Sunday, November 27, 2016

What Our Advent *might* Look Like This Year.

Things have been challenging the past year and even more so the past few months. I really looked forward to Advent as a time of focused devotion to the scriptures of Christmas, the intentional time to gather with my ktbunch and breathe. It's not all faith and Bible verses but it mostly is. I added a new Advent book/devotional/calendar on a whim last month and could barely wait to bring it out. We are not organized, we are not uptight and we may go strong for a few days a week, for a few weeks. It's something though. A time set apart for meditation, prayer, and being together. It's effort and right now, that's about all I've got to give: good intentions.

All the Colors of Christmas
First, here are the books we pull from: 

I bought this Advent activity Calendar new this year. It has a daily devotional, an advent calendar tree to assemble, and activities to go along with each devo. The main part of this book though, is the brilliant illustrations to color. The pages are large and I expect it could take us years of advent celebrations, to finish each page.

The ktbunch is free to color while they listen if they wish. There is no pressure to participate but the option is there.



Christ in Christmas


I also have a few favorites I have collected through the years and continue to use to enrich our time together. My first book was this classic pictured on the left.

This book contains guided scripture readings, devotional content, classic faith based Christmas carols to sing, an activity and prayer for each Sunday of advent.

We sing the Christmas carol together and it offers another option to enrich our time together.







The next little book is not an Advent book at all. It's a book of prayers I found at the grocery store a few years ago but the prayers are Christmas themed and each one includes a Bible verse.

Each passage is short enough that my seven year old can read it with ease, without becoming over whelmed.


Touching Wonder

This next book I own digitally on Kindle. This one is also an absolute favorite of mine! It is such an honest, raw account of Christmas, as told through each of the characters and players of the scriptural story we know so well. It's not a dreamy version or account but an awe inspiring, gritty and fresh perspective that moved my heart and soul.

The book also includes pencil drawings/illustrations and a hand written letter commentary image for each chapter from the author.






We are reading our scriptures from this Bible I purchased a few months ago. The bible itself is beautiful. It features illustrations to color and wide, lined margins for your own personal journaling and creative expression.










And one more book...that I can only HOPE to use this year...not an Advent or devotional at all but still Christmas themed...it's a COOK BOOK!

A gorgeous book filled with spiritual comfort and recipes to meet your physical and emotional needs. Haha. I also found this one at the grocery store, last year I think.

It features gorgeous full color pictures and scriptures.

Now along with these primarily faith based books and reading selections, I also pull from a variety of Christmas themed books on my Kindle. Most were freebies; novels, a few classics and a couple collections that feature passages from various Christmas books, poems and traditional readings.

Here is a list of some of the books i have acquired for FREE via Kindle.

The Gift  of the Magi
A Christmas Carol
Christmas Stories and Legends
A Little Book of Christmas
The Night Before Christmas and Other Popular Stories for Children
The Children's Book of Christmas Stories

Here's what our modern-use-what-you-have-and-do-what-you-can-Advent looks like:

I don't aim to do *everything* on my Advent wish-it-looked-like-list, but whatever. We gather on my bed, the only common meeting place we have right now. And we take turns reading scriptures, passages, prayers and stories from the variety of resources we have. We may snuggle afterward and watch a Christmas movie if there is one. We will color if anyone wants too in the new advent coloring book. We'll sing a Christmas carol. Maybe we'll do the recommended activity for the evening and maybe we won't. I strictly depends on what we have available, to be honest.

If I'm feeling ambitious, maybe I will have something fresh baked...ok, let's be real! A cup of hot chocolate or tea seems more realistic. We'll see how it goes. Haha. My whole life is in storage and that means all my Christmas decorations. I am trying to keep Christmas in my heart, and maybe that is the point over all. Maybe the forced simplicity can produce peace in the midst of the unrest that is our current lives. Attitude of gratitude, right!?! Got it! 

















Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Hike Day: El Dorado Nature Center, Long Beach


This local nature center is a real gem, located  in suburbia. It's more of a walk then a hike and is great for younger kids especially. There are restrooms and water fountains located at the nature center and another about half way along the trail. The trail features a 1 or 2 mile option. Also, there is a 1/4 mile paved trail that makes this stroller and wheel chair friendly.

There is a parking fee as follows:
$5 Monday-Thursday
$6 Friday
$7 Saturday & Sunday
$8 on Holidays


We met some very friendly bird-watching photographers along our walk today. They let us use their binoculars to observe an osprey enjoying a fresh fish lunch over the lake. 


You will most likely see turtles along the bridge from the nature center and ducks, lizards, squirrels and possibly rabbits or even a snake along the way. Though this trail is nestled away in suburbia, there are beautiful views to be had, if you are looking for them. 


This is a fairly easy hike for us. Pretty flat, partial shade and sun. There are viewing and sitting areas along the path. This is a popular trail for bird watchers.

I usually head for the mountains but some days...you just gotta stay local and still get your outdoor fix.

Start the day outside! 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Switzer Falls,


We've visited this trail before and it's still a fav. There is a parking lot along the side of the mountain road and there is a restroom located there. However, the trail starts at the bottom of that pull out road, if you follow it down. You will find 2 more parking locations and more restrooms. The trail features picnic areas and barBqs near the parking lot. Adventure Parking Pass required.

I can't get enough of the brilliant yellow and orange leaves of fall.
The trail offers shade with tree cover and full sun in spots. While we were hiking we saw two wood peckers going at it along the top of two trees. Depending on the season, your hike may be accompanied by a flowing or shallow creek. 


I've seen this falls flowing more at different seasons but it was still flowing a bit today. What many don't know however, is that there is another, even taller falls behind this one. It's beautiful when it is flowing and the hike to get there is only about 10 minutes beyond and behind Switzer. 


You must cross over this charming bridge to begin the hike. It's a great photo opp when the timer is on correctly. haha. We usually always stop and take a pic here.


Today we encountered this animal bone. Possibly a hip bone, maybe from a coyote? It was fun to examine and imagine what animal it may have originated from.

I recommend this hike as family friendly though there are a few narrow pathways at times. Definitely not stroller friendly beyond the first creek corssing. On a hot day, the full sun may get to you too. Always plan ahead and bring plenty of water and wear sun protective gear and clothing. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Day After...

No, I'm not referring to some zombie apocalypse movie. I'm referring to what some believe is Trumpocalypse!  The dude isn't officially in office yet but he will be, as elected. Social media hasn't calmed down one bit. It's just as volatile today as it has been the last six months of campaigning. Apparently people are in shock, over come with grief, afraid...so much that university classes were being cancelled, students felt they couldn't attend...I heard from one elementary student, she was so distraught she couldn't stop crying and called her mother to take her home from school. Elementary school! Acts and threats of gun violence have been all over. Strangers threatening others about 'that wall.'

It's sorrowful. My heart is overwhelmed and now it's the end of the day, literally, call me selfish, but I'm not crying over the presidency or the future of America.

Today, I'm crying over the same sorrows I had yesterday. And last week. My family is still hurting, not more or less then yesterday. I still have to figure out how to live MY life, right now. Not three months from now. Not next year but now.

I have to figure out how to cope with the challenges I am facing every day. Every freaking day. Tonight, while praying with my seven year old, I finally broke down, right in front him. HE was wiping tears from my eyes and I felt like even more of a failure.

I'm crying because I feel like I will never be free. I will never get ahead, much less catch up. I'm crying because I've had to start my life over except with less energy, resources, tight skin and youth than the first time and way more responsibility. I'm crying because I'm worn out, tired of fighting not even for dreams anymore, but a basic human standard of decent living. I'm crying cause I feel like all the energy, love and hope of my youth was stolen from me.

Mr. T, Mrs. C, third parties, celebrities, global leaders, mega church pastors, all of you, I don't care! I don't care who won. I don't think God cares. I don't think He's up there pointing fingers at everyone who voted different from you or I. I'm praying tonight...that He cares about ME. That He moves in MY life.

