Friday, April 29, 2011

Tuscaloosa Tornado

I was really sad 2 days ago to hear that my hometown has been majorly damaged by the deadliest tornado to come through Tuscaloosa.  Lots of structural damage and complete blocks and neighborhoods utterly wiped out makes my town, in many areas, totally unrecognizable.  Many people are still missing and the death toll is rising daily.

I am sad that I don't know what to do, really...
If I were there I could do SOMETHING, even just donate some clothing, blankets, or bottled water.
But the best thing I know to do right now is to pray...and I am so thankful for my family and friends being safe.  It was a close call for so many, though, who BARELY made it through the storm.  I've heard stories of children nearly being sucked into the funnel right out of their parents' arms, and even gorier details of people who were in their houses one minute and trapped underneath the rubble the next. 
Watching the video footage and viewing the images online is sad, but seems so unrealistic.  For so many it's still a nightmare and my heart goes out to them.  It's just a vivid reminder of how much we can be grateful for.  Having a roof over our heads is a blessing- no matter how small.  Having clothing to wear is a blessing- no matter how few.
My heart goes out to those who have lost everything and have to start completely over.  It is a devastating thing to not have a single item in your home left.  My heart especially goes out to those who have  lost a loved one.

Tuscaloosa family- know that I care and am praying for you every day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Passover 2011

This week I've really been thinking about my Savior and how grateful I am of His love for us.  In honor of Him, I wanted to acknowledge Passover (remembering when he caused the curse of death to  "passed over" His people, the Israelites, and brought them out of Egypt from underneath the bondage of Pharaoh).  So the kids and I enjoyed preparing our 2nd ever family Passover seder a few days ago.
We used the above book from our local library.  In the back were some easy recipes for our passover meal.

Ny helps to stir the meal for the matzah ball soup.

Our main Passover dish consisted of lamb, parsley for dipping in the salt water, an egg, and charoset.  We didn't have the bitter herb, so we reused the parsley  dipped in a bitter sauce instead.  Our side dishes (or just-in-case meals) were dinner rolls and wild grain rice.  Because we are not orthodox, nor are we Jewish, we didn't keep "kosher"- in case you were wondering about the dinner rolls!

Last year we created our own matzah.  This year it's store bought and surprisingly tastier.
Our humbly simple Passover meal completely set with a Haggadah printout (to help us follow along with what to say).
This year our meal is at a smaller table in a smaller home...and yet there was something so beautifully rich and grand about the entire process- from cooking and singing songs about the exodus with my kids to finally setting the table and sitting down to pray and  eat as a family.  My husband told the story of the Israelites' suffering and deliverance out of Egypt- with passion, I might add!  The kids loved it.  When it was Z's turn, she asked "the questions", and although Ny is not the youngest she had a turn at the questions as well.

Z finds the "afikomen"- the matzah wrapped in cloth which is hidden for the kids to find.  When they find it, they get a prize.

The main thing I wanted our family to get out of this special time together was to have the story of God's rescuing power be at the forefront of my children's minds as we are lead into the Resurrection weekend.  I want them to understand how important we are to our Lord- enough for Him to bring us out of Egypt.  He did this by delivering us through the power of the Cross-ultimately.  Today, we can be rescued out of our "Egypt" because of His submission to God's will by laying down His life on the cross.  For us.  It's too much for me to understand, but I receive it.  I can hardly fathom it, but I believe it.  And I want my kids to know as much as they can possibly understand at their tender ages of 3 and 8, that God loves them dearly.  Enough to "pass over" their sins and offer them true, everlasting life.
Again, as I mentioned earlier, I enjoy occasional fellowship with my Messianic brothers and sisters, but we are gentiles, not claiming a jewish identity.  So, we don't get all the "rules" just right.  But we celebrate Passover in the spirit of honoring God. 
I look forward to Sunday, the day we will remember Jesus and how He was resurrected from the grave.  It's a day of rejoicing-- it makes me very happy.  Reason?  Because I know that in Him I can have life too.  It's as though my life is wrapped in His, covered in His.  Whatever mistakes I've made are covered with His cloak of forgiveness.  Whatever needs I have- He's got me covered.  Where I falter, He lifts me up.  When I am confused, He takes away the cloud of confusion and brings clarity.  When I feel sad, His presence brings me joy.  When I want to throw in the towel and call it quits, the Lord gives me a renewed energy that I can't even explain.  It comes from Him.
Happy Passover, and Happy Resurrection Day.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Updates: How we're doing.

