Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 2011

December started with a visit from Granny. She finished her training to open her Kumon center then flew to see us on her way back to CA from her training. The kids were so glad to get a whole week of Granny time. She made everyone’s tummy happy with her famous chili and lots and lots of treats. Then she was off to CA for only one day before her big move to Kauai. She’s staying with Uncle Pete and Tia Val until her home right below them is ready for her. Then she’ll be below Pete and Val and across the street from Grandma Jean. Jeremy and Julie are just around the corner too. Now we have to figure out how to get enough mullah to visit them all.

Then it was time for my quick turn around trip to California to be on Ellen’s 12 Days of Christmas TV taping. Don Jenkins picked me up and promptly delivered me to his wife Amber. Tracy came over and then we had a nice night in, just us three girls, to celebrate both of their birthdays and being together again. We had Thai food (my first time, yum), had Amber’s homemade sangria (double yum), lovely conversation, and watched a movie Amber had been looking forward to, The Help. Those girls have a big piece of my heart. Then I made my way to Jenny & Dan’s home. They graciously hosted me and Laurie again. I spent Monday shopping and hanging out with Laurie and Kat. We spoiled ourselves all day and ended up at The Melting Pot, our favorite fondue restaurant, to celebrate Kat’s birthday. I’m glad that Dan and Jenny were able to join us for the dinner. It was heavenly and perfected by the treasured company. I love that I got to see all my college girls again! And I’m glad that I got some really good quality time in even though it was such a quick trip.

Tuesday was the big Ellen day. The four of us girls who went to the taping before Becky’s wedding all made our way back again. Laurie had to fly in from Washington D.C., Kelly from Northern CA, and me from Texas. Becky was the only local. We were so anxious to know what day of the 12 days we were. Typically the prizes get better the closer to the end of the 12 days you get. Sometimes Day 12 wins all the prizes from the previous 11 days. We were pretty sure we were day 10, 11, or 12. There happened to be a double taping the day of our show, so we were able to find out that we were going to be day 10. We saw the prizes from the audience before us and were so glad that we weren’t in that taping. It was all a fashion theme; a designer bag, designer sunglasses, etc. We finally made it into the studio and were having fun. Ellen called a man on stage from the back to propose to his girlfriend. She was two rows ahead of us in the audience and so surprised to see her boyfriend. Everyone was so excited and in such suspense. He walked over to her, got down on one knee, and gave a touching proposal. She buried her face in her hands and denied him. The audience was shocked! But I knew all along…it was a fake. Ellen’s sneaky way of introducing the prize portion of the show usually starts with a fake emotional joke that pulls on your heartstrings and then shocks you. I was on to it, but most of the audience around me wasn’t. It was entertaining to watch their faces through the whole thing. Then the prizes were rolled out and the audience went nuts jumping and screaming! It was so fun and exhilarating! What were we going to get!?! We got so much! I feel so blessed! We each got a $250 Tivoli speaker, which I love because I can plug my phone in and stream Pandora music while I’m cooking. This speaker puts out such a high quality sound. We got a $600 Dyson vacuum. I’m trying to sell it in CA, but no luck so far. We’re down to asking $400 and still no bites. We got a $100 Target gift card, which helped us finish buying the kids Christmas gifts. We got a $500 Breville espresso machine. I always wanted to get Jon a fancy espresso machine, but it is such an impractical splurge that we never would have gotten one. We got a few delicious espressos and lattes out of it, but it worked inconsistently, so the company is going to do an exchange with me and give me a new one. We got a $300 World Market gift card and I’ve already spent most of mine. I got a gorgeous lamp, a shower curtain, 2 couch pillows, a cast iron griddle, a paella pan, and other odds and ends for the kitchen. We got a $500 Hilton gift card that I was able to sell for $360 on Craigslist. And the best is the Calphalon pots and pans set. My non-stick frying pans had just died right before I left on my trip and I wasn’t sure what I was going to cook in when I got back home. And voila! I now how a beautiful bronze set of oven proof and hard anodized pots and pans!

We had a lovely holiday season. I got a phone call from my parents saying that Mom’s doctor said she’d be fine to travel for the holidays. I was so happy. I didn’t think Mom would be able to travel until January at least. Mom finished up all her radiation treatments, YAY!!!! Then they drove out here for Christmas. They got to stay with us for about 2 weeks. Aaron and Andrew also joined us for Christmas. We maxed out our little house, but in a cozy Christmassy sort of way. I really enjoyed my first Christmas living in Texas and I’m so thankful for all the family we got to spend time with.

The kids had a way more merry Christmas than we anticipated. There was an avalanche of presents under the tree for them. My parents got Jon set up with all the equipment to brew his own beer. He and Aaron already did their first run at brewing a stout beer. It’s fermenting now in a big container on the floor in my bedroom, covered with a jacket for darkness. Jon’s excited to taste the final product.

With the money we got from selling the Hilton gift card Ellen gave me, I bought a Kitchenaid stand mixer. I love it! I can’t believe I’ve gone all these years without such a useful tool. It made prepping the Christmas meal so much easier. It shredded all the chicken for my flautas in under a minute. That saved me so much work! And it whipped up the meringue and whipped cream for my pavlova (our new Christmas dessert tradition) in no time. Aaron brought a super yummy buttered pecan quick bread that we enjoyed Christmas morning along with our traditional sausage balls. Yum! The Kitchenaid made mixing both a breeze. I love it!!! Did I mention that already? I especially appreciated the reprieve from hand mixing/shredding all that because I was fighting off a cold and didn’t have any extra energy to spare. I’m still waiting on a pasta roller attachment I ordered to arrive in the mail and then homemade raviolis are next on the agenda. I got impatient waiting and tried rolling the pasta dough out by hand, but it turned out way too thick and not so good.

There were a couple bonfires enjoyed by all the neighbors out here. I was too sick and missed the first one, but was happy I was well enough for the New Years Eve bonfire party hosted by Beth & Jay Erickson at the Hamiter’s home. We had a fun night with family and friends! We shouted and cheered and choruses of Auld Lang Syne broke out to ring in the New Year. Only a couple people actually knew the words and everyone else just hummed with exuberance. Ben came up to me after the New Year’s countdown, shouting, kissing, and merriment. It took him by surprise and he was a little troubled for a few moments. He wondered why everyone did that. It was cute.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We love you all!!!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Family Updates: Sept, Oct, & Nov 2011

We added 3 photo albums to our Photo Gallery. Click on the photos at the right to view them.

September concluded with Caleb’s Lego Mindstorm arriving in the mail. He was so excited as he unwrapped each separate component in the package. He wanted to jump right to the hardest robot in the instructions manual, the cool one on the cover. But of course, he is just like me, and decided to start at the beginning of the manual and work his way through. Which I know is smart and sensible and right and what I would do, but sometimes I want to see Caleb be more childlike and impulsive. Sometimes we’re both too logical and practical. We have to work a little harder for whimsy. We loaded the software on the computer. Caleb assembled the basic robot setup. He learned the beginnings of programming on the software. He hooked up his robot to the computer and sent along the program he wrote into the robot. And voila! His robot can move, and talk, and even sing! So cool! He loves it and he has so much more to try and learn!

We had a fun evening celebrated Jude Rusch’s birthday pirate style. We had a great time and enjoyed time getting to know our neighbors more and more. I especially enjoyed chatting with Lena, Jake Hamiter’s wife.

October was great. Fall weather came suddenly and reprieved us of the horrible heat wave. I finally got to enjoy sitting outside on the porch with my toasty coffee in the morning. It wasn’t too long until it was too cold for that, but I’m really enjoying this area now that it’s crisp and refreshing. There is still a burn ban in effect because of the drought & heat wave summer brought, but I look forward to enjoying evenings outdoors by a fire once that burn ban is lifted.

