Saturday, June 26, 2010

Homeward Bound


Approaching greener land.  From the desert, members of the Shonto Mission Team 2010 are now on their way home!  Tim was able to call a few minutes ago...they were in Utah for a late lunch.   I imagine that as they approach the Nevada Mountains that they will see more vegetation in the landscape.  Twenty of them have been gone for a week now.  Pictures that Dave Babb posted on Facebook indicate that they have worked hard, been well-fed, and enjoyed serving and fellowshipping with the rest of the 150-member team they joined.

Dreaming of comfortable beds.  "So what do can we prepare for your arrival?" I asked Tim.   "Comfortable bed!" he said.  They have been tired and sleeping on hard beds.   This is often the case when one leaves home.  One is presented with an opportunity to appreciate the comforts that they take for granted on a day-to-day basis. 

Looking forward to a full house again.   For us who are left behind, there is also the anticipation to have everybody together again.  The house just doesn't seem normal with missing members.   Shannon and Brahms know that their daddy's absence has often been an excuse for me to buy a lot of comfort food or eat out. Not this time!  Miriam is not fond of eating out, she does not like flavorful fatty foods and she's happy to choose cereal whenever the gets a chance.   Last night I had to declare that we are going out to eat.  So we did but she would not even go to Cold Stone with me.   She get's her vote considered 50% of the time.   I prefer democracy with more constituents.

Miriam is already planning to tell her sibling about her Horse Camp experiences.  She had to be reminded that both her Ate and Kuya will also be as excited to tell their stories.   Effective debriefing techniques will have to be employed here.

Lemon Poppy-Seed Scones

Lemon Poppy-Seed Scones

Scones have become a part of my family tradition.  It is one of the lasting cultural effects I got from living in England.  Unlike the British who eat theirs during tea time, we serve ours for breakfast with coffee - milk in the case of my children who refuse to have their growth stunted.  We have our standard fruited scones which resulted from a lot of experimentation but when feeling inspired, I still continue to experiment on other ingredients and methods.    

If your food processor is getting dusty in the cabinet, this recipe will fix that problem.   It makes mixing a lot faster - but of course you still can use the normal procedure that you've always known.  The food processor is only recommended to simplify the process.  

The scones in this recipe are crusty on the outside and moist inside.  They are really good.  You can make the scones smaller as these are very huge ones. 

Lemon Poppy-Seed Scones

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup poppy seeds
4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon salt
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and cubed 
1 large egg
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup reduced-fat milk
1 Tbsp sugar (for frosting)

Preheat oven to 375º F.
Position rack in middle of oven.
Mix dry ingredients (flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder, lemon rind and salt) in food processor.
Add butter and cut in, by using pulse action until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Whisk egg and lemon juice in medium bowl to blend.
Add to flour mixture.
Pulse until moist clumps form.
Transfer the mixture into a larger bowl.
Add 1/3 cup milk.
Using a spoon gently work the mixture until dough comes together, adding more milk if dough seems dry.
Gather dough into ball with floured your hands
Flatten to 8" round on a flat surface
Cut round into 8 wedges
Transfer scones to large baking sheet one-inch apart; brush with milk.
Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp sugar.
Bake until scones are golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Horse Camp

Getting ready to play some games.  Miriam is the second from the left.

Miriam is a very confident rider.  She's getting Romeo to trot.

Miriam and 'Romeo' the horse at the arena.

Learning to prepare the horse before the ride.

Petting 'Trinity'

Feeling alone during the first day but it did not last long.  She made friends quickly.  

Miriam just completed her third day at camp today and she's still very excited with all the things that she's learning and doing.  She keeps telling me about the different horses she works with and their identifying characteristics.  Sometimes I wish that her siblings were here to hear about all her stories.  Each camper is assigned a horse to ride throughout the week but they get to work with different horses when it comes to doing related jobs (grooming, learning how to give horses a shot, training young horse, and maybe feeding).

Last Days of School

Miriam and Erick just being young and energetic in Coloma.

The last two weeks of school was extremely hectic for Miriam.   Coloma, Old Sacramento, Band Concert, end of school picnic, among others, were all packed into the last few days.  I felt very busy just making sure she's ready or make it to these events.  Thank goodness Shannon and Brahms, who have been out of school two weeks before, were so willing to walk Miriam to and from school.  That was one less things that I had to do.    

Tim was chaperone in two of the field trips and had to work longer hours at night to catch up.  My poor husband, he is so interested in being part of his kids' activities and it cost him a lot.  It also cost me some sleep because I stay up with him when he has to. 

Indeed school is over but that was not a guarantee that our lives are now less busy.  Welcome summer schedule! 

Old train tracks in Old Sacramento

Coloma:  Some of Miriam's room mates(Audrey, Emily, Janae)

Another Golden Bear Award.

Home Alone

The 'Shoe Tree' as seen on the road to Shonto

It should be quiet here because I am all alone...

