Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring Break (part 2)

I have resigned myself to the fact that there will be several parts to my Spring Break posts. I go through my pictures in bits and pieces of time, and the additional steps of adding them here often get postponed. I don't want my kids to remember me as one who spent her time blogging. Since they are nearly always present, the time it takes is really hard to come by. In fact, this short post here will likely take me half a dozen attempts or more! Seriously. I'm totally OK with that. 

Right now, I'm taking the boys to get haircuts, so I'll try to continue later... :)


We made our way up to Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey, both beautiful places so different from the beauty of southern California. It was so neat to see how varied the state is, both inland and along the coast. I really appreciated taking in all the beauty.

This little guy was in Monterey, just minding his business as we watched.

On that Sunday we had the rare opportunity of visiting another church. Jon has a particular curiosity of seeing how other churches conduct their service and do ministry, in addition to an occasional desire to just sit with the congregation and be on the receiving end of ministry through preaching. Later, it provided our family with some interesting and helpful discussions. We have been thankful for this opportunity.

Later in the afternoon, we did the 17-Mile Drive, taking our time and getting out as desired. It was a cold day, but we would soon realized that all of our vacation days would be cold. I guess we've grown accustomed to the temperate climate we normally enjoy...

We loved the moss that grows on the trees. 
Pretty, yes, and also useful for the one who wants to become a different character...

Beards and freakish chest hair

My kids and I love forests. Jon loves cities, but he indulged me on this particular trip.
Some of my kids enjoy the city, too, so that makes him happy...

We think the plant in this pic looks like a person jumping for joy...

The colors of the sea were spectacular. This is by Pebble Beach gulf course.

A natural beauty

A famous 250-year old tree and land mark

More to come!

Here at home yesterday, some of my kids were in the pool by breakfast time. It was a cold, invigorating morning plunge, but we do marvel at the opportunity our climate here provides. After chores and Saturday errands, our family spent several hours together at the beach. Dinner and conversations were held out on the deck. We noted the dappled evening light shining through the palms, and the balmy breeze against our sun-kissed skin. Despite how much we appreciated seeing other parts of CA, we all came back from our trip agreeing that we LOVE where we live. We are so thankful.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Spring Break (part 1)

We've not really been a road-tripping kind of family. I've often thought it would be fun, but our vacation time has nearly always involved flying home to Canada to visit extended family. This is great and all, but those trips are busy and we don't typically get a whole lot of focused time together as a nuclear family. Our kiddos are growing fast and we have been feeling like our time is limited, kinda like we have got to redeem the time with urgency! So for spring break this year, we decided to hit the road and explore what has long been our home state.

Yep, I've lived in California for the same amount of time I lived in my native land. In fact, I've been living in the US for longer than half my lifetime when I add the three years of undergrad work in Virginia. Our kids have only known a small portion of their state, too, and seeing a bit more of California was long over-due in my mind. 

When we lived in L. A., Santa Barbara was our place to retreat now and then for a day or two. Except for a business meeting for Jon, we've not been back since. Of course, we just had to stop on our way through.

Just for fun... 'cause having fun as a family was top priority:
 Jon demonstrated his "trick" and the boys tried to copy. Despite how it looks in the image below, Jon's feet are far from touching the wall!

Cambria and San Simeon

Things to discover everywhere! 
The beach is a magical place: everyone is at peace, artistic senses are awakened and inspired, and praise for the beauty of God as displayed in his creation wells up within.

Sea creatures, neat rock erosion, and driftwood washed up from winter storms

We found messages in a bottle. Our guesses at what was inside were more interesting than what was actually there!

Jump rope and cow whips with sea weed

Washed up jelly fish, I think.

Hearst Castle

It was freezing cold and raining for a good portion of our tour, so I only took a few pictures at the end  as we walked the grounds afterwards...

The views from Heart's estate were amazing. Pictures don't do it justice.

We took a picture for another couple, and they did the same for us. Four seconds after we clustered together as a family, a security guard began yelling at us from above to get down immediately. I guess she was afraid we'd fall off the wall and plummet to our death?

Our faces while we were being franticly yelled at... Ok, whatever, lady.

The Three Graces:

Pretty ladies that made me think of sisters. Olivia would have loved a sister.
I shot from behind and covered their bottoms because the naked sculptures made the boys laugh and blush and look the other way. The man sculptures were sometimes the object of giggles because they lacked manliness!! Ha.

Our pictures will have to come in parts because life has few free spaces right now! I'm happy to say we've successfully tackled another week of school (hooray for Friday!), but I feel like some of my kids have hit a wall. We are so, so ready to be done! Summer, come quickly!!


Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter 2017

So Easter happened. I saw lots of happy family pictures posted on social media, all pretty in Easter Sunday best. I didn't take one of my crew. For a fleeting moment I thought of taking a couple shots, but I really wasn't into imposing that on us. The boys would have grumbled, Jon would have accepted the interruption though his focus was intently on the sermon, and I was wearing a dress I've worn for 8 years or so. Blah. Olivia looked cute, that I did notice.

But Easter picture wouldn't do one single thing to prepare my heart for the significance of Christ's resurrection, and really, that's what I wanted most.

I had made some Easter plans as an attempt to make the day stand out from the rest. We had a special breakfast together, and preparations were made to have several families from church for the day. Oh, and the egg toss which has become something the kids look forward to now. I never really know what the plan is any more. I've tried to become flexible enough in my hosting to include more people than anticipated. I want holidays to be celebratory and inclusive.

Yeah, but an Easter menu and a decorated table and laughter over splattered eggs doesn't equate true celebration. This I know and feel.

I didn't grow up with particularly festive holidays and we didn't have many traditions. As frequently happens, people grow up and decide they want to do differently from how they were brought up. I am sure my kids will look back and decide that they don't want to repeat certain things I've done. This is to be expected. For me, though, one thing I wanted to do differently were holidays and celebrations. I wanted family traditions and festive celebrations. I've had to work at this, learning the how-to of hosting and preparing for such occasions. I have seen that my efforts have enriched our family life, but I've also grown acutely aware that special days of worship can turn into distracted days of human tradition and entertainment.

This isn't worship. Yes, I want days like Resurrection Sunday to stand out as being special, but I desire this to come from humble hearts of gratefulness and true worship. We should be able to do this  regardless of the menu and decor and entertainment. I want to learn how to do this.

In the car today, I told the boys that every single day my desire is to communicate to them just how wonderful God is. In a big huge way I want them to know this... To taste and see that the Lord is good.

But I don't have the words. I told them I fail at communicating what my heart longs to say, longs for them to know. So despite my difficulty, I pray daily that the Lord's face would shine on us, that we would know him, that our eyes would be opened to the Truth that changes hearts and lives.

I want every cell of my body, and the entirety of my soul to be oriented to God and to know him for who he really is... and then to be able to express it appropriately.

But I find myself stuck, distracted, wayward, and stone-like at times.

Then Easter comes and all I want is for my mind and heart to truly celebrate. And I'm unable to do so beyond surface type praise.

This side of eternity, I will not be able to fully grasp the depth of my sin or the vastness of Christ's love and sacrifice. I won't fully understand the significance of his resurrection with my finite heart and mind. It's too wonderful for me.

In the car ride today, I encouraged the boys once again to go before God in complete honesty. If they don't believe, they should tell him so. He already knows it, and there is no use pretending with him. If they don't love him, they should ask that he would change their heart. I told them that sin will happen. It just will. The good news is that God always forgives. The proud, unrepentant heart, however, is to be feared. We ought to pray that God would orient us toward him... because we cannot do it on our own.

I tell God I don't love and worship as I should. I tell him I want to, but I need his help. I hope this humility, though terribly small in terms of gifts or expression of thanksgiving, is pleasing to Him. He knows my heart and how it needs to be sanctified.

He promises to do it, and his word is always sure. He resurrected, just as he said he would, and  he will surely return. Then I will know true worship.


We had a wonderful spring break last week. We were able to get away as a family for a few days and enjoy this season of our lives. We went through Santa Barbara, our get-away town during the years we lived in L.A., and we recreated the very first picture I posted on this blog. You can see the original picture HERE


Monday, April 3, 2017

Smiling for Sweet Stuff

Just like that, a new mile marker they call Sweet Sixteen comes. I've got lots of thought on this place of life for her and for me. For now, all I can say is I have been savoring the sweetness of it all. It's such a wonderful time.

We had fun times of celebration last week, and I'm hoping to post a few pictures and journal a bit soon. We have yet to take some time out for some birthday pictures, but hoping to in the coming days or weeks. This one above was just a spontaneous time among flowers this morning, just jumping for the joy of life.

At one point today, I thought of something Dr. Seuss taught me:

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

Yes. We would do well to think on this as moms, and to be prepared for the inevitable time when our active parenting days wrap up. I'm thankful this is a gradual change, but the preparation of our hearts must start early.

Joy. In its truest form, it is a fruit of the Spirit. And it's a choice. I'm choosing not to lament the quickly passing of her childhood years. No wait, she's already a young woman now. Yes. Young woman. And it stings just a little to type it out, but I choose to smile at what has been, smile at where we are, and smile at where we are going. It is good, all of it good.