Yesterday I was a bit down...missing back home and such.  But today, God just totally took me for a loop, as He has been known to do. With time the kids and I are adjusting pretty well now and finally getting into the swing of things.

For one, I am finally finding my way around this place.  It's not so hard but like any new city you go to, it can be a challenge.  It takes some getting used to driving and parking downtown with all the 1 hour/30 minute/3 minute parking spots. There are a few parking garages.  Thankfully, parking meters are reserved for our famous Cannery Row area, a main tourist spot.  Typically when the girls and I want to go down that way, we just park a couple of blocks down and walk.  The more we walk around town, the more we get used to the area and driving seems easier.  Sometimes it's just a matter of perspective (getting around on foot is a good way to spot those easy-to-miss places when you're driving/zooming by).  So we've been walking around a lot.
I am also getting used to taxis, taxis everywhere.  And city buses.  My husband got us some bus passes this week so we can try it out a bit.  We're sharing one vehicle and that's different for us too...but it has been fun, actually- sharing a car.  We've been able to work out the scheduling with the car each day so we each have it when we need to.  Still, it's nice to have that bus option, just in case.  My husband's been really good at helping me to find my way around by car- without him I don't know what I'd do.  He's a life saver.  I always have my backup Google Maps plan, too.  I use it about every day now, especially street view.  I'm so vision-oriented that if you just tell me directions I sometimes get lost in a sea of words.  I need to visualize I Google Map it and find out which landmarks are nearby, like "there's a red building next to the stoplight, turn right there".  I'm a bit funny like that, but that's what works for me.  Hubby tried showing me how to use our GPS, but I'm not quite there yet.  He's my GPS guy.
Another thing we're getting accustomed to- apartment living and laundromats.  It takes me back to my college dorm days.  The good thing about our temporary apartment-style living is whenever we have an appliance issue, we just call maintenance.  No having to scout around for a plumber or handyman.  It's also a pretty nice place with some extra perks (like a pool, which NO one has used lately that I know of- unless they just love the idea of swimming in 50 degree weather), and a courtyard, which has been loads of fun for Ny (it's where she meets other kids outside to play soccer).  It's quite an adjustment, though, when it comes down to laundry.  We will probably be moving again really soon and hopefully will have our own washer/dryer again, but until then, I'm just living in the moment, doing what I have to do you know?  Being at the laundromats hasn't been so bad.  The kids have met friends there, and the owner of the laundromat always brings her puppy for the girls to play with while I wash. 
As inconvenient as a lot of this may sound to some, it really has been quite an adventure.  I'm in good spirits now (can u tell?) and nothing can get me down.  Oh, I've had my days when I am tempted to think otherwise...but I just don't let myself go there- at least not for long.  There are too many people who are suffering for me to worry about the small matters of temporary inconvenience- like using laundromats.  It's amazing, too, how God will use those "inconvenient" situations to bring us much joy and show us how rich we are in Him. So I can't complain. 

Wanna know another really cool thing?  Today we unpacked that last box!  (Yippee!)  And now my children's bedroom is livable again.  (Hallelujah!)  Ny and Z are totally enjoying their room now that they have their books and toys organized and a place to relax and listen to their music, play guitar, etc.  They still don't have bedroom furniture yet (dressers, toy boxes, storage bins, etc.), but we figured out a unique way to store their unused books and toys in boxes with lids down, scoot them side by side and cover them with a blanket- then place Ny's showcase items and alarm clock on top for decoration.  Looks just like a small table in the corner of their room, plus it serves a practical purpose (storing items) and makes their room look more decorative.  If I can remember, I'll try to post a picture next time so you can see what I mean.
I am giddy with excitement over the small stuff now.  Everything means the world to me.

More updates:

My oldest daughter, Ny, is now enrolled in a weekly sign language class with an organization that offers a variety of classes in all kinds of subjects to public/private/and homeschool kids.  The classes range from hands-on art (with local experts- yay!), star-gazing and hands-on tours to humanities and foreign languages.  They even offer mock trials and spelling bees.  I am really excited about having Ny be a part of these programs/classes.  Next time we'll probably try out an art class. I'll update on that.