I already said, sure, call me selfish. I am not going to suddenly give advice or condemn or act like we can all be peace and love and do hippie macrame together. No. Never. I don't want to jump on that bandwagon. I don't have great words of wisdom, a pithy piece of scripture or other condescending phrases.

I know people legitimately feel hurt and scared. I feel it too. Probably for different reasons but it doesn't matter. Fear is fear.

I'd like to be able to write some profound, 'let's all get along' statement that would go viral. But alas...I don't have that either. Mr. T isn't going to fix even one of my problems! The Hill wasn't going to either.

I do know, that people will feel what they are going to feel. Let them. Let them vent. Let them disagree with you, so what. Let them rejoice. Let them cry. It could be...it has nothing to do with you or me or the president. I'm exhausted, same as yesterday.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Hike Day; Haunted Hike: Deforest Park, Long Beach

Welp, I was searching for a "Haunted Hike" and this park kept showing up. Reviews were mixed so I decided to check it out. It was a bit rainy but what I didn't expect was...the nature trail to be CLOSED for construction! Boo!

There is a free parking since it's a park, there is a paved side walk along the perimeter and there are restrooms.


We followed along the sidewalk up to the nature trail gate only to be greeted by the chain link fence. Such a disappointment. We walked past the nature trail entrance toward the river bed trail. We stayed on the low side, not up to the paved river bed trail and walked along the fence. It looks like it may be horse friendly. 



We did not have any supernatural experiences but the police were a strong presence in the area. 
There was this bloody, paint mess on the bathroom wall. By the way, these park restrooms are the type with out any doors and short brick wall dividers. 



I can't recommend this park as a nature walk or trail since it was closed. I am not familiar enough with the area to recommend it at all. It had a bit of a shady vibe to it and it wasn't in the supernatural sense. There were people hanging out in the parking lot, appearing to get high in their cars. Police showed up and arrested someone while we were at the playground with out kids.

If the nature trail is ever open again, I might revisit it then. 

It's Halloween season. What!?!


Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Abalone Cove, Rancho Palo Verdes




Before we started our hike this week, we took a brief tour of this gorgeous glass chapel. You can read about the Wayfarers Chapel here.  Visitors are welcome. There is a small visitor center that is more of a gift shop, with restrooms. You can walk around the gardens of the chapel and into the glass chapel itself and also admire the coastal views.

The cliff side we took down to the beach.
Abalone Cove Park is the trail head for this hike. It is very close to the Terranea Discovery trail we have taken before. It's an easy to moderate short trail but not stroller friendly. Full sun-no shade, wear sun protective clothing and bring water, like any day at the beach. The park only has free parking the first 30 minutes. It's $6 for 2 hours then $12 beyond that. There is no way to get down to the beach, explore and return within 30 minutes. 



We drove down to the lot for the Terranea Discovery Trail. It is free parking and there are also clean restrooms. We took the trail along Palos Verde Dr. from the parking lot to Abalone Cove Park. It's about a 30 minute walk.

We discovered this lovely little waterfall flowing to the sea shore.

From Abalone Cove Park, walk down to the beach. There are a few trails to follow. We cut one trail short but heading down the cliff side. It wasn't very treacherous or challenging but definitely requires caution. The trails have gravel and the beach is rocky, so I do not recommend the use of a stroller but a child carrier is fine.



We headed left, toward tide pools...in search of sea stars. Recent pix found online via social media showed others finding the treasures of the sea. Last year, we learned about the coastal disease and warmers waters caused by El Nino like weather conditions, that had killed off much of the tide pool sea life along the west coast. Sea Stars seemed to be the primary victims.



We arrived in time for low tide but there is a crossing where the rocks are low and the water is high. I suppose we could have risked it but with an unpredictable 7 year old in tow...wisdom screamed caution! We stayed to our side. The water was low but we would have had to still get our shoes and feet wet to venture further out and away from shore to explore deeper.



