God’s Parting Gift

It’s a jungle out there!!   And, I can’t help but pull a few weeds when I am out there.  But, I also have to go out there at least once a day to see what treasures are popping up!

In the last 3 years, I don’t think the rats have left me a single ripe tomato off the vine.  Now that the chicken coop is gone, (did I mention Daniel found a rats’ nest under the coop?), I have my first ripe tomato!!  I consider it God’s parting gift to me!

Check, Check!

A couple days ago, as I began feeling time slip by quicker than I wanted, I called the kids together for a little impromptu meeting.  It went something like this:

“Everybody, write down some of your goals for the next 2 weeks.  Who do you want to see?  What do you want to eat?  What days are you going to pack what?  Write EVERYTHING down then show it to me.”

We’ve had our last Round Table Pizza Gourmet Veggie for a while… (you HAVE to try it!)  In ‘n Out burgers, boba, and dim sum — check, check, check!  We also got to see Daniel’s side of the family.  The cousins got to swim, and I enjoyed the company of my sister-in-law, who blessed me with a 3 month supply of milk tea.  Woohoo!!

One person on my list I didn’t have the number for and hadn’t seen in a year.  She was a favorite babysitter of the the kids, and sometimes just shows up at our door.  Daniel and I joked that she might show up once we left and wonder what happened, so I prayed she would show up.  Guess who called out of the blue last night?  Another answered prayer on this journey…

And now, for real, I need to get packing before the crazy record heat arrives today!

Moving is FUN…

…,when you’re 5 and 8 and you discover your empty toy box makes a fun train car for you to push your brother down the neighbor’s driveway in!

(And HOW is Xavi going to survive winter when I can’t get him to wear anything but shorts??)

Memory Lane; What I Will Miss

Twenty-five things I will miss about our life here in California:

Our lemon tree!  Growing up, our neighbors had a lemon tree, and I wondered why anyone would want one.  Now that  I have one, I don’t know how I am going to live without one!

Our annual trip to Oak Glen to pick apples.  There is nothing like traditions… and good friends… and mountain air… and fall apples!

The “Rock Garden” and walking the “Wilson Trail.”  Both terms are common in our house, yet terms only our family knows relaying to our neighborhood.  Special.

Our annual trip to the LA County Fair.  I am sure I will miss this, though whenever I think about the Fair, all I can think of is HEAT and DIRT.

Our chartreuse door.  Though, I have new ideas for our new Montana door!

Storm.  Never thought I would like a rabbit, but this guy was pretty sweet and oh so soft!  So happy he is loving his new life with our friends and made friends with their chickens!

The Coffee Klatch!  When I first moved here 23 years ago, my friends and I would spend hours at the Klatch grading papers, playing cards, and drinking Patios.  Fast forward 20 some years, and I have introduced the Patio to my coffee-loving daughter.  It is still hands-down the best coffee drink ever!  Nevermind it has several scoops of ice cream in it, plus their “secret ingredient.”  Do you think they’ll tell me what the secret ingredient is if I let them know I am moving to Montana?

Club 56.  For the last 5 years, I have been part of the 5th/6th grade ministry at our church.  I love the leaders as well as the kids, and will miss it greatly! (This is my cabin of girls from Winter Camp back at the end of February!)

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream.  How many Thursdays did we take a drive to Handel’s for their $1 scoop Thursdays?  (Which increased to $1.25 and then $1,50, all while getting smaller!)  I remember stopping there after art class…and stopping there after soccer practice… and driving past a plethora of Thursdays and going in. Grandma even began planning her weekend visits for Thursday instead of Friday so we could hit Handels!  We have consumed A LOT of Handels!

My succulents.  They’re the only plants that have thrived in my yard, and they were all started form free clippings!

626 Night Market and the abundance of Asian Food places we have visited.  I doubt we will find authentic, quality Asian food in Montana, but at least Daniel can cook!

Day Creek Park.   Countless walks, games of hide and seek, Holy Yoga with the neighbors, kite flying, watching bats at dusk, throwing the dog the ball, tennis lessons, etc.  So many memories!

Beach trips.  Love the beach.  Love the mountains more.