As my children grow, I refuse to be emotional baggage to them. They are not here for me, but to become their own, ready to live and serve in their own unique way. So I've got to let them go, even give them the grace and encouragement to keep testing out their wings till one day they just fly. Not stifled, but free.

And, I believe, in that freedom there will be mutual love and respect. This makes me smile.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Rabbit Trails and Bits of Life

The blank page I'm staring into as I begin a new post is daunting just now. An empty page holds so much possibility, but right now it is only causing my mind to go blank. You'd think that after a couple weeks of quiet here I'd have things to say. Well, I did have things to say. Tons of things. Mostly they are only appropriate for a private post, though, and I don't write private posts for fear that I'd inadvertently send it out to the public.

OK, now that the page isn't so blank, I'm beginning to relax about it. "Relax" is a strange idea. I'm not a high energy person - despite the fact that I really, really wish with all my heart I had more energy - but that certainly does not mean I'm a relaxed person. People say I'm relaxed. They say I'm patient. But I'm not. I'm antsy, always pushing hard for something, always wanting to do more, squeeze more out of life, and maybe prove something for myself... and I lack the energy I need to do it all with gusto. But I'm pretty sure I will die trying.

I trust God knew what he was doing when he chose to make me physically low-energy while giving me high-energy desires.

I feel life with intensity, too, and there has been way too much emotion this year for me. Like high-energy punches in the gut of this low-energy person. I've felt like throwing up emotion. Really, I've had mental pictures of throwing up. Wouldn't it be nice if that knot and churning of the stomach, the lump in the throat, the aching heart, the teary eyes... could be relieved by running around the corning and puking out emotion?

I trust God knew what he was doing when he chose to make me an intense-feeling, heart-thinking, longing-for-depth-and-air-all-at-the-same-time kind of person.

Maybe it is to teach me to find my strength and my satisfaction in him alone?

(I have a feeling this is going to be a rabbit trail sort of post. That's a warning, not necessarily an apology.)


The brains of this world tell us that rigorous academics and structure are important for the proper education of children. Well, we've had springtime weather here and I've seriously had it with academics and structure. When Michael asked if we could go hiking, I found a day we could scrap those academics and structure and go and live a little. I'm no brain, but my heart and soul say that we can best educate children in the things of life if they are allowed to be free from the constant imposition of things to know and do, and let our senses breathe in life and beauty in a natural, organic way. I've been dreaming up things to do together, adventures to take, places to explore. This week we went looking (and seeking) in the wild. I may have it all wrong when it come to the wholesomeness of nature for the raising of children, but I'm willing to risk it. 

The first find of the day by Michael was a horned lizard

Olivia and I came looking for the wild spring flowers. Wild anything is my fav.
Except snakes. Wild or captured, I despise snakes.

Of course, Michael was looking for snakes. They show up in my nightmares, but fortunately he's not in my nightmares. Olivia is a different kind of girl than me, at least when it comes to snakes. The boys respect me enough not to lunge at me with their snakes to get a reaction, and I trust them enough to get close and take pictures for them.

He was doing a Steve Irwin impersonation-- a very good one, too.

It was hotter than expected, so we were happy to find a little bubbling stream. The boys were quick to peel off their socks and shoes...

Not my favorite picture of myself, but I was there living and breathing and enjoying life too. That's worth remembering. Don't go through motherhood undocumented. Someone down the line will surely be happy to see you some day.

Once again, the boys came back home with all sorts of things. They have way too many terrariums and containers of plants happening in our house (with living things inside), and I'm quietly irritated by the indoor gardening that often takes place, but deep down I know that there is somehow great benefit to letting them pursue various interests and projects. Actually, there is even greater benefit when I lend my support and encouragement. Maybe it will lead to something really useful, or lucrative, or fascinating some day. Or maybe it will just be something we laugh about. I just don't think it's going to be entirely useless in the end.

A big brain once said: "Play is the highest form of research." -A. Einstein
I'm going with it...

Like me, they are observers. They delve into their surroundings and watch with fascination.

I especially like people watching; I notice interactions, expressions, body language. I notice hands: their shape, color, size, weathering, and their way of moving. Maybe that's odd, but I like to think hands tell stories. People are just so fascinating. There are all kinds on this earth, which alone is interesting to contemplate. I notice how people are so different from me, and wonder if there are others like myself. If so, would I recognize them? I have a feeling we often think of ourselves as being quite different from what we really are...

I have always been enthralled with those who exude warmth, compassion, and acceptance. That's the kind of person I'd like to be, but those are areas I've got to work at. And I have always been intrigued by those who are reserved, wondering at their story. For as long as I can remember I have been a quiet observer.

