Reality Check

I made a cheesecake for Christmas and followed the instructions to a tee, but still ended up with a crack in the middle. So, when we were invited to a New Year's Eve party, I decided to try it again with a different baking method to see if the crack could be avoided. Woohoo - success!!

Until I had a little help from Caboose. It really was too good to be true. Heavy sigh:::::

Oh well, it will be topped with homemade loganberry sauce and will still have the same delicious taste. Reminds me of a verse I know - "Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart". So true.

Happy New Years, everyone!


A Very Special Gift, but Bittersweet

This is the only picture I have ever seen of my parents together and me. (I zoomed in with my camera to take this picture and the following pictures - the originals are quite small.)

Forty-something years ago, my mom was married to Frank VanC___. I was born during that first year of marriage. My parents did not have a happy marriage. They divorced after one year. Frank had issues with drugs and the ramifications of a lifestyle with drugs. He wasn't a good dad or husband at that time. My mom remarried when I was 3 yrs old and my step-dad legally adopted me. My new dad and I didn't have a great relationship and I always wondered about my biological father, Frank. I only had three very small pictures of Frank. That was my only connection to this man because legally, he had no more connection with me. As a child, I found myself staring at them wondering who this man was and what happened to him.

When I was about 19 years old, my mom helped me to try to find Frank. We found Frank's parents' phone number and called. That was the first time I had ever spoken to those grandparents. They were very sweet and asked about my life. They didn't have Frank's phone number because he had recently moved, but gave me an uncle's phone number. If I remember correctly, we did call an uncle, but I lost the courage to call Frank. Many years passed.

I don't know anything about this picture except that the man standing in front of the car is my father.

Ever since internet searches have been available, I have searched for Frank. Last summer after a Google search, I found an old address in Salem, Oregon for him and went to the house asking the resident and neighbors if they knew or had heard of Frank. No one had heard of him. On the 20th of December, I typed Van C in the search field on Facebook and scrolled through the names. I knew the names of my uncles and some of their children. I e-mailed one person whose name sounded familiar and she e--mailed me - no connection. Then I found a Facebook group for people who are connected with the Van C's. There were several Van C's listed. I joined the group and posted on the wall that I was looking for a Frank Van C.

Today, I found the answer I've been looking for. Jeff Van C. read my note on the wall and contacted me saying that Frank is his uncle. He called Robyne who is my half-sister and gave her my phone number. Within one hour of the original note from Jeff, I was on the phone speaking for the first time with my half-sister, Robyne. It was then that I found out that I had been living in the same city where my father died and was buried. Although I was not living in Oregon when he died, I was living in Oregon for many of the years he was living here.

It is sad that I never had the opportunity to see his eyes, to hear his voice, to touch his hands. But it is comforting to know that he spoke of me to his daughters. He did think of me. I wish I could have told him that I have his wavy red hair and his love for music. I always wished I could have seen his expression when telling him that he had seven grandchildren - and they are all TALL (he was 6'5").
This is the only picture I have of Frank where his eyes are open and looking at the camera. These three pictures were the only pictures I had of my biological father. I don't know how many times I looked at this picture wondering about this man who fathered me.

So finally, the missing pieces of my puzzle have been found. I don't understand why I didn't contact Frank earlier when I had the opportunity, but am thankful for the new relationships I will have now and thank God for the amazing sequence of events on this day.

This is Carrie and Robyne - my half-sisters on the day my father died.


Driving in Portland Metro Area in the Arctic Freeze '08

You all are probably tired of me posting about snow. How many days of snow have we had now? I've lost track. I went out today and took a couple pictures. This is why so many businesses are shut down. What you see on the normally busy 2-lane road is compacted snow and ice - maybe 4-6 inches deep. Along with the hazard of ice, people not knowing how to drive in snow/ice, is the big hazard of manholes. The manholes have been piling up ice like a volcano - sometimes one feet high. So cars have been dodging the manholes in addition to trying to stay on the road. It is pretty crazy here.

