September 6th, 2015 -San Francisco

For our last day in San Francisco, we hit up Golden Gate State Park and the ocean! We left our luggage at the hotel and hired an uber driver to take us to the middle of the park. While waiting, we took a picture outside of the hotel while we were still fresh and ready to take on another day!
That park is HUGE… again, Danny and I had really no idea what there was in San Francisco, so when we saw the size of the park we were floored! It was so cool. There was a free bus system JUST for the park. It was a little haven in a big, busy city. We watched families walk together, BBQ together and toss around frisbees. People were running by, biking by, and laughing as they went. I felt more comfortable in the park than I did at the wharf. Probably because I could stretch out my hands without smacking someone with a camera in their hands.
Here’s a picture of our drive -the scenery is pretty amazing, nothing like what I’m used to in Arizona!
We walked along a paved path and plucked bits of greenery. I have a thing about natural souvenirs… last year when we hit up Newport Beach, I took some sand and shells home. They’re in a vase, and I love displaying it. As I walked in the park, I grabbed flowers and leaves to press. I want to frame them like I did with my sister’s bouquet. I’m pretty excited about it! The flowers are all smashed up in a book right now. My fingers are crossed that they’ll turn out beautifully!

The park was a fun walk. We saw Bison and a big windmill. It was neat to find benches that were dedicated to people who’d passed on, people who had loved the park.

The walk was refreshing.

It was nice when we started to see the ocean in the distance -soon we could hear it and feel it. We couldn’t wait to sink our toes into the sand! We knew we’d end up bringing sand home in our socks, but we didn’t mind. Maybe we even liked the idea a little.
Folks were playing catch with their pets, doing yoga, building castles with their kids. It was a beautiful sight and a beautiful day. This trip was worth the cost for the PEOPLE WATCHING alone, I swear.
I did some Danny-watching too. It’s fun to snap pictures of people when they’re just enjoying joy.
We were able to enjoy the beach for a couple solid hours:
I’ve done some studying on negative ions lately, and I couldn’t wait to put into practice some of what I’d learned and am learning -I couldn’t wait to let my body soak up the healing that naturally comes from the sea, the sand, even the energy put off by the waves! I asked my husband to take pictures of me just… BEING in the sea. When I looked at them, I could see how guarded I am naturally -how scared I am, how fear takes over so many of my everyday moments. My eyes have been opened in a big way about this… anxiety is a big issue for me, and I see it in the way I eat, the decisions I make, even the way I stand:
I self-protect. I don’t stand up straight, unconsciously protecting my heart, keeping it safely tucked behind a “should cage.”
After Danny and I both looked at the pictures, after I’d spent the weekend consciously trying to physically OPEN my heart, we said, “let’s try that again.”
And I TRIED. So you can tell it isn’t totally natural, and I’m hoping for one of those, “fake it until you become it,” miracles.
The hardest work I’ve ever done is loving myself -namely: ACTING and LIVING from that place… that place where there’s lots of veggies and fresh air, peace despite storms, laughter in the moment and clothes that fit right, a made bed and peaceful surroundings, open chest, straight back!

Most times, I just can’t do it! Sometimes I can fake it! And sometimes, I get a taste of having it come naturally. And those are The Blissful Times.

After slipping dusting the sand off as best we could, we gave our mostly unused bus passes (they still had one full day on them) to a couple who looked nice and didn’t speak English much at all so they probably didn’t use them. They returned kindness by taking our picture:

There’s so many pictures of our faces, this is true. I just have the hardest time with coming home from vacations with mostly pictures of scenery. I carry scenery in my heart, but I carry pictures of faces in my hands.
So let it be written.

The sand was SO HOT. I slipped my shoes back on, but Danny tried to tough it out. He got pretty far, but we had to stop so he could put his shoes on. It took a while, so I took a picture of the view to my right with the bright, big city behind me:
I took a picture of the view to my left of a big and wild sea behind me:
And then I took a picture of the view in front of me… a boy with burning hot feet:
It made me laugh. It still makes me laugh.
I laugh easily.

We grabbed some hot wings at the airport -our first UN-SEAFOOD food all weekend -and then we headed toward our kids.
One of my favorite things (right up there with people watching) is Arizona sunsets, and we flew home in the middle of a great one.
Goodbye ocean, hello desert! You’re both beautiful in your own way.

San Francisco -September 5th, 2015 (The Second Half)

The most I knew about San Fracisco when we booked our tickets was that there were trolleys. And rice? Something like that… When we realized ALCATRAZ was there, my husband was so excited. But it was short-lived. To get a tour, we would have had to book the tickets weeks in advance. They do hold tickets for early risers, but we were so far from the north side of the city where Alcatraz is that it would have been pretty impossible to make it that early and still get a good night’s sleep/enjoy the rest of the day without crashing out.
So we decided to take a ferry out. It lasted an hour and took us under The Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz. It sounds like a weird preposition jingle, doesn’t it?
AROUND the prison, UNDER the bridge.


We were handed a headset when we boarded and were able to listen to a guided tour as we cruised along. It gave some great facts and fun history.

Here’s an anti-climatic, windy video! Yay!

After we’d finished our time with the bridge, we headed toward Alcatraz and on the way we saw dolphins jumping in the drink. We couldn’t snap pictures fast enough, and really? Sometimes the memory of things like that are better than pictures. When I take the time to just be fully present without a camera in my hands, I’m never disappointed. But my sentimental personality is such that I can’t last long without feeling an undying need to CAPTURE EVERYTHING.
But the dolphins would not be captured. Rogue little things.

We were really excited about Alcatraz:

My pictures are all mostly the back side of Alcatraz -the side you can’t see from the Wharf.
I couldn’t believe how big the whole operation was… and I didn’t realize the island had to have everything, including water, ferried in. And the guards LIVED there with their families.


