Sunday afternoon, Sarah and Joanna sang with the Orange Coast College Chorus. For the past few years, they have had at least one performance each semester. Each time some of us would attend…usually Tim, Jeri, Nicole, Victoria, and Elizabeth. The $10 ticket price was a minor deterrence.
Because the concert was at a church instead of at college, they didn’t charge admission. Thus for this concert, our entire family attended…much to the delight of the girls.
The concert featured a mixture of choral numbers as well as some small group and solos. The theme was war and peace. Probably a favorite piece from the afternoon was “Ol’ Man River” performed a capella by a male quintet.
Joanna and Sarah having fun after the concert.
Rehearsal with Mikaela directing.
Elizabeth, Sarah, Nicole, Joanna, and Victoria after the performance.
This past Friday was Sarah’s birthday. Joanna helped plan a little party. Around 3 PM, some of their college “singing” friends (Evan, Dimitri, Katherine, Mikaela, and Kendall) showed up at our house. Originally they were going to play some outdoor games at the park close by. But the day earlier, Sarah started feeling sick with a slight fever. So they made plans to move indoors.
Joanna found a game called picture telephone. It goes like this. Everyone is given a piece of paper and begins by writing their own name at the bottom of the page. Then at the top, everyone writes a sentence about ANYTHING! Then each person hands that paper to the person next to them. This person has to DRAW the sentence.
When each person has completed this step, he/she folds down the original sentence so that it can no longer b viewed and passes the paper to the next person. This person has to write a sentence based on the picture on the paper. When he/she has completed the sentence, this person folds down the picture and passes it again.
Thus each person alternates writing a sentence and drawing a picture. The game ends when each person’s paper makes it back to the original spot. Then the paper is unfolded to reveal the (often hilarious) results. We also played the game after supper as a family. Here are a few examples.
We were finally able to replace our “never-say-die” Dodge Grand Caravan. The trusty, old Caravan has been a great blessing to us. Back in 2006 while living in San Jose, our family had just one vehicle, a 1990 Audi 80 (which can seat five people). Another home-school family learned of our situation and gave us this Caravan which they weren’t using. Although it has now logged nearly 190,000 miles, the engine and transmission have not given us any major problems.
The van is now 20 years old…and it’s starting to show. For instance, we no longer use the two front doors (driver’s and passenger’s) because they are very hard to close (due to bent hinges). (We could use them in an emergency to exit the vehicle.) The sliding door is finicky and requires a special “touch” to get it to latch. And the rear hatch can’t be opened from the inside.
The roof of the Caravan is severely rusted. So much so that rain will leak in above the driver’s seat. So whenever rain is in the forecast, we will cover the front roof of the van along with the front windshield with a tarp (held down by four bricks).
Our Caravan had become, by all accounts, quite ugly. Some of the children (Nicole, Jason, and Sarah) would sometimes need to drive for work. No one wanted to take the van…the “embarrassment” factor was too great. However the ones going to college (Justin, Jason, Sarah, Joanna, and Victoria) would often need to take the van to school. They commented that they never saw any worse-looking vehicle in the campus parking lot. (On the plus side, we never worried about the van getting stolen.)
Because the registration and smog inspection for the Caravan were coming due in March 2014, we started looking for a replacement minivan back in January. Initially we were hoping to find something for under $3,000. But then we realized that the only vans in that price range were either being sold by curbstoners or they had over 100,000 miles. (See this post by Tim about Curbstoning.)
Since we didn’t want to buy a maintenance nightmare, we gradually (and reluctantly) increased the amount that we would be willing to spend. But we still weren’t finding anything. So our $4,000 limit gave way to $5,000 which then became $6,000. Eventually we were searching for vehicles up to $8,000. Although we felt uncomfortable spending that amount of money, we convinced ourselves that we needed to spend that much to find something of good quality and reliable.
