I just finished going through photos I took for a memorial service for a 16 year old, and I am a total mess.

IMG_4966I didn’t know Kaleigh very well, but I did know her, and I did know her parents; and, belonging to the same church, we are family (no matter how distantly “related”). One of my ‘jobs’ at church is to help out with events – usually I bring food, help set up or take down or whatever else is needed. This time I was asked to take photos of the service and graveside service so that they could be given to the family later and no one close to the family would need to worry about it. I’m glad I had that privilege, but it was tough.

My husband knew Dave (Kaleigh’s Dad) through men’s events, so we went over to their home for the Super Bowl this year. My daughter played with their son for a while, and I chatted with the family. I distinctly remember Kaleigh coming out and feeling awful, but bringing out one of her care kits that she got from the hospital for my daughter. Despite how awful she was feeling, she was concerned about my daughter being bored and feeling left out since she was younger than the other kids who were over. Kaleigh sat down with my daughter and colored with her quietly (coloring pages Kaleigh had taken the time to look for and print out before we got there so she could be prepared for my daughter). When we left, Kaleigh let her pick out a “prize”/present from her hospital box. My daughter grabbed a little cell phone lipstick thing, which she still has, carries around, and loves. From the moment Kaleigh sat down, my daughter was more calm than I have ever seen her with just about anyone. It didn’t last long, but it was undeniably peaceful, and it was all Kaleigh.

IMG_5237But that was who Kaleigh was. She was simply amazing, and I really didn’t know that until I went to her memorial. I was amazed to see so many people speak of her and hear the recurring phrase “she never complained about anything, even normal teenager stuff,” which is quite amazing, considering she suffered from a rare form of cancer for more than 6 years. She was a cheerleader, girlscout, sang in the choir, was an honor student, and still made time to attend church, and raise money for the kids at the hospital she was frequently hospitalized at. There were stories of how she got her girl scout troupe to knit hats for the cancer unit, how she sold cards to raise money for new movies for the pediatric unit, and on and on. She was a remarkable person who truly accomplished everything she needed to while she was here and now has a chance to rest with Jesus. One of the most touching parts of the service for me was the graveside service was at the conclusion – people were given the chance to take a flower from one of the bouquets and lay it on top of her casket. There was a ten minute line to do so. The flowers were stacked tall. She deserved it.

I spend the time remembering people like Kaleigh (and Jessica a few months ago) because their memories deserve to be honored, and their lives deserve to be celebrated. Kaleigh’s family asked everyone to wear bright colors to the memorial because that is what Kaleigh would have wanted, so that is what everyone did – pastels, Hawaiian shirts – anything but black. As much as we might miss them, we know where they are, and that is something to celebrate.

Work Party at the Ranch


This weekend we headed up to the area I grew up in – a tiny community with 73 houses and about 300 residents for my husband’s work party. Instead of renting out a place, they host the party at the boss’s house every year because they just have a really cool house, and even with all the neat stuff they rent for the party (bounce houses, dunk tank, pony rides, catering), it’s still cheaper.

So after the memorial (see Kaleigh), we headed on our adventure – about 1.5 hour drive. We arrived a bit late, but just in time for the egg toss. We made it pretty far into the contest – maybe 4th out of 10 teams? – and luckily, no egg on either of us. We enjoyed some soft serve, got some delicious BBQ ribs and biscuit (and other yummy food), and took our daughter on the bounce house obstacle course for at least 20 minutes. Then we sat and enjoyed watching the associates and secretaries throw balls at the dunk tank in order to dunk the senior partner. (Last year he wore a full suit in the dunk tank, which was awesome, but this year it was just too hot.)

After that, we wandered around a bit more. At this point, my daughter made friends with one of the little girls – a niece of one of the attorneys, I think. Their initial conversation after introductions went like this:

  • I’m four!
  • I’m five!
  • I’m going to be five!
  • I’m going to be six!
  • After I’m five I’m going to be six like you!
  • Well, then I’ll be…

And the other girl was then interrupted by her grandma, who told her she wasn’t six, she was five. I explained their conversation and we all laughed. The girls decided they wanted to go play with the chicks some more (I forgot to mention those!), so I asked to take them and watch them.

