Disney California Adventure

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Although we live very close to Disneyland, only go once a year or every other year – it’s just way too expensive! Luckily, this year they offered the SoCal pass, which was a great deal. We finally had the chance to use our first day, and we went to CA adventure, which I’ve only been to once or twice. 

(Side rant: Honestly, Disneyland is just so much better! I have NO IDEA why they would build a California park IN California. It’s only like an hour to go to the real Hollywood or one of the piers. CA adventure would have done so much better in a different country! We could have had DisneySea like in Tokyo, but they passed on it. What a waste… DisneySea is amazing! /Rant)

Anyway, we hadn’t been since they built Cars Land. Ohmygosh, it’s amazing. It’s really like walking into the movie. The area isn’t that big, but they have all the stops in the move as well as the cars driving out to take pictures. My son was enthralled. That alone might be worth coming back – but not much else. 

There were a few fun things, but if you aren’t going on any of the big rides, eh, you could pass. The toy story ride was really fun but the line was crazy. Good thing we had fastpasses! It was fun meeting Elsa and Anna! We did see the show, but again, just eh. We had to wait a full hour for the hour long show, and while the performers were good, the production felt forced; the chorus was pushed in odd places, the pacing was rough, and some was really really cheesy. The guy who played Olaf was dynamite though. However, my daughter loved it, so it was worth the time.
We’ll be using our other two days at Disneyland, which I know really well, so I’m looking forward to that!

Deciding to go on Mission

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About a month after my brother in law passed, we were faced with a decision about going on a mission trip to our sister church in the south of France. We’d been discussing it for a few months, but were too distracted with family circumstances to make a decision. But once we hit June, we had to make a decision. I was pretty sure we were called to go, but every time I went to pray, I just heard “let him make the decision.” So I just kept asking my husband, without pushing. Finally he said, “ugh. I don’t want to go, but I feel like we need to.” He later compared himself to Jonah – being called to go somewhere and do something he really didn’t want to do. Ultimately, he divided to be more like Ananias, who got a direction he didn’t like, but followed through anyway. With my husband’s approval we agreed and started the fundraising process!

My Grandmother

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1928988_524720279216_4864_nMy Grandmother passed away on November 4 of this year. This Thanksgiving, I am incredibly grateful for the time I had with her. I am thankful for the times she spent taking me to parks and reading to me as a kid, then attending concerts and performances (all the way through college). I’m grateful for the support I’ve had from her from childhood through motherhood. I’m grateful for her gentleness, manners, compassion and unexpected quirks. I’m thankful for the trips (to museums, plays and even different countries), walks together, and conversations over lunch. I’m grateful for her advice, her wisdom, her stories, her friendship, and her love.

32466_10100107996810346_6869559_nMore than anything, I am grateful for God’s plan – I’m grateful that my daughter is old enough to have good, lasting memories of her great grandmother. And I’m incredibly grateful for friends and church family who prayed over her fast-moving illness and state of salvation, as well as for the rest of my family during this difficult time. I appreciate all of you, and I deeply appreciate every moment I’ve spent with my family and friends – those who have moved (or moved on) and those who are still around. And I can’t let Thanksgiving pass without mentioning how incredibly thankful I am for my wonderful husband and daughter, as well as for the baby boy we have on the way! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

My Grandparents’ 60th Anniversary

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anniversary penniesLast night we skipped out on Growth Group (for shame!) to head about 30 mins south to have dinner with my family to celebrate my Grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary (actually June 12!) as well as an early Father’s Day. We went to Seasons 52, which is a fun restaurant (on the expensive side): everything is less than 500 calories, there are several dietary restricted menus if you need them, and the food is changed quarterly to match the seasons. It’s really neat!

Anyway, we had a private room at the back – there were 20 or so of us after all. In addition to the three of us, my grandparents and my parents, both my brothers came – one with his wife and 5 month old daughter (who both spent most of the time outside due to screaming), the other solo. Both my uncles and one aunt were there, as well as three of my five cousins. We had a lovely meal – including sushi and flat-bread appetizers and wonderful fish (and other things) as the main course. The fish was so good, in fact, that my daughter decided after eating her pizza that she’d like my salmon – all of it. Well, not all of it. Just the soft, tasty pink part. I could keep the charred part on the top. Our kid ate a whole personal pizza plus about 2/3 of my salmon! Good thing I had my own personal GF sushi appetizer.