One night Jon & I went out on a date. We found a new wine bar in the historic downtown area of Bryan. It was calm, spacious, and very suited to relaxed conversations. We talked for hours. We discussed how a big part of why we’re here in Texas is because God is taking Jon through the process of learning how to desire/want and to do something about it. Jon’s 2 years of college credits won’t transfer to Texas because after 10 years they expire here in Texas. Jon doesn’t want to repeat 2 years of general education. I feel like God was leading us to the conclusion that God is going to honor that desire. We began rethinking our original plan of Jon doing the traditional 4 year college thing. We began discussing what Jon enjoys and wants. We came up with a modified plan that is a much looser plan, but it gives a lot of room for God to do His thing. We’re slowing down our pace and going to take one thing at a time. We’re first going to focus on fixing up the little house to rent. We haven’t had the funds to fix up the bathroom in the little house and make it livable. So that’s first on the agenda. Then, once the little house is rented, we’re going to work on fixing up our house to make it cozy for us. We need the rent money from renting the little house to help us pay for fixing up our house. Then Jon will likely take classes to get his pilot’s license. He’ll enjoy that and it will increase his skill set and make him more employable in whatever career he ends up pursuing. He may possibly take classes to get a boating/captain’s license too. We are praying that God puts people in Jon’s path, and opens up doors in unusual ways, to get Jon’s foot in the door for some type of job that will lead to a career that will provide stability and retirement possibilities for our family, but that will also enliven Jon. We’re hoping that he will only have to take relevant classes at the university and that maybe he can work his way up in the job world. For now though, Jon is really enjoying working for Ron Rusch’s cabinet shop. He doesn’t have all the self-employed pressures any longer and he loves it. We really have no idea what’s going to happen, but know that God put us here and is leading us. God will open up the right doors at the right time. We’re following His leadings and we’re having a good time while we’re doing it.

We celebrated Halloween by going to a Harvest Festival with the Rusch Family. Ben dressed up as a leopard. I’m so happy he got to wear the costume Aunt Laura made for her kids 25ish years ago. Caleb didn’t want to wear a costume he’d worn before, so he mixed it up and wore a little of this and a little of that. He called himself “Captain Random” and he ended up winning the costume contest for his age group at the Harvest Festival.

November started with Jon’s drive out to CA for his friend Curby’s wedding. Jon made arrangements with his boss to buy some of Jon’s machinery that had been left in CA. This funded Jon’s trip and allowed him to also retrieve his table saw, band saw, and a few other things we thought we had to abandon in our move to Texas! I’m so thankful and see the Lord’s hand in working this all out. It was a hard trip on Jon though. He did a straight through drive both ways by himself. His back went out the day before he left and he had to endure the drive and the days loading the machinery in terrible pain. All that he put his back through on the trip greatly increased the damage to his back/sciatica problem and he ended up missing a lot of work once he was home. He’s visited a chiropractor a couple times, used his inversion table, and spent countless hours stretching. After a month of unending pain, we bought him a memory foam mattress topper and contoured memory foam pillow. Now he is able to get some sleep at night and with everything together, his back is back to normal and his sciatica pain is very slowly improving.

At that same time, we had a visit from Anna & Roland Peterson and their two kids Eli & Lila. Anna is one of my dear friends from college. They’ve been living in Colorado Springs for the last few years and have been preparing to move their family to Tanzania to work with Wycliffe as anthropologists. They leave the beginning of January. I love that they made the effort to come see us and our new Texas life before they left. It will be at least 3 years until they get a furlough back in the United States. I cherish my time with Anna and love getting to catch up with her. I love that our families got to have so much time together. It’s a rare thing. We even got to celebrate Eli’s 7th birthday while they were visiting. And what great timing for their visit; Anna was such a help to me while Jon was at the peak of his pain and unable to move much. The kids all played and kept each other busy having fun. It worked out so well. Since Jon wasn’t able to, Roland even drove me to the airport for my trip to California to watch my dear friend Becky Fulford become Becky Kapanka. Then they moved on to visit some of their family in Dallas. Their family watched their kids and then they got to fly out to California too, sans kids, for Becky’s wedding. It was so funny to have our families together in Texas and then a week later to be visiting in California with no kids.

Roland dropped me off at the Austin airport. And then I was all alone. I didn’t have to multi-task. I was left with my own thoughts. It was blissful and bizarre! Times like that stand out to me because they are so few and far between in my world. Usually I’m focused on my agenda for the day. Mix into that a full day of engaging my two sweet children, including the attention, conversations, corrections, and instructions they need throughout the day and I have don’t have room for spare thoughts. When I find myself in a place of quiet stillness with no to-do’s or distractions I’m surprised by the sensation of my own wandering thoughts. I loved traveling alone! It was so wonderful.

Then I landed in my beloved California and got picked up by Kat and her husband Craig. It was sooooo good to see her! We dropped Craig off at home and we spent a lovely evening our favorite fondue restaurant, the Melting Pot. Kat and I have lots of special memories there. The next day we ran errands, ate In-N-Out Burgers, and loafed on the coach in the daytime to watch TV…In The Daytime!!!! Again, not part of my normal world. It was wonderful!

That evening we got ready and met up with our other girls for Becky’s bachelorette party. Everybody (but Anna – who made it out for the wedding, but not the bachelorette party) flew in for Becky’s wedding! We had such a good night and I loved seeing all my dear college friends! We started off at Amanda’s house and had such fun catching up and watching Becky open her presents. Then we moved on to a dueling piano bar. It was a first for me and so, so, so fun! We walked in wearing goofy cowboy hats and made an impression on the pianists. They highlighted our group a lot and made the night even more fun. We danced in the aisles to everything from Johnny Cash to Irish jigs, plus so much in between. Becky had a great night, which is the most important part. I love my girls!

Dan & Jenny Sumner and their little 2 year old Emma hosted Laurie and I for our trip. I’m so glad for that time getting to know Jenny in her family setting. I usually only see her at girl’s reunions. She and her family are so enjoyable and her daughter definitely steals the show. She’s adorable! We were so comfortable and cared for. Jenny even put mints on our pillows at night and had a little chalk board in a photo frame on our nightstand wishing us sweet dreams. I’m dying to recreate the homemade roasted butternut squash ravioli with browned butter sage sauce Jenny made us one night. It was heavenly! I’m itching to get the Kitchenaid mixer I’ve wanted for years with the pasta attachment so I can easily bust out awesome pasta on my own. Our car rental turned out to be a little mint green Volkswagen Beetle and Laurie and I had a good time driving that around all week. I love that Laurie and I got a week being roomies. We had so much time together and I cherish her friendship.

I got to spend a day with Tracy Flores & Amber Jenkins. We had a full day of long conversations, quality time, and a good dose of tasty treats. Those two girls are really close to my heart. They will forever be in my life and I’m so thankful for them. I can’t wait until our families can all be together again. Our kids are all each other’s best friends and I miss those relationships and dynamics in my family’s life. We’re plotting to get Sam a plane ticket out here so he and Caleb can have a week or two together. Hopefully soon.

Then back to my college girls. We spent such a wonderful week together. Becky had set us up to go to a TV taping of the Ellen DeGeneres Show. We thought the guest of the day was going to be the cast of the Twilight movies. So Laurie thought it would be a good idea to watch the first movie to acquaint herself with the characters before she saw them live. Laurie, Dan (Jenny’s husband), and myself spent a morning watching the teen vampire/werewolf love story unfold. It was hilarious. I’m a fan, but Laurie and Dan are not Twilight material, so it was an amusing morning. Then it was time to go to the taping. We ended up with different guests on the Ellen show, so watching Twilight was for naught. Ha ha! But, we did end up being given a $100 Groupon gift certificate, a CD of the musical guest, a box of Jelly Belly candies, and tickets to come back for the taping of Ellen’s 12 Days of Christmas Show! Those are incredibly sought after tickets! Ellen gives away thousands of dollars of prized to each audience member on the Christmas shows!!! I was in such a position. I knew I had to figure out how to make a way to get back to California to go to that show. It took some doing, but we worked it out. I have my plane ticket purchased to go back. Of the four of us girls that went, only Becky lives locally. Laurie lives in Washington D.C. and Kelly lives in Northern CA. They’ve both worked it out too. We’ll be on the December 13th taping, which will likely air on the 14th, so set your TV’s to record. It will be a quick turn around trip, but how fun to see my girls again and get prizes!

