Friday, December 20, 2019

Weston Family 2019: The Focus of Our Lives

December 2019

Dear Friends & Family,

2019 was a Ticket to Ride year of travel and adventure for our family! We took several routes and stopped at many glorious destinations; yet, we maintained a continuous path of progress toward new horizons. On our journey, whether we were heading down a straight-away or making switches at a junction, each train car played an important role.

Box Car: Much of our year is linked by learning over days, weeks, and months of homeschooling versatility. This was a year of “less is more” as the commitment required from each student became more intense, requiring greater selectivity. All three kids performed in StarStruck Theatre’s Shrek the Musical, participated in church activities and service projects. Madeline (13) read like a fiend, continued in 4-H and attended her core classes at our charter school resource center. Max (15) preferred more online learning, supplementing with in-person Chemistry labs, and lots of free reading. Natalie and Max participated in Seminary, studying the New Testament, and delighted in attending church dances. Madeline is looking forward to attending both dances and Seminary in 2020!

Tanker: Our most remarkable family member this past year was Natalie (17). Not only did she get her driver’s license, graduate from high school one year early, start attending Ohlone College full time, and work her first part-time job at our friend’s bakery, but Natalie also enrolled in a nine-month course to earn her FootZonology certificate! We are truly blessed to watch Natalie taking on the responsibilities of transporting her siblings, studying hard for her courses, gleaning job skills, and bolstering the health of her family and friends.

Passenger Car: Six years ago we began raising our first puppy for Guide Dogs for the Blind and this year we started a new puppy-in-training, “Jogger.” We picked up Jogger in February, at ten weeks old, and just celebrated his first birthday. As puppy raisers, we will be working on all basic training and socialization until Jogger goes to "college" at Guide Dogs for the Blind between fifteen and twenty months of age. We thoroughly enjoy having such a sweet Labrador Retriever in our home, especially Sammy and Lucy. If you're interested in the process behind raising and training these amazing dogs and the commendable work they do guiding the visually impaired, watch Pick of the Litter: A Dogumentary. The film received such a positive response, Disney Plus is now airing a Pick of the Litter series, based on the original documentary!

Reefer: How did we “chill” over the summer? We spent many Days of Wonder visiting Peru on a multi-sport tour through gAdventures -- biking the Sacred Valley, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain, and kayaking Lake Titicaca; hiking from the North to the South Rim at the Grand Canyon (Madeline, Janine & friends); and exploring the shores of Kauai with Grandma Laurie via hike, bike, kayak, snorkel and catamaran, culminating with a one-year memorial for Grandpa Dana on the beach.

Freight Car: Abe has been working in Trust & Safety at Google for almost five glorious years and traveled to Tokyo, Japan with his team in October. Janine is working her tenth school year as an Education Specialist at Connecting Waters Charter Schools and coordinates classes at our resource center. As a team, we are funding this operation called life and look forward to retiring some day.

Hopper: Exercise keeps us all strong, flexible, and balanced these days! We add yoga, cycling, and hiking to our dog-walking core for a routine that can’t be beat while we log many miles of great conversations, explore local neighborhoods and trails together. We have nothing but pure love and gratitude for our four-footed pals who celebrate each walk with much enthusiasm and a sense of adventure!

Coal Car: Over the year we’ve improved in fueling our bodies with a vegan diet -- cooking and eating vegan has become a natural part of our lifestyle and keeps us healthier than ever before! If you’re even considering transitioning to a vegan diet, The Game Changers is an eye-opening documentary to watch. As Hippocrates endorsed, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Our main staples are fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables from weekly produce boxes, around which all meals build themselves. In addition, Madeline and Natalie have taken on the challenge of making the most delightful vegan treats -- chocolate mousse cake, caramel apples, pumpkin and apple pie-in-a-jar, blueberry muffins, chocolate-covered matzo, caramel turtles and more!