Trips to the Firehouse.  My absolute favorite was on Thanksgiving… having firefighters do all the cooking and cleaning while the kids run around and play and I kick back in an easy chair.  Yes.  Firehouse, you will be missed!

This view from my office.  Glad we are going where there are mountains or I don’t think I would feel nearly as excited!

Our pastor.  How many ties have we left church, looked at each other, and declared, “We are so blessed!  We have the best church!”

Our prolific peach tree.  Peach juice dripping down sticky chins after an afternoon swim.  Peach jam spread on sourdough toast.  Peaches in pancakes, on waffles, and the star of peach galette!

This kitchen table.  It’s already been given to a loving home.  So many meals shared, parties celebrated, and science projects demonstrated on it!

Our homeschool group.  Here Xavi is modeling his “crazy hair” for crazy hair day online during this pandemic.

This pool!  For obvious reasons…

Our new(wish) bathroom.  The wallpaper may have o make another appearance at our new home!

Lizards.  They are everywhere.  We love finding them on our walks.  We don’t love finding them at the bottom of our pool.

Our Magnolia Tree!  This was just taken this week as friends came by to swim and help pack.  They all had to climb the tree “one last time” before leaving.  I’ll never forget the lovely smell of magnolia flowers in the summer, and how the kids would play with the red magnolia seeds in the fall.

These are just a few of the things I will miss once we move.  It goes without saying, the thing I will miss most about leaving is the relationships I have formed in my 23 years here.  The friendships go so deep, I dare say they are more like extended family than friends.  That being said, we will hopefully have “family” visiting us often!

While there is so much to miss, (and I was surprised by the emotion that hit while compiling the pictures for this post), there is also much to look forward to!  Though our California chapter is coming to a close, the next chapter promises much.  I am looking forward to it with hope, joy, and expectancy.  What new lives will be added to our extended family?  What will the cold teach us about slowing down, about the beauty of seasons, about our God?  What new traditions will we add?  What “big thing” will God call us to next?

And so we say goodbye to this chapter with sadness that much will be missed, but excitement knowing God is faithful and will continue to provide in new and wonderful ways!

(P.S.  I WON’T miss the Santa Ana Winds, the oppressive fall heat, the smog colored skies, or the California politics)

MOK: My “Other” Kids, My “Older” Kids, My “Obdam” Kids

Back in February when we went on our cruise, we left all 5 kiddos plus our animals in the hands of the 2 sweetest sisters I know for 10 days!  I cannot even imagine how exhausted they were by the end.  The kids got boba, ice cream sundaes, and Starbuck’s.  They stayed up late playing games and watching Disney Plus.  They made chocolate dipped strawberries for teachers, and made Valentine’s for friends.  They went for walks and hikes, did their school work, danced to “Go Noodle,” and played Wii…  Basically, they were spoiled rotten.

We love our Obdam girls.  They call me mom.  They serve in the 5th/6th grade ministry at church with me.  They come over for game nights and dinner.  I can’t think of better role models for my kids.  If I could kidnap them and bring them to Montana, I would!

I’m going to miss you Mr. Dramatic and Grouchy Potato!

Road Trip 2020… (and the story of finding our house!)

CONTINUED…

We were now facing a closing date of May 29.  Our daughter had one request; that she spend her last birthday in California.  For some unknown reason, the people who bought our house wrote into the offer that we could stay 8 extra days after escrow closed, which landed us on June 7; my daughter’s birthday!  Oh Lord, how wonderful you are to care about even the smallest details!

But, once we moved out of our house, where would we go?

11am Sunday, May 3, 2020

Daniel:  I have an idea.  What if we hop in the car tomorrow night, drive to Montana, get there Tuesday, go to sleep, look at houses Wednesday, then drive home Thursday?

Me:  That sounds amazing!  Let’s do it!!

6:30pm Monday, May 4, 2020

We dropped off the 3 youngest kids as well as the dog, piled in the car with our two oldest and a cooler full of iced coffee, and headed to Montana.  Are we really doing this??

11:30am Monday, May 5, 2020:

We made it to Missoula, Montana… and the Taco Place actually let’s you sit inside… without masks!  **sigh**  (Long lunch break)

First glimpse of Flathead Lake… we’re almost to the cabin!