Below is a 4-lane street. This road is notorious for traffic. Thank God it is not now. Again, it's hard to see, but what we're dealing with is tire ruts in the road. The ruts could be 6 inches deep. Trying to change lanes can be very dangerous. The ruts in the road when crossing a major intersection is another big challenge. I counted an average of two cars getting through on one green light because it took so long to maneuver the ruts. There are simply not enough plows to clean this mess up. We won't even talk about neighborhood roads. It's amazing to see how many people have just hunkered down and are riding this thing out. There is a median - can you see it? Neither can many other people - quite a few people have driven up on the median without knowing it was there until too late. This can really wreak havoc on drivers who are unaware of the topography of the area. Another popular site is downed mailboxes - "oops, was that a curb I just hit?".

The mall tonight had stores closed at 8 pm. Crazy - on the eve before Christmas Eve! Oh, another weird thing - not too many stores have shoveled their sidewalks. I think we need to learn some snow etiquette here!

They are expecting more snow on Christmas Eve. We will have a white Christmas!

PS - When they sell snow shovels here, they are typically plastic. Go figure!
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Snow Day and Sew Day

We got a major dump of snow in the Pacific NW - between 6-12 inches depending on the elevation. This is a rare storm for us. We haven't seen it like this in the last 8 years we've lived here. Last night we got freezing rain and here you can see Orange Boy holding up the top layer of ice.

The house is pretty quiet and so I have been sewing a LOT. Here are my new flannel PJ bottoms that are long enough for my nearly 6'4" frame.

I've never had a pair of pjs that fit my long legs before, so it is a delightful treat. I will be wearing them all day, thank you very much. I've lost track of how many pjs we've made for the family (Pearly has been helping, too). Pearly and I are also making other clothes. We just discovered that Pearly wears the same size top as me. She's now 6'2" at the age of 14, and still growing. Oh yes, baby, she IS learning how to sew. Because of all the snow, our church had the services on Saturday morning. That was very smart because we wouldn't have been able to make the drive today. I love this weather. I love being snowed-in. We have our pantry stocked, wood stove going, hot apple cider, stew or chili ready to put on the stove. This is the life.


Snow, Snow, Snow

We got snow yesterday. Church was canceled and the kids played their hearts out - until 11:30 pm!! I hope there wasn't a curfew in effect? LOL

Pearly Girl took all the pics except the one I took of her. I stayed in my pjs all day and sewed. What a great day!
Brown Eyes

Orange Boy played the most - from morning until 11:30 pm!

This is the wonderful hill just a few houses down from us. All of the neighborhood kids come to this hill to sled. I wish someone would put barricades at the top and bottom of the hill so the people showing off in their SUVs don't trash the good snow on the hill. My kids watched 2 SUVs go in the ditch. I'm not sure that I feel sorry for them.

Caboose was thrilled - and actually stayed out quite a bit.

This little strawberry-blond is turning into a carbon copy of Orange Boy - he can't get enough of the outdoors and is quite the trooper.

They are calling this storm the Arctic Blast. We will continue to have lows in the 20s for the rest of the week. More snow could come on Wednesday and Sunday again.



We enjoyed homemade cinnamon rolls the night we decorated our tree. We like to do something a little special. Orange Boy, immediately grabbed the camera and started snapping pictures. I've got a bunch of Blogger Juniors here. I think perhaps they will be great photojournalists as they get older. That's not a bad thing.

PS - I did not take one of these shots. I'm glad they are capturing these great memories. (Click picture to enlarge.)


Oh Christmas Tree

We were running late to get our Christmas tree and I was really bummed because I knew the pictures wouldn't turn out. Well, most of them didn't. But we were greeted with such a beautiful sky. This really is a family shot (missing 2 kids) silhouetted, but check out the sky!

On this shot, we moved so the sun was facing us and I had to lighten it up quite a bit.
I love the pink hues in the sky from the glorious sunset.
And once again, the sunset provided really cool lighting for this picture of me and Orange Boy.

This is the 2nd time we've cut our Christmas tree from this farm. They are friends of ours and have 6 acres. They use no pesticides and we got a gorgeous noble fir for $30. Gotta love Oregon!