The day before the wedding was great. Anna had arrived and our close group of college girls got to spend the last half of the day enjoying each other and celebrating Becky. We got pedicures followed with dinner & sangrias at Habana, my favorite Cuban restaurant. There is something irreplaceable about this group of girls in my life. I’m thankful we’ve gotten to see each other about once a year over the last ten years.

Becky’s wedding was perfect! She was gorgeous and she picked a great guy. I wish them so much happiness.

I returned home looking forward to seeing my family after a whole week away. My whole family loved on me so much the first couple days I was home. I ate it up. Then it was time for Thanksgiving. Jon’s cousins Aaron & Andrew came to stay with us for the holiday. I’m so glad Andrew lives here now. He recently moved to San Marcos from Kauai. The senior Rusch’s hosted Thanksgiving and I couldn’t have asked for a better first Texan Thanksgiving. We had the tradition food plus smoked brisket and sausage. It was amazing! The weather was ideal and the people felt like family. I love that feeling. I love that I felt like I was at home. We played Bocce ball and the kids played ping pong and ran around having fun. It was a perfect day. Maybe next year we’ll be able to have our family come too. Then it will be an even more perfect day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Texas Beginnings – July to September 2011

It is the middle of September and I found myself sitting quietly in my brown leather chair. It’s tricky for me to find those moments. The kids are both fighting colds so I canceled school today. They’re working on a new puzzle Caleb got for his birthday yesterday. So I had a few quiet moments to pray and listen to the Lord. And I was surprised by what He told me. He saved us! He sent us to Texas, in His perfect timing, to avert financial disaster for our family. He got us out in time! Our business would have hit hard times and we wouldn’t have been able to pay our rent. We would have become desperate suddenly. He saved us from disaster by moving us to Texas, and I wasn’t even aware of it. And not only that, but He started us on a new path to breathe life into our family and begin a new career path that would enliven Jon and provide more financial security, now and for the future. What if we hadn’t listened?!? What if we hadn’t obeyed the Lord immediately?!? How can God save us if we don’t listen and obey?

I really thought that obeying God and moving here was just about walking Jon through having desires and hopes and reaching for them; about learning how to live. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that God was saving us from disaster! I’m so thankful and feeling a bit overwhelmed with the goodness of our Lord. I would have never even known what we were spared had the Lord not shared that with me. How awesome is our God!!!

July was a crazy month. Jeremy, Julie, and their 3 kids arrived around midnight our first day here, after we unloaded our moving truck. It was chaos, stuff everywhere. Julie was a huge help to me! She took care of cooking duties so I could focus on unpacking. That was huge for me! And she helped unpack so much! Thank you Sister!!!!!! Jeremy was traveling all over playing shows. A few were more local and Jon played with him, along with some of our new neighbors. The kids got to really get to know each other, which was so needed. That’s the downside to family living in Kauai, you don’t get to see them as often as you would like.

Right off the bat being here I was invited to a Mary Kay party at one neighbor’s house. Another neighbor invited me to a girl’s night birthday celebrate in town. A few weeks after moving in we had a fun Mexican food night. One of my new friends decided she wanted to cook with me, so the girls took me to the grocery stores and we cooked together. Then we had a Mexican food party, played games, and had a great night. It feels good and normal to have a full house of friends. Yay! It was a nice way to break in the house.

Cousin Aaron came for a visit and took us hiking around the woods we live in. He is really good at identifying all the plants, animals, and evidence of animals out there. It was fun; hot, but fun!

My cousin Kara came for a visit and it was so nice to see her. Years seem to pass between visits. I’m glad I live so much closer to her now! We’ll get to do holidays together even! She and I had a nice girl’s day in town. We got pedicures (in massage chairs – the best!), shopped for jeans at the consignment shop, and caught up on life. I really needed that girl’s day. She got the kids gift cards to the toy store and made cake balls (cake in bite size form, rolled in chocolate) with the kids. It was a very merry un-birthday for them and they loved it!

September is our first month here in Texas of regular life and daily routines. We’ve been fighting cold after cold after cold, especially the kids. We’re just getting used to a new set of bugs and I’m sure we’ll develop immunity after awhile. Our house is functional enough to live in, although we have many corners filled with stacks of boxes and toys overflowing. We’re close to getting the boys rooms done and then the toys will have homes again, instead of being and endless messy pile that engulfs the entrance way into the house. We’ve got moulding up and painted. The bunk beds are almost done being built and are about ready to be painted. We plan to make a little stage in the room for the kids drum set that will have storage space underneath for toys. We also plan to build a wardrobe for the room since we had to knock out the closet to make enough room for their beds. It will be a really fun room when we’re done.

We’ve been enjoying our neighbors and getting to know them better. We’ve gone swimming, had BBQ’s, had date nights/babysitting trades, and the boys have gone fishing. Jon even canoed down a local river with our neighbor Justin. He took his gun because apparently there are alligators in the river. Ahhhh! No sightings though, so that’s good (if there were any sightings, Jon wisely didn’t tell me, so I’m at least under the impression they didn’t see any). We went to a get-together to watch the first game of the college football season. This town goes into crazy football frenzy mode! Just part of our new Texas life; Might as well embrace the culture :) I’m so thankful for our friends here welcoming us into their lives, including us, and making us feel at home. The Ruschs, Hamiters, Ericksons, VonGontens, & Rhodes rock!!!

The more things have started falling back into place, the more peace I feel. I’ve gotten back into the habit of cooking weeknights, except Tuesdays. Tuesdays are our go into town, deposit Jon’s paycheck, eat dinner out, and do our grocery shopping nights. I hadn’t been able to wrap by brain around cooking while our house was in chaos with unpacking and company and all. But we’re feeling much more settled, in routine, and peaceful. Right now I am on a quest to recreate Trader Joe's Chimichurri Rice. It used to be a staple in my freezer, but now I don't live by my beloved Trader Joes. I found a recipe online that will at least start me off in the right direction. I even ordered a 1 lb. bag of dried Peruvian aji panca chiles to give me the best chance at an authentic taste.

I’ve really been enjoying school with the kids. I was a little intimidated by the idea of homeschooling two kids at the same time. I thought that it would be a big process with a lot of readjusting and tweaking to make it work. I was so wrong. I did no preparation. I hadn’t even cracked open Ben’s books to see what they were like. I had no plan. I didn’t have the time or brain space up till then. I was just trying to get through our move and getting settled. I just jumped right in on our first day of schooling. I opened all the books. I made a schedule and a strategy. And, thank the Lord, it worked beautifully! We had a very successful 1st month of homeschooling 2 kids!!! I was thrilled it went so smoothly! We were organized and we had fun. Ben and I still are really enjoying learning his letters and reading books together. We've been playing all kinds of games to help lock the letter names into his brain. I'm really cherishing this time with him. There's something especially sweet about this stage. I have lots of fond memories of Caleb at this stage too :)

