One Week Here

In some ways it feels like we are on a short vacation, and in other ways it feels like we’ve always been here!  Really, I feel I have lost all track of time!  I had to really think about what day it was today, and then I had to think even harder to realize we arrived just one week ago today.

I SHOULD have spent more time unpacking…

or should I have?

In this one short week, I have…

  •  Begun baking again.  Mostly breakfast foods, but on this rainy afternoon some chocolate chip cookies sounded amazing!
  • Watched my son bike through countless mud puddles, as I jogged beside him down our favorite road.  (For those of you wondering, LEFT.  Always left!)
  • Spotted countless birds, including a red tailed hawk, robins, black beak magpies, killdeer, and two bald eagles.  OH!  And, 2 wild turkeys, which Boba almost yanked my arm off trying to chase!

  •  Watched as my kids explored the outdoors — biking our property, or running off to the neighbors.  Xavi spends about half his days jumping on the neighbors’ trampoline or riding their side by side!

  •  Let my boys go days without a shower before I realized they were filthy.
  • Gathered finger prints on the windows while the kids climbed onto the buffet and jumped from one mattress to another.
  • Bought a new mattress for Daniel and I!!!

  •  Tried a local coffee shop.
  • Set-up my coffee station so that I could enjoy my own coffee and our view in the mornings.
  • Walked to the neighbors to bring them muffins.
  • Sat on their old rocking chairs and listened to them tell us about local flowers, trees, and birds.  (Sweetest old couple on the planet!)

  •  Listened as the kids practiced their show each day for hours.
  • Watched said show in amazement that these were my kids — when did they learn to choreograph and dance?  (and get along!?!?!?)

  •  Stared at a rainbow for longer than I want to admit.
  • Chased Boba down this field as he chased a deer — 3 times already, now!  (I realized I don’t really have to chase her; she always comes back!)

  •  Watched as my peonies magically bloomed!
  • Picked some wildflowers and grass along with my peonies to bring inside.
  • Found out from neighbors that these were peonies!

  •  Picked up far too much fast food from town, (though it was close and yummy!)
  • Began cooking once I finally grocery shopped and unpacked pots and pans!

  •  Looked out the window to see kiddos in the distance (see, on the left?) multiple times a day.
  • Had my aunt over for coffee and unpacking

  • Ate far too many drumsticks by the fire pit.

There are dozens more pictures I could post and probably scores of thoughts I could record.  It’s been a busy, full week.  In between it all, we did, of course, begin to get unpacked.  The kids’ rooms are actually mostly done, though two closets need organizers and pictures need to be hung.  Our room is a pit and I am ok with that since I really haven’t been in there except to sleep.

Daniel is back to work, and when I talked to him today, I told him about my afternoon at the neighbors’ house, and then some long conversations on the phone connecting with a local friend.  “Basically, I got nothing done.”  I told him.

“Nothing?  I’d say building relationships is something!” he replied.  And, you know what?  He’s right!  So glad I married such a wise man!

The Hot Tub

I had intended to come home from dropping Daniel off at the airport and to spend the afternoon unpacking.  No sooner did I pull in than I announced I was napping.  Two hours later, I awoke and meandered to the kitchen, intending to start dinner.  A cereal box caught my attention and I decided to have a snack, first.  One by one, they all came in and asked to join me.  The next thing I knew, I was announcing cereal was our dinner!

The only thing better than relaxing in the hot tub after a long day of unpacking?  Sending the kids out and having a quiet house to myself!

Bonus:  The only dinner dishes I have to worry about tonight are cereal bowls!

(As I walked out to take pictures, I could hear them laughing and playing truth or dare!  Praying it doesn’t turn into fighting and tears.)

Oh!  And, this is a glimpse of our backyard.  Good thing green is one of my favorite colors!

My First Jog: (The “Wordy” Post)

Today begins day 4 of our new adventure.   I was able to find all the right ingredients to make my famous blueberry oatmeal pancakes for breakfast.  Malachi said he couldn’t wait to have a “real Mom” breakfast again!  The kids all exclaimed that they were better than ever.  I think it was because of our view!  We finished breakfast and watched our new church online with a cup of coffee.  I left the dishes in the sink and stepped over boxes to dig through my dirty pile of clothes to throw on an outfit I could go running in.  The last 2 mornings were spent walking the property with Daniel and the dog before the kids woke up.  I was tempted to do that once more, but my body was crying out to run, explore, and breathe hard.  I planned on going alone, but the dog noticed my outfit and began crying uncontrollably, so I grabbed the leash and we were off!

Coming out of our property, I prayed that I would never take this for granted; that my heart would never think it deserved the beauty that surrounded me.  I jogged past our neighbors’ cows lying under the shade, resting from a full morning of grazing.  I came to the corner of Shadow Pine Lane where our neighbor, Bob has his garden flourishing with flowers and his fruit tree orchard soaking in the sun’s rays.  I had a decision to make:  Turn right towards town , past more cows, the house with 3 horses, the one with 3 goats, and rolling hills — or — Turn left and explore new territory.  I turned left.

