Late Thanksgiving Post

We are a large family, and as if that weren’t complicated enough, we are a large, blended, military family. We don’t have family nearby to visit, and planning to do anything with our out of state families requires negotiating with a high conflict ex who would rather see the children alienated from their extended family than to work in their best interest. So, unless our family comes to us, we are on our own. It’s okay though, as you can imagine, we’re used to it and we only have a few more years of this arrangement. So to recap, no nearby family, constant moves and I’m very picky about who I allow in my inner circle or trust around my kids. The few close friends we have are thoroughly vetted and are more like family.

This year, we had all of our children for the first halves of fall break, and their other sets of parents got them for the remaining half (which included Thanksgiving). So, we celebrated with our kids on Tuesday, than celebrated with our friends on Thursday.  Two different dinners, but both proved to be delightful.

Round One: Turkey day?
For the first time in… well… EVER, our family had ham for Thanksgiving, much to the delight of our children.

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Having a heart of gratitude is so important for me to help foster in my children. Like many families at Thanksgiving, we go around the table and share what we are most thankful for. Watch the video to see exactly how we answered.

After dinner, J had to go make an appearance at our second USMC Ball of the season, so we planned to have me take the kids out to the movies and splurge on popcorn and candy. You best believe we put the costs in our budget! I went over on snacks by $11.00, but the tickets were $3 less than we planned for EACH ticket, so we managed to come out a few bucks ahead!

Round Two: Ah, There’s the turkey… and tofu?
Our dear friend Jackie knew we would be childless on Thanksgiving (which always bums us out a little) so she asked us to join her family consisting of her grown children, her cousin from out of town and their child, and her aunt. J and I are warm people who generally get along with all kinds of people, but being around people also requires energy, and I’ve been in a bit of an emotional funk lately. We considered staying in our pajamas all day and avoid traffic and all the fuss, but we decided we would pull ourselves together, put some pants on (not an easy task after Thanksgiving Round One), and be social.

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Jackie and her family are clean eaters, some are also vegetarian, pescatarian, and vegan, so there were dishes for everyone. Happy day! My normal diet is a modified pescatarian (I eat eggs and some dairy) but I also don’t fuss when meats are served to me or when my family requests a meal with meat in it. I also happen to love traditional holiday meals.  I digress.  We were all seated separate from our spouses in a successful attempt at breaking ice and interacting with one another. With permission from our hostess, J and I had ordered the game Vertellis in hopes of playing it during Thanksgiving, but unfortunately, it didn’t arrive in time, So I managed to look up some thought provoking questions, write them down on paper, fold them up and stick them into a bowl. I had bowl passed around the table and each person draw a question to answer. It was a hit and many people said they enjoyed it even more than going around saying what they were thankful for.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Over the River and Through the Woods

When my husband and I married, he made a couple promises to me. Of course there was the usual, “To love and honor, to have and to hold” bit, but there were a few extras he threw in too.

I am a mountain girl. I grew up in a tiny home on the base of Galbraith. Galbraith is world renowned in the mountain biking community and is rated as “difficult” but that didn’t mean squat to a kid who didn’t know any other terrain. Hikes and mountain bike rides meant dodging trees and sometimes creating your own path. The forests back home are thick with evergreens, lots of shade, pines and leaves. The air is fresh and cool, even in summer.

I came to California with my first husband, who had joined the Marines three years into our marriage without so much as talking with me about it. I was a supportive wife, but the move devastated me. I had a young child and was pregnant, without any family, friends, or community. I eventually made friends, I eventually became a part of the community and I did my best to acclimate to the heat as I tried to work on saving my marriage. The “Golden State” was overshadowed by my darkening mental health. I would have never admitted it to anyone back then, I wanted to be strong and push on and talking about it just seemed like a waste of my efforts.

My ex and I gave up on our marriage in 2011 and finally separated early in 2012. I had every intention of leaving California and raising my children in Washington, but my divorce took longer to process than it should have and I was forced to stay until it was finalized. It was during that agonizing time that I met a remarkable man. I didn’t know he was remarkable right away. I certainly wasn’t looking for a relationship, but a couple years later, we were raising our babies together, holding hands, making promises to have and to hold… and to take road trips to the mountains I love so much.

