Saturday, July 18, 2009


These are our borrowed jewels.
Lizzy & Fiddy-Foo

Elizabeth is the studious, artistic, quiet thing....

Trisitea is lightening in a bottle.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Glorious Boredom

Our days have been spent in a cycle of staying up much to late and in turn sleeping in far to long.

We have been busy: laying around reading and movie watching!

Some of us like to mix things up a bit, taking boredom to an art form.

Last night I laid out on the trampoline for a long time, just starring up at the star filled sky.

Yeah, its a hard life.

Okay, so maybe that was bit of an exaggeration. We are writing newspaper articles, keeping up with our blogs, cleaning, caring for pets, organizing closets & drawers, planning for the next school year etc...etc...However we really are getting some much needed boring down time.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

California: the passageway for Mavericks

Farewell and hello again to you, and you ..and you and you and you. A bit like ocean waves, constantly moving in and out.

We went to the Bigg's farewell swim/potluck. Another one bites the dust, they are off to a wonderful adventure...a new life in Kansas. Although it was a happy day, there was an underlying tone of sorrow-as we knew this could very well be the last time we see them. B&R are saying, thank goodness for facebook. I agree, it makes the world a little smaller. It allows us to keep up with others as well, including the Winter's.

The same day the Biggs left for their new adventure, the Winter family arrived for a visit here. THE SAME DAY!

We had a wonderful time celebrating our friendships at their welcome back picnic at Woodward park. We also had a swim party, went to Blackbeard's, took in a movie & a pizza dinner. We managed to squeeze one last visit in before they headed back to Tennessee to send the kiddos off with a little something-something.

Want to know one universal interesting thing, that I've observed by listening to friends who have moved all over this country..leaving California? Their neighbors are so much more friendly. Why is that? Is it our faster lifestyle? Is it because we don't see a point in attaching ourselves because of the great California exodus? Is it because we have too many rules, so we are cranky? Is it because we are preoccupied with "business, and nothing personal" After all we have a country to lead!!

I have noticed that people who love California are here for the climate & money. I've noticed that those who want an engaging community life..well, they leave. Of course there are exceptions to the rule. There are also a whole lot of people who move through life in a complaining fog. They aren't happy, but it never occurs to them that they could have another job, live some place else.

I remember going to Indiana and people talking to me every where I went. At the gas station, White Castle, grocery store..everywhere I went they tried to strike a conversation. I was taken aback by the friendliness, I didn't know how to handle it. We don't do that in California for the most part. Now I will give these silly mountain folk some props, some of them are more friendly then in Fresno. However a whole lot of them are up here hiding from people..the word is not friendly!

I'm not stupid enough to think that once you leave California soil, you waltz into a world of bliss. Everyone knows we bemoan living here , but I'm really not doing the "grass is greener" thing. California bashing is kinda like a sport, but I'm sure residents of other states have their own issues they contend with, its a pick your evil kind thing..I guess. I want to be content here, really I do. It just gets frustrating when most every time we find a normal friend, they move..out of state! Oh, and about the transplants? Most I meet are freaks. They are here expressing their freakdom, that's their whole goal in life.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The man camping trip

Due to the crazy mama kitty and adolescent Dalmatian Eddy I was unable to join the family on our first camping trip this summer. However I punched out almost all I need to for next school year in the time I had alone. At this point all I need to do is get information in regards to field trips from our school group and buy a few more supplies, the bulk of which will happen with the local back to school sales.

In preparation for this trip Ricky got his bake on! First he made snicker doodles, but they all got eaten. Then he made oatmeal raisin cookies. He ended with a batch of brownies.

CJ came along on this trip. Thursday evening he was with us so he got a crazy Chitudo workout. The next morning the 3 boys packed up the 4 runner while Jeff worked. After some minor set backs they were on their way. Unfortunately self employment kept the phone ringing most of the ride over.

Their first stop was at Fort Ord Dunes

..and then it was on to the Pfieffer Big Sur St. Pk. Camp ground (it runs along the Big Sur River) They set up camp. The night ended with cocoa smores and a story circle...surprised?

This trip was intended for Billy to fulfill part of his congressional award goals. Billy pick the stop, made the reservations and was completely in charge on Saturday. We decided to add a day before and a day after to make travel a little easier. However he still had to get the spot for all three days.

