Today (or last week but who is keeping track?)

Today I started out in a good hopeful mommy mood.  My first words were kind and loving. I took time to play with Ella, fully engaged.

I made a good plan for the day. I drank my water, I took my vitamins. I used my oils. All was well.

But today Ella was not “on”. Ella was off. Very off.

Ella has spent much of the day:

Lying on the floor

Peeing on the floor

Screaming from the floor

Eating bites of things and then spitting them back out. On my clean shirt. #rageinducing

Screaming some more

Peeing some more.

In between we have had very, very loud construction at the house.

4 other children whining/negotiating regarding their chores and paid jobs

4 other children fighting with each other regarding their chores

1 other child becoming hysterical upon discovering that everyone else had their middle school packet but she did not on account of the fact that we had not provided the school with proof of immunization on account of the fact that we WERE NOT PLANNING TO BE HERE WHEN SCHOOL STARTED

While I am on the phone to the Dr. asking them to fax proof of said immunization child is wailing to me about how she cannot go on with living if she has to wait a few more hours to discover which team she will be for her brief time at school.

I hang up and yell at wailing kid in front of people working on the house.  Classy stuff.

Ella is on the floor screaming.

A saw is shrieking intermittently.

A guy is at the door to tell me he is going to shut off my gas. WHAT??! (Frantic call to Aaron ensues, it was a mistake on the gas co’s part…but still….)

OK all of the above is where I abandoned my post the other shall we say Seriously out of Synch day where I considered it a literal miracle that we all saw bedtime physically unscathed and not incarcerated.

The day went on in that vein hence the fact that the above post was never published…. I’m not sure what day it was….several days have intervened between then and now. Some good some bad.  PMS has probably been a large contributor to the bad days but whatevs. I guess I wanted to show why sometimes I really do have good intentions but the post does not get posted.

Other stuff that has gone down this week includes…hang on..consulting my iphone pics.

Ah yes… 5 Things to Tell You About From Last Week

1. fresh commitment to improving my cooking skills and habits.

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The farmer’s market was gloriously inspiring this week.  I know this is going to sound so corny, but I looked at the vendors, at their hands all rough and grubby and felt so envious of their literal connection with the earth, with something so real, and genuine and pure as good, organic produce.  There is something about being outside that feeds my soul in a way that nothing else can simulate. No medication or food, music, therapy or meditation can ground me in the same way.   My attempts to garden have been met with mediocre results at best in the past and this is not the season (haha) of the year or my life to revisit that endeavor but I realized that I could do better about connecting with that good food by cooking. When I do cook in an intentional (rather than throwing it together as quickly as possible) I find it very rewarding and meditative. Chopping up vegetables is my favourite part…

Then we saw the one hundred foot journey over the weekend..and that spurred me on even more. 

And now..with all these good intentions, what should I make?

2. We did a lot of entertaining over the weekend. I had book club on the deck (by the way The Rosie Project is a great read). Gabe had some friends over for s’mores in the firepit and a sleepover

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and then we had a farewell get together to say goodbye to our dear friends Janelle and Madi who are leaving us for Washington state.  It was our first major goodbye. And I was not a fan.

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An exhausting yet fun weekend.

3. I’ve managed my stress not murdered anyone this week, solely thanks to keeping up with my running commitment.  I’ve been running mostly in the forest near my house this week. It’s an absolutely beautiful place no matter what time of day, and what season.  Here are a few pics I took the other evening.  Seeing that little deer was so life affirming. She was not afraid of me at all, even when I gasped loudly as I almost ran into her.  I had decided to stop and turn around just before I saw her. Something made me decide, very deliberately to continue for a couple more steps before I did, had I not, I would have missed her. I’m not sure why, but this made the experience feel all the more special.  She just observed me and kept on eating. I took several photos and talked to her for a few minutes until the mosquitoes feasting on me spurred me to continue moving.   My evening ran was so soothing after my terrible day (described at the beginning of this post). I came back a new woman. I felt calm, grounded, grateful and peaceful.

