We are really good at remodeling

Jimmy was filming a video for YouTube in our room in front of his wall of games, when in the midst of speaking he hears a, "meooow" and feels an animal rubbing against his leg. When my husband looked down, he had noticed the cat had come in through the dog-door-turned-cat-door that I had so thoughtfully produced years ago. See this post for a tutorial!


We love seeing people

We especially love it when return missionaries come back to our home for a visit. Sister Clayton and Sister Fenn visisted on Saturday. We were so excited to see them! Sister Clayton was actually at Kate's baptism- it was the first baptism of her mission!


Gosh, am I glad I have all the pictures archived on my computer. How cool is it that I could put those two pictures together?!


Miss Sydney's Farewell

So, I know the picture of me is bad... but this is not about me. This post is about my sweet Sydney.
I met SYdney when she was 12 and I was 21. She was a first year camper and I was a first year leader. Along with her best but Cammie, we all three hit it off. And by a chance that I know is not coincidence- I served withthese girls for their whole camping experience. I love Sydney and Cammie. We have spent some tender, silly and specatular moments together. I love them.
Well, in a proud moment- I got to attend Sydney's missionary farewell today. Sydney attends a small branch in St. Helena and the room was packed! Sydney's parents spoke along with Sydney. I was brimming with tears all day. I am so proud of sweet Sydney and her choice
to serve Heavenly Father in THAILAND!
My favorite quote from Sydney today:
"I'm going to place where the letters look like noodles, but I know I'll be okay."
I Love Syney. I am so proud of who she's become and who she will become...


"Another Hike" brought to you by the Graham Family

Yes, we like hiking. And yes, I took a huge amount of pictures. A third yes, in that blogger was being a stinker and I could only get four pictures out of the many uploading on this here blog.
I love the first picture. It's like one of those Highlights Magazine Pictures,
where you find hidden objects 
Can you find:
a kid who just got stepped on
a kid getting his hair pulled
a kid tickling another
a kid being tickled and hating it
a dad trying to hold it all together for the sake of the picture


Pity Party Post

Like that alliteration! I was too lazy to look back on my blogging archives, but I am pretty sure I've used that post title before. It is so clever, after all.

Well, here I am knee deep between two events and shopping for a family of six and cooking, cleaning, working at the day care, working at the school, driving kids to appointments, waiting three hours at office for appointments to be done, doing all that is neccessary to keep the Spirit in our home just to have it chased away by one kid....

Let the pity party begin!

And now, that we've had that little celebration, I would like to celebrate another few things:
I am grateful for the resources I have to go shopping
to live in a place where food and clean water is readliy available
to have the talent of cooking not only to feed my family, but to help others
to have a job that I LOVE at the daycare
to have healthy children
to have the tools and knowledge to get the Spirit in our home
 I have more gratitude than pity for all that I have been given. But somedays, all I want to do it have a party. I do like excitement...


Holy Windy Night, Batman!!!

It was so windy at night that the house felt like it would go all Dorothy, up into the sky! The evidence is stated clearly in the picture below:

Inside out umbrella, broken IN HALF! It was crazy!!!
Plus, the kids' ball bin was blown into the middle of the pasture- when it was full of all the outdoor toys! It was a crazy night... but the part I'm not a fan of is the frequency of night time visits we receive from four children when the night is that kind of crazy...


We're mean...

The oldest kid has a real thing with socks... I know, right?! That boy is obsessed with Nike Elite socks (don't ask me why- I don't know) to the point that he mowed the WHOLE lawn today to open a pair that came in the mail.
You see, we buy socks for Mr. Big Stuff.
But not Nike Elite.
Oh dear!
What must one do in the House of Graham if one wants an $18 pair of socks?!
Why work for it, of course!
Now any of you that know where we live know our lawn is big. Mighty big.
When the deal was struck, Mr. Big Stuff was eager to pay off his debt.. for a whopping three minutes. His interest in the socks ebbed- until they came in the mail today. And so, with package sitting on the parents' bed, Mr. Big Stuff went off to mow and mow and mow.
Little did he know, Jimmy and I opened the package, put in a pair of old ugly socks and resealed it. Please refer to the title of this post...
When Mr. Big Stuff came in sweating, panting and exhausted he just kept repeating, "socks...socks...socks..." And so, mean parents that we are, made all pomp and circumstance in opening the package. We sat the boy down in the 'nice' chair and watched eagerly as he gingerly opened the package.
The look on his face warrants a future strike from a bolt of lightning right on my person.
But I think a little shock is worth it, don't you?!

p.s.- Mr. Big Stuff was only upset for a second and then he laughed when he realized the ol' bait and switch we pulled. I will be sleeping with one eye open tonight, folks.


