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?


Goodbye & New Beginnings

Today, my husband and I said goodbye to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, the IMG_0984duty station we’ve called “home” for the past 3 years. MCRD has had it’s fair share of challenges, long hours and many duty days; suffice it to say that J and I were both ready for this day to come. However, I find myself in a moment of bitter-sweet reflection, recalling all of the many friends and fond memories that were developed here.

This morning, between bright yellow recruit barracks, Siggy was presented with two awards: a Drill Instructor Ribbon, and a Naval Commendation Medal, 3rd award, for his successful tour. The artist recruits presented him with a beautifully painted footlocker, topped with a set of those legendary yellow footprints. IMG_0986







With our goodbyes said to the Depot, we focus our attention to Siggy’s new duty station, *drum roll please* CAMP PENDLETON!

Yes! So much yes!

We are so excited to be going back aboard one of the busiest Marine Corps bases, with so much natural beauty including the coastline and the 125,000 acres of wildlife preserve that protects over 16 endangered species. J and I took the time to go preview his new command a few months ago and have since discussed his plan to impact the motivation and efficiency of his Marines. J’s Masters is in organizational leadership, which is fitting given his chosen career path. I have witnessed his leadership, both in the home and with his Marines, and I have all the faith in the world that he will perfectly implement his plan.

Thank you Mighty Mike and STC friends and family. You will forever be in our hearts.

I am so proud of your hard work and dedication you have exemplified. There were times that were tough, time you had to be away, times you were crazy busy (or were dealing with the sh*tty reception in your office) but there was never a time I doubted my place in your priorities. Somehow, you find a way to thrive in this environment and bettered yourself and our relationship. You are quite the catch!


Finances, Raising Kids, Uncategorized

You Get Paid For Your Effort

Heather and I decided that our kids can earn money just like any job.  We have different Jobs around the house with varying amounts they can earn.  They all know that the weekends are when they can work hard to get paid.

  • Give the Dog a bath $5.00 (Weekly)
  • Wipe down the cabinets $5.00 (Weekly)
  • Bathroom 1 $10.00 (Weekly)
  • Bathroom 2 $10.00 (Weekly)
  • Sweep the stairs $5.00 (Monthly)
  • Scrub the floor $25.00 (Monthly)

My oldest daughter is usually the first to ask about jobs that can be done so she can save up to buy her barbie toy.  She starts off asking “Daddy…..How much can I get for washing Penny?”  “Daddy, can you tell the boys not to take all the jobs?”  I tell her that’s not how it works in the real world and if she wants to get paid, you have to work hard.  Otherwise someone else will do that job.  “But DAAAAD! I’m not going to be here Saturday.”  “Love, that is your choice not mine.  You want to have a sleepover and that means you won’t be back to do any of the jobs.”img_2684
She was a bit frustrated and that’s ok because at the end of the day she is learning to make choices.  She had a blast at her friends house and made an awesome bunny basket for Easter so I don’t the she was too upset about the whole ordeal

We’ve also looked at their education as an opportunity to earn money.  We consider it their primary job and they get paid for their effort as well.  Having seven kids makes for

Grade Paymentsa minor financial hardship so we decided to impliment this program during middle school (7th Grade for California).  The kids like the idea since it’s an opportunity to earn even more money.  The problem that we face right now is that we have two 7th graders and next year we will have three in middle school.  They have an opportunity to earn $400.00 each school year so with two thats $800.00 and next year it will be $1200.00




We also have implemented an incentive to read by giving them the opportunity to write a one page book report on a book they have read.  The criteria are pretty simple; One Page, Times New Roman, Double Spaced.  It must have the book name, the author, what it’s about and what it means to them.  We grade it and they get paid $5.00 for each report.

Education is the priority and the harder they work the more they can earn.   Not only do they get paid they are learning along the way which is a win-win.  What I find most rewarding is after nearly five years of repetition about saving, they get it.  After I dish out money for the jobs they did, book report, or the money they earn from grades, I end by asking “How much do you want to put in savings?” and they are always wanting to put at least 40% away.

What do you do to incentivize your kids to focus on education?  We would love to hear your tips