Before hopping on our boat, the crew snapped a picture of us. So we paid $30/ ticket for the ferry and then $15 for the picture. I mean, after you’ve spent $60, what’s another $15? And really, we didn’t regret it. I think we would have regretted it had we not bought the picture. How they got them all printed up and organized in the ONE hour we were out on the sea is beyond me. Must get paid for it, or something.


After our cruise, we walked on the wharf and looked at the fun shops. We bought a few small souvenirs (including a toy trolley for Miss Alice who loves Daniel Tiger so much! She even refers to The Lincoln Memorial on the back of pennies as trolleys and pennies are “Trolley Dollars” in her world).
Here’s another anti-climatic video of one of the street performers -most of our videos were taken with our kids in mind, things we knew they’d love to see.

We stopped at a candy shop to buy something small so we would have some pennies to take to the arcade. We wanted to smash some souvenir pennies. The candy store was SO FUN. We could have spent so much money there if we really wanted to, but we didn’t want to haul a lot of candy around.
It was one of those places where we say the Harry Potter candy and went, “The kids would LOVE THIS!”
And then go, “Oh, we shouldn’t bring the kids here…” when we see the SNL-themed candy.
Danny and I have always enjoyed window shopping together.




Just walking along the very busy wharf we ran into fun stuff:

That night, we rested our weary feet at a very packed restaurant right by the water.franciscan

The wait was SO LONG, but we used our time to gaze out at the water while the sun set and talk about all of the people who were beyond the glass -we were in the perfect spot for people watching.
Danny kept staring, mouth watering, at the fake crab on display…
“I hope we get one THIS BIG.”

0905151926I took a picture of the stairs because all of these old-style stairs are just too much for me.  The stairs were flanked by pictures of Hollywood’s Golden Age Actors.  I really felt like as I went up those stairs that Gregory Peck was not only watching me but had walked the same stairs a few or fifty years before.
0905151905 (1)

Our crab was worth the wait.  We had a blast cracking that baby to bits.


We made a horrible mess, but the waiter was nice enough to tie these very dignified bibs on us.0905152048

FISH silverware! Very touristy.0905151944
We split our full crab and relished each and every bite. Finding good sea food in Arizona is like trying to find a good enchilada anywhere north of Arizona.

On our walk home, we stopped to listen to the water lapping in the dark, we hit up the chocolate store one last time and left with 5 big bars (buy four get one).


We walked back to find a trolley to take us back to Union Square and we found a yarn bombed tree -something I’ve only seen in pictures.  I was so happy.



Throughout our trip, I made a point to take pictures of people trying to take selfies, or families/couples leaving one person out of a photo so they could take it… and as we waited for an uber driver to pick us up in Union Square, I snapped a picture of a sweet family standing near us, and they offered to take one of us.

So why not?  Here we are, completely and utterly worn out… happy and tired and full of seafood and chocolate and culture:


Our uber driver was a 66 year old San Franciscan who had owned a limo-driving business in the 80s.  He found out we were from Arizona and immediately turned on country music which I am still grateful for.  It helped me feel more at home in a very foreign environment… you know, the kind where there’s more than 3 cars driving in a 3 mile radius after 10 pm.

Sunday was our last day -one more post, and our San Francisco trip will be completely posted!  Whew!  What a trip.

San Francisco -September 5th, 2015 (First Half)

September 5th was our busiest day!
We woke up to calmer weather -no wind! And the bay looked so very beautiful in the morning light.
We made our way to THE Lounge for breakfast and then took an Uber to Union Square. Because it was our first ride, we got $20 off, and the ride ended up costing 7 bucks total! Our Uber driver was unfamiliar with the city -we only found this out as we got OUT of his car -and ended up taking us through some pretty scary-looking streets. He dropped us off at Macy’s, and we quickly walked very closely together to find the nearest trolley to get us AWAY from Union Square.
We weren’t interested in shopping, and we were pretty sure those scary streets we passed were going to pounce on us at any given minute.




We waited in a line to hop a trolley for a while which didn’t annoy us because we were in AWE of the people and city, but others weren’t so enraptured…
“This is IT. Honey, get the girls. We are taking a TAXI. This is RE-DICULOUS.”
I began wondering if maybe I was handling the whole thing wrong. Like, maybe I should be more fraught with indignation. But that’s just not my style, so we took a selfie instead.

0905151058bNot pictured: angry man next to us with two girls and a wife and NO TAXI.

The 3-day bus passes we’d picked up at the airport covered trolley rides, and I was pretty excited about it. I knew Alice would love to see pictures of the trolley since she is a dedicated Daniel Tiger fan and often drives around toy cars, pretending that they are a trolley.
Danny and I rode on the outside. He carried our back pack in front so it wouldn’t get whacked by passing cars.
Riding the trolley was so fun -definitely a highlight of the trip for me! As we climbed the hills and then went down, down, down the slopes, it was SO HARD (seriously, I don’t think I was given enough credit for my restraint) to not throw my hand out and break out into, “The HILLLLLLS ARE ALIVE!”
Danny, on the other hand, is a cop. And a cop is a cop even when he’s not coppering.
He spent the ride very much aware of the dangers around the people around him… every time I leaned out, he should have liked to reign me back in forever. He’s always in the business of protecting. It’s not something he can just shut off. But I’m so glad I caught it on camera.
I leaned out to take pictures of the trolley tracks and streets! So cool.



Our first glimpses of the ocean came when we hopped off the trolley and onto a Pier. We stopped to make some new, sea-faring friends and it felt kind of like “Oklahoma!” when they singing about cowboys and farmers being friends. Desert-dwellers and sea-faring folk should be friends.
We walked along a pier filled with old ships. We could take tours, but the price wasn’t right. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the price wouldn’t be right ANYWHERE except in an old arcade on the wharf where you could play some games for a dime.