We started out searching on craigslist.org. But we found it hard to find anything good. We’d spend probably half of our time weeding out the curbstoners. Seems like all of the “good” deals were actually deals that were “too-good-to-be-true.” On the rare occasion that we see good vehicle that looked legitimate, it would either be too far away or it would be sold very quickly.
So we started also looking at autotrader.com. Although the vehicles tended to be a priced a little higher than craigslist, we figured that the better quality of listings was worth it. We also started looking at listings by auto dealers.
We found a 2000 Nissan Quest listed by a dealer for $4,900. It was cherry red and had just under 100,000 miles. We were encouraged that the dealer said that we could take it to a mechanic for a third-party inspection. The vehicle had been owned by only one owner. With the exterior and interior of the minivan in excellent condition, we hoped that the owner took similar care of the engine and transmission.
Jeri (along with Elizabeth and Josiah) stopped by the dealership and took the van to a mechanic about 10 minutes away from the dealer. The mechanic’s report wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great. It looked like a fair amount of maintenance would be needed in the next six months (including replacing the timing belt). So we weren’t convinced that we should move ahead on the purchase.
As February gave way to March, the intensity of our searching would vary. Oftentimes we would get weary of first spending the time and *energy* to find a vehicle and then spending the time and *money* to get a vehicle inspected. Because we now had only a few weeks to find a replacement, we considered getting the Caravan smogged and then registering it for another year.
This past Sunday, Tim was at his computer and wanted to take a break from his work. So he clicked a bookmark to check Craigslist once again. Surprise! A new listing that had been posted the day before showed up. A 2005 Kia Sedona with low miles at a fair price and located close by! The text of the listing sounded legitimate…we had seen so many curbstoners’ listings that we could often spot them. So Tim sent an e-mail asking for more info.
It turns out that he was the first to respond. Tim called the phone number and setup a time to look at the vehicle the next day (Monday). The vehicle was located very close to a bus stop on the bus route that Tim regularly takes. How convenient! Jeri would meet Tim at the location after work. John (who was selling the van) called Tim during the day to confirm the appointment…he said that he had a few other interested parties.
Tim and Jeri arrived at nearly the same time. They met John who showed them the vehicle. John mentioned that a guy from Riverside had called multiple times and offered to come with cash to buy the vehicle. John wanted to give us a first crack since we had inquired first. Also Tim sounded calm while this other guy sounded a bit pushy.
Tim quickly commented on the Calvary Chapel t-shirt that John was wearing. And soon we realized that we were all believers. That gave us a confidence that this might be the vehicle for us. We really liked the van. We shared stories of faith as we took a test drive. We came back to John’s place (which was nicely decorated with items featuring Scriptures) and met his wife, Lillian. We gave him a $200 down payment and made arrangements to get the van inspected the next day. John concluded our meeting with a prayer.
Once home, Tim logged the service records into a spreadsheet that tracked the dates, mileage, and service/repairs. We were encouraged to see that the maintenance was kept up.
Then on Tuesday (the next day), Jeri picked up the minivan and drove it to our mechanic in Huntington Beach. Much to our delight, our mechanics (who had previously discouraged us from buying a “beautiful” Volvo wagon) gave the Sedona a clean bill of health. There were a few items (namely spark plug wires) that needed attention but nothing serious.
So Tim coordinated with John and met him at a Chase bank after work (close to the same bus stop near John’s house). The paperwork was completed and Tim gave John a cashier’s check. John then drove Tim to Huntington Beach so he could retrieve a few personal items from the van. Tim paid for the inspection (and smog check) and then drove the van home.
We are relieved that we’ve finally found a minivan. Not just any minivan, but one that is in very good condition and that should last for a while. The kids call it our “luxury” vehicle. We are very grateful that the Lord answers prayer and worked it all out.
Joanna was at Orange Coast College (O.C.C.) this semester when a friend of hers (named Alex) came up to her. Alex said “I almost said Hi to someone who looked just like you. But it couldn’t have been you because you were already at class.”