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A couple of days later I went at high noon. I left feeling energized, exhilarated and grateful. I remember thinking, “I have such a good life, I am so blessed” throughout that run. There are thousands of things I could and do complain about in my non-perfect life but while I was running on that day I realized how few of them really matter.  I felt so grateful to move my mostly pain-free body to beat of the music. To feel my feet falling on the soft and cushiony natural surface beneath, to see the incredible beauty all around me. To have a home to return to with people who make me crazy a good deal of the time but only because I am crazy about them.  I am so grateful to have people to really really care about. And who really, really care about me. Why do I ever drift away from running? Running or whatever my version is….shuffling, wuffling…it’s so important to my happiness, to making me feel like me.

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Today I noticed that running up and down the stairs did not feel like a slog anymore. I am still not running for speed or distance. I am running because I can, because it’s fun. I run when the music gets me going and stop when my body says to.  I am loving this approach.  Speaking of which, I am loving this article so.very.much

4. This week Ella started using the potty.  Pause for applause. I have photos but have resolved, for once,  to not be that mother. Apart from the above mentioned day from hades, we have had no accidents. I am very proud of her.  And yes, yes I know Ella is rather old for this venture but she has always been very very  consistent and  clear on her disdain for the idea of pottying, and I have never pushed my kids regarding this issue. Not because I’m a great mom but because I’m really lazy and I feel like if you can’t allow someone control of decisions regarding their own bladder and bowels then you are pretty much asking for trouble.  And I have enough trouble. Life is Trouble. Ella’s rationale was this:  Using potty meant that she was “Bigger”.  And  naturally being the smart girl she is, she wanted to remain Smaller due to the obvious perks it allows her in a family of 6 Biggers doting on her.  I’m not sure where her watershed  (haha punny?) moment was but with less than a month ‘til preschool starts (rollontheday) I was feeling particularly motivated to change her views on the matter one day last week. So.. upon taking off her morning diaper I said, ok, here we go, no more diaper or pull-up just tell me when you want to sit on potty. And she did.  And that was that. (Apart from the unfortunate incident on Out of Synch Day the next day). So far.  Knock wood, make sign of cross, spit on ground etc… (have just broken the number 1 Cardinal Rule of Parenting which is NEVER to mention when things are going well so I’m sure it’s all going to fall about momentarily.)

That same day Aaron took her to watch the boys high-school soccer   game. I suggested he take the potty with for use in the van so we could keep the momentum going. I received a text from  him that she was keen to set up her throne right behind the players bench. He felt that although everyone would probably have a very good laugh “many many years from now” he had decided against it. I applauded him on that decision.

She doesn’t even piddle in the bathtub.  She asks to get out and then does her business in the appropriate receptacle. This is why waiting ‘til kids are practically high school graduates works for me.

5. Speaking of high-school. Awkward segue yes, but really just coming full circle to the beginning of the post.  The kids will indeed be going to American school in 9 days. That was Not The Plan. But we are still waiting for a million visas/passports to come through.  Oh my good hell people. This stuff is such a pain. In our conservative estimation we will be here until early October.  Apart from my OMIGOODHELL moments here and there, I am mostly zen about this because..well it’s completely out of my control and also there is a lot to love about being here at this time of year. But I’m also frustrated that I can’t get my mitts on that new baby (BTW: warning: do NOT brag about getting to hold my sister’s baby in my presence unless you are in fact my sister or her husband or I will get angry, bitter and jealous and one never knows what might happen next…..)

Baby huffing aside,  I’m anxious to start the next phase of our lives.   I never do well in limbo. On the other hand, MY passport is supposedly in transit which has suddenly made things feel…very real. And I am unexpectedly terrified by that.  I have never wished more for a crystal ball than I do now.  Since I do not have a crystal ball I am trying to press forward with faith and view it all as a win-win. 

But why not let me take you on a little jaunt through my obsessions for a moment?

If we go and Aaron does not get a great job and cannot join us and we have to return, the kids will have had that experience of being up close and personal with family for a few months and exploring a new culture. Right?  Right.  But in reality life is so much more complex. What if they love it so much but we have to come back and they can’t stand it here?  They are perfectly happy here now in their blissful ignorance. On the other hand, what if they hate every second of it there and we spent all that money (ack) and then we have to return and now they are behind in school out of their social/sporting loops and and and and..they resent us forever for messing with their neat little world…eh that doesn’t worry me too much…they’ll survive. Kids resent their parents regardless, right?

