Five years ago Ryan and I decided to build a home. True to form we began this huge life decision with more wide eyed excitement and spirit than understanding of just how much work was ahead of us. That sort of letting your heart go before your head mentality seemed to work for us in the past, so how hard could building a house be? Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you that we fell in love with this particular piece of property over a decade ago, and building our (hopefully) forever home has always been a dream of ours. We were lucky enough to purchase the property from a friend, and we are also fortunate to be surrounded by family that has experience building their own homes. Beyond that help this house has been built on a foundation of diligence, hard work, and faith from Ryan, the boys, and I. Before we were even able to dream of pouring a physical foundation for our home, we had to first build it metaphorically in our marriage and family. For me this house represents the recovery we fought so hard for and the redemption we experience daily. Did we have any clue that our house building journey and family recovery would coincide? Absolutely not, but that’s the kind of movement that happens when a person follows a dream heart first!

So back to that first question, how hard could building a house be? For us it has been hard enough in order to teach us the lessons we needed to learn, but not without the joy of victory afterwards!

There are a ton of things I love about my family. We’re hard working, fun loving, understanding of the importance of a great haircut, and we’re always up for an adventure!

Ryan and I are very fortunate to have been able to travel often with our four boys. When we were a younger family, our summer weekends would usually involve day trips to a beach or lake. Since then, our boys have been to New York, Hawaii a handful of times, RV’ed all the way to Washington, and have enjoyed dozens of weekend trips to San Fransisco or Stinson beach. Ryan and I are also very fortunate that our boys have become excellent travelers. The hum of an airplane will lull them to sleep, books and an ipad full of movies have kept them content during long car drives, and snacks keep everyone patient until our destination is reached. Have I ever dealt with a fussy baby on a long flight, broken up arguments in the backseat, or tried to get an overstimulated, over exhausted toddler to bed after a long day of travel? Yes, yes, and yes! But all of the good things that come with traveling alongside our boys have outweighed all of the uncomfortable things. The experiences had, the knowledge gained, the memories made; all totally worth changing more than a few poopy diapers in an airplane bathroom!

Our latest and longest car drive to date was to Palm Springs! As Mrs. California, my family was asked to be in their annual Festival of Lights, and we were honored and excited for the opportunity! We debated on whether or not to fly (we live close to the foothills in Northern California), but the recent drop in gas prices made it hard to justify purchasing six flights. With so many recent seven hour drives to Southern California under our belt, I figured we could handle a drive only a couple more hours long. To help make things a little easier, I decided to pack lunch and other homemade treats for our journey. My least favorite part of a long car drive over the grapevine is the lack of healthy food options. Inevitably we’ll snack on chips and candy from travel stations, only to feel like garbage when we finally reach our destination. Armed with homemade muffins, popcorn, a five pound bag of local mandarines, and a stack of lunches made with love, we made it over the grapevine directly into LA traffic. Did we stress, did we fight, were we sick of sitting in the car? Maybe a little, but not enough to ruin the beginning of our trip! When we finally arrived we were happy and excited to explore our surroundings (aka, go out to dinner). As for the parade, it was amazing! So many people, lights, and even a celebrity sighting!

Please excuse the crickets around here, but this summer vacation has gotten the best of me!

We started our vacation with a bang, a big Hawaiian bang that is. Here’s how it all happened; our boys last day of school was on a Thursday, we hopped on a plane that Friday, and we’ve been living island style ever since. No, we haven’t physically been in Hawaii this entire time, but the laid back easy attitude found there has definitely stayed with us.

Aside from relaxing and goofing around on the beach, this particular Hawaiian family vacation held a deeper meaning for us. Ryan and I decided to celebrate our upcoming 15 year anniversary by renewing our vows on the beach in Oahu. With just our boys, our dearest friends, Matt and Shannon, and a photographer, we recommitted, renewed, and reclaimed our union. At the end of our ceremony, the six of us held on to each other and allowed our tears to wash away any residue of the past we all needed to say goodbye to. You see, this resilient, loving family has been through a lot together. Three years ago, after my husband chose sobriety, we slowly started a healing process and began to restore a beautiful life together we thought we had lost. This vow renewal was more than just a celebration of an anniversary, it was a declaration of a new beginning.