In seems our new cat has prompted a little bit of art practice on drawing cats. I love how interests lead to other interests, skills are learned, subjects are studied without realizing they are "doing school". This kind of studying needs no tests - they are learning because they want to learn and soak up information like a sponge. No time is wasted and pure pleasure is attained in the learning process. Now why couldn't I have "done" school like that?!

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A New Addition

No, not that kind of addition. My parents gave us this cat. We originally didn't want the cat (or I didn't want the cat). It's not that I don't like cats, I don't like dealing with the negative aspects of animals (poops, clawing, hassle of finding someone to watch animal when away, etc). But my parents were very desperate. They said they would pay for his food and any vet bills AND "he's an outside cat". When my husband went to visit my parents, the cat came out and met my husband and kids. My husband, being a big sucker for animals then called me on the phone giving me some sort of poor kitty story. I told my husband that I wanted no part of this decision. The cat obviously won my husband's heart.

Well, for the first week or so, he was an outside cat . . . . until yesterday. I was in the kitchen drinking my breakfast smoothy and heard him meow. It was very cold outside. I opened the door and that was the end of that "outside cat" story.

He is a beautiful cat with a great temperment - especially considering my kids have been pet-deprived and can't keep from touching him. This cat has never known such love. Okay, I admit it - he is pretty sweet. Even sweet enough for me to grab the camera and take a few shots.

Isn't he handsome?
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Boys and Their Toys

One of the wonderful blessings of homeschooling is that a lot of our schooling takes place in life, not in a school with four walls with texts, class interruptions, etc. A bigger blessing is that we are able to take advantage of wonderful resources around us to enrich the learning process. Not long ago, a semi-retired man from church asked us if our boys would like to learn welding. Orange Boy, in particular, took an interest. One thing led to another and now this welding class has turned into a go-cart building class. The "boys" (as in Papa, Orange Boy, and our semi-retired friend) meet weekly to learn skills, talk about plans, etc.

Not wanting this project to be a huge expense, we were able to find a used tractor lawn mower on Craigslist for $140. This tractor has been disassembled by Orange Boy and a large percentage will be able to be "repurposed" for the go-cart. Here you see the tractor and then the process of disassembling. (Click the picture to enlarge.) I'm really excited about this school project. The little boys don't know about the go-cart. They will sure be in for a surprise! More updates to follow!



We had a quiet Thanksgiving at home. Typically we have people over, but not this year. Even our eldest daughter was away, so that was sad. We will see her tomorrow, though.

But one topic of discussion came up. We are definitely food snobs. We love good food. We all decided that there is no better Thanksgiving meal than our own. Nobody has a better sweet potato casserole recipe than the one we got from Martha when we lived in GA. Nobody makes a better turkey than my husband who seems to have done away with the common problem of dry breast meat. This meal was so delicious. It was a combined effort: Tall dude made the stuffed mushrooms, dh always makes turkey/stuffing/gravy, mashed potatoes, Pearly made the sweet potato casserole, I made pumpkin pies and cranberry sauce.

Tall Dude's plate (stuffing is missing)

We tried a new cranberry sauce recipe this year: Cranberry Sauce Extraordinaire. When I saw my children shoveling it in their mouths like jello, I knew we had added a new tradition to our feast.

See the cranberry sauce cranberry sauce evidence? He was already asking for more at the point.

And this little boy decided the cranberry sauce made a nice addition to the sweet potato casserole.


Biology and Homeschooling


Looking at mushroom spores

Pearly is studying biology. Some people wonder how we can teach high school level biology if the teacher (ahem, me) has little biology background. We use Apologia science texts (info on Apologia on my sidebar) for high school (and grade school). These were written for homeschooled students and are very readible. We have purchased a nice microscope and also lab kits from Home Science Tools (incredibly fast shipping and great customer service). Once or twice a week, Pearly's friend comes over to do their labs together. This has been working very well. They have a daily schedule to keep up with and come prepared to begin labs on Fridays or every other Friday.