Caleb’s 10th birthday has been great. It started off slightly bittersweet. Both kids woke up a bit sick and he was missing his friends more than usual because of his birthday. He wasn’t really up for a birthday party because of that. We all got up early so Jon could make Caleb a special birthday breakfast and so he could open his presents. It was a nice time. We laid low most of the day because the kids were fighting little colds. Our neighbors asked Caleb over so they could give him a present. Legos and a singing card! It made him feel really cared about. Thanks Rusch Family! Then we went out to dinner at Caleb’s choice, Chuy’s, a Mexican restaurant. We let him open all the cards he’d received. He kept getting more birthday love and money as he opened each card. Thanks everyone! That was really special and meant so much to Caleb! He felt loved! He has been saving for about 2 years for a Lego Mindstorm, which is a toy that incorporates robotics and computer programming with Legos. It is $300 at the toy store and, before the birthday money he got for his birthday, he was halfway there. He was thankful that he was getting closer to his goal. And then he opened up the last card from Grandpa Artie and Grandma Cheryl. He admired the card for quite awhile. Grandma Cheryl is really good at making special cards. It even had a picture of the Mindstorm in it. Then Caleb found the check folded up in a slot in the card. There was enough money to put him well over the amount he needed! His mouth fell wide open. He was stunned; frozen in shock! We could see his wheels turning as it slowly began sinking in…he would finally be able to buy his Mindstorm after 2 years of hard work doing chores to earn money, careful saving, and lots of patience!!! We had seen one at Toys R Us, which is where we headed directly after dinner. He didn’t even want to order birthday dessert because he was too amped about getting his toy. To our disappointment, Toys R Us no longer had any in stock. But it was okay, he was a trooper, and we ordered it on Amazon from my phone as soon as we walked out of the store. He saved at least $40 by ordering in on Amazon. We got it for $270 plus a great book that will teach him how to use the toy for another $19, no tax and no shipping fees. Yay! We topped the night off with frozen yogurt and thank you calls to the Grandparents.

We decided a special family day was in order for Saturday in lieu of a birthday party. Caleb was too sick for any of our plans though, so we played Monopoly, watched SpongeBob, and made birthday cupcakes.

Just a few days ago the boys and I were sitting in the living room about ready to home school. Suddenly there was a wonderful display of birds out our front window. I’m really thankful for the big picture window that takes up quite of bit of our living room wall. We’ll have to get a good bird identification book. We’re pretty sure we saw a blue jay, a cardinal, and 2 or 3 other species. They were flying, perching, playing in the bird bath, and sharing their different bird sounds with us. It was spectacular! I haven’t witnessed anything quite like it since we’ve moved here. It was just a really special moment that captivated our attention. I’m really enjoying the nature of where we live. It’s impossible not to see life all around you here. We constantly see deer families (there’s probably a correct term for that), squirrels, and a variety of birds. Our first few weeks here were filled with the evening sounds of the cicadas. That was cool. But it wasn’t cool that they would bash themselves towards any light source, so trying to get into the front door at night was pretty freaky. Those cicadas are very large and very strong as they thrash and bash themselves around the porch light and front door. And there are so many of them. But that only lasted for a short time. I guess the cicada season is short. There’s so much for us to learn about the new environment we live in; plants, animals, and the ever changing weather. It’s almost impossible for me to not start singing praise songs to the Lord walking the quarter mile walk to the mail box. I like that.

Below is Caleb’s poem for one of his weekly writing assignments.

I Want to Invent a Machine

I want to invent a machine…
That can fly.
I want to invent a machine…
That can jump high.

I want to invent a machine…
That can run.
I want to invent a machine…
With a tongue.

I want to invent a machine…
That won’t lie.
I want to invent a machine…
That won’t die.

I want to invent a machine…
Who has a lot of fun.
I want to invent a machine…
Who gets my homework done.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Farewell California – July 2011

At the end of June we said our farewells to Hanford and our family. We headed down to Orange County for a final week with our friends. I expected to have a calm week with nothing to do but lounging with friends and with Jon who was done working. I was wrong. Jon’s back went out right at the beginning, and in a really severe way. I had felt like I had been a single mom for 4 months and I had to consciously adjust my expectations, because I thought I was going to have a reprieve, but Jon was laid up for most of the week. Once I adjusted my expectations, I did a lot better. We had our farewell party the day after we arrived, so we got ready for that as soon as we arrived. The farewell party for me was anything but simple. Aside from all the work to be done in preparation, it stirred up a lot of emotions for me: it was taxing to fit all of my visiting with everyone from all walks of my life into a few hours, it was extremely heartbreaking to say my good-byes, and it was super joyous to get to see everyone after 4 months away. It was a very mixed bag of emotions. The rest of our week was good; tiring, but good. It was very busy, full of activity, kids and dogs everywhere, late nights working on wedding invitations for a friend, final outings with loved ones, and long talks. Thank you Tracy & family for putting us up and all the work you put into blessing us! Thank you Amber and family for letting us use your home for our good-bye party, especially when you are such a sick pregnant lady right now! Thanks everyone who came out to see us before we moved! We love you all so much!

Both boys had taken all of the changes in our family in stride, up until our Orange County week. Ben, all of a sudden, needed lots of extra reassurance, which expressed itself in more clinginess and whininess, but also more affection and snuggles, especially with Jon.

The next day was the BIG day. The day we were going to drive away. We impulsively decided to not get an early start, but to have one final hurrah. We went to breakfast in the park with dear friends and I’m so glad we did. I needed that more focused and peaceful time with my friends! I thrive on peace. I can’t hang for too long with hectic craziness. The kids got to run around in the grass while we adults got to lounge and sip our coffee. I was really sunburned from the day before, loading the moving truck. I hadn’t planned on staying to help with loading, but I did, and I got really burned. We had a lot of help loading all of our stuff from our storage unit into our moving truck. Thanks all you burly dudes for your manly help, it meant a lot! Anyway, we lingered at the park as long as we possibly could. But then it was time to go. Bye my beloved California (which really means bye my beloved friends and all that I know and am used to and am comfortable with)….ahhhhh….I can’t believe I’m moving to Texas. I’m crazy! I’ve never lived anywhere but California! I love it there! Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! And I’m sunburned.

So we pulled out, Jon and Caleb in the moving truck, pulling our car behind them, and me and Ben in Jon’s van. We had to rig the van’s floorboard by putting a phone book under the gas pedal. My heel didn’t touch the floorboard otherwise. And off we went!

We had 3 ½ days of driving. I’ve never driven that much by myself. I did though! Yay me! Our days were full of ups and downs. I decided that it’s okay to see the ups and the downs of things. It’s part of the charm of the adventure. I tried to write down what I could in the moment. Here’s just a glimpse of our few days.

DOWN: My guts weren’t working right all week in Orange County, stress or whatever. So much so, that I had to take laxatives. And of course, the laxatives didn’t hit until we were on the road!
UP: We made it to a McDonald’s in the middle of nowhere, just in the nick of time. And bonus, I got to see my first awesome Midwest hairstyle of the trip – a combo mullet with rat’s tail :)

UP: Kids enthralled and completely entertained for 3 days with the car kits Granny put together.
DOWN: Melty crayons all over everything.
UP: Ben, a five year old, entertained himself so well the entire trip. He poured over books, worked on an alphabet turtle puzzle, and colored picture after picture. I was so impressed by his focus, perseverance, and newly acquired longer attention span. He was really developing a want to learn, so much so, that he got very disappointed that he didn’t know how to read, but I got to encourage him and tell him that was what I was going to teach him to do in kindergarten.

DOWN: Sunburned shoulders don’t mix with seat belts and sun in the window
UP: Jimmie rigging a sunshade in the driver window to protect my sunburned shoulders

DOWN: The A/C in the van only blows air when I take my foot off the gas pedal and it stops blowing when I press on the gas pedal. It’s a very hot summer so A/C is very important.
UP: Jon’s moving truck that I’m following goes really slow, so I get to take my foot off the gas pedal a lot :)

DOWN: Missed a photo opportunity with a really cool cactus (for some reason I was bummed about that – so say my notes – weird how you feel in the moment of something, but looking back seems kind of ridiculous)
UP: Found a giant dinosaur in the middle of nowhere – great photo

UP: Free library audio books that I downloaded in the hotel room onto my iPod and unlimited music on Pandora.
UP: Caleb and I listened to “Inkheart” for hour upon hour when it was his turn to ride with me.
DOWN: I couldn’t keep listening to “Inkheart” when Caleb was riding with Jon. I didn’t want him to miss any of the story.
UP: Bob Marley’s “One Love” song played and it resonated with me in that moment.

