We Three Wine Gnomes

After my husband and I were married (you know, when we were 12) I began to learn more about his family’s traditions and celebrations. I soon became more acquainted with the holiday I had previously thought of as “Second Christmas” that was celebrated in the first week of January. Growing up in a non-Catholic household, epiphany was just an idea that someone could have.

(Say it with me now: “An epihpy-what?”)
(Say it with me now: “An epihpy-what?”)

I, admittedly, had a LOT to learn.

Luckily, the internet had been invented (even back then) and I found myself debunking another huge misconception: The Twelve Days of Christmas were actually The Twelve Days AFTER Christmas. HOW DID I NOT KNOW?!?

The song had originally been written to help Catholic children learn their catechisms. (And if you think I spelled catechisms right on the first try, you have much more faith in my spelling skills than I.) Learning that helped me to understand why on that 12th day, the epiphany was commemorated as the day the Three Wisemen (or Reyes Magos) visited the Baby Jesus.

In many cultures, this day is celebrated in a similar fashion to how Santa is celebrated here.

Each year, my children write a letter to the Reyes Magos on the evening of January 5th and put that letter in a shoe. That shoe is placed under the Christmas tree. (I’ve heard of several variations of this tradition, but this is how I have always known to celebrate the holiday.) Much like Santa and the stockings, the Reyes Magos leave presents for the children, found the next morning January 6th.

That evening, family gathers for a Reyes Magos celebration. This traditionally includes hot chocolate and the cutting of the Rosca. (Very similar to a King Cake for Mardi Gras.) There are little baby Jesus’ baked into the bread. Whoever finds a baby wins! And then is supposed to throw a party next month.

These are the rules. Well, the rules that I know of and that are celebrated in Mexico and (I think) South America.

(And OMG enough with the history/traditions lesson. I’m sorry that was so long.)

Last night, I invited my non-Catholic, non-Hispanic, family over to celebrate with us. (Is someone going to get mad that I said it like that? I’m sorry in advance.) Most of them, while they knew of the tradition, had never taken part in the actual celebration. I hadn’t been excluding them, this just happened to be the first time I hosted the event. Which, looking back, was probably our first mistake. Can I be trusted with such things??

The answer to that is a resounding NO.

Although, for the record, I had plenty of help in my debauchery and sacrilege. I will not go down alone!

As we prepared for the cutting of the Rosca at the kitchen table, one of my adorable nativity scenes happened to be close by for photo ops and, well, adding to the festivities of the evening. I mean COME ON. Look at them!


As adorable as that scene was, we all felt the lack of wisemen in our scene at our Three Wisemen party celebration.

My sister had the excellent notion to dive into the Polly Pocket toys the littles were playing with. It was a valiant effort! And look…they even brought marshmallows. (Which, to be honest, might be just as awesome as frankincense. Or more so. Says me.)


As much as we enjoyed the almost Shakespearean-opposite feel to our set-up, my husband happened to look over on the counter and spotted a better casting of our Reyes Magos.

Wine Gnomes!!!!

I don’t think you can tell me these three guys weren’t perfect for the roles. Because OMG they were BORN to play these parts.

However, at the risk of sounding like an insensitive, and sacrilegious, asshole, I PROMISE THAT WE FOLLOWED ALL THE OTHER RULES AND TRADITIONS AND NO WINE GNOME WAS HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS HOLIDAY.

I mean, I’m probably not going to be allowed to host the Three Wisemen party celebration anymore but I can’t worry about that until next year.


If you want to be happy in a million ways

I had a pretty wicked tooth-pulling experience the Monday before Christmas. Someday I will tell you that story. (Spoiler Alert: Today is not that day.) I’m only bringing it up right now because it unexpectedly became a part of our holidays. I didn’t feel up to all the plans I had made, but I rallied as best as I could. (I think I did alright.) But, as I mentioned on Instagram, I’m so grateful for a husband and kids who share in the holiday preparations and household stuffs and trying to help me feel better.