At the cabin:  greeted by Carol, who graciously bought us groceries for a taco dinner.  (You can never have too many tacos on Cinco de Mayo!)

Oh, the view from the cabin… Are we really here?

After dinner stroll checking out one property that was a potential.  Oh, that Montana sky!  And, this time of year it stays bright until almost 9:30pm.  Glorious!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020:

We awoke early and spent the majority of the day looking at houses.  For the most part, the day was fun.  Looking at houses is enjoyable for me, and the excitement of finally being ready to buy was exhilarating. We were on an adventure of a lifetime!  However, by afternoon fatigue set in along with the reality that this was it — we needed to find a house!!  While there was one potential, it was not ideal… and my heart sunk…

That night, overcome with exhaustion and disappointment, I had a meltdown.  Try as I might to pray or sleep, both eluded me.  Instead, I tossed and turned, restless and half-conscious, half asleep.  Why was I having trouble praying?  Where did my faith and trust go?  The plan was not going as I had planned it.  Little did I know what God had planned the next day…

9:30am, Thursday, May 7, 2020:

It was time to drive home, but not before stopping at one last house.  Unlike the others, this house was not on the market.  It belonged to a friend of our realtor.  She had not even been to the house, but had heard of it and asked if the owner was willing to sell.  (For real!!!)

The owner had not been ready to sell… just one week earlier.  But God… oh, but God had spoken to his wife and told her it was time to sell.  We walked around the house and fell in love with the property.  10 acres with views, good neighbors, and a beautiful mix of forested land and open.  The inside was not 100% my style, yet I was 100% sold.  Daniel was thrilled.  The kids were thrilled.  This was it.  We felt it deep down!  Peace that passes all understanding.

2:30pm Thursday, May 7, 2020:

We began the long drive home.  I picked up my cell phone and called our realtor.  We were ready to officially put in our offer.  The rest of the drive that evening we went through “paperwork” over the phone.  Technology is amazing.  Did we really just do this?

The drive back went smoothly.  The peace that poured over me was palpable.  I could no longer keep my eyes open.  Thankfully, Daniel was fired up and able to do most of the driving.

Since being home, everything is moving forward smoothly.  Though I have waves of sadness at the thought of saying goodbye, I have no doubt that this is the right path for our lives and the lives of our children.  There will be challenges, no doubt.  But, God…

Quarantine Nature Walk (and the long backstory to moving to Montana)

I have pages and pages of journal entries over the last year about moving to Montana and God’s hand in it all.  I have an essay I typed entitled, “Why Montana?” which nobody has read except me… it was written more for my own peace of mind and sorting through my thoughts.  I’m going to attempt to write the cliff notes version here of how this all came to be…

About 5 years ago, after a beautiful trip to Montana, my husband went back to work dreaming of a life in the Big Sky country.  No sooner had he arrived than a co-worker told him he lived in Montana.  Huh? Yes, it turns out there is actually a “thing” where firefighters live in another state and commute to work by plane.  Imagine my misgivings when he asked me if that was something I wanted to do?  “No way!” was my response.  “I love my church, my house, my homeschool community.  And, as much as I love Montana, I don’t see this working!”

Fast forward to last spring.  One day, while sitting at my computer, I randomly began looking at properties in Montana.  I found some gorgeous spots, and my wheels began turning.  When I called Daniel at work and told him I had found our dream property in Montana, he didn’t believe me.  Though I had dreamed of living in Montana as a kid, I had been adamantly opposed to the idea over the last 4 years.  But, something in me had changed…

We began talking about the real possibility as well as looking online.  We also began praying.  This was a huge move, and I needed some confirmation.  Ultimately, whether here or in Montana, there were two things I wanted: contentment, and to be in God’s will.  Each morning on my run I recite the book of James in my head.  Whenever I would get to the part in chapter 5 where it says, “Look here you people who say today or tomorrow we will go to a certain town and stay there.  We will do business there and make a profit… what you ought to say is if God wants us to, then we will go and do this or that…”  Then I would pray…”Lord, if you want us to go, make this happen!”