From there, we could see the Ghirardelli Chocolate sign, so we walked up that way.
There were lots of shops and things in Ghirardelli Square, but we weren’t interested in BUYING stuff, we were interested in DOING stuff, so we bought two bars of chocolate to snack on while we did stuff around the great, big Pacific drink.
What I loved about the whole thing was that no matter where you were, you could almost always see the sea.
I read a plaque outside one of the chocolate stores and right behind it was the ocean!
From there, we walked out onto a long cement dock. It was crumbling and there were signs to stay off certain parts, but there were fearless fisherman who couldn’t care LESS about warnings, and they were fishing their little hearts out. Apparently, you don’t need a fishing license!
The waters were so clear!


From there we got our closest glimpse of Alcatraz… until Danny and I hopped a cruise ship later that afternoon and circled around it like hungry hawks.
After our pier walking, we made our way down to the official HEART of Fisherman’s Wharf:
By this time, we were hungry for some lunch. We looked around for something to eat, and there were A LOT of options and A LOT of people! It was Labor Day weekend, after all. We finally decided on a restaurant called, “Fisherman’s Grotto” and again split a plate. Prices, prices!
We had crab enchiladas, and they were so good! It’s safe to say that Danny and I ate exclusively chocolate and seafood while we were in California.
The view from where we sat was so fun, and we even got to watch a sea lion bobbing and swimming around. So cute!
Is it weird that I loved the OLD STAIRS? I loved the old carpets and the old creaking and the thought of HOW MANY YEARS AND PEOPLE they’d seen!
The restaurant was a brief break from the noisy masses of people, music, and birds outside. When we stepped back into it, we were refreshed and refueled.
Near the restaurant we found an old arcade filled with games from the 1880s to present day. We walked through and promised we’d come back later on, and we did! After our ferry ride, we hit up the old arcade with some change we’d picked up from a candy store. It was so fun! We smashed pennies to our heart’s content and Danny paid a quarter to find out what kind of lover he is.
He was told he was a tender lover.
Oh, the jokes. Those old games are the BEST.
Right outside the arcades, there were some restored WWII goodies. There were torpedoes, a submarine, plaques and a full-sized restored war ship! We wanted to tour the submarine and the ship so bad, but it would have cost $100 for us both to go on both. We contented ourselves with pictures instead.

From there, we decided to spend some money on an hour-long cruise under the bridge and around Alcatraz. I’m going to save the second half of our day for another post because this is just getting WAY to picture-y. I’m making a shutterfly book with the pictures from our trip and it’s over $100 right now. AH! What is with my shutter-happy finger? Also, shouldn’t I have a better camera if I’m going to be snapping so many pictures so often? Might as well make the quality worthwhile!

San Francisco -September 4th, 2015

I keep wanting to say that Danny and I went to “San Fran” for our anniversary, but then I catch myself. Am I allowed to slang it? I mean, do I have enough ownership to San Fran it? I don’t nickname people I’ve only met once, right? And I definitely don’t nickname FAMOUS people I’ve only known once -and San Fracisco is definitely a famous city.
Example: since we ran into Larry Fitzgerald in the San Francisco Airport who I didn’t recognize or know *exactly* who he is, I haven’t started referring to him as “Larr” or “Fitzy.”
So I’ve been laboriously typing out SAN FRANCISCO each time I refer to our trip, and it has not been easy because I am a terrible speller.
But it’s been a good learning experience for me, and I’m very pro-education.

(PS: I can’t get over -even now -the fancy-ness of Larry Fitzgerald’s luggage.  It’s pretty, right?)

About 2 weeks before our anniversary, I walked up to Danny and said, “You know what we should do? We should GO SOMEWHERE for our anniversary… just find some cheap tickets and fly somewhere, stick our toes in some beach sand and then fly back home.”
I thought he’d say that yes, it would be nice but that we couldn’t afford it. But you know what he said? He said, “Let’s do it.”
We are completely inexperienced travelers, so the idea felt daring and adventurous to both of us. We ended up booking tickets to San Francisco because they were the cheapest, but we didn’t realize the rest of the trip would cost so much.
So so much.

Danny had spent the week before at a work training in Ohio, so he got off his plane from his training and less than 3 hours later, he was back ON a plane to California.  Can I Cali it?  I’ve been there 5 times now, so I think I can Cali it.  We hopped a plane to CALI.

The cost was well worth it in the end. We experienced a new city together, and we had the truly blessed experience of just BEING together. It was a huge thing for us to be in a place in our relationship where we could even get away together -that alone made the trip WORTH IT.
Everywhere we went, we were struck with that little fact.
I’m so glad we’re here,” we kept saying, and we weren’t talking about the city. We were talking about the place our relationship is in right now.  We’ve been working so hard to find healing for the past few years -last year for our anniversary we were separated, and I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.  So to have a ring on my finger and be at ease with each other this year?  We could feel the miracle.  We’re so grateful for addiction recovery -we’re grateful we are both working our tails off in every way possible (mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally…) because for a long time our marriage was just hanging by a precious, precious thread.  And today it’s thriving!  That’s not to say, “Hey!  We MADE IT!”  Because I don’t actually believe there is a place of “MADE IT!” when it comes to healing… it’s a beautifully rewarding life-long process.  But it is to say, “Hey!  We have no mortgage or car payment or nursing babies and I feel safe with the person I love!  LET’S CELEBRATE THE CRAP OUT OF THIS WHILE WE HAVE IT!”  The serenity prayer has taught us to live in the moment, friends!  Also: our relationship now is so much better than it was last year, YES… but it’s surprisingly much better than it EVER WAS EVER.  So that’s been really, really amazing… not perfect, but I think that’s probably what I’m appreciating most about it?  I don’t know.  I don’t really actually know very much…

Although when I said, “I’m so glad we’re here,” in the Ghirardelli chocolate square, I really was just glad to be there.