We also have been on a strict wheat-free, gluten-free diet this week (the girls have, at least).  I wanted to see if Z's eczema would clear up.  So far we held out the diet okay, but the girls are getting a little tired of the specialty bread (made of brown rice flour). It's not bad, but it definitely has a harder texture than our typical, soft wheat bread we're so used to.  Everything else went well, from the wheat-free pancakes most mornings, to the wheat-free crackers.  We even skipped the improptu pizza that arrived in our home without warning (thanks to my dear hubby!) and vegged out on our homemade pizza  made with gluten-free flour instead.  Everything was super easy to make and work with (thanks to Whole Foods and Trader Joes).  

This picture doesn't show it, but the wheat-free pasta was really good this evening. I didn't tell the difference, really, between it and the regular pasta.  To me it tasted slightly better than wheat pasta.  For sure, it's way better than quinoa (so if you're thinking of going wheat-free, you might want to eeeease yourself into quinoa pastas if you don't want to confronted with a distinct taste).  Me, I prefer my pasta to taste less and the sauce to taste more.  So the gluten free pasta we used was made of rice flour, which I think has a milder taste.

BTW, those chocolate chip cookies in the middle were the bomb!  The kids also love the crispy rice cereal...tastes very similar to the chocolate rice krispies.

 So this week we've also been out a good bit.

On our walk to the beach, we ran across some deer.

We headed down to the beach where Ny collected a few sea shells to study.

"Look at this sea shell!"

Me too!
Nature- the world's best classroom.
Z wants in on the action

An incoming tide
Peaceful.  Imagine seagulls in the background.

While there we met a lady with her toddler, slightly younger than Z (who happens to be really into babies right now, for some reason).  They hit it off really well.  We exchanged phone numbers and there might be a small play date in the making.

Can't forget our weekly preschool storytimes at the library.

Later on that day I also met some hippies and I mean that in the literal sense.   Besides homeschooling, which we do have in common, there were so many things we didn't have in common (they were dressed differently, live pretty much free of electronic gadgets, and taught me a bunch about hemp seed oil!)  They were pretty cool and I enjoyed talking to them.  It also made me realize how that in our preconceived notions about people and even places, we can sometimes rule out the best opportunities to let God use us- or even just teach us, for that matter.  I also realized just how narrow-minded we can tend to be (as Christians or even just as people who are accustomed to one type of culture).  If we overlook outward appearance and learn to truly connect with people even if they are different from us, we can probably find a lot more in common than we think.  And even if we can't, there is a purpose in the appointment. (You never know what God wants you to learn through your divine connections unless you drop the judgementalism and listen up to His prompting). 
I honestly didn't mean to get all preach-y right there...but I am just excited about the things God is showing me, even if they seem miniscule or elementary to some.  Again, the small things are important to me now!  Being uprooted cross-country kind of did that to me.

Anyway, there are some cool things happening in my neighborhood and we want to get involved.
This weekend is our community's "Good Ol' Days" celebration- carnivals, bands, food samples, parades and all kinds of fun stuff are in the works.  The Chamber of Commerce is expecting over 30,000 visitors to show up, so it will be super crowded.  It's right around the corner from my house, but I definitely don't plan to move the car- no telling if I will find parking.  We're planning to walk or bus downtown and enjoy it together- so that's a fun outing we look forward to this weekend.

Then in a few weeks our family plans to celebrate Passover.  We have a local messianic congregation that might be hosting a passover seder, so I'll be checking into that.  Either way, we'll have our own at home also.
Speaking of that-- we're still looking for a good church to plug into (although I admit we've visited one at least twice that might be the winner!) It has a nice children's department and is more of the charismatic nature.  We love the worship and the messages are life changing.  It also helps to hear that familiar southern accent (the pastor's from the south) out in the middle of the west coast.  Makes me feel at home :-)

As for Z...she really is growing up a lot and changing right before my eyes this week.  I realize now how much her efforts at learning sometimes get lost in the shuffle when we focus a lot our school time on my 3rd grader.  Sometimes it's easy to let the preschoolers coast along, forgetting that they are no longer infants or toddlers and can really use some intellectual stimulation besides a bit of coloring and block-building.  I finally got the message when she started to literally beg me this week: "Mommy, do gool (school)?  Gool?  I want you to do gool with me".  She surprises me all the time with her little quips and sayings.  Like, "Mommy, I want to be a mommy one day."  Uh....okay we need to wait a few decades on that one!  Or my favorite one: "Mommy, I want to be married."  Well.  I can only hope she says these things because  she thinks (after living in our home and observing me and her dad for some time now -ha!)- that being married is fun.  Either way, she's a funny one.  Keeps me laughing and is very insightful.
So, here's a cool activity we did today.  Some matching, sorting, and counting using activity kits I made from this workbook:

