Big Winner!

At the Boardwalk, we went to the arcade. It was probably not the best idea to go in there outnumbered by children. By the end of our experience in there, Jimmy and I were quite frazzled by everyine trying to pull us in multiple directions, needing extra tokens and trying to pick out (cheap, ,going in the trash when we get home) prizes. Jimmy said, "I have some tokens, do you want to play something?" I tool them and went to play Deal or No Deal. I walked back to where he was standing with the four kids with a whopping two tickets in my hand. I was done. But, on the way out I decided to pop a few stray tokens in the last game. Wheel of Fortune was my Lady Luck! I ended up winning 805 tickets. Do you know how long it takes a machine to dispense 805 tickets?! a very.long.time.



We were debating on whether or not to go to the Boardwalk because it was supposed to rain all day. We ended up going and being blessed with wonderful weather! I wanted to go on the Giant Dipper with the big kids, so Jimmy took the little kids to the bumper cars. He took this first picture and didn't realize that the little guy was too short... They went on the car ride instead- you'll notice in the second picture, one of them is not really the ride type.

 Preteens... you love them, or you want to shoot them. Today, I loved.
 Too much fun all day, we only got one shot with everyone in it
 I thought it was hysterical that Jimmy looked like a giant on this ride next to all the kids.
We had a great day- from opening until closing. On the way home, we stopped at Taco Bell in a less than best neighborhood. It was interesting. That was one meal where I wished the kids would eat fast... They were oblivious, but Jimmy and I were exchanging looks the whole time. Of course it's funny now- after the fact. I would count this day as a total success.


We're going to the beach!

After MUCH schedule arranging and rearranging, we are finally heading off to go to the beach house. This trip was to be longer, but many things got in the way. Now, it's supposed to rain!!! I don't care. We'll be at the beach, we're getting wet anyway...


Productive Day

4 acres of lawn mowed- check
teaching each child how to use lawn mower- check
3 out of 4 children contract poison oak- check
take 1 out of 4 children to dr.- check
try to fix the broken washer- check
completely unsuccessful at fixing household appliance- check
fall into to bed just grateful the day's over- check


I tell people when something is in their teeth

Because I am a good friend.
How would I feel if I went around talking to tons of people with a big ol green piece of spinach flashing out and about?!
So then, why is it that there are not people around who choose to show me the same courtesy?!
I did not have anything in my teeth- but I did go a full day in a large public arena with my cardigan on inside out!!!

What makes it worse is that the cardigan is 5 sizes bigger than what I wear now! I wore it as a drapey kind of thing. Seriously, if this were to happen with what size I wear now, I may have done it on purpose!

Friends, if you care to call yourselves that- please, please, please ALWAYS tell me when something is in my teeth, hair messed up, smudged eye makeup etc. I promise I will return the favor.


Jump Highway

We went to Jump Highway today... AWESOME! I am bummed because I am still sick and wasn't able to jump with everyone for the full amount of time. I did a tiny bit, but really regretted doing so.
Our family has already planned on going back for FHE.


Everyone was good today

It may be that the bulk of discipline came from someone wielding needles and a drill.
No, not me... we spent the first day of Spring Break at the dentist. For hours.
In between me switching loads at my friend's house- because our washer is broken.
Since Friday morning.
Do you know how many loads we produce in 3 days?!
Too many.
I've decided to make the kids wash their clothes in the Napa river by hand.
Then maybe they will stop changing their outfits every time someone sneezes.
(in case that reference was too obscure- that's like, 4 times a day)


Buried treasure

We had one of those shaking-instead-of-laughing-because-we-are-trying-to-reverent-in-church in sacrament meeting today. All the kids were playing with a little tin box that came with magnets. When the talking while playing got to be too much, I asked all of them to pick up the tiny magnet pieces. How the magnets got to be so spread out in such little time, I have no idea. But it was a veritable treasure hunt while the kids were all scavenging for the pieces. Just as I was closing the lid on a tin box, Kate whispered, "I found one more!". She then pushed her hand into the crevice between cushions and pulled out a moldy raisin. The look on her face when that girl realized it was a raisin, and a moldy one at that, was priceless. It took the rest of the meeting for me to stop shaking...