Even with a change in plans to our normal traditions, we had a lovely time with family. Having my entire family under one roof for Christmas morning, something that hasn’t happened in YEARS, was pretty amazing. (Also hilarious and fun.)


Christmas Chaos at my parents' house
Christmas Chaos at my parents’ house

I was also floored by the thoughtful gifts from my children and husband. Not that they aren’t thoughtful people, mind you. We just don’t exchange presents very often (except for what we get the kids, of course) but this year, I got a little spoiled.

Do my kids know me or WHAT


Not that I need to be spoiled…but it is fun every once in awhile.

* * *

This weekend it was time to put everything away…I’m gonna miss our big-ass Christmas tree.

15 feet of big-ass Christmas tree


Even though it’s WAY past time for all of this, I hope your holiday season was magical and wonderful and I can’t wait for next year.


Well, I mean…I can. Because I want time to move slow this year. But you know what I mean.

Nevermind. I’ll stop.

I couldn’t keep myself from making promises

I don’t really want to talk about resolutions. I didn’t really make any. But what I AM trying to get better at is making long and short-term goals for myself and for my family. I want to learn how to focus on the small aspects of a much bigger picture. The baby steps toward a big dream instead of tripping over my own insecurities and life’s roadblocks.

During the Great Broken Blog of 2014 I let a lot of things go here. I don’t know that I needed the break, I think I had just made it way too hard. It was much easier to hide behind the brokenness. The fixing of all things broken reminded me how much I like it here.

So while I didn’t make any resolutions, I did make a promise to myself and how I wanted to keep track and remember this year. Some people keep jars that they fill up with memories or good times, I just now have my little space here. Again.

But if I was keeping a jar? This picture would be the second thing I put in there. (The first being the picture from yesterday.) And in some way, I would try to explain how much I love that she still loves taking pictures with me and being silly with me. Loving that she is one of my favorite humans and knowing that I just might be one of hers, too.

Me and Beezus NYE
Me and Beezus NYE

Please know that I might suck at this new way of doing things. But that’s not gonna stop me from trying. Not anymore. If it’s pictures, if it’s words…it doesn’t matter. There is just way too much I want to remember.

Hold on to That Feeling


I don’t think I have ever looked out at a brand new year with such anticipation. As mysterious as the future 365 days can be at the turn of the new year, I’m all too aware of some of the things that this new year will bring. Some very important ends and some very ‘big deal’ beginnings. For all of us. Even if each of us are experiencing it all in different ways.

I guess you could say that I’m way more prepared than I was this time last year. But I am absolutely not READY by any stretch of the imagination.

However, ready or not…here it comes, right?

* * *

We had a wonderful time celebrating the New Year. It was low-key and wonderful and hilarious and silly. It was what we all needed, I think. (I can’t wait to tell you about Houdini lobsters.)

I had no intention of creating a year-end collage/video for us. I was pretty dang content with grabbing that family picture we took last night. (I mean, I kinda love it.) But this morning, as I’m scrolling through everyone’s pictures and favorite moments, I just started pulling pictures together of some of my favorite memories from this year. There were some definite rough spots throughout the year but I, thankfully, didn’t have many pictures to reminded me of those. (Except for the picture of me and the huge spoonful of mashed potatoes. That was a funny response to a pretty bad day/week.)

All of a sudden I had many, many pictures of some of my favorite moments from this past year. Some of the very best days with some of the very best people on the planet.

I can’t wait for the best days that are coming. Even though I know how hard some of these best days are going to be. This is a big year for us. I’m excited and terrified and everything in between. I apologize in advance for the emotional roller coaster I will surely be on. It’s gonna be a wild ride and, honestly, I can’t wait. It’s gonna be amazing.