Mostly I’m just worried about the money. Haha. As always. But really it is a lot of money. I also worry a lot about safety which is a harsh reality over there,  and I am absolutely dreading leaving my husband. I don’t do well without him. He’s the yin to my yang (or whatever the zen side to the crazy side is) and I really like him.  On the other hand once again,  I’m actually really excited for that poor guy to get a break and get in touch with himself for a change. He really needs it. I think it will be very good for him.

For the most part?  I am excited. Nervous and excited and terrified and resolved and unsure and calm and freaking out and and and….

I’m sure there is more about this last week to share but it’s getting late and I have to channel my inner farmer/chef now and make an incredible omelet with beautiful free range eggs and gorgeous farm fresh produce now….and then I need to go for a run.  SO I am going to hit publish on this one.

I started the day writing a whole other post by the way. But that one is going to take some time and work. It’s kind of a life changing one about some stuff I have been mentally, spiritually and emotionally wrestling with for a long time. But I want to do it right. I don’t say that to dangle a teaser in front of anyone I just put it there for posterity that There Is A Lot Going On Right Now in my head and heart and spirit apart from in my life.  I found it interesting how life sort of works in seasons. Seasons of stagnation/hibernation, seasons of rebirth/change.  Ok really hitting publish now..see if I don’t.

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(Ella last night watching a balloon floating away.  I love this girl…and you know what? I think this is the right reaction to watching a balloon floating away..I could learn something.)

Five ways I am making my foray back into fitness fun

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I’m 5 for 5 this August.

5 days, 5 workouts.  I’m so happy! It feels so good to be sweaty and out of breath.  I am doing everything in my power to make it fun so that I stick to it this time. And so far, so good!  I am having fun. I look forward to working out every day.  If you have fallen off the wagon and you can’t seem to re-motivate here are a few of the things that are working for me.

1. Get new shoes. 

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Running is not an expensive sport so invest in good shoes because truly it makes ALL the difference. You know the shin splints I was talking about in my last post? New shoes=goodbye shin-splints.  I got my shoes on clearance but they are good shoes. Count on spending at least $50 for decent running shoes on sale. Off sale you are looking at closer to $100 but my mantra in life is that “there is always a sale”.  $50 is still a lot of dough in my world but it’s less than $100.  I’m sorry. I know it’s painful to spend money on un-pretty shoes or to spend money at all… but not nearly as painful as shin-splints.  In the words of Nike (even though I wear Saucony these days)…Just Do It.

2. Consider splurging on a completely new workout outfit toorunningclothes 

This is a great time of year to shop for workout clothing. If you are struggling with motivation to return to a program this can really, really help to spur you on. When you hate the idea of working out you are going to doubly the idea of doing it in nasty old sweatpants and a huge old t-shirt from college.   I’m painfully frugal when it comes to buying clothing but I feel like getting nice quality running pants and a good bra is a great investment.   This doesn’t have to be crazy expensive. I got nice looking very comfy sweat wicking technical  Adidas workout pants at TJ Maxx for under $20.  I am a very tactile person. When I go shopping, I Touch All The Things. If I especially like the feeling of a particular fabric I am going to go out of my way to touch it. These pants have good quality nice touchable fabric and I look forward to wearing them.  PS: Every time I get all guilt stricken and stressed over spending under 20 bucks on myself for a pair of freaking running pants from TJ Maxx I consider the money I spend on soccer for my kids. Then I feel all angry and righteously indignant. Come on now.

PPS:  Can’t end this section without specifically imploring my female readers to at least find a decent sports bra.

If good running pants are nice a decent bra is critical.  Look running is tough enough. You don’t want to be thinking about/clutching/seeing your boobs hoving in and out of view when you run or hoping they don’t knock you or innocent bystanders out. True, a decent sports-bra can be upsettingly expensive.  But… what have a told you? There is always a good sale.  Find that sale and get yourself a solid over the shoulder boulder holder that can do the job quietly and effectively.  Close your eyes, fork over that cash, strap those girls down good and then forget about them.