I think I'm brilliant

But then, things usually back fire in my face.
At the opening of this here Spring Break,
I am a little nervous about being home with everyone all day... every day.
So, I instituted a one time only system in which I have attached a monetary value
to the usual reward ticket system we have already in place.
Let's see how much money I have at the end of the week.
It's only been a day and I'm already out quite a bit of cash...


We are a game playing family

There are two games in our house that have turned into traditions- both introduced to me by my dear friend, Shari.

One is "The Water Game", in which you have a tiny cap full of water and the player who is it holds it very close to each person in the circle in turn. The player holding the water thinks of something in a category and keeps it, then shares the category with everyone. (for example: they think of 'blue' then tell everyone else they are thinking of a color). As the water holder goes around the circle, each other player names a color. If they happen to say, "blue", that guesser gets a splash in the face. It is soooo fun!

The other is called, "Huckle Buckle Beanstalk". There is one person hiding a small object (we use a playmobile person) while everyone else leaves the room. The object must be in plain sight. Then everyone comes out and tries to find the object. They do so quietly and sneakily, then sit and shout, "Huckle Buckle Beanstalk!" when the object is found.

Well, Jimmy and I played a version of both games- we found the 'hidden' playmobile person in the washing machine pipes that happened to clog while doing a load of laundry. Then, opening the front loading washer, we also got to play "The Water Game"...


Busy Busy Lady

Every Thursday is library day. I sat on the floor all night with each kid,  petting the library dog while they read. I was so into what the kids were reading- helping them with hard words and offering up an occasional, 'good job' , that I failed to realize the after math of petting a dog (in the Spring) for an hour. It wasn't until I was in the car that I noticed my furry pants. It must have been nice to see a lady toting all those kids through the library who apparently forgot to shave...


Choose ye the good part

I spent an hours in one of the kids' classrooms cutting out minuscule pieces of paper pizza toppings. Probably about eleventy billion of them. So many, in fact, that I had to take the rest home to finish cutting. When I got home, I broke out my Heinkle scissors given to me by Tommy and Ellen and whipped out those remaining pizza toppings in a jiffy!
The job was still difficult and tedious, but my tool was different.
It's kind of like life. It will be tedious and hard- it's life, after all. But you choose what tools to use to navigate the path. My recommendation is to choose the really good tools: prayer, scripture study, faith and hope. Most importantly- love.


The WAITING room

Jimmy had to come be with the boys at the dentist while I went home to be busy having a 103 fever... he didn't come home for almost five hours and only ONE of them was seen!
They all had appointments!
Home with a fever or in a dentist office with four boys for over four hours?
Honestly, I think Jimmy got the raw end of deal...


I'm a winner

What's the deal with the FHE meltdown?!
I swear, every Monday night, someone has a complete and total hissy fit right.before.fhe.
I think the adversary wants to win, but I know who the winner is and I'm sticking with that team, thank you very much.
Next week, we are picking lemons, juicing them, talking about making something sweet from something sour we've been given and putting together lemon squares. Fun, huh?! I hope no one gets lemon juice in their eyes, then has a meltdown while the other three are goofing off and break something valuable, while the youngest gets poked in the side and starts wailing... you get the idea.
Isn't it exciting being on the winning side?!


St. Patrick's Day!

We had a great day with Corned Beef and Cabbage, of course!!! And a rainbow cake! Both of which the boys have never had. Both of which they liked (except for the cabbage...)
I always raost the carrots and potatoes rather than boil them. Also, secret to keeping the cabbage green??? Put baking soda in the water before boiling it.


Imagine Dragons Concert!

Jimmy, Hillary and I went to an Imagine Dragons concert and it was awesome! I was kind of dreading going to the Tenderloin district in SF, but we survived... I may have gotten into a cat fight(ish) and gotten a couple of scratches- but what's a concert without a brawl?! Just for your information... I won. I cannot wait to see them again!!!


I like things in my timing

This morning, I had been admiring a gorgeous woodpecker. It's been hanging out all morning. Now it's time for the first nap I have ever taken since we've had the boys and I am done admiring...


