Now I know how George Hamilton feels...

For anyone who might need help with the above reference, THIS:
is George Hamilton
(fun fact: this actual picture was found under the heading, "Famous Italian tanorexics" hahaha!!!)
Anyway...when I was working at field day, my job was to facilitate 'mosquito tag' a game where the kids are given foam noodles and have to tag each other with their stingers. Although, halfway through the game, I realized they are not stingers but noses...
As part of my job, I had to sanction off a section of the field with a boundary. I was required to use this orange (neon, dayglo, BRIGHT- you get the picture) spray paint. I was actually having a grand old time marking the territory. Maybe it was the control freak in me- I really, really like rules and boundaries and stuff. When I was done spraying, I noticed that my shoes got a tad bit orange. Which was fine, because they were just my running shoes anyway. After field day, I went off to the store and promptly changed into flip flops. Yep. There was a line. Yep. I was bright orange on my entire shins. Yep. I was pretty embarrassed walking into Target like that. Yep. I did it anyway... 


Walking Field Trip

I went with Middle Man on a walking field trip to the movie theater today.
I started out the day with the dilemma I face everyday: comfy shoes or cute shoes?
Unfortunately, I opted for the latter.
A bad day to wear cute shoes... I just could.not.bring.myself.to.wear.the.comfy.shoes!
On an upside, though-  got a nap by sleeping through most of the movie :)
But, seriously- on the shoe decision?!
I am kicking myself with those incredibly sore feet...


Jump Highway!!!

So, there's this awesome place that is a boys' dream. A place where jumping on the furniture is encouraged, running is alright and throwing things at each other is allowed. This magical place is called Jump Highway, a 10,000 sq ft warehouse lined entirely with trampolines. We took ten rowdy kids to this place for Middle Man and Little Guy's birthday party. Of course we topped off the day with an Xbox cake... I am really proud of myself for that one. It was a good day.


I'm not gonna lie...

today has been a doozy... I am falling apart- life is steam rolling me. But tomorrow's a new day. A day where I get to take ten boys to a trampoline warehouse for the boys' birthday party. And get to work at the field day at school. And.. and.. and... I am bone weary. I feel like there is no end in sight- but I know there is. It's funny those two words- "feel" and "know".

Feel is the heart side of me. The part that aches and loves and hurts.

Know is the brain side of me. The part that makes sense of adversity and hopes for the best.

When the two get together, it's an all out brawl. Today the 'feel' is winning.
Deep down, I know everything will be alright. I know things will look better in the morning.
But I feel irrational and anxious. My heart has been breaking a little each day in preparation for all that is to come. It pains me to feel so much.

So until 'feel' and 'know' can get along better, I am just going to go to bed.


How we celebrate holidays

What we had planned for today: Laze around the pool all day. Sit in the sun. Enjoy the children's laughter. Have a perfect game of baseball. Eat some juicy watermelon. You know... the good stuff.

What we actually did: Spent all day cleaning out our car. Not just vacuuming, either. Taking the seat and carpet out.of.the.car. Having my father-in-law professionally steam clean them. Bleaching the carriage. Yet, still the smell of sour milk permeated every breath. And then- oh gosh- I pulled up the false floor leading to the wheel well holding the spare tire. And, jack pot! We have been making cheese in the car for the past two (very hot) weeks while driving around town. I am a multi-tasker! The smell when I lifted the hatch was so bad, I lost my lunch. Fortunately not in the car. Although, I am not entirely convinced it would not have improved on the smell.

Jimmy and his dad used to wet vac to suck out my culinary creation. It was so thick it almost clogged the hose. Niiiice...

Then, after a full day of scrubbing, bleaching, hauling and other verbs that involve working hard- we left the fan in the car to dry the carpet all night. The car still stinks, and I didn't get any watermelon...


Middle Man's Birthday

Our 8, now 9 year foster son celebrated his birthday today. As with all Graham Family celebrations, we did so with gusto!

The day was looong. We first attended our ward, where the children all received a brownie in Primary for accomplishing a goal... then they all got a brownie for Middle Man's birthday... then we went home and had another sweet treat... then we went to another ward and their linger longer, where they had- you guessed it- more treats... let's not forget the cupcakes we had after dinner, readers!

