxes and laundry baskets that had been filled with papers, notes, and unopened mail! Everything now has a place and is organized, filed, and ready for me to start living in real time instead of constantly being in a “catch up” state. Just a little bit more work and I’ll be fully caught up. I’ve been buried for years and it feels like I can breathe again. It’s a nice feeling.

We tilled and prepped the garden bed outside and planted corn, jalapeños, squash, salad, oregano, basil, & cilantro directly into the garden. Still have a few more weeks to wait to transplant the other seeds we started indoors last month. Now we have to figure out how to kill all the rats that live in our bushes so they don't eat our plants. That’s a project for this coming weekend I suppose. I plan to use traps instead of poison. It just doesn’t seem like a good idea to use poison around kids, dogs, and growing vegetables. So far the corn, salad, basil, oregano, & 1 squash sprouted. It's so fun watching things grow, especially when it's a noticeable difference day by day. I really hope the jalapeños and cilantro decide to sprout. The ones I started indoors never did, so I was hoping that they might if I planted them directly outside. We'll see.

And to end with the funny quote of the month:
Ben asked "Caleb, do you think I'm pretty?"
Caleb replied "No, and you should be glad."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March 2010

March has been a month of God reminding us that He is our provider. He is faithful and true! I write this message as a praise and testimony to the Lord! We have not been paid since about mid-late February. As I write this, we still have yet to receive a paycheck and it is the end of March. Yet the Lord miraculously has provided us with March’s rent! Thank you Lord! The sweet Lord has also been steadily trickling blessings down onto us over the last month and a half, just when we need it; a few bucks found buried in a pile of paperwork, a bit found in my dresser drawer, money from an old debt owed to us, money from returning an unwanted product, groceries bought by my parents, birthday money in the mail, and monetary gifts from Jon’s mom and church. I can’t stress enough how unexpected and in perfect timing all this money is! It is there just as soon as we are down to our last groceries, again and again. I could never have predicted the Lord would work it out like He has. To top it all off, the Lord went beyond necessity and included blessing us with fun! We were treated to Disneyland to celebrate Jon’s birthday, to dinner for our 9th anniversary, and to Jon’s favorite restaurant for his birthday. Thank the Lord and thank all the wonderful people He used to bless us!!!

The kids and I planted a vegetable/herb garden. Dirt, sun, and air are free. Seeds and water are cheap. So far we have planted our first batch of seeds indoors. We can’t wait until they are big enough to transplant outdoors. I hope this plan works and we end up with yummy, home grown veggies and herbs. I don’t have a very good track record with indoor plants. The ones that have survived me are Very (with a capital V) hardy.

Benjamin has been really into dressing up lately. He especially loves the super hero capes Aunt Laura made for Caleb when Caleb was little. Ben has a hard time staying in any costume for more than 2 seconds though. He is constantly taking different costumes on and off and on again, at least until he gets the perfect setup. Then he doesn’t want to take it off for a long, long time.

We have pictures from a field trip to the La Brea Tar Pits. We had a great afternoon. We learned that the fossils found in the tar pits date back to the Ice Age and not to the time of the dinosaurs. We even got to see some archeologists actively excavating. They still have some active sites. A few places on the property have tar leaking up through the ground. Of course the boys loved poking at the tar with sticks.

Caleb did a biography presentation on Buzz Aldrin at his school. The assignment included dressing up and giving the presentation as if he were Buzz Aldrin. It was adorable seeing all the kids in their costumes. We recorded it, but missed the beginning with the video camera. It goes “Hello, my name is Caleb Hartshorn, but today I am Buzz Aldrin...”

I am still waiting on the KOCE website to upload the television program that Caleb and his friend Sam got to be on. It should be soon. I’ll post the clip of them as soon as it is available. More information about their 15 seconds of fame is under our “Older Posts” category in February’s news.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

February 2010

We had a great snow day with the Flores family. It was a fantastic sunny day in the mountains, but there was tons of snow thanks to the all the extra rain we got this year. Benjamin enjoyed sledding this year. Finally! Everyone was beaming with smiles all day.

Juan took Caleb & Sam with him for a press outing on the R/V Sea Explorer with the Ocean Institute in Dana Point. Thanks for taking the boys Juan! They spotted a fin whale. It is the second largest whale. The Ocean Institute took a sample of the sea floor and needed two cute small volunteers. Our boys fit the bill and got to dig in to examine the sludgy sea floor sediment and the animals that live there. They also got to watch a plankton dredge. Then the researcher used a microscope to examine the water sample and showed what they could see under the microscope on a larger viewing screen. The boys got to try to identify types of plankton they could see from the water sample. Caleb and Sam even got interviewed by KOCE. It was aired on television on February 24th on "Real Orange," a KOCE program. It was a very short segment and they didn’t use much of the footage they took, but their 15 seconds of fame was adorable. It is not available online yet, but I’ve been assured it will be soon. Once it is available, I plan to post the clip so you don’t have to watch the whole program. If you prefer, you can check it out at once it is available. While the boys were busy with all that, Tracy and I took the little ones to the Santa Ana Zoo. It is a very small zoo, but it is just right for a 2 and a 3 year old. Ben was anxious to find all the birds, which really surprised me. I thought he would like all the little busy monkeys that the zoo is known for. He was finally satisfied when we found the bald eagle. It had been injured and rescued. Ben was captivated and didn’t want to move on to the next animal. He also enjoyed the birds hanging out at the pond in the aviary.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 2010

This month the boys went on a field trip to the Anaheim Fire Station. It was a good time and they both got to climb through the fire engine. We also learned the difference between a fire truck and a fire engine...a fire truck has ladders on top and fire engines do not. Who knew?

Ben and Xena finally got much needed haircuts. Since I'm the one that does the hair cutting, I tend to go too long in between. Oh well. That's the busy life of a home schooling mom. So many things to do and only so much time & energy.

I finally decided to make some sewing goodies to sell. I took a poll from my friends to see what they thought might sell and the verdict is coffee cozies. In the next couple weeks I plan to whip some up and try to sell them online. We'll see how that goes.