Sunday, December 24, 2023

Weston Family 2023: Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Dear Friends & Family,

We have made the switch to digital cards! Please keep us updated with your current email address so we can continue to reach you over the years.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” -- Matthew 5:9

This has been a year of making space in our hearts and lives for dedicated efforts toward peacemaking in our communities--listening, inviting, serving and sharing! 

Madeline (17) is performing in Disney’s The Little Mermaid musical with StarStruck Theatre this January, as Arista, one of the mersisters and princesses. Madeline continues to raise our sixth and seventh puppies with Janine for GDB and they are currently working with Rhonda (1 year) and Timber (6 months), both yellow Labrador Retrievers. For fun and fitness, Madeline takes dressage lessons weekly and has enjoyed riding, caring for and learning from Brandee, Norman and Graham this year. Favorite foods are pomegranates from the garden and vegan charcuterie boards. One of her memorable reads has been The Sign for Home. Madeline graduated from high school and works on her pre-nursing studies for a local RN program. Her favorite class this past semester was “History of Rock ‘n’ Roll” where she discovered many new songs to add to her playlists. While doing chores around the house, Madeline delights in listening to podcasts.

Max (19) has even longer hair this year! In addition to growing his hair, he is an essential worker in our home, helping with tending to and walking the pups on a daily basis. Max continues full-time at Ohlone College, planning to transfer to a four-year university to study Computer Science. He enjoys the challenge of his Discrete Structures and Assembly Language programming courses. Max’s favorite read this year has been Shantaram: A Novel. Max will also be participating in the upcoming winter StarStruck show, The Little Mermaid, as a sailor, chef and ensemble member. Max and Madeline have been doing collaborative baking to explore various versions of vegan and gluten-free pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, Nantucket cranberry pie, and cranberry orange scones. Most importantly, his dentist says, due to his detailed dental routine, Max has great teeth!

Natalie (21) is away on her 18-month Spanish-speaking mission in Morristown, New Jersey area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She has been busy inviting others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Her favorite activities include knocking, street contacting, teaching, and helping people learn English in New Jersey and New York. Books she has been reading are The Book of Mormon and Preach My Gospel and engages in the daily practice of praying and studying the scriptures. Blessed to serve people from many cultures, her new favorite foods are tostones, pupusas and ceviche. Her companions have been lovely and we look forward to her email updates and speaking with her on a weekly basis. Upon her return, she will work over the summer and then head back to Cal Poly to finish her bachelor's of science degree in Food Science. 

Janine has become enchanted with her filly, Marseille, as she and Madeline work with an instructor to practice hands-on techniques for applying positive reinforcement training and creating a solid foundation for confidence and trust over time. Janine continues taking weekly dressage lessons on Wynona to continue her education and skills. Janine and Madeline continue doing therapy team evaluations at Washington Hospital for Pet Partners to help bring more joy and friendly visits to help heal the world! A new role for Janine includes serving as a co-leader for the GDB puppy-raising club in Fremont. A favorite recent read is Eat Like the Animals: What Nature Teaches Us About the Science of Healthy Eating. Janine continues her 14th year as a teacher with Connecting Waters Charter Schools, also loves teaching high school health and hopes to launch a new CTE Animal Science pathway at CWCS! At church, Janine supports the Relief Society presidency as their secretary.

Abe is still employed with Google and goes into the office a couple of days each week. Again, he was fortunate to travel to Singapore to collaborate with colleagues. In his free time, he watches movies, studies French and Spanish on Duo Lingo, plays guitar and piano, juggles, does yoga, hikes, hits tennis balls, cycles, kayaks, plays online chess, writes, listens to audio books, does beekeeping, gardens, plays VR boxing, and meditates daily. His favorite recent read has been Becoming Supernatural: How Common People are Doing the Uncommon. New this year, Abe joined a local Rotary club and plans to do some travel for service-based projects. 

As a family (minus Natalie), we traveled to Maui, Thousand Oaks (with cousin Shawn), and Lake Tahoe (with Janine’s mom and sister’s family). 

As 2023 wraps up, we are grateful for all of our many blessings and trials as we reflect and recharge our batteries with family and friends.

Happy Holidays!