My kids were entirely too sugared up for my taste.

But in between the hyper activity, we had some pretty amazing moments.
The second sacrament meeting we attended was at the Vets' home where my in-laws coordinate church for the members living there. It was really special. Kate gave a talk and the boys sang, "Army of Helaman". Then an enlisted Marine spoke and the Spirit was so strong. What a blessing it was for us to spend time with the veterans who fought for our country and freedom. I just kept thinking about the freedom I have to choose my religion- that I am able to pray freely.

When we got home from the vets' home- we ate Middle Man's chosen dinner with Nana and Papa. As part of Middle Man's gift, he received a basketball. Oh man, the coveted basketball! It was a good day filled with good times that will make good memories.


We heart the Cameo

There is an amazing little theater in downtown St. Helena that our family frequents. The cinema just underwent a renovation, which meant it was closed for a couple of months. I have to admit, I really missed that place. We went with Kate this morning while the boys were otherwise engaged.

When sent the email from the Cameo regarding their upcoming family show, I was in a tizzy trying to secure tickets. You see, it is not uncommon for this theater to have free showings each month. And the family movie happened to be free. Because I learned about it late in the week, I was concerned about us, first of all, getting tickets- and secondly, getting suitable seats (you know the cushy velvet couches they have in the back) And so after talking to the owner (we're close-ish) I was able to secure tickets. When arriving at the theater only twelve minutes before the show, I was in full panic mode= mommy's crazy.

After ushering (hahaha- that pun was intended, people) Jimmy and Kate into the theater with near brute force, I was frankly shocked at what we found. No one was in the theater. No One. So, so sad... but I did get a sweet seat. And people did start trickling in later. Because of the small crowd in attendance, the owner gave each child a free t-shirt! Also, as part of the family weekend- we were invited to a craft activity at a local art studio and to a q&a with a Pixar animator who worked one on one with the kids. Unfortunately, we missed out on that opportunity because we had previous plans. But, I do hope that more people start to attend all that Cathy (the owner I'm chummy with) has planned for our community.

If you are local- please check out Cameo Cinema online. If you add yourself to the email list- you get special invitations to all kinds of events. See you at the movies!!! (as my BFF, Cathy always says)


Great in 8 Results!

Now, I have to admit- I actually wrote this post a few days after the time stamp- but for my New Year's resolution purposes, I have chosen to fill this date on the blog with this particular post. And I am pretty sure no one atually noticed the whole date thing. But I digress...

Onto the results:

Drum Roll, Please!!!!!
I have lost 15 pounds and, get this- TWENTY NINE INCHES!!!! (seven on my waist alone)
I am so in love with this program and the success it has brought me. 


So here's a food post

As many of you know, I am an avid Trader Joe's fan- a loyalist, really. There is a quarterly flyer that the supermarket, or Mecca (I choose to call it the former) sends to its customers. I read it just as religiously as you might think. In the flyer this time around, there was an ad for an interesting thing called the, 'kumato'. Weird name? Yeah, pretty much. The subheading on the package calls it a brown tomato. In my opinion, both names were a turn off. However, upon reading the description, I had to give the 'kumato' aka 'brown tomato' (blech.) a try.

H-O-L-Y      M-O-L-Y, folks!

As close to homegrown as I have EVER found in a supermarket, er, Mecca.
This is a terrible picture of my tomato, mozzarella and basil salad. I assure you, it was much, much, much better than it looks. And so, I will now be collecting a check from my friendly neighborhood TJ's for my recommendation...maybe.


Netflix is only good with subtitles

Right now, anyways...

Jimmy and I have been watching a Korean mini series that has me hooked.

The show is called, 'Pasta'. I am kind of in love with it. Although, I am hoping that the outcome is to my liking- because I would really hate to sing its praises on this blog only to be labeled as the gal who recommended a Korean Drama that fell flat in the expectation department. I have to admit, never in my life did I think I would ever write a sentence that that last one...

Consider this a preemptive invitation to start a fabulous show that only requires 20 hours you don't have, k?


I'll really miss this

This year, I have offered to teach in Kate's class (and now the boys' classes) twice a week. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting all of the kids' classmates. Today was my last day getting to teach and I have a little remorse over what I chose to do. Only because my body tends to not like army crawling and bruised limbs. You see, I ran a relay race workshop... and participated. I wore appropriate clothing, 'tis true. But I did not, however, bring the appropriate body to be crawling across an elementary school field on my hands and knees (and stomach and nose- that one was interesting).