Don’t worry, Hawaii wasn’t all tears and seriousness! We snorkeled, sunbathed, and ate our weight in shaved ice. After 12 days of enjoying all that Maui and Oahu has to offer, we were sad to leave but excited to get back to all of the adventures and endeavors that were waiting for us at home.

This summer has been the best summer ever.

Keep in mind I say that after every summer break, but I’m serious this time! It was perfect.

Perfect summers do not necessarily include big fancy tropical getaways or tons of scheduled activities. While all of that stuff is pretty great, my idea of a perfect summer includes lots of frozen yogurt, weekend bbq’s with friends, and a few fun road trips. Allowing yourself to relax and slow down makes these simple summer pleasures that much more memorable and enjoyable.

Before we jump head first into the next busy school/soccer/holiday season, we decided to take our boys on one last getaway to San Francisco. While I’m a country girl at heart, I always enjoy the busyness of the city for a few days. We ate, we rode a street car, we stayed up late, we shopped. More importantly we were together and that is always my favorite part of any trip we take. I am always thankful for these fun getaways together, but nothing beats a deliciously slow, popsicle filled summer day!

You are never too old to hop out of bed, skip your routine cup of coffee, and board a shuttle full of excited/sleepy parents and kids.

You are never too old to run down Main Street, rush into Tomorrow Land, and zip onto Space Mountain before the line gets too long.

You are never too old to enjoy a corn dog from the Corn Dog Castle, fried chicken from The Plaza Inn, bbq ribs from Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue, and a giant ice-cream sunday from Paradise Pier Ice Cream Co. Don’t forget the popcorn, a giant pickle, a tall glass of lemon aid, and a few antacids to wash it all down with!

You are never too old to get excited when you finally see Mickey Mouse, stand in line to give Goofy a hug, or take your turn to defeat Darth Vader in your impromptu Jedi padawan training.

You are never too old to be dazzled by fireworks while eating a muti-colored lollipop, surrounded by a crowd of children and children at heart.

You are never too old to fall in love with Disneyland all over again.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we all practice our own food philosophies. Some of us are more stringent than others living committed vegan, vegetarian, or all organic lifestyles. A few of us are fueled by sugar, willing to choke down spinach in order to get to the best part of any meal, dessert! Then there are the advocates who help keep our food safe and also keep consumers informed on how our food is raised.

Regardless of where your food values lie, what should be important to all of us is knowing where our food comes from. It’s easy to shop through a supermarket, picking up beautifully wrapped produce or meat without a thought as to how it got there. Were these tomatoes grown locally? How far did your eggs, nestled neatly in their crates, have to travel to make it to the refrigerated section? Just as it’s important to know if our food is organic, GMO or gluten free, we should also be asking where our food comes from and is it locally grown or not?

Earlier this week another local food blogger (Dorothy over at Crazy for Crust!) and I were invited by the California Farm Water Coalition to tour a few local walnut orchards (national walnut day is this Friday!) and see first hand where a good portion of our nations walnuts are grown and exported. We had the honor of meeting Todd Ramos of Ramos Farms, a third generation walnut grower. After listening to his story I quickly understood that what he does is not just a job; instead it is a lifestyle and a legacy passed down to him by his grandfather, who came to this county with nothing but an American dream. After our walk through the orchards, the red carpet was rolled out for us at Lester’s bakery. There we ate mile-high sandwiches served on homemade walnut bread, and apricot walnut bars (YUM!) for lunch. We were even able to meet Stan Lester himself, a local walnut grower, packer, and shipper. He too reflected on the farming lifestyle quoting Warren Buffet “Do what you love.” Stan passionately explained the importance of knowing your market, your crops, staying current with efficient watering techniques, and the economic influence their farms are to their community and nation. It was obvious to us that these men love what they do but they also innately understand the importance of protecting what they do. The responsibly to perserve these increasingly important family-owned farms doesn’t end there. As consumers we also need to know where our food comes from and to buy as locally as we can. More than just for the sentiment of buying local, supporting local farmer’s markets, fruit stands, and local grocery stores directly supports these farms, the countless jobs these farms provide, our local economy, diversity in the food market, and the ever important American dream.

