Friday, December 29, 2017

This Christmas

Someone asked me the other day, "So what did you get for Christmas?"
And I just went blank.
I couldn't think of anything my kids had gotten for me. I could come up with some of the fun stuff the kids got (ukulele, Lego's, art stuff, food,) but not my own. I know it was a most relaxing holiday, but I didn't realize how relaxing! I mentioned that to The Mr more than once.

I really enjoyed this holiday season this year. I saved a little bit every month setting it aside for Christmas costs. I had my gifts bought and ready a week before Christmas, and the yearly letter . . Well it only took four drafts but I managed to get that out too, mostly. I think because I had a different focus this year, I had a better time. Instead of worrying bat how many gifts I would get the kids, and how the gifts would be perceived by their friends, I planned two gifts per child, one was something they wanted, one was something I thought they needed. And the stockings were just stuffed with snacks! Because these children don't seem to stop eating!

This Christmas seemed a little unusual for us. Not much went the way we thought it would. I'm hearing that same story from a number of people actually. Something to do with sickness. But that wasn't the full story for our house.
Because of when Christmas day was this year - Monday - it meant we went to Christmas Eve candlelight service on the morning of Christmas Eve ... That's just how it happened to be at our church. So knowing my in-laws were coming down for Christmas Day we decided to open the presents under the tree that the 7 of us got each other. I didn't think my in-laws would appreciate the chaos as much. After our traditional chili and rice supper, (in which I forgot to make the rice, and so we had to postpone supper another half hour to get that done) we ate we took the obligatory in front of the tree pictures and then the fun began. Most of the kids are old enough and had enough experience with this process that they know to be patient, watch what others are opening, and enjoy the process of gifting and receiving. The 7 year old ... well she has some more lessons to learn. She was all into wrapping and giving, but sure was focused on the getting that evening. We had a fun time though, and I reveled in the moments -- knowing that someday in the future we might not all be together at the same time on holidays. The kids got to bed pretty late, which means The Mr and I got to bed even later, after we stuffed the stockings.
Christmas morning came, and I woke up sometime after 8, and no one else was awake. I made a special treat for breakfast (French Breakfast Puffs) and still no one. Finally one or two kids came into the kitchen, we woke up the others, and they all opened their stockings at the same time. A late breakfast was interrupted by The Phone Call. The in-laws were ill and would not be coming. So we finished opening the gifts we had left and we realigned our plans. We decided to crash the party at my aunt's house. We got there in time for dessert (good timing!) and games. Fun times! We played Scattergories with the relatives and then later a computer/cell phone game called Jackbox QuipLash. It was a blast.

Oh, and the answer came to me eventually: A candle; a tank of gas (An awesome gift from a teen driver); a toaster (yep, I asked for a new one) a gift card ($ to spend on myself?!), and running socks (because you can never have too many of those)

Monday, December 11, 2017

And boom, December

It seems like it was just Thanksgiving Day ... but now it's almost Christmas?!
We've been going non-stop since turkey day .... The boy had his 19th birthday ... pretty low key this year. Welcome to being an adult, where birthdays aren't always a big deal.

 We also had some fun company at our house. The niece and her new husband came for the weekend with their dad in tow. We really enjoyed getting to know the newest member of the family .... He fits in perfectly with this crazy bunch.
We also had what we hope is a new tradition -- gingerbread house making. We recruited an honorary family member to be on our team too. Such a fun event at church!

Swim has begun in earnest. The Girl Who Swims has had her first meet, and to me, she looks fast! She will have a couple of meets a week until February. I'm sure glad we have stadium chairs to ease our sitting and watching times.
This past weekend we got our tree at the same tree farm we've been visiting for years and years. Amazingly it only took us a few minutes to decide on The Tree. We decided to put it in our front room with the raised ceiling - usually it's in a different room with a shorter height distance. So we were able to pick out one that was taller than we have had in the past.