Due to our inexperience, we truly had NO idea what to do in San Fracisco or what there was to do. We booked a motel for about $150 a night which was incredibly cheap compared to other hotel prices in the area (seriously, the Best Westerns were charging over $200 a night!). But we didn’t realize our hotel was on the OTHER end of the city. Meaning all the Cool Kid stuff to do was a 2-hour bus ride away! We had bus passes but only 2 days to experience the city and didn’t want to spend hours upon hours on the bus.
With my stomach issues, I was already dealing with motion sickness from the plane ride and shuttle… so we bravely downloaded the Uber app and it took us downtown in 30 short minutes!
There were perks, though, to having a hotel away from “everything.” It was far away from noise and masses of people. The view from our motel room provided a very pretty view of the bay, and we were able to watch the planes fly in and out.

We paid $20 extra a night to get exclusive access to The 15th Floor Lounge. Oh, they drew us in with their fancy words like “Lounge” and “Exclusive” and “O’dourves.”
The only problem? According to the front desk, we could go up to the 15th floor for “o’dourves” from 5-7pm, and we checked in around 4:30 pm. We were nice and hungry… but every time we tried to push the “15” on the elevator buttons, it wouldn’t work. We looked for stair cases, we tried OTHER elevators… it was frustrating.
Finally, I called the front desk and asked how the in the HECK you get to this LOUNGE place?
“Did you not see the card reader in the elevator?”

I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Danny and I hopped in the next elevator, put our card in the reader and then held our breath while we pushed the 15. It lit up gloriously, and we audibly CHEERED.
But we left from the 13th floor, so our ride to the top was pretty short lived. But I’ll be honest, that moment of victory was one of the greatest of my life.

After we ate, we took to the outdoors and explored a walking trail we’d seen from our window. That’s how we travel. We have no plans. The only reason we had plans when we went to Disneyland is because we worked with a Travel Agent. That was a very good decision for Disney, but for striking out on our own, Danny and I really love winging it.
I still remember planning our honeymoon.
“How about we rent a car?” he asked. THAT was that. After our wedding reception was over, we decided to head in the direction of San Diego. We had a blast not knowing when or where or what. We knew WHO and really, that’s all that’s ever mattered with us because we end up having a pretty great time anywhere we go without kids.

(not that we don’t have fun WITH the kids, but it’s easier to have no plans when there’s no kids.  With kids, I definitely need a travel agent!)

We came to a gorgeous dock where the sunset was brilliant and the wind was blowing… we stopped to snap a picture of ourselves when a couple standing nearby offered to take our picture for us.

With their professional wedding equipment!  Apparently, they were out testing a new lighting toy out.  How about that for luck?  He emailed the pictures he took to Danny, and I have a picture of the picture, downloaded from social media.  Translation: here’s a low resolution version of our favorite snapshot:


On our walk, we found a beautiful restaurant behind our hotel called Kincaid’s.  It sat right on the bay and offered a really cool view:

We decided to stroll in and have an official anniversary dinner -since it was September 4th, after all. LUCKILY we’d eaten in the fancy-pants lounge because the prices on the menu made our tummies feel suddenly very stuffed. We shared a lobster tail and side salad.
For SIXTY dollars.
I realize real fancy-pants people GET these kind of prices and expect them, but we were just FAKING fancy-pants for the weekend, and we are actually very used to Subway pricing.
But it really was worth $60. Oh my gosh, it was the most delicious sea food ever to hit me.
Danny’s face says it all. We ate SLOWLY and DELIBERATELY.

I don’t know if I’ll ever taste a lobster quite like that. It ruined lobster for me. How am I supposed to content myself with Red Lobster in Flagstaff, AZ when there is a lobster tail waiting for me in Kincaid’s Restaurant in San Francisco roughly $600 from now?
Life can be rough in it’s own lobstery way.

But it can also look like this:

And it makes up for all the lobster woes quite nicely.

Trenton’s Party

After Trenton went off to school with a belly full of birthday pancakes, I went to work and reminded myself to make sure and be at the school at 2:45.  The night before his birthday he made what we like to call “Harry Potter Wands” which is where we dip the tip of big pretzel sticks into melted chocolate and put sprinkles on them.  We took them into his class at the end of the day, and when I walked into his class this is what I saw:


His teacher hung that awesome banner over his desk -what a cool idea!  He was given fun birthday balloons, and he thoroughly enjoyed his birthday attention!0916151502

His classmates were so happy to get Harry Potter Wands and a handful of jelly beans (which we called Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Jelly Beans, even though they weren’t… not officially).0916151503

While she was at school, Alice found her favorite Aunt Ruth (she works as the reading specialist) and she let Alice pick a prize out of the prize box.  Alice came home with temporary tatts.  She’s really proud of them and keep showing them off.

“Look at my PUMPKINS!”0916151547

Right after school, we had our cub scout den meeting where we talked about team work and ate a lot of Chex Mix.  I do really love cub scouts!  These guys make me laugh.0916151624b

Trenton’s little party was starting at 6:30, and given my crazy, full day… I began baking his cake at 5:30 and decorated it at 6:25.  Ha!  He was happy with it, and while it isn’t as fancy as the cakes I’ve made in the past (okay, maybe using the word “fancy” is pushing it), it tasted THE SAME.  0916151846

We’re hoping someday to have a house that holds everyone a little more comfortably.0916151907


Trent’s face in this picture makes my day.  He was so excited as we sang!0916151908a

The pokeball was poked with candles.