Yes ma'am

As I was out this evening with the kids, we got a (few) pleasant surprises...

At one establishment, as we were ordering- I was insistent on proper manners while doing so.
A kind older man came up to us as we were leaving and stooped down to talk to the boys. He shook each of their hands and with a grin congratulated them on how well they ordered dinner. Then with a wink, he said to me, "Good job, mom."

While walking out of another store, I had the kids reading all the signs and sounding out the difficult words. A sweet woman walked by and exclaimed, "What great readers! Good job guys!" Then she turned to me, "I'm a teacher and it makes me so happy to see you using this time to teach your kids!" the woman shared.

At the library, I was reading to the kids and helping pick out books. One of the workers commented on how well the kids were behaving. In the same fashion as our previous experiences, that worker also complimented me.

This post is not to brag. It is not to point out how today was a good day for everyone (which is not always the case...)
What I wanted to share is how important it is for us to see the good in others. It is imperative for us to share common decency with all the other people sharing in this earthly experience. There are days when I feel like a failure as a mother. There are days when I feed them all the wrong things just to get them to stop whining and sit them in front of the TV to leave me alone.
But, in those sweet moments when my patience it at a premium, when my teaching is stellar and I try to be fabulous- it was really nice to have a pat on the back.
What was so wonderful is the way each stranger complimented the children first. Such a nice little treat for them to get positive recognition. In the car on the way home, we all talked about how it felt to be noticed for doing a good job. "It felt good. We all like feeling good. Let's try our best all the time to have this feeling as much as we can!"

Heavenly Father has given us ample opportunities to have teaching moments with these foster children. It's like a super crash course- the moments come at us fast. Jimmy and I really have to be quick on the uptake because once you let the moment pass, it's gone. Fortunately, we are all working hard to be at optimum performance lately. I would really hate one of these moments to pass us by.
Today was just such a sweet reminder to keep on truckin'. (in totally related news- the kids' first initials spell MACK. We joke about how Jimmy and I were hit by a Mack truck with all of this. We think we're pretty funny...)


New Life

In the odd quiet moment between two siblings bickering and someone flushing something too large to go down the toilet, I had a moment of peace. In this moment I thought, "I have a piece of my old life back."

I sat there happy with the way things were going and thinking it was the way it always used to be. Then I realized, "Wait! This life is NOTHING like my old life!" The dawning of the truth came to me. The only thing that was the same about now and then is this: I am happy. I have found and settled into our new normal.
There was always crazy- now it's just different crazy.
I was always busy- but now it's freaking insane busy.
There was always underlying contentment- now I've found that same comfort.

My new life has none of the same logistics, but I still go about it the same way. Lots of scripture study, TONS of prayer and a sacred Sunday to top off the week. Because of the adversity that comes with being a parent, I have always had to rely on the Lord. I am grateful for His help. In this trial, I have never felt alone. I may not talk to my friends and family as much as I used to. It's only because I am in constant contact with Heavenly Father. He must be sick of me by now. I just love how things go when I let Him in. When I let Him guide. There is no way I could navigate life without the tools I've been given.

My days of quiet pondering with one sweet little girl have gone to teaching how to properly excuse oneself from the dinner table to fart loud...
Yet, the safe haven is still intact.
Love still abounds.
My joy is full... it's just louder.



What I ate yesterday:
See's Candy
Bacon and mushrrom egg white omelet
3 thin mints
2 samoas
tortilla chips
cara cara orange
mini m&m's
kraft mac n' cheese
pizza (whole wheat- haahaa, like that makes a difference in this day, hmph!)
rice crispy treat(s)
buttered popcorn
hot fudge sundae with more whipped cream than I care to mention... although, if I care not to mention it, I am pretty sure you know that's code for a mountain of whipped cream- and then more when it ran out.*

How I feel today:

*that one was for you, April :)


Popcorn popping

I just love the Spring in Napa Valley. One of my favorite hikes, Timberhill, just blew me away today...