But before all that fun and games, the Mr. and I had a vacation of sorts in San Francisco. We left on Wednesday morning and came back late Friday night, leaving the older 3 kids at home to fend for themselves. (The younger two got spoiled by an aunt and uncle.)
San Francisco was amazing. I had a wonderful and relaxing three days ... which I think I really needed. I haven't talked so much with my husband in a long long time. We spent our first day there walking the waterfront, from Pier 1 all the way up to Pier 45. We saw some neat sites, gorgeous scenery, and even went to the arcade "museum" that the kids know from the movie Princes Diaries.

I think my girls were more impressed by that than by all the miles and hills and other things we saw and did! On Thursday the Mr had his company meetings to attend so I had the day to myself. I contacted a friend of mine from my high school years and we got together. It was the first time I had seen her in probably 25 years or so .... And it seemed to me like we were back in those days again. Conversation flowed, fast and freely; we had so much to talk about and many things in agreement. It was a really great time, I shouldn't have been nervous beforehand.  That evening the Mr and I walked to the dinner party. Actually I/we walked just about everywhere. This city is one of the most walkable and easy to get around. I'm such a non-city girl (ie. hick town girl!) but even I could figure it out after a little bit. And there were runners everywhere!! We both wished we had packed our running shoes, but we didn't realize how nice and sunny it would be there in December.
 The architecture around the city was so beautiful too. I enjoyed seeing all kinds of different buildings as we walked. Even our hotel was pretty amazing.

On Friday we had some time before our flight so we walked up to Coit Tower, and then back down and over and up Lombard Street. And then back down Lombard. I think I probably walked 4 to 5 miles each day. By checkout time we were ready to sit on the local transit (BART) and let it take us to the airport. Of course, it has been years since I've been in this corner of the world, and I wasn't really confident on using transit. We picked a train car that we thought would take us where we wanted to go, and got on. As I was looking around trying to see where we were going, looking at people on the BART, I noticed someone interesting. Out of the millions of people in this city - those who live there and those who visit - I saw a person on this train car with a Christmassy hat on. I smiled to myself, then looked closer. She looked kind of familiar. Upon looking even closer I realized with some awe that it was my high school friend who I had been with the day before! Some might call that pretty random, but, I think God was smiling down on me, giving me just another blessing to a great vacation. I was so happy to get home and see my babies, but I have some great memories to sustain me when I need them.
December has already been packed with fun and activity - and we're only 12 days in ... I'm looking forward to all the other fun stuff to come!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thankful-- Part II

Dear Brother,

We missed you here at Thanksgiving holiday. The family, minus 1, got up and out to the park in the morning, ready to run. The weather was amazing. I had been praying for "no rain" on this morning, and with grateful hearts, we were able to run/walk the 5k without a rain drop. It started pouring just as we were heading back to the cars to go home.
The girls really impressed me at this run. The youngest ran almost the entire thing. She did the walk/run sequence but more running than walking. The neighbors were there and their son motivated her by just being in front of him .She wanted to pass him and finish before he did. So, I stayed with her the whole 3.1. Once she passed him she would walk a little and as soon as she heard him coming, she would take off running.
Our older girls made me proud. The Girl who Swims had caught a cold ((hmm, perhaps her earlier weekend travels contributed to his. more on that later)) but she walked the entire 5k with The Mr. The other two girls kept each other going, walking and running. I think my Girl who Sings has the running gene in her - she just doesn't want to own it yet. I'm hoping that even after this past cross country season, she will continue to run. I know she wants to do Track in the spring; I'm just praying she will embrace her inner Paula Radcliffe and keep at it.
The Boy - now that he is of college age, we're giving a lot more freedom to him and his choices. He chose to play football that morning with friends, which is totally fine. He made it home in time to get to the Family Feast.
Ah, the Family Feast. My sister says she counted 42 of us there. I'm thankful my brother has a large home! Everyone brought food and drinks to share - there were plenty of leftovers too! After the feasting we gathered around to watch a slide show on my parent's slide projector. (My youngest was fascinated by this vintage piece of machinery.)
We had some fun times with "Who is that?!" and,
"What are they doing?" and,
"Oh, remember that."
As I mentioned earlier, our Girl who Swims was traveling the weekend prior to the holiday. She had her first ever visit to Disneyland with her swim team. They had a training trip to SoCal, which she raised enough money to go on. And she had a fun time! I know she wants to go back again, since she didn't get to do everything she wanted. I wonder if they can convince the coach to do it again.....

