Friday, June 3, 2016


Once a year, we wake up before the sun and head to the beach to celebrate Memorial Day with some of our dearest friends.

The early rising is not a favorite of mine, but spending time inhaling the salty air, digging my toes under a mound of sand, and watching my children instantly become BFF's with kids they've never played with before is a true favorite of mine.

Initially, we all did our typical Cali complaining about the chilly, cloudy May gray in the air for the first few hours. For living somewhere where there's not much extreme weather, we talk about weather a lot. Within a few hours, the clouds grew weary of our griping and begged the sun the take over the party.

As I sat there under my striped beach umbrella, I absorbed my boys. They change physically from year to year as we celebrate this annual tradition, however, who they are at heart stays the same.

Luke is my explorer. Luke searched for ocean treasures. The sea did not disappoint.

Charlie is the adventurer. His speaks the language of fun and action. Today he was fluent in catching waves with Dad.

Jack is the entertainment. He leads groups, giving each friend a role to play. It reminded me of when I was a kid. There were times that my friends called me "bossy" but I prefer to call it "early leadership."

Today was a moment of stopping busyness in it's tracks and taking time to appreciate all the good around me. I get easily distracted by the stress of work, parenting, and life's challenges that I am blinded to the good all around me. 

In moments like this, a simple refresher on perspective is all that is needed.

So there on the beach, with my toes in the sand, I took deep breaths and filled my soul up with the good.

Much love,

Monday, March 28, 2016

easter joy in the midst of hard news

We received a call on Good Friday from my dad. What seemed like lingering back pain from an old golf injury is actual metastatic cancer. As you can imagine, I felt shattered into a million pieces like a glass vase accidentally knocked off the kitchen counter.

However, our family has a deep sense of strong resolve. We have each other's backs through thick and thin. And we weren't about to let cancer suck the joy out of celebrating Easter together. So we did what all families do when faced with crisis at Easter. We dyed eggs, baked too many Easter desserts, and made sure that we squeezed the life out of our time together.

Although I do not welcome this uninvited guest into our lives with open arms, I do embrace the opportunity to help, serve, and love my dad more now than ever before because that is what defines family.

We will be strong. We will show up and be brave, and we will stand together and hold each other up when we want to fall.

Love never fails.

Much love,

Monday, December 28, 2015

the perfect imperfect christmas

I set myself up every year. I dream of warm fuzzy feelings trickling up from my toes to my head and have visions of 3 spunky boys embracing one another in acknowledgement of the season's true meaning of giving, love, and family.

And then reality hits. Hard.

It all started the morning of Christmas Eve. It is my favorite day of the year as my family has always celebrated with a large meal, church going, and present opening since I was a young girl. So now, as a mom, I desire for my own boys to experience the joy that I reminisce about each year. However, my boys messed with my mojo with their arguing over Minecraft and whether someone was chewing too loudly.

Yes, that's my life in a nutshell.

As we drove up to Orange County from our home in North San Diego County, I just stared at the ocean and wondered what my husband, Kevin, and I are doing so wrong that our kids cannot even manage to call a truce on Christmas. My disappointment crumbled dreams of warm fuzzies.

Once we got to my sister's house, the boys swam with their cousins (oh, the struggle of a California Christmas!) while the adults caught up on the latest of jobs, travel, and kid updates. Suddenly, the cousins had some issues to resolve and it went downhill from there. We ate later than planned, missed our first Christmas Eve service, and opened presents with me feeling nothing but DONE. Once we loaded up our things, we got in the car and I declared it the worst Christmas ever.

Yes, the food we spent hours cooking was rewarding and delicious. Yes, I love my time with my siblings and their spouses. And yes, seeing my parents with all of us under the same roof fills me up because I know these times are rare. However, I was so overwhelmed with what should be that I could not appreciate what was.

I couldn't shake it off and went to bed unable to let it go. The anticipation of the perfect Christmas and then the let down of Christmas failure, was simply too much for me this year.

But, the next morning brought Christmas renewal.

As the boys politely took turns opening gifts, I sat back, slowly sipped my coffee and absorbed the moment. The pinnacle was when the boys gave their gifts to each other. There was even an unprompted hug from a certain 9 year old to a too cool almost 13 year old. After presents were opened, we hung out in our pajamas and watched the boys build barriers for an epic nerf gun battle.

It was in that moment that we had Christmas. Just the five of us snuggled in our Christmas pajamas. It wasn't about a big meal, a perfectly executed schedule, or young ones getting along seamlessly.

At that moment nothing else mattered.  The warm fuzzies started their trickling. It was all I had hoped for: giving, love, and family.

It certainly was not the most perfect Christmas ever, but the imperfection of it all was absolutely perfect.

Merry Imperfect Christmas and Happy New Year. May you find perfection in the imperfection in 2016.

Much love,

Saturday, October 4, 2014

julian 2014

Amid the beginning of the school year chaos, we make sure to schedule a day to hang with the Stewart clan in Julian. They are our tradition compadres.

Winter snow play in the mountains? Check.

Spring strawberry picking? Oops, got to get back on that one.

Summer beach camping? Check.

Fall trip to Julian? Check.

We have our priorities set. So even though we're overwhelmed with school, sports, and work, we schedule time for Julian.

Before we headed into town, we went apple picking.

Kevin and I stopped for reinforcement at the local winery.