Before even turning, a car passed and waved.  “Oh yeah…” I thought.  “Everyone here waves!”  I waved back and began my exploration.  I couldn’t decide which I liked better: on my left, I had the forest.  Pine trees have long been my favorite.  I could look into the trees and imagine myself cutting a path to explore.  On my right were the fields.  Tall grasses blowing in the breeze, and a sky that took my breath away.  In the distance, farms, rolling hills, and beyond that huge mountain ranges dark blue.

Which were my favorite: the purple wildflowers or the yellow?  Did I like the old wod barn with the quilt hanging on it, or the giant red barn, freshly painted with an American flag blowing?  How could I choose between the little yellow birds or the giant hawk soaring above?

It rained for a moment, then disappeared.  The sky was a massive mix of bright blue, white puffy clouds, and dark gray.  The contrast was refreshing.  Could I run forever because I had been cooped up in a car for 4 days, or was it the fresh air and incredible scenery?

I finally turned around to jog back home.  I will certainly have sore legs tomorrow.  I may also need a second cup of coffee as I unpack this afternoon.  But, my heart is full.  My lungs are happy.  Even as I type, I pause and turn to look out the window every few minutes.  The beauty of creation speaks to me like nothing else!

What do you have for me here, God?  What do you have for our family?  Use us here!  Let us not become content to be on our own; that is not why you brought us here.  Let us share your joy with all those around us!!  As we sang in worship this morning, “We are here for You.  Come and do what You do!”

Can’t wait to show you more pictures.  I still have stories of packing, saying goodbye, traveling, and our first few days here.  For now, I hope I was able to paint a small picture for you of this place that has stolen my heart!

Praying Friends

It was suppose to be a surprise; but I blew it!  The leaders of the 5th/6th ministry at our church, which I have been a part of the last 5 years, drove by to say goodbye.  They called it a “Cara”van.  (Clever!) The signs were lovely.  Two dozen of my favorite donuts had me giddy.  Being able to say goodbye was amazing.  But, the thing that touched me most were the prayers.  To have a community who is willing to come, to get out of their cars, and to pray with you before you move is the biggest blessing!  It feels especially special in the midst of COVID and riots and chaos.  I know we will find new friends.  It will take time and effort to grow friendships deep.  But, we are committed to finding those we can pray with and pray for, believing that God hears every prayer and is faithful to answer.

Just a few hours before, our pastor prayed over our family after church.  Just a few hours later, our dear friends had us over for dinner and prayed over us before we left.  It was an emotional, but powerful day!!

Thank you for your prayers and love!!

Allison’s 15th Birthday Celebration

There were no decorations.  No theme.  No “fancy food.”  I didn’t vacuum.  I didn’t bake a single thing, nor plan a single activity.  And yet…

… they came.  They swam.  They ate.  They didn’t care that I didn’t even vacuum.  Surrounded by boxes and sitting in a room that echoed, we had a blast!

As I sat talking with my friends inside, Allison came running in with a big smile on her face.  “These are my kind of people!” she exclaimed.  “What do you mean?” I asked.  “They want to dissect a fish!”  Allison had taken home a frog, a pig, a fish, and some other creatures from her biology teacher since they weren’t able to dissect them together this spring.  So the crazy kid decided to do a dissection at her party!

Watched these two grow-up.  I still remember holding sweet Nia in the nursery at church and thinking she was such a beautiful baby.  Now they are both beautiful young women!

Speaking of growing-up, how did this girl go from kid to young woman before my eyes? You are beautiful, Allison Hannah!  Happy birthday!

Jackson and Xavi.  Best buddies.

Malachi and his buddies:  Noah and Christian!

So thankful for 15 years of friendship, birthday parties, swim dates, Chick-fil-A, coffee, walks, talks, and lots of prayer with this mighty woman of God!!

And, TWINS!!

Though it was unlike any other party at this house, yet it was the same.  Nothing else really matters but the people that bless our lives.  I am so thankful that Allison asked God to give her one last birthday in this house.  And, I am so thankful for a God who is faithful and cares about the “little things” and blessed not just Allison, but all of us with a final party!!

Remember When…

Remember when you were a kid and your parents said there was something in the mail for you?  Remember the joy?  The excitement?

Oh, how thankful I am that I grew up in the days before texting, before social media, and even before e-mail… the days of snail mail!!  While cleaning out the garage, I was anxious to find this box.  I knew it existed, and I knew I hadn’t looked at it for 9 years, so I thought it would be a simple dump.  Overall, I am not super sentimental with “things.”  I had no problem getting rid of my kids’ early toys and clothes.  I thought the same would be true with this box of letters.  Why would I haul it to Montana to sit in the garage another nine years and then some more?

To my shock, I opened the box and began looking through the letters… suddenly, I was unable to throw the box away!  That was my mistake.  A rare letter from my grandma with her signature water colored picture on it.  Envelopes from my college roommate so decorated I am surprised the mail carrier could find the address!  A postcard from Europe addressed to my family and “especially Cara” because I always wrote letters to this aunt and uncle and begged them to write back.

Now I have a dilemma.  Do I save a few special pieces and throw the rest away?  Do I bring the whole box and let my great grandkids find it in the attic some day and ooh and aah over it?  Or, do I take a few more pictures, call it a day, and throw it all away?  What would you do?

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)