Because Joanna knew that Victoria had come to class that day, Joanna asked Alex what the girl’s hair looked like. Alex seemed to think that the mystery girl’s hair was short. Because Victoria has longer hair, Joanna figured that it must *not* have been Victoria. Then Alex said that the girl walked off and got in this really beat-up minivan. At that point, Joanna knew without a doubt that it was Victoria.
Our 1994 Dodge Caravan is severely rusted on the top and, by all accounts, is the ugliest looking vehicle seen thus far in the O.C.C. parking lot.
Today Jeri and Tim picked up a “new” car. It was a 1997 Subaru wagon with about 200,000 miles. We got it for cheap so the kids would have another vehicle to travel back and forth to community college. After picking up the car, they went to The Veggie Grill near the University of California Irvine. Both lunch and the weather were great.
The dessert that they are holding is the “Grilled Cookie” which is a large chocolate-chip, walnut cookie covered with chocolate pudding and chocolate sauce. It was delicious!
Today, December 31, 2013, we visited the mission at San Juan Capistrano. Jason got 11 complimentary tickets because the mission is a client of the graphic design company that he is working for. Tim worked a half day at Financial Tools. They picked him up in the van and we made the short drive down there.
The Mission was founded in 1776. They built the Great Stone Church which was the largest church at its time west of the Mississippi. Unfortunately an earthquake in 1812 destroyed most of the church. You can see the remains in the background.
The Mission had gardens, a vineyard, wine press, and much more.
They had a “hands-on” area for children to learn. They had blocks with instructions showing how to build a mission arch. As part of his work with the graphic design company, Jason designed the instructional graphic on the wall.
We spent a good part of Christmas eve wrapping presents. So we never got around to our “semi-tradition” of unwrapping one gift on Christmas Eve.
Because Financial Tools (Tim’s employer) was only open a half day on Christmas Eve, Tim worked the 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM shift (thanks to a co-worker who picked him up and dropped him off). So Tim and Jeri were up at 5:00 AM. Tim crashed on his bed around 10 PM.
Our church had a service on Christmas morning at 11 AM. So we didn’t have time to open presents before church. Getting home around 1 PM, we proceeded to have our Christmas Day dinner which was leftover Chinese carryout from the night before. We opted to skip the faux-turkey meal in lieu of something simpler. Hong Kong Express is a crowd-pleaser at our house.
After lunch cleanup was done, we had to take our annual Christmas photo. Here’s the picture.
Here’s Sarah in front of the tree.
Here’s Jeffrey with some of his presents. Note the top of the chip cans in the foreground.
On Sunday evening, December 15, 2013, our church presented a Christmas play called “A Christmas to Believe In.” Our family had some major roles in putting it together. It began a few months earlier when Elizabeth asked if we could do a play. Because Tim had directed a Christmas play at church a few years ago, he was reluctant to overcommit.
So Nicole and Joanna decided to give it a shot. They searched online and found a potential script. Pastor Steve reviewed it and had a few suggestions; his son, Justin Orman, revised it.
Next we needed the actors. Elizabeth easily recruited the her friends for the girl parts. When given a choice to playing in the Christmas recital or being in the play, Jeffrey decided to take a lead role in the play. Even though she wouldn’t have much time to rehearse until after her college classes finished, Joanna seemed to be a good fit for the other main role. Pastor Steve encouraged some of the buys and young men to help out. So our cast was set.
Rehearsals were Sunday afternoons. Because we didn’t start practicing until November and because this play involved younger children, it seemed like we might have started too late. Even one week before the performance, the play was far from being ready. However it started to come together during our final rehearsal (which was just hours before the performance).
Nicole was the director; Victoria was her assistant. Jeri helped coordinate miscellaneous details. Tim oversaw the production. Joanna, Jeffrey, Elizabeth, and Josiah all had parts. Josiah and another young boy were crowd favorites as they first played shepherds and sang “Away in a Manger.” Then later, they were wise men and sang “We Two Kings.”
We received a lot of favorable comments including one person who said, “That was the best play that the church has ever done.”
Here are some photos. Click on an image to see it full size.