December 2018

I certainly didn’t intend to take more than a month off blogging, but here it is half way through January and I am finally back!  I was beginning to wonder myself whether I could get back in the swing of things.  Sickness was a major part of our month, but as I look back at these pictures, I realize we had a lot of little highlights, as well…

Gingerbread house decorating…

Natalie’s birthday trip to Six Flags with her friend and Daniel…

Natalie’s actual birthday, which was spent in bed other than morning present opening…

December sunsets…

Dog sitting gave this girl lots of cuddle time while she napped on the couch, trying to recover from the sickies…

Christmas Eve presents…  (Can you find Natalie?)

Games and more games…

Danie;’s Christmas breakfast, which he and I enjoyed… (most of the kids were too sick ad opted for smoothies, instead.)

Far too much i pad time…

Christmas Day presents, (and lots of Kleenex!)

A belated birthday cake, where the birthday girl was still not feeling well!

Making miniature food brought by Santa…

FINALLY, Grandma and Grandpa arrive a week later than they had planned.  More presents… More games…

Natalie’s new face painting set got lots of use!

Belated Christmas and Christmas Eve dinners… movies… cuddles…

Decorating “Ugly Sweaters” from Aunt Hilary and Uncle Nate.

Trying to convince Grandma that “Elf” is a good movie.  Not sure we were successful…

Santa bath buddies…

No, December did not look like we had planned. Kleenex, blankets, and a million medicine cups seemed to overtake our Christmas decor.  Attitudes were not the best, despite us trying  to count our blessings.  It’s tough for kids…

But, I can say that we experienced many blessings.  First off, Daniel was home for the longest Christmas break in 15 years!  As he didn’t get sick, he was able to take care of us all as we waddled through the month.  Before the sickness struck, I was able to get all the presents wrapped and ready… whew!  And though our Christmas was just the 7 of us, it was still cozy and fun and RELAXING!

So thankful for a New Year.  For health, family, and a God who extends much grace when we don’t have the best attitudes!


Scenes from a Rainy Day

One of the perks of homeschooling… tea parties on rainy days!  We were so blessed to have no where to go this past Thursday as the rain just poured steadily the entire day.  It also just happened to fall on our Thankful Thursday tea party day, which was a bonus!  My heart was indeed feeling quite thankful!  (How silly we Californians are — one day of rain and it’s like a holiday!)

I just LOVE this rainy day lady Natalie drew… doesn’t she look like Mary Poppins?  I also love listening to her practice “The Grinch” on the piano.  Cozy, cozy, cozy!

It was super dark all day until about 4:30pm when suddenly the sun appeared… as did the most beautiful rainbow!

I was inspired by a phone call from my brother earlier in the morning saying he was making some sourdough.  I couldn’t do sourdough, but I could do our simple bread for dinner; and I did!

And, alas… the view from my office the day after the rain.  Glorious!

Legoland 2018

For Malachi’s 7th birthday, he chose to go to Legoland with his brother and 3 sisters, as well as 3 other sisters… daughters of our dear friends.  For that day, I was “Aunt Cara,” and I can honestly say I loved everything about it.  The park was fairly empty, with no more than a 5 minute wait per ride.  The temperature was just right.  And the kids…

Let me be honest here for a second.  I half-dreaded this day where Daniel and I would be outnumbered 5 – 1.  I worried about dynamics, and who would sit by whom, and tired kids melting down, and arguments over which rides to do next.  But, I took those worries to the Lord at 4:30am that morning with a quick jog and lots of prayer.  I don’t say that for my own glory.  I simply want to say He is SO FAITHFUL and answered every prayer to where I can say there were zero problems.  Seriously.  Not one squabble.  Not one complaint.  Smiles and joy.  I didn’t just “get through” the day — I enjoyed every minute!  (Including the 90 minute drive there and back!)

I’ll leave you with Malachi’s words from the other day.  “Mom.  Can I do exactly the same thing for my birthday next year as this year with the same people and everything?”

That’d be awesome, buddy!

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!