The Westons

Abe, Janine, Natalie (21), Max (19), Madeline (17), Sammy (15), Lucy (6), Lettie (3), Rhonda (1 year), Timber (6 months) & Catniss (11)

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Weston Family 2022: Dreaming Big

Dear Friends & Family,

The time has come...this is the year we are making the switch to digital cards! Please keep us updated with your current email address so we can continue to reach you over the years.

In the wise words of Harriet Tubman, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” We have truly been living life to the fullest, dreaming big, and doing more of what matters most! 

Madeline (16) entertained us over the summer with her roles in Les Miserables and is performing in Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical with StarStruck Theatre this January. We were blessed with the opportunity to adopt Lettie, one of our Guide Dogs for the Blind pups that was career-changed for low confidence. Madeline and Janine have evaluated and registered with Pet Partners to do volunteer therapy work with Lettie, who is turning out to be a fantastic ambassador and beloved pet dog. Madeline continues to raise puppies with Janine for GDB and they are currently working with Bayshore, an 11-month-old sweet, female, Golden-Lab cross. For fun and fitness, Madeline takes dressage lessons weekly and has enjoyed riding, caring for and learning from geldings, Maverick, Norman and Graham this year. Madeline will graduate from independent study public charter school, Connecting Waters East Bay, in May 2023, and continue her general education studies at Ohlone College in Fremont. She enjoys having her driver’s license and her parents appreciate not having to chauffeur to all activities!

Max (18) officially gets the “best hair” award in our family for the most luscious locks! What started out as part of his Les Miserables revolutionary role in his summer performances, has persisted as a long term hair statement. Max graduated high school in May and is now full-time at Ohlone College, planning to transfer to a four-year university to study Computer Science. He enjoys the challenge of his Calculus, C++ and Python programming courses. For strength and flexibility, Max took a yoga class this semester and was surprised by how enjoyable regular yoga practice can be. He has adopted a new healthy habit to complement his aerobic dog walking activities. Max will also be participating in the upcoming winter StarStruck show, Matilda, as a backstage tech and looks forward to supporting the cast. This spring will find us touring California college campuses as Max searches for a good fit for his transfer in fall of 2024.

Natalie (20) is momentarily home from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo after a jam-packed year of dorm life, food science courses, pistachio, jam (literally jam-packed) and chocolaterie internships, country line dancing, and concert serenades with the award-winning Cal Poly Women’s Choir. She is currently preparing to serve an 18-month Spanish-speaking mission in Morristown, New Jersey area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Upon her return, she will head back to Poly to finish her bachelor's of science degree in Food Science. She will be departing for Mexico City for her Spanish intensive in mid-January, so be sure to send her your email if you’d like weekly updates while she is away. We are going to miss her but we know she will be a shining star to those she serves!

Janine never imagined she would find herself wanting another little one to tend to, but her dreams of having her own again have persisted...and we decided it was time! We will be welcoming a new member to our family in 2023! Sweet Marseille is a 1.5-year-old Spanish filly and dressage prospect from Ketcham Ranch. Marseille will be traveling down from Oregon soon to start her groundwork training and keep Janine occupied now that our human children are becoming more independent. In the meantime, Janine continues taking weekly dressage lessons and has been fortunate to partner in practice with Wynona, a Hanovarian mare, to continue her education and skills. She is grateful for the supportive community of barn managers, horse owners, trainers, clinicians, farriers and caretakers at Arriba Vista Ranch who make her horse world go round! Janine continues to teach, her 13th year with Connecting Waters Charter Schools, and has added a high school health course to her duties this year.

Abe is still employed with Google and mostly works from home. This year, he was fortunate to travel to Singapore to collaborate with colleagues. In his free time, he knits sweaters for his hot tea mugs, studies French and Spanish, plays guitar and piano, juggles, does yoga, hikes, cycles, kayaks, plays online chess, writes, reads, gardens and eats oatmeal with vegan butter every morning. When a butter shortage occurred, he tried putting olive oil in the oatmeal instead of butter because it was strongly encouraged as a healthier option, but found the perfect balance to be off when combined with honey and salt, so he held out by eating toast with peanut butter and honey until butter was restored to the fridge.

