Resta rant

Lacy created her own restaurant and let me know that reservations had been made in my and Daddy’s names.
The menu was very accommodating -gluten free bread, caffeine free herbal (the “h” is pronounced in this case) tea:
Danny and I ate by fake candlelight and enjoyed the company of all three children because, in Alice’s words, “I wanna play too!”
After dinner, we paid by putting coins (that were provided for us at the beginning of the meal) into a small minion coin egg, and then we were offered a complimentary rock. Lacy had been collecting rocks for her restaurant -she had at least 100 small rocks.
Our family has always loved food and cooking and being together in the kitchen. A few nights ago, the girls made brownies from a mix while Trenton chopped up tomatoes for dinner. I’d asked him to grab two big tomatoes from the garden and he came back with SEVEN cherry tomatoes.
So we went with that.
“I’m the fastest tomato cutter EVER, huh Mom?”
Who wanted to tell him that taking 20 minutes to cut 7 cherry tomatoes actually isn’t fast at all? Not me! He was so thorough -washing, cutting, scraping into hot saucepan:
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And by the grace of miracles, some of the brownie batter DID make it into the pan!

I had bathed the girls before they started making brownies which wasn’t the smartest decision I’ve ever made. I asked Alice to show me her hands, and she did… she also showed me JUST what she thinks of baths.

A Place Called, “What Is.”

My mom is really good at games.  She fills out crosswords in record time, answers trivia questions with ease, and loves to watch game shows when she gets a chance.  Growing up, Jeopardy! came on right around the time Mom started making dinner, and I think it helped her manage the stress that came from feeding 7 other people for the THIRD time in one day, knowing she’d be doing it again and again and again.
“What is.”
It was the way most of the “answers” to all of the Jeopardy! trivia started.

“What is existentialism, Alex.”

Except it wasn’t an answer, it was a question.  The maddening paradox of Jeopardy! is the “answer in the form of a question” rule because, of course, the questions were actually answers.

This last week, I found myself stuck in a place I like to call “What Is.” It’s a place where I find answers to questions.  Rather, it’s a place where I WAIT for answers to questions.
I LOVE research.  I think I inherited my mother’s hunger for information, but it came without the ribbons and fanfare… I am absolute bunk at games and trivia and I can only finish crosswords with a cheat sheet.

Research lights me on fire, especially when I’m researching PEOPLE.  The best pay off in research in answers.  I love getting answers.

But what happens when you don’t get them as you’re looking for them?  What happens when there’s no book to look in?  Nothing to punch into the Google search bar?  No person to call for YOUR OWN answer? What happens when you have to just… WAIT for the answer to come to you from God instead?

That’s when I go to the place, “What Is.”
Sitting in “What Is” has proven time and time again to be one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life.  I squirm because I am NOT patient.  The lack of answers becomes more painstaking than the actual question.

There’s a Zen saying -a humorous one -that goes, “Don’t just do something -sit there.”
Yes, it’s funny.  But it is also SO FREAKING SPOT ON for me.  (I’m reading about Zen-like stuff right now.  More about that soon…)

I happened to read an article in a magazine this last week that was really, really hard for me.  There was some truth in the article, but I felt (and feel) there was something off.
So what IS IT?
WHY am I feeling this?

I was triggered.  I reached out and prayed. I reached out to some trusted friends.  I processed and I still felt a painful stab in my heart -I felt OFF all around, and I couldn’t seem to burst out of the feeling of it all.

I WANTED TO BE OKAY while I waited, while I sat with What Was. Being calm in stressful situations is a personal goal of mine, and I was frustrated with myself -that I WASN’T calm while I waited for answers from God.  In short, I was impatient with myself and impatient with God’s lack of immediate answering.
The double-fold impatience became heavier than the questions I had!

I was annoying myself.

Leading up to this point, God had carefully prepared me. I had gotten back into doing my dailies, and the day I’d read the article, I was in a good place emotionally, physically and spiritually. In the days leading up to my reading the article, I’d been reading a book loaned to me by a friend -It’s a book about yoga, and as I read it, I feel like my soul is getting a massage, and sometimes I fall asleep because it just FEELS so good.

Days before reading the article, I read a passage in the book that put words to something I’d been trying to put words on for years… the place known as “What Is.”