Today is my very last day in participating in the great in 8 challenge.
Just to give you an idea of how I did:

I lost 19 lbs. (possibly 20, if I weigh in tomorrow morning)
And 18 inches!!!

Here is the before picture:

And two after pictures:

I will be starting my next cycle of the challenge on April 1st. Anyone want in?!
p.s.- I cannot get the alignment right on the pictures (gah!)
 and the outfit is the same, just different lighting


Throw back Date Night!

Guess what play (musical) Jimmy and I went to see tonight?!


You may wonder why the exclamation marks galore... This is why, folks: I saw that play on Broadway in high school with my family. I think everyone was there, but I'm not sure because all I really remember is me and my sister belting out every song on the way home at the top of our lungs. When I saw that a local high school was doing a production, I nearly wet myself.

I have kept my shirt from the broadway show (the one in which the guy from Glee, Will Schuster, played Ren McCormick) and have not been able to get rid of it. You like?!

The production we saw was actually very good- the choreography was fantastic and I cannot get over the talent. But, to be honest with you- all I really cared about was this song:



We have had to use some interesting parenting skills in expanding our brood.
One morning, after many mornings of a surly preteen, I was done with the contention. Everyone else's day was starting off so negatively because of one person. I had prayed about what to do and was fortunately answered that morning early this week. When the disagreements (and door slamming and yelling and all else that a preteen might want to use as a tool to get their way) had come to an all time high, I calmly explained that we don't treat people that way in our home. I then promptly placed the boy outside and welcomed him to join us when he was ready to be kind. It was 6:15 am. There was ice on the grass. Needless to say, he came in very shortly. And we've had good morning since.


I am exhausted

mostly because I just wrote 8 blog posts in a row. I did not want to give up on that New Year's Resolution... another one of which was to write a b-day card to everyone in my family and send it. I missed February, BUT I bought the cards, wrote in them, sealed them AND addressed them. I.just.have.to.send.them!!!
I must do that tomorrow (or at least before I get to April, right?) What's unfortunate is that I can't change the post date like I can on the blog. Plus, the fact that the birthdays I am wishing happiness for happened last month... Argh!

However (!), As far as the final resolution: lose 50 lbs. I have lost just over 20 this year! This is a result of doing the Great in 8 challenge, of which I will explain in  detail in the upcoming week hoping that some of you might join me on the next go round.

Time for bed...


I remember when gas used to cost $.99...

In other words, I am getting old.

Tonight, I had one too many burping/farting/armpit farting noises in my presence. It was then that I decided to jump ship and go to the movies. I intended to go alone. But as life is in a family of six, you are rarely alone. And so Kate jumped ship with me and we made a girls' night out of it. What was so cool about the night was that we were the the only ones in the whole theater. Probably because:
a) it was a school night
b) it was a kids movie
c) the movie was 3D (I hate the 3D trend with a passion)
d) the movies are freaking expensive nowadays

Regardless of the cost and terrible temptation it was to have a nine year old eating chocolate next to me whilst on a sugar fast, I do not regret going. I do not regret taking time to do what I want. Because having literally ten minutes to myself has not happened since (insert something relevant meaning 'a really long time' here). I had a good time even if I had to withdraw from Kate's college fund for it (nearly)


Setting Apart

My sister-in-law Michelle was set apart as a full time missionary tonight. There was a mix up in the schedule and the stake president had to change times and locations. At first, it was difficult to pull things together so last minute, but the Lord knows best and it turned out to be a huge blessing. President Judd ended up coming to my in-laws' home rather than at the church.
The spirit was palpable.
The stake president invited all of us to give Sister Graham advice and it was so touching.
I am so proud of who Michelle has become. I have felt so close to her as she has prepared. We have spent many days hiking together and talking about various gospel topics, which seems so natural in an outdoor setting. Being surrounded by God's handiwork really reminds me of all that He's done and all that we have. My advice to her was this:
 It has been promised to us in the scriptures that, "Charity never faileth". Regardless of whatever stumbling blocks, the promise is stated so clearly in so little words. The pure love of Christ will always be successful. It NEVER fails. I have found such comfort in this fact. There are times when I am trodden down in trials, but that reminder has been such a sweet reminder. If I ever feel like I am fighting a losing battle, I have the secret weapon that has been promised me. What joy fills my heart in knowing that I will be successful if I but remember those three words.
"Charity Never Faileth"


Changing religions

The religion thing has been quite new to our foster children. That being said, the boys have taken to church, praying, FHE and the like as ducks to water. They have been so good at following our examples and striving to do the right thing in this new culture they're experienced. In one such instance,  I had Kate and the 11 year old boy with me in the car. As we were driving, Kate was talking and stated a fact that I agreed with.
Sometimes, when this happens in a conversation, I say a resolute, "Amen!" Almost as a devout worshipper might in a backwoods church.
I don't know how I picked up this habit, but such was the case in this situation.
Without even thinking, the boy followed suit and shouted, "Amen!" also.
And then he looked at me a little perplexed, "Why did we say, 'Amen!'?"

It was then that I had to explain that his foster mother is weird and apparently baptist.



So.... when I took the kids to Sonoma for a hike so Jimmy could get a whole day by himself, it was under one condition. That my dear husband would use the girl scout cookie app to get manna from heaven for me. I NEEDED these cookies... ever so badly. And this is why: I am on a sugar fast and have been since December 26th (except for that one time I ate dessert at a restaraunt in Miami Beach that I was pretty sure was a once in a lifetime thing and I knew that if I didn;t do it I'd regret it for the rest of my life- moreso than breaking a goal I had set. But, anyways...) I will be breaking this sugar fast next week when I am in between Great in 8 challenges. I have a list of things I will be partaking of on this breaking of the sugar fast. I have already welcomed the idea of being incredibly sick and I am joyous over this fact. Here is my list:

Bouchon Bakery and everything in it
Dean and Deluca chocolates
a slice of champagne cake from Buttercream Bakery
the TWO POUNDS of See's candy my visiting teacher got me on V Day (I might share this one. Might.)
Reese's peanut butter cups
a butterfinger
a giant ice cream sundae bar at our house- GIANT, I tell you
Three Twins ice cream cone
Churros at Bistro Sabor
mini m&m's
oh yes, and these girl scout cookies

How did I get these here cookies, though? Obviously, because of my obsession with building the aforementioned list, I have gotten off topic. The whole point was this- Jimmy followed the cookie app with no success. Those little girls lied. Jimmy called telling me that he waited around for them to show up (not in a creepy way. More in a my wife is crazy, I would rather scare little children than face her without a box of cookies, kind of way) Unfortunately, they never showed up. Literally after he had called me in Sonoma to bear the bad news, I drove by a "drive thru" girl scout cookie stand. Brilliant. Of course I drove thru. And may have been a little grabby with those boxes. Just a little. And that is the story of how I will be spending a sugar induced coma starring my friends Thin Mint and Samoa.


Why I'm crazy

Because I decided to go to IKEA and Healdsburg in the same day... with two kids.

Healdsburg has a fabulous Salvation Army that I frequent. That's where I purchased my Drexel Heritage couch for twenty bucks. Yeah, it's a fabulous place. But not today. Today, I found NO furniture AT ALL. I did, however, manage to find a truly vintage dress from the 50's and a pair of rad shoes for under $10. Not worth the trip this time, but maybe the universe is trying to get me back for the deal I got on the couch.

IKEA was fun at first- then the kids got bored. Really bored. Trying to jump on the beds and watch the fake tvs bored. But, I survived. And the kids have the coolest above the bed shelves (for the five brand new beds we worked so hard to purchase) and new lamps and fun toy shelves and so many other things one might pick up at a Scandinavian super store...


Happy dog...

... The name of the place we went to after a strenuous hike in Sonoma. Also, the place that does not accept credit/debit cards. Thus, sending my and my brood across a four lane highway to a fictitious ATM. Upon realizing that there was no ATM, we took a million u-turns to find one, ending up in a mini golf place, a mobile home a karma healing shop among others sites.

The food at Happy Dog was good, but the adventure to get there was better.

P.S. I found it incredibly ironic that the woman taking our order was anything but a "happy dog". She got the growling/scowling part right.