First and last day of kindergarten:

(She came up with the idea of making her own sign.  My creativity had waned by years' end... haha)

First and last day of preschool:

Ok kids, you've grown enough.  You can go ahead and stop now.

Just a few reasons why I love being mom (lately)

1.  The look of triumph on my toddler's face when he does the splits on the playground handrails for the first time. Haha!

2.  School performances.  Love them.

My sweetheart dressed up as a giant construction paper flower at the Kindergarten Mother's Day Tea? The cute-o-meter just burst right there.

And double the happiness that she is still at an age where she gets SO excited to have me visit her school for stuff like this.

This guy's preschool performance was pretty awesome too, and he has the best smile.

3.  Nights out (to mobster themed parties) are infinitely more appreciated when they are few and far between.

4.  Baby smiles!!!  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?  I'll take 10 more babies please.

5.  It doesn't take much for me to basically be a superhero in my kids' eyes.

Ice cream at McDonald's after school?  Might as well be dinner at Buckingham Palace.

Plastic storage tubs and a cooler filled with hose water in the backyard?  Who needs expensive waterpark tickets!

6.  Crazy bedhead is ALWAYS good for a smile.

7.  As is a crazy outfit at the mall (or pretty much anywhere).  Yep, my kid's got style!

8.  Messes.  So many MESSES!!! ... and opportunities to laugh really, really hard about them.  Yes, that's the entire tube of my favorite lipstick.

9.  Improving my art skills in ways I never imagined.  Miles and I draw/paint/create multiple pictures/crafts/puppets of his choosing on a daily basis.  It's always a team effort.  Never thought I'd be drawing cutesy cartoon character versions of deer hunting.

10.  Pirate cowboy faces at the rodeo.

... and cowboy boots on diaper babies.

 11.  Mommy/daughter dates that have us both belly laughing followed by Lila saying "This is SO fun mommy."  Heart officially melted.

12.  Selfies like this and those above that are SO much better than those self-absorbed duck face ones.  Am I right?

Mom = best job/responsibility/divine calling/blessing EVER.

To my ladies

A few weeks ago I was privileged to attend a "Time Out for Women" event in Long Beach with my mom, aunts, and cousin's wife.  It's an inspirational religious/self improvement conference geared toward Mormon women and Christian women in general.  I was looking forward to spending a relaxing Saturday with women I love and my new little baby while Byron watched the other three crazies, but the event itself far surpassed my expectations.

I won't go into details about the compelling speakers, moving music, and awesome company, but I feel the need to follow-up on one of my biggest takeaways from the day.  Spending time with a large group of like-minded women, and pondering and talking about women's needs, talents, abilities, and potential, I realized just how many inspiring women I've been blessed to associate with and learn from the past few years.  During my married life, there have been more times than I'd like when I've felt lonely, pretty friendless, and even isolated from other women.  Not that I've ever truly been alone, but I've definitely had "gaps" in close, easy friendship; the in-between times when good friends have moved away and new friendships are still forming. My husband is without a doubt my best friend, but even a male as wonderful as him can't fulfill my need for friendship of the female variety.

I've come to realize, however, that I've often let my feelings of loneliness in the absence of a "best" friend overshadow the treasured friendships I've had with a good number of women.  We've shared fun times together and they've taught me truly beautiful life lessons.  As the names and faces of these talented women flooded my mind, I felt the need to reach out to them, "bests" and otherwise, to recognize and thank them for what they've taught me. What better way than social media, right?!?

This is just a start, there are so many more I need to add to this list, but here goes...

Kristi, my first San Diego best friend, who made me feel loved even before we met by reaching out and inviting me to join the ward playgroup, which has never been the same since she stopped running it.  You've taught me how to live in the moment; how to truly let go and enjoy life.  Everyone knows you're the prototypical life of the party, but you're so much more than that.  You are the type of friend who is always building others up, never shying away from any opportunity to compliment someone in your company. You're one of the least judgmental people I know, and you've taught me how to love big. I'm also constantly impressed by your work ethic and no-complaints attitude about your busy life of child-rearing and hair-doing. I'd be worn-out doing half of what you accomplish in a week.