As a family, we traveled to Moloka'i, Hawaii, Costa Rica (minus Natalie who was at an internship), Thousand Oaks and Lake Tahoe. We also enjoyed hosting teen students from France in the spring and summer.

It’s never too late to start making your hopes, dreams and aspirations come true, with a bit of faith, passion, and plenty of hard work! We delight in hearing how your dreams are developing, celebrating your successes, and cheering you on! You got this!!!

Happy Holidays!


The Westons

Abe, Janine, Natalie (20), Max (18), Madeline (16), Sammy (14), Lucy (5), Lettie (2), Bayshore (11 months) & Catniss (10)

Weston Family Letter 2022 (PDF w/ photos)

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Weston Family 2021: Focus On What You Love


Dear Friends & Family,

With the continuing challenges of the pandemic, the importance of mental health has come to the forefront. It is in our nature to feel the need to resume and sustain connection with others. Creativity keeps us engaged with others and faithful in enduring hardships. In a beautifully illustrated book, The Boy, the Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, the characters learn wonderful life lessons from one another. The horse reminds the boy, "when the big things feel out of control...focus on what you love right under your nose.” Through the trials of life, sometimes simplifying and focusing on what we love can bring about the greatest healing. Here are some ways we have fallen in love this year:

Netflix = fun
Netflix = lazy
knitting = sort of fun
knitting != lazy
Netflix + knitting = fun
Netflix + knitting != lazy
Therefore, Netflix + knitting

I love having horses back in my life! Madeline was my spark, who asked if she could start taking riding lessons and found a barn with talented trainers where we could learn and grow. We are grateful to be entrusted to lease two precious horses, Roberto and Wynona, so that we can strengthen foundational relationships and practice our riding skills. Over the course of marriage, children, and work responsibilities I had forgotten how much horses matter to me. My soul has been starving for the equine connection and I feel whole again--horses are where I find the greatest peace and healing. Heavenly Father has blessed me this last year with rich opportunities to connect with these magnificent creatures. They strengthen my self-awareness and my relationships with others. Horses ground me. They are an essential part of who I am. I am thankful my children remind me to reconnect with my interests, talents and passions from my youth!

One thing I have loved this year is having the opportunity to attend my first quarter at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo as a new transfer student and a Food Science major. I have loved launching back into in-person classes, learning from some incredible professors, and making many new friends at the SLO Young Single Adult ward. I have also enjoyed living with three incredible, kind roommates. My roommates and I share a love of plants, and collectively have about thirty houseplants flourishing in our apartment. It has also brought me great joy to be a part of Cal Poly’s Advanced Women’s Chorus, which will be performing at the California All-State Music Education Conference in February. I love singing and am grateful for the opportunity to participate in such a beautiful choir. However, as much as I love being at Cal Poly, I miss my family and the dogs dearly and am happy to be home to spend time with them during Christmas break.

Something I have loved immensely in 2021 is the opportunity to perform in a musical with Starstruck Theatre, Frozen Jr. 2020 and 2021 have not been good years for social interaction, so I appreciate more than ever the chance to see my friends and create something with them. Even after years of doing musical theater, the experience is still refreshing and I am grateful for it.

If I was asked the question “What do you love?” last year, I wouldn’t have had an answer because honestly, before this year I didn’t really know. Though the COVID-19 pandemic brought pain and sadness for many, I am lucky to say that I feel like I personally benefited from it. With everything that was cancelled, I found myself realizing what I didn’t enjoy as well as valuing what I loved more than ever before! I was able to find hidden talents, improve in ones that I loved, and challenge myself. What do I love? I love Guide Dogs for the Blind who have given my Mom and I the opportunity to raise Lettie, the most precious little dog. I love Starstruck Theatre where I am able to develop myself as an actress surrounded by many talented people. I love Arriba Vista Ranch where I have learned hard work as well as the power of horses. I love cooking and being able to create something challenging as well as enjoyable. I love my family for the opportunities and support that they have provided for me. And though it might be an unpopular opinion, I love the COVID-19 pandemic for showing me what really matters.

Looking forward to getting together in-person and hearing how you have fallen in love in 2022!

Happy Holidays!