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Dear God,

Thank you.

Thank You for a week of unscheduled time, for time off of school, and time at home. Thank You for the ways You bring us rest when we need it.
Thank You for bringing our girl home safely from California. I know, I worried needlessly, but thank You for seeing me through it. Thank You for cell phones so I could hear her voice each night she was gone, and texts at various times. Thank You for the fun she had at her first time at Disneyland. Thank You for the terrific swim team she gets to be a part of and the great coaches that take such care of our kids. Thank You for the safe driving this last week as our girl started swim practices at 530 each morning, which meant being up early and driving to the pool before most people are even awake. Thank You for hearing the prayers for her to be alert and awake each morning when she drives.
Thank You for the choir that my other girl gets to be involved with. She loves to sing and is so excited to be 'first soprano'. Thank You for giving each of our children unique gifts and personalities ... And yet, in some ways all five of our kids are so similar, and so like us too.
Thank You for a college that is in our town that our boy can attend. Thank You that he is living at home now, saving up money for the next stage in life. Thank You that he has a really good job at the local grocery store. Thank You for bringing different people into his life to help him learn and stretch and grow. Thank You for the times we all get to be home together and laugh together. I love these six people so much.
Thank You for the basketball teams that my two younger girls get to be a part of. Thank You for a league where my girls will get to learn how to play and hang out with their friends and learn more about You. Thank You that they get to be on teams with their friends and with some great coaches too!
Thank You God for our families. Thank You for my in-laws who live close enough to visit for a day. Thank You that our children have been blessed by knowing their grandparents. Thank You for my parents who also live close enough to visit any time. Thank You for their generosity and the way they model Your love. Thank You for their 63 years of marriage this month, and that they still enjoy each other.

Thank You for a great cross country season for our girls. It didn't end as we had hoped, but we know The Girl who Swims and Runs has another chance at state next year. Thank You for the new friendships we made this season. Thank You for the perseverance our girls put in, even when they didn't want to run.
Thank You God for so many blessings, so many that we take for granted. Thank You for this life You have given me. I hope to live it abundantly.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


Dear Mom,

Sorry we haven't been out to see you in a while... we've being taking advantage of the sunny afternoons to play while we can. Let me catch you up on what we've been doing.
I took the home school girls out to Dallas Park for an impromptu picnic and exploration. This park has some of the fun 'vintage' play equipment that the kids love - like swings, merry-go-rounds, and teeter totters! You're never too old for a teeter totter.

 There were plenty of leaves to crunch through too.

We went across the bridge and explored the arboretum that is there. I had never walked through it, but I'm planning to go back in the spring when everything should be blooming. We saw plenty of new plants and trees (thankfully with signs to identify them) and I think it would be pretty to see when they are blooming. The creek was still low, so we went down and threw rocks in it, and saw the tiny fish that are there. Little K even discovered a crawdad (although she called it a crab.)

Later in the week some friends went with us to the local pumpkin patch. Little K had a terrific time. M. enjoyed it, and I had to near-promise her that we would go to a place that had more big kid activities. They both really liked the pumpkin donuts and apple cider!

We got a bike ride/run in this week. We went to the park and the girls rode their bikes while I ran. Win-win! I'm working on making sure they get some exercise each day. A challenge in homeschool is that we don't have a PE class, and we have to schedule that in. That's another reason I am loving this time of year - the sun is still out, but not too hot, and we can get outside and move around.

We also got in an afternoon at the children's museum in town - I finally bought a membership, so we can go there a lot more.

Last weekend we hosted two Japanese students who were over in Oregon for a week. We only had them with us from Friday night until Monday morning, but it was a great time. Our girls asked if we could do it again next year. We took them to the high school football game - a first; to the shopping outlet mall - their choice; to church - probably a first; to my dad's 85th birthday party (they were wide-eyed when I showed them the picture of me and my 9 siblings!) They were very sweet girls, very interesting to talk to about differences in our lives and theirs. One girl's remark was that the difference in eating made quite an impression on her. I'm not sure if she meant the food or the manner in which we ate!

