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!


Did Halloween sneak up on anybody else?  Wow… It felt like one minute we were swimming and bemoaning the start of school, and the next I was being asked to help with Halloween costumes!  It was a fun way to ease into our Monday, though… I helped one kid with a doll lunch box, another with some homemade pom poms for her costume, and this guy with his army tank.  (Xavy, I’m glad you still want to wear last year’s shark costume!)  Can’t wait to show you the final product… it turned out pretty cool; (especially for being “thrown together” the day before our co-op costume day!)

One thing I want to remember about this day is the heart of my little man.  Throughout the day, he kept saying, “Mom… I know I’ve already said this, but I just have to say thanks again for spending this time with me and helping me.”  ***sigh*** With that heart, I think I would buy you a real tank, dude!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

For the most part, living in Southern California means I just get to pretend that it’s fall.  Of course, we still eat candy corn, adorn the house with pumpkins, and make fresh bread and soup — only we do it in tank tops and flip flops rather than cardigans and flannels.  (At least it cools off enough to open the windows at night!)

So far, I have made corn and potato chowder, chicken and wild rice soup, (my favorite), chili, and broccoli cheddar soup, (the kids’ favorite).  This time around, I actually found a wonderful broccoli cheddar recipe, so I wanted to document it here for days when it actually is cold and we actually need soup.  (The kids even commented, “This soup is really good this time!”)

Broccoli Cheddar Soup


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets
  • 2 cup matchstick-cut carrots
  • 4 – 5 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste


  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion in hot butter until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli, carrots, and chicken stock; simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Whisk 1/2 cup melted butter and flour together in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; cook until flour loses it’s granular texture, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk if necessary to keep the flour from burning, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Gradually pour milk into flour mixture while whisking constantly. Stir chicken stock into milk mixture. Bring to a simmer; cook until flour taste is gone and mixture is thickened, about 20 minutes.
  4. Stir Cheddar cheese into vegetable mixture until cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

OCFA Firefighter Picnic 2018

Xavy could have spent the entire day on the fish ride.  He rode it so much that I began to get dizzy for him!  The worker loved him, too, and continually asked him if he wanted to stay on.  Of course, he always said yes.

Free food.  Free games.  Ice cream. Soda. Candy.  Junk Food.  Rides. Fishing.  Boat Rides.  Prizes.  No lines.  No crowds. Safe.  Family and Friends. Face Painting.  Mini Golf.   Bounce Houses.  Balloons.  Clowns.  Petting Zoo.  Pumpkin Decorating. Live music.  What’s not to love?  Yet another wonderful time at the annual Firefighter’s Picnic.