One of my favorite aspects of homeschooling is seeing children get exciting about their studies on their own (let me tell you, this mom is not fond of science, but I've been careful to not let that out of the bag). It has blown me away to see that not only has my daughter caught the science bug, but she has considered pursuing it in college. (Whew - my disdain for science really hasn't rubbed off.) When I think about it, perhaps it wasn't that I didn't like science, but the way it was taught was unappealing to me (don't get me on the subject of history which I now love). Give children the foundation of the love of learning and reading, the tools they need, and they will fly. I love homeschooling. I really do.

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We have a Guest Blogger

NOTE: This is written by Pearly - 14-yr old - assigned by her mean homeschooling mom

Last night as my mom and I were looking up a recipe for chicken pot pie at, I noticed a recipe that they were advertising on their front page: MUDDY BUDDIES!!!! I had these for my first time at a violin ensemble a few years ago and I absolutely LOVED them!! They're made out of Corn Chex (Rice Chex would be really good too), peanut butter, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and powdered sugar. So when I saw the recipe, I asked my mom to print it out and my dad got the ingredients at the store on his way home from work. They are very easy to make and taste delicious!! I guess it's just the crunch of the Corn Chex combined with the flavor of the chocolate chips and peanut butter that makes them so good. Although it was very tempting to demolish them all last night, I decided I would save them and bring them to a volleyball game at PSU that I'm going to with my dad and volleyball team today!!

I took some pictures of them today and asked my mom to post them on

So........YOU HAVE GOT TO TRY THESE!!! THEY ARE THE BEST SNACK IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD!!!! Oh, by the way, they are very, and I repeat very addicting!!! :)

Ok, Jewel's "the mom" comments :

So, this morning, Pearly came up to me and told me I needed to upload her pictures on is a great place to find recipes - you can search by ingredient, read reviews, see pictures, upload your own finished meals/snacks, etc. All good fun for a mom who likes to cook. So, I obliged and uploaded the pics on and thought that it might be fun to post the recipes ond pictures here on my blog. Being a very practical homeschooling mom, I decided to assign Pearly the job of writing about the recipe. I am "the" teacher. I get to assign whatever I want. This is not a traditional school. I get to see what my kids are interested in and base their writing assignments around that using whatever media I choose. They don't have to be at a desk sitting up straight using No. 2 pencils. They can be like my eldest daughter who did some of her schoolwork beneath the baby grand piano (same child who also hid reading books in the bathroom and spent extra time doing her "business" - hahahaha Hannah, you're outed).

So anyway, I thought this would be a cool assignment and I'm glad you could be a part of it. And now if you will excuse me while I proofread her work above.


Three years ago, Orange boy learned how to knit.

He's still at it. It's not something that he does all the time, but November seems the perfect time to knit - especially on a normal wet and rainy day in the Pacific Northwest.

Our tv died about 2 months ago. It forced the kids to do different things - play more games, do more crafts, spend more time together. It was awesome. We recently replaced the tv because we wanted to see the election coverage, but there are a new set of rules.

Every one of us admitted that we didn't miss the television. That it was a time waster. It was nice to see that we all came to the same conclusion and so when we made the new guidelines, they weren't bothered by them. They knew how much fun they had without it.

I"m happy to say that we have been following the guidelines. Orange boy's scarf is getting longer. Pearly has been busy knitting and sewing, too. Brown Eyes has been devouring books.
Bunny and Caboose have been playing and playing (okay and fighting). But I think we have a handle on this now. It feels good. That big box does not rule our house anymore. Amen.

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Pearly's Birthday

We celebrated Pearly's 14th birthday. One thing different from last year is Caboose is getting more into the celebratory spirit these days. If you were reading this blog last year, you may remember this picture where he burst into tears as we started singing "Happy Birthday".

It got pretty bad . . . or REALLY bad as the song continued. Poor baby!

Notice how his siblings are consumed with consoling their distraught brother. (Notice how his mother continued to snap pictures.)

This year, as we started singing, he came out of no where and blew out Pearly's candle before she got a chance. He thinks they are all for him now.

We did light the candle again for the birthday girl. No worries.
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