The Boy has now finished two weeks of college. I'm so thankful that he chose to stay home and go to a local community college this year. We've been able to talk about school and life just like we did in the past. He has also started a new job at the local grocery store. It's stretching him a bit, but I'm excited about that challenge for him. I know he can do it.

Cross country season is close to an end! It has gone by fast for me; it feels like we have not had as many meets as in the past, but that could just be my impression. Both my high school girls are running this year, and doing well, even though one has not embraced the fact that she is a runner and could be a really good one if she wanted to. We've been fortunate to have good weather for all the meets so far. Only two more meets and then it's Districts ... the big one.
We'll be heading out to the farm soon, to pick some pumpkins. And then I suppose the rain will start and we'll find indoor activities to motivate the kids to finish their school work.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Dear Librarian,

I am sure enjoying the new checkout system that our library has! You set your books down and zap, they are checked out. It's almost that easy.
Ii haven't had time lately to stop at the local bookstore (to get more books from L.M. Montgomery), but I regularly take the girls to the library, so here's what I have on my reading stand this week:
1. Bess and Harry - a biographical rendering of the Truman's. Just finished this one, and I really liked it. They seem like normal people .. not like anyone in politics today.
2. The Oregon Trail, a New American Journey. - I have yet to start this one, it's about two brothers who take a covered wagon on the entire Oregon Trail, in 2007.
3. The Orphan Train Girl - I'm going to start this one later today when we have reading time. About an orphan who ends up with a lady who was also once an orphan.
4. Bing - a biography on Bing Crosby. love his movies; I wonder if I will like them still once I finish the book.
5. 700 Sundays - Billy Crystal's autobiography
6. A Memory Between us - second in the series Wings of Glory - a WWII fictional series, because sometimes I need some lighter, fun reading.

What's on your reading stand?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Holiday weekend

Dear Grandma,

 I wish I knew what you thought of your great-granddaughter's wedding this summer. We sure had fun! But let me back up.
September has come roaring in with all its 'back-to-school' glory. Our girls went to the first football game on Sept 1st. I was just so tired to go with them. We had been gone all day, first at the farm picking the produce, and then selling all afternoon. It felt good for me to just sit and read a book.
I've gotten hooked on some more novels by L.M. Montgomery; you know, the one who wrote Anne of Green Gables. This one is called Pat of Silver Bush. I can't believe I have never read them before, not with the way I haunted the library as a child waiting for the next book to be turned in so I could read it. I re-read Anne of Green Gables just about every year. This July in preparation for our road trip, we went to the bookstore where I discovered a bunch of books by this beloved author. So I've been slowly buying them and binge reading all summer. I paused once or twice to read a biography - Bob Hope's was one of them - and I've just now finished Mistress Pat. The only problem is that the language and flow of the words starts to infiltrate my thinking and speaking, and my kids look at me kind of strangely in the hours following my reading. Of course, having The Mr gone to Montana last weekend helps my reading. I stay up way to late for "just one more page."
Somehow the girls were up on time the following Saturday morning to make the 6:30 am bus for their cross country meet. I was a bit groggy from reading into the night, so I climbed back into bed! But I made it up in time to get the younger girls together and head for the coast - the meet was in Tillamook, a lovely but long drive from here!
Thankfully we didn't hit any traffic going when we did, and it was such a hot day too. After we had some Tillamook ice cream and gathered the girls we drove back inland to my brother's house where we got cleaned up. Then we were off to the party!

The wedding was way over in Gresham which meant a nice drive through Portland (remember the one place I really don't like driving?!) But, oh, it was worth it. Didn't the bride just glow? She radiated joy, and her sister looked so beautiful and elegant.

We all had such fun visiting with family we don't see very often, the in-staters and the out-of-staters; and the cake was delicious. There was a photo booth there, and the picture we had taken went into the guest book we signed; I thought that was a pretty clever idea. My little girls really had fun with that one. The only drawback was the dancing ... it was not fun dancing without my husband. He was in Montana for his niece's wedding at the exact same time. And he said the same thing when we talked on the phone later.