"Take It To Your Seat Phonics Centers" .  Publisher: Evan Moor.
 (we got grades PreK-K)

If you can get this on Ebay or on sale somewhere it's worth it for preschoolers.  I think they have the math centers too.
Basically, you have to cut them out and laminate them yourself, so there is some work involved.  But once you get the envelopes created for each activity you are set for years.  I originally made these for Ny when she was 4- and I am reusing them now, 4 years later for my 2nd kid.
If I get inspired to create my own (I've been tempted to save some money and try to do it myself), I'll let you know.  That all depends on if time permits and I feel up to a fun challenge!  If I do decide to create a few of these myself I'll be sure to post these and, of course, add these as resources for you to download too.
I'm not promising anything-- but maybe.  We'll see.

Well...that's enough updating for now.  I said a mouthful in an hour and it's time for bed. 
I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My identity shift

I am in a new season of my life now.
You know, over the past few years (before I became an official homeschooling, stay at home mom, work at home entrepreneur- what have you), I have done an awful lot of searching for my identity.
Most women in their 20's and early 30's go through this phase.  Sometimes I think my identity search was a little extreme, while at the same time I recognize that I'm not alone. 
Whereas I started off my college career in search of a business degree in Management Information Systems, I finished with my bachelors in Child Development.   I've always loved kids and it was a perfect fit for me, the degree...but in my world of understanding I didn't get far with that.  After college I bounced back and forth between jobs working in day cares and restaurants, and finally a job as a library assistant which I held down for four years while throwing myself into full time pursuit of what I really wanted to do with my life.  I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Again, I had a soft spot for kids but just didn't see a career in the day care centers as a reasonable option.  The pay was minimum wage and working my way up to assistant director for only $2 more per hour just wasn't going to cut it for me.
Deep down I had this love for tinkering with gadgets and technology and though blogging wasn't really a known thing yet, I had this habit of keeping a diary daily since I was about 11 years old.  Writing as therapy was my thing, and I wouldn't have minded keeping some type of online diary of my (safe) thoughts and feelings to share with an online community.  Again, blogging wasn't in yet.  But I liked the idea of creating a website with the purpose of sharing and creating community.  Then...I got married to my wonderful guy who happened to be a web designer.  I caught the web design bug and started along that journey, quit my job to go to grad school and become a stay at home mommy to my first daughter, and the rest of the story is evolved from there.
I've been creating community sites for years- mainly mommy sites, community sites for Christian women, and technology-based projects...and again, the same pattern of finding and shifting identities has followed me throughout all of this. 
I started three businesses- web design and online marketing, natural homemade soaps and skin care, and home education info sites. 
I tell you all of this not to talk about me, me, me...but to give you a clear picture of what I mean by seeking identity.  Some people experience mid-life crisis...but many of us experience an early onset life crisis!  At any point, I know what it feels like to be a stay at home mom who aspires to entrepreneurial ideas, projects, and plans...but then life happens.  It's a struggle and a true conflict...because on the one hand I totally LOVE being at home with my kids and I think it's a God-thing that I can do this.  Not everyone can or wants to, and that's okay, but this is my calling - for now.  And I love it without a doubt.  On the other hand, I totally love being in the mix with clients or customers, helping others, building community, solving problems, contributing to my community and to my family monetarily-- and that can be a hard thing to come by when I devoted my time and energy to what I've chosen to do. 
But I have chosen to do this.  To be at home with my kids, to home educate them, to teach them about life and be with them throughout the day on a one-to-one basis. 
And you know what?  I don't regret it for one moment.
I even have to stop to smile for a moment.
Yes, I've made some sacrifices...who hasn't?  Any stay at home mama (or dad), any homeschooling parent, will tell you that there are some sacrifices to be made when you choose this path of life.  Some folks I know have chosen to downgrade, sell their big homes and move into smaller ones, live on less, eat out less, buy less, and enjoy life more.  (Interesting paradox).
I don't know what God is doing in my life right now, and I'm not sure where He's leading me, where He's taking me to.
I just have to trust Him.
Only recently I restarted my web consulting business, helping women entrepreneurs to turn their business ideas into online profits, and I was and still am quite passionate about that topic.  But I feel that I have a hook around my waist with a yellow caution light flashing for just a moment...and until I feel the release of God's green light, "my" business is, once again, on hold.
Business-wise, that doesn't make any sense.  Especially when you have money tied into something, deals have been made, plans have been settled on...
But, I'm telling you, this cross-country move has shaken up more than a few moving boxes in my life.  It's rearranged completely my thought-life, and I think has probably changed my destiny.  The direction I was heading in before I came to California has shifted.  Coming out here has enlightened my path in a different way.  The moment I laid my eyes on those awesome mountain ranges shortly after we entered the border, my breath was taken away and I was caught up in a God-moment.  For a second it was as if I could see Moses walking down Mount Horeb after speaking to God.  Of course it helped to be caught up in the surrounding voices of Israel Houghton and New Breed, too!
But I'll never be the same.  Never, ever, ever.
I don't know where God is leading me, but I am open. 
Yes, I am unsure of a lot right now.  Like any other family in the U.S., we've felt the struggle of the economy and the pressure to cut corners anywhere we can.  My plans were to contribute in a way that combined my passions and skills with a nice, assumed income through a small business. Being the entrepreneurial type, I just thought it would go smooth sailing, I would move out here, I would homeschool, unpack my things, and pick up where I left on the business.
Uh...not quite.
Suddenly the quake hit Japan, and I was in a different zone- just in shock from the grief that so many endured only the distance of the Pacific Ocean away from my home.  The after shock sent tidal waves in a stir near our coastlines.  My father-in-law passed and my husband traveled to France and back within one week.  
I tried to unpack, but with too much to think about, it was a mess.  I let it go for another week.  The kids missed their friends, the house was a wreck, and I had to keep life moving for everyone- no time to be an entrepreneur, no time to mope around the house.  Face forward I had to keep moving.  Get the kids out of the house, get out in nature to the beach, take walks, go to the library, go to church, go to play groups.  Pray.  It was all I could to stay afloat.  What was business at this point?