I hope to work in the school next year- because it is so gosh darn fun!

(Let's pray that the next classroom has and even number of students...)


Success, folks.

Just thought I'd let you all know...
My prom dress is too big for me.

I know, right?!

I can't wait to share my before and after pictures when I am done with this cycle of the weight loss challenge I have been doing. Once again- if anyone wants to participate, please email me at: Spunkyteddygraham@yahoo.com I will be happy to send the info onto you. The last time I offered, I didn't put a link to my email and neglected to follow up on the comments of people expressing interest. I sincerely apologize. Putting the email address in this here post- I'll actually respond! Pull together a team of four- or come a la carte and I'll find you a team. This program is internet based, so you don't need to be near your team. Heck, I get to do it with my family in Utah!!!


Called to Serve

What a day...
when we arrived at church today, the missionaries were at each door entering the chapel. They gave out index cards and pens to each person as they went to sit down. When the meeting  started, the Bishop gave a talk about missionary work and invited us to use the index card we had all been given to write the name of someone we might want to invite to church. Whether it be someone who was not in attendance that particular day or someone not of our faith that might like to come. I had written down two names.

When the Bishop was done speaking, the remaining speakers took the rest of time with usual church topics. Just before dismissal to classes, the Bishop returned to the pulpit and asked that we take the remaining two hours of church to visit the people on our index card and invite them to church the following Sunday.

What?! I was actually thrilled!

He then continued by assuring us that the Primary was taken care of by the youth and Bishopric. Also, if we didn't have a name on the index card, to get a name that was prayerfully submitted by the different auxiliary presidents. The announcement was unexpected, but exciting. Some people went into a panic and left the building hastily, before they might be given a name to visit. Jimmy and I left the church quickly with names in hand. I have never served a full time mission- but I'd like to think I spent those two hours the way I might serve a full time mission. First and foremost, Jimmy and I said a prayer. Then we headed off to the first home. I had felt prompted to visit a family that also attends Kate's school. It was a wonderful visit. I felt the Spirit so strongly and also felt directed entirely on what to say. I have to admit, it was pretty rad. The second home we went to, the family
 was not there. But it was okay. I don't doubt we will be blessed for our participation today. Actually, the Bishop promised blessings for following through with what was asked of us. I feel like the experience itself was a blessing. Anyway you slice, I count today as a total win.

*that picture is titled 'Lazarus' and is drawn in blue ball point pen by the Bishop's son- pretty righteous, huh?! Dude, what's the deal with my 80's slang today...


I work these poor kids to death!

We spent ALL DAY doing a clean house sweep.

Now, it is true that this sounds just as bad as it is. First of all, I would like you to know that the kids do chores everyday- they are entirely responsible for cleaning their designated area. So... usually that means not clean to Mommy's standards. Meaning, Mommy has to re-do a lot when the children are at school.

This Saturday was the first Saturday in 6 weeks since we had nothing planned, er, nothing outside of home that might actually be fun planned, rather. I had plenty planned...

I broke down each room in the house into 6 separate jobs. Then, we ALL went into that room at the same time and did a clean sweep. We did not move to the next room until everyone's job was well done. The reward set for a job well done was swimming.

Well...  the day started out fabulously. Each room someone new got to choose the Pandora station. We were rocking out! Picture this: kid in a shower (with clothes on- scrubbing, not bathing), kid cleaning toilet, kid cleaning floor, kid cleaning huge bathtub, mom and dad smiling and working too. When you take those same six people and add them to a room one fifth the size of the first room and 12 rooms later- the rocking out comes in short supply, folks.

Even though fuses might have been short by the end of a long cleaning day-
we all got to go swimming.
It was all worth it.
And I still had to re-do it...


Vichy Carnival!

I ran the face painting booth at the school carnival tonight. The kids had a great time in that I was nowhere near them to supervise while they ran amok with tickets galore...
I had a great time, they had a great time- Fun was had by all!
The trend this year was mustaches... the boys looked hilarious!