Happy New Year, everyone. xoxo

Trips and Updates and…Yeah

Remember that time when we drove down to SoCal almost every weekend this past fall? We got so damn good at making that trip in one weekend. And there was even a trip where it felt like a vacation? I mean, you probably don’t remember because I haven’t really written about it yet. I don’t really know why except…well, remember all those times we drove down to SoCal and nothing else got done? Yeah. That.


It’s not very often that I get huge amounts of one-on-one time with each of my kids. Oddly enough, all these trips forced that to happen. There was even a weekend where only ¾ of us went. We missed Ramona something fierce. But there was also this special time with Beezus. For that I will always be grateful. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

mom and kid beach

I felt really guilty that Ramona wasn’t with us. The entire weekend I worried about having a good time when she wasn’t there. But…then I remembered that she is going to have A LOT of quality time with her parents fairly soon. I’m sure she will wistfully remember the days when she had a regular partner in crime and will long for the days when she didn’t have all eyes on her for all the hours of all the days. This quality time was absolutely for a reason.


It was the funniest weekend get-away. I found myself having time enough for a run-and running into Chelle. Who is one of the reasons that I even run in the first place.




I was able to hug Tonya and say hello to the kiddos…even for a short time.


Sancho’s Tacos. Yum.



I even got to hang out with this guy. I like him.


Oh yeah…Softball was played. That was a thing.

the game

And, you know, the beach was there too. Man, I love the beach you guys.




* * *

She didn’t get into Stanford, you know. It is very much okay and we truly know that she will go to school exactly where she’s supposed to go. But damn. I just wanted that for her, you know? And, of course, it doesn’t mean that she can’t go there ever. She could always do her graduate studies there. I don’t know, maybe she could camp out on their campus for fun. I’m sure that’s not frowned upon at all. Getting arrested at Stanford is totally the same thing as graduating from there!

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I have a really hard time accepting that I’m not in charge of all the things. The not knowing and the not being able to plan is REALLY hard. The UC’s and the CSU’s don’t give you an answer until spring. THAT’S A LONG TIME FOR ME TO WORRY ABOUT HOW FAR AWAY MY KID WILL END UP FOR SCHOOL. Or whatever. I don’t know. This is hard.

But damn, I just like them a lot.



And just because I’m ridiculous…I really like this one, too. Just in case you didn’t know that. She’s just super damn cute and my gosh she’s probably going to hate being the only kid at home pretty soon. ::sigh::

me and the kid



I just finished watching an episode of Gilmore Girls. Don’t act like you’re so surprised. Netflix has given us all the gift of Gilmore Girls and, therefore, it is our Netflix-given duty to watch each episode. Don’t kid yourself; you probably just finished watching a GG episode, too.

Also, if you believe that I’ve only watched ONE episode of Gilmore Girls I probably have a bridge to sell you.

But here’s the thing…this episode? It was the one where Rory got a ‘D’ on her test and she questions all the things about going to Chilton and if she can take it. And then she stays up all night studying for her test and then she oversleeps and misses her test and she completely loses it on her class. And then Lorelei tries to help and ends up losing it a little bit on the teacher and the dean. She tries to get them to let Rory take the test anyway because Harvard dreams, you guys!

Then Lorelei talks to Rory and says she doesn’t have to keep going to Chilton and she can go back to her old school. Lorelei begins to question the Harvard dreams asking Rory if this is what she really always wanted or was it Lorelei that started this dream because she never had the big college experience.

I don’t have anything to add to this right now. Mostly I just wanted you to know about that particular Gilmore Girls gut punch. Also that those worries sometimes apply to Stanford and Berkeley and IB programs and softball. We should also have a conversation about the fact that me watching Gilmore Girls at this phase in my life will lead to other gut punches and blog posts. I fully expect to not have any friends by this time next year.

By the way, Rory assures her mom that the Harvard dreams are really what she wants. It was all she ever wanted.

I choose to believe her.

I’ve been writing this post for four days…and 17 years

I don’t think I was expecting to celebrate the morning of my 17th wedding anniversary finalizing (and scrutinizing) my kid’s Stanford early action application. We had gone over it several times. But somehow, the thought of hitting the ‘submit’ button made all of us want to triple and quadruple check everything. Every essay, every question. Was everything the way it needed to be?