Angela, the friend whose move still practically brings me to tears.  I look up to you in so many ways.  Your faith, obedience, and desire to follow the Lord in every way is awe-inspiring.  Your amazing homemaking and mothering skills showed me that being a mother who stays home with her children is a divine calling, something that requires great effort, and can constantly be improved. I also learned the value of not mincing words from your lovable, yet straight-forward way of dealing with pretty much everything. We all need a little less beating around the bush in our lives.

Lisa, I admire you so, so much for not being involved in social media at all.  Maybe Will will see this post and tell you to read it?  In all seriousness, the fact that you value real life over virtual life in all it forms makes you truly special in this day and age. Your unassuming and humble nature probably keeps many people from noticing many of your impressive talents (cooking! teaching!), but you are one impressive girl. Thank you for helping me see the value in using my strengths without wearing them on my sleeve. Knowing your life-story and seeing the way you have brushed difficulties off easily, almost casually in fact, makes me reflect on how blessed I am and realize that I need to mentally get over my "problems" a lot faster than I do.  Please come visit soon!!!

Debi, you sacrificed so much for your husband's education while you were here and I never heard a single word of complaint. The long days (and nights!) taking care of three very small boys must have been exhausting, and yet I never saw you without a smile and a positive word to say. Never did I hear you say a harsh word to your son--in fact, you're one of those people I can never imagine saying a harsh word to or about anyone! Attaining that attribute is one of my biggest life goals.  I'm sorry to report I am so far from reaching it.

Lindsay, the girl who convinced me of how important it is to find and pursue a dream.  Also that it doesn't need to be put off to a later time; it's totally possible to do while still being an amazing wife and mother. I can't tell you how much I admire you for what you're doing and how impressed I am by your talent.  I'm a bit jealous too!

Janine, one of the most truly authentic and relatable people I know. Thank you for always keeping it real, but fun. Thank you for showing me that dads don't always have to be the cool one; moms can jump in fountains and roll down grassy hills with their kids too. Thank you for not caring that your kids dress themselves in crazy outfits and for not washing off the marker your toddler scribbled all over her face. It gives all us other moms permission to not stress that our kids don't look like they belong in a magazine either. Thanks for being equal parts good listener and advice-giver.  That is not a common combination among women, and I feel blessed to have a friend who is both.

If there's a woman in your life who doesn't know the impact she's made on you, here's a nudge to go ahead and tell her.  I've got several more on my mind right now.

Mr. 2 Year Old

This little guy turned two on April 2nd! He truly is an absolute joy and brings so much fun and happiness to our family.  He is by far our most independent child and can keep himself busy playing in the toy room or the sandbox out back for an hour or more.  I am grateful to have at least one little one who gives Mama a break once in a while!  He's talking so, so much and saying tons of new words every day.  At his two year checkup, the pediatrician asked how many words he could say.  I responded, "I don't know, 100?" and he acted totally shocked.  I'm sure lots of two year olds are just as, if not more, verbal than he is, but it's so fun that he can say anything he wants now.  His cute little chattering makes me smile all day long.

He was so excited for his birthday lunch with daddy.  I'm so glad my dad started this fun tradition with my sisters and me and that Byron has continued it with our kids.

If you can't tell from this video, he really, REALLY wanted to eat a cupcake.


"Eat?"  Haha!

We had a little construction themed birthday gathering since Cal is totally obsessed with tractors (and all other vehicles) right now. He can call cement trucks, diggers, tractors, dump trucks, etc. all by name.

Love that this pinterest cake is the easiest idea ever and we already had all the tractors for it.  Just dig a hole in it and crumble up some of what you dug out!  Awesome.

Happy Birthday cute boy!

A Birth Story

If the title doesn't warn you to avoid this post if you don't like birthy details, then I don't know what will.

It's about time I write down our sweet little Tess's birth story before the details fade from my memory.  I know I'm already going to have to consult Byron to help me remember certain things, and it's been less than 2 months!  I wish I could blame my bad memory on having four kids five and under, but unfortunately for me I've always been this way.  Good thing I have a husband and a daughter with remarkably good memories who can help me recall the details of my life.