A little side note here. We don’t live on a farm, but my parents do, and I grew up in the country. My daughter visits my parents. Around Easter, my mom got us about a dozen chicks to have for a bit. We took them to my daughter’s preschool and to Cubbies (Awana) – and I thus became known as the Chicken Lady. The chicks lived with us for 2 weeks (in the garage) before going back to live with Grandma. My daughter knows how to catch, hold, carry, pick up, and care for chicks, and has for a while. Those chicks are now full grown and laying eggs, by the way. Side note over.

IMG_5289Anyway, back to the chicks. So I take the two new best friends to see the chicks. It was like a hot box in their little room (they like the heat when small). My daughter starts giggling, chasing the chicks around, picking them up, handing them to me, passing them to her new friend (who is afraid to hold them), and trying to find the one special gray one. The other little girl (city folk) was worried the chick would “bite” her or that the claws would scratch her. She was scared to pet one, let alone try to pick one up, despite reassurances that it was fine.

After a few minutes of the three of us with the chicks, the girl’s grandma joined us. Within about ten seconds, she started worrying about my daughter and how she was behaving around the chicks:

“Let’s be careful!”
“Be gentle!”
“Watch where we’re stepping!”
“Oh, oh, oh, go slowly!”
“I don’t know if you should…”

Now these comments could have been directed towards her granddaughter, but she was walking around like she was in a minefield, and certainly wasn’t picking up the chicks unless my daughter was throwing* them at her (accompanied by me saying, “You know, she may not want to hold one,” “Ask first,” or “let her get her own.”).

After about a minute in there with us, poor grandma looked like she was about to faint. She took the other little girl out – because of the heat. Now it’s entirely possible that the heat could have been the reason, but it’s equally possible she just couldn’t handle my demon child torturing those poor chicks while this mom stood idly by. I could have explained that my kid knew what she was doing, I suppose, but the grandma was so politely corrective, and didn’t really ask, and left so quickly – there just wasn’t time. Ah, well, I guess she’ll never know.

We stayed a bit later and chatted, then headed home for a lovely sunset drive down the mountains. What a beautiful, fun day.

*I don’t literally mean throwing.

Gem Fair


Today my daughter and I headed to the Gem Fair to pick up a few glass beads. I don’t offer these in my shop, but I do when I do craft fairs – they are bright and colorful (and fun!) and add a bit of POP to the monotony of my items. I was brought to the Gem Fair a few months ago by my friend Linda, and it was such a blast. This time it was just my daughter and I, and I knew exactly what I needed, so I printed out my free pass (yay!), drove there, paid for parking, walked in, went straight to the booth I wanted, and let my daughter pick her favorite beads (and I picked some too). After about 15 minutes we were ready to go, and we headed back to the car. Here’s my haul:

glass beads

Last time I went with Linda and our friend Ginger, we spent hours there – they have things from pennies all the way to hundreds of dollars. My friend Ginger went back and forth about buying this one beautiful pendant (because it was costly), but finally decided to get it since she rarely spends money on herself. We three spent the next 20 minutes or so looking for a good chain for it. We finally found a nice heavy one that looked perfect, and we were about to get someone to cut it for us when I took a closer look: skulls! It was a good thing we noticed; it would have been hilarious for one of the oldest deaconesses at our church to show up on Sunday morning with a skull chain. 😉

Ladybugs II


We’ve been watching the ladybugs and – like I mentioned before – I hadn’t seen them in different stages before. One thing I definitely did not know is that they go through several stages on their way to becoming adults. As they grow, they molt. So our habitat is full of discarded ladybug skins. But even weirder is that when they finally emerge as adult ladybugs, they are nearly white, with no spots! As their shells harden, they gain spots and pigment and become darker. So our ladybugs are ranging from spotless cream to a salmon color right now. We actually got to watch a few of them working really hard to get out of their shells – shaking back and forth to escape. It was really neat!