Caboose: Little Red Hen Ranch has closed its gates and the chickens have moved on to greener pastures, finding excellent homes with several families from our 4-H club. It was difficult to admit that our teenage kids were interested in other things besides chickens, but that’s the beauty of growing up! We’ve spent the last eight years raising and selling pullets for egg-laying and that business has come to an end with the decade! Plus, it’s been years since we’ve stopped eating eggs and although we loved giving eggs as gifts, we are ready to reclaim our backyard orchard and get some more trees established in the nitrogen-rich soil, compliments of the chickens!

Locomotive: As the wise Russel M. Nelson once said, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” As we go down the tracks of life, whether inching by or barreling forward, we are so grateful to celebrate Christ, the true locomotive, who keeps us heading in the right direction if we yet maintain our focus on Him.

Happy Holidays! Come and visit us in 2020 for a meal, a chat, a walk, a foot-zone, or a puppy hug!


The Westons
Abe, Janine, Natalie (17), Max (15), Madeline (13), Sammy (11), Lucy (2.5), Jogger (1) & Catniss (7)

Got your tracks straight?
See if you can match each train car with its role:

Box Car
Passenger Car
Freight Car
Coal Car


This car transports loose bulk commodities such as coal, ore, grain, and track ballast.

Enclosed and generally used to carry freight. This car, while not the simplest freight car design, is probably the most versatile since it can carry most loads.

This tender car is a special rail vehicle hauled by a steam locomotive containing its fuel (wood, coal, or oil) and water. Steam locomotives consume large quantities of water compared to the quantity of fuel, so these cars are necessary to keep them running over long distances.

This engine is a rail transport vehicle that provides the motive power for a train.

This car transports cargo all or some of the way between the shipper and the intended destination as part of the logistics chain.

This is a manned North American railroad car coupled at the end of a freight train. Provides shelter for crew at the end of a train, formerly required in switching and shunting, keeping a lookout for load shifting, damage to equipment and cargo, and overheating axles.

This piece of railway rolling stock is designed to carry passengers. Can also be associated with a sleeping car, baggage, dining, railway post office and prisoner transport cars.

This car is designed to transport liquid and gaseous commodities.

This is a refrigerated box car.

Check your answers at:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Weston Family 2018: Love and Comfort

December 2018

Dear Friends and Family,

2018 was a year of loss and healing. Watching my father’s health steadily decline over six years while he fought for his life, was emotionally crushing. In July, he lost his battle with brain cancer. Our family is so heartbroken in the absence of such a great man. We are so grateful for the warmth, sunshine, and smiles you bring to our lives each day, giving us faith, hope, and love.

I have so many wonderful memories of my dad. Having such a good father has made all the difference in my life. He was a pillar of strength, support and discipline. His work was endless and, oftentimes, thankless--tutoring me in math and chemistry late at night, assisting with science fair projects, constructing enclosures for our mini barnyard of animals, leading us on countless outdoor adventures and more! In the end, it shows in the sound, well-adjusted children he has raised. That influence carries on to grandchildren and future progeny as well. Here is a memory I shared with my dad that caused him to laugh out loud when he heard it:

Your mantra has always been “careful and persistent effort.” One of my favorite memories demonstrating your diligence and commitment to excellence is your tackling the project of using a hacksaw to extricate the finger of our little neighbor friend, Tessa, out of the bolt lock on the front door when she stuck her finger in and couldn't get it out. You calmly instructed us to comfort the tearful Tessa, try various lubricants, and keep the swelling down with ice, as you sawed away to remove a small piece of the upper bolt to allow Tessa to slide her finger out without a scratch! To this day, the bolt is missing that precious piece and occasionally catches on clothing as we breeze through the door to remind us of your ceaseless care and concern to help others in panic situations.