Monday, April 10th, six days before my due date, I started to feel some tightening in my lower abdomen around lunch time.  It wasn't painful at all, more like braxton hicks.  I'd planned to run some errands after I picked Lila up, and driving away from school I figured I'd start timing these "tightenings" since they seemed to be coming at fairly regular intervals.  The first one I recorded was at 2:59 and from then on they continued to come every 4-8 minutes.  We went to Target for a while and on the way out I called Byron to tell him something was going on, but it probably wasn’t labor.  I was very, very skeptical that it could be early labor since the tightenings were absolutely painless and I've heard so many stories of women who go on like that for days or even weeks before they finally give birth.  

Our sweet friends, and twin sisters, Stacey and Kristi had offered to watch the kids that night so we could go on one last date before the baby was born.  Even though the contractions were still coming really frequently, we decided to go out since they weren't painful and I continued to believe it was false labor.  We did tell them I was timing contractions, but said it was probably nothing.  We had planned to go somewhere nice downtown, but decided that we better go somewhere a bit more casual with an easier exit on the off chance I was in labor and my water broke or something.  That wouldn't be very fun in the middle of a nice French meal!  We went to one of our favorites, Napizza in Little Italy, where we enjoyed some delicious bacon potato, lasagna, and house pizza.  Yes, lasagna pizza.  Sooo good. Byron said to include the details of our meal because "wouldn't it be cool to know what pizza your parents ate the night you were born."  Haha!

By the time we got to the restaurant, my contractions had sped up to 2-4 minutes apart but were still pretty painless, but during the course of our meal they started to make me a little uncomfortable so we decided to go straight home after eating so I could get into some more comfortable clothes and relax.  And yes, I still thought it was false labor.  Are you sensing a theme here?  

At home I started listening to my hypnobirthing relaxation CD and tried bouncing on a exercise ball, laying down, etc. but was most comfortable just walking around.  Around 7:30 we decided we better go pick up the kids so we could put them to bed.  By the time Byron got home from picking them up, my labor had really started to pick up.  The kids of course wanted to talk to me, ask me for help with all sorts of things, and started arguing with each other and I just kept walking ignoring them and shouting for Byron to get them away because I could NOT talk to anyone at that moment.  My poor family.

The moment when I was finally convinced I was truly going to have the baby that night was when I threw up.  I’ve never heard of anyone throwing up during false labor.  That’s when Byron when to get the neighbor to watch the kids so we could go to the hospital.  Unfortunately that plan fell through so we called my mom who also wasn’t able to make it down that night to watch the kids.  Oh dear.  Three small children with no babysitter and I was about to have another child any moment.  Not a good situation.  Luckily we knew our dear friend Raquel would be willing to help night or day even though she wasn’t part of our original plan.  She doesn’t drive so Byron had to go pick her up and while he was gone I realized we needed to get to the hospital ASAP. 

I rode on hands and knees in the back of the van on the way to the hospital and that’s when I started my low moaning technique.  Trust me, it works.  Sounds awful though I’m sure.  I had a strong contraction in the doorway of the hospital and had to stop dead in my tracks.  They offered me a wheelchair, but sitting down sounded like torture and I let the contraction pass before heading up to triage.  They of course see women in this condition all day every day, so it’s no big deal to them and they ask you all sorts of casual questions to find out if you’re really in labor when HELLO ARE YOU SERIOUS IT’S MY 4TH KID AND I SWEAR SHE’S ABOUT TO POP OUT!!!  I know they’re just doing their job, but yep, that’s how I felt about triage at the time.  Did I mention I did NOT want to sit?  Well I asked not to have to lay down on their silly little bed, but they said I had to so they could check me.  Sure enough, I was at a 9, everything else good to go, bag of waters sagging.  Take that silly triage questions- told you I was in labor!

They yet again tried to get me to sit in a wheelchair to go up to labor and delivery which I again refused despite several eye rolls from medical personnel.  The poor people in the elevator going to visit their loved ones newly arrived babies might still be suffering trauma from witnessing me in my half-open gown bracing myself against the side of the elevator in the middle of a contraction. 

I climbed right up on my knees, leaning my hands and chest on the back of the upright bed when I got to the delivery room.  This was definitely transition, and the hardest transition I’ve had yet.  I think it’s because my water hadn’t broken yet.  It’s always broken on it’s own before and oh my was I feeling a lot of pressure this time since it was still in tact.  The nurse asked if I wanted the doctor to come in to break my water because if she did the baby would be ready to come, and I responded with a definitive YES, GET THIS BABY OUT!  I was saying things like “I can’t do it, it’s too much” over and over again.  I was so much more vocal during this birth than the others, at least at the very end. 