Tim, Shannon and Brahms are Shonto, Arizona on a mission trip.  Along with twenty other friends and church mates, they are working at a Navajo Indian reservation, to help some people improve their houses.  This is the second year they've gone to Shonto.  They liked the experience that they were willing to do it again.   The name Shonto translates to "sunshine springs", they say.  I know that it is a dessert place with lots of solar energy going into it but I also like to imagine that there is a spring of water in that place instead of only a "spring of sunshine".  

Miriam is also in another type of "spring" - Shingle Springs.  She's enrolled at the Equine Unlimited for a week-long horse camp (only during the day).  I stayed there this morning to watch her ride.  I was impressed with her confidence in dealing with the horse 'Romeo'.  I've heard many new terms related to horse-riding today.  Malinda Kregoski, who is a certified riding instructor, rides her horse as she instructs the campers.  It was interesting even to me as a spectator.  They get to swim in the afternoon which I think is a good way to get the kids clean and cool after having been with the horses.  

It should be quiet here... but that is not the case.  I hear all the clocks ticking and the refrigerator seem to be humming all the time.  Yes, these are my companions in the house and I'd rather have the usual noise-makers than these ones.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Life Must Go On

She called home and did not get a response.  She tried his cell phone...he did not answer.  He always answered.  She texted his son and he replied back: "tlk 2 u later". She began to worry.  He had a fever and has been sick since she left five days ago.  Nonetheless they must have talked to each other every six hours since then.  She had encouraged him to go to the hospital but he assumed it's just a simple fever.  The last time she talked to him was last night at eleven after coming from her work.  Five minutes have passed since the last text comes another one: "He's gone."

She lost her fiancé.  They had plans to get married on July 7th and have a simple wedding.   Her ring and her mother's wedding dress, which she decided to wear on her own special day, are ready.  Big plans were laid between the two of them but now everything has gone away with him.

Mercy and I were close friends back when we were in the Philippines.  She was my secretary.  Recently we were reconnected through Facebook and found out that she lived not too far away from me.  I invited her to come see to our place; after all we had a lot of catching up to do.  He was supposed to drop her off to my house on his way to Canada on the 24th of June.  It was exciting to imagine the thought of seeing my old co-worker/friend and her future husband.  

Today she called me.  She was sobbing.  She needed someone to talk to.  I listened.  That's all I can do.  The question that she repeatedly asked me was "Why did God take him away from me so soon?"  I said nothing even when I wanted to say something.  The wound is so raw.  Anything that you put on it will only make it more painful. 

Now she's alone.  The pain and the memories will remain but life must go on.    Where do you start when all the roads that you have considered have disappeared on the map?  How do you choose which way to go?  How do you forget all the things that you have known?  It is like having someone snatch your lamp away in the middle of the thick woods.  Life must go on.

Just like going into a dark first we can't see anything because we lost the familiar light - the light we relied on to help us command our circumstances.   We feel lost and scared.  So we struggle and try to grab on to whatever mastery we can of the situation.  This is a fifty-fifty chance of success...sad to say but it's true.

When my kids were little (Miriam is almost not little anymore) I'd sing them a good-night song and turn off the lights.  The darkness scared them initially and they wanted the lights back on.  I advised them to close their eyes and then look again to see if they can see me or not.  They all discovered at a very young age that "There's enough light".   When the light is gone the fastest way to have your command back is to master darkness.   We find out eventually that we have what we need.  We find ourselves more in-tuned to the options that are already there which we missed because of the blinding offer of what we used to have.   

When the lights are off the exit doors become visible.   After this time of darkness, I hope that Mercy will find the door that leads to a new life of great purpose, opportunities, and fulfillment.  Life must go on. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Visiting an Old Time

To Shannon and Brahms it did not seem right that Miriam was not home.  So far they have spent a decade together that they didn't know what to do without her, never mind that they don't even pay attention to her when she's around.

I remember the time when Brahms went to first grade and Shannon was in third.  Miriam, who was probably one and a half at that time, was watching the TV.  When the show Dora came on she ran to the stairs and called her sibling, "Annee, Atee!  Dowa's on!"  (She used to call Brahms Annee, we didn't know why.  Shannon gets the title "Ate" for being her big sister.)  They've spent a summer long together and the pattern got stuck in her.  When the show was on she'd call them but this time she was alone at home.  Loneliness sank in.  It was not fun watching TV without brother and sister.  I had to step in and take their place. 

The same thing happened to the two older kids during this week.  Something was wrong without their little sister.  Eventually they began to do things together like they used to.  They reverted back to the time before Miriam.  It was amusing and endearing to see them go back to their collection of Beanie Babies and began to recollect the memories associated with each of their stuffed animals.   To say that there was a lot of laughter is an understatement.  They were like toddlers again except that this time they are much bigger.
After all the amusement they arrived at a decision to pack them and send them to children who do not have a lot of toys.  What a great idea! 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Coloma here she comes!

Pioneer Girl

Yesterday, Miriam left to go on a field trip to Coloma.  She'll spend three days at the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School.  Every fourth grader in our school district looks forward to this first big field trip to the place where gold was first discovered in California.  Ever since they were in first grade they began to hear about this trip from the older students and as a result they get to imagine how it is to be on this field trip.   Now for the first time in her life she will spend the night (or a couple nights for that matter) without either one of her parents in the same building.  Scary and exciting!

Excited to go on her first 3-day field trip

For Miriam, Coloma is not new to her since our family went there a couple of times but what she is looking forward to is spending a couple of nights with her friends in the same cabin.  Prior to this trip they got to choose four friends whom they would like to share quarters with.  She considered herself fortunate because she got to be in the same group with four out of the four she chose.   She brought a chess set because she intends to teach one of her favorite friends play the game.  Fun!

Tim always tried to volunteer as chaperone whenever our kids went on a long field trip and this is no exception.  Even if he does not get to be in the same group as Miriam, the thought they are both in the same campus is comforting. 

Ready to go! 

Miriam has always stayed with me.  There was never a time when she was not with me other than the time when Shannon and I went to Spokane for a mother-and-daughter trip. Being the last child she spent a lot of time being the baby.  Now for the first time she leaves home and mommy.

It is my hope that she will be in her usual adventurous, curious, and friendly disposition.  May God keep them all safe.  I am looking forward to their return.

Pioneer from Mars :)

Lazy Boy

This past Memorial Day weekend we saw this "lazy boy" sitting on a La Z Boy chair on Hazel Avenue.  Behind the sign, the guy was actually playing a Game Boy.  He looked comfortable on that recliner.  I must admit that the trick to catch my attention worked.  Nonetheless it was not compelling enough to tempt me to go shopping for furniture.  :) 

Full of Surprises

Ms. Williams and Miriam doing the Basketball Dance

The Open House at Brooks finally came and gone.  Since Miriam is our third child we assumed that things are the same and we were just there to show our unrelenting support to our child and her teacher.  On the contrary we were adequately surprised by so many new things.  For example instead of showing us work that they have done in writing, math or science, Miriam brought us to the computer lab to show us a movie she made about the places that her family (us) visited in the past.  Mr. E. Nordquist is smart to choose this to highlight the student's accomplishment. This is a technologically relevant skill and it makes the kids proud for being able to do something that is appropriate in this YouTube-saturated generation.  Miriam was proud to let us know that her movie was one of the class favorites.   

In P.E. we saw the students, under the direction of Ms. Williams, do a very athletic and synchronized steps-and-gestures called the Basketball Dance.  This took the place of the traditional Square Dance that the students did on their Open House.  Miriam was really into it and she was actually graceful - if grace was related to basketball. 

The other thing that surprised me is that Miriam displayed her extraordinary performance in doing the double jump rope.  I never thought that jump rope can be a very exciting sport.  With her keen rhythm and agility, she was bouncing like a ball!   One of the girls manning the ropes was Jenae, Miriam's friend, whose focus was impeccable. 

Miriam seem to truly enjoy her time at Brooks.  She continually surprises us.

Janae (R) and Miriam bouncing left and right like a ball.
When we begin to assume that we already know everything, we are about to find out that we are wrong! 
Miriam was really impressive!

 I love Open Houses - it's a time to be reminded of the noble tasks that teachers do.  We appreciate the teachers at Brooks Elementary School.  Parents like us can either choose to support the teachers or stab them with nasty discouraging remarks...but as for me and my husband we will support and respect them for the part that they play/played in the lives of our children.  
Hooray for Miriam!  Hooray for Brooks Elementary!  

Friday, June 4, 2010

Making Do With What We Got

They seem to play more together these days.

The plan was to go find this Slough near the American River where we could walk and enjoy nature.  We travelled close to an hour on I-5 before we turned unto this small scenic road that leads us to our destination. Then we turned one more time to a much smaller and unpaved road.  With anticipation we looked forward, literally, to see where Tim planned for us to go.  The road split and we chose to go left only to find out that it led to a power house of some sort.  Immediately we turned around and followed our other option.  We must be getting closer, we thought, but the pot holes are getting deeper and now they are at almost two feet deep.  At this time I was beginning to panic as I was reminded of a time when we had a guest come to our place who got "high-centered" when she drove out of our driveway.  The hump on the driveway is not even a foot high and now I am looking at a very deep holes and mini mountain ridges in front of us.  So I begged Tim that we turn around.   It was difficult to turn back because of the very narrow holey-road we were in but Tim being a good driver managed it.  That is not saying that there was no screaming in the car during that process.   
After having been in that desolate place we found relief in a town called Walnut Grove where the population might be in the three-digit mark.   A draw bridge invited us to cross to the other side of the American River and saw a quaint store called Central Market.  I went inside and found myself thinking that this place must be so far away from home.  Yet we were only one hour away. 

While other plants died water lilies find new life. 

 "No matter where we are as long as we are together we can always have fun." ~ Lewis Family

Dead trees make great props.

We watched the draw-bridge go up for boats and go down for cars.

Miriam always finds a stick.

This place has the potential to be romantic or poetic...?

Draw  bridges seem to be common around that place which means that people are not satisfied being on one side of the river.  Why do people cross the the American River? :)

So we did not find our intended destination...but we were together and we drove happily back home.  We stopped in a small town north of Stockton to get some ice cream which made our trip even more delightful.   Mababaw talaga ang kaligayan namin.  Indeed we are easy to please. :)