You can drive yourself crazy wondering if you did everything right. I mean, the Stanford version of right.


But then…it’s done. It’s sent. We are so freaking proud of that kid. And no matter what, we know that she will end up EXACTLY where she is meant to be. Stanford or not.

I find it completely strange and wonderful and extremely fitting that the very first college application was filed on our anniversary. It wasn’t burdensome. It felt completely normal…like, this is what we do! A few hours later, after the kids shuffled off to their various locations, The Dude and I sat down at the bar waiting for our table. As we watched the bartender make our drinks, and we were finally settling down from the day’s events we kinda looked at each other and I said,

“Our kid just applied to…Stanford. How the hell did THAT happen???!”

We both shook our heads and my husband ordered us both scallop shooters. Of course.

photo 2


Before college applications, before the sun was even up, I got up and got dressed in my running clothes. My husband was still sound asleep when I whispered that I was leaving. He grabbed my hand to pull me back for a hug, whispered “Happy Anniversary” and promptly fell back asleep. After all this time, me leaving when it’s still dark out, even on our anniversary, to go on a run with Sarah is completely normal.

photo 1

That’s one of my favorite things about us. Our life is insane and full of chaos…but some of the most “normal” things make everything else fit right in. Like there’s room for everyone and everything has a place. Even if that place is tucked into a cupboard or on the very tip-top of a shelf, we’ll find a place for it all. All the chaos. All the people we love. Even all the things we need to do. We’ll get to it. We always seem to.

Photo by the oldest child in Huntington Beach
Photo by the oldest child in Huntington Beach

Going with the flow without getting swept up in the current is a big part of who are and how we live. But (really) hard work and epic stubbornness is how we’ve been able to float along together for 17 years.

The Mama and the Girls Photo by Sarah Maren Photography
The Mama and the Girls
Photo by Sarah Maren Photography

We had to fight like hell to make it. Not very much has been easy – especially in the beginning. (Hell, the first 10-12 years.) But being able to roll with the punches, and giving a lot of ‘em right back, is how we’ve survived. We’ve never given up.

The Dad and the Girls Photo by Sarah Maren Photography
The Dad and the Girls
Photo by Sarah Maren Photography

Maybe it’s because we just celebrated our 17th anniversary, maybe it’s because we’ve reached this parenting milestone where one of our kids is applying to colleges, but when I get to focus on just how far we’ve all come…WHOA, you guys. I’m proud of it.

Us...photo by Sarah Maren Photography
Us…photo by Sarah Maren Photography


I’m just so damn proud of it all.

Photo by: Sarah Maren Photography
Photo by: Sarah Maren Photography


broken and fixed and life

I can’t figure out how to fix my mobile site after I broke all the things last month. I am just that good at breaking things. Sadly, breaking things isn’t something most of us can put on our resumes. Unless you break shit for a living and, maybe, I should look into a job like that.

So…yeah. I’m trying to fix the things that are broken on this website.

Until then, hopefully you’ll still stop by every now and then on your regular old computer. Which is probably the internet equivalent of me sending you a typed letter via owl. But whatever. We can’t ALL be super good at all the things, you guys.

Besides breaking things. Of course.

Seventh grade and senior years are going really well so far. These kids of mine seem to have a shitton of homework at all times and I almost feel bad for them. Mostly, I feel bad for me because homework all the time means I need to be a responsible parent and not let them watch tv or hang out with friends all the time. It also means that every so often, The Dude and I get roped into projects and other things that make our brains hurt a lot. Especially when you add that to all the other crap that senior year brings. College nights and applications and a bunch of little things that make us feel like we’re doing most things way too late or totally wrong and, sometimes, a little bit right.