'Twas a perfect day

I celebrated my birthday with gusto (and Jimmy)- and loved every second of it!
Here's the rundown:
Slept in until 6:22 am (a real treat, I tell ya!!!)
Stopped at Bouchon- yum!


Went on a 4 hour hike- woo hoo!

Ate lunch at Squeeze Inn- oh.my.gosh.
Watched Oblivion- meh.
Bought $40 per lb halibut- it was a birthday dinner and I only got 1/2 lb.
Got a slice of champagne cake- my absolute favorite- hands down.

Made a delicious kidless dinner for me & Jimmy- silent AND delicious!

Picked up kids- all sleepy. I almost got knocked out by the little happy guy's sleeping, flailing arms.
Went to bed- with a smile on my face.
What a perfect day.


All together now

Yesterday, our family sang in church. It was really nice in that most of the kids sang. I had everyone in matching outfits. (I would say, 'pictures to follow' but we all know I am never getting everyone back in those outfits just to take pictures)
The boys looked so dapper and little Kate was beautiful. The member of the bishopric actually commented on how we all looked so nice. Feeling so pleased with myself- you know, after getting all four kids ready alone because Jimmy always has a morning meeting- I lovingly looked down the pew at my brood. It was then that I notced one kids trying to take off his shirt and another playing with something in his armpit. Upon further inspection... one kid was trying to get the tag out of the inside of his shirt while the other was playing a game with the tag hanging down from his armpit!!!

Well, we matched outfits, but so much for having it all together. You know, I think I need to re-hang the sign sitting in the closet since the last time I painted, "We may not have it all together, but together we have it all"
Yeah, hanging the sign, that'll happen...


Sunday Post

Here's to a great Sabbath! Today at church, regardless of having to leave early with a sick child, was fabulous (while I was there).
This week was a trying week... there was a lot to take in: a heavy diagnosis with one of the kids, a heavy diagnosis with a dear friend, temper tantrums that won't quit, a terrible test result- you know, life.

Jimmy and I had a serious discussion about the next steps to take and have planned a family counsel this evening. I went to church with a heavy heart this morning. Then, the speakers at church spoke right to me. Directly to my pain and anguish. It was refreshing. As I sat listening, I knew I was a daughter of God. I knew I was loved by Him. One of the speakers talked about how Heavenly Father's grace is sufficient. That Jesus Christ doesn't fill the gaps- He is in it all, there are no gaps. There is not a score kept in that we are two points shy of making it into heaven. The analogy the speaker chose helped me to understand this principle so much better. It's like a mother paying for piano lessons. The price is paid in full regardless of how well the student does. All the practice in the world is not paying back the mother for the money she spent for lessons. But the diligence in practicing is a show of appreciation for what the student has been given.
Our salvation has been 'paid in full' by the Savior. What we do with this life is our appreciation, respect and love for Him.

There is a story that I hold dear to my heart that goes hand in hand with this analogy. I have shared the story before, but I would like to share it again:
[This is] the story of a young piano student. His mother, wishing to encourage him, bought tickets for a performance of the great Polish pianist, Paderewski. The night of the concert arrived and the mother and son found their seats near the front of the concert hall. While the mother visited with friends, the boy slipped quietly away.
Suddenly, it was time for the performance to begin and a single spotlight cut through the darkness of the concert hall to illuminate the grand piano on stage. Only then did the audience notice the little boy on the bench, innocently picking out ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’
His mother gasped, but before she could move, Paderewski appeared on stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. He whispered to the boy, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And then, leaning over, the master reached down with his left hand and began filling in the bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.
In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and time again, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And as we do, He augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. He is right there with all of us, telling us over and over, ‘Keep playing.’
And so, our lessons have been paid for, let's all practice and keep playing.


