Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Hello! Welcome back to my blog. I didn't realize I had taken such a long break. Maybe it's because these two goofballs are keeping me busy.

 Just a little update here on our family farm. Well, we aren't really a farm, but some in my family think so. Our property is almost an acre, on a hill studded with oak trees, quite a change from the suburban landscape of my upbringing. Chris has taken advantage of the hill behind the house to plant our own little orchard. We've got a nectarine, two apricot, peach, fuji apple, golden delicious apple and pear tree. Most are blooming and it is beautiful. These pink blossoms are from the nectarine tree a few weeks ago. Currently the apple trees are showcasing white blossoms.

The nectarine tree was covered with small fruit, most of which we had to pull off because the branches aren't strong enough yet to support it. Here's Caleb showing off a baby nectarine.

The men checking on the trees

The other reason my family considers us a farm is because of our most recent animal additions: our three chickens, Daisy, Penny, and Lucy.
It took a while, but now all three are laying eggs. The kids love checking the coop for eggs and feeding them treats, until the chickens try to see if their fingers are treats. 

And besides the chickens, we still have Tucker and Buster. Buster has proven to be a serious hunter, catching mice, gophers, lizards, and even an occasional bird. He likes to let us know about his hunting success by leaving "presents" on the porch. Gross. 

Now that the weather has warmed up, Tucker's favorite outdoor activity is chasing lizards. He has even killed a few mice himself. Here is the happy dog leaping through the grass to chase something.

We also just added a vegetable garden, this year I'm trying tomatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, yellow squash, sugar pumpkins, watermelon and cantaloupe. I'm am hopeful this year will go better than last, since the beds are protected with chicken wire to keep the gophers out.

And this is the view from our hillside. Gorgeous. I love where we live and am beyond grateful that this is our home.

Coming soon, some inside pictures of our house. As of the end of March, we've been in our house a year and Chris has done an amazing job of transforming it in to a home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Young Lady

So as of November 8th, I have an eight-year-old. How did this happen??? My little girl is growing in to a young lady. It is so bittersweet to watch your kids grow up. I enjoy Hannah at this age and the things we can do together now, but I still miss my baby too. 

Hannah got an extended birthday celebration this year. It began with a shopping, dinner, and a sleep-over with a good friend. Then on Saturday, the day before her birthday, we had a big family party at our house. One of the perks of where we live is that we're able to see family more often, and that was definitely the case for Hannah's birthday. All six grandparents came, as well as five cousins and aunts and an uncle. 

This is what the three boys did, drive around the yard in the jeep and pull each other in the wagon.

Hannah and her girl cousins on the Vanoli side

Hannah wanted a s'more cake for her birthday. I found the recipe from America's Test Kitchen. It wasn't as hard as I anticipated, except for the part where you put it under the broiler to toast the marshmallows. The first try ended up in flames and charred marshmallows. Thankfully we had more and the second try was a success.

We tried to get a nice family photo, this is as close as we got

On Hannah's actual birthday, we made pizza and had Jammie Family Movie Night in the living room, topped off with more birthday cake. 

Hannah is such a sweet, loving, compassionate, adventurous young lady. I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for her future. (But I still miss my baby too!)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Daily Thoughts

I'm diverging from the usual family update post and sharing some personal thoughts. We're eight weeks in to Hannah's school year and have noticed I am enjoying the home school days more than last year. I am thankful for this, and have felt more content lately with being at home. 

At the same time, sometimes my days feel very insignificant or mundane. The other week I was writing an email to someone I haven't seen in a while, and was giving them a brief update on our happenings. The kids are easy to write about: school happenings, activities, cute things they've said, the like. I realized as I was writing, I had nothing significant to write about me. Nobody really wants to hear about your days when they involve wiping dirty faces, cleaning up messes, giving kids (more) snacks, doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, etc. That realization left me feeling a bit discouraged, is what I'm doing meaningful? 

Right after journaling/praying about this, I opened up to chapter three of my devotional, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full. Chapter three is all about keeping an eternal perspective as we are raising our children. The author writes, "When the mundane looms larger than eternal life, we forget who God is, who we are, and who our children are." It was such a good reminder to not be fixated on the temporary, daily challenges but think of our kids in light of eternity and as little image bearers of God. I'm so thankful when God leads me to a word that I need in that very moment.

