June 1, 2018

A Real One

A few weeks ago, my baby sister and I had a conversation about----marriage. I can't remember what sparked the conversation in the first place, but what I do remember is that my sister looked at me and said, in all seriousness, "You and Kyle never fight. I seriously can't imagine you guys fighting. You make marriage look easy."
I tried my best to backpedal.
"Honey, trust me, we fight, just like every other married couple! Marriage is SUPER hard! It's the best thing ever, but it takes SO MUCH work!"

I don't think she really believed me. And that was the moment when I started to think... holy cow, we (married people) are not preparing the next generation for what will be the most important relationship of their lives. A wise woman once said, "If you expect a perfect marriage, you will never be happy in a real one."

So, in this post, technically my eight-year-anniversary post, I want to do more than just insert instagram-worthy pictures and tell the cute stories of our romantic getaway (which of course I'll include, too!), I want to tell you exactly what being married to Kyle taught me this year. And I'm hoping that you'll gain some sort of something that might help you in relationships in the future.

#1 Embrace your differences
Once upon a time, I was on a subconscious quest to carefully craft Kyle into the male version of me. I mean, I'm so efficient, I'm so clean, I'm so organized! But do you know the VERY best thing about Kyle? He is nothing like me. And we picked each other, we were drawn to each other, because where he is weak, I am strong, and where he is strong, I am weak. We are changing, molding, bending into better versions of ourselves, and I love love love how different we are.

#2 Make it easy
"I want you to go to Trader Joe's and buy me pink peonies."
There's Kyle, who feels freaking awesome because he knows exactly what I want. And then there's me, who walks through my front door at least 6 times a day to see a beautiful bunch of my most favorite flowers on the kitchen table, and I smile. every. single. time. and think... ohmygosh I can't believe he picked ME! $7, and 13 little words, people. Universally applicable in marriage.

#3 Lift each other
You're feeling really tired? I'll do the dishes tonight. You're stressed at work? I'll do the bedtime routine. You need some "me" time? Go get a pedicure and don't come home until ten. You're ready to go to bed but I want to stay up? I'll hold you in my arms until you fall asleep, and then fold all the laundry. And sprinkle it on top with a daily dose of: You are so amazing and work so hard for our family! Thank you for everything you do! Or--Wow, this house looks incredible. I love coming home to this!

#4 Change yourself
Make mistakes, and try again. Don't be afraid to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing, over and over again. Recognize your weaknesses, and practice fixing them. Go to therapy, where a professional will put everything into perspective, and make you feel whole again. Journal, blog, reflect, and tune-up some more. This year, I discovered that it's only the idea of change that's scary; the changing itself feels oh so good!

NOW, to the romance.
It was my turn to plan our anniversary this year! If you know me, you know about our tradition of planning anniversaries- that we trade off each year, and it's always a surprise for the other person. We ran into a little hiccup, which was bound to happen at some point anyway, when my dad accidentally emailed Kyle the day before our anniversary with all the details of our getaway. Kyle loved it anyway.
We stayed in my uncle's condo on the beach in Rosarito, Mexico--the same place where we had our honeymoon. It was exactly as we remembered it, with breathtaking views of the ocean and the calming sound of waves in the background, playing like a peaceful lullaby. We ate dinner, walked on the beach, relaxed in the hot tub, slept until after 9, played board games, and Kyle serenaded me with his guitar like only he can. I asked him to play a special song for me, one that he played that magical summer when we met on the dance floor. The first two verses are all about kissing a girl, and the third verse is about ending things, because the relationship was never going to last anyway. Nine years ago, when he totally pretended like he wrote the song for me, I thought, "Okay, clearly, he really likes kissing me (ditto), and he only wants this to be a summer fling (ummm, ditto?----Really? Yeah, same, me too. Totally. 2 good 2 be 4 gotten)." He confessed a few months later that one of his buddies actually wrote the song about his high school girlfriend. Now, the words just make me laugh and laugh!
My dad and little sister watched all four children for us, and they were disappointed when we came home, because nothing is more fun than going to job sites with Popi for 2 days.
Eight years isn't that long. I know a lot of people who have been married for decades longer, who are much wiser and much better at it than I am. But can't we also agree that eight years is so long?! If we're lucky, we'll only get to do what we just did ---like---six more times before our time on earth is over. That is CRAZY. I'm determined to not just endure my marriage with Kyle, to not just go through the motions of my insanely busy life, to not just have a bunch of kids with a handsome, intelligent, guitar-playing roommate. What I want is to absolutely love the life we build together, to find so much joy in it that I wake up each most mornings, thrilled to choose him again and again, and to have him choose me, too.

