Malachi Turns 7!

He walked into our room before 6am, carrying his “under the bed present.”  It was small and light — he wanted big and heavy!  He didn’t look too disappointed, thankfully. He opened the box to find a note.  I told him it read, “You have the biggest and heaviest present of all — Mama and Papa’s love for you!”  I thought he’d know it was a joke, but tears began to gather and a lip began to tremble, so I quickly told him I was kidding and proceeded to read the note; a treasure hunt!  When he came to the bike, he was THRILLED!  Couldn’t even wait until after breakfast to test it out…

Breakfast was his favorite; mini German pancakes, and of course presents!  Two sets of Legos.  He was the happiest boy on the planet!

The day was relaxing… a little school, out to eat at The Habit, a Dairy Queen ice cream cake for dessert, and then family movie night: “Wreck it Ralph.”

Happy birthday, to the sweetest 7 year old I know!!!

Home for the Holidays

As I mentioned earlier, the day after Thanksgiving we headed to Forest Home for a weekend at camp titled, “Home for the Holidays.”  After digging through our “snow stuff,” I was relieved to find jackets, hats, and scarves for all the kiddos!  We packed up the van and hit the road with joy!

This was the scene just seconds out of the car.  It also happens to be the view from our cabin door.  Spectacular!

First activity: Ornament decorating

Discovering the “gym.”

Exploring the beauty down by the Santa Ana River, and loving the frosty chill that is a treat for us in Southern California!

The next morning…

Gingerbread cookie decorating!!

Free time spent in the craft cabin…

And then off to Canyon Park for high ropes, a zip line, a giant swing, and more beauty by the river…

Just the beauty of being away in God’s creation is enough to refresh the soul.  But, we were also blessed with wonderful worship and speakers who encouraged us and brought us right into the presence of God.  His presence renewed and strengthened my soul, and has me all kinds of excited about welcoming in this Christmas season!

Thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving was a smaller, quieter affair this year with just the 7 of us plus Daniel’s cousin.  It fit our theme of “rest” we have experienced this school year, which has been so wonderful.  (Thankfully, with 7 of us nothing is ever that quiet!) We kept with our “turkey and bacon pancakes,” for breakfast, and this year I added a special present to each of us; matching(ish) Christmas jammies.

Because it was so relaxed, I was able to sip an extra cup of coffee with my teenager while she sipped some apple cider.  I love having big kids!!

A simple lunch, and then dinner prep… For the second year in a row, we made all the goodies!  I even decided to make mini pies.  They looked a little dark, but tasted wonderful.  (phew!)

We ate.  We played Tom Turkey and other games.  We watched a movie in our Christmas pajamas.  We went to sleep with renewed gratitude for the gift of family and a family who knows Jesus!

Thanksgiving Break!

Aaaaanddd…. BREAK!

It is now time for…

Playing outside…

Family movies…

Building forts…

Tattoo shops…

Lazy mornings… cozy blankets… brotherly love…


We are super excited to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow.  And, we are super excited that the next day we head up to Forest Home Family Camp to decorate gingerbread cookies, make ornaments, sing Christmas carols, see a live nativity, watch the Tree Lighting Ceremony, and do a whole host of other activities while bonding as a family and getting into Christmas mode.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Mission San Juan Capistrano

It was one of those early morning adventures… we had to be out of the house by 6:30am.  It sounds funny, but I absolutely LOVE early morning adventures… showering in the dark, baking fresh muffins for the road, loading some sleepyheads in the car with my hot cup of coffee-to-go, and turning up the praise music as we hit the road!  Of course, we hit traffic, but had left early enough to make it to the Anaheim train station with enough time to purchase a second cup of coffee!

The kids were thrilled to take the train, and had some fun bonding time with new friends from our new homeschool group!

Of course, there are definite drawbacks to early morning field trips.  Just getting them to look at me for this picture was no small task!  Once inside the mission, we split off into 3 groups, and had the most awesome tour.  This place is stunning!  And oh, the history…

(above) My group was the “boys group.”  These brothers were learning to make adobe bricks by placing their hands on each other’s shoulders and stomping in a circle! (below) The chapel is the oldest functioning chapel in the U.S.  It is often closed for services, so we were blessed to get to see it.

The “Sacred Garden.”  Our docent told us this is the thorn bush used to make Jesus’ crown of thorns.  If she is correct, I can’t even imagine…

The coy pond was spectacular!!  A definite favorite of the kids…  And, can you spot the lizard below?  Malachi posted it out to me, and I kept asking, “Where?”

After the tour, the kids got to sit in for more history and then an adobe brick making session as a final activity.

At the end we were blessed to have Papa finish workably and meet us at the tour.  The kids then got to show off what they learned and gave him a tour.  WE enjoyed some froyo and play at the park before taking the train back.  It was a long, but wonderful day!

If you get the chance to go, be sure to check out Song of the Swallows, and Jesse Benton Fremont before going.  I am sure there are several other California history mission books, but those are the 2 we had for this year!

Mary Vagle Nature Center

Meeting the snakes.

Eating lunch.

Exploring the center.