Billy's plans;

Morning: wake up, make fire...

Breakfast: pancakes with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, coffee and cocoa
Clean up campsite and pack lunch for trails.(Deli sandwiches, granola bars, beef jerky and lots of water.

Hikes: #1 Mc Way Falls (a waterfall flowing over a cliff into the ocean below).
#2 Mount Manuel (a very steep, very narrow, loose graveled cliff-side trail with shoulder high weeds and poison oak.) Billy's original 2nd hike was inaccessible do to fire damage, this was his alternative.

Back at camp: Swimming the Big Sur river

Dinner: Chili Cheese Dogs & soda

Desert: Smores & Cocoa

Sunday everyone slept in. Ricky was the first one up, so he already had the fire going..yes safely. After breakfast and packing everything up they made their way to Point Lobos.

After that they went to Sand City in Monterrey. Again they had a crazy drive, this time the culprit was traffic, two hours of waiting on Pacheco pass. Then they dropped CJ off and came home. The evening was spent taking showers, shaving and staring at the TV.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

After Mothers Day Comes Fathers Day

True to the setting of making the day special for the person you are recognizing , Billy and Ricky woke Jeff with a pillow fight. They pounced him from both sides as he lay slumbering!!

After that we enjoyed a lunch of pancakes made with the beloved Mrs Butterworths, Jeff's food bliss. This day fell at the end of a very busy season, so the goal was to give Jeff the gift of rest. This is why he had a lunch, not a breakfast to enjoy.

The day was very easy. We had a slow day of Net Flix numb-out. We called the Dads in our world. The day ended with a simple dinner.

However what he really wanted to do, if he wasn't so sleepy was to explore Hetch Hetchy. So on July 5th we made that Belated Fathers Day trip.

We went in through the Mariposa Grove entrance, and just after the tunnel, fire was among us. As we drove it increased..bummer! We new we wouldn't be able to leave that way, no biggy, we left through the Arch. The funny thing is the Arch is really close to the town of Mariposa, yet the other side of the park hosts the Mariposa Grove, go figure.

At any rate on the way to Hetch Htechy we found a shady campground with a day use area called Diamond O. This place boasts a lovely swim hole on the Toulmne River. This is where we ate our picnic lunch.

We drove onto the beautiful backwoods of Yosemite, HetchHetchy . We walked across the O'Shaughnessy Dam and through the tunnel on the other side. Some of the waterfalls were still flowing, so that was an unexpected treat.

As we left we landed at the Cascade swimhole/picnic area. We swam and ate our dinner here before heading home.

As often as we visit Yosemite, as much as we have seen, we continue to find new treasures.

Yay me! I'm a Mom

"Lo Children are an Heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." Psalm 127:3

In celebration of being a Mother and having a mother the four of us spent the day doing what I like best, exploring God's creation.

We gave the Grandmothers a phone call recognizing their role in our lives, then off we went. We explored part of the Sequoia National Park.

We started our day on a trail just off the Potwisha campground. We followed the path to Marble Falls, much too early in the summer for swimming, we sat and had a mid morning snack taking in the beauty of it all. We would love to visit at a later time, in August when we camp in the park perhaps. This place is obviously a great swim hole as it had a swinging rope hanging from a tree on the opposite bank. This indicated people are able to cross the river when the water flow has subsided.
We moved our party on to view the pictographs at hospital rock. We took the trail down across the parking lot that lead down to the middle fork of the Kaweah River. This trail was lovely with the greenery, steep canyon walls, wild crazy rapids and majestic falls.

Our journey moved on to Morro Rock. This is a Giant Granite Dome. The extremely steep hike is to the summit. The views are fantastic however the 300 ft gain in about a 1/4 of a mile is intense, be prepared for it!

Our next stop was driving through the tree trunk, I think its just called Fallen Tunnel Log. We parked our car at the trail head and explored the Cresent Meadow Loop. We walked all the way so we were able to check out Tharps Cabin. This is a cabin made from a single fallen tree.

We ate our dinner on the way home as we watch the sunset.

We had a wonderful day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Independence Day

We made a last minute decision to spend the day at Bass Lake. We were not disappointed. Yes it was crowded, and parking was a chore. Yet we did find a decent spot to park both the car and our little picnic. A little while after our arrival a Chitudo family planted themselves next to us, a nice surprise.