One Love (Oh, Lord!)
One Heart (Wo-ooh!)
Give thanks and praise to the Lord
And I will feel all right;
Let's get together and feel all right.
Give thanks and praise to the Lord
And I will feel all right;
Let's get together and feel all right.

DOWN: Blown tire on a busy road in Arizona
UP: God’s hand of protection! God miraculously kept us from an accident even though my van swerved severely into the other lanes on a busy road when the tire blew!

DOWN: Severe traffic due to a flash flood in Arizona
UP: We finally got to the front of the line of traffic and got our turn to drive though the flooded out road after a very long wait. It was kind of fun :)

DOWN: Having to find a pet friendly hotel, late at night, in whatever town we landed in after a full day of driving. One night was especially bad because we had to drive way past the point of tired, in the dark, in a storm, until we even found a town. I’m terrified of driving tired because I know I’m not immune to falling asleep driving (I did it once a long time ago)!
UP: Always finding one despite the odds. Yay God!
UP: Ben was ecstatic with the continental breakfasts at the hotels. He was in snack heaven!

UP: Writing these notes while driving the van on a deserted long windy road in Texas.
DOWN: occasional veering off the road due to writing while driving.
UP: glad for wake up tread to help me notice I’m veering off the road.

UP: Our new Texas neighbors called while we were in a hotel the last night and they said they put food in our fridge and will assemble a team to help unload our moving truck. I can’t wait to get to know these loving and generous people! I’m very excited!

We finally arrived late evening after 3 ½ days of driving. It was a long journey. We were met by two different neighbors, a stocked fridge, a nice note on our counter, and a crock pot of stew. The next day a crew was ready and unloaded our moving truck in the crazy Texan heat! What a blessing! Especially since Jon’s back was in horrible condition. What generous, kind, and wonderful people! Thank you Hamiters!!!! And thanks Tellors for the soup, it was tasty!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hanford - June 2011

June started off with Ben’s 5th birthday. We had a fun little morning with Ben opening presents in his pj’s. He thought it was funny that Uncle David’s present was wrapped in a sock. Caleb spent the rest of the morning building all of Ben’s new Cars Lego sets for him so that Ben could play with them. Then we got a surprise call from Uncle Jeremy and Auntie Julie. They just arrived in California from Kauai to start off their summer music tour on the mainland. They were in the Bay Area and wanted to meet in the middle to celebrate Ben. We waited for Jon to get to Hanford from Southern CA and then we drove to meet up with the rest of the Hartshorns and Granny. We ended up at a little BBQ restaurant and had a fun night. We had cupcakes and the kids ran around and played out front for a long time. Then we went over to Target to spend the rest of our evening and to pick out some presents for Ben. It was great to see everyone. It had been about a year and a half since we last saw them. Those Bubbas (the twins Ethan & Shepard) have gotten so big. They were babies last time we saw them. Love you guys! Thanks for celebrating Ben with us!

May was filled with cleaning out and organizing my Mom’s house. So in June I decided to refresh my Mom’s house. I also got to help my brother check out homes to buy. He found a gorgeous 1902 Victorian house, put an offer in, and his offer got accepted. We had a little dance party and I got special bubbly in celebration. No one else wanted to share the bubbly though, so I was stuck with the whole bottle by myself :) Now I had a second project, to help my brother furnish his house and get the basic necessities. We scoured thrift stores and antique shops for furniture. We stumbled onto so many quaint little downtowns in the CA Central Valley and left with some of their treasures. I did a lot of sewing. I got David and my Dad to help me with sanding the furniture and Jon was our painter. Between all of us, Mom and Dad ended up with a cheerful and newly refreshed room with new couches, new lamps, and a refurbished coffee table, end table, bookshelf, and rocking chair; Plus new handmade pillows, a lap blanket, and valances. David ended up with a pretty good setup too. Sadly, I had to leave Hanford before I got to see everything put into his house. I’m sure it’s cute though. It was fun to have a blank slate to work with. It opens up such a broader range of possibilities.

We had a fun day outing in San Francisco with the Flores Family. I was glad we got to go there before we moved away from California. Juan was working at a convention, so we met up with Tracy and the kids in the morning. It was adorable when the kids all saw each other for the first time in months! Sam and Caleb were so happy to see each other. They were beside themselves with joy. Ben and Vida were stinkin’ cute. I got to sit on a bench with just the two of them for a little while and listen in on their conversations. They were just radiating joy being together again! We checked out Pier 39 and a magic show in the promenade. After Juan met up with us we explored the Aquarium. Ben and Vida loved when they got to touch the rays and starfish. Caleb and Sam were too cool to do that this time. We found a tasty place to get some famous clam chowder sourdough bread bowls and relax with a harbor view. It was perfect. We explored the Golden Gate Bridge and the kids got to let loose. They ran and chased and ran some more. Then we drove over to check out Ghirardelli Square at dusk. We wandered along the water front before we made it there and the kids had a blast running around at the shore. We were tired are ready to relax when we finally got our desserts. Tasty heaven! I’m so glad we got to have such a fun day with our closest friends before we moved! We love you guys so much!

Back in Hanford, Grandpa gave Caleb a science challenge to make a suspension bridge like the Golden Gate Bridge. He gave Caleb a bunch of parts and set him to work. Caleb did a great job and got a really good understanding of the science behind suspension bridges. Another time Grandpa taught Caleb about hovercrafts and they made their own version with CD’s. It was really neat.

Caleb spent a good week or two taking things apart to see how they work. Thank goodness he got everything put back together and working again, all by himself too. I'm very proud of my smart & inquisitive boy. He and Uncle David decided to tackle Uncle's CD player/radio. They didn’t get too far before they got tired of it though. I’m not sure if they even put it back together.

One night, on the goodnight phone call to Daddy, of which I can only hear Ben's side on the conversation: "Where's your bed Daddy?" "What? You have a car bed Daddy?" "Is that for real Daddy?" "I never knew you had a car bed Daddy." When we were finally back in Orange County and Ben saw that Daddy’s car bed was just Daddy’s suburban with blankets and a pillow in the back, I think he was a little bit disappointed. He had imagined something much more fun :)

Thanks for having us Mom and Dad! I truly know the Lord ordained this time for our family. The Lord wanted to refresh the people and the place. He drew us closer together. He re-established bonds and healed more than we probably know. I’m so thankful for you guys and love you fiercely!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

March & April 2011

Here’s our current itinerary:
Now – June 7th : Rebecca & kids in Hanford
June 8th – June 13th : Visit to OC while Jeremy & Julie in OC
June 14th – June 23rd : Rebecca & kids in Hanford
June 24th – July 3rd : Last visit to OC

We’ll be having an open house good-bye party in the OC on Saturday June 25th. More info to come later.

July 3rd we’re leaving for Texas!!! Wow!!!

We’ll need any help we can get loading our moving truck on Saturday July 2nd and unloading our moving truck in Texas July 6th/7th.