Here’s great-grandma with my niece, Analynn.  Analynn was born very early, and we just love seeing how healthy she is!  And we’re VERY grateful her mom is healthy as well.  We don’t know what we’d do without them.  And check out that baby’s cute sparkly feet! 0916151917

Girl cousins -I love these girls!0916151919a

His loot pile wanted for nothing.0916151920

I love seeing my grandma with her grandkiddos.  No amount of pictures will ever be enough.0916151920a

My red-headed nephew, Jens:0916151921b

Trenton loved all of his gifts!  We bought him a Disney Infinity starter set, but we bought the first version because we knew that even though there’s NEWER and “COOLER” versions … our kid doesn’t know or care and we’ll all have fun playing together.  He was given lots of sweets and treats and toys, and he was happy as could be!  I spent part of the afternoon saving a bunch of Trenton’s old pictures into a file on the computer.  I uploaded that file to my Amazon Cloud, and we were able to watch the pictures slideshow on our television using Danny’s Firestick.  It was a great “back drop” for the party, but I think I enjoyed it more than anyone.  Truth be told: I think I did it for myself. I get nostalgic on birthdays. and Tuesdays. and weekends and holidays.0916151926

After the party -at the end of a busy, no-stop day -I sat down with some chips and salsa.  Danny sat with me.  We watched Parks and Recreation while the kids played Pokemon with their cousin.  When the chips were gone, Danny grabbed the pretzel sticks and Nutella, and we laughed about how fun it is to not have our parents tell us we can’t eat Nutella for dinner.

The kids joined us in the living room, and they usually beg for an episode of “Once Upon a Time” but last night they opted to play -not the NEW video game with us – a board game!  My Mom bought Trent the game “Blokus” and he loves it.  And yes, our little Chess Master beat us all.

Lacy seriously hates that.

And Danny was seriously tired.

We all slept well.  Especially Trent.

A Picture and A Birthday

Yesterday I snapped a picture. Well, I snapped 15 pictures yesterday, but this particular picture has a lot to say.

Starting here:

Do you see that wet, pink shirt? It used to be on my toddler. She helped me do the dishes at 5 pm. Can you see how many dishes are done? I think the only thing that actually got washed was the toddler. And maybe that shirt.

Next… I spy groceries from last Friday’s shopping trip that never got put away.  The good news is? Trent’s party is tonight and that root beer will be gone! So I’m just going to let that situation take care of itself.


Let’s just get the elephant in the room out of the way. That’s our salsa. I stood between those two kitchen chairs (ow!) while I chopped and blended and it smelled like HEAVEN. I went to the living room for a few seconds and that’s when I heard.
“Um, Mom?”

Dread, dread, dread. It was like that climatic moment in “A Christmas Story” when The Bumpus Hounds ate the turkey.

I *almost* took the kids out for Chinese, but in the end the alluring smell of chopped green onions and cilantro got the best of me and batch two was ready in time to slather it in chips and cheese and call it dinner.


{Recipe Found on my cooking page}

In the background you can see the lovely bone china tea cups my sister found and gave me for my birthday. Is there anything as fun as mis-matchy tea stuff? We love it, and I love even more that it comes from my sister who thrives on mis-matchy silverware. That ginger is the best.

This morning, I woke up and made the traditional birthday pancakes for the birthday boy!
“It’s a SEVEN! And a…”
“That’s a pokeball, bud. See? See? I made it to look like a pokeball!”
“But it doesn’t…”
He’s a daring truth-teller.

I made a special lunch for the kids. I pulled out the BIG guns and gave them nachoes instead of PB and J. And yes, we had nachoes last night, and YES I basically gave them leftovers and called it special.
And they are on board with the whole idea which I THINK means I win.

I let them miss the bus to spend more time celebrating and finding socks. After I dropped them off at school, I came home and ate some fresh gluten free pancakes. A few bites in, my throat was kind of… stinging. Like the sting you get from onions and peppers.
And THAT’S what I get for making pancake batter in the same bowl I mixed salsa in the night before. Ole!
The kids didn’t say a word when they ate theirs! Is it because they didn’t notice? Or because they’re used to Mom’s food tasting weird?

I don’t think I actually want to know the answer.
So I’ll just post a collage of the cutest birthday boy that ever lived:

Getting their way since 2008.


Budget Blues and Beach Bums

It’s September 15th which means my busy season is *almost* over. Camping, birthdays, school starting, anniversary! Trenton’s birthday is tomorrow and then I think I’ll be able to start getting us back to making sure we brush our teeth every day and eat at the actual table.
“But MOM! I’m not USED to that anymore!”
Give them an inch of a month watching “Once Upon a Time” while they eat and they take it, man. They TAKE it and USE IT against you.

I have hundreds of pictures to add to my blog.
Danny and I spent a weekend in San Francisco, and I want to share all of the pictures! It was a wild, spur-of-the-moment decision and it was really fun! We searched the cheapest plane tickets from PHX to anywhere and San Francisco popped up.
We spent a few hours on a plane playing the saddest game of chess you’ve ever seen.
“Hey, if you move there you can take my knight… but don’t move here because then I might steal your pawn.”
We landed in San Francisco and found out quickly that our hotel was on the WRONG END of everything and also? If you want to eat or smile or fart, it costs $500.
It was WORTH IT, and the best part is that we can have as much fun together walking on a wharf with a half-naked man in a wig talking to himself as we can on our couch covered in mismatched socks. It pays to marry someone who gets your jokes -someone who will people watch and make up conversations with you, someone who will bird watch and make up bird dialogue so hilarious that you have to be careful not to wet yo’ pants.


The beach sand was a far cry from The Couch of Mismatched Socks. Glorious!

I’ll give San Francisco it’s own post with all the deets (can I just get a cymbal crash for every time I use that joke?) later on.
For now I just wanted a stark comparison with the pictures above to the picture below:

That’s my kitchen table this morning.
That’s what it looks like after my busy season.