“Through patience, you can possess your soul.  When you catch yourself speeding through life, when you feel you must meet expectations and that so much of being left undone or that you’re not succeeding as quickly as you think you should be, you must remember that real growth doesn’t come from pushing through or breaking out of anything.  Rather, it comes through a gentle melting in.  The path of patience asks you to be okay with what is, stare it straight in the eye, and open to and learn from what’s happening rather than contracting into fear, frustration, and a hidden drive to meet your expectations at any costs.  We must remember that when everything has to be right, something usually isn’t.” ~Baron Baptiste, “40 Days to Personal Revolution”

As I talked with friends and God and processed my swirling reaction, I said, “I need to MELT IN.”  The next day, I could still feel my lack of serenity.  I spoke with my husband and said, “I need to figure out how to be calm and find peace in WHAT IS.”
So many prayers were said.
Tears popped to my eyes as I tried to force open a heart that felt hard during General Conference.

I was reminded of another passage in the book that absolutely fascinated me.

“Each year, I conduct a weeklong bootcamp in the mountains of Montana.  A Lakota elder medicine man takes us through a sweat lodge ceremony, in which up to ten of us sit close together in a pitch-dark tent around a blazing fire, praying and chanting.  I always notice an interesting phenomenon: certain people insist on sitting right by the little exit flap of the tent.  They are adamant, claiming they must be near the door.  I have witnessed these same people break down into intense emotions, fear, and often racking sobs.  You later hear them say that as the steam and heat increased and filled the space with full intensity, they were sure that something terrible was going to happen.  They convinced themselves to stay by saying that if they were near the door, they would be able to make it through to the end.  The truth is that even if they didn’t sit by the door, they would make it through.
In our total commitment to inner revolution and growth, we don’t get to sit near the door.  We don’t get to duck out if the process becomes uncomfortable.  We learn to stay with ourselves, no matter what.” ~Baron Baptiste, “40 Days to Personal Revolution”

On Sunday, some solid answers came.  Mercifully short timing.

How can I learn to be okay while I sit in “What Is”?
There’s no trivia answers, no outside answer, nothing I can read or study or outline or memorize… the answer is deeply personal to me and found deep within myself.

I can only access it by delving inside -by STAYING WITH MYSELF, no matter what.

I hope I’ll get better at it, and I know it will take a great deal of practice.  My impatience is truly one of my grandest stepping stones to God (that’s just a nice way of saying it’s my biggest thorn in my side).

Yesterday morning, I walked outside into the fresh, crisp morning and let my toes enjoy the wet grass -it rained last night… the heavy, gorgeous kind of rain where the sheets fall so fast it looks like mythical creatures are dancing in mid-air. Yesterday morning, everything was new.  I let my bare feet soak up the wet green grass.
How much longer will our grass be green?
I don’t think about it.  I can’t live in the future.  It’s just a shadow of the present, as my pretend-friend James Allen says.
I keep quiet.  I had purposefully NOT checked social media before heading outside.  I pay attention to my breath, and it feels like I’m oxygenating anew my entire being -the stale air from my bedroom was exiting through my mouth as I breathed in the brand new air from the after-storm.
My mind begins to wander and I practice being gentle about pulling it back.  I’m mildly successful.  I begin my prayers, and find that as I pray and give thanks for what it around me and with me, I want to drop my hands down to my side, palms facing forward.
With my mind still and calm, my eyes closed, my palms open, mirroring my heart, I tell God I am ready.
At that exact moment, the sun burst forth from behind a dark rain cloud.  Though my eyes remained closed, I could feel the light.  I could “see” the light changing, everything brightened up behind my eyelids, and I felt God’s warm love wash over me completely.

In that moment, I found that What Is was in my front yard, and that God lives forever in What Is.
What Is isn’t always painful, but it always has the potential to be peaceful and it always is a place where I can learn, grow and increase in wisdom and humility.

What Is.
It’s elusive and also?  The only place we really have.
The past can’t be be fully lived in.
The future can’t be fully lived in.
Trying to live from from either of them produces only pain, regret, and a shallow kind of life.

The present is What Is.

So often I’ve said, “It is what it is,” and shrugged… admitting that I can’t change something, but today I say it with intent.
“Right now IS what it is,” and I let go of the past -the struggles and regrets. I let go of the future -the anxiety and unknowns.
And I AM HERE now in WHAT IS. This is the best way. It keeps me from missing out on listening peacefully to thunder so booming and echoing that I can only describe it as delicious. It keeps me from missing out on the kids -their smiles and tears, their worries and fears. It keep me safe from the sicknesses and stress that come from the anxiety that plagues me. It keeps me calm -it makes what I have enough, and gratitude abounds. I am more open to loving relationships, more prepared to hear God, and more whole in every way.