Now on to updates:
We got my mom set up with a blog of her own to record her journey with cancer. It’s Some people had a bit of trouble leaving comments on it, so one of the posts is a tutorial explaining how to leave comments on her site if you’re interested. Otherwise, just email her directly at

The boys and I have been living in Hanford with my parents since the end of February. We’ve settled in and developed as much of a routine as we can. Ben wakes up early and Grandpa gets him cereal and turns on cartoons. Caleb and I wake up a little later. I get my protein shake and water my plants in the garden while Caleb gets his breakfast. The weather here has been changing back and forth from really hot to really cold. Many of my little lettuce sprouts haven’t survived. I have a few random seedlings that are making it though. Then I sit down to enjoy my coffee in my special coffee mug that Jon got for me on our anniversary trip. I really like having something to make my coffee time my own. Next I workout to my new Wii exercise regime, EA Sports Active 2. I’m on the beginner level and I’ve started with a 9 week program. It’s getting my heart rate up and I’m enjoying it. I’m glad that it gets me to break a sweat, which I don’t like doing, but I know is good for me. It has a heart rate monitor plus a motion sensor that I strap onto my left arm and my right leg, so it can make sure I have good form. It won’t let me move on until I’ve done the amount of repetitions I am supposed to do in the way it wants me to do them. It knows…

Next, I usually make lunch for this large household, but sometimes just for me and the boys. I’m trying to incorporate more fruits and veggies into our meals. After lunch, Ben naps and Caleb does his school work. I’ve picked knitting back up again and usually get a little knitting or reading time in while Ben naps. I packed all my craft stuff for Texas, so I had to go out and re-buy some knitting tools so I could make my Mom a hat she wanted. She already had the pattern in hopes that she would get a hat out of me one day. I finished that and now I’m working on a hat for myself. Dinner’s next on the agenda and no matter what I do, there are rarely leftovers. I keep trying to make bigger and bigger dinners to allow for leftovers, but it’s just not working. I’m trying to learn how to simplify the dinner process. I tend to put too much work into my dinners and create a big mess, which makes for more cleaning work. I’m getting a little better and I’m learning. I’m also not used to eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home every day. I’m used to having Jon bring dinner home sometimes, especially if my blood sugar gets low and I’m not feeling up to making dinner. Here, I’m learning how to get over myself and get over how I feel. It’s good for me. After dinner we have clean up time. Really, we have clean up time frequently throughout the day. We usually have to run the dishwasher 2-3 times a day to keep up with all the dishes for all these people.

Somewhere in the day the boys and Uncle David usually have some fun play time. I’m so thankful that the boys have my brother to engage them in that way. Grandpa’s index fingers start getting a little crazy sometimes and start chasing the boys around too. It used to be “the claw” that would chase them, but “the claw” has downgraded to “the fingers.” It’s hilarious. The boys shriek with delight when they see Grandpa get that mischievous look in his eye and his index fingers get the itch to chase some boys. The boys also get some energy out racing the various bikes, scooters, and twisty car around the racetrack in the back yard. Mom had the foresight to design her backyard with a sidewalk that goes all the way around the backyard in a big circle just for her grandkids. I’m also trying to get in the habit of taking a family walk around the neighborhood at dusk.

At bedtime, we call Jon on the phone and the boys each get a turn talking with him and telling him about their day. It’s really sweet listening to their conversations. Then we put Jon on speaker and he prays for us all. I’m thankful for this time of the day. It’s almost as if Jon is tucking them into bed, which was their usual routine before. I join them in the room for my bedtime a little later, once they’ve fallen asleep. I’ve tried to go to bed a few times when they were still awake, but each time was a disaster. So I’ve learned to wait until they fall asleep first.

Of course, all of this is dependent on Mom’s doctor schedules and Dad’s work schedule. Many of her doctor appointments and treatments are in Fresno, which is a 45 minute drive from Hanford. If Dad has to work, then the boys and I take her. We’ve gotten the boys some fun car games, stories, and music. I try to get them to look out the window and enjoy the scenery. There are so many cows, goats, horses, mini horses, rivers, trains, and crops that we pass. The crops look different every time we pass. Just a few weeks ago they were covered in blooms. Now they’re green and beginning to fruit. The perk with driving Mom to Fresno is that it’s almost a guarantee that I’ll get to eat something yummy and not have to cook. Super bonus! Plus I can usually stop by Costco and Trader Joes and stock up our groceries. There isn’t another Trader Joes anywhere closer. And there isn’t a Trader Joes in Texas at all!!!! I’m enjoying my Trader Joe’s food while I can. (For those non-Californians reading this, Trader Joes is a little grocery store with really yummy products that I love.)

When Jon joins us on the weekends we’re busy finding places in the Central Valley to explore. I’m usually wiped out by the time Jon has to head back to Orange County to work. It feels like I’m living two lives; my week day life and my weekend life. It’s kind of weird and throws me off a bit. Thank goodness it’s temporary. On Jon’s last visit, we sat down to figure out our moving dates and to-do list. We realized we were running out of time. We had to change Jon’s visiting schedule from every weekend to every other weekend. We’ll all miss each other, but we know that it’s what we need to do. The Lord is leading us, and in all our scheduling and planning we’ve been keeping this verse from the Lord first and foremost:

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” –Proverbs 16:9

We got the letter that Jon has been accepted into Blinn College. We still have a bit more to do to get Jon completely signed up for schooling, but getting accepted is a great start. We’re almost done getting Caleb & Ben’s enrollment paper work done for homeschooling through CHEP (Community Home Education Program of Orange County) for the next school year. I’m so thankful that I’ll get to continue to use familiar curriculum for at least one more year. Caleb will be in 5th grade next year and Ben will be starting kindergarten.

Mid March Jon & I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. We weren’t able to be together on the actual day, and I found that day was a really challenging one for me. I was really sad. I decided that it’s okay to be sad sometimes. I went on about my day and let the sadness sit with me. That evening I got an email from Jon. He wished me a “weirdest happy 10th anniversary ever.” So true.

Jon joined us the day after our actual anniversary. We took the kids out and tried to explore nature, but all the nature parks we discovered were closed until the winter season was completely over at the end of March. So we just drove around and looked at the orchards, fields, and farm animals. We ended up in downtown Hanford and found a really yummy pizza place. We had a sweetly happy time. We were thrilled watching the pizza guys putting on a show tossing the pizza dough. The restaurant even had my favorite pear cider on tap, plus the pizza was super delicious. Yum! What a fun family afternoon. That evening, my parents watched the kids so we could have a little date. We explored the nearby town of Visalia. It’s a bit bigger than Hanford. We watched a movie and then found a brewery a short walk from the theater. We had more yummy food and a sampler of all their handcrafted beers and sodas. I really enjoyed the handcrafted sodas. Double yum! It was a relief to have such a perfectly relaxing day with my kids and husband. I needed it.

The following weekend the kids and I drove down to Orange County so the kids could celebrate their best friends’ birthdays and Jon and I could get away for a proper 10th anniversary celebration. We stayed with our dear friends Juan and Tracy for a night. And bonus…our other dear friends just moved in next door to Juan and Tracy, so we got to see lots of Don and Amber too! So now Ben’s best friend Coen lives next door to Caleb’s best friend Sam. It’s a perfect arrangement. And some of our other dear friends Jared and Claudine just happened to be over at Don and Amber’s house, so we had a great night visiting!

Jon and I headed to Laguna Beach Saturday morning while the bounce house was being tested out by all the kids. I’m really glad I got to see the kids having fun with their friends since Jon and I weren’t going to be able to be at the parties ourselves. Sam’s birthday party was that afternoon and Coen’s birthday party was the next day. I’m so thankful for the Flores family for watching our kids so we could get away. Thanks Juan and Tracy!

Jon and I had a perfect romantic weekend in Laguna! And I mean perfect! We lucked out by getting the last ocean view hotel room with Jacuzzi tub at our hotel. Thank you Lord. My favorite was falling asleep listening to the rhythmic roar of the ocean next to my hubby. I really treasured my time with Jon because it’s a gift, and it’s sparse in my life right now. We walked around a ton and explored so many places we’ve never been to in Laguna, even though we’ve been there so many times. We especially enjoyed our night out at Tabu Grill; a friendly, fancy, and eclectic restaurant. It was absolutely the best meal we’ve ever had in our lives. And that is saying something because we’ve been fortunate to have eaten in a lot of gourmet restaurants over our many years in Orange County. That’s something that I’ll miss when we move. We found a little locals only kind of dive restaurant for breakfast; The Penguin café. It was so nonchalant and tasty that we had to go back for breakfast the next day too. Strolling around one afternoon we stumbled upon an art fair. I loved the pottery and Jon let me pick a beautiful handmade glazed mug and vase as mementos of our wonderful 10th anniversary weekend. I couldn’t have asked for two more perfect days.