Now onto the meat of the thing:
I am right brained and Danny is left brained and want to know something cute? I’m right HANDED and he’s LEFT handed! #adorbs

This all means that we have a strict budget that I don’t look at ever. I’m allotted a set amount of cash for grocery and household-y things, and Danny takes care of the other left-brained priorities like medical insurance wars.
Two years ago, I opened my own pet bank account. It’s only mine. I pour petty cash into it now and then. I even usually keep track of the money in it, but lately… the “round about” math I’ve done in my head has been off a literal buck or two, and I’ve overdrawn that sweet little account THREE STUPID TIMES.
Do you know what that means? The bank has taken over $100 in fees from me. If we look at this from the perspective of the “round about math method” in my head, we’re looking at a loss of basically 60% of the entire amount of cash IN THE ACCOUNT.
Enough is enough, friends and folks. Enough IS enough.

So I printed out a budget sheet which was fun, and I bought stuff to build a little budget folder which was ALSO fun.
The rest of what happened was not fun at all.

I did things like ORDER NEW CHECKS. The kind of things DANNY likes to do! I feel like I’m betraying some natural sense of self when I add and subtract with a calculator or on paper. It offends the gypsy inside of me who booked tickets to San Francisco a few short days before actually flying out.
Oh wait… I only had the IDEA to do it, Danny was the one who handled all the booking stuff. Because money.

I guess I just figured today’s post needed it’s own GOLD STAR SPOT. Today is the day I opened and filed medical bills… usually I avoid the post office because I know there’s medical bills in my box all sealed and hungry and waiting to yell at me like those awful screaming letters people send to students at Hogwarts.
I’d much rather stream Pandora and clean my house in stretchy pants than open a medical bill.
Oh, and we have SO MANY! Trent’s seizure stuff, my stomach stuff, Danny’s allergy stuff, tests, tests, tests! Gall bladder removal!

For Christmas a few years ago, the kids gave me a really cute binder and filled it with graph paper because they know how mom likes graph paper more than regular paper.

I bought a pencil pouch to hold essentials: a check book with no cover because the cover is on the OTHER check book that I lost but found again but had to use different checks in the meantime, pens, washi tape.
I bought pocketed files for the screaming medical bills. I thought I’d fill 5 or so, but I filled EIGHT and I need MORE.


The budget sheets I printed are very helpful, but it was pretty gut-wrenching to realize I couldn’t fill it out. Not because we don’t HAVE a budget because I HAVE NO RIGHT-BRAINED CLUE WHAT IT IS OR WHERE IT IS OR IF IT LIKES ME.
Gas? Entertainment? Wherefore art thou?

There’s some great tools in the printable where you can print out goals, reminders and even write a motivational quote! I chose my latest favorite quote from Teddy Roosevelt. It reminds me that it’s better to either PAY the bills or OPEN THE ENVELOPES AND FORGET TO PAY THE BILLS than not ever go to the post office ever unless an Amazon package is waiting.
(compliments of -and to!

I decided to ease into my new and unscary budget tactics with one goal only instead of a long list of like THREE goals… I went for something that would stretch me but not be too far out of reach. Probably not too far out of reach:

I figured I was entitled to the same kind of selfie people take after they do a work-out… those glistening, smoldering selfies that SAY (without saying) “I care about taking care of myself and I do things that are GOOD FOR ME!”
So I took one. A post-budget selfie!

I wonder if Danny makes that face when his Left-Brained Self comes strutting through the door after I’ve just dedicated a day to Right-Brained crafting.

In other news, Trenton has lost both front teeth, almost on the same day. Also, the tooth fairy didn’t come TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW. Seriously, tooth fairy stuff is right brain territory and I blew it! I even have crafted tooth fairy characters for each of the kids, written notes filled with fluff and fancy!
This note was filled with apology and excuse:
But The Tooth Fairy didn’t forget last night!
AND I have a budget book!
So things are looking up, since love looked up at me!
I keep making him say words like “snow.”

This morning the kids dressed up for Disney Day at school -Happy Homecoming Week!

Oh, and doughnuts for breakfast because Lacy decided that’s what she wanted to give Trenton for his birthday.
“Health first!” ~Me, always

Surface Ripples

This last weekend, my kids and I ended up -through a series of wild events -parked in a strange city at a strange gas station at night.
How’s that for a creepy setting?

Danny and I planned on checking our oil. Saturday night, he had said, “We can’t forget to check the oil.” But Saturday night was very busy. Sunday was even MORE busy. We were visiting family in Danny’s home city (Mesa, AZ). After church we were heading to the OTHER side of the sunny valley to attend the baptisms of our nephews at which Danny was speaking. Immediately after the baptism, Danny was hopping in his parent’s car to drive to the airport to fly on an 8-hour overnight flight that would span the US of A and eventually end up in Ohio. And I would be driving back to Joseph City with three kids.

It shall here be noted that our car was built almost 20 years ago, and this hasn’t really ever been a problem. It’s been a pretty good nut for the most part, and we praised it to high heaven when we side-swiped an elk a couple years ago and walked away with nothing but a slight alignment issue (and some serious elk fuzz in the siding).

But she has had this oil leak for years. It’s so slight we haven’t been able to even find it to fix it, so we manage with regular oil changes and frequent oil checks.
But on Sunday, WE FORGOT. There was packing and speaking and driving and the thought of flights and anticipating goodbyes, and we forgot.
Until I was 40 minutes down the road and I noticed my oil gauge.
It’s usually at 40.
But it was at 20.

I knew that wasn’t good. If my gauge is showing I’m low, that meant I was OIL BARREN.
I also happened to be driving on a fairly new road where there were no houses, no gas stations and spotty cell service. I finally got through to my Dad, The Mechanic, who told me, “Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go straight to a service station.”
I found one in my smart phone, and drove 10 minutes BACK into the city.

And that’s where we meet again.

The children hadn’t eaten dinner, the sun had set, and I collected all three of them and went into the store to buy oil.
“Two quarts of 10W30, please.”