I know this is ridiculous, but I’m legit proud of how well I’ve been holding up the first month or so of senior year. I’m not saying I should win any awards for stalwart mothering, but I haven’t completely lost it. Not even once. Not even when these arrived in the mail.


The Dude has had a couple of moments that nearly broke my pretend stoic behavior. Like when I texted him pictures during her yearbook/senior portrait session and his response nearly knocked the wind out of me. He’s not usually the one who is blasted by this kind of thing. I took a turn acting like I was completely fine with all of it.

I try not to do it very often, but there are times when I can’t help but wonder what this time next year will look like. It’s weird to think about only one of our kids living at home. I know we’ll be fine, but do you get used to that? Is it weird to let the dog have her room once she leaves?

Don’t answer that.

I’m not going to let the dog have her room. Probably.

Deadlines for early applications are right around the corner. There is so (SO!) much to do and get ready for, I feel like I’m going to blink and it will be Christmas and we’ll know (for better or for worse) if she got accepted or if we pick up and start applying to her plan B and C and D schools. More than anything, it’s just really weird that this is our life right now. Awesome, but weird.

* * *

I wrote all of that earlier thinking that I would get it all finished and set to post this evening. About an hour ago, I got a text message from that senior in high school from her friend’s house as they build their last homecoming float. She mentioned how much fun she was having but how it was a little sad that this was their last homecoming together. And yeah…I cried all the way home from the grocery store, so all those things that I wrote about me being okay is sort of a lie. Well, it’s less true than it was before an hour ago anyway.

But I’m going to be fine. Really. I’ll keep saying that until we all believe it.

Happy Camping

We recently found ourselves with a few free weekends in a row. This isn’t something we are used to, so we were a bit out of practice as we tried to decide how we would fill this (now) empty space on our calendars. There were family events that we actually said yes to. The girls made plans with their friends. We spent a Sunday afternoon in the pool. These are things that actually happened but I feel like a complete liar saying that they did because I’m just not used to it being this way. I kept waiting for someone to yell at me for not being where I was supposed to be.

As our family sat down to discuss our recent scheduling changes, it became painfully obvious that our family needed some down time. We weren’t staring at an open week-long vacation, but being able to see some free time in weekend form made us all a little excited. Then the kids got this look on their face and said “we can actually go camping!” and then I felt pretty bad that it had been so long. In fact, we did the math this weekend and realized that it had been four years since our family had been camping. Four. Years.

That one stung, you guys.

Thanks to my dad being a super duper camper-man, we were able to make an overnight camping trip happen this past weekend. He knows where to go. He has all the gear. He’s just really…GOOD at it and made things really easy for those of us who haven’t been camping in some time. Like, really easy. I should be embarrassed. (I’m not, though.)

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After we got up there on Friday evening and everything was set up, I sat down on a chair around the empty fire pit (too dry for campfires) while my dad and The Dude talked near me. I was part of the conversation at times, but mostly I just sat and listened. Sometimes I tuned them out and just looked at the sky as it got darker and the stars began to appear. The moon was so bright, there were actual moon shadows around us and no need for flashlights or lanterns. It was beautiful and wonderful. It was also weird and sometimes hard to sit there and do nothing. I am out of practice.

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I used to be really good at camping. I would go hiking with the family or youth group. Camping family reunions. As I sat there around the non-existent campfire, I replayed many of these camping and hiking trips in my mind. Almost all of them involved my dad. Most of my camping memories, my dad is right there making things happen. Just as he did this weekend. His granddaughters (and daughter) wanted to go camping so he made it happen. Some things never change.

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I didn’t realize how much I missed camping. This weekend reminded me that it’s still very much a part of who I am and what I love. I almost gave myself a guilt trip for not doing this more often, but I quickly put a stop to that so I could enjoy my cute family without interruption. I loved being out in nature, even with wicked mosquitos and questionable bathroom options. I loved sitting around an empty fire pit with some of the people I love the most. But I especially love remembering, and getting back to, a side of me I haven’t seen in quite some time.

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