The kids roamed freely through the rows of apples as the grown ups caught up with each other. We knew we were going to be heading down the mountain with 3 full bags of apples; enough for 3 families, but it was worth it to see them examining each tree for the perfect fruit as we laughed and shared the latest happenings with our friends. We may have seen a few kids tasting as they picked. You know, just quality control in action.

It is our time to come up for air. There is something about this small quaint town that has me at hello every single time. The main street makes me long for times past. While the kids fail to notice the aesthetics, they never fail to beg to visit Mom's apple pie shop and the local candy store.

And because we dig this tradition so much, we said "yes" to both. Sugar for all!

The bottom line is this. I'm an ultimate sucker for traditions. These are the times that will fill the pages of our family story. Each page dripping with memories that will forever be imprinted on my mama heart.

Much love,

Saturday, September 13, 2014

beach camping is actually fun...really

Before I crossed over to the dark side of the world of camping, all I could envision was dirt and discomfort. I wasn't able to look beyond my preferred mode of vacation, which includes comfy beds, pools to lounge by, and room service just a call away.

However, once our friends, Josh and Linda, convinced us that camping was an experience, not just a vacation, we went for it.

I have to admit we rent a trailer each  year. I can only go so far, friends. Not only do my boys and Kevin count down the months until our next annual beach camping trip, but so do I. The experience has won me over like a fool.

As soon as we get there, we get into relaxation mode. The kids immediately create a world in the tree forest and disappear. Days are spent at the beach building detailed sandcastles, boogie boarding, and reading high quality literature like PEOPLE and US Magazine.

Sure the dirt bugs me and I crave the comforts of home by the end of the trip, but the experience is worth it.

Until next year.

Much love,

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

choosing the hard way

A few weeks ago, Luke went into his karate testing uncertain and doubting. In fact, he wanted to back out at the last minute when he blanked on certain moves that he'd be tested on later in the afternoon.

He was certain of failure and ultimate doom. Don't we all have those moments?

I put on the brave mom face and reassured him with a gentle smile, as we moms do when our babes are down.

Internally my stress level was busting at the seems as his nervousness doubled by the minute.

By the time we arrived at the dojo, I wasn't even certain if I could watch him test. I was afraid he was right and I didn't know if I could tolerate the discomfort of watching him freeze in front of the judges and his peers. 

As parents, we're rock stars when we know our kids are in their zone. We can cheer, take pictures, and live in the moment because it's comfortable.

However, watching our children in discomfort is painful. Whether it's holding down an infant for a shot or watching a painfully shy little perform in a class play; those moments bring out parents' fears and anxieties like none other.

Luke's turn finally arrived towards the end of the testing event. He stood in front of a packed room and performed his katas without error. He nailed it. When he finished and took his final bow facing the judges, I could feel my anxieties melt away.

The students all got in their places and finished with a horse stance while the judges placed a new belt behind each of them. Some kids had tears streaming down their little cheeks while others shook through the pain. I watched Luke grimace while he obediently held his stance. Meanwhile, I had to control every urge to beg Sensei to let them sit and rest.

It's in our mama bear DNA to rescue our cubs.

But, I sat.

I waited.

And watched my sweet boy struggle.

Eventually I saw Sensei put two belts behind Luke, which is unusual. In fact, I've never seen him do that at any of our testing events. As the helpers walked around, they asked Sensei why there were two belts, but each time Sensei would just put his hand up to them and nod, as if say, "I got this."

Once the boys finally sat, with their eyes still shut, they were told to look behind them. Luke turned and stared at his two belts in confusion. All the other children started to put on their new belts in excitement and I could tell that Luke's anxiety was building as he continued to stare at the two belts.

Sensei approached Luke and sat down with him. I saw him whispering to Luke and Luke looking at him carefully as he spoke. 

As I silently edged my way closer, I could hear Sensei telling Luke that he had two options:
1. Pick the next level belt color. 
2. Pick the belt that is two levels higher, but be willing to work extremely hard at the new katas. 

Finally, he told Luke he believed in him and told Luke to grab a belt.

Luke hesitated and then grabbed the next level belt. 

His self doubt got the best of him, but Sensei knew better and gently guided Luke to put the belt back down and encouraged him to reach back again and pick up the more difficult level belt.

Sensei didn't waiver. He believed in Luke. He knew he could choose the hard way and succeed.

Luke just needed that voice to tell him that he was capable and ready. He needed that reassurance that he was ready for the challenge when he didn't believe it himself.

Don't we all need someone like Sensei in our moments of self doubt? More so, how can we be like Sensei to those around us. Who can you say, "I believe in you" today? Don't wait. Four simple words can make a difference.

And most importantly, to my Luke:

I believe in you. Forever and always.

Much love,

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

8 is great

Our Fun-Time Charlie is 8. It's hard to believe, but all those well meaning "mature" ladies in the grocery store were right. 

Luke will be 12 soon enough and I've learned that kids grow up too fast. Before you know it, they are hanging out in their  bedrooms and saying things like "oooo-kaaaay Mom" when you ask them to unload the dishwasher.

So with Charlie and his younger brother, Jack, I hold onto these years all the more tightly for they are sacred.

I try to not wish time to speed up or dream of a few years ahead as I find myself now looking back and longing for a repeat of those early years.

For Charlie's 8th birthday, we celebrated at Get Air. The lucky guy even had his birthday party on his real birthday. That's one benefit of having a summer birthday.

He enjoyed every single minute of it!

That's just his nature. He's also a sensitive guy, with a great sense of humor. He's adventurous and always up for fun.

Love you always, Charlie. Always.

Happy 8th Birthday!

Much love,