In April?!

This is the earliest in the year we've ever gone to the pool. It was a blast and quite a respite from a long hike earlier on this very hot day.


Together Forever

As you well know, we are a hiking (all the time) family. We went as a family to the "frog hike" in Sonoma. It is called the "frog hike" because halfway through the hike, you drop down into a little creek just filled with frogs. When you walk, it looks like the ground is moving because there are so many frogs jumping around. So fun!

Anyway, the park closes and locks its gates at 4:30. We showed up at 2:30.

With very little time to hike before getting locked in and having to have a sleepover with the frogs, we were on a mission. What is so nice about being on a timeline is that the kids were really motivated. I have never seen them move so fast! Rather than stop every two minutes for water, those kids were hauling! Jimmy and I stayed back and watched them encourage each other through the tricky steps and difficult slopes. It was really nice to watch everyone work so hard towards a common goal.

I guess that's what we're trying to do here, huh? Just work hard towards a common goal? I am glad I have such great people to work with.


My heart hurts

I attended court with a dear friend today. The outcome was wrong. Just wrong.
When the family who spoke out against her used such an inaccurate picture of what that friend really is, I was appalled. The difficulty in sitting there came when the eternal perspective I've been given was not the same perspective on the other side of the courtroom. What a gift I have in knowing that life is part of an eternal plan. I know where my loved ones go after they pass away. I know where to turn for peace. I have been given the tools to heal. My hope is that someday, the family that was so crushed adevastated to the point of wanting vengence, will find the pure love of Christ and know that everything will be okay in the end... Like my dad always tells me, "Everything's alright in the end. If it's not alright, it's not the end."



When I started my hike this morning, I knew I wanted to increase my intensity. Getting out of the car, I was full of desire to run the trail... then I started running. For like a minute. And then, I slowed to a brisk walk thinking, "it's still exercise..." But I had already lost the desire to push myself. When I crested the next hill, I came to see this:

Right in the middle of the path was a huge longhorn. HUGE.
It was very close. VERY CLOSE.
Now, I knew I wanted a more challenging work out- but I did not want that to include running from a longhorn...
In case you were ever wondering if saying, "Hi Cow... hi cow... hiiiii cow" in a soothing voice works to make it walk away, it doesn't.
I kept inching my way closer hoping that the longhorn and her two babies (oh yeah, I do it right! Not just a cow with one baby but TWO. I was hoping this wasn't a mama bear situation) would get startled and leave. But not so, my friends. She just kept staring at me, chewing her cud.

Then, one of the babies started coming! towards! me! What was I to do?!?!? I said a prayer that went something like this, "I really want to hike, I really don't want to die, what should I do?" Of course the answer was to climb the cliff to my left up to the top. Of course. So, I bolted up the cliff and grasped/crawled my way to the top of the mountain. Thankfully, the cow hanging out at the top of the cliff was so startled by a sweaty grunting woman crawling over the side that it ran in fright. Now, where was THAT cow when I needed it?! (By the way, a cow running in fright is actually quite a funny sight)
When I got to the very tip top of the mountain, I was able to do my scripture study and such. And I got to thinking... I had intended a difficult workout. I anticipated difficulty- even wanted it. But, I got lazy. I would have made it to the top of the mountain. But, with the huge horned obstacle in my path, I was compelled to take a difficult path. I still ended up where I wanted to be. The path was just different.
Isn't that just like life? "Heavenly Father, I want to grow." and BOOM! Adversity at your doorstep. Would I have chosen the trials I have? Not in this earthly life.
Am I grateful for what trials I do have? Absolutely.
My goal is to get to the top- and if I get to do it in style, then so be it.


Come What May and Love It

I read a general conference talk today that really helped me. As stated in my blog title, it is called, "Come What May and Love It" by Joseph B. Wirthlin, October 2008 general conference.

The tag line is: "The way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life."