As we drove back towards our kids and friends, we stopped off at Studio Suzan, a local jeweler who makes really distinctive and unique jewelry. Jon’s gift to me was to let me pick out something special to commemorate our 10th anniversary. Having never been before, I was a little overwhelmed in the show room with figuring out what I liked and what I liked the most. But they were so nice and helpful. I’ve never done anything like that before. It was so fun! I got a gorgeous pearl bracelet with an antique Roman coin on it and pearl earrings. The extra fun part is that you can purchase more pieces from Suzan and most everything links together to create multiple ways of wearing your jewelry. Eventually my beautiful bracelet can become a necklace. I felt loved and indulged in. That’s a good feeling.

I am so thankful I married Jon. He is perfect for me. So much has happened in our lives in the last 10 years of marriage. Wow! God has grown us up so much in those 10 years. And now we’re starting such a new adventure together. I can’t even imagine what our lives will look like in the next 10 years. And I’m so glad about that. I’m glad we can have adventures together and thrive; that we can enjoy life and the world around us. I’m glad we’re teaching our kids that by example.

The next three weeks were very eventful for Jon and very uneventful for me and the boys. Jeremy, Jon’s brother came to Orange County. He gathered his band, which included Jon on the bass, and they played shows all over the OC for the first weekend/week. Then they flew to Washington State to play a conference and play at a handful of churches. Jon really enjoyed having so much time with his brother, a couple close college friends, and his cousin Aaron. Jon loves playing music. He’s told me that he has an easier time connecting with the Lord when he’s playing music and specifically his brother’s worship music. They were playing music from Jeremy’s latest release “Glory Tumbles Out,” a beautiful worship album. Check him out at One highlight was the night Jon, Jeremy, and the band played at our alma mater, Vanguard University of Southern California, for the Lobbypalooza Reunion Show. It was broadcast live online, so all of us here in Hanford got to watch. It was so fun! I got to see two other friends, Eric Kennedy and Andy Struck, also perform, plus some friends in the audience. The camera cut Jon out from view for most of their set, so the kids and I watched with anticipation for glimpses of Jon playing. It was so fun!

Not much happened here in Hanford for the three weeks Jon was away. One night my brother took me and the kids out to dinner at a very authentic Mexican restaurant. They were out of all meat except head and tongue that evening. It was a cash only place and we didn’t have any cash, so we had to leave. David was still set on going back to treat us to the experience of lengua tostadas with him: Lengua=tongue. Caleb and I weren’t fans of the idea, but I decided we would be brave and give it a try. Caleb wasn’t fond of my idea. So we got cash, went back, and tried it. Ben obliviously ate his and Caleb obediently ate his one parentally required bite. He looked green the whole time we were in the restaurant. He couldn’t even enjoy his orange Mexican soda until we were back home eating our knock off Albertos carne asada tacos we picked up for second dinner. I surprisingly thought that my lengua tostada was okay. I probably wouldn’t choose lengua again on my own, but it really tasted okay, especially chopped up like it was. Caleb was so overwhelmed with the whole experience that he purposely excluded mentioning our culinary adventure to Jon in our evening phone call. He just wanted to put it all behind him. Oh my sweet, and slightly traumatized, son. I love you.

Another night my brother decided to try to make tiramisu from scratch. It tasted so delicious! Turns out mascarpone cheese is really expensive, but oh so delicious. The downside to serving a dessert with caffeinated coffee in it to small children after dinner is a loooonnnng night with no sleep for a little bouncing Ben and a very tired mama.

Caleb developed an interest in my knitting and asked me if I would teach him. How great is that! We got him his own yarn and needles and he went to it. He was a quicker study than any adult I’ve ever taught, and I’ve taught a lot of people. He really notices when he makes a mistake, which is really hard to do when you’re new to knitting. I get to help him correct his mistakes because he catches them immediately. His scarf looks great.

After his 3 weeks away, the first weekend that Jon came up was packed full of family fun. We went to a park along the Kings River. The boys climbed trees and we all soaked our feet in the ice cold river. The next day we explored Bravo Farms. They make a variety of cheeses, have tastings of their cheeses, have the tallest tree house I’ve ever seen, have an assortment of animals you can feed, have an ice cream shop, and lots of random diverse decor all over. We started climbing the tree house, but after we got about a floor and a half up, Caleb decided it was too risky and that we should go back down. I sooo agreed with him from the moment I set my foot inside, but didn’t want to say anything, because I didn’t want to pass any fear along to the kids. The stair steps were all wonky and uneven. I just didn’t feel safe. Apparently neither did Caleb. Ben’s favorite was feeding the animals. He loved it so much. We did it over and over and over again. He was so cute though and he really enjoyed himself. Bravo Farms did have a tasty burrito in their café made with their own chipotle cheese. We shared the burrito to save room to try the sandwiches from the guy who turned his truck into a smoke house and sells super tasty BBQ from the roadside. Random, random, random…but fun.

We celebrated Easter with a spontaneous trip exploring Yosemite. Jon and the kids had never been before and I haven’t been since I was a child. I’m really glad we got a trip in before we moved away. We enjoyed the scenic rolling green hill country spotted with happy cows that we passed as we drove on our way. The scene changed very dramatically once we entered Yosemite. It was breathtaking. John Muir called Yosemite “nature’s cathedral.” We completely agreed and we felt so appreciative of the indescribable beauty given to us by our amazing Creator. We were thankful that we could remember the Lord’s sacrifice for our sins and His glorious resurrection in such a spiritually moving place.

I finished my month off burning a lot of calories working in the garage. One way I’ve found that I can help out at my parent’s home has been to help them go through rooms, cabinets, etc. to clean things out and organize what’s left. So we ended our month with a very productive garage sale and a nice, clean, organized home.

Monday, February 28, 2011

January & February 2011

So much has happened in our lives in these last 2 months. Some of you have heard directly, others indirectly, and some of you not at all. So here is the story…

About 4 ½ years ago, the Lord began a huge healing in our lives. He opened our eyes up to the deep down root issues of what was broken in us as individuals and in our marriage. He weeded that out of us. He sent Jon out to the desert to find our Lord and wrestle with Him. And Jon did find him. So much amazing healing happened in us during that very intense time. The Lord was speaking so specifically, clearly, and unrelentingly to me. It was awesome and exhausting. We began learning new ways to live; healthy ways. We sold our condo and began looking for a new place to live.

The Lord blessed us with a house to rent, with room for the kids to live abundantly and to have space to be kids. He made it very clear that it came from Him, it was a gift for Jon specifically, and He was blessing us with it. He wanted us to share it and bless others with it as well. We had 3 ½ wonderful years there. God did some light pruning on us, but it was a very peaceful and joyful time. God taught us to focus on abiding in Him and to trust Him in new ways, deeper ways. Near the end of 2010 I began to think about the soft and gentle time with the Lord I’d had in those years and I began to wonder why the Lord wasn’t talking to me in the same way He did at our last house. I just settled on accepting that the Lord must talk to me in different ways at different times in my life. I was okay with that.

Then January came and the Lord’s clear and specific voice came with it in full force. He began requiring me to obey Him in new ways. He gave me words to share with individual people and groups. He had me come against fear and hate in others with His love. He had me tell people their value to Him. What’s so weird about this is that I’m terrible at “words.” I have the hardest time accessing the right words in my brain at the right time. I’m very cut and dry. I’m orderly. The Lord used me in such tender and soft ways; ways that are not mine, but His. The Lord also had me hold my tongue a lot. To be obedient to take all my words to Him before I spoke, and there was a lot I was required to hold back. In all of this, the Lord was requiring me to stand in meekness. Meekness means strength under control. Meekness means to curb the “natural” desires to rebel, fight, have your own way, push ourselves forward, defend ourselves, etc. and to instead submit to the Lord in obedience to His will. The end of January brought a sense of completion for me in these things the Lord was asking me to do.