My husband takes his promises seriously, as one should, and we usually take two big mountain trips a year: one with all the kids, and one romantic one with just us. This trip was our annual fall family trip. It was a superb getaway, so relaxing for us all, mixed with the usual hiking adventures and baking. Our cabin was situated right on a cliff, with a perfect view of the popular paragliding/hang-gliding takeoff spot.

Saturday: Hanging out on a cliffside

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I was able to teach my boys some basic finger grips (for rock climbing) and beamed with pride as they bouldered with me for nearly an hour.

These amazing adventurists are a part of Crestline Soaring Society. They had an appreciation event the day we happened to be there; free shuttle, free food, free drinks & free flying. That’s one hell of a give-back!

We came back to the cabin for a late lunch. The kids played on their phones and computers and J laid down on the sectional with his head resting comfortably in my lap while I put on ‘Home Alone’. It wasn’t long before a bright orange haze appeared through the window to my right. The colors were so saturated that the sunset stole my attention from the movie. I maneuvered out from under my sleeping husband, grabbed my camera off the table, and tiptoed outside to attempt to capture the gorgeous sunset. My youngest came with and was also in awe of the beautiful color. Silhouetted in the sky, was a lone paraglider, out for one last ride, with the best seat in the house. IMG_6812IMG_6818IMG_6839

Sunday: Hiking to Heart Rock

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My oldest sons took the lead, scouting ahead and making funny remarks to one another. My youngest son stayed just ahead of his sisters, making sure to stop and assist them over more difficult terrain. He is such a sweetheart.

The colors were stunning. Perfect fall weather.

One of the kids’ favorite traditions is our final stop coming home from San Bernardino: Inn and Out. The girls always load up on the stickers and hats. Of course, when I ask my boys to put on their hats for a group photo, THIS is the response I get. I laughed, and over-exaggerated an exasperated eye-roll. They giggled over how clever they were and said, “What mom? You asked us to put on our hats, so we put ON our hats!”

“Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.”
― Bill BrysonA Walk in the Woods


Back-To-School, Back-To-Business!


It’s the beginning of the new school term and our parent friends from all the districts are shouting a collective “Hell-Freaking-YES!” that the summer has come to a close.
We moved to a different city this summer, so I took some time away from work to adjust.

Pack up, unpack, organize, decorate, register the kids in a different school, transfer our son’s IEP, and only 2 weeks to do it all before we went on our 10 day family road trip. Yes, a road trip… with seven children. I anticipated 10 days of whining and breaking up fights in the backseat, but to my shock, all of the children got along wonderfully, and even said they wanted to do it again next summer! I think the trick was that we gave them a choice of our daily activities and where we’d stop for the night. They enjoyed getting a say in the decision making.

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The StigKids’ school district started on the 14th, and the SigKids’ school district began this week.

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We have our little family traditions of taking them out to breakfast, then taking a morning photo. We let them order whatever they want, this year, I came to regret that policy this year as all of the SigKids ordered food that contained little nutritional value.

We dropped our middle schoolers off first, noting as we took photos together, that our third oldest son and I had inadvertently dressed alike, black pants and blue chucks. IMG_1518-Edit

Kisses from “Madre”
My Handsome Boys
Madre and her boys
7th & 8th graders!

Siggy and I yelled our “I Love You’s” across the parking lot and watched our boys blush hard while the principle yelled back that we were officially her favorite parents. We drove two blocks down to drop our younger ones off. We met the teachers, took pictures, and found it rather easy to ignore Siggy’s high conflict ex’s behavior by keeping our amazing kids at the center of our attention.

Gracie, Ava, and Addy all ended up with Emoji gear.
My little Addy-Cadabby. One of my favorite cuddle bugs.
Wow, Siggy got a decent photo with my Canon. That never happens!
Family selfie
She didn’t want to let her daddy to go.

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Now that things have started to settle down around here, I started taking on more work, including two commercial shoots this week; Goddess Yoga session with our florist partner The Social Flower, and shooting the new menu items for MenYu Ramen Taphouse in Pacific Beach. I have some incredible new Etsy prints and products coming to the store very soon.

What was one of your favorite back to school memories/traditions?