After taking a look around the Mariani Nut Company and being a gifted a huge bag of walnuts, we drove home reflecting on the rich farming history in Winters, California full of gratitude for the hard work and dedication from these farmers and their families. Of course I couldn’t let that beautiful bag of  walnuts sit in my pantry for too long! I whipped up this easy spinach and walnut pesto for dinner the next night and I couldn’t help but smile knowing the food I was feeding my family was lovingly grown by generations of proud, hard working families just like mine.

For the last four years right after Halloween and just before Thanksgiving the team over at ground(ctrl) packs up their anvil cases and heads on over to Austin, Texas to man the box office and merch booth at the Fun Fun Fun Fest. But long before any of us are able to fly over and bite into our first frito pie the GC team has been hard at work making sure every festival goers experience will be nothing but the best. After all of the meetings and late nights back at the office we proudly wear our ticketing staff t-shirt all weekend long and come face to face with the 55 thousand fans that are just as excited to be at the festival as we are.

But it’s not all work and no fun! There are plenty of late nights at the Mohawk and early morning sound checks at the park. We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at Franks hotdogs (thanks again for the voucher!!) and we’ll always find time to sing happy birthday to Eddie who’s birthday lands on the festival weekend.

To me a weekend like this is what ground(ctrl) is all about. Coming together as a team and bringing the fans as close as they can to their beloved bands.

Jul 16

Kauai 2012

Every night I look forward to tucking my boys into bed so that Ryan and I might have a few hours alone together before we drift off to sleep ourselves. A few times a month I’ll call a sitter, order a pizza, put on some red lipstick and enjoy a night on the town with my husband. If we’re lucky our friends can also slip away for the night and the four of us can relax, laugh and savor a meal together. Once in a great while (and by great while I mean maybe once a year) the two of us are able to hop on a plane together, and whisk each other away from our everyday lives. Yes, these incredibly special trips take a bit of planning, asking for help, and missing the boys while we are away but they are always worth it in the end. Whether it’s for a few hours or a few days, Ryan and I are discovering that the longer we’re married the more important this kind of quality time together is.

This getaway to Kauai was no different and by far our most relaxing, romantic and slightly adventurous trip to date. We spent our mornings by the pool, our afternoons on the beach and our evenings at a candle lit table set for two. In those five days we also both overcame a fear (mine was scuba diving) and were reminded that we are truly each others best friend. Back at home we were excited to reunite with our boys but we were also thankful to have had the time to reunite ourselves.

To me a getaway is a trip that is longer than an overnighter and shorter than a vacation (which is at the very least a week long). There are several types of getaways you can take. There’s the romantic getaway that comes with lots of kisses and cuddles, the adventurous getaway which could end with getting a tattoo, and then there’s my most favorite of all, the relaxing getaway. Much like the romantic and adventurous trips everybody needs to be totally on board with this kind of getaway. All parties involved must be ok with the lack of planned activities which is essential to a relaxing getaway. However naps will definitely be taken and I’m pretty sure tons of snacking will happen. The whole point of a relaxing getaway is to do just that, relax!! Sleep in, let the day unfold before you and trust your instincts when they tell you to eat pancakes for lunch instead of a salad.

Ryan, the boys and I did exactly this on our Easter holiday. We packed our van with treats and swimsuits and headed out to Stinson beach for a few days. There we took family walks on the beach, played Farkle, and Ryan and I even enjoyed a nap one afternoon. This getaway was surprisingly serene given the four little boys in tow. At the end of it we even snuck in a little spontaneity and spent a few hours riding roller coasters and eating funnel cakes before heading home.

Thank goodness for the relaxing getaway, thank goodness for all of my boys.

Hey mom! Can I invite my best friends over to spend the night?

Can you make us a bunch of fun snacks to eat and can we drink as much soda as we want?

Can I show them my bike, my bunny, my bed and all of my brothers?

Can we play lazer tag, freeze tag, flash light tag and maybe even regular ol’ tag?

Can we watch movies, play video games and eat candy all night?

In the morning will you make us pancakes for breakfast and then help us roll up our sleeping bags and find all of our missing socks?

Mom, this year for my birthday can I please have a slumber party? Pleeeeeeease!?!?