My favorite part in the talk is the first point Elder Wirthlin states; and that is to learn to laugh. He then tells this story:
"I remember when one of our daughters went on a blind date. She was all dressed up and waiting for her date to arrive when the doorbell rang. In walked a man who seemed a little old, but she tried to be polite. She introduced him to me and my wife and the other children; then she put on her coat and went out the door. We watched as she got into the car, but the car didn’t move. Eventually our daughter got out of the car and, red faced, ran back into the house. The man that she thought was her blind date had actually come to pick up another of our daughters who had agreed to be a babysitter for him and his wife.
We all had a good laugh over that. In fact, we couldn’t stop laughing. Later, when our daughter’s real blind date showed up, I couldn’t come out to meet him because I was still in the kitchen laughing. Now, I realize that our daughter could have felt humiliated and embarrassed. But she laughed with us, and as a result, we still laugh about it today.
The next time you’re tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable."
I couldn't have read this talk at a better time. In the midst of a clothes washer that will not stay happy (coming up on 5 weeks now...), friends stricken with grief, lots of two year old temper tantrums- by an eleven year old.
You know, just a day in the life...
This week in our adversity, forced laughter has turned into genuine laughter. I have liked being with myself. It has been good. I urge you to read that talk, it puts life into perspective.


Only as old as you feel

Waiting at the car wash, I am always curious which owner matches which car. It's almost like the animated 101 Dalmatians movie. You know, the part where each pet owner looks like their pup? It's fun to watch the car detailers call a car type and see who stands up. On one such occasion, a fancy- brand new Corvette rolled out of the wash. The detailers were busy making this beautiful car look its best. I kept scanning the waiting customers.

"Hmmm... who's going to claim that one?" I thought.
When the detailer finally called, "Corvette!"
A tiny old man with a cane stood gingerly up and shuffled over to his waiting convertible.
All I could do was smile...


Lucky number 7

What a day...

We are in the plans to adopt a sibling set of three children, but not until they are actually available- which may not even happen. Ultimately, the first priority is to get the children home. But if it's been too long for them away from their parents, adoption is the next step. The children we are starting to bond with are only a possibility. We have wanted to get closer with these children in case the adoption goes through. Today we were able to have one of the children and her foster brother come to church with us and play all day. When planning this, I was a little apprehensive because of catering the day before and getting home so late at night- but seeing these kids is a priority and I wanted to treat it that way. So, I agreed to watch them not know what was to come.

at 12:45 am, we got a call to be at the receiving center. The receiving center is a confidential location where foster children are placed (very short term) until the county finds a placement for them. We were on call. Meaning, Jimmy had to get dressed and head down the hill AND leave me for up to 24 hours!

I woke up the kids and got all four ready for church, headed over there and had an additional child in our pew. Then, just as I was starting to catch my breath, I was asked from the pulpit to say the opening prayer. The look of panic on my face must have been hilarious. I nodded my agreement and hoped for the best. No child screamed. They all folded their arms. Everyone was intact when I got back from praying. Taking the kids to all their different classes was a comedy of errors. There was gnashing of teeth and ripping of church bags and spilling of milk. But I did not cry.

I did end up teaching primary with a two year old on my lap (and LOVED it). Getting home was interesting in that our neighbor came down to play. My previous 4 kids had grown to a count of 7. It sounds like such a big number, but once you have a big number to start with, adding more is no big deal.

Dinner was an ordeal. The best part was the two year old shouting, "yummy!" all through the meal. I was quite happy that at least one person liked the food tonight.

All in all, today was a good day- no one got hurt, everyone ate there was lots of laughter- but I am exhausted...


Stake Temple Day

Our family attended stake temple day today. It was a wonderful, looong day.

I was responsible for making lunch for the stake and it turned out well, I think. The kids were great, we were there on time and the session was fabulous. The best part was taking the kids to the visitor's center and walking around the temple grounds. Unfortunately, our pictures do not reflect the amazing time we had... these three were the only ones worth sharing. One of the kids took the picture of Christ's hand and I really liked it.


Dog Days

Jimmy and I go on a mini-date each week.
It is a golden 25 minutes downtown in between the end of his work day and picking up up of four children. This date is always blissful.
Because we're together... and we eat junk without having to share with the kids.