Finally they had what they called “indulgences” for dessert – little 1″ x 1″ x 2″ cups of cakes, pies, or cream things. They had a special tiered tray to stack them and put a candle in the top little cup for my grandparents to blow out, so it looked like a fancy glass cake with treats inside. When Ashley the waitress set it down, my grandparents were so distracted by the desserts, they completely forgot about the candle. About ten minutes later I started to smell smoke and looked around and saw smoke curling up from the table. I briefly wondered who took up smoking (a e-cig?) and rejected that idea as soon as it crossed my mind. I found the candle in front of my grandparents and had to remind them to blow it out – they’d completely forgotten, as had everyone else remotely close to them.

Grandad selfie!My grandparents were adamantly against gifts, but I couldn’t help but give them stamped pennies from 1954. I apologized for screwing up the “no gift rule” and my grandad called me a terrible granddaughter (jokingly). They were so happy with the pennies – simple and meaningful. Then – my favorite part of the night! My brother showed my grandfather how to take a selfie with his phone. He was totally fascinated! He took a couple, then my brother showed him how to email them to people. Grandad was so thrilled he could take pictures with himself in them, but my grandmother was like “No. Nope. Nuh-uh.” She’s too proper (I had a former teacher call her “regal”) to be caught up in anything that’s not posed and clean and flattering. After that, we said goodnight and headed home.

What an absolute blessing to get to celebrate this wonderful occasion with my grandparents. I remember celebrating their 50th anniversary, but this has so much more meaning to me now that I have been married 8 years. I am so impressed with their example and their love for each other over so many years. I am impressed with their kindness, humor, charity, and love. And what impresses me perhaps the most is that these two people who are so dear to me are missing Christ from their lives. They live so fully, so wonderfully, and so sacrificially and are wonderful examples (and have been my entire life!), but they have managed to do so by themselves – with no guiding spirit or no church body for fellowship and edification. I pray daily for my family because these people are good, kind people, and they deserve to hear the gospel and benefit from the love, grace and mercy it can bestow on them – the same things they have been giving most of their lives, but not often receiving.

Easter – Part 1

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Easter is one of my favorite holidays. I always think Christmas is, but I’ve been working to try to bring Easter up to the importance of Christmas since I believe (theologically) Easter is far more important. One of the ways we’re incorporated that importance at our house is to create several Easter traditions that we enjoy repeating each year. 

The two that are the most important for us that are a bit different (besides the egg dying and hunting and whatnot) are coloring a basket and making a resurrection garden. This post is for the more “traditional” Easter stuff – next time I’ll post on the garden.

Easter EggsFirst, for the basket. Each year, my daughter gets several baskets from different family members – some are plastic, some are branch, some are wood. They all vary in quality. I wanted my daughter to have one basket that was hers to use each year that was special and meant something to her, so I found a good sized basket for her when she was nearly 1 (her first Easter) and then sewed a liner for the basket and let her smear paint all over the inside. That became her special basket that she painted.

The next year, she’d gotten bigger, and her baby basket was too small, so we used another basket. Only it didn’t have her name. So again, I thought it’d be nice for her to get to paint her basket liner. I sewed a liner out of some white fabric I had lying around, and let her paint. And thus after the 2nd year, a tradition was born. The next two years, she’s used permanent markers since she’s wanted to draw rather than paint (and we needed them to dry faster!), but the results are the same: fantastic, one-of-a-kind baskets that she made herself for that specific year that are growing with her in creativity and in personalization. And for me? The only difficulty is finding the time to sew the liner.

Another thing I did last year for decoration around the house was make Easter egg garlands – oh, how I loved pulling these out this year now that they were already done! I took a needle and thread and just sewed through the holes that are already in the eggs, and voila! Garland. Fantastic!

Obligatory egg coloring picture to the right. We hard boiled 18 eggs. I got to dye 3, my husband did 2, and my daughter hogged 13. But at least she was happy!