It is REALLY hard to stay present when things are hard, when I’m waiting for answers or when something has thrown my serenity out the door.

Will “What Is” ever be my constant home?
I hope so, but it feels impossible. But then again -I can’t worry about the future…

(I feel like I need to add a disclaimer: I took the pictures AFTER being present.  I didn’t snap them in the moment because snapping pictures has the potential to sometimes take me OUT of the moment. Amen.)

To Bounce or Not To Bounce?

It’s taking a really long time to bounce back from August and the first half of September. The past two days, I’ve felt some natural return to normalcy which is thrilling in it’s own right. Normalcy gets a bad rap.

The kids had picture day, and Trenton didn’t give the money to his teacher. He paid for his book order but kept the check for his pictures tucked safely in his back pack.
When we walked through the door, I asked how his pictures went, “Show me how you smiled,” I said.
He did.
“But mom,” his smile immediately dropped and he spoke VERY seriously to me, “Did you know you can’t have the pictures unless you PAY for them?”
Head drop. Heart drop. Mom just knew in that moment that the check never made it into the proper hands.


They’re growing rapidly. Sometimes it feels exponential.
Alice, I’m happy to report, isn’t in school. She’s at home and she’s very ALICEY.
She’s also very ELSA-Y. Not to be mistaken with CINDERELLA-Y. Because she’s NOT. She’s ELSA.
She’s been very attached to me these days, and it’s been really funny. When she was born, I told Danny, “I’m just going to go with her gut… let her dictate things in the beginning. When she wants to eat, we’ll do that.”
It was an experiment for me -I was a stay at home full time at that point, and I had the freedom to see what the gut of an infant felt like. It relaxed and calmed everything in our house
set us all up for boundary-lacking chaos a few years later. Because she’s still dictating things around here.

I realized how bad it had gotten the other day when I exerted all of my parenting moxy into a trashy situation. It all started when I was hit with a beautiful wave of gratitude for my children -they are really good kids! Sometimes I get so busy task-mastering that I forget to just ENJOY the fact that the people growing up in my house are big blessings.
I just so happened that pay day was that day, so I resolved to surprise the kids with a fun sushi dinner and a redbox rental. They were overjoyed.
“So you guys get sushi and a movie and you get to stay up a little later, that’s a given,” I said, “But if you would like that AND a doughnut, here’s a list of stuff that needs done before we can go into town to buy the dinner stuff and rent the movie.”
Oh, they got to WORK. They FOUGHT over the work.
“Mom, I DID IT but he put his initials by it and HE DIDN’T!”
“I NEVER!!!!!!!”
That’s when the tears joined the party and I listened to the THINKING part of my brain that said, “BREATHE THROUGH THIS” and not the FEELING part of my brain that longed for something numbing like chocolate or ear plugs or alcohol.
While cleaning up, Trenton found his long lost magnet set. He began tossing them around and one ended up in the trash.
“Mom, can you get it?” he asked.

This was prime. PRIME. A teaching moment! And I was being A GOOD, PATIENT PARENT.
“Trenton,” said, pulling him nearby just like they do in the Hallmark promos, “Sometimes in life things get messy and hard and they stink. They REALLY stink. You won’t WANT to do them, so you get to make a choice. You can DO THEM and show yourself how capable you are, or you can choose not to and live with the consequences which can be okay too. If you find your magnet in the trash, you will have it back and then we’ll get doughnuts. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it and you’ll just not have your magnet anymore. You get to choose.”
“Yes, things that stink really do stink.”
It was getting deep in SO many ways.
“It feels that way right now, but YOU ARE SO CAPABLE.”
“I’ll be happy to help when I see that you’re working hard on it and not just waiting for me to do it for you.”

Being a good parent is a very hard thing to do. I turned back to what I was doing (dishes) and I used the thinking part of my brain to rehearse my own words. I sent them to God and my feeling brain only interrupted sometimes.
Pause. Breathe.
“I am capable of being patient. I can let natural consequences take their place. IF HE DOESN’T GET HIS ACT TOGETHER AND GET OFF THE FLOOR I’M GOING TO LOSE MY BRAIN!”
Pause. Breathe.

“Trenton,” I grit my teeth but kept my tone under control, “You can make a choice. Magnet or no magnet. You are capable of doing hard things. If you get it now, you can still get that doughnut. If you don’t, you just won’t get a doughnut because your chores won’t get done in time. It’s your choice. You’re capable, you got this.”
“I’m. not. talking. to. you. anymore.”