3. Refresh your playlist.  People!  Music is second only to running shoes in being Everything.  If you are a natural, “born to run” blahblah runner then whatevs…go prancing forth in your funny little barefoot toe shoes with nothing but the sound of the wind and the twittering birds and your easy breathing in your ears and have a lovely time. If you are normal then you need music to drown out the sound of your ragged breathing. Hearing yourself breathing heavily is disconcerting and will make you feel tired even when you aren’t.  So! Music!  Do a little survey of your friends and family for their most motivating “get going” tunes and you might find a new power song.   It’s also fun to ask friends you grew up with to remind you of songs from your shared glory days…the blast from the past will be an excellent distraction.  Speaking of which..  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank AC/DC for Thunderstruck which has been a great motivator for me this week.  You’ve been….. thunderstruck…yeah yeah yeah (good luck getting that out of your head for the next day or two. You’re welcome)

4. Use your music as a training tool while you are getting started.  So now that you have your groovy playlist all ready to go consider really using it.  Here’s the thing. Right now the goal (for me anyway) is simply to get back into the saddle.   This means that you don’t want to be all  intense and mean to yourself while you are still a fragile flower who is easily deterred.  You need to ease yourself into it.  It’s all about making good associations with exercise until it can become a rewarding habit again.  So many people go all out the first day and then can’t walk again for a week or two and then the moment has passed. And whenever they think of working out they remember that time they couldn’t sit down on the toilet for a week without crying. Don’t be that person. 

You know how I love an analogy. Think of yourself as a dog.

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I took our dog to the vet yesterday. She’s only moderately dumb so of course at first she was not so keen to go inside. But from the second she walked in they were plying her with treats. 

“ Hey Shemly come on in! Here’s a treat!” “Stand on the scale! Treat!” “Come into the exam room! Treat!”  “ I’m going to hurt you now but first here’s a treat!”  “ More pain now…treat!”  She never wanted to leave. Once she was done with the vet himself the treats stopped abruptly but the fact remains that Shemly is now a vet addict. Even after the shots and an unfortunate incident with a grouchy little bitch who tried to bite her face off. (I love being able to say that without being profane.) Ah swearing..I’m sorrynotsorry  I do rather love it…… Ok wait..where was I? 

OK yeah so treat yourself like a dog.  Leave yourself wanting more. Keep the treats coming baby.  For me music is fun and motivating and rewarding. And so I’ve been using my playlist as a very lenient personal trainer.treat dispenser.  Here’s my highly technical training system:

I put on a song….when it gets to a speedy motivational bit..I run….for as long as it is speedy and motivational. When it moves to a slower bit or the speedy part has been going on for too long, I walk.  To be honest I do more running than walking this way because my playlist is pretty hyper. This is not necessarily good because I am a huge believer in the Jeff Galloway run:walk method for avoiding injuries especially when you are starting out.  But if I feel like I have been running too long I just compensate by walking a little more later.  Like I say, it’s all very technical. Yes I am a certified personal trainer actually, why do you ask? ;)

5.  Keep your expectations low and slow.

I know.  I know couch to 5K programs are much beloved of beginners and people who are trying to return to fitness so I won’t diss them for a minute. I’ve gone that way myself many times and indeed they have their place.  But that wasn’t appealing for me this time.  I’m a dog now. It’s got to be as fun as possible.  Plenty of time for goals and pressure later.  For the next month at least I am not timing myself. I am not measuring my distance. I mean, I know roughly how far I am going and I could probably go further without too much trouble but I’m not just yet.  I’m romancing this whole fitness thing remember. Slow and easy baby.  Let’s not scare anybody off.  I have several reasons for this. I have had a lifetime of pain this last year and so I’m pretty invested in staying healthy and pain free for as long as I possibly can.   I’m definitely not doing this for weight loss purposes either. I’m doing it because I CAN. I can finally move mostly without pain-what a gift! I’m doing it for a sense of reconnection to myself.  I’m doing it so I can be less Mommy Dearest. I’m doing it because the weather is awesome and the trail is beautiful and  time to myself is much, much needed.  I’m never out for longer than 30 mins.  And that’s been plenty. 

If running/walking isn’t your speed try  the Scientific 7 minute workout on for size.  No matter how much you hate it-you can do it for 7 minutes.   If running used to be your thing but it just seems tooooo haaaaard these days consider that Running 5 minutes a day can have a profound impact on your health.  So start with just 5 minutes. It totally counts.

Any fun tips to add?

Adding this to WFMW at we are that family because so far…this is working for me.

