Monday, April 20, 2015

Momentous Day

Today is a momentous day!

Michael took and passed his final USAF PT (Physical Fitness) test today!  By the time the next one comes due, he'll be a retiree.

This is the end of an era....  He'll be on his own now to determine his fitness goals and he'll be able to listen to his body a bit more in training....which I think will be a very good thing.

Retirement ceremonies are a lot of work to plan. I think it hit us today - we'd better get busy planning his. ::snort::

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Day in Grass Valley/ Nevada City

De'Etta is gone for the weekend. She went to the PWOC ladies' retreat so it was just the four musketeers and Dad.  Arielle and Stacia began the day at Target.  They managed to arrive right at opening and found all sorts of princess/ Disney stuff.  Apparently, this is sufficient to already make the whole day a raving success, but we were not done, oh no; we were just beginning.

We set out a little after Arielle and Stacia returned from Target to go to Grass Valley.  There were some RV's I was wanting to look at.  Turns out the one in particular I was interested in sold last week.  Looked at some others, but the one model I was really interested in was not there and would not be there again until sometime in late July.  This is OK.
 
 
We found this house in Nevada City near the one geocache we can sort of claim.  It was built around that big rock.  Apparently, the local natives used to lay out on that rock to soak in the sun and get healed. It looks like a nice way to get to feeling better unless it was the middle of Winter...
 
We found this old fashioned children's wagon alongside the road in front of a Nevada City motel.  Red Ryder wagons did not have anything on these.  This one looked like a lot of fun.  I can hardly imagine how anyone from our modern times would allow any of their kids to even go near it. I am not sure this says good things about our modern times.  We seem to be becoming afraid of our own shadow. Our forebears challenged the untamed wilderness, faced untold deprivations and endured incredible hardships in order to make a new and better life for themselves and their families.  We, on the other hand, complain when the internet goes down for ten minutes, our car air conditioning is not quick enough to cool the inside of our leather upholstered, customized interior automobiles or our toast burns in our computerized toaster.



  







Went to find a place to eat.  Ended up at a Little League baseball game because they had a picnic table there.  It was fun to see the one girl who was playing hit the ball against the back fence - almost a home run.  The guys kept getting struck out or walked.  Arielle went back to retrieve the car just in time to see this same girl punch some guy on the other team dead in the mouth.  She had definitely caught onto some of the less subtle aspects of the game.

We went geocaching only to fail miserably at finding any.  It was so pathetic, we even asked the woman who owned the land at one of the geocaching sites if it was still there.  If it had not been for her, we would have been skunked.  Saw a few new areas but not a single geocache save the one we got with an assist.

Our one pathetic geocache "find"...




Don't get me wrong.  A good day is not defined by geocaching success, RV findings, or lunch without female violence on the baseball diamond. It is defined by hanging out and having fun with four of my most favorite people.  We are spending the remainder of the evening with Tim Hawkins  Some days are just good that way...




Monday, April 13, 2015

Krista Rocks!!

I promised Mommy Blogs on the older Gherkins....and so I continue to shamelessly share about our lovely children.  It does get harder to  share exciting activities when they transition from college to boring adult life. 

Krista and Jimena
Krista works as a 1:1 Educational Aide in an Oregon school district. She loves the student she's worked with for years, and they've moved into middle school this year.  It's been suggested to her by many who observe her work that she should consider getting her Master's degree and a teaching certificate.  That is exactly what she is in the process of applying for at this point. She is brushing up on skills and preparing to take the GRE  test to be accepted into graduate school.  She plans to continue to work until she must quit for student teaching - unless they work something out to allow her to continue with her "gal" and student teach in the school where she currently works.  We're excited for her as she takes this step. I think this will be a great platform to launch her into several of her future goals.

She also works as the children's minister at her church and is in the process of planning a trip for some in her church to the orphanage where she and Arielle went last summer.  This will be a short trip rather than a summer visit. They will put on a VBS for the children. Arielle IS going on this trip as well. She's just gotten her weight up to low-normal....I guess this will prepare her for the freshman forty. LOL

It's been fun to watch as Krista's pulled the details of the mission trip together. They've had auctions and mystery dinners and all sorts of things to earn the money for the trip.  She has written the VBS curriculum and written back and forth with the orphanage. I look forward to the photos and stories.

Krista - front and center in the white Duck Shirt
Krista landed the job she wanted with the Summer Park program for students. She will be with kids and be outside - a win/win.

She and Arielle will be moving into a duplex in July - and they'll watch the younger set while
Michael and I go to Japan.