In my heart, I am still an entrepreneur- will be forever I think.  But what to do next?  I dunno.  How about enjoy my kids for now and get used to my new neighbors and find my way around the community?  How about unpack that very last box sitting in the corner of my living room?  How about getting back into some normalcy of a homeschooling routine, which is for now kind of left hanging up in the balance?  I think I have enough to think about for now.

I also feel that I am growing past that mode of self-discovery from my 20's.  Now almost in my mid 30's, I am beginning to understand more than ever who I am and that life is full of seasons.  These seasonal changes can shift any which way, from one moment to the next.  This year's experiences doesn't necessarily dictate next year's.  I also understand that my identity is not founded upon which "career choices" I make.  I am who I am, the way God made me, and that's it.  A job is a job, a career is a career.  But a calling.  Now...that's something entirely different.  And I think I've waken up to the fact that although I've dabbled into quite a few "careers" so to speak (child care worker, cashier/waitress, library assistant, web designer, soapmaker, online marketing consultant, freelance writer)...none of these labels can place an exclusive Label (with a capital "L") on me.  I am God's alone.  Yeah, sure, if I wanted to study photography I could probably become a pretty decent photographer within a year or two, if not sooner.  I totally believe in myself that way...and it's not bragging, I just know that I could if I tried.  BUT, here's the thing.  Unless it's a true calling, it's just another job or career.  And another career doesn't answer the one underlying question that every stay at home mama wants to know: WHO AM I?
That question can only be answered by discovering God's CALLING.  How did He create me?  For what purpose?  What am I supposed to be doing on this earth?
Those are the questions I seek to answer this year.
And answering these questions mean I must give up my pursuit of a career (outside of the home) for a season and really listen to the Lord.
I am not taking one more step forward in that direction until I hear from Him.
So what if  that means putting a few of my sites on the shelf for a season.  It will be so worth it for the peace of mind I will have in the upcoming months when I finally realize which direction to go in.
For now, I just need to be still, settle in, and hear from Him.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ramblings on transparency

Tonight I'm thinking about transparency.  Being real.
Most of us are pretty good at painting the lovely picture that we want the world to see, yet hiding the flaws and imperfections that we're not so proud of.  That's part of human nature- wanting to remain inconspicuous, well-hidden, uniform, and wrinkle-free.  But it's not real-- and we know that.