The long awaited Beautiful Game..and why aging is kind of beautiful..in its own way…I guess..sometimes..

When we first decided to move to South Africa we had hoped to leave mid-July. Correction: I had hoped to leave mid-July. The rest of the family would hear nothing of it. Why not? you might ask? They wanted to enjoy their last Summer in the US? The boys wanted to celebrate their birthday with their friends?  Nope.  Nope.
The answer as it inevitably is when I am in conflict with my family was…of course… SOCCER.
We had tickets for a soccer match. And thus our life’s plans had to be adjusted accordingly. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times. “Soccer Rules Our Lives”.  And usually that rather infuriates and disgusts me.  But this time I couldn’t muster huge outrage. It wasn’t any soccer match. Kind of a once in a lifetime.  Here’s the thing. Benj’s all time favourite team Real Madrid played Finny’s all time favourite team Manchester United.  An hour away from our home. It was kind of a huge deal. 
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Being so close to their birthdays and considering the lifelong consuming soccer obsession passion going on around here,  we figured that it would be a memorable family event and invested approximately 500, 000 dollars in tickets for the family. Really bad tickets actually (they sold out before they were supposed to even be on sale and we had to take what we could get.  Scalpers! You’re ruining it for everyone!)  Happily,  Benj’s coach scored some good seats and so we were able to get Benj and Gabe into those, but the rest of us were relegated to the oxygen seats. I didn’t have particularly high hopes with regards to actually seeing everything but figured it would be enough to be in the same stadium with such legends as Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney…and 109,000 other folk.
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At last the day arrived. We squared away the dog and the toddler and were on our way. Yay!  There were two slight dampers on the day…the promise of thunder storms and news that Cristiano Ronaldo was injured and would not be playing.  But we were still plenty excited as seen below. (Ella is looking at this as I post it and is most indignant not to be included in the shot).
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We left home with plenty of time to spare we thought but by the time we parked, walked a couple of miles to the stadium, consumed a 7oo dollar hotdog each  (this was some terrible planning on our part…..always, always come into the stadium well-fed my friends,) it was getting fairly close to game time.
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I made them pose for this picture  before I would give them their tickets. Benj especially was delighted about it.
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We came into the stadium and as we gasped for oxygen (we seriously were in the second to last row) the first thing our younger 2 kids saw, (the older 2 ditched us as soon as they were in possession of their $2,000 hotdogs,)  were some of their favourite players warming up.  That moment was pure magic. They both involuntarily gasped and shrieked. They were there! They were real! They were playing! In living breathing colour!  Even I felt giddy. It was the coolest thing. Worth every penny, even the ones for the terrible hotdog. And turns out there aren’t really any bad seats in The Big House.  We could see the action a lot better than we anticipated (don’t judge the view from the terrible phone picture).
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The pre-game atmosphere was awesome and it got off to a stirring start with the national anthem followed by an awesome flyover (you can watch it on my instagram account). Being the the nosebleed seats meant that we were the closest to it….sooo neener.
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These are our “yay! We don’t have a three year old with us!” smiles.
It was a great action packed game with a final score of 3-1
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the halftime entertainment was cool..in fact a kid from the boy’s school was in there somewhere…
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The weather ended up being perfect and toward the end of the 2nd half me and Gracie thought we saw a familiar face on the big screen…but surely not…yes it was! The pretty boy himself…warming up..the crowd went beserk.
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Everyone regardless of which team they allied with was beside themselves. He’s a soccer god. It’s got to be hard to be humble and it’s also got to suck being on a team with this guy. Basically you’re just along for the ride.  But he’s not just a pretty face man, that guy’s footwork is just….well it’s beautiful.
This kid had to have been pretty excited. (He had CR 7 carved into the other side).
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In the end, pretty boy not withstanding MY pretty boy’s team won and he was stoked.
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And so naturally we were too. This picture taken by an extremely inebriated yet pleasant young man who claimed to be a professional photographer. He got us all in the shot…can’t ask for more than that!
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We hung out for a little while after and got to watch some post game playing,  a fully clothed “streaker” who managed to evade several burly security men for an admirable stretch of time touching various players before he surrendered and was unceremoniously piled upon and handcuffed.  I’m sure the next few hours weren’t particularly fun for him but it’s something to tell the grandkids after all. I overheard the woman in front of me telling her very well behaved three year old. “You’re not allowed to run onto the soccer field but if you don’t do that at least once in your 20’s I’ll be very disappointed.” Who says soccer moms aren’t cool? ;)