May 10, 2018

The Cadillac Crew

When I was growing up, our family did something super special. My grandparents had a motor home, and every other summer, they took all the grandkids 8 years old and up on a month-long motor home trip. Now----when you're a child, you have no idea that this is actually completely insane. First of all, most grandparents would be positively overwhelmed taking care of a dozen kids, 24 hours a day, for an entire month. Not to mention the logistics of meals, museums, hikes, excursions, campgrounds... I cannot begin to imagine the hours of preparation my grandparents took to plan the details of these trips! But because of them, I look back at my childhood with so much gratitude. At a very young age, I was taught to look at nature with awe, to see God's hand in the world He created for us, to love my grandparents with a fierceness most people will never know, to thoroughly enjoy museums and the reading of every plaque at a national park, to appreciate the outdoors, and to genuinely love my cousins and siblings.

I'm determined to instill all of this in my children somehow, too.

On our drive home from Utah last summer, Kyle told me that he had never been to my favorite national parks, so I determined right then and there that we would knock two off our list by the next calendar year. So I did that thing I do, and started planning...
Airbnb is THE way to travel as a family. I cannot imagine anything more tortuous than carrying four sleeping children and all of our luggage through a hotel lobby or smelly casino, up an elevator, down that loooong meandering hallway, and squishing all six of us into two starchy queen sized beds. Instead, we pulled up to the house, carried our sleeping children into pretty little beds all fluffy and warm, and went straight to bed! We stayed at the most darling little house in Williams, Arizona, right off Route 66. The home was over 100 years old, with all the charming little details, like Edison light bulbs and antique door knobs--it was adorable.

We left the next morning for the Grand Canyon Railway, an old train that leaves from Williams each morning, and brings you back in the evening. The train ride was two hours long, but included entertainment for the kids all along the way. There were musicians, coloring books, actors playing characters from the Wild West, and views of the Arizona desert through great, glass windows.

We arrived late-morning at the Grand Canyon. As we walked up to the viewing area, London was the most vocal in her excitement. She gasped, and said, "Mom, oh my gosh! This is so beautiful!"(--That's right, Honey!!!) I planned a short hike for us to take from the visitor's center. However,  something I didn't consider in my preparation was the change in altitude, and how tired it would make four small children. When they could barely make it to the tram without taking several rest stops, Kyle and I had a little pow-wow...Maybe a hike wasn't in the cards for us on this particular trip. We walked back to the rim instead, and took the paved path that winds along the edge of the canyon. I read all the plaques along the way, and we had a really pleasant and beautiful afternoon. It was just as I remembered it, only better somehow, because now I was sharing the canyon with my own little family. Before boarding the return train, I had this not-so-brilliant idea to get the kids ice cream. Yes, the line was long, but I felt certain we had plenty of time! After getting our ice cream, Kyle and I ran back to the station, half carrying/half dragging our children on our backs and shoulders, melted ice cream dripping all over the place, especially in Kyle's hair! The doors were already shut when we finally made it to the train car, but I suppose they took pity on us, because they opened the door and let us board. When we were finally seated, all we could do was laugh. I have a problem.

On the train ride back to Williams, the Marshall, dressed up from his head to his spurs, sat next to London and told her in a deep, Southern accent, "I need your help."
London perked up. If you need London, she's all over it. "Okay!"
"The Cadillac Crew has just escaped from prison. They're a group of train robbers-- bandits!"
London's eyes grew to the size of saucers. "Bandits?" She whimpered.
"If they catch this train, they'll take all our jewelry and money!"
"Oh my gosh." She couldn't breathe.
"Now, if you see them out the window, you let me know."
"Okay." She was frozen with fear.

One minute later, out the left window, appeared two men on horseback, bandannas over their mouths and cowboy hats on their heads.