Feast or Famine

My dad was admitted to the hospital on Monday morning. By the time I heard the news it was early afternoon. When I called the hospital to talk to him- he was really hungry. You see, my dad hadn't eaten since Friday and it was Monday afternoon. Now, if you had been fasting for days, would you really want to break that fast with hospital food?! Nah... so my brother Jim was going to get my dad a turkey sandwich. By the time I had called my dad, though, Jim hadn't gotten there. And in the middle of our conversation, he broke down a ordered a turkey sandwich from the hospital. But, I was not about to let my dad eat from the hospital menu!!! What was I to do when he was in Utah and I was here in California?! That, my dears, is when Jimmy John's steps into the picture. Did you know that sandwich shop delivers to hospitals? Neither did I! And they totally saved me by taking my credit card over the phone AND carrying Dr. Pepper.

Thanks, Jimmy John's for letting me be there when I couldn't actually be there.
Luckily my dad got the sandwich I bought him... and the one from hospital... and the one from my brother.
 Like the title says, "Feast or Famine" apparently my dad was busy having a veritable Thanksgiving of the sandwich sort.

p.s. My dad taught me well... I just finished writing a letter to Jimmy John's thanking them for fabulous service.


Life is___ (fill in the blank, anything works)

Today, I got to make dinner for a family in our ward that just had twins! I was preparing the meal (and of course chose a menu where I bit off more than I could chew- no pun intended; I was in the middle of typing the sentence before I realized it.) with Kate when I reached into the fridge to grab things for the salad. May I make a recommendation? Do not pull a freshly opened Costco sized bag of snap peas out of the fridge by the bottom end of the bag. Mayhem will ensue. I am pretty sure I will step on one lone snap pea I missed during cleanup, tomorrow morning. In the dark. With bare feet. And it will smoosh.

I have learned to expect it, folks.

When the spill happened, Kate and I just laughed and laughed. I'm glad. I hope those silly, crazy, unexpected moments are what my children remember about me. I have been thinking a lot about what legacy I might leave behind. A young mother at Kate's school unexpectedly passed away last weekend. I am still struggling with shock and grief. She was a friend of mine. She worked in the school diligently. She left behind two children. Flashes rush through my mind at every turn:
what if that was me?
what would my daughter do on her wedding day?
the birth of her children?
every Mother's Day for the rest of her life?

As this tragedy happened the day before Mother's Day- there are unopened gifts that were waiting in anticipation. Gifts that had been worked on carefully by two sweet children. I cannot and do not want to imagine what life would be like if our family shared the same fate. But I do know that I have been welcoming the grief I have felt for this friend and her family. Because that is the way I choose to honor her right now. I will not push the sadness I feel deep into a place where it will not be felt. I will feel those feelings because she deserves that of me. I will let myself be upset in front of the kids because I want them to understand it is okay to grieve. It is okay to be sad. Even though my heart aches terribly, I have found solace in my sorrow- because that means my friend meant something to me. She made a difference in my life.

I do know (thank goodness!) that we will see our loved ones after this mortal probation. I have a stalwart testimony of life after death. I know that Heavenly Father keeps us safely in His care. I am so grateful for this knowledge in times like these. It gives me hope. It gives me strength.

Hug your loved ones tight. Love them fully. Live without regret.


I still smell...

This morning, I had a catering event at the public library. To start matters off on the wrong foot, I was late. So late that the coordinator called me at home and asked if I remembered the event.
Strike One.
(here's my excuse: I have four kids- three needed lunches and two had a field trip. Youngest lost a shoe, just like every day.)

When I got to the event and unloaded, the women in the kitchen plugged in the coffee urn without putting water in it first. When I returned to the kitchen with the next load, there was a funny smell. I pulled off the top of the coffee urn and smoke started coming out. Correction- billowing. Billowing smoke. In the public library. Under the smoke detector.

And what goes through my mind?
Ahhh!!! I am in the PUBLIC LIBRARY. With tons of books! That will all be ruined by the sprinklers! I will be fined for every ruined book!
So what do I do?
I threw myself over the urn to absorb as much of the smoke as I could. I covered it with my body, took off my sweater and put it over the top- the works, folks.
This all happened while the coordinator and helpers were opening the doors and swinging them to get the smoke out. Niiiice...
Strike Two.