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And then it was time to return to the real world… the scenic walk to our car
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practicing our newly discovered moves along the way was the fun part. A little less fun was waiting in traffic for a couple of hours while officials figured out how to get 109,000 people out a small area which had been (prudently) mostly closed for construction. It’s not as if they had any warning that this was going to happen….erhem.
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It was touch and go there for some people who had not had enough sustenance in the stadium…we did not expect another 2 hour wait for dinner but happily everyone survived and we ended our trip with a frantic run on Trader Joe’s whereupon we acted like animals and ripped open packages of food in the aisles in a feeding frenzy. What we didn’t eat on site we bought because…never let it be said that we do not learn from our mistakes of find ourselves snack-less in a vehicle and after all…we had to get back in the car again to drive home. When I got home last night and surveyed what we had bought it can only be summed up as a Celebration of Carbs. Holy moses. 
The drive home was probably  my sweetest memory though. Much as we all adore the Ella-bee she does tend to monopolize our energies on trips and when she is in the car we are mostly focused on entertaining her or studiously ignoring her. But yesterday it was just the first four and we got to crank the (non-Frozen soundtrack or Pharrell Williams’ Happy) music and just be silly together.  I was reminded again of how much of my mojo was lost to my foray into later in life motherhood and it made me resolved to access the fun and silly side more often. Babies and toddlers awesome as they are tend to put one into survival mode more often than not.  It was just a great experience for all of us.
Speaking of accessing my mojo…project reconnect is still in full swing over here (hence the 3rd blog post this week…say whhhhhat???” and check it out…today I went for my first run…well mostly run with a little walking…well mostly shuffling with a little walking or as we like to call it “wuffling” in something like…forever.  It was wonderful and a tiny bit terrible. Hello shin-splints my old friends. But mostly wonderful.  Oh trail, how I have missed you. Oh discomfort from something that is actually natural and good and challenging…how I have missed you. Oh workout playlist…how I have missed you.  I even finished with some crunches and a say whhhaaat,…one minute plank. Don’t scoff. I used to be the community center plank queen don’t forget (3 mins 33 seconds or something not that I cling to faded glories or anything I mean, who am I? Napoleon Dynamite’s uncle????” but everyone has to start (again) somewhere, am I right? Oh it felt so good. It felt so.good.
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I’ve gained some weight due to my various illnesses, minor surgeries and injuries and subsequent mindless eating over the last several months which is somewhat concerning knowing that my metabolism is increasingly not on my side, but not nearly as devastating as it once was before I had my life-changing weight loss/body acceptance epiphany. I know that when I decide to lose it (and I think I’m just about ready), I will, and that the whole process might be a challenge but that it’s totally in my control.  I am actually feeling pretty good in my skin lately which has nothing to do with how I look.
I used to think people said they loved getting older because they were trying to compensate for how atrocious it is to get older, but truly, while some parts of getting older are atrocious, there are some things about it that totally freaking rock.  Finding your voice, finding your courage, not caring about what people think about you as much.  Starting to figure out what does and what doesn’t matter, become less fearful in general.  I mean I have a million miles still to go in every one of those areas..a million and one. But I feel so much more accepting of myself lately, more patient with my flaws and foibles uncertainties and questions, less interested with fitting into an uncomfortable and unnatural mold where I will never fit and was never meant to fit. 
Speaking of aging, here are my handsome boys. I got some weird shots on their birthday so I took the opportunity to snap a couple (dozen) of them while they were still all beautified after church. Ok seriously, I felt like they got into a time machine for this first one and went back to 6 and 4 just as a special present for me….they are going to die if they see it but that’s what you get for being goofy every time your mom tries to get decent picture of you.  The brotherly hug was spontaneous by the way. Awww…
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These boys live to mess with me. Jerks…<3
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And here’s my newest baby.  I insist on daily picture and video of her and Thalia has been quite kind in obliging me.  I remember picking out this little frog outfit and thinking it was so cute.  OMG I had NO IDEA how cute it could be.
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Happy SUNflowerDAY! Hope it was a good one for you too.
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