"Mom?!" In a half-panicked cry.
A voice came over the loud speaker. "We just received word that the Cadillac Crew has escaped from prison. But don't worry. we'll be safe as long as the train keeps moving." Suddenly, the train began to slow. "Oh no," the girl laughed over the intercom,"they're boarding our train! Give them whatever money you'd like. We really appreciate you riding with us today!"

I looked over at London, who had removed both her necklace and her bracelet and had them safely hidden in her pocket. She burst into tears. I pulled her on to my lap. She cried, "No! Mom, they're going to board the train!"

Of course, I was trying my best to reassure her. "Honey, this is just pretend. They aren't real train robbers. They're coming to collect money from people who really enjoyed the train ride!" Nothing worked. The other passengers laughed with delight as the bandits boarded, and happily handed them money, which they placed into cloth bags. London was shaking, and buried her face in my chest.

Afterward, when she would tell the story, she would laugh at herself, and say, "I know it wasn't real! I was just a little scared, that's all!"
Easter morning was slow and relaxing, just the way I wanted it to be. We opened Easter baskets, read their Easter stories, and stopped for breakfast at an old-fashioned country restaurant.
Maaaaajor parenting hack: driving with a training potty in the back of the car. Because let me tell you, no one should ever have to take 2 two-year-olds into a dirty, nasty gas station bathroom every hour to do their business. "No, don't touch that! No, that's filthy, don't touch that! Don't touch the walls! Don't touch the doors! Don't touch the floor!" We simply pulled off the road, opened the liftgate, set them on the potty one at a time, and then rinsed out the potty in the bushes. 5x faster, 100x cleaner. 

March 7, 2018


I did something CRAZY.
Over the course of our nearly-eight-year marriage, I slowly, 
v e r y    s l o w l y
managed to convince Kyle that our family needs a dog. And then, one obviously perfect day last November, all the stars in the universe aligned, and I saw him.

My text chain to Kyle:
    "Don't freak out, but I found our puppy. Like, for reals."
    "Well great, let's get a house first then we can buy anything you want"
[*sees picture of Charlie]
    "Well there's Charlie"
    "Kyle, I don't want someone else to buy our puppy. I can tell, he's the one"

And then, there's the clincher...

I prayed about it, because that's what you do when you're about to make a super big decision that will impact the next twelve or so years of your life, and I knew it was right.

That's when Kyle said these magical words:
"Let's do it."

So I put the cart before the horse--- or in this case, the dog before the house, but what I have discovered is that when things are right, they just fall perfectly in to place. A few days later, we found the cutest yellow house with hardwood floors, a white kitchen, four bedrooms, and a great big yard. Then, Kyle accepted a new job here in San Diego, which is not at all what we were planning, but oh my goodness it feels so right. So here we are, and it's taken me a few months to catch you all up on it, partly because it has taken me this long to wrap my head around all these changes---and partly because potty training a dog is almost as torturous as potty training Elle.

BUT, let's go back to Charlie.

His first night.
We picked him up at the airport on Christmas Eve Eve. He arrived an hour late, and Kyle and I could barely keep it together. When the cargo crew brought his crate into the loading area, I opened it, and pulled out the cutest little ball of red fluff I have ever seen. He held on to me for dear life, and I was immediately smitten. Charlie stayed at our dear family friend's house for the next 36 hours, so our kids could be surprised on Christmas morning. I can't imagine a reveal going better than this one!

It seems impossible that we have our sweet Charlie, that he fits so perfectly into our family, that he is adored and so cherished by every one of our kids. Kyle and I laugh all the time, when we see him playing endlessly with our children, convinced that buying him was the best decision we've ever made. Charlie is playful, affectionate, smart, and thinks he's just another one of the twins. When we walk in the door from going anywhere at all, all four kids run to his kennel. "Charlie! Where's my puppy?!" "Who's a good puppy?!" "Aah-eee!" "Mom, Chah-lee lick me!" "Aah-eee [l]ick [y]ou, Mommy!" "Charlie!" (lots of laughing, giggling). All my kids beg to feed him, to give him water, to take him potty, to hold his leash, to give him treats, to play fetch and tug-a-war, to give him a "belly wub", none of which I was expecting!
Having a puppy is HARD. Everyone knows that! And yes, I have knowingly added a whole lot of crazy to an already crazy life. But let me tell you this: The best things in life are the things that are hard and crazy, I promise.