We had a wonderfully relaxing day of swimming, reading, sun-soaking and munching.

As we waited for the big shabang a drunk man stood at the edge of the lake and insisted on everyone's attention as he proceeded to announce his daughter and son-in-laws wedding engagment. When he didn't recieve the response he wanted he yelled into the crowd untill people responded with the love he intended to be displayed for such an occasion.

As the sun went down and the jazz from Ducey's began we found the real reason we were here. Cool mountain summer divine! Much, much better than 4th in the Valley!

We sang the National Anthem as the first fireworks went up. (among other songs)

The display was absolutely fantastic!!

The drive home was not bad at all. We skipped traffic jams by parking at an escape spot and driving home through North Fork vs Oakhurst.

.......and yes, we are crazy enough to join the thousands of fans (a testement to the spectaluar display in the sky) next year.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Party up!

Between the four of us, we have been to 8 parties over the last two months. Wow! Everyone had their own style. Crazy times in our world providing anything from swimming, go carting, movies, volleyball, air guns, John's incredible pizza, hiking etc..They have all been wonderful sporting much food and much love. We are glad all of you are in our lives. We have been thrilled to share in your birthdays, graduations and arrival of the "driving" excitement.

However, in our own house, the most exceptional celebration is that Ricky is now a teenager (yikes-that makes two in the house) and Billy is old enough to start drivers Ed/training.

My babies are growing up on me. I had a vivid example of that during this years Flatlanders celebration. As I sat in Jacki's store holding baby Shelby I watched not only my boys, but the neighborhood kids as well. Everyone is growing I went into a bit of a daydream of yesteryear thinking about my little tots during the first Flatlanders I experienced. I remember them eagerly collecting candies tossed their way during the parade. As they grew a bit older: face painting, clowns, carnival games, fire engines and cop car exploring, hay rides, midway rides, frog jumping competitions, and even a circus one year. Now, the town celebrations have quieted down and the kids all leave so quickly. It was a ghost town by noon. B&R don't remember much from the early years and were just as happy to go hang out with other teens at the Soltero swim party. Oops, I got off the subject at hand...birthday parties

Well this year we didn't propose the annual "do you want a party or a trip" question. Ricky's birthday fell on the same day as the Santa Clara convention. Great America is across the street from this convention center. Jeff, Billy & I played our own theme music as we secretly planned an trip in celebration of Ricky's birthday at this theme park. Ricky had resigned himself to taking writing and organization classes on his birthday. We did manage to keep our little secret until just before we left. The gig was up. Not all was lost though. He was still surprised. He just got his surprise earlier. He loved his "gift". Billy loved Ricky's "gift". Heck! We all loved his "gift".

While we were in Santa Clara we were intending on going out for the traditional birthday celebratory dinner. However the boys wanted to go to the Olive Garden-out of our price range. Especially considering we just went to Great America, renewed our CHEA membership and bought curriculum. Billy, always the politician shared, "if we used this as a joint birthday dinner then the money would actually be less", we consented. We sang to both, as they received their desert.

A few days after arriving back home Billy got his "gift" ; two tickets to see Stomp in concert. He brought his brother, what a guy. Shhhh...let him think it was his idea. Billy has been waiting years to go to this show. I plotted this puppy..and no , he didn't find out until we told him! We have a tradition of having a little something for the morning of each boys birthday. So Billy opened his eyes to a happy birthday banner with two stomp tickets pinned to a corner.

My Mom and Step-dad sent the each boy money, which they used to buy tickets to the revelation tour concert starring Third Day, Brandon Heath & Revive.
Jeff's parents kicked the summer off to a good start giving each boy a new pair of swim trunks, a beach towel and river shoes. They also treated Ricky...and the rest of us to dinner at a restaurant of his choice in celebration of becoming a TEENAGER. He choose TGI Fridays.

Oh, and by the way, no one ever mentioned not being asked "the" question.

Hey, Remember Me?

This has been a flashing whirlwind of a school year. We lived through runaway dogs, a pregnant kitty, the notorious mega virus and a FLOODING of deeply terrible news from our dear ones. Then there was the assemblage of the teenage roller coaster, the curriculum folly's and body issues from martial art wounds to loosing glasses etc.. preventing school work form being done for a time.