The Westons

Abe, Janine, Natalie (19), Max (17), Madeline (15), Sammy (13), Lucy (4), Lettie (15 months) & Catniss (9)

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Weston Family 2020: Anxiously Engaged In a Good Cause


December 2020

Dear Friends & Family,

2020 was quite different from what we had originally planned, but as we all know, life is what happens while we are busy making other plans! During this year of pandemic and sheltering-in-place, we have learned that great things are brought about and burdens are lightened through the efforts of many hands “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27). Despite the challenging financial, social, emotional, educational, spiritual and physical impacts of this year’s pandemic on humankind, we have witnessed the goodness of others and made our own efforts to uplift those around us.


Keep calm and stay home? For a social family like ours, keeping ourselves happily engaged at home seemed to be quite the challenge, at least initially! Perhaps starting up a new hobby would keep us busy? What better way to focus on the intricacies of communal contributions than becoming beekeepers! Many classes, books, equipment purchases and hours of hands-on practice later, we successfully started, tended and reaped the sweet rewards of keeping bees. These new insect friends of ours generously shared about twenty pounds of their first season’s harvest of delicious Fremont blend honey, which we bottled in jars! We have so much more to learn on our journey and have the pandemic to thank for the extra time we were able to spend immersing ourselves in the fascinating world of beekeeping!

In his talk, Be Anxiously Engaged, Elder M. Russell Ballard said,

"It is estimated that to produce just one pound of honey, the average hive of 20,000 to 60,000 bees must collectively visit millions of flowers and travel the equivalent of two times around the world. Over its short lifetime of just a few weeks to four months, a single honeybee’s contribution of honey to its hive is a mere one-twelfth of one teaspoon.

Though seemingly insignificant when compared to the total, each bee’s one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey is vital to the life of the hive. The bees depend on each other. Work that would be overwhelming for a few bees to do becomes lighter because all of the bees faithfully do their part."

It is worth considering, “what can we accomplish in the world if we function like a beehive in our focused, concentrated commitment to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ--to love God and to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves?”


Inspired by a friend from church who regularly set up a porch snack bar for delivery persons during the holidays, we set out to create a “Thank you for delivering! Please take snacks!” aid station at our house this year. With all of the extra online orders we were placing to avoid going out to the stores, the weary delivery drivers could count on us for some nourishment along their never-ending routes. Our family continues to maintain a “snack shack” to allow for contactless deliveries and the provision of sweet and savory snacks, water, masks and more, to the delivery people we depend on. It is a great feeling to put smiles on the faces of the overwhelmed and hardworking! If you’re ever in the neighborhood and in need of a snack, please stop by!

In January, Janine volunteered to assist with the animal-assisted therapy program for Ohlone Humane Society, and accepted the challenge of becoming the new director! This resulted in her pursuing further training and registration as a therapy animal Team Evaluator for Pet Partners and the establishment of the new Pet Partners @ Ohlone Humane Society Community Group. We are grateful to Kim at Elite Sports Physical Therapy who generously allowed us to utilize her space for our first day of team evaluations in October. Our therapy-animal teams are preparing to resume visits to libraries, schools, assisted living facilities and more, once it is safe to do so. We are actively recruiting local handlers that are interested in sharing their loving animal with those in need. If you have an especially well-socialized animal companion who loves to interact with people, consider registering with Pet Partners and volunteering in the community!

Puppy-raising has now become a lifestyle for our family! It takes on average 251 volunteers to help a single puppy become a guide dog and we are honored to be a part of that group. For twenty months we were blessed with raising Jogger, a confident, strapping, male yellow Labrador Retriever. In August, with tears in our eyes, we dropped him off for his evaluations at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael and awaited news of his future career. Upon finding out he would be utilized as a breeder, we couldn’t be more proud of Jogger! We then put in an application for our next puppy and waited three painful months. Finally, we got the long-awaited call and in mid-November, we picked up Lettie! Lettie is a Labrador and Golden Retriever cross and has stolen our hearts with her sweet, loving temperament and trainability. She is a rockstar 12-week-old puppy and is making fantastic progress in learning basic commands and housemanners. Just like children, every puppy is different and comes with their own strengths, talents, and quirks, but we love them just the same! We are so blessed to have a puppy in our home again, especially over the holidays and through the most recent shelter-in-place mandate. Lettie is loving us through the hardships of life--we are grateful for the opportunity to raise her to become a stellar service dog!