He's the cutest, best dog in the history of the world.
He's also an extremely graceful sleeper.

January 2, 2018

Sand Pies

I needed a vacation. Bad. I was stressed and snappy and in a lull and not at all I decided to take matters into my own hands, and go to Mexico. 
In my family, we always do Thanksgiving right. We divided up the meal assignments, and let everyone sign up for what they wanted to contribute to the Thanksgiving feast. My dad signed up to make the turkey, HOWEVER, when the time came to cook it, he admitted to never having cooked a turkey in his life. So Jordan came to the rescue, and we slathered it with garlic, olive oil, and all the herbs my dad brought from his garden, filled the inside with stuffing, onion, and an orange (that was my brilliant idea), and said a prayer. I'm being completely honest when I say that the turkey was the best I've ever had- it was so tender that it fell off the bone!
The turkey coming out perfectly was exactly like this.
(The Emperor's New Groove. It's on Netflix. You're welcome.)
The orange rolls were a hit, as was Kaden's pumpkin pie, which he made from scratch with pumpkins from my dad's garden (single ladies, take note).

One evening, Kaden watched all the kids for us, so we could go into town. We stopped at a churro stand, where we tried our very first caramel-filled churros, and nearly went straight to heaven right there on the boardwalk. Kyle and Jordan did their piña colada thing, where they harass the poor man mixing their drinks to discover his secrets (sugar-the answer is always sugar). And Kerrisa finally got the bowl she's been dreaming about for years.
Elle and Cambria spent hours making pies in the sand, and then bringing them inside for to us to eat. Here they are, presenting a few of their pies to us. Their pie shenanigans made cooking in the kitchen pretty interesting---whenever we couldn't find a bowl or a whisk or a spoon, we just had to check outside... in the sand. 
But look at those faces!!!!

Uncle Kaden was so sweet to take the kids on rides- they all love him so much!

The morning after Thanksgiving, the ocean was clear as glass, and perfect for catching a San Felipe favorite--trigger fish. The men pulled the kayaks down to the beach, and the kids had the most wonderful day on the water. London and Popi caught the biggest fish, and she was so proud of herself! Then the tide came in and washed the fish away from the rock it was laying on, and poor London was so sad!

The kids found a stick-bug... It died.
Our trip ended a day earlier than we planned, because Juliette almost fell off her bar stool, and Jordan slid across the room like a ninja/knight to rescue her, and broke his back. Jordan, you're our hero. 

Ruff Ruff Rescue

Elle, Henry, and Juliette are obsessed with this cute little show on Nickelodeon called Paw Patrol, where a group of puppies and their master work together to rescue anyone in trouble in Adventure Bay.  So Elle chose a Paw Patrol theme for birthday number 4, which was fine with me, because let me tell you, I'm running out of variations on the horse party.
Elle has made the sweetest little friend in her preschool class this year- and we found out when we invited their whole family over for Elle's birthday that I actually went to High School with her dad! Here are the two girls hugging after she gave Elle her birthday present. They are simply adorable together!

Maybe it's because she started preschool, or moved up to the Sunbeam class at church, or because she has suddenly embraced her roll as big sister of the twins, but I can't believe how much Elle has changed this year. She still walks on her toes, eats three apples a day, has the vocabulary of a twelve-year-old, and the biggest heart of any girl I know. She rides a horse named Bella, which is her greatest joy in life. Her imagination impresses me every day. ["Oh, no! The dragon is going to attack us with his fire balls! We have to call the Pegasus to rescue us! Follow me! Neigh!"] I can't imagine a world without her stubborn, spunky, and hilarious personality. 

And no need to worry---she's already requested a horse party for next year. 

October 16, 2017

A Thing or Two

Oh, twins.
I get one of two reactions whenever I'm out and about with the twins... one is the really naive and slightly eccentric younger woman who tells me how she ALWAYS wanted twins (!!!!), and the other is the older, more experienced woman on her third cup of coffee for the day, who is bothered by the sight of adorable tiny people, who rolls her eyes and tells me how full my hands are. So, all these encounters have really got me thinking---I should probably share what it's actually like having two-year-old twins, for anyone who has ever wondered, or who will ever have the great pleasure of experiencing this, too, someday.