And then something I did in the way I placed my equipment made the head librarian start throwing things around the kitchen. In front of the staff in the kitchen. It was awk-ward!
Strike Three.

Would you like to know the good news?
I got a tip :)


Just Breathe

Today was tough...
A tragedy at Kate's school.
A hospitalization in the family.
Another broken appliance.
A dinnner party tonight.
A catering event to prepare for tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a new day.



Mother's Day

I love Mother's Day in that I get to honor my mother and other mother's that have taught me through their example. I feel like the praise I give them on this day is well deserved.

I hate Mother's Day, however, when I am the one being honored. I feel like there is so much I need to work on to be worthy of a whole day dedicated to what I strive so hard to do every day. I do my best. But not often enough. I have patience...sometimes. I yell. I huff and puff and blow the house down. Why in the world should any even think to bring me breakfast in bed?

I suppose whenever I honor my mother or mother-in-law, they aren't sitting smug on a pouf made of goodnight kisses and all things sweet. We aren't perfect- but the holiday is not called, "Perfect Mother's Day"

Here's something I read:

"Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else's happiness and well-being above your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you're not sure what the right thing is...and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong." - Donna Ball

Someday, I'll figure it all out. Until then, I'll try to enjoy my breakfast in bed.


My view today...

was worth every temper tantrum, bickering child and shout, "that's not fair!" that it took to get here...


Happy Birthday Jimmy!!!

Today was a fun filled day.
Jimmy took the day off and the in-laws got the kiddos from school.
We started the day with
a stop at Bouchon
a hike at Westwood hills
a shopping spree
a movie (Gatsby! AMAZING)
a lovely lunch at Filippi's
a video game marathon (for him- reading for me)
a dinner at The Pear
What did I learn today? I ate way too much food, I love Leonardo DiCaprio,
and chicken and waffles are like a drug to me.

Happy Birthday to the best man I know. I wake up the luckiest girl every morning and go to bed the most grateful gal in the world. Thank you Jimmy for your example, your love and your all.


All this catering is paying off

I came down the hill tonight after a very long day/week/month/life...
on a quest to attend Relief Society. As I was leaving (15 minutes early- I needed out)
Jimmy nonchalantly stated, "you should go shopping or something to pass the time..."

Hahahaah! Poor Jimmy- he gave me PERMISSION!
ANd so, rather than go to RS, I headed over to the outlets and hit some sweet sales. WOuld you like to know the best part of my evening, though?

I fit back into Banana Republic and actually bought stuff there!!!
The cherry on top?
I was in the fitting room and had to ask for a SMALLER size!!!!!!!!
I have NEVER had to do that!
You guys, I cried.


Teacher Appreciation Luncheon

I have been really busy with catering this season.
Here's the menu for the teacher appreciation luncheon I did... unfortunately, no pictures.

Oak green salad with strawberries, sheep's milk feta, pistachios and champagne pear vinaigrette

Grilled chicken with avocado, corn, tomato and basil salsa
Roasted Red potatoes
Grilled artichokes with garlic lemon aioli

Death by Chocolate trio:
Chocolate mousse cup
Dark Chocolate cupcake with ganache and dulce de leche and salt
Chocolate dipped strawberry

It was yummy! I just love Kate's teachers. They all work so hard to take care of my daughter. This lunch feels like such a small drop in the bucket in comparison to all they do for our family. I hope they felt appreciated!


The Mighty Boes

We have been on a Great in 8 (our weight loss challenge) team with the Boe Family.
Man, oh man- has it been wonderful!!!
Lilly is an excellent cook. Better than me, I think.
Every Monday night we swap homes.
Last night they cooked, we taught FHE.
Next week, we cook, they teach FHE.
Doesn't that just sound fabulous?!
Well, it is!


Mama Mia!

This is my mom. Today is her birthday!!!
From this woman, I gained my love to cook.
I gained my love to serve others.
 I also learned how to have a good and crazy time.
The above picture is from my birthday last year when she got a convertible and we drove up valley. It was a true Thelma and Louise day. A birthday before she got a limo and we went to Wicked in SF. There was a birthday previous that I was sick and she delivered homemade chicken noodle soup. We cannot forget the time she flew in all my siblings from all over the country to surprise me!
This woman knows how to do birthdays!!!
Wishing the queen of birthdays a great one of her own.
Happy Birthday Mama!!! 