For more info on ladybug lifecycles, see this site: http://www.ladybug-life-cycle.com/

coming out  new ladybug

white ladybug  pretty ladybug

Church Summer Faire


hand paintingToday we celebrated the end of summer with our annual church fair at the local park. Usually there is a softball game, a potluck and singing and stories about summer camp, but this year they really amped it up! We had a volleyball game, a pie contest, face painting, a photo booth, 2 bounce houses (one for adults), bocce ball, and more structured games and sharing time (they prepped the people who were going to share so they weren’t so surprised).


We arrived about 2 hours after it started because neither of us wanted to play volleyball or softball – that, and I needed some time to make my potluck dish and pie! I had never brought a gluten free dish to a potluck before (remember, I’ve only been gluten free for a few months), so I did some searching on what might be good, and found this quinoa recipe, which I had almost all the ingredients for already – I also added red pepper, which made it even better (except for the fact that I read tablespoons of cumin instead of teaspoons and then needed to run water through my dish several times to filter the cumin out.) The dish came out wonderful, and I will be making it many more times.

I decided to make a pecan pie since that is my favorite. I went back and forth on doing a GF pie, but I am super competitive, and since there was a competition, I decided to do my regular pie. I always make my own crust, which is totally worth it. My friend from college (also former roommate and bridesmaid) taught me a lot about cooking, but she really taught me how to make a good pie crust. So I made my crust from this recipe (but used butter), and I turned to this recipe for the pecan pie filling. My husband usually hates pecan pie because it is too sweet, but if you make it without the corn syrup (like this recipe), it’s wonderful! Unfortunately, it gives it a kind of foamy top (kind of like creme brulee), so it’s not very pretty, but it sure is good!

Pie contestAnyway, we headed to the park. My daughter went into the kids’ bounce house for a bit, then decided to try the adult one. She make probably 15 rounds (it was an obstacle course one) before getting tire and deciding to go back to the kids’ one. Soon after, we were called for dinner – more than 100 people gathered to pray in public for the meal (I LOVE that!) and then there was a huge line for the food. About this time they started judging pies – I think there were 8 or 9 – and mine ended up tying for second (pretty good since it wasn’t that pretty and I forgot to add milk – even if it was only 1 Tbsp of milk). The winner was a chocolate bourbon pecan pie, and it looked beautiful. The pies were devoured after that pretty quickly.

saying graceFrom there we all sat down and sang a few songs, then listened to stories about the missions trips the college and high school students took (to Encinada,and Arizona, respectively, both to troubled kids centers and to help with home/building construction), as well as the experiences of the younger kids at summer camp. It was a lovely day.




zoomFor Christmas last year, my daughter got a ladybug habitat from my parents. Sadly, I had not had time to order the ladybugs and get this together for her. So I finally got it together and ordered the ladybugs that came with the kit (only had to pay shipping!). Unfortunately, the first set of bugs arrived dead. The package had gotten smashed in the mail and the bugs got out and had no humid air or got too hot (or something). So the second set finally arrived, and it is SO COOL! They arrive in their larva stage. I knew they had different stages, but I never knew how they changed or what their stages look like.

From http://kidsgrowingstrong.org/ladybug_life

From http://kidsgrowingstrong.org/ladybug_life

ladybug tubeThe ladybugs arrived in this tube (sorry, my daughter was so excited we had to dump them right away, so there are no ladybugs in this picture.) We put them in their new home and added a few drops of water to give their air some humidity, and they were set! (The tube came with a bit of food for them, but we’ll be giving them raisins later.) We are very excited to get to see these little guys grow over the next few weeks! 🙂

P.S. Helpful chart from http://kidsgrowingstrong.org/ladybug_life


VBS 2013 Roundup


This year my daughter went to three VBS programs. If you don’t know, VBS stands for Vacation Bible School. Now, I didn’t plan on her going to three. I actually planned on her going to one of them (our church). But when her school ended, she was so sad to be saying goodbye to her friends, I thought she’d be happy to go back to her school and see them again. Then came our VBS. By then, my daughter decided she loves VBS and wanted to go to another one, so I drove her down to my best friend’s church a few weeks later. These three programs could not have been more different, though here were – of course – similarities.