Years ago I read the book, Lulu Walks the Dogs by Judith Viorst, aloud to my kids. Madeline was so inspired, she wanted to start her own dog-walking business. I couldn’t fathom adding one more commitment into our lives and didn't see how we could have a dog walking business with such a busy schedule, BUT, she is my father’s grandchild. Persistent. Fast forward five years to January 2018 and with the support of Rover and Wag! apps, we have completed over 200 dog walks, trekked over 1,000 miles, earned over $5,000, and donated 10% to animal rescue organizations. We get exercise (this is our new our new “homeschool PE” program), meet amazing dogs, and do service for pets in need--what a win-win situation! At the close of this year, I realize that this surge of physical activity and animal therapy is just what we needed to continue to press forward after my dad’s death. We are so grateful to all of our clients and their furry friends for helping us, albeit unknowingly, to fill the painful void of losing such an amazing father and grandfather to our family.

We have all been blessed to be part of Dana Allen’s life. I am so grateful to reflect many of the same wonderful attributes my dad possessed: diligent, honest, committed, good-humored, imaginative, nature-enthusiast, adventurous, persistent, supportive, disciplined, service-oriented, positive, and hopeful. He lives on in me, my mom, my sister, our children, and so on. I have tremendous love for my dad, all that he was, and all that he is, as he watches over us. I am at peace knowing he lived each day of his rich life to the fullest.

May you feel the LOVE and COMFORT of the SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, in your life this time of year.


The Westons
Abe, Janine, Natalie (16), Max (14), Madeline (12), Sammy (10) & Lucy (18 mo)

P.S. Just for fun...

The Twelve Dog Walks of Christmas
DIRECTIONS: Match each dog with its breed while singing the song.

On the FIRST day of Christmas my children walked with me: a Wiggly Yellow Labrador Puppy!

On the SECOND day of Christmas my children walked with me: 2 Jack Russells and...↺

On the THIRD day of Christmas my children walked with me: 3 French Bulldogs...↺

On the FOURTH day of Christmas my children walked with me: 4 Boxers...↺

On the FIFTH day of Christmas my children walked with me: 5 Golden Retrievers...↺

On the SIXTH day of Christmas my children walked with me: 6 Mixed-Breeds...↺

On the SEVENTH day of Christmas my children walked with me: 7 Springer Spaniels...↺

On the EIGHTH day of Christmas my children walked with me: 8 Pembroke Welsh Corgis...↺

On the NINTH day of Christmas my children walked with me: 9 Boston Terriers...↺

On the TENTH day of Christmas my children walked with me: 10 Old English Sheepdogs...↺

On the ELEVENTH day of Christmas my children walked with me: 11 Goldendoodles...↺

On the TWELFTH day of Christmas my children walked with me:
12 Great Danes
11 Goldendoodles
10 Old English Sheepdogs
9 Boston Terriers
8 Pembroke Welsh Corgis
7 Springer Spaniels
6 Mixed-Breeds
5 Golden Retrievers
4 Boxers
3 French Bulldogs
2 Jack Russells
and a Wiggly Yellow Labrador Puppy!

Dogs from top to bottom: Sadie = Great Dane; Carter = Yellow Labrador Retriever; Lucy = Jack Russell Terrier; Martha = Old English Sheepdog; Dodge = French Bulldog; Chester = Boston Terrier; Roxy = Pembroke Welsh Corgi; Peanut = Boxer; Cooper = Golden Retriever; Hero = Goldendoodle; Aubree = Mixed-breed; Bodie = Welsh Springer Spaniel.

And a BIG thank you to the two sweet pups who got us started, Summer (Maltese, Poodle & Shih Tzu) & Mochi (Maltese & Poodle)!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Weston Family 2017: POP QUIZ!

It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things, 2 Ne. 2:11.
DIRECTIONS: Match each TRIAL with its corresponding BLESSING.