I've at times struggled with the idea of "putting it all out there", such as on a blog, on display for the entire world to read about, muse about, and mull over.  But despite the not-so-comfortable position we bloggers place ourselves in, we have to admit that there is a raw and authentic beauty in being so passionately transparent. You can't really, truly connect - human to human- without a sense of "real-ness".  It turns people off when you preach at or preach down to, but never stop to show the applicability of what you're saying. 

All that said...I have come a long with in my blogging journey, with the notion of transparency.  I've not always been willing to share my deeper thoughts- in fear somehow that they would reveal more of me than what I'm ready for, I suppose.   I'm much more comfortable staying on the lighter side of things- as we all are. I can also whip out an info-article as quickly as I toast a slice of bread.  It's become habitual- those articles.  But what I've learned is that I would never have been so inspired and enlightened, or felt so connected to the bloggers I regularly read if they had not taken the time to start with first things first- transparency.  It's what, in my book, makes a blog delicious as opposed to stale.  You just have to keep coming back for more.  You end up all wound up in the lives of people you've never met in person, but totally adore online and you just can't wait for them to post again so you can keep up with their lives.  Many times you get to meet those people in person- even cooler.

That said, I have to leave a shout-out to my online buddy, Erin, from the Well Trained Homeschool for inviting us readers into her home and homeschool.  I have been following her blog for years and she'll possibly never know the extent to how she has inspired our family.  I love her YouTube videos and everything she does in her home to make it healthy for her kids and family.  Awesome woman! 
And although I only just found her blog a few weeks ago, I love that Margaret of Green Beans and Little Things is so openly honest about her struggles and delights of life. I relate to her in being a stay at home mom with a passion for artistic endeavor and business- a true conflict of interest at times.  I also relate to her because she too has recently moved and is settling into her new town and having to start her life all over again.  And there are so many more bloggers I want to mention but I'd have to write all night, and I'm going to bed in 5 minutes flat.
The point is, if it weren't for the openness and honesty of others, I wouldn't feel inspired or as connected...
So I am going to make an honest effort to continue along that path of honesty and transparency in my blog posts from here on out. Whether it's my faith, home education, natural health...what have you. 

Five minutes are up.  Going to bed.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Well...while I've been thinking about how to get our family more connected into the community (making friends, going places, etc.), I  realized just how much we really have to be grateful for.
 One reader left a comment that this is an "adventure", and the more I thought about the more I have to truly is an adventure - and yes, this is a stretch for me.  But it's an adventure nonetheless-- and it is a gift.
I must constantly remind myself that this job opportunity was an answer to years and years of prayer, and this entire move (though not in the least the type I would have originally wanted) is a gift from God.  He is the ultimate orchestrator in our lives, and I am daily yielding to His will, even if at first it feels a little scary.  There is always a blessing on the other side.  Plus, it's not as if we are overseas (which, when I was younger, was the kind of move my parents and I had to live with).
So now that the excitement of getting here, getting unpacked and settled in is in process, I figure it's time to really start enjoying life here.

So, here are some things I am grateful for this week
  1. Good weather.
First of all, the weather here has been extremely beautiful the past 2 days.  It's typically a bit chilly over here on the Central Coast.
So of course, we had to play at the park.
Sisterly love
a little sand play  
2.  I am grateful for these parks nearby.  

It turns my kids' school days into hours of fun.  Right after our lessons we can head out and enjoy beautiful scenery (even if the weather is cool, which is typical for this region). 

Maybe it's  not so visible, but there are some folks out on the lake paddle boating.  It's right next to the park and is just a peaceful view.

 3. Beautiful scenery, afternoon walks, nature, and the Pacific Ocean.

I'm smiling and's a little chilly
The Pacific Ocean
Striking a pose for Ny

4.)  Fun places to take the kids to eat

5.)  Another thing I am extremely grateful for is the natural, organic produce that is grown right here on this soil. 