Thankfully on Sunday we could all just rest and recover. Well, except for the little excursion south to get peaches. But my sister drove, so that was actually fun because I didn't want to drive anymore that weekend. My husband was also driving on Sunday. He left Montana after church and drove 14 hours, to get home to us.

And now we're back to school. The older girls are off to High School. The Boy will start college in a couple of weeks. Where did my babies go? And the homeschool crew - well we took a field trip to the local children's museum on day one, and then a bike ride today. I think we'll start looking at book work next week, for now we are enjoying the perks of being homeschooled while most other kids are back in the school buildings.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Summer of ...

Dear Friend overseas,

I haven't been too good at keeping in touch, and I apologize for that. But you know how summer gets around here! Let me catch you up on the month of August at least. I have to do that before I can post back-to-school pictures.
The Cousins came to town. We're naming this summer the Summer of the Cousins. In July as I posted earlier, my kids got to hang out with all their paternal cousins - which hasn't happened ...ever. In August we had cousins come to stay at our place. Which involved the necessary trip to the Oregon coast, since it was in the triple digits at home! What a beautiful day it was too! No wind, warm and just about perfect.
It also included the traditional damming-of-a-river. Some of them worked hard at it.

We had the traditional fare at Mo's restaurant and ended the day with ice cream. We also spent one of the hot afternoons at a local aquatic center. I got up the courage to go down the big twisty slide, but no way was I jumping off the diving board like the rest of them did!

Earlier in the year we had signed up 3 of the girls for ballet camp. It turned out that ballet would happen during the week the cousins visited. But we made it work. They only missed one day of camp, and the aunt and uncle got to see their nieces dance. After the first day of camp the girls came home pretty sore. It helped us realize just what kind of shape we are in, and just how good of a shape their teacher is in!

There were the customary swim lessons this summer. We had 2 weeks before our July road trip, and then squeezed another week in this month, the girls worked hard to advance a level this summer - especially Little K. It seemed like she had been stuck in level 2 for a few summers, and then as we spent more time in pools especially on our road trip, the motions clicked. She still isn't thrilled with her face in the water, but I told her, she swims better now than I do.

Cross country practice picked up this month. The two high school girls are running for the team this year. It's a smaller team - only 3 boys so far; but it's packed with talent and potential. I know our Girl who Swims and Runs really wants to meet her goal of making it to State. She's gone in Swim, and Track, and now to just make this sport... Every week there is a local running group that puts on all-comers cross country meets in the park, so our team goes to that and competes, along with many other teams and also the general public. So we've had a picnic in the park while watching the runners. This prompted me to do some more picnics for suppertime. There was that one weekend when just the two youngest kids were home, so the Mr and I got Chinese takeout and took the girls out to the park to picnic and play. Gotta love that about summer around here.

Along with running, my aunt has been a driving force in my running routine, along with my husband. My husband works out nearly every single day and has lost about 3 inches from around his middle. My aunt has been walking/jogging, and in the beginning we texted each other for accountability. Knowing she was out there made me get myself out there. Now today ... I didn't go. I'm telling you, it's so easy to find excuses when you know there's no one checking in on you. Well, the Mr and I and our Girl who Swims and Runs, did a 5K this summer, along with my aunt and .. dare I claim them .. cousins,
and a whole bunch of friends. It was a great time, literally and figuratively. We all had fun, and my girl placed 2nd in Females Overall! Woot woot!

I also had a birthday this month. My daughter surprised me with the most amazing chocolate peanut butter cake. She knows how to get on my good side! The Mr and I came home from a night out that the company hosted ((the wives got to paint a picture, the employees got to sit in a meeting, and then we all had a lovely dinner)). It smelled like brownies when we got home, so I was asking her what she had made herself to eat ((none of the other kids were home that night either)). Of course I believed her when she told me she made salsa and quesadillas, and really connecting how that might smell like brownies. Well, she was so excited about the cake that she gave it to me early. Oh my! It was amazing. Made from scratch, with lactose-free milk since I can't do lactose, and I could've eaten the whole thing. I shared though! But I made her find the recipe again and printed it out, because I just know I am going to be craving that cake again.