There is a multitude of eateries to choose from. Wonderful, fabulous places full of my kind of food... And because we are doing our Great in 8 challenge together, we use this mini date to use our free negative food points to splurge.
Yesterday was heaven- but I did not realize the extent to which Jimmy has felt deprived on this program. As we were enjoying our (wait for it) freshly made churros with dulce de leche and dark chocolate dipping sauce at Bistro Sabor, I looked up in surprise.
My sweet, polite husband was licking the inside of the dark chocolate dipping cup.
Like a dog.
Or a person avoiding chocolate for 8 weeks, rather.
When my mouth dropped open at his lack of manners, the dawn of recognition crossed my husband's face. He turned white as a sheet, dropped the cup and said, "I cannot believe I just did that."
Then we walked away from the restaurant, Jimmy with his tail between his legs.


Maybe last night was the wrong night to get 4 hours of sleep...

I work at a daycare when the kids are at school. I love it.
I really look forward to seeing those little preschoolers and playing with them.
The only thing that I could do without is the potty training...
Today started out very successfully- beautiful weather, exercise clothes and a willingness to work out with the kids again. I was so amped up by the time I got to work that the kids sensed my excitement. The air was a buzz with anticipation. Everyone went potty and off we went. One little boy is potty training and did very well using the restroom before leaving.
However, when a  child is given miralax with breakfast (unbeknownst to me) things might move at a rapid pace in the potty department. There was the equivalent of a bomb going off in that poor little boy's pants. We went quickly back to the day care.

My plan of attack was this:
put messy child in restroom
run to get his extra clothes
put on a movie for remaining children
clean up messy child

Messy child's plan of attack:
get the mess in every nook and cranny as fast as humanly possible

His plan of attack succeeded... and for the first time I ever, I had to fire up the shower at daycare. It was a loooong day.


Costco and the Crazy Lady

The ONLY time I had all week to make a Costco run was today, on school half-day, with all four kids. I knew going into it, that this day would just about kill me. Now, going to Costco with all four is no problem... but when I had to purchase everything for a catering event AND our family- I have to admit I was awfully intimidated by the prospect. We started our trip off right... in the food court! Then, headed over to get THREE shopping carts. We walked through Costco like a train. It was actually quite humorous. I had the kids so busy doing things, they didn't have time to misbehave. The carts were so full that one of the kids couldn't see over the top. The picture below is misleading because I had already nearly emptied one of the carts before I thought to take a picture.

I had a great time, but I am still tired...


Let's get physical!

As part of the health program I am participating in, I have to exercise everyday.
Today was so crazy that I knew it would be near impossible to get any time in.
Then, lightbulb! I would get in my exercise at work!
I work at a daycare. Working at a daycare IS exercise... but I wanted to do more.
So, I took the kids to the park a played tag until they begged me to stop. Poor kids were exhausted!!! Then I had each one take turns holding my feet while I did sit ups. I let the kids choose how many I would do- fortunately, they are not teenagers (that would use this opportunity to torture me) and chose single digit numbers. When I came up, I would make faces at the kids. They thought it was pretty fun until my faces all started to look like I was grunting and sweating. We finshed the routine off with them counting how many push ups I could do. Sometimes you just have to get creative, right?!


My Sacred Grove


is my very favorite hike.
I go here all the time.
It is my special place.
I sing praises.
I pray.
I read.
I cry.
This is where life makes sense.



I feel so edified after genenral conference. This weekend was just so fabulous. I used to take copious notes, but then a friend told me something she learned directly from Elder Bednar. He taught that rather than take notes during a talk/conference, to go home and do so afterwards. And this is why: all the words said in conference are noteworthy, uplifting and wonderful. However, what you remmeber after the meeting is what you should really pay attention to. So, folks- I don't take notes.

What I took away from the meeting was the urgency for peace. Many a speaker mentioned the need to disconnect from electronics. Also, I was very touched by the desire I had to become a better parent because of all the talks on that subject. I did think it funny that I was such a beast to the kids when I was trying to get them to be quiet so I could feel the Spirit. I think that beastly attitude might have taken away from it a little...


Best Weekends of the Year!