Egg Hunt at the Stub Hub Center

And finally, the egg hunts. We did 4(!) this year. First, a city-wide one at the Stub-Hub center (where the LA Galaxy plays), second, one at our church (eggs in the sanctuary, chaos!), third, family (cousins!) and finally our daughter alone at home. I missed my grandfather’s egg hunt this year. I think 2 years ago was his final year, which is tremendously sad. Easter was his favorite holiday (and he’s not a believer) – he’s still around, but too tired for the egg hunts he once did. He used to make false backs of drawers, safety pin shirt sleeves, unzip pillows on couch cushions, and pick up plants and put the egg under the plant in the pot. He’d also go to costco and buy packs of tissues and then open one, remove the tissues, put an egg in, put tissues back, tape it up and put the box with the other boxes. He’d put the egg in a bag ina  bucket of birdseed in the garage, in a box in a pile of boxes, in a half water bottle in a case of open water bottles, in a container in a toolbox, etc. He was dedicated to the hunt and had a map of where all the locations were, though we still usually couldn’t find one. Best of all, there was an egg trophy he’d made from an egg that stayed hidden for 3 years – each year, whoever found the golden egg got to keep the trophy. (I was the last winner of the trophy.) No one has experienced an egg hunt like my grandfather hosted. He’s one of a kind.

 

Swallows Parade

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Cowboys!One of my fondest memories growing up was going to the Swallows Parade every year in San Juan Capistrano. It’s not much of a parade (though I have since learned it’s the longest non-mechanical parade in the US), but it was fun growing up – my dad would always ride his horse in his riding group and we’d often know some people from elementary / middle / high school who were walking. They used to throw candy (but apparently not any more). We’d all come down from the community I lived in and camp in front of the Del Taco (where there was a nice grassy hill), and sit and enjoy the parade. We’d walk down to the McD’s for lunch (or one of the other fast food places) and sit and enjoy friends and the parade – and usually get sunburned.

This year my dad was riding in the parade again, which he hadn’t done in a few years. I hadn’t ever brought my daughter, so we decided to go. Of course it just happened to be the same day as one of the biggest meetings for church leadership, so I showed up for about 45 minutes of the meeting, then ducked out (nice, hun?). Ah well, it was my Dad’s birthday, and he loves my daughter.

So we went down for the parade. We met my mom and her friend and went to the staging area to meet my dad and say hello to all the cowboys my mom knows. It was really neat seeing all the horses on the football field of the local high school – crowed together, wearing all sorts of costumes, just waiting for the parade to start. We said hello, took a few pictures, then left to find a nice spot near the Mission San Juan.

Then the peace was broken and it got scary really quickly.

Within about half an hour of the parade starting, a wagon pulled by 2 large horses pulled sharply to the right just in front of us. One horse had spooked and the horses careened into the crowd. People dove over the bushes, knocking over their folding chairs. Drinks and bags went flying. The horses plowed over the chairs (thankfully empty) and the people in the back of the open wagon clutched to the children sitting in the back, who weren’t wearing seat belts. The man holding the reins tried desperately to bring the horses back under control,and pulled them back to the street, but they spooked again, made a turn, and headed our way. My mom yelled, “RUN!” as I was a bit frozen with shock. I picked up my daughter, and started running, looking behind me as I noticed the horses stopped. Everyone slowly returned to our purses and bags – all abandoned on the sidewalk. There was an eerie quiet, then the ambulances started to arrive, followed by a horse from my dad’s group carrying a well known doctor. They checked everyone and the only severe problem was a man in a wheelchair who was already paralyzed – he had some minor injuries. A few other bumps and bruises, but it could have been so SO much worse. My daughter and I sat down and prayed for everyone involved, for the audience, for the participants yet to march, and for ourselves. I sent a note to our church prayer chain and got some nice emails back much later in the day, though I felt the calmness wash over me almost immediately (as did my daughter). (Read about the incident here.)

What I found the most interesting, however, was what followed the accident. As the parade was getting ready to resume, a lady working for the parade (probably a volunteer) came up and down the lines, telling everyone to take a few steps back, and to make surer they were standing. Everyone had just started to calm down, but her words of, “You need to be standing. There is a big group of horses coming next, and you don’t know what they are going to do after they have been waiting so long.” After one woman didn’t move back to the ‘director’s’ satisfaction, the lady said, “I don’t mean to be rude ma’am, but what are you going to do if the horses get lose again and come over here? Are you going to take your stroller over those bushes? I don’t think so.” Then she walked away. People edged away from the curb, all their belongings in hand, once again anxious and fearful.