And that evening, in the mundane of brushing teeth and getting ready for bed, Caleb paused (mid-brush) and said, "I love Jesus!" And I reminded him that Jesus loves him too, and so do his Mommy and Daddy. It felt like a reminder from God of what I read that morning, that even in the mundane and the teeth brushing, there is room for eternity. So I'm trying to remember, that though on the surface my days may look unimportant or inconsequential, there is more going on than I can see. These kids are a gift, entrusted to my care for a short while, and I want to make the most of these days.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Year's Worth of Thoughts

Today is the year mark of moving out of our home in Ventura and following God's calling on our family to Atascadero. So much has happened in a year. There's no way I could have predicted then what our life would look like now. And I have seen God's hand through all of it.

It was a hard year. I am not a big fan of change, so leaving the comforts of a home that we poured so much of ourselves into and leaving friends and family and our church was against my nature. Not to mention watching my daughter experience loss as well. I think part of our human nature is to look and strive for comfort, and this last year was the opposite.

When we first moved, this is where the dog spent most of his time, under the kitchen table.

But it seems that it's always in those hard places where we learn the most about God. I wanted the comfort of familiarity, but God was teaching me that He is to be my place of comfort no matter where I am or what my circumstances are. A year ago I could not see what our life would look like now. We had only just found out where we were going to be living a few days before moving! But God knew, and I can say with confidence that His words to Joshua, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," (Joshua 1:5) have been true for us.

That's not to say that I am always at peace and never have moments of doubt or worry. It's a lesson I have to be reminded of. Just as our time of waiting for Caleb was a lesson in learning to trust God and surrender my plans to Him, it's been the same for this season but in a bigger way. But the result of being obedient to whatever it is God is calling you to is far better than anything you can imagine. And while it can be easy to write those words, it's challenging to live out, even when I've seen the fruit from the past of  God's faithfulness in those trusting moments. My default is comfort, and we are not always called to a life of comfort, but to rest in the Comforter.

So, time for a family update. Hannah started second grade at the end of August. We're excited to have a full year at Trivium. She loves going to class, but also says she enjoys her home school days as well. And I have to admit I am enjoying them more too. I read a very helpful book over the summer called The Well-Trained Mind and feel like I have a better grasp on this whole classical/home school thing.

Caleb started preschool this month two days a week and he is loving it. He has great teachers and comes home exhausted. He doesn't even want to eat lunch, he usually takes his nap first. 

Chris is keeping busy at Shoreline, and also getting ready for a hunting trip with his dad in Nevada. I'm keeping busy at home, keeping the children and animals alive. Somehow the days fly by. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lessons From a Messy Stove

I love a clean home. I love organization. The Container Store, Ikea, stores I look forward to browsing. I love having "a place for everything, and everything in it's place." But, life doesn't often work out that way. That is even more evident after having children.

I walked in to my kitchen the other day and the first thing I noticed was my messy stove. I really don't like a messy kitchen. To be honest, I don't really like messy anything. But as I looked at my messy stove and started to complain in my head, God reminded me of the benefits of the messy stove. Having a messy stove means I've been cooking. The remains of mac and cheese in the pot mean my children have been fed (it's summer, we eat mac and cheese often, don't judge). Remembering that my children have been fed means that God has provided food for us. 

I also love to cook and bake, and that usually requires making a mess before enjoying the finished product. So when I see a mess of flour and measuring cups on my counter, it's a reminder that I've had a chance to do something I enjoy. And I can be thankful for that. Those scones in the bottom left corner of the picture above, very messy to make, but oh so good to eat. 

Apricot jam is another messy endeavor. Well, maybe not for some, but it is for me! But it's worth the effort, because when it's done my family can enjoy it. And not only that, but I can also share it with others. Sometimes it takes messy work to invest in relationships, but it's so worth it.

Everyday life is messy. There are spills and crumbs and tiny scraps of paper left everywhere. Something God has been working on with me for almost the past eight years is the ability to let go of perfectionism. Not that my house has ever been perfectly, magazine picture clean and tidy. But realizing that relationships are more important than a clean house. Yes, I do still clean my house, but sometimes there are more important things. It may mean putting off cleaning up the kitchen in order to play a game with the kids or read them a book. I want my home to be a peaceful place, and if I am always stressed out about having a clean home and not making a mess, that will spill over on to my family.

So I'm learning to embrace the mess. To allow it to happen and offer grace. Because we can all use more of that.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Crossing a Finish Line

Well hello there! Goodness is this a busy time of year. Time to fill in the gaps for the last couple months. 

When we moved up here last fall, we started homeschooling full time and put Hannah on the wait list for a local Charter school call Trivium. It's very similar to the school she attended in Camarillo in that it's a hybrid program (three days homeschool, two days at school) and also a classical education format. Well, I got a call back in February that a spot opened up for her to attend the school! We were very excited and Hannah transitioned smoothly in to her new class. Also, we were able to keep using the same curriculum we started the school year with. 