-"Peanut, where is your diaper?" (apparently, my children are nudists)
-"Hawy did it."
-"Henry took your diaper off?"

-"Peanut, where are your shoes."
-"Hawy has it."
-"Henry took your shoes off?"

-"Henry, what happened?"
-"Mimi (what he calls Juliette) uh, uhu, hu, oo. (Now pointing at her; pause) Mimi."

The twins love to pretend to be cats or puppies. One starts meowing and purring and crawling on the ground, and the other one immediately follows, right behind the other. They then find me, climb up on me, and both of them lick me, while purring and nuzzling against me. A few minutes later, and they have both become puppies. They do the exact same thing, but as puppies this time, barking and panting until I pat them on the head and tell them what good puppies they are. They also love to pretend to be sleeping. They crawl under the covers of my freshly-made bed, close their eyes, and pretend to snore. Then they laugh and laugh at each other, because they both think there is nothing on this earth more funny than pretend sleep.

Oh man. This one is HARD. They always want the exact same thing at the exact same time, and even when I buy two identical toys for them, one twin ALWAYS takes them both and runs away, while the other twin cries. When Henry is the culprit, Juliette chases right after him and rips the toy from his hands, which then makes him cry, too. And when Juliette is the culprit, Henry melts into a puddle of tears on the ground until I come to his rescue. Each time, I make them come together, hug their twin, and say they're sorry. Talk to me in a year, and I'll tell you if they have finally learned to share!

They really look out for one another. If one twin falls down and gets hurt, the other twin is right by their side. Juliette will say, "Uh oh, Mom. Hawy sad. Ouchie, Mom. Beendaid, Mom? Medcin, Mom?" And then she'll sit down next to him until he is completely taken care of, and give him a hug or a kiss. This is also true if an older sibling isn't being kind--- The twins will come and tattle on London or Elle if they aren't being inclusive to their twin. Juliette will say, "Mom, Ellie shut da door. Hawy sad." And Henry will say, "Nunun (London) uh, uh no, no Mimi (Juliette)."--which means that London did something to Juliette, and I have to investigate to find out exactly what he's trying to tell me.

Yep, this is a category all its own. I really don't know of anything sweeter than two cuddly two-year-old's(*except maybe cuddly newborns). Henry and Juliette love to climb up on my lap, one on each knee, heads up against my chest, to read a book with me. Henry will brush my hair out of the way, and reach his hand up to touch my face, while I read Florabell over and over again. On Friday, when I put them down for their nap, the twins both laid on their tummies, and reached one hand out of their cribs to hold my hands. It was such a normal, no-big-deal hand-hold, but that moment really struck me. I don't know why. Maybe it's because they both did it at the same time, and maybe it's because we had had such a fun morning together and I was feeling extra grateful, but I teared up then and told them how much I love them.

It is really really fun to have two little buddies all the time. This year, Elle goes to preschool two mornings each week, so I have six whole hours just to be with the twins. We play at the park, we color, we go to Petco to see all the animals, and we pretend and imagine together. They entertain me endlessly: Henry, who is always trying to make me laugh and has never followed directions in his life, and Juliette, who is so sassy and rules the entire universe with her bossiness.

I crawl into bed each night. I am perma-tired. I can barely form a coherent sentence when I'm trying to speak to another adult. The attention, answering questions, teaching, diaper changes, naps, breaking-up of fights, snacks, drinks, outings, re-directing, playing, and all the crazy loving of two very different two-year-old's for 14 hours each day is some serious work.

This year, at the twins' birthday party, I was completely overcome with emotion. When the dinner started, I tried to welcome our family, but as I began to speak, it got caught in my throat instead. Looking back now, I think it's because there is SO MUCH LOVE--a kind of love that I never knew I could feel, for these two crazy little twins. Sometimes, the feelings come like waves, and sometimes, the feelings overwhelm me like a flood, and I can't believe how special it is that they are mine.

When people ask me what it's like having twins, I usually say, "It's the hardest and most wonderful thing in the world. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, and yet, I wish that everyone had the opportunity to be a twin mom, because there really is nothing better." Do you see what I mean about the coherent sentence thing?! And even though this doesn't actually make any sense at all, I promise you, it's true. I guess you're just going to have to take my word for it...