I'm back and I'm alive!

Yes, its' true...I've come out of hiding. After about a month of total chaos and craziness, it looks like we're finally settling into our routine. Believe it or not, it takes about 1 month to get established at school. I've finally got my head above water! I have so much to blog about-I can't believe how I've let time get away from me! I'm going to try to give you a rundown of all that has happened since August, as well as share some pics, this is going to be pretty long and for that, I apologize....

In mid-August, Cath and I went to San Diego for the Scrapbooking convention. We left on Friday afternoon, took a class, shopped a little, walked around downtown and shopped some more, shopped even more, volunteered, and then cropped the night away! We spent the night and got up Saturday morning for another class, then headed home to work a concert. It was a whirlwind, but it was super fun and we learned some new tricks and had a great time laughing and cropping. I love croppin' with Cath!

The following Monday, the kids and I went up to SLO to visit Sean, Lindsey, Grace, Lily, and new baby Silas. He is soooo sweet. The kids loved playing with their cousins and they even helped me babysit one night while Sean and Lindsey got some time out for dinner. They played games, we colored, we walked around SLO a bit and thoroughly enjoyed our visit-even though it was only for one day! Those visits are few and far between, but oh, so worth it. WE love you guys!

After we got back on Tuesday night, we went to Wild Rivers on Wednesday with the kids group from church and my BFF Cathie tagged along. I think I only have a couple of pictures from that day, but we had a great time relaxing, playing, swimming, and laughing together (even after DJ left JoJo alone at the big waterpark and we freaked out just a little bit). It was a great day had by all!

The following weekend, we celebrated Shannon's 39th birthday. It was a bittersweet time for all of us, but we made the best of it! Cathi Hamen and I kidnapped Shannon, took her to breakfast, and then we met up with family and friends at my Aunt Lois' house for lunch and games. Shannon was so surprised! We were joined by friends from various walks of Shannon's life-high school, church, kids' friends-it was a very fun time. We even learned a new card game! :) After lunch, we all loaded up and took Shannon on the second part of the surprise-to see WICKED! She was overwhelmed when even more friends met up with us there. It was amazing! (second time seeing it was even better for me!). After the show, we drove around Hollywood looking for a place to eat-missed the closing time at CPK by 2 minutes and they wouldn't seat us! We ended up going to the Lucky Strike bowling lanes and having a very nice little dinner. We laughed alot and hopefully Shannon felt the love coming from all of us. It was a great time.

On Monday, her actual birthday, the family got together at Laguna Beach for some fun and relaxing. We went just before sunset, we played baseball (until the ball went over the railing), three flies up (until the ball went over the railing), and then frisbee (until the frisbee went over the railing). Shannon and the kids went down to the water and played a little and then we all walked around for awhile. It was very nice and Shannon enjoyed the time with all of us.

After that, it was time to get ready for school! I had already started prepping for school, but my school actually started on August 30th. This year, Ben is coming to my school for 6th grade. He has very mixed emotions about it. He is, of course, sad to leave his friends from Montevideo, but a little excited at the prospect of being at school with me and his best friend Elijah. The first days of school were pretty chaotic for us as we tried to get our morning routine together-it was even harder because Taylor and DJ had not started school yet! We started a week before them! So we got through that...here is Benny's first day of 6th grade picture....

The following week, my little girl started High School and my baby boy started Junor High! Totally crazy! I can't believe that I have a high schooler, a junior higher, and a 6th grader! Next year they'll all be out of elementary! WOW! Taylor is a freshman and MVHS (where I went) and has already adjusted to High School life. The transition was made much easier by her twin cousins, Ashley and Amber, and almost all of her friends from church all going to the same school. It was extremely smooth. I'm grateful for this! DJ has also transitioned well to Jr. High at La Paz (also where I went). His best friend Ryan goes to school with them and they spend almost every waking hour together. I'm so grateful that God has put the people in my kids lives that they need to be surrounded by, to uplift them, encourage them, help them, and just be there for them. It is such a blessing knowing that they have their closest friends at school with them. Here are their first day of school pics...

So, that leads me to the next big event in our lives-my baby Benny turned 11 last week! I can't believe he is 11 years old. It truly does seem like just yesterday that we were driving to the hospital at 7 AM, I was OBESELY pregnant, and we got pulled over for our registration (Donald hadn't put the sticker on yet). We laughed all the way to the hospital and then everyone got the joy of hearing me spout just about every foul word I know as I pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed to get that little boy out of me. They say that your labors are supposed to get better as you have more kids-I went the opposite direction. Benny was deadset on staying in my belly and there was nothing we could do to force him out. It was a very long day. I remember at one point, I was screaming "CUT HIM OUT! GET THE DOCTOR AND CUT HIM OUT!". I think there were a few choice words thrown in there somewhere, but I was truly dilirious and had no control of my mouth. After 4 long hours of pushing, I finally got to where I could start pushing him out. At 9:50 PM, that beautiful little boy came out screaming! I knew he was going to be the one to keep up humble-and he was! He still is! Benny is so unique and special and I wouldn't trade him for anything in the world. He is a thinker, a questioner, and puzzle-solver and a perfectionist-a perfect mix of me and Donald. He definitely keeps us on our toes-but he also provides some of the best humor and entertainment for us. I love his thoughtfulness and his ability to solve problems and puzzles. Our favorite pastime is the Rhyming game-he's very good at it. If you ever get into a Rhyming war with him, you'd better bring your A-game. Sometimes I let him win. :)

The day after Ben's birthday is my birthday. I had a wonderful day-even though we had to go to school! :) The kids in my class all gave me a rose and a compliment, as well as a gigantice bouquet of balloons-the biggest I've ever seen. Shannon and Courtney came to school and brought me breakfast, Sean called, Donald sent me quite possibly the most beautiful rose arrangement I've ever seen, and then the room moms brought pies and cookies at the end of the day. The class was overwhelmingly generous in their gifting, which you'll never hear me complain about! :) For dinner, we had an Asian feast at Shannon's house and celebrated our birthdays with the family. It was, besides my 21st birthday when I met Donald and my 24th birthday when I had been, quite possibly the best birthday ever. I felt so showered with love and so appreciated-it moved me to tears. I am so so so grateful for the people in my life and to the Lord for placing me exactly where I need to be. At times, we question His plans and we try to make our own plans-we try to solve our own problems and take on the world by ourselves-and then we have time where we can sit back and say "Praise you Lord-you DO KNOW what you're doing! I'll just step back, give you my life, and trust that you're going to work all things for good in my life". And you know what, he does!
BTW-pics of our birthdays are still to come---watch here for more exciting updates......

So, that's about it for now. I'm going to try to be better about posting, now that I'm all caught up-it should be easier, right? :) Love to you all!