Last summer we went for our annual visit to Montana and met with a realtor, who has been such a faithful blessing in this whole process and now a good friend.  She drove us around to many places so we got a good feel of what was out there.  Still, we were not planning on moving until the school year was over, so we knew most of what we were looking at would most likely be gone by the time we were ready…

One of the first prayers God answered was, “Why now?”  Prices had increased significantly since Daniel first got the itch to move.  Why didn’t God put it on my heart at the same time?  The answer was immediate.  “Your family was not complete.”  Had we moved back them, we would have never adopted our sweet Xavi!  I have since found more answers…  Our house was not complete, either.  It was just being built!

In August, we met with our realtors in California and got a list of all the things we needed to do before putting our house on the market come spring.  Saying goodbye to the chickens was one of the items.  Daniel declared December the goal for getting rid of the chickens.  A few weeks later at family camp, we met a lady with lots of property who would love to have our chickens.  Then came the note from the feed store where we had bought all our chicken items; they were closing by December.  Wow.

By December, we had accomplished much on our list.  Once again, we took a trip to Montana; just Daniel and I.  We looked at homes, and experienced the beauty of fresh falling snow.  This time, we actually did find a home that would work well for our family. Again, it was not time to put in an offer, and that house did sell soon after we got home.

January and February were a blur of doing school, doing yard projects, and prepping to go on our cruise, leaving the kids with our 2 favorite sisters from church.  During that time, my emotions were up and down; was this really the right thing?  I asked once again for confirmation while on the cruise.  That first night, the first speaker was wearing a Montana shirt.  Then the next speakers showed a picture of their family taken in her home state of…Montana!  (After talking to her, it turns out she is even from the same city we are going to!)  We returned from our cruise and had 2 weeks to finish things up before officially putting our house on the market.

Early March came, and once again a whirlwind of activity.  We put our house on the market, had 26 showings and 3 offers within a couple days, began packing only to find out all 3 offers pulled out and the whole world was shutting down due to coronavirus.  Within a week of putting our house on the market, we pulled it off the market and began to reevaluate.

The next 35 days, Daniel was called in to work on the incident management team for work.  Everything was on pause.  Questions abounded.  Is the housing market going to crash?  Should we rearrange our house to give Natalie her own room?  The kids had questions, too.  “Why would God give us so many signs that we were suppose to move, then take away the possibility?”  They were bummed.  We talked a lot about contentment, trust, blessings, thankfulness, and waiting!!  It was as good for me as it was for them!

April 27, 2020:

We decided to put the house back on the market… just to see what might happen.

April 29, 2020:

After 6 showings, we have our first offer along with a promised second offer.

April 30, 2020:

We accept one offer and officially go into escrow.  Gosh, this happened fast!!

We are moving to Montana!!!!  But, we have no house… what are we going to do?!?!?

TO BE CONTINUED…

(side note:  All the pictures are from one of our nature walks we took while our house was being shown)

Garlic Parmesan Fries

We have a new favorite side around here…  I’ve made them twice this month, already!  They are from Creme de la Crumb.  My kids LOVE these!!

Ingredients

  • 34 large russet potatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • optional: fresh parsley (or cilantro), ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Place potato wedges in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. In a small bowl whisk together salt, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Sprinkle potato wedges with the shredded cheese, tossing to coat, then sprinkle with the seasoning mixture.
  • Place potato wedges on prepared baking sheet in a single layer with skin-sides-down. Bake for 25-35 minutes until potatoes are fork-tender and golden. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley and dressing for dipping.

You’re welcome!!!

Last California Garden Update

Peaches!  Last year was the first year they started to grow larger.  But, I never did harvest many because we were sick… This year they are huge!  But we are so busy packing, we may not get to have jam again.  They sure do make a yummy snack or lunch side, though!

As usual, some things in our garden are flourishing while others are withering.  This garden has been a labor of love and frustration.  It has taught me so much, and made me a gardener for life; even if I am not very good at all!  It will be up to the next owners of this house to decide what to do about it all.  I hope and pray they have a plethora of tomatoes this year… and that they let the wild zinnias grow!  It would be so fun to see what becomes of the old chicken yard; what treasures will sprout up?  But, I can only imagine what kind of garden we can grow once we move to our 10 acres of land in Montana…