“Mom, can we buy this?”
“Mom, I’m hungry.”
“Mom, PLEASE?”

“Sir, how much are your corn dogs?” I asked the cashier ringing me up.
“Two for 99 cents, but I’m all out,” he shrugged.
What a jerk of a tease.
“My mom MEED COHN DOGS,” Alice tried reasoning with him. She only said what we were all thinking…

Outside I went in 102 degree heat with my oil, children and paper pouring cone in hand. I opened the car door forgetting that my car is almost 20 years old and the alarm system does it own thing.
The alarm went off, blaring loudly and startling me. I was already on the verge of wild nervousness, and the alarm went ahead and pushed me off that rocky cliff.
I shut it off, put the kids in the car and reached through the passenger’s side (because -NATURALLY -my driver’s side door is broken) to pop the hood.
I walked around the car -all of us still in our church clothes at this point -and tried to unlatch the hood. It was hot, my fingers were shaking, thanks to the fun alarm.
A few minutes went by with me just… moving my flighty fingers back and forth shaming myself for not being able to do something I’ve done a hundred times before.
I prayed my 5th prayer in 30 minutes and that’s when a young man walked over to me and repeated my own prayer out loud back to me.
“You need help?”
“YES!” I then went on awkwardly about how I LITERALLY WORK AT A MECHANIC’S SHOP and how STRANGE this place was and how I LIVED THREE HOURS AWAY.
The alarm had pushed me into that nervous place where I say completely unsafe and irrelevant things. But this guy had a safe feeling about him, and he had his Dad with him. His Dad was an older man who spoke Spanish almost exclusively and had the same twinkle in his eye that I imagine Santa has.
He also spoke to me like I was a child because I don’t speak Spanish.
“You THREE hour? Away?” He smiled big and spoke slow.
“Yes,” I nodded, my entire body was pretty much trembling despite the horrible heat and the fact that my air conditioning was going out.
“Oh,” he nodded and smiled, nodded and smiled.
I felt like I was on the receiving end of one of Paul’s epistles. It was as if this wonderful, twinkly Spanish man was saying, “You can not understand the meat of my language so I will give you milk. You tiny, tiny baby.”
He spoke to his son swiftly and seriously and quietly and then would turn to me and speak slowly and cheerfully and loudly.
“These… children?”
“Yes, my children. They are sweet…” and then I’d turn to my own children and speak swiftly, and seriously and quietly, “GET BACK IN THE CAR AND KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF. STOP KICKING HER. I NEED OBEDIENCE.”

Oil was poured in the car by my new Angel friend and it was found that I needed MORE. So I went back into the store, trembling and awkward and bought three more. Four more? I can’t remember. I don’t care.
I never wanted to see the cashier again, and I made the wonderful mistake of telling him that.
“That will be 32.56,” he said.
“Thanks,” I took my receipt, “I guess I needed a lot more oil than I thought. Well… I hope I never see you again.”

Back outside with my oil. One more quart of oil was added.
All was well.
Until the hood wouldn’t shut. I popped the thing again and again. It was miles of smiles because I was in a DRESS, remember, and reaching over the passenger’s seat.
Also, did I mention that my back hatch was refusing to open? Where all of the luggage is?
And that my tranny had decided to give me a few messages to let me know that he’s about to leave this world?

After fifteen minutes, my new friends became aggressive (with my permission) and had their own way with my hood. It shut nicely. I bid farewell to my new friends and promised them that God would bless them for helping me -hey!, I said, He might even fix your washing machine! Because their washing machine was broken. These are the kinds of things we talk about with strangers.

My in-laws called to find out where I was and drove to meet me.
As we waited for them, I played mad libs with the kids and brushed the sweat from my face… and wondered if the A/C would somehow miraculously fix it’s own blower motor.
Lacy’s answers for Mad Libs were pretty… vanilla. I knew something had to be wrong. I asked her if she was okay.
She wasn’t.
She burst into tears about The Twin Towers and Dad! Dad IS ON A PLANE! And we were stuck in a strange place! And she wished someone was there to help us!
Her tears scared the toddler and so began The Sob Train.
I assured Lacy that WE WERE FINE. I pointed to a motel across the street.
“See that? We could stay there RIGHT NOW if we needed to. We could! We are taken care of, we are fine. There is food and beds and water all around us.”
I explained to her that TERRORISTS drove the planes on 9/11 and tried to help her understand by using buses as an example.
“A bad guy driving a bus can crash it into a school to try and hurt people, right?”
“But a normal school bus driven by a normal driver will just pick kids up and drop them off, right?”
“Well, Daddy is in a NORMAL plane.”

My in laws came, they checked my oil again and we went through closing Ye Olde Hood again.
We decided to go back to their house and stay the night. I was eager to get home, but it was late and my mother-in-law couldn’t stand the idea of us driving home alone. She’s a wonderful, thoughtful, aware, in tune woman. When she says, “stay,” you stay.
We drove through the lit-up city, watching the cars pass us.

Lacy was still very upset.

“How are you doing, Lacy?”
“I just very stressed,” she answered, honestly.
I understand what stressed as a child feels like. I remember dealing with pretty crazy anxiety, even as a kid.

When I was little, I worried incessantly about the house burning down. I lost so much sleep over it. I hated when it got dark because that meant BED and SLEEPING and something in my little mind had latched onto this idea of the house burning us all up in our sleep.
My Mom grew weary of my worry, and she arranged a family home evening all about safety and having an escape plan in case of a fire. After she was done, I found myself still completely uneasy.
She had actually suggested GOING OUTSIDE in the middle of the night while the house was burning.
WHAT ABOUT STICKERS?! I just KNEW I’d get stickers in my feet, and the idea of my feet getting poked by stickers made me equally as uneasy as being burned to death. Naturally.
“Put your shoes by your bed at night,” my mom patiently suggested.
Ah. All was well. Each night I refused to go to sleep without my shoes next to my bed. Stickers and fire and bears, oh my!