Sleepy Stephanie

After a week filled with lots of work- I took a three hour nap. I haven't taken a nap in who knows how long. To go from none to three hours is quite a jump. I still recall the first time Jimmy and I deemed Kate worthy of staying up while we took a Sunday nap...
we woke to shattering a glass and seven years bad luck.
Luckily for me, I woke to tonight was all the kids sleeping.
And thus, I write this post at a quiet computer. Ahhhh.....

p.s.- I'll take the next shift, Jimmy.


Beautiful Day

I just finished catering a wedding for these beautiful people:

On the menu:

Salsa Station
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Tomatillo Salsa
  • Mango Salsa
  • 7 Layer Dip
  • Fresh Tortilla Chips
Asian Noodle Salads in takeout containers:
  • Udon with cabbage, carrots and onion, sesame ginger sauce
  • Soba with bell pepper, cilantro, peanut sauce
Pulled Pork Slider Station:
  • BBQ pulled pork
  • Crisp fried onions
  • Horseradish Dijon aioli
  • White Rolls
Vegetable and Fruit Station:
·        Caesar Salad Cups
·        Marinated Mozzarella and Roasted Vegetable on Rosemary Skewers 
·        Crudité Platter with Lemon Dill Dip
·        Fruit Platter with Honey Lime Dip

Dessert Station:
·        Coconut mini cupcakes
·        Chocolate dipped oreos
·        Truffles
·        Jello trifles
·        Candy in wedding colors

Passed Appetizers:
·          Sweet potato pancake with jerk chicken and Caribbean slaw
·          Coconut shrimp with sweet and spicy chili sauce
·          Cheddar and bacon stuffed potato bites

·         Lemonade and Water
·         Bride and Groom choice flavored syrups

It was a wonderful night!!! The team I hired was top notch and the snags were minimal. It makes me so happy to help celebrate a temple marriage.


I wanna win*

Jimmy took the kids to the movies tonight so I could finish my last minute catering business. One order of business was to finish a tedious appetizer that takes about two hours to assemble. The cooking of all the components took the day, but assembly is the real bear. Because there were no whipper snappers at my feet, I decided to pull out a table in the living room and watch a movie of my own while I worked. I cannot remember the last time I actually got to sit down and watch anything- let alone what I want! We only turn on the TV on Friday nights, so it's usually kid stuff. I chose a good romantic comedy that I knew I enjoyed. But, because it has been so long since watching media or even having the radio on, I was jolted. The language, the content, the situations. I was surprised at how out of touch I've been with media and how much I was bothered by a movie that I had previously LOVED. It's strange how I have a battle within me: on one side I am pleased with the fact that I have tenderized myself to the spirit to the point of that movie being abrasive. I am not so pleased with the fact that I really liked that movie and now I don't!!!

Sometimes I am jealous of my friends watching different movies, drinking different things at restaurants or doing things that seem fun that I choose to refrain from. It's a small taste of high school, I suppose. But I know deep down that choosing the path I have brings me peace. A peace not of this world. A peace that takes time to build and one bad movie to destroy. I have worked hard with my family to establish a home that loves God. I hope that I will always strive to do so. Sometimes it is too quiet for my feisty self to handle. The mortal part of me wants desperately to break out and do no good. But I know who wins. And I'm pretty competitive...

*said in Nacho Libre's voice



Today is my Dad's Birthday!
My dad is a pretty amazing guy, Mr. Ted Bear.
He pays for everything with $2 bills.
He taught me the importance of knowing your server's name at a restaurant.
He showed me how to call businesses and thank them for a job well done.
He is the most generous, selfless person I know.
He gave me my love of: golden oldies, apple sauce with meatloaf and dancing.
I love my Daddy-O!


I cried over spilt milk

Only because it was a whole gallon. in my car. on a hot day.

Luckily, I know a good carpet cleaner. Except that, it still stinks after a week. The first day before cleaning, getting into the car made your eyes water. The day after cleaning, not as bad- but still pretty gross. This is what Jimmy said, "Yesterday it smelled like spoiled milk, today it smells like yogurt- I think tomorrow it will smell like ice cream!" Thanks, Sweetie...