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, our regular weekly in-person attendance at church for meetings and youth activities suddenly moved online! In addition, we are now doing more virtual and phone ministering visits--which has been challenging to say the least! Our organizations have creatively supported our members with outdoor and socially-distanced Seminary graduation, youth games and campfires, women’s get-to-know-you activities, and a family holiday lights viewing caravan. Our ward has even held a virtual Primary program, musical performances, and social events for sharing Christmas memories. We have been busy learning and utilizing new tools for scheduling, organizing, marketing and hosting activities and meetings from a distance!

Working & Studying

We love and care for our co-workers and their families! Abe continues his work in Trust & Safety at Google and enjoys the camaraderie of the members of his “Mobsters” team. He delights in the success of his coworkers and encourages positivity in their teamwork. With many of his team members in Singapore, Abe creatively collaborates online on Singapore Standard Time and enjoys having a flexible work day from home to allow time for family, exercise and hobbies.

This year, on top of supervising a full roster of K-12 students, Janine is overseeing students in Advanced Interior Design and Early Childhood Education and continues mentoring new Education Specialists. In addition, as the Lead Teacher for parent support at Connecting Waters East Bay, she supports many families by facilitating online Parent Advisory Council meetings and coordinating classes at the Union City resource center where we are hiring for a Site Assistant (just in case you are looking for a job)!

Natalie began a new job at Vitality Bowls this year, learning about all of the health benefits of each superfood ingredient in the smoothie bowls, smoothies, juices and other snacks. In the midst of earning straight As in her intense Ohlone College coursework, attending online class meetings, and managing her virtual social life, Natalie submitted applications to transfer in fall of 2021 to complete her undergraduate degree and excitedly awaits to find out where she has been accepted this spring!

Max, Madeline and Janine continue to offer local dog walking and sitting through Rover. Together, they learn about responsibility and dependability while exercising, learning, earning and getting to know our neighbors and their pets! Max completed Driver’s Education, got his permit, and has been polishing his driving skills in preparation for the driving test, when the DMV opens again.

Madeline enrolled in a Career and Technical Education pathway, Culinary Arts, this schoolyear, and is thoroughly enjoying the weekly hands-on cooking and baking projects, from composed salad to cake decorating. She has become a whiz in the kitchen, documents her creations with gorgeous photos, and easily converts any recipe to a vegan, gluten-free version! We all benefit by getting to sample her fabulous creations!

To keep our minds sharp and pursue lifelong education, our whole family has been reading and listening to everything from books on beekeeping, self-help, gripping novels, informational textbooks, memoirs, picture books, compilations, histories, autobiographies, National Geographic magazines and especially the Book of Mormon! More importantly, we are applying what we learn!

Playing & Creating

Play and creativity are essential for staying sane at home, with divergent thinking invigorating us in our work!

While at home this year we planted a garden full of zucchini, basil, butternut squash, cucumbers, sugar pie pumpkins, parsley, tomatoes, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender and artichokes. With the added benefit of resident bees, our orchard bore fruit galore--grapefruits, apples, persimmons, apricots, mandarins, pluots, peaches, pears, lemons, limes, kumquats and oranges--which we love to share! We even planted new avocado trees and look forward to reaping the rewards in the future!

Using our art and design skills we’ve created labels for our honey jars, stitched pillow shams, photographed the world around us, designed fliers for work and church activities, and assembled ukuleles, pencil sharpeners, lamps, and pinball games. For entertainment, we’ve been listening to music, singing, playing instruments and board games, telling stories and watching movies--if you have any good recommendations, let us know. The kitchen has been repurposed as the at-home dance floor and karaoke stage as we often have spontaneous sing-offs or dance battles in the midst of our dish-washing duties.