I look forward to conference much like a child anticipating Christmas. I plan special food and clean the house top to bottom almost as if the Prophet is actually coming to our house. For our foster children, I knew it might be a stretch to get them to sit down for all four sessions. They are just learning how to sit for sacrament meeting! But, we planned a great day and invited the missionaries and everything. In retrospect, I don;t know if it was such a great idea to have the missionaries over because I wanted the children to be SILENT so the missionaries could listen. But, the game we played for the session in which the missionaries joined us was a hit and everybody was silent!!!

I had eight bowls with different treats in them. For each bowl, there was a label with a a key word. Each time the keyword was mentioned, the kids got to grab that treat. Good idea, in theory. Eight bowls was probably too much... The youngest little guy looked up at me half way through the second talk and said, "My tummy don't feel too good..." Even though it was adorable when he said it, I felt bad for the little guy. But, the older kids bagged everything up and saved the treat for a later indulgence. These are the bowl contents and words we used:
Jesus Christ/Savior- m&m's (this one was said ALOT)
Spirit/Holy Ghost- cocoa puffs
Scriptures- skittles
Atonement- raisinets
Sacrament- strawberries
Love- pineapple
Faith- clementine segments
Prayer- whole wheat mini crackers



In the midst of all the crazy, it is nice to stop and rest from daily cares. I was fortunate enough to go to the Oakland temple tonight with Jimmy AND yesterday with my dear friend, Melanie. I am excited to go next week with our stake, too!!! Three times in one week- a storm must be brewing...
I have such a testimony of the temple. I feel such peace and hope and love and calm. Sometimes my mind races during a session, but I always learn. Tonight was no different. What joy and gratitude I have for the House of the Lord!


My heart broke a little today

I drop off each of our foster children off at different locations so they may have a supervised visit with their parents. This is a weekly appointment that the boys look forward to every time.
Tonight, when I dropped off one child to meet his parent, I received a call from the supervisor asking that I return to the office to pick up my foster child. Apparently, the parent didn't show. When the social worker said those words, my heart broke.
I cannot even begin to describe the hopelessness I felt for that child.
How was I to console him?
When I expressed to the child how hurt I felt, I think it surprised him.
He seemed very comforted knowing it was okay to hurt.
It was okay to be sad.
We ended up making a good night out the unfortunate letdown.
But, man, the sting is still there. I hope all is well...


Picky Eater

One child under our roof is quite possibly the pickiest eater I have ever met. I cannot get over it! I make food for people ALL THE TIME and they have never complained. Imagine the humungous bruise to my ego every day when someone cries because they have to eat what I made?!
On one such occasion, this little guy had a complete and total meltdown at having to eat sweet potatoes. It was bordering on ridiculous (just as it always does...) when the two oldest kids decided to be merciful. They snuck into the kitchen to grab forks. Then before anyone knew what was happening, those two swooped into the dinig room, forks brandished and ate all the of the picky guy's sweet potatoes! It was the sweetest thing for a few reasons.
One, the two older children rarely work together.
Two, the oldest has never, ever thought of such a kind thing to do for anybody- and it was HIS idea!
Three, the oldest also does not appreciate my sweet potatoes as much as all the remaining member of my family... he actually gagged a little with such a huge bite in his mouth.

The beaming face on my picky eater was all the payment those two needed.


Great in 8 round two

 Jimmy and I are doing this round of Great in 8 together with another couple and already having a great time. I do have to say the dynamics are different, I am still adjusting. But, I am noticed that I should probably change up my team every round because I feel I might have gotten too comfortable with my previous team. I am also realizing that this program needs to be a constant in my life. Not just because of the weightloss aspect, but the whole self aspect. This program encourages development in all things good and I need that. I have grwon to be my best self on Great in 8. I highly recommend it to all.

Our team is rotating hosting a healthy dinner while the other couple provides a Family Home Evening lesson. What fun we had this week and what fun I feel we will continue to have. I am really looking forward to the before and after pictures from this round!


Easter was great

I have pictures for Easter, but I really don't want to share them. Because, what I do want to share is how grateful I am for the everlasting Atonement. Jesus Christ, my Savior died for me because He loves me. I know that. I was reminded in a very amazing Easter Sunday meeting. Jimmy spoke, I cried, the kids were quiet and I was one of many women with mascara smeared down her face. It was a good day. I am filled with love. I hope your Easter brought joy and gratitude for all that's been done for us as individuals and a whole human race.