Krista has always loved adventures, outdoors and sports....she does well at making time for fun in the midst of her busy schedule.  She's a rabid Duck fan - which seems to be a common malady in her location.
Hiking at Sweet Creek Falls

Krista (R) - strange running techniques in Oregon
 
 We continue to thrill at the way Krista reaches forward in life and conquers any obstacles in her way! We're proud of the life and social circle she's built for herself in Oregon. We're also selfishly happy she is still in Oregon and Arielle can move in with her during Arielle's first year away from home! We love big families.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

ULTIMATE Unbaked Brownies (Vegan, Sugarless, Gluten Free)

I know some of you tried the Chocolate Fudge balls and decided you would swear off gluten free, vegan, sugarless treats - but these are worth taking another chance. ::snort::  BTW - WE still love the fudge balls - and THESE  are MUCH better than the black bean brownies - much better.  This recipe is from Chocolate Covered Katie.

Michael liked these and the girls raved about them. Arielle suggested they were too sweet. I agree. I'll be cutting out the frosting next time.

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 C loosely packed pitted dates
1 1/2 C walnuts (I used pecans)
6 T plus 1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
1 1/2 tsp, plus 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
2 tsp water
3/8 tsp salt
1/4 C pure maple syrup
2 T vegetable oil or melted coconut oil (I used coconut oil)

DIRECTIONS
Combine dates, nuts, 6 T cocoa powder, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, the water and salt in a food processor. Process until completely smooth.

Grease an 8 in square baking dish. Smoosh the dough FIRMLY into the pan with your hands until it evenly covers the pan.

In a bowl (or the pan you melt coconut oil in) combine remaining 1/4 c coco powder, 1/2 tsp vanilla, maple syrup and oil. Stir to form a paste. Spread evenly over the dough in the pan.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set, then cut into squares. Refrigerate leftovers in a covered container for up to 2 weeks, or freezer for up to 2 months.

NOTES
We found these VERY sweet - but we have sworn of sugar. I will either skip the frosting or play with using 1/2 the maple and see what happens. I will make them like this to take out in public - but I doubt I make them with this level of sweet for home.


These are unbaked - great for summer; baking them won't heat up your house - AND they are stored in the fridge or freezer so they'll be a cool treat.

The brownie is sugar free - skip the frosting to cut the sugar and calories.

NUTRITIONAL INFO
16 brownies; frosted
Calories 140
Fiber 3.5 grams
Protein 3.5 grams
Fat 7 grams
Carbs 20 grams
WW points 4

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Jamin - Mr. Academia and more

Another shameless Mommy Blog.

Jamin has been busy since he was here in California for Christmas. He went home, packed up and moved into a small house - his very first SOLO living situation - ever.  He seems to be enjoying it, and it couldn't have come at a better time for him.

This final semester of his college years at ASU has been full.....the need for quiet and privacy to think, process and write was at a premium.  By this time next month, he will be graduating with a Masters of Security Study - National Security.

He began this semester's big project with a  pile of books, online sources, and interviews...


His thesis is  about human trafficking and its impact upon national security.  This topic has been studied from a lot of different angles, but studying it as a security threat was a new angle that excited both him and his professors.

Eventually the information began to sort itself into an outline....





A few weeks ago, he finished his thesis and submitted it to his advisor for input and review.  This was a good way to begin the feedback portion of the project. ::grin::  Thus, proving homeschoolers CAN write.....last names are purposefully smudged.

Jamin is sweet to thank Michael (and I hope ME)  for all the years of critiquing his writing and papers.

He will defend his thesis Tuesday, 14 April. Prayers appreciated.  We are planning our trip to San Angelo for his graduation! Woot!

This week, he found out he was accepted into an exchange program which will allow him to spend the month of July in Osan, South Korea at a Korean university.  He'll come back from there and move from San Angelo. Move?

Yes. Another Gherkin will be missing from San Angelo next fall. Jamin  made many trips back and forth to College Station for tests and interviews in the hopes of being accepted into  Texas A&M. 

 
In early March he heard he'd been accepted to the Masters of International Affairs Program at the  Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. He's also been awarded a scholarship.  I should say he's worked HARD to put himself through his under-graduate and graduate courses debt free. Go Jamin!
 
 He's also been busy with a program he masterminded and shepherded through the Student Government Association and the board of regents. The program may be adopted throughout the TX university system. Basically, students compete monthly to see which dorm can be the most energy efficient.  Money is set aside each month and the five random dwellers from the winning dorm are chosen to receive a $100 scholarship towards their tuition and fees. Its a win/win for both the university and the students.  It's already making a difference in the University's energy bill and the program has just begun.  Way to leave your mark, Jamin.
Jamin also manages to enjoy college life.
Jamin - 2nd from Left


Jamin 3rd from Left - he may enjoy a new college "sign"


I'll finish with a fun photo of ASU's last three 10K record holders (Jamin's record still stands) and their coach. 
Jamin on the Right

Mr. President

Here's an update on our "older Gherkins."  It's been months since a blatant Mommy Blog- aren't you dying for one?  I'll begin with "Jr" - the youngest of the out the house male Gherkins.