Her school’s VBS was HUGE. There was a check-in every morning. And by check in, I mean they have bar codes for the kids who regularly attend church there: codes with allergies, contact info, and all sorts of stuff. We guests had to use our names and get a new sticker tag every day.

School VBS

Their program was a purchased program: Kingdom Rock. I stayed for the intro every morning (the skit, offering and song). They had spent a good deal of money on decorations, and they had some really neat handmade ones – duct tape gates, wooden drawbridges, and solo cup lights in the halls. They had some great music, and the skit – while simple – was great for the kids to understand. The first day we went, I found my daughter in the class with the 3 year olds. She was sad she wasn’t with her friends, was shy and nervous. I went into her classroom with her and she clung to me nearly in tears. It took 15 minute to extricate myself, and when I did, I headed straight to the main office to beg them to move her to the 4 year old class (she was only 5 days away from turning 4). The class was full, but the director moved her graciously (probably because I was a sobbing hormonal mess). I walked back with her, pointed out my daughter, and watched her get moved and feel MUCH better about her new class. At the end of the day, my daughter came out of the class saying, “Mom, YOU made a mistake and put me in the wrong class.” Gee, you’re welcome for getting you what you want. Ah well. The rest of the week went great! Some simple but fun crafts, and a lot of good stories. The stories worked really well from this VBS – my daughter could really explain what she learned that day.

Missions Moment Mongolia

I always volunteer with the first grade class since they have the same schedule as the little kids (out at noon), so I can be there at the same time as my daughter, but not in the same class as her. The first grade class makes the kids a book that goes home at the end of the week with all their coloring, stories, verses, etc. We also always do groups: coloring, craft, verse, scrapbook, and me. My group is always weird – one day of music, one day of games, one day disappears (for whatever the special event is), and then 2 days of dress up and me taking pictures of the kids for their book. I always do a Bible dress up and a theme dress up.

Clue Characters

This time I did color dress up – so one kid dressed in green, one on red, one in blue, etc. They had tons of fun, and the pictures were awesome. We also practiced the music, had games in the gym, got to hear stories in the morning, and I did a puppet show right before they left at noon. On Friday, they even got a magic show by one of the guys in our church! My daughter had about the same experience, only toned down to a 4-5 year old age level. We had a great time but were thoroughly exhausted by the end of the week. Our VBS was awesome for crafts and for songs – the hand motions really stuck with the kids. My daughter’s teacher made them a color wordless book, and my daughter was singing the song all week (and still sings it).

Kingdom Rock CastleAnd that brings me to the final VBS – my best friend’s. She goes to an Anglican church about 25 mins from here. This was during the time we had our Chinese students here, so I dropped them off, then drove down to her church (and arrived a bit late). It was great for me since I was stuck away from home for a few hours, so I went to a coffee shop and wrote. It was great to have some peace! Anyway, their VBS was also Kingdom Rock, but they had ordered the program, looked at it, and changed it completely – they kept the theme and that was about it. someone had made a really awesome cardboard castle that was like a fort, so the kids could crawl through it; one of the last days of the week the kids got to color the inside of it, which was super exciting. It was small, so it was way more personal. There were 38 kids total (there were 34 in my first grade class at our church!), so they split them into 4-5 groups and passed them between dress up, crafts, stories, games, lesson, etc. One day they walked to a park, one day they walked to the beach, and the last day they ‘battled’ a bouncy dragon. This VBS did an awesome job with songs – my daughter was singing them every day.

Which brings me to my favorite part of VBS. My daughter loves the songs and sings them all the time everywhere. She teaches them to everyone willing to listen. When we had Air and April here, my daughter came home from my friend’s VBS singing

Don’t build your house on the sandy-land, 
Don’t build it too near the shore, 
Well, it may look kind of nice 
But you’ll have to build it twice, 
Oh, you’ll have to build your house once more. 

You better build your house upon the rock,
Make a good foundation on a solid spot. 
And though the storms may come and go,
The peace of God you will know. 