Watching the ducks and geese.

Hiking the trail.

Loving the leaves.

Discovering an abandoned building.

Jumping from the dirt mound.

The summer before last, I began to get an itch for something more to our homeschooling… Adventure and outdoorsy stuff was what I was craving.  Of course, that takes a bit of time, some planning, and sacrificing of something else.  For the greater part of last year, I decided that I would bookmark local hiking places, parks, etc. to try to get to “some day.”  Last year was such a busy year with my husband’s schedule, planned vacations, teaching 2 classes, and foster care stuff that we simply couldn’t get out much.

Fast forward to this year.  I took a step back with my teaching responsibilities and allowed myself to drop off the kids once a week to be educated by others.  My husband’s schedule changed for the better.  We officially adopted our sweet Xavy, so we have no more appointments.  I can breathe again!!!

Before the school year began, I spent some time compiling all my bookmarks into a word document.  The “some day” was here… I could finally try some of the adventures I wanted to try!  Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted the document and haven’t had a chance to redo it.  But, I still have all the bookmarks and we are slowly crossing a few of those places off our list.

The Mary Vagle Nature Center was top for the list since 1)  it is free, and 2) it is close to home.  In fact, I will not be crossing i off the list, but rather adding it to the “Must do again and again” list.  We had a great time enjoying the place, which we had all to ourselves.  The only negative was that the winds began to pick up, so we cut our hike a bit short.  I’m looking forward to gong back some time when the wind is not so strong.  I just love discovering these little treasures!

Tea Party Time!

Tea Party for Three!

My sweet sandwich maker.

Crafting hair bands, barrettes, and Christmas ornaments.


Ice Cream Sundaes.

Eating Sugar Cubes… because you’re only nine once!

I should have picked it up at her third birthday when she wouldn’t let anyone sing to her and went to hide in her room.  This girl does NOT like to be the center of attention! Still, she loves her friends and wants to celebrate her birthday.  So, she decided an intimate  party with just 2 close friends was the way to go.  Last year it was just one close friend, so perhaps she is coming out of her shell a bit.

I must say, the intimacy was so sweet and special.  These girls laughed, played, climbed trees, and crafted quite a bit!  Sierra wanted to go to Claire’s with them at the mall to pick out their own goody bag contents.  First, we stopped at Bath and Bodyworks and tried out ALL the candles and sprays.  They were adorable!  At Claires, we tried all the earrings and necklaces and laughed our way through the mall then back home.

I’m so grateful for these sweet girls my daughter calls friend!

Sierra Turns 9

My horse-loving, doll-loving, dance-loving, creative girl turned 9!   Apparently, she was so excited to open her under-the-bed present that she asked her current roommate, Grandma, if t was morning yet all night long! She was delighted to discover her Wellie-wisher “Ashlyn” as her under-the-bed present.  (She even got a beautiful hand-drawn Ashlyn card from Natalie!)

After her favorite breakfast, eggs-in-the-nest, she got to go on a special horse trail ride and out to lunch with her sisters and her Papa.

We finished the day off with a sushi diner and cupcakes.  I’d say that’s a pretty wonderful birthday!

Happy birthday to my last little girl; the one who keeps me smiling with her humor and creativity, and on my knees  when she gets that look in her eyes!  I love you, Seesers!

Candy Science

Squish.  Melt.  Disintegrate.  Microwave.  Laugh.  Learn.

It had been years since we last did “candy science” after Halloween… we were due for some candy science fun!  Not to mention, we have WAY too much candy in this house!

This year, the girls were old enough to look up experiments themselves.  Also, I had them do a little writing to turn into our ES for school.  And to make them think.  Our years at Classical Conversations drilled into us the scientific method, and so long ago I made up a generic science sheet with the scientific method on it.  It’s simple and fun and helps them to organize their thoughts and think a little deeper.

And, of course, Sierra wants me to tell you that it was just plain FUN!

Halloween 2018

It may have been Halloween, but we still had some school to get done!  Thankfully, Grandma was here to listen to Halloween books!

Lunch:  Orange “pumpkin” pinwheels.  (I love how Sierra loves taking pictures of her food creations!)

And, our traditional sloppy joes dinner with pumpkin jello and “special drinks.”

The kids always love coming up with their own special costumes, but I especially love their choices this year.  First up — Allison, aka “Tar Woman,” (from a book… of course!)

Malachi:  aka U.S. Army Tank Driver

Xavy: aka Baby Shark for the second year in a row!  (Still just as cute!)

Sierra: aka “Pumpkin Girl”  I love how she came up with the entire costume idea herself.  That hair is the best!

Oh, Natalie!  You are so incredibly talented.  She decided to be a raccoon, designed her own shirt, and came up with pom pom ears and her own face paint.  Love it, girl!!

Who needs a costume, when your eyes automatically make you look scary?  (I don’t know what’s up with my eyes, but at least the look “works” for Halloween!)  Besides… nobody is looking at us, but at that gorgeous sky God painted for us!!

And our favorite.. candy sorting and taste testing!  Looking forward to the candy experimenting tomorrow!

Happy Halloween!