Jared is enjoying life as the President of the Student Government Association at ASU. More than simply enjoying life - he's worked hard this year for the university and earned a nice scholarship because of the work.

There have been multiple video clips and news clips in recent months - but they won't print well....and I've not shared them all here (though I have on Facebook). 



Along the way it's become apparent to others, besides Mama, that this boy has the gift of gab/ blarney and he's used it well this year. He's been invited several places to speak....too numerous for me to remember or list them all - though I will update if he sends me a list. ::wink::

Most recently, he was able to go to Chicago with a group of students and speak there at an Alpha Chi convention.

Thus, we put aside  concern that homeschoolers won't know how to give a public speech or relate to their peers.





In the Windy City
 
One project his team has seen through to implementation is the "Ram Tram." These shuttles will pick students up on campus and take them to historical sites, restaurants and businesses around town. In other words they'll run between downtown and the campus.  This will be nice for students without cars and helpful to  international students. You can hear him being interviewed here

Along the way - he has taken time for fun and school (earned a 4. - way to go!).
Jared (2nd from R) and Jamin (R) also in Student Government
We love Larissa!


School spirit
Finally, he's been selected as an intern for the Fourth Congressional  district in Washington D.C. He'll live there for 6 months and get a taste of politics from the inside. I fully intend to visit him some day in DC. LOL  He'll be back for one final semester at ASU  the end of next year.  I think he's fully lived his college years.

We're proud of you son.

What I Learned at TAP or EVEN THERE


After the first day I left home each morning PREPARED
I got up early every a.m. this week and attended the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) with Michael.  I was surprised to be the only spouse on all days until the last day (VA Benefits).  This is a GREAT program that the Department of Labor and Department of Defense host to prepare ALL who are separating or retiring from the military. I highly recommend the program. I can't imagine how generations of previous Veterans navigated the system without this program.

What did I learn?   We learned much about translating our experience to civilian speak. We learned about resources, benefits, and job hunting skills. Personally, I learned that I do not want to be out of my home 10 hours a day - full time work is not for me. Part time - I believe is manageable with the ages of our children. I could write a smoking resume from my years as a home school teacher and a women's ministry volunteer. Collecting references to back up my claims could be difficult - military life being what it is. ALWAYS collect references immediately and save them if need be.

We have much to research.  We have many forms and steps to complete in the next few months. We have been encouraged it is important we step back from NOW to prepare for THEN. I think we needed someone to give us permission as the retirement date is now 4 months and 3 days away.

Honestly, we have a Plan A, which our hearts long for and truly is our passion - being missionaries in Japan. However, we also have a Plan B, which would provide income greater than our current income. We are sitting in a good spot  - though nothing is firmly nailed down, we know our passions and have options.  It would have been impossible to sit in hours of discussion about the future and retirement plans without Plan C and Plan D hovering on the edges of our consciousness.  The realization of Plan C or Plan D would significantly impact Plan A and Plan B.

My soul screams, "NO! We want Plan A."  We wait - we do all we need to do to retire, and we seek answers to rule out Plan C or D. The thing is we can't seriously plan for our transition without considering the possibility of Plan C or  Plan D.

My conclusions: There are things far harder emotionally and financially than death - I would prefer not to walk any of these paths.   And here is the biggest thing I learned on a gut level at TAP:

The Spirit whispers to me, "EVEN THERE His strength will guide you and sustain you."

God knows! He knows our daily activities, our thoughts and plans, He scrutinizes our plans and is intimately acquainted with all the twists and turns in our lives. Even before we voice a word or thought, He knows it all. He encircles us, and walks hand in hand with us in the twists and turns.

It's beyond our understanding, so much more than we deserve.

There is nowhere we will go where we will be out of His presence or hidden from His Spirit. Heaven or the grave, East or West, Plan A or Plan D....

EVEN THERE His strength will guide us, His strength will support us and settles us in the place to which He leads. The uncertainty  won't overwhelmingly cover us - darkness is not dark to God!! The darkness  is as bright as a sunny CA afternoon because EVEN THERE- God shines. EVEN THERE - God resides.

We trust in God with all our being, we don't need a clear picture to trust. We'll obediently seek God in the twists and turns, and He will reveal the path we are to travel.

If we have to surrender Plan A or Plan B - EVEN THERE He will walk with us, lead us and sustain us.

We truly are in a good place.

We would appreciate your prayers as we eliminate Plan C or Plan D.  We'll share more info about Plans B - D should they become reality.

Yes, the words the Spirit whispered to me, my thoughts and our responses are based on passages of the word which are dear to me - Psalm 139:1-12; Proverbs 3:5-6