Five minutes later, he had the magnet in his hand and he proceeded to clean up some other gross, stinky, nasty stuff on the counter because, “I could.”
I then walked straight up to the toddler -who hadn’t done a darn thing except make a mess behind everyone who was cleaning and cooed, “You wanna doughnut?!”

That’s when I realized that I first make monsters and then punish them. Boundaries, Alicia! Boundaries! But how?! How do I deny doughnuts to Alice Michelle?!
And after taking them through the grocery store -which event was seriously crazy and I only lost one kid once, so that’s something! -we stopped off to say hello to my grandma who fed us tacos.
Sushi was second dinner, and we watched “Home.” It took me over 30 minutes to realize the movie wasn’t about creatures called “Boob.”
At the end of the day, Danny asked how my day went.
“I played good cop, bad cop, psychiatrist, cook, friend, nurse… and I don’t know. It’s pretty crazy. It was pretty funny.”
Someone please sum up a day of mothering for me in a few succinct words because I’m just too frayed in the brain to even.

I bake cookies because I’ve convinced myself it heals the fray in my brain.
“Where are the cookies? Where’s the bowl?” I asked last week when I looked up from the dining area and couldn’t see the pan and bowl I KNOW I’d JUST set down.
I walked quickly to the kitchen and found Alice’s calling card. MISCHIEF.

Our evening walks down Dad’s farm are always accompanied by a baby and a stroller. They’re something I really look forward to because they give me a chance to practice being present -to not get wrapped up in the rush of getting back home to start dinner. I work on not catching up on messages on the walks, but just taking the slow evening and letting it be slow.
It seems easier to slow down in the evening time. Maybe because everything is lit up with Arizona Sunset Gold?
Alice also takes the time on our walks to catch imaginary “KLEENERS” which are actually praying mantis (praying manti? How do I pluralize this? them?) that Lacy calls “Clingers.”
She stops her stroller and gasps at the ground next to her, “KLEENER!” She scoops up air and passes it to us all.
These walks are not for the rushed of heart.
Because once you have the imaginary insect, you have to CARE for it and not step on it, but Trent is a boy and Trent WILL step on the air JUST to get a reaction and then Mom will pick up the stroller to take the baby and Alice will have a melt down because


Sometimes I take the farm walk alone and sit on the bank of the irrigation ditch and talk to God about how my body hurts, how sick I am, how hard it is to be nauseated every day and not know why… I talk to Him about everything I can’t control, about the shame that eats at my soul when I’m not physically well. I talk, talk, talk, and sometimes I don’t talk but I know I’m still communicating. I go beyond words with God.
When I open my eyes, He goes beyond words with me. He shows me a tree I’ve stared at before but never really SEEN. It’s grown wild and strong on the banks of the ditch. It’s a Chinese Elm and I HATE CHINESE ELM. They kill everything around them, almost refusing to be cut down and killed on their own!
But I realized that day that the ditch -the place where the water was flowing -had revealed the roots of the tree.
God reminded me how much I fuss about the surface symptoms of my life without letting His living water rush over and uncover the roots.
I recenter, I reground.
I stop fussing about the leaves. I can’t control my sickness, but I can control how I respond to my sickness and how I respond to my sicknesses and EVERYTHING comes back to my “roots.” It comes back to what’s in my center… rather, WHO is in my center.
When God is in my center, life is peaceful even when it’s awful. When I’m in my center, life is chaotic, even when it’s sunny.
Roots, roots, roots.

Sometimes I have to get out of the house and away from the children who help me grow so much. I once read that Socrates married his wife because we wanted the challenge she would give him. She had a reputation for being a hard woman -someone really difficult to get along with -and he wanted to growth a woman like that would give him. He wanted to see what it would uncover in him.
That man. He was incredible.
I feel that way about my kids -they uncover so much about ME that is hard to face, and sometimes I just need a quick trip to Sonic for some Sprite. Did you know I live by a famous corner?
Because I do.
I took Lacy out to my grandma’s to watch the General Women’s Conference. I again walked the farm road, holding her hand and talking with her about things girls talk about together. I love her so much -really, Lacy is a beautiful gift to the world… with all of her gifts and all of her faults and all of her HER-NESS, she is a force!

It’s crazy how bouncing back from the past month and a half has looked A LOT like slowing DOWN. And now I wonder…
Do I really WANT to bounce back?

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.
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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