We stayed close to shore where there was still plenty of life to see. We viewed many sea anemones, sea slugs, various crabs, tiny fish and colorful sea plants. It was beautiful and colorful. Of course the repetition of crashing waves is always relaxing too.


We didn't see any of the usual chubby, orange sea stars we are used to, but as we were leaving, I caught sight of this teeny tiny one in the sand, along the shore! I don't know how I even recognized what it was...maybe I didn't even know but I bent down to see what it was and thought it was dead. It was still alive and moving. It had a very short spindle of an arm that was growing back. The boys were up ahead of us so Bird and I were the only ones who got to get a close-up and personal look at this tiny wonder. 



The day was gorgeous and slightly breezy. You never know what you will find or see at the beach or the woods. Getting outside though, is always nice. I would recommend this hike for a casual, fairly easy day. It wasn't very challenging for us but on a hot day, the sun could be an issue as there is no shade.

See you next week!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

When We're All Acting Like the Desperate-Jesus-Needing Humans We Are!

It's been some kind of week. The type that leaves my heart and mind all over the place and I'm not exactly sure where to land. Feeling as if the only two options are to eat all the pie or nothing at all. Sure, the worship music is on but I don't feel like singing along. The 'all-I've-got-to-give' looks a lot like 'just sitting there.' For my weary soul, that's everything. There's no cure and I don't need fixing-because being the one that stays, counts. It's enough.

I asked...told? my kiddos NOT to give me their assignments to grade the night before or morning of their learning record meeting, warned them to get their work samples together early...The night before and morning of--here I was. Feeling discouraged and like a failure because my kids had pretty much done everything I warned them not to do.

My frailty was evident as I felt like losing it and going off on everyone. Isn't everyone aware of how stressful my life is already? Dishes that only take minutes to do, left undone. Items and objects that could easily be put away, left out. Shelves carelessly over stuffed with random papers and ish everywhere.

Enough to drive a mom mad, of course.

In the heat of my exasperation...the epiphany.

Everyone was simply acting like they need Jesus. I was upset because no one was doing what *I* wanted--even if what *I* wanted was good, useful and wise. And I was taking it personal because...?

Dumb.

My kids don't need me, they NEED JESUS! Just like I do. And I was getting upset because they were actually acting like it!?! Duh. 
Big. Fat. Duh.How else should they behave? Like they *need* ME? Like they have it all together and don't need anyone? Certainly not Jesus?

Why wouldn't I expect them to need Jesus and to actually act like it. Isn't this what every scripture and historical record in the Bible is about? One account after the next, of human beings prone to failure, trying to do this life on their own?

They need Jesus just as much as I do.
I need Jesus just as much as them.
The need is not dependent on chronological age.

Recognizing their need, my need, our need--enabled grace. Grace I need, is the grace I can give.

I want my children to need Jesus, not me. Even more, I want them to recognize it.
Maybe it requires me recognizing and remembering first. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

If I Don't Reach the Promised Land, Beyond the Curse of the Desert Wilderness


We've all been there in the midst of a trial-that moment when we look back and long for the past. Just as the Israelites, in the middle of their own wandering, began to view their past of slavery and bondage, through the filter of rose colored lenses.

Maybe it wasn't so bad? At least it was familiar, predictable...safe.

We can read their story with the privilege of it's entirety. We know how it's going to end.

In our own lives though, we don't know the ending. And that scares us! We get uncomfortable. We do not like change. We want what WE want, how we want and when we want it. Of course.

We know how that ended with the Israelites--the generation of Moses never entered the Promised Land. What a punishment and what they are forever known for.

God is never that cruel though.  Perhaps, there was solace and even a redemptive quality to their lives that has been over looked?

The Israelites that didn't reach the Promised Land, are also the generation that led their families OUT of slavery! Into FREEDOM!

After generations of bondage, they were finally free. Their children were free, no longer subject to the whims of a master or genocidal pharaoh. Their grandchildren would grow up free.   This is significant.

Many of us face and endure the wilderness journey at times. The heat and barrenness of the desert, where refreshment and reprieve are only a mirage. Admittedly, I have been in that place for more than a few years now. I have been guilty of looking back at times, longing for the comfort of my own slavery and bondage.