Practically the moment all that ended, the Lord started something new in Jon and me. The Lord delved deep into us both again. He showed us aspects of ourselves that He wanted to bring healing into. It took me by such surprise. I thought those things had been dealt with. But the Lord knows better and took us deeper. In part, what the Lord showed us is that deep in Jon was a survival mode that was ingrained in him. It prevented Jon from living fully and dwelling on the joys in his life. Instead, it caused Jon to subconsciously feel burdened by life and to focus on just getting through the day. Our wonderful and sweet Lord began transforming Jon. Our Lord took that survival mode out of my husband and left room for Jon to have space to want and to desire; to have a new hope. To have space in his brain to think about what he wants out of life…to LIVE…and to live fully!

So we’re moving to Texas for Jon to go back to school to study forestry. Within a very short two weeks, from the first moment that the Lord brought up the areas that needed healing, we had a plan with many of the pieces in place. And these pieces fell into place so effortlessly, that we know it’s the hand of the Lord in our lives and in this plan. Jon has a job secured at a cabinet shop. We’ll be renting Grandma Jean’s house, which is a three bedroom house for $800 a month. We own a little one bedroom house next door that brings in $400 a month, so we’ll only have to pay $400 out of our own pocket! Grandma is on her way to move to Kauai. Thank you so much Grandma and Aloha! We’re in the process of applying to Blinn College (the local junior college in Bryan, Texas) and having Jon’s Vanguard University transcripts sent. After completing his general education, Jon intends to apply to Texas A&M for their forestry program. We anticipate all the schooling will take about 3-5 years overall. And after that…who knows where we’ll end up.

There are so many aspects about our new adventure that excite me. I’m so excited that Jon is beginning a new career which down the road will breathe a lot of life into him. I’m excited that the boys will be living in a house in the woods with creeks, ponds, and wild life. They’ll have room to explore and be boys in a way that they can’t in Orange County. I’m excited that they can go down the street by themselves and see if their friends can play. I’m excited that there are friends down the street for them to play with! I know that this place will build into the boys a self confidence and independence they wouldn’t get in Orange County either. I’m excited that we’ll be surrounded by wonderful people in our new neighborhood and I can’t wait to get to know them better. I’m excited because, in my heart, I know we’re already loved out there and that my family will immediately be welcomed, cared about, and invested in. I’m also excited that our new situation will likely allow us to completely settle/pay off the last of our debt and that we will no longer be adding to our debt since we will no longer be self-employed. Yay!

The Lord told me that there was going to be a final piece that would complete things and solidify “the plan.” I thought that was going to be a word from a random person who would walk up to Jon and say, “Hey, the Lord told me you’re supposed to move and go back to school.” We got a call from my mom on a Sunday afternoon, just two weeks into the whirlwind we were already caught up in. She told us that she just found out she has breast cancer. Bizarrely, none of us were worried. She’s not even worried. We knew this was the final piece the Lord prepared us for. There is a wonderful peace that passes understanding covering us. Praise the Lord!

We immediately began preparing to move out of our house so that the kids and I could move to Hanford to take care of my mom. Jon will stay in Southern California working and living out of his suburban. We packed up our house in one week. It was a crazy week! Really a crazy few weeks counting the crazy stuff the two weeks before. In such a short amount of time, while Jon was still working normal days, we had to figure out what would fit in a moving truck to put into storage for Texas, pack for 4 months of living and homeschooling in Hanford, figure out what Jon would need while living like a homeless man, and get rid of what was left. We had wonderful help packing and moving from many wonderful friends! For now, Jon is of the mind that he mostly wants to spend some good time alone in the evenings, but we’ve been so blessed by the numerous offers of places for Jon to stay, offers of help in any way that we need, and encouraging notes and phone calls. Thank you all so much!

Before we left Costa Mesa, we were blessed that Caleb got one final ocean trip in with his best friend Sam and some quality Dad time. Caleb really enjoyed talking with the scientist on board about all the microscopic sea creatures they pulled up in a sample of the ocean floor. The outing was featured in the Orange County Register online.

While the big boys and dads were enjoying the ocean, Tracy and I took the little ones to the Santa Ana Zoo. It was so refreshing to do something fun after all the crazy moving we’d been consumed with. We’d been living/camping out in our house for a week with absolutely nothing in it, not even beds. We enjoyed it and certainly made the best of it, but it was nice to get out and do something fun.

We also had time to squeeze in an 80’s birthday party to celebrate our friend Claudine’s birthday. It was so much fun! Happy birthday Clu!

As I’m writing this, I’ve been living in Hanford for just over a week. Jon came up for the first weekend and it was so wonderful to reunite after only a week apart. We’re thankful for this allotment of time we’ve been given these next 4 months. It will be a time for Jon to fast family life and focus on the Lord and on himself; so that he can start our new adventure freshly focused and grounded in the Lord. It will be a time for me, our kids, my parents, and my brother (who also is living at my parent’s home) to spend really good time together, to bond closer, and to just really enjoy each other. And the extra bonus is that we’re saving quite a bit of money by not having a large rent to pay for the next 4 months.

The first Monday that we were in Hanford, we went wig shopping with my mom. First we went to a little place in a strip mall. There were creepy mannequin heads everywhere and lots of ugly hair. The owner of the shop ended up helping my mom try on quite a few wigs. We found one we liked okay, but decided to keep an appointment we had at another shop. Thank goodness we did. It turned out to be a really classy private studio with the most wonderfully kind lady. It was such a better experience! She was so caring and welcoming. She gave us so much helpful information. The kids were welcomed and the mannequins weren’t creepy.
So many of the wigs looked fabulous on Mom. It was hard to narrow it down. But we did and we purchased a really cute medium length wig & a long one too. It was a really fun day, tiring (we were at it for 4 ½ hours), but fun. It was nice to do it before Mom’s first chemo appointment. Ben, about halfway through our visit, spotted a hot pink short wig on top of a really tall cabinet, and he kept quietly and insistently pulling on me. Finally I asked him what he wanted. He really wanted Grandma to try on the hot pick wig and he wouldn’t let up until we agreed. Before we left, Mom tried it on and the grin and joy on Ben’s face was precious. We all cracked up and especially enjoyed those moments. We couldn’t convince the boys to try it on, which is just fine. I tried on a fun pink tinsel wig. It was great! So, we'll see how she feels after the chemotherapy. These next two weeks will let us know how she reacts to the treatment. Keep the prayers coming! Pray for peaceful hearts here. Pray that the Lord sustains Jon, the boys, and me through this time of being apart and outside of our normal day to day living & friendships. Pray that the Lord sustains, comforts, and holds up my mom through the chemotherapy. Pray that my mom's cancer shrinks & shrinks, & shrinks. I feel like the Lord told me that the cancer will shrink each time we pray together, so I'm standing on that.

The current status report on my mom is that the cancer has not spread to any part of her body & it has not gone into her lymph nodes. This is really unusual because she has a very large mass that is stage 3, fast growing, and aggressive cancer. So, praise God for that! Her treatment plan is also unusual. They normally do an immediate mastectomy in a case like hers, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. For her they're doing chemotherapy first to reduce the size, then surgery, and then radiation. I pray that she only has to get a lumpectomy or nothing! That would be so much better! The doctors have said that's not an option, but we'll see...God is good, God is big, and God is amazing at doing the “unusual”!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is my focus today, this week, the next 4 months, and the rest of my life.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Galatians 6:9-10 was really encouraging for me in a moment when I was feeling overwhelmed and overly tired. I’m holding onto this verse for myself over these next 4 months.

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."

The verse I’m holding onto for my Mom is Isaiah 43:2.

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers,they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”