Watching people for years can lead to a certain disenchantment, though. Maybe this comes from learning of my own heart as it becomes exposed through various circumstances in life. If anything, maybe my understanding of human nature is increasing. I've noticed that the most beautiful traits in man are so very difficult to live out, regardless of how we interact with the world around. I’ve learned that life and people and circumstances are extremely complex, and I cannot ever expect to understand a person by mere observation. It makes me see how misguided and foolish it is to judge others. Truly, each of us, if we are honest, don’t really understand the depths of our own hearts.

But God does. And he is compassionate towards me. What's more is that he has set his Spirit within me to help me. No sarcasm here, I just need help in a big, big way every single day. Sometime I don’t even know how to pray, what to ask, and how to live by his strength. But I keep coming to him, knowing that he knows the depth of my heart and the real need I have for righteous living, and he intercedes on my behalf with words I do not know. How wonderful and comforting is this knowledge!

One type of person that has particularly intrigued me are those who have lived through particular and prolonged hardship, trials, and suffering. Depending on how these people deal with their suffering, there are all sorts of results. No on is immune to suffering. I am learning to ask myself two basic questions: Will I let sadness or suffering possess me, or will I flee to Christ to find help, freedom, guidance, forgiveness, comfort... and everything else that I need?

My kids, no doubt, are watching me just the same way I watch others. They are looking to see what fills me... May it not be fear, or worry, or sadness, or shame, but the very Spirit of God who is transforming me into the likeness of Christ.

I'm not sure if this quote on prayer is exactly quite fitting with these random thoughts tonight, but I still like it. Prayer is such an amazing gift, and yet if I really believed it I'd have thick callous on my knees. I want to believe more...

“Prayer is the life-breath of man’s soul. Without it, we may have a name to live, and be counted Christians; but we are dead in the sight of God. The feeling that we must cry to God for mercy and peace is a mark of grace; and the habit of spreading before Him our soul’s wants is an evidence that we have the spirit of adoption. And prayer is the appointed way to obtain the relief of our spiritual necessities. It opens the treasury, and sets the fountain flowing. If we have not, it is because we ask not.”  ~ J.C. Ryle


It's Monday night now, and the house will be quiet for the moment. Here are a few happenings from this day:
  • Olivia left early this morning with her entrepreneur club from school. They presented their business idea at a Shark Tank type competition, and returned with investor dollars to get their idea started in time for the next competition. She is the only girl on the team, responsible for marketing/logo/creative side, and the feedback is that she did a killer job in the presentation.
  • Michael had a presentation as well today. His was on Winston Churchill for his online class. From his own assessment, he did a killer job, too! He tends to have no anxiety over presentations and speeches, though I wish he gave a little more attention to instructions. It was no surprise when he found out moments before class that the slides he had submitted were in the wrong format. We spent some frustrating moments on three computers trying to get the issue sorted out while a classmate presented first. Typical Michael... doing great by the skin on his teeth and in the nick of time!
  • Andrew and Jacob are each taking a "Weird Science" class at school. Today was the annual egg drop. The kids each come up with a design or contraption to keep an egg from breaking. Their designs are tested by being dropped from the roof of the school, one at a time. This is the second year my boys have been involved. Jacob decided to go with a last minute, riskier idea since he already had the satisfaction of a successful drop last year. His was a happy fail, and he liked the mess it created in MY package of batting. Andrew repeated his contraption from last year and found success again. In fact, his geometric criss-cross of plastic straws with a small triangular open space for the egg was kept by his teacher as a class model. Too bad, because I was going to take a picture of it.
  • It just so happened that Jon came home, and it was lunch time, and there were no kids home (which is unusual).... so we decided to go on a quick lunch date. Except we weren't hungry, so we got tea and coffee for our lunch date. It was a happy, unexpected event on a Monday.
  • Andrew has a bird nest in his tree. He has two eggs, and can't decide if he should try to pet the mother dove or not. I'm letting him decide.
  • Jack wants to buy me a skateboard for mother's day. I spent some time yesterday afternoon skateboarding with him. I only fell once, but it was not a terrible fall. Neither was it graceful. I tried to be cool. Tried. No matter, the fact that I skateboarded with him was a big deal, and I learned that I kinda like it. I'm not sure if my older kids would be embarrassed, but you just might see me skating down by the beach come mother's day.
  • Dairy Queen was giving out free cones today. I'm hardly ever a sucker for freebies, but I took my kids out for a free cone after dinner. It made them happy. So it made me happy, too.
  • Jon is now home from elder's meeting, and just asked, "Do you have much left?" That's my cue to wrap things up. Besides, I'd rather be with him.