This pic is from a field trip to San Simeon to see the elephant seals. We were able to join a wonderful local homeschool group and do lots of fun activities.

She just finished her last week of school, and it feels like a big finish line for me. I was so intimidated by full time homeschooling back in October. And let me tell you, it is no easy thing. It took took a lot of tweaking to figure out our daily schedule, and we finally settled on a routine that took advantage of Caleb's nap times. I feel like I have a better handle on it now, and I have certainly learned a lot along the way. I'm looking forward to second grade and continuing her schooling at Trivium.  

After basketball wrapped up, Hannah jumped right in to little league. She was the only girl on her team but didn't seem to mind. She had the same coach from basketball, and a couple of the same kids on her team too. She loved playing baseball, and says her favorite position is batter. And on defense her favorite is catcher or pitcher. 

Other happenings over the last few months: we moved again, but this time locally. The Lord gave us an opportunity to purchase a home. We closed escrow in December, and Chris spent three months fixing it up before we moved in. It's so awesome to see God's provision, and how he answered so many specific prayers we had for a home. One of the things we wanted the most was a friend nearby for Hannah. When we lived in our condo in Ventura, Hannah had a sweet friend in our complex just across the grass from us and they played together almost everyday. Friends are so important to her so we prayed for a friend nearby. Well, what did God provide? A six-year-old girl right next door. Hannah and Lydia play together almost everyday, and fortunately for them our fence has fallen down between our backyards so it's easy for them to get to each other. 

Chris is now full time at our church, Shoreline Calvary Chapel. He is also still making and selling Bronco Boxes. And, continuing to work on little house projects (there's always something!)

I was able to participate in another exam workshop for the California Architect's Board. It keeps me connected to the profession, and I get a couple days off of mom duty. I am praying about looking for some part time work in the fall when Caleb starts preschool. 

Speaking of Caleb, we celebrated his third birthday in May. My have three years gone by fast! He continues to live up to his name, wholehearted in everything he does. And, he talks non stop. We've decided he has no internal processing, he just verbalizes everything he's thinking. 

On a sad note, my grandmother passed away at the end of March. Chris and I went up to Oregon along with several relatives from the Mayes side of the family to see her laid to rest. It was a bittersweet time in that she is dearly missed, but sweet in that we got to spend time with a lot of family we don't see very often. And have a fabulous road trip to and from Oregon.

Siblings, with a photobomb by the cousins

Last weekend had another road trip for me and the kids. We went up to Concord to spend some time with more family, my brother Jeff and SIL Lauren were out visiting from Indiana. The kids were able to play with all their cousins on my side and swim in Mimi and Papa's pool. I am so thankful to live closer to family and have the opportunity to make these trips. It means more miles on the car and spending a little more on gas, but it is so worth it. 

And, we got a cat. Meet Buster Posey (named by Hannah)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Other People's Thoughts

I've read several blogs over the last few months that have been very inspiring. So, I thought I would share them. You can click on the title of each one to read them.

Burn the Candles
This first post is by Shauna Niequist. I love the reminder to enjoy the blessings that come your way.

3 Helps: For When You Wish You Could Tame Your Tongue
Love this analogy for Proverbs 16:24. Sometimes I struggle with my words, especially with my kids. Such a good reminder to be filled with good things in order to pour out grace.

How Pursuing Your Gifts Impacts Your Kids
I like this reminder to pursue your talents and make time for things you enjoy. I think my top two would be baking and dancing. Unfortunately, one of those is rather expensive and I don't get to do it anymore, which makes keeping up with my baking rather dangerous. So I joined a gym to compensate. Not quite as much fun as dancing, but I get to exercise and watch HGTV at the same time. So it's not all that bad.
Becoming a mom did not make my other talents go away, they are still there. So I really liked the encouragement in this post to keep up with the talents God has given us and (hopefully) inspire our kids to search out their own God-given talents. I realize there are seasons in life, and sometimes we do have to put things on hold. Such is the case for my architecture career. And that's ok, because I know this season of raising my kids is where I am to be for now.

When Her Good News Makes You Feel Bad
 I struggled with this big time when trying to have baby #2 (Caleb) and it has begun to creep up again after over a year of trying for another baby. (You can read our story with Caleb here.) God's path for each of us is different, and nothing good comes out of comparing ours with someone else. I am praying for God to bring me back to a place of contentedness; that if His best plan for our family is for us to not have anymore kids, that I will be ok with that.

You Are Enough 
A short and sweet encouraging post by Shauna Niequist.