  1. Due to health challenges, Abe chose to remove all inflammatory foods from his diet.
  2. We returned sweet Kiko, the puppy we co-raised for Guide Dogs for the Blind, back to headquarters in San Rafael for evaluation and further training.
  3. Barbary Grant took a sabbatical after 10 years of conducting the kids’ East Bay Homeschool Choir.
  4. Our beloved 14-year-old Labrador Retriever, Rosie, passed away.
  5. The tenants above the rental condo flooded our downstairs unit. Twice.
  6. As a family, we cumulatively logged hundreds of hours of auditions, carpooling, rehearsals, and volunteering with StarStruck Theatre.
  7. Grandpa Dana’s brain cancer returned--it was back to UCLA again for surgery followed by another long road of recovery.
  8. New Haven Unified School District denied our Charter Petition for an East Bay Connecting Waters school.
  9. Due to excessive rain and damage to trails in the spring, Madeline, Janine, and friends weren’t able to hike the 30-mile Ohlone Wilderness Trail from Livermore to Fremont.
  10. The opossums, hawks, and raccoons created losses for Little Red Hen Ranch.
  11. For 3 days, Natalie & Janine pushed handcarts over 15 miles in 90+-degree heat.
  12. Chemistry.
  13. Max attended middle school for 2 weeks of his tweenage life.
  14. We couldn’t use the heater this winter due to a mouse infestation in the ductwork.

  1. As a culmination to the semester, she arranged for the kids to record their winter show for TV at the Studio 32 MidPen Media Center in Palo Alto!
  2. We prioritized many visits to Southern California to provide support, love, and puppy kisses!
  3. We got a cozy electric fireplace to warm our hearts and souls!
  4. An aunt with a PhD in this subject ROCKS!
  5. After earning straight As, he concluded homeschooling suited him better and recommitted himself to excellence in education!
  6. Grain-free veganism is not so bad after all!
  7. Nothing like a good ol’ pioneer experience to learn gratitude for little things!
  8. With room at the inn, we traveled to New England to bring home a feisty, canine member to our family: Connemara Terrier, Lucy June!
  9. 10 months later, we were honored to attend Kiko’s Dogs 4 Diabetics graduation as Katie’s medical alert assistance dog!
  10. We had always wanted to remodel the kitchen--thank you Farmer’s Insurance!
  11. All three kids performed in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (Natalie played Lucy) and we’re currently preparing for James and the Giant Peach!
  12. The seven savages completed the 14-hour trek on one November day instead!
  13. Alameda County chartered Connecting Waters, East Bay and we secured a site for our resource center!
  14. Despite the overhead expenses, the kids still made a profit!

They taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good, Moses 6:55.
Answers: 1=F, 2=I, 3=A, 4=H, 5=J, 6=K, 7=B, 8=M, 9=L, 10=N, 11=G, 12=D, 13=E, 14=C

2017 Photo Albums:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Weston Family Superheroes Light the World

Weston Family Superheroes Light the World

This December our super family is focusing on following Christ’s example as we serve those around us. Just like superheroes, we each have talents and abilities that help us find a unique approach to serving and loving mankind. This Christmas season, we focus on ways to #LIGHTtheWORLD.