 Yes, the other kids remembered my birthday too. Dad helped of course, and I got some new earrings and ... pepper spray. My girl is so sweet. I had been talking of getting a conceal and carry permit, but since she couldn't really help me with that, she had her big brother take her to the store, and they bought pepper spray for me instead.

The day after my birthday was a grand event the whole state, the whole country, made the whole world although I doubt that) had been waiting for. The Eclipse. The media around us made it sound like the end was coming - we were urged to stay home, stock up on gas, water, groceries, medicine, etc. And I did somewhat. We did drive somewhere on the day before - out to the farm to see family who stayed overnight there, and to visit with everyone, and enjoy more birthday cake.

 But on the day of the eclipse we were able to stay home. We shared the experience, and it was an amazing experience, with our neighbors next door. It was so fun to watch the progression of the eclipse, and to feel the temperature drop, at what seemed a sudden rate. And then the lighting got dimmer and dimmer. And then we were able to take off those special glasses for just a minute and look up and see the sun eclipsed by the moon. Truly awe-inspiring. It was also pretty great to hear all the neighbors around us, up and down the street, and their expressions of awe and joy as the eclipse occurred. We had visitors staying with us that weekend. 3 girls, who we had never met actually, but we had a tenuous mutual connection, needed a safe place to stay for the eclipse weekend. They flew out from back east, arrived at our door late Sunday night, enjoyed the eclipse and then took off for Portland. I'm not sure how their driving experience was, but they made it back Monday night without incident. Then they were off early Tuesday morning to head home. They were very sweet girls too. I'm glad we were able to give them a place to crash.

Besides cross country keeping the two older girls busy, they also volunteered to help be junior counselors at a church camp for a week. This meant leaving the house by 7:15 am each day, wrangling kids until 4 pm each afternoon, coming home for about 45 minutes before they were out the door again for cross country. And they did it each day with a smile, or at least not frowning. They enjoyed it too! Miss M said she can hardly wait to go back next summer, and she eventually wants to be a senior counselor there.

In the midst of all these goings-on, the Boy has been working part time at the church. When the car broke down I had to do some creative strategizing to getting people where they needed at the right time. It seemed like our car was in the shop more than out of it this summer.

This last week of summer vacation, before school starts in 5 days ... we've been trying to pack the schedule with fun. We spent an afternoon at the state fair with the kids. When I was younger I remember asking my mom why we never went to the state fair. Now I understand. We were fortunate to get all of us in for a discount - they have some great deals on certain days, and we had enough for a ride and a special ice cream treat.

The next night the Mr and I went back on a date, and got to see Josh Turner in concert there. Two for one tickets that I got earlier in the month meant we got to see the concert for $2.50 a piece. I love date night savings!

Also this week we had a Movie Night for one of the girls. She printed out invitations and had a dozen of her friends over for snacks and a showing of "Sing" in our front yard. We put up a screen across the garage door, dragged out the blankets and bean bags, popped a bunch of popcorn and set out snacks and drinks ... and the girls devoured just about everything. I was sitting to the side with my older two girls and we were having a little dance arty over there. Have you seen the movie? It's hard not to dance to it. But none of the younger girls were moving or anything. I think they are now at the age when it's too embarrassing to do something different than what your friend is doing, which at that pint was sitting there. Or else maybe they were actually trying to watch the movie.

And we finish up the month with a make-up party. I forgot to sneak pictures of the girls, but you can imagine - we had 5 young ladies around the table learning how to put on make-up and what colors to use. It was fun for me to watch them all bloom right there. Not that a young lady needs make-up to be pretty, but it enhanced their already gorgeous looks. I know my Miss M missing her best friend overseas, but I'm glad to see her making better friendships with the girls around here.

And with that my friend, we are done with August. We're charging full steam ahead in September - football games, cross country meets, a wedding or two on the same day ... and that's just the next two days. We miss you and hope you are having as much fun as we are!