Because there are so many organic farms which care about the way they raise their livestock and grow their crops, California has a lot of opportunity to offer some of the healthiest foods to the community- and the nation.  I didn't realize how much of our foods back home were shipped directly from California.  I guess that also explains why some of the produce didn't quite make it through (poor strawberries!)  They had a long shipping process.
So while I have this opportunity to frequent farmer's markets (there are two big ones here), I've been picking up some items here and there.  Mostly I've been looking into changing my kids' diets - eventually we'll work on me and my husband!  Z seems to have a bit of eczema- it's not a major deal, but it's still bothersome and I wonder if Ny's sinuses could also have something to do with her diet. There are some other issues I've noticed too, and I just wonder if changing our diets will do the trick.
I was talking to a friend who completely cut out the dairy in her diet and noticed a remarkable difference-- so, I may start there.
I'm looking for starting points for a diet change right now.  Maybe we should visit a nutritionist or natural health specialist- another thing I am grateful for (the fact that there are holistic care practices on just about every corner here).
Anyhow, besides the few farmer's market outings, here are some items I picked up at Whole Foods the other day.
Back home this would have cost about $10 or so.  This is 16 oz. of salad...but b/c lettuce is grown here so cheaply I paid about $4.99 from Whole Foods.
Healthy, healthy, healthy. 

The natural milk with cream rising to the top was quite a treat for my husband.  Different, to say the least.  It was rich, organic, and straight from the farm.  I'm not sure what the container fee was for (you have to pay for the glass container separately along with the price of the milk). They ask that you bring back the container to the store when you're done.  This is all new and different for me.

Now the kefir was something I have been reading about for ages.  In another post soon, I'll have to share with you some books I'm reading on natural health.  I've been reading Jordan Rubin for years now, and he highly recommends kefir which is extremely rich in active probiotics, good for digestive health.  It's better than the sugary-laden yogurts we usually purchase, but because it has a bit of that sour, true-yogurt taste, it takes some getting used to for Ny who loves her sugary, strawberry (artificially) flavored yogurt cups.  Z, on the other hand, just gobbles it right up and asks for more.  With time I think we'll all get used to it.
Now...whenever we start doing our elimination diet and remove the dairy we'll say goodbye to the kefir for just a little while.
One non-dairy product we've been using for a long time is that almond milk you see pictured above.  The kids have grown to love this and prefer it over cow's milk.  Now when they taste plain cow's milk they wrinkle their noses and ask, " this real milk?"
We tried that almond cheese you see in the pic above...BUT. tasted pretty bad.  I was able to fool the kids for one day only.  They ate the almond cheese in a turkey sandwhich and didn't notice the difference.  But when Ny went into to the kitchen to fix herself some crackers and cheese one evening, she tasted the cheese by itself and had a hard time overcoming that awful taste!!!! :-) 
To give it some credit, it does have a bit of a cheddar taste, but mostly it's nutty (hence, almond cheese!) it's definitely weird.

6.)  Oh, and speaking of Ny fixing herself a snack, here is another grateful moment.

Ny wakes up one morning this week and helps me make breakfast!
Toasted tuscan bread, scrambled eggs, with a side of grits and butter
Oh, did I mention how extremely difficult it is to find grits out here?  Yeah...I'm from the South.  Gotta have my grits.
Enjoying their meal
Building castles with blocks after breakfast
7.)  So, I'm grateful for kids that will pitch in and help mama out some mornings with breakfast, or running the vacuum, cleaning up, things like that.  I'm grateful that they trust me to teach them and lead them and that God gave them to me.  I am so grateful for my kids.

8.)  Oh, and I am grateful for the good times we are beginning to learn to have out here in our new city.

The fam eating pizza at Lover's Point park.
I am sure more good times and grateful moments will follow in the days ahead.  Sometimes it's about looking for the good and not the bad.  Even when we are tempted to complain or grouch, we have to realize, my goodness, God has been VERY good to all of us.
I told Ny just the other day, "I bet if you forget about all the things you really want and enjoy the things we already have, you'll really start to enjoy yourself!"  And then I realized that my own statement applied to me, too.  Just look around.  Life is for the taking.  No time for self pity or worry or complaints.  Sure, there are a lot of things we have yet to do in order to get settled here...but oh my, how much WORSE could things have been!  We are blessed.  So I'm learning to complain less, worry less and enjoy life MORE. :-)

Learning to be grateful.
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