I had tried so many things to ease my habit of worrying constantly. I rubbed worry stones. I vented to worry dolls.
Hoaxes. All of them! Made by conspiring men in the last days to make a penny!

My anxiety really hit a scary high when I was pregnant with Lacy. It had gotten SO bad. I wasn’t even in my own mind anymore. I was sure the world was on the verge of ending and I put forth all of my efforts into trying to control the situation.
I actually rolled detergent-soaked newspaper into logs because they made great fuel.
I tried convincing my husband to sell my 1/2 carat diamond so we could buy a year’s supply.

The fear was VERY real.
A couple years ago, my Mom brought me a bag filled with the newspaper logs I’d made and left at her house and I just laughed. It felt like in that bag was a scary version of me that was also a very funny version of me.

I’ve found more healing from my anxiety in the last few years by working -and working HARD -in therapy and 12 steps and all kinds of stuff.

Our little house may not always be a house of organization, but it is a house of healing and right now? That’s more important.
Our house is a place where it’s totally normal for everyone to do yoga together. It’s normal for us all to sink our toes in the wet grass. We talk honestly with each other in family meetings. We cry and we let each other cry. We talk about the good the food is doing that we’re eating.
“Carrots for our eyes, bread for our energy…”
We journal, we pray, we talk, we listen to music and lifts us. We all sing out loud, “I WANNA SEE YOU BE BRAVE!”

With this in mind, I said a few words to my worried, anxious daughter.
I told her I knew what she was feeling.
“Daddy hasn’t gotten in a plane crash, but your body and mind are putting you through all of the bad feelings that come anyway, right?”
“Right!” I could hear the tears rising up in her again.
“Can you do anything about it? If Daddy crashes? Can you change it?”
“No,” the tears began coming back, “And I don’t know what I would do! And you’re going on a plane next week WITH Daddy and if you guys BOTH die, who will take us? Will we live with Grammy? I don’t WANT new parents!”
Ah, the Anxiety Tornado. Familiar territory for me. Remember the Fire Sticker Tornado of 1990?

“That’s right, Lace. Dad and I COULD die. Dad COULD die on his plane tonight.”
More tears.
“Lacy, bad things WILL happen. Bad things will ALWAYS happen, and there’s nothing we can do about it. I promise you that bad things are going to happen to us. And I also promise that GOOD will happen to us as well. Here’s the thing… can you DO anything about the future? Can you change it or anything like that?”
“No,” her voice was scared.
“You can’t. Why not?”
“Because that’s impossible…”
“And what about the past? Can you change it?”
“Why not?”
“Because it’s already happened and gone.”
“That’s true. There is nothing we can do to change the past. We can’t change the past and we can’t try and fix the future. The only thing we CAN DO is BE RIGHT NOW.”
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“Well,” I thought for a minute, “If you only worry about Dad and his future, you’re missing out on what’s going on right now. What’s going on RIGHT NOW? This moment is the only time we really, truly have.”
“There’s lights…” she offered.
“City lights! We don’t have those in Joseph City,” I said.
“There’s stores…”
“There’s a roller coaster!” My son joined in.
“How do you feel now, Lacy? Do your shoulders and chest still feel tight and heavy?”
“Not as much, but still some.”
“Let’s keep playing…”

And so we learned about This Moment which gift has been my greatest these days.

By the time we pulled into Grammy’s driveway, Lacy was laughing and quoting her favorite Studio C skit.

This Moments is all we have, really. This is the moment to breathe, rest, see, soak. This is the moment to eat something nourishing to thank our bodies, to send that text, to listen to our intuition tell us THE NEXT THING TO DO.

This Moment is all we have to kiss a cheek that may not be with us tomorrow, to hold a hand that may need holding. This moment is when we see God and we will miss Him if we’re too busy living in the shadow of the past or the looming unknown of the future.
What good is a life if it passes by unrealized?

Life isn’t about the money, the clothes, the hair, the cars, or weight. It isn’t about events or vacations or even accomplishments.

It’s about love.
God loves us, and we see it when we’re still. We see it in the sun, the song on Pandora, the way a butterfly glides through our path.
We love ourselves, and we feel it when we’re still. We feel it when we make our bed, wash a dish with gratitude, or bathe our able and perfectly capable body.
We love others, and show it when we’re still. We can hear God tell us who needs a text, a message, a call or maybe even dinner. God loves them as he loves me.
Others love us, and we feel it when we are still.

Be still in the moment.
Listen to God, listen to yourself, and you will truly, truly hear others.

To love another person, to love yourself, is to see the face of God. For God is within every living thing.

So sink your feet into the living earth, open your arms to the living Sun and as you walk through today… release the tension in your shoulders, release yourself from the shackles of the past and the future and chomp down on the moment in front of you.
Absolutely devour it.

God has the future in hand. Trusting Him is so hard for me, but when I’m able to let go and trust God, I feel so incredibly free. I am catching glimpses of what it’s really like to LIVE for the first time.

And I sing this those at the top of my lungs as I blow dry my hair in the morning. I understand what she means.

It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off.

As I drove down that stretch of new highway with my oil gauge faltering and my cell phone failing, I took a deep breath and told myself there was a reason Danny and I forgot the check the oil. There was a reason I was stalled. God was taking care of me in His own meticulous way.  Maybe there’s an accident ahead or a pack of elk waiting to obliterate my vehicle, out to finish what they started all those years ago.  I could feel the surface waters in my life rippling and reeling and I made a conscious decision to dive deeper into my lake -to a place where the surface didn’t matter, the place where God sings peace to my heart and reminds me that All is Well.
Then I looked up, and there He was.
So I took a very irresponsible picture while driving.
11921839_988161591204166_4096692869831172319_oI regret nothing.