Until God reminded me of what is ahead AND the importance of the present. Not only for me, but for generations to come. I have done this. I have led my children out of slavery. They will step into the Promise Land. They will have the strength to knock down walls and take back what is theirs.

They could not move into their own promise if we had not walked into the freedom of the desert. There is no going back. Regardless of the environment, our freedom can not be taken from us. Freedom from negative patterns of behavior that were being practiced and taught by example.

The Israelites stood in the gap between slavery and freedom. Someone had to. Someone had to take the first step and cross over. Someone had to make the choice and be brave, venturing out into the unknown, without a map! Their wilderness journey served a purpose whether they ever entered the Promise Land or not. 

Someone has to stand in the gap. I made that choice. If I never step into the Promise...It will have all been worth it to watch my children walk in the truth of freedom.

Be Brave.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Search for Vincent Cabin/Mine Gulch Trail, Wrightwood


This trail head is the same one for the Big Horn Mine trail, and sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. There is a vault toilet at the trail head, parking is free but I don't recommend strollers but a child carrier would be fine. Trail features sections of full sun and shade cover.



Research is definitely required if you want to find the actual historical cabin. I did research and still missed it somehow. I believe it is on a turn off from the main trail.


The views are spectacular in parts. Fall is in affect, with bright yellow colored leaves littering the trail floor. It was a gorgeous day. Warm with a slight breeze.


Since we didn't find the cabin, the hike was longer than expected. We went all the way down to the gulch and beyond. The trail doesn't appear to get much usage, so it can be a challenge to see at spots.



Trail is mostly dirt and gavel and a thick bed of leaves under the trees. The trail through the trees is where it can become the most confusing to stay on the path.



I must warn you, the worst part about this hike today...was the incessant flies! They were more than a nuisance. They were the small kind that buzz right up to your ears, nose, eyes and mouth. We had to keep our hands moving the entire time we were hiking, to keep them away from our faces.


I guess we could have used bug repellent but this happens so rarely, we never do. I never have any on hand and am skeptical about the chemical usage to be honest. However, it practically ruined an otherwise lovely hike. It took A LOT of patience to endure. I am not exaggerating.


The final picture above highlights the camouflaging of the trail. With out the flies, this would have been a fabulous and enjoyable hike. I don't recommend it if you are tired or feeling impatient. I am hoping the flies were seasonal, as I would like to return and find the historical cabin!

See you next week.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Walnut Creek Park, San Dimas


This trail is also known as Walnut Creek Park

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
No restroom facility
Free parking
Kid/family friendly
Semi-stroller friendly
Moderate
Dusty trail


This is an interesting trail. We parked at the equestrienne staging area, before the school of Buddhism. From the parking lot, we took the left trail entrance. It makes a quick stream cross then returns up to the road. The trail continues on the other side of the road.

There is another trail to the right and picnic tables. The tables were very dirty and dusty when we arrived, bring a towel or something to dust them off but they are under a nice shade canopy of trees.


Trail is dusty but features shady breaks from the sun. Even now, end of summer, there was water in the creek. Parts of the trail are uphill, feeling harder than it probably really is due to the sun exposure. We caught sight of a rabbit hopping across a dry brush area very quickly. That is always fun.

Yelp reviews stated there is a hidden rope swing somewhere along the trail...we didn't find it. Maybe you will?



This is a multi-use trail...used by horses and their riders. From the equestrienne staging area parking lot, it leads up to a main road. There you will find another very small parking lot, nice view and a couple picnic tables. However, it is full sun, be prepared. Across the road from that parking lot the trail continues but it appeared to be a horse trail. It was already hot and that trail has no shade so we did not explore any further.

We turned around and headed back down the way we came. 

This trail is semi-stroller friendly due to the uphill incline, stream crossings and some rocky points along the trail. But a rugged, jogging stroller might work for the more ambitious parents. Otherwise a back-pack child carrier would be fine.

See you next week!