  • Alias: MadDog 
  • Costume: dog hat, clogs, and bait-bag filled with treats 
  • Occupation by Day: homeschooling fifth-grader, dog-trainer, chicken-wrangler, singer, dancer, actress, artist 
  • Superpowers: training guide dog puppies for the blind 
  • Weapon: six-foot leather leash 
  • Amazing Feats of 2016: co-raising guide dog puppy, Kiko; hiking 22 miles of the Ohlone Wilderness Trail from Sunol to Del Valle in a single day; taking Sammy to his first barn hunt practice; performing in Bye, Bye Birdie, Jr.; winning “prettiest” for her prima ballerina costume in the chicken dress-up contest at Alameda County Fair; and rehearsing as a sheep and Dream Chorus member in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with StarStruck Theatre. 
  • Lights the World by...donating a box full of dog and cat toys, blankets, and supplies to Tri City Animal Shelter. 
  • Alias: Class Clown 
  • Costume: ummmm...clothes? 
  • Occupation by Day: homeschooling seventh-grader, scouter, minecrafter, drummer, singer, dancer, actor, artist 
  • Powers: uncanny ability to make people laugh; also good at killing flies 
  • Weapon: sharp wit 
  • Physical Weaknesses: hot water (makes him “ow!” like Michael Jackson) 
  • Likes: when people laugh 
  • Amazing Feats of 2016: Killing 3 flies with one swat; performing in Bye, Bye Birdie, Jr.; winning “most creative” for his Hamburg-er Helper costume in the chicken dress-up contest at Alameda County Fair; and rehearsing as a member of the Dream Chorus of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with StarStruck Theatre. 
  • Lights the World by...collecting and sorting over 100 pounds of candy for Treats for Troops. 
  • Alias: Chicken Lady 
  • Costume: chicken hat, yoga pants, and combat boots, no Cape--it scares the chickens
  • Occupation by Day: homeschooling high schooler, seminary student, artist, ukuleleist, reader, author, singer, dancer, actress, chicken hypnotist at Little Red Hen Ranch 
  • Superpowers: speaking to animals, journal-wrecking, apple-eating (3+ per day), non-stop dancing at ALL the church dances 
  • Weapons: Hypnotic singing voice, bow that shoots super pointy colored pencil arrows
  • Amazing Feats of 2016: performing in Bye, Bye Birdie, Jr.; backpacking Point Reyes with Triathamom; winning “judges’ favorite” for her French Maid costume in the chicken dress-up contest at Alameda County Fair; surviving her first semester of high school; and rehearsing as a member of the Dream Chorus of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with StarStruck Theatre. 
  • Lights the World by...collecting new shoes to donate to 
  • Alias: Triathamom 
  • Costume: spandex, sparkly skirt, & trail runners--no cape as the drag would only slow her down 
  • Occupation by Day: teacher, photographer, travel agent, taxi driver, cook, event coordinator
  • Superpowers: lightening speed spin and running workouts before the crack of dawn 
  • Power Limitations: passes out at 9pm 
  • Abilities: agile, strong, flexible, multi-tasker, organizer 
  • Weapons: yoga mat & strap
  • Physical Weaknesses: dried apricots 
  • Mental/Emotional Weaknesses: takes things too seriously 
  • Romantic Interests: The Garbageman 
  • Amazing Feats of 2016: joining forces with her truly amazing friends while backpacking Point Reyes with a herd of teenage girls; hiking Mt. Whitney in a single bound; and running the Skyline to the Sea Trail Marathon. 
  • Lights the World by...coordinating community service projects for homeschool, 4-H, and church youth--see her Facebook page for more ways she has found to #LIGHTtheWORLD this month. 
  • Alias: The Garbageman 
  • Costume: latex gloves, shield that resembles a garbage can lid--no cape 
  • Occupation by Day: trust & safety for the online community, commuter, movie-watcher, dishwasher, and garbage collector 
  • Superpowers: Walking in slow motion; sleeping while driving; getting hurt without getting hurt; multitasking while listening to audiobooks; stretching without being flexible; transferring large quantities of liquid from the break room to the urinal; sitting for extended periods of time; and telling jokes that are funny because they are not funny. 
  • Physical Weaknesses: yes 
  • Mental/Emotional Weaknesses: sweetness 
  • Romantic Interests: Triathamom 
  • Amazing Feats of 2016: Supporting our family and taking out the garbage every week. :)
  • Lights the World by...assisting job seekers with the job search and application process.
Happy Holidays
The Weston family loves Christmas because of the ways it inspires us all to show even greater love for others. We are striving to be more Christ-like this Christmas season by finding creative ways to serve others in need. We urge you to join us in taking on the challenge to continue our small acts of kindness through 2017 and beyond!


The Westons
2016 Weston Family Photos

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Westons: Love, Peace, Faith, Hope & Charity in 2015

The Westons are not ones for cross words, BUT we hope you have a few minutes this holiday season to solve our 2015 Weston Family Crossword Puzzle and find out what we've been up to this past year!

HINT: before you tackle the crossword puzzle, view photos with helpful captions in our 2015 Weston Family Album.