We then jumped full swing into the end-of-school-year entourage of celebrations.

The Drama club had many extra practices in preparation of the big show as well as a sophisticated dinner. One of the club members is in the beginning stages of a career in party planning. He used his skills here to host a lovely gathering complete with decorations, a multi-course meal and drama related activities. As for the show, it was pulled off brilliantly...such talent! We were truly impressed.

Both boys moved up in the world of martial arts. Ricky passed his Jr. Black Belt test. Billy passed his official Black Belt test. So we now have three Black Belts in the house..fear us!

B.E.S.T. had an all family celebration at the Island Water Park. What a wonderfully fun filled day! They then combined the Youth BBQ/ Swim party with the Bible Face Off final challenge. My boys made out pretty well...for the record Billy's team came in 2nd place (Yippee!!). Ricky's team did absolutely phenomenal given what they had to work with. Ricky's team was actually the combination of two groups of kids left over because most of both original teams bailed out half way through the school year. Of the kids that remained, many were there by protest..not studying or really able to contribute much for the new team. I am so proud of Ricky for not only being part of a minority carrying the team, but also being a great sport about it all.

We have our own precious end-of-year tradition. In our little school we celebrate the hard work that went into the studies of each year. This is pretty much the only time the boys wear ties. We get dressed up, go to their restaurant of choice and they even get desert (this years choice was El Cid's). We give them a certificate of completion made with our school stationary. We also give them the badges that they've earned for the Contender's program we incorporate into our schooling. You can check the program out at

Billy had a wonderful time at his first High School Formal with CHEFA. He looked so grown up, so handsome in his suit and tie. He enjoyed a lovely dinner and danced his heart away. CHEFA set aside a special time for the Sr's. to talk and showcase themselves, this was a real inspiration for Billy!

Both boys enjoyed the Civil War Ball put on by BEST. Becky made the boys costumes and they tied in first place for most authentic and most creative. Jeff and I were on the Ball committee so we had to dress the part as well. We were servants. Becky made me a costume and we just stuck Jeff in black & white work clothes making it look time period by adding black suspenders.

For the first time as a family, we attended two homeschool conventions. Jeff and I usually go alone. However both CHEFA & CHEA had classes specifically geared for teens that I wanted my guys to participate in. I have to say, they weren't to keen on the idea of doing"school work" on a vacation or during summer break. In the end, they had a really great time & are looking forward to next years classes. They even exchanged cyber info with some kids they met at CHEA.

We then went into a pandemonium of summer activities. Including Billy spending the fist month of summer intensely finishing his skill requirements to prepare for a trip to the Channel Islands. There he was officially certified as a scuba diver after presenting his mad-skills. During that time Jeff, Ricky & I took turns fighting a virus. Ricky did manage to have a sleep over with Bowen and a trip to Raymond to shoot with the Jeff's. However for the most part he was laying around watching movies in his room. This virus kicked his asthma into full gear, so he was garrisoned with a humidifier. More on the other activities later.....

Of course you knew we weren't going to sit still all summer long. However all that is calming down and we are sooo ready for some peaceful lonesome time. I made a sign during the hustle and bustle to remind us, if we needed reminding. "Boredom is a Blessing and Sleep is a Gift...Breath it in" So on that note we have prepared for chill time. The hammocks are hung. The books have been selected. Netflix has been stuffed. We have secured campsites for eagerly-anticipated-relaxing-family-connecting-memory making-journeys. (Boy that's a mouthful!)We have little get aways planned both by the sea and in the mountains. We will be collecting metal badges for the boys to nail to their wooden hiking sticks from a few more spots.

For us our real summer is July. We are not owned like in June or even August. No end of school year or beginning of school year rituals or activities, we are free as birds. Yay!! for free form summer loafing, and catching a breath or two!!

This will be our last summer together, well in a way. What I mean is this is our last summer to relish in special alone time with our boys. Next summer we will be in Fresno which means easy access to friends and activities. Not to mention Billy will be driving. Jeff and I are very aware that our boys are morphing into men preparing to take flight. That's as it should be. However being aware gives us fortitude in the situation.