She INSISTED on teaching the Chinese girls the song, and they ended up singing it with her. Because they were singing along, I figured they should know what they were singing, so I explained the parable about building a good foundation – found in Matt 7:24-27 (among other places). It was great to have a reason to talk about Jesus without the pressure of evangelizing.

Saying Goodbye


American Chinese foodLast night there was a farewell party for everyone involved with the cultural exchange program; all the host families and students gathered at church (where the students had been meeting for class) to enjoy some American Chinese food, and then have farewells in the sanctuary. Unfortunately, I could only eat the salad I brought and the white rice (Gluten free). We also had a ton of desserts (self-control is easy when you can’t eat anything!). We then headed into the sanctuary. Now my husband and I were prepared for a 3+ hour ordeal because we didn’t leave last year until about 11pm. We brought books, coloring for our daughter, sweaters, water, etc. At 7:58, the director said, “Okay host families and students! Please gather at the front for a photo then you can head home.” We were shocked! It was so fast! (Apparently two of the videos weren’t working.) So we got to come home early – YAY! We got home and washed all the girls’ clothes, and – as we were waiting, we made dream catchers and watched the movie Fireproof, which has Chinese subtitles. It’s one of my favorite movies, and the girls enjoyed it as well. I finished up some notes to the students (details below) and went to bed about 1:45. The girls didn’t make it to bed until almost 4am.

This morning we said goodbye to April and Air. We woke up around 6:30, gathered everything, packed the car, ate, and met up with everyone else at church, where the bus was waiting. We all stood around awkwardly avoiding saying goodbye until the leader said “Time to get on the bus, so say goodbye!” Then there were tears and tight hugs. I kept it together pretty well until I got home and found notes from the girls that just made me cry. They are so sweet and we’re very grateful we got to know them. I also chatted a bit with Violet – one of the Chinese teachers. She has a daughter a year older than my daughter, so I gave her a VeggieTales silly song cd and told her it was one of my daughter’s favorites, and that I hoped her daughter enjoyed it too. To help the students remember their stay, I handed her a bag with something for each student; I made them all a 2013 name penny with their English name, and I wrote them each a little note from my family saying we hope they enjoyed their trip, that we prayed for a safe return, and hope they have fond memories. I also included this verse because I thought it was cheerful and I wanted a bit of a reminder as to why almost all of the families chose to host: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him” Romans 15:13a. We know that they aren’t Christian, and none of us pushed our students in anyway, but we do care for them deeply and hope that they took something away from church, the songs, and stories we shared with them. They certainly improved our lives, and we will miss them.

Last night together

Air’s Birthday


Tuesday was one of our student’s birthdays. Somehow we managed to get a student with a birthday both last year as well as this year (and we love it!). Last year we threw Nancy a birthday party with all the students – complete with cake, presents, pin the tail on the donkey, and a pinata. She cried and told us she’d never EVER had a birthday party before.


Not Air – Another student

This year the director of the program wanted to do a birthday party with the students during class time, so we gave Air the choice to do something with family (us) or with her friends. She decided to stick with family. So – on my crazy Tuesday – I drove my daughter to my friend’s VBS, then drove back home, gathered some supplies, then ran to church (where the Chinese students have their classes).  I met the teacher and she and I spent an hour decorating the gym for the party. Air walked in with the other students to her surprise party and my daughter putting a crown on her head. We sang happy birthday, played basketball themed games (she named herself Air after Air Jordan), and hit the pinata. She was incredibly happy.

Birthday Party

From there, I drove my 3 girls (my daughter, Air and April) to meet my husband for dinner at Chili’s. After dinner, the waiters came and sang Happy Birthday to Air, and she was so surprised and a bit embarrassed. Many of the patrons of the restaurant clapped – it was wonderful!

Go cartsAfter dinner we drove to Boomers. We had found a great discount through groupon for unlimited rides/miniature golf, so we played for a few hours until they closed. The girls – including my 4 year old – LOVED the speedway. They all went one time, then we played miniature golf, which does not exist in China. They were pretty good and had a great time. Air kept saying she had a wonderful day – that it was one of the best days of her life. I am so glad that we got to experience such a special time with her!     IMG_3706IMG_3729