The nurse kept assuring me the doctor was on her way, and with each contraction I felt my anger and resentment building for this unknown doctor whom I’d never met -- I don’t care if someone is having an emergency c-section, break my water now!  “Can’t someone else break my water,” I asked the nurse.  No, the doctor has to do it and she’s on her way I was reassured.  Yeah right, I thought.  She’s on her way, you’re next, blah, blah, blah, “You’re all lying to me!  You have to say that to make me feel better, but I know she’s not on her way!” I shouted.  Looking back on it I can see I may have been a bit dramatic. 

Then I felt it, the wonderful urge to push.  Yes, the baby is coming! I thought.  Unfortunately I missed the chance for a lotus birth like my awesome sister-in-law Laura got to experience, because when I pushed, my bag of waters broke and absolutely gushed everywhere on the bed (remember I was on all fours).  Byron says it literally sounded like a balloon popping.  And it felt soooo good.  All that extra pressure was gone and I was so much more relaxed.  On the next contraction I felt the urge to push again and went for it.  The nurse was still the only one in the room and had no idea what was going on.  She asked if I was pushing and when I said yes I heard her call the doctor and say to hurry because I was pushing but not to worry because it didn’t look like the baby was crowning yet.  Well, one push later I felt the baby’s head come out.  The nurse looked over and said, “The baby is out!” and rushed over to catch her.   I collapsed on my chest on the bed and said “I did it.” 

Our little Tess had arrived after 2 pushes.  8 pounds ½ oz, exactly the same as her sister (same length too, but I can’t remember right now!).  It was 9:57 pm and we had been in the delivery room since sometime after 9:30.  We arrived at the hospital at 9:15.  I held her and fell in love again for the fifth time.

Oh, and don’t worry, the doctor arrived to deliver the placenta so she could still receive her paycheck.  Thanks a lot doc.  I’m calling this my first unassisted birth despite the fact it was in a hospital.  And that’s your birth story Tess!

Christmas Break

We are so lucky that Byron gets off the week between Christmas and New Year's every year.  Usually we spend the week with family, but since we didn't go to Maryland this year and both of my parents were working all week except Christmas day, we spent our time going on fun outings around town.  It was really relaxing and so, so much fun.  One of the best weeks I've had in a long time.  We were all so sad when Byron had to go back to work last Thursday and tomorrow Lila starts back to Kindergarten.  I'll miss being with my sweet girl all day!

Lila found a "matching" outfit for her and her new doll "Sandra."

We had a fun picnic in the backyard.

The kids had several sleepovers in the family room by the Christmas tree.

Zoo Day.

+ train ride & carousel outside of the zoo.

Driving to the different Christmas displays around town.

Temple Christmas lights.

San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade.  The staging area was in the Solar Parking lot so we parked RIGHT next to the balloons.  So fun!

Beach day on Coronado.

Where someone found this giant hermit crab and let us play with it.

And this girl reminded us all how gorgeous she is.

New Year's Eve with the Doots!  Snacks, candy, ice cream sundaes, sparkling cider, a glowstick dance party, sparklers, fancy masks... we had it all.  Unfortunately my full group shots didn't turn out.

La Jolla Cove tidepools and seals (+ my GIANT stomach!)

By far the closest we've ever gotten to the seals.  The tide was so low that we could climb around to where they were hanging out on the rocks.  Lila insisted on getting so close that this guy eventually let out some warning noises informing us we needed to keep our distance!

Cookies at our favorite Girard Gourmet in the village after.

 Date night: Dinner and Saving Mr. Banks with my love.  Doesn't get much better than that.

Bates Nut Farm 2013

Byron took a Friday off so we could make our traditional visit to Bates Nut Farm without the crowds or crazy traffic this year.  It was a genius idea.

Lila rode Johnny as usual.

Cal wouldn't look up from his pony long enough to take a picture.  We already knew he's an animal lover.

This kid always has the cutest smile.

Crazy hair!

I tried sooooo hard to get a good picture of Cal.  Above is the best shot I got.  In all of these group shots, he kept intentionally dropping the pumpkin he was holding over and over again and saying "uh oh."  This is his uh-oh face.