My Dad's GroupMy dad’s group happened to be the next group up – they were all dressed in crisp white shirts. Businessmen, lawyers, doctors, and real cowboys made up the group, but the horses were well-controlled, and the men were kind: smiling and waving at the crowd as if nothing had happened 30 minutes prior. Immediately everyone calmed down and began to sit again as a wave of peace washed over the parade route.

Watching the sharp juxtaposition in the wake of a truly scary event, I wondered what kind of person I want to be – do I want to be a fear-mongerer, frightening people into doing what I think is best? Or do I want to put people at ease, drawing them close, and bringing them the comfort they truly need when they have been deeply hurt or frightened?

 

Superbowl and Family

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awesome fake plantWe were so grateful to be feeling better because that meant we were able to go visit my brother-in-law! His surgery was a success, and he’s been recovering well but we hadn’t been able to see him since early January (when we brought him an awesome fake plant! We were going to do a Christmas tree to hang ornaments from friends, but since it was past Christmas when he was able to receive visitors, we decided on the plant instead. Apparently it looked real enough to have the nurses getting upset – no plants allowed. Yay for Michaels!)

Anyway, we headed over very very late Saturday night – it’s about a 2 hour drive and we don’t like to make it in the middle of the day when our 4 year old is awake, so we often wait until her bed time. Sunday morning we decided to visit a different CMA church (we usually go to my husband’s parent’s church), and we had a great time. The pastor had a great sermon talking about John Williams and the missionaries to South America. When they got to the jungle, cannibals literally drew a line in the dirt and said, “If you cross this, you will die.” The pastor at this church had put symbolic lines at the front of the church and asked the congregation to cross the lines if they were willing to stand up for their faith. The week we attended was after that, and it was a great follow up sermon. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

After church we made it over to my brother-in-law’s for the Superbowl. We had to stream through their computer which they’d hooked up to the tv since they didn’t have cable, but it worked just fine. I spent most of the time catching up with my sister-in-law, which was awesome, though I do love football. I couldn’t believe the first 12 seconds – really?!?

But the time with family was wonderful. We didn’t do anything special, we got to spend time together, and we enjoyed a ridiculous blow out of a SuperBowl. My brother-in-law starts physical therapy this week, then radiation to make sure the area is clear in a few weeks, so if you happen to be reading this, you can keep praying for him.

Happy Birthday to Me

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I turned 30 this week. We’d all been feeling so sick we just weren’t up for really planning anything, so we weren’t going to do anything big at all. We finally started feeling better by Tuesday, so we decided at the very last minute to invite anyone over who happened to be free. We had a couple close friends from church come over for dinner and wine and had a fantastic evening. Even though my very best friends couldn’t be there, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate turning 30.

Oh, and my husband got me a real phone. I had a lovely flip phone, which was totally fine with me, but was causing a bit of a problem with me being able to use instagram or square for my business. Now with my new fancy phone, I can do all sorts of things – like take selfies (ha, yeah, right.)

Waiting

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My Brother-in-Law went in for MAJOR surgery on weds to remove cancer (which had been in remission for ten years). My husband needed to go to work, but I planned to spend the day (and night if necessary) with my Sister-in-law and Mother-in-law in the waiting room. I worked it out for my mom to watch my daughter, picked up snacks and other fun stuff for the waiting room, and was ready to go. Tuesday morning came (the day before the surgery), and my husband started throwing up.

I waited the day out to see if it was just something he ate or if it was the flu. He continued throwing up all day and feeling ill, so heavy-hearted, I called my SIL and let her know. I told her that while I wasn’t sick, my husband was. We thought it might be food, but if she didn’t want me to come, just in case, I wouldn’t. She asked me not to come. I agreed, and told her that in her place, I’d probably say the same.

Wednesday came and my husband was still sick (it was the flu). It’s Saturday now and I’m still fine, as is our daughter. My BIL went in for surgery prep around 5:30 am and started the surgery around 9:30. It was incredibly difficult sitting at home doing nothing. I didn’t have my daughter to distract me. Instead, I had a sick husband sleeping on the couch. I could have done some work, but I was physically tired and mentally drained. So I sat and waited.

Waiting was SO hard. I felt so useless. I wanted to help. I wanted to sit there with my SIL. I wanted to bring her food. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to provide comforting words. I wanted to just be there for her. It was so hard to sit at home and do nothing. Well, nothing but pray. And while praying is great, is wasn’t something tangible – especially for people who aren’t sure if prayer works. I was frustrated, angry, sad, and antsy.

I took a shower to clear my head and I realized that sometimes the very best thing to do in some situations is to respect another’s wishes and to stay away. And pray. I needed to not underestimate the power of prayer – not toss it away so lightly.

More importantly, I realized that this my method for sharing the gospel, though I didn’t realize it. I want SO BADLY to sit my friends and family down who don’t know Jesus and just tell it to them straight, but that’s not what they want – not right now. So I respect their wishes, I wait, and I pray. Sometimes I feel just as useless as I did on Wednesday, sitting at home away from my SIL, but my lack of presence spoke to her then: that I respect her wishes, and am thinking about her and praying. I hope that my lack of pressure on family and friends speaks just as loudly: that I respect who they are, refuse to change myself, and I pray for them. It’s a fine line to walk as I repeatedly remind them of what is important to me without cramming it down their throats. I don’t ever want to deny my faith, ignore it or not share when opportunities arise, but I will wait for my family and friends to lead (and more importantly, for the Lord to lead), because sharing the gospel isn’t about me telling people in my time frame, it’s about them hearing the word when they are ready. (Just like my BIL’s surgery wasn’t about me sitting with my SIL, but her needing the support that was in her and BIL’s best interest.) And prayer? Prayer is a great way to figure out when the correct timing is, and prayer makes me feel much more proactive.

Mariachi, Church, and Family Farm

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MariachiOn the second Saturday we had our students, we let them sleep in because they were totally exhausted. By about 11 am, we decided we had better wake them up. I made pancakes, bacon and eggs, which turned into more of a brunch, but was still good. (By the way this mix is great if you are gluten free. I make regular pancakes for everyone else though.) After that, we asked the girls what they wanted to do, but the only thing they really wanted was to go shopping. My husband took them so I could get some stamping done, and when they got back, we all headed to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. We had asked a friend who recommended a place with great mariachi music, and it was a lot of fun! The music was great and the food was pretty good too (especially since I was limited in my selection).

donutsSunday morning I headed out and picked up donuts (unfortunately, no Dunkin Donuts nearby for me to grab GF donuts), and headed home. When we all sat down for breakfast before church, I asked the girls what they knew about Christianity and the religion, since I knew church the week before had been confusing. (We had given them a bilingual Bible and helped them flip through it to find the verses during the sermon, but the sermon moved very quickly and covered a lot of topics the prior week.) The discussion was great, but I don’t have time to cover it now – look for it in a later post (edit: the cupcake post!). We got to church and sang songs (they really moved Air, who was holding back tears, but couldn’t explain why). The sermon was dead on with what we had explained and I saw them both nodding in understanding, so I was very glad we had had that prepping conversation.

After church we grabbed a quick lunch at El Pollo Loco, then went to visit my parents. My parents live about 1.5 hours away, but they have animals and property, so we thought it’d be a fun trip – and it was. The girls all slept on the way out there. I tried to wake up my daughter with her name, with shaking her, with saying, “wake up,” but she refused to move until I said, “Grammy’s farm” – then she was WIDE AWAKE, and therefore Air and April were too.

donkeyWe pulled up to their house to a chorus of “wow, wow, wow” from the backseat. We said hello to everyone as soon as we got out of the car and quickly changed my daughter into her bathing suit so that she could swim in the pond, and we all covered ourselves in sunscreen. The girls and I went to see the animals with my dad. The girls kept laughing and taking pictures – they had a wonderful time, and the animals loved the attention. My mom joined us, and we went into the chicken area so my daughter could collect the eggs. I caught a chicken for the girls to hold, and I showed them how you can put it to sleep (one of my favorite farm tricks). We then headed over to talk with my grandparents, who had driven up, and watch my brother play with my daughter. The girls decided they wanted to swim, so we went up and changed into swim suits and got into the pond (with the fish). About this time, we got a phone call from my other brother, who decided to come up with his wife as well – so my entire family was there (minus aunts/uncles/cousins). We swam for a bit, then headed up to the house for a yummy dinner of tri-tip, chicken, fruits and veggies. After that, we watched the sunset, and walked around as my dad fed the animals, then sat around talking for a while We headed home after the sun had totally set and the sky was clear enough to see all the stars. The girls talked for a bit about what a great time they had, then fell asleep on the drive home. It was a wonderful weekend.

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