Exercise & Exploring New Territory

From playing ping pong in our own garage to exploring new vistas at Lake Tahoe, we have tried to keep active to help burn off Madeline’s divine culinary arts projects! Twice a day we walk the dogs in the neighborhood and socialize with our neighbors from a safe distance. We have made new friendships and strengthened connections while out and about with our pups. Every other day we hike or cycle for cardio, varying the length and intensity of our routes. With many working from home, we’ve enjoyed the much-needed blessing of less traffic in Fremont and safer riding conditions. For balance, strength and flexibility, after all that aerobic activity, free daily Yoga with Kassandra videos keep us limber and toned! What started out as a ten-minute morning yoga challenge by a friend, has turned into a daily addiction.

While making a weekend trip in February to see Abe’s dad, Tim, we hiked the gorgeous new Pismo Preserve open space on the Central Coast. We never tire of the beauty of the California coastline and feel blessed to live within a few hours of Tim and his sweet Great Dane, Daphne. Most importantly, Tim’s health has taken a turn for the better--his energy is up and his zest for life is renewed! We enjoy chatting over the phone and emailing regularly. We must not take family visits for granted--there will always be a sense of urgency in spending time with our loved ones!

Fortunately, just prior to the first shelter-in-place mandate in March, we were able to spend part of spring break in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Janine’s sister’s family for Max’s sixteenth birthday. In our precious time together, we did escape rooms, mini golfed, baked a carrot cake from scratch, played at the park, went for walks, saw the Albuquerque LDS Temple, and attended a fitness boot camp! Looking back, we are so grateful we got together when we had the chance and can’t wait to see each other in the future!

Over the summer, instead of camping at Wente, cruising to Alaska and visiting Grandma Laurie, we made a plan B. We purchased inflatable paddle boards and explored the Central Coast bays, lakes and rivers, Lake Tahoe coves and bays, Donner Lake tributaries, Lake Shasta houseboat docking sites and Discovery Bay neighborhoods. Lake Tahoe is a new favorite for us with its clean mountain air, endless hiking trails, scenic bike paths, gorgeous views, beaches, rafting and paddle boarding opportunities. It was great to meet up with Abe’s siblings and their families there for a few days. We’ll be back for sure!

We can hardly believe that a whole year has gone by that we haven’t visited Janine’s mom, Laurie; however, we have been meeting online every other week, talking on the phone almost daily, celebrating the holidays together virtually and planning trips for the future. Despite the circumstances, Laurie’s determination to keep healthy and stay positive through many uplifting activities is much to be admired! In place of her regular activities, she has had more time for reading, taking online classes, self-reflection, exercise and writing. She benefits from the unwavering companionship and delights in the antics of her chocolate Labrador Retriever, Sophie. If only our dogs knew how valuable they are in supporting our mental, physical and emotional health!

Home Improvements

Last, but not least, with vacations cancelled, we re-routed funding towards a major home improvement. After nine years with our original 1948 steel-frame, single-pane, hand crank windows, we got them replaced in October with retrofit fiberglass casements by Quality Windows and Doors in Pleasanton. It has made all the difference in temperature this winter and we are enjoying a lower utility bill--hallelujah!

Another improvement we are making inside our home, in an attempt to relieve stress and strengthen relationships, is utilizing a weekly family council format we learned about at a church fireside by LDS Family Services. Our agenda includes expressing appreciation, offering apologies, modeling/sharing a range of emotions (peace, sadness, stress, anxiety, anger, fear, worry, joy, relief, etc.), discussing anything not going well that we need to fine-tune and aligning calendaring and service needs. This family council process is definitely a work in progress for our family, but has been helpful in boosting the morale inside our home.

We know that all have been impacted by the pandemic, some for better and many for worse! Elder Ballard proposes, “Imagine what good we can do in the world if we all join together...anxiously and busily responding to the needs of others and serving those around us... These simple, daily acts of service may not seem like much in and of themselves, but when considered collectively they become just like the one-twelfth teaspoon of honey contributed by a single bee to the hive. There is power in our love for God and for His children, and when that love is tangibly manifest in millions of acts of Christian kindness, it will sweeten and nourish the world with the life-sustaining nectar of faith, hope, and charity.

Here’s to faith and hope that we may all join together in many charitable acts of selfless service in 2021!

“Bee” Blessed and Happy Holidays!


The Westons
Abe, Janine, Natalie (18), Max (16), Madeline (14), Sammy (12), Lucy (3), Lettie (12 wks) & Catniss (8)

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: