Birthday Girl: 29 Years Young

1.31.2014
 
Happy Birthday to me!  I am now officially entering the last year of my twenties.  What?!?  How'd that happen so quickly?  Luckily, 29 is looking pretty good. 

As I've reflected over the last decade, I am really grateful I had the opportunity to marry and begin a family in my twenties.  Instead of "finding myself", I've spent the last years letting my husband and children mold me, challenge me, and refine me into the person I am today.  I hardly know that 22 year old girl in those wedding pictures anymore.  Instead, the woman looking back at me in the mirror is much more selfless and patient and loving than I ever imagined for her--and I'm still growing!  The gift of family is the best way to grow into one's self... even if it does include a few stretch marks.

So 29, here's to the best year yet!  I think I'll begin with a giant slice of cheesecake for breakfast.

Life Lately {In Pictures}

1.26.2014
 ^^Frosted.  What the trees have looked like every morning this week.  So cool.^^
^^Drinking smoothies and watching movies one afternoon waiting for Jed to recover from his stomach bug.  Also, may I introduce the funniest look on Levi's face when he successfully gets his man to stand in play dough.^^
 ^^It has also been blissfully and abnormally warm this January.  And by warm, I mean a balmy 42 degrees or so.  We've been delighted to play outside from time to time!^^
 ^^Grocery store donuts.  Yum!^^
 
A trip to the Herrett Center, a free museum through our local college with an iguana and live boa constrictor.  The boys love it.
^^Just what is it about these money holes that kids find so fascinating?^^

Not pictured: A much needed girls' night out to see Catching Fire (at last!).  The movie was followed by a late dinner at Applebee's where we talked the night away.  Thanks, ladies!  I had a lot of fun.

And that pretty much sums up our life right now!

*******

P.S.  Our home is featured over at Joyful Life in Hannah's Happy Home Maker Series today.  If you have a few minutes, go check it out and leave some love.

A Knight, His Queen, and a Little Dragon

1.24.2014
...or maybe more accurately titled, What We Do When Bron is Gone All Week: A Halloween Preview Ten Months Early.


I'm such a cool mama.  Last night I got to be a queen with a paper bag crown. 

It was all Jed's idea, actually.  I can't take any credit.  After dinner, Jed asked to be a knight.  So I cut some holes in a paper bag while he gathered up his stick horse and foam sword.  Then he insisted that I be a queen.  That's easy!  So I made myself a quick haphazard crown and placed it atop my head.  Then Jed enthusiastically agreed that Levi should wear his old dragon costume.

And that was the beginning of a most adventurous hour.  We hopped over a treacherous hot lava lagoon, we hid in our magic teepee castle and ate a feast, we saw a few rainbows, and we found some treasure (chocolate chips) in a cave (the pantry).  Jed even gallantly fought off a giant bear for me!

It was so much fun that I had to document it.  (Yay for the self-timer!)

Though these two little balls of energy are sometimes exhausting, I love playing with them.  (Even if my mind occasionally does wander from boredom.  Honestly.)  After all, they won't be this little forever!  It's exciting watching their little imaginations develop.  I enjoy getting a small peak into their magical world and remembering what it was like to be a kid.  I feel privileged and very, very blessed to be their mama.  I wouldn't trade nights like this one for the world.

HAPPY WEEKEND!

5 Reasons Our Marriage is a Happy One

1.22.2014

Bron and I will be married seven years in May.  I know that it's not long in the grand scheme of things, but we've been married long enough to have experienced some ups and downs.  We've ventured into a lot of "firsts" together like graduate school, moving across the country, buying a home, and most importantly, becoming a family with the births of our two children.  We've built a life together!  Undoubtedly, all these life adventures have come with their fair share of emotions and stress and adaptation.  And we've both learned a lot... a lot, a lot. 

Right now, Bron and I are at a pinnacle place in our marriage.  In fact, Bron and I have bonded over the last year or so like never before.  I didn't know marriage could be so wonderful!  We're still learning about each other and changing.  I really can't explain my marriage in words.  It's a special, intimate, working hard for him, satisfying kind of love with my best friend--my life's eternal partner--and my soul knows it's just right.  I want to shout it from the rooftops: I love Bron!

I know life has quite a few more curve balls left to throw at us and we still have much to learn, but I want to write down a few reasons why our marriage is thriving right now--as a future reference for myself and perhaps to other women as well.


1.  Communication.  One of my favorite parts of each day is talking with Bron after the kids go to bed.  Sometimes we talk for hours and stay up waaay too late.  But I like it.  We talk about everything.  We talk about the funny things our kids do, but more importantly we talk about our hopes and dreams.  We make plans for the upcoming weeks and months.  We talk about politics and work and that crazy tv show we just watched.  We talk about the things our friends and family are doing.  There seems to be an abundance of things to talk about.  I hope we never stop communicating like this.

2.  Show Some Appreciation.  Men just want to be appreciated.  Bron works hard.  He works long hours at his job and then comes home to his second job taking care of his family.  Yes, he's a typical man and seemingly doesn't lift a finger when the kitchen looks like it's been bombed, but he does change dirty diapers, he does entertain the boys while I cook dinner, he does do many things that are worth noticing.  He's a genuinely good man and I am lucky to have him!  A simple, "thank you" goes a long way with Bron.  Also--and this is where I can do better--what man doesn't like a big glass of chocolate milk or a sandwich while he's working on his computer or watching a football game?  Those little actions say, "I love you" in a big way. 

3.  Date Nights/Quality Time Together.  Just because we're married doesn't mean we should stop pursuing one another.  Bron and I really enjoy our bi-monthly dates.  (Two dates a month seems to work well for us for now, both financially and time-wise.)  We get to do something fun--just the two of us--just like we used to do and will do after our children are grown.  We get to talk without interruption and eat a warm meal!  It is relaxing and rejuvenating.

4.  Let It Go.  Thumper nailed it when he said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  I've noticed that the longer Bron and I are married, the more blunt we are.  But that doesn't mean I should pick a fight.  If something is annoying me, I try to bite my tongue and not say something in the heat of the moment.  If it's a real issue, I can bring it up with my husband later.  (Usually that evening.) 

5.  Sex.  Do not underestimate the power of sex.  Admittedly, I have been that woman who was too tired for it on multiple occasions.  "I've had a toddler hanging on my legs all day, a baby sucking from my boobs, and now you want a piece of me too?  Just leave me alone."  Yup, I've totally been there.  Twice.  Fortunately, babies grow up quickly, the dust settles, and Bron and I are able to create a healthy bedroom routine again.  (Sorry, Dad!)  I know it's really hard to drop that "mommy" role and put on the "girlfriend" hat, but I've learned that it's sooo important!  Sex simply bonds a couple together.  It's fun!  And I love that it strengthens our marriage.

BONUS: We tell each other "I love you" like it's going out of style.  Hearing those three words multiple times a day feels comforting.


Here's to many more happy years with my partner in crime at my side!

*Feel free to add your two cents in the comments about what helps make a marriage happy.*

^^These photos are of our cousin Rylee and her fiancĂ© Jeremy.  They stayed a night at our house over the weekend along with our Aunt Denese.  We had so much fun with them!  Thanks for coming to visit!^^ 
See more photos from their engagement shoot on my photography blog

The Best Cornbread and Honey Butter You'll Ever Eat. It's Like Candy.

1.20.2014
This is a lifestyle blog.  And it wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention something that has wound up on our dinner menu week after week.  This winter, warm hearty soups have hit the spot!  (One of our favorites is this recipe for Borsch.  Just trust me.)  And what goes better with soup than bread.  Not only that, but easy-to-make sweet and fluffy cornbread.  Seriously, I crave this stuff.  And so does my neighbor, Amy, who gave me this recipe.  Maybe that's why we're eating so many soups! 


Fluffy Cornbread
 
1/2 C cornmeal
1 1/2 C flour
2/3+ C sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C oil
3 T butter melted
2 eggs beaten
1 1/4 C milk
 
Combine dry ingredients in a medium size bowl.  Whisk eggs in a separate small bowl.  Add wet ingredients into dry.  Stir until just mixed. (This is important!  The less it's mixed, the fluffier it will be.)  Batter should be runny.
 
Bake in a greased 8 inch square pan at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. 
 
Honey Butter
 
1 stick butter
1/4 C honey
1/4 C marshmallow fluff
 
Whip all together with an electric mixer and serve at room temperature.
 
NOTE: This stuff is a lick-your-fingers kind of good.  It's pretty much like candy.  You'll never want to eat cornbread without it!
 
 
I hope you enjoy your cornbread and honey butter!
And now that it's written here on the blog, I'll never lose the recipe.  It's a win-win.


Some Shout-Outs to Happiness These Days

1.15.2014
I expected life to slow down during this cold gray drudgery known as January, but I was wrong.  So let me fill you in on all that's been going on around here and what's been making me happy these days.

^^This little face + personality makes me happy^^
 
:: No matter what time Bron and I head to bed, we lay there talking till after 1:00AM.  That is waaay too late for this mama, but I have to admit, I really like it.  In Bron's words, "I think it means we love each other a lot."  Over the past year or so, Bron and I have bonded in our marriage like never before.  It. Is. Awesome.  I love that man with all my heart.

::  It feels like Spring!  I'm mentally preparing myself for another cold snap, but these sunny days have prompted us to spend some time outside.  We even went to the park one afternoon.  There's nothing like a little vitamin D, even whilst wearing a winter coat.


::  I finally got my Idaho driver's license!  You know, two years after we moved here and two weeks before my New York one expires.  I'm so cool.  (Not.)

::  Levi thinks it's funny (and thinks he's super clever too) to take off his pants.  It's his new trick.  So now he wanders the house pants-less and I get to admire his short little legs all day.  They're so cute! 

Note: His new trick is also why he wears a onesie on a daily basis.  I'm afraid the taking-off-his-own-diaper trick is next, and that one isn't nearly as cute. 

^^Little kid squats, their bums just an inch above the ground.  I wish he'd never grow up.^^
 
::  I found my exercise groove!  I had been overthinking and overwhelming myself with all the hard resistance workouts I needed to do to lose the last five "baby" pounds for months now.  Turns out, a hard twenty minutes on the treadmill (I'm talking running at a 4% incline and sprinting) plus two or three sets of push-ups and sit-ups is enough to make me sore right now.  I can even switch it up and spend a half hour doing Jillian Michaels videos. 

As a busy mom, I have a new philosophy:
A little is better than nothing at all.

::  Jed is growing out of naps.  He takes one about every other day now.  At first I was a little bummed, but then I realized I could use the time while Levi naps as a sorta special time for just Jed and I to have fun together.  On Tuesday, Jed wanted to learn how to cut with his new scissors, so we busted out some colored construction paper and practiced making some hearts.  He did pretty good for his first try!


::  Reading books to Levi has taken on a whole new meaning in entertainment as he points with his chubby little finger and sounds out new words.  He's darling.

::  Bron rearranged his schedule so that I can participate in the Magic Valley Symphony--a little orchestra organized through our local college--on Tuesday nights again.  I was over-the-moon excited when we ran through the next concert's repertoire and I recognized some of my all-time favorite pieces from college, including the Shostakovich Symphony V Second Movement and Dvorak Symphony V Fourth Movement theme from The New World!  Ahhhh!  I'm such a nerd.  It's going to be a fun semester brushing up on all those 'ol violin skills.  Playing the violin is like riding a bike.  I may become a little rusty, but it always comes back.  Plus, making music just makes my heart happy.  Anyone want to come to our next concert? 
 
*******
 
Also, a photo dump of snapshots of life lately.  Pictures of my two favorite little boys makes me happy too.
 
^^This kid is always eating^^
^^Watching cartoons with Woody.  Intense, yeah?^^

5 Quick Weekend Highlights

1.12.2014
  
1.  My three studs all wore their matching cow ties {and cowboy boots} to church on Sunday.  I think I'm the luckiest girl alive to have these handsome boys in my life. 
 
(P.S. Bron's cousin made these ties as a Christmas gift.  I actually like them better than the boys' store bought ones!)
 
2. On Friday evening, the little boys and I played a lively game of hide-and-go-seek and read stories under the twinkle lights in the teepee.  It made me think how differently my Friday nights look now that I have kids!  But I don't think they pale in comparison to those old days one bit.  Jed and Levi's happiness and enthusiasm is simply contagious.  Sharing their happiness makes me happy.  Plus, if you heard Levi's version of what a bunny says--he sniffs loudly through his nose, his fat cheeks practically covering his eyes--I'm sure you'd want to read that little farm book over for the tenth time too.
 
3.  I got to do another newborn photo shoot for a friend and used some brand new colorful wraps.  It was a lot of fun and the baby was so tiny and precious.  I can't wait to edit the session!
 

4.  My new and totally random salt and pepper shakers I picked up at Target yesterday for $3.  Yes, they're hippos with hats.  They are utterly ridiculous, but they just spoke to me!  So I brought them home.  Bron thinks they're dumb.  I, on the other hand, absolutely LOVE them--though I think some of my love stems from the fact that Bron dislikes them so much.  Men just don't understand sometimes.

5.  DATE NIGHT!  Bron and I went out to dinner with some friends on Saturday night and then hit up a movie.  We finally saw the Desolation of Smaug.  I think I gripped Bron's arm or hand through the entire show.  It was intense!  And we loved it.  Then we polished off the evening with some sweet frozen yogurt.  It was a picture perfect date night.  I hope that man knows he has my heart forever.  We've developed such a special bond in our marriage.

^^A little Jed humor outtake.  Just keepin' real here.^^
 
Bonus:  Bron and I snuck into Jed's room one night to see him sleeping with his Woody doll held tight to his chest.  What an endearing sight!  Also, Jed still insists we tell him "Merry Christmas" when tucking him into bed at night.  Haha  Crazy kid.
 
Hoping your weekend was just as good!

An Afternoon with my Hubby and Cows that Eat Cereal

1.10.2014

Yesterday, the little boys and I rode along with Bron in his truck as he went about his normal work day visiting different dairies around the area.  My husband knows me better than I know myself, I think.  Getting out of the house was exactly what I needed.  Between feeling sick and sluggish and cooped up in the house due to the cold, those January blues were setting in fast.

So we sped down country dirt roads slinging mud up onto the truck's windows and talked the afternoon away while our two little co-pilots acted happy just to be along for the ride--for the most part, anyway.

Did you know that some dairy cows are lucky enough to eat cereal?  For reals.  There was a giant pile of fruit loops and frosted mini-wheats sitting in a bay at one dairy!  Cows can eat just about anything.  According to a certain handsome dairy nutritionist, as long as a dairy cow is fed the appropriate proportions of simple and complex carbohydrates and protein, she'll produce milk.  Discarded cereal from the mill totally fits the bill for simple carbs.  Yum!  "Moooove over, Bessie.  That's my fruit loop!"

Anyway, we didn't pick off any fruit loops, but Bron did take me to a little restaurant I've heard so much about but have never been.  Stevo's is known for their delicious steak sandwiches, burgers, and the best french fries in the state.  Well, it certainly lived up to the hype.  I stuffed myself with enough calories to last till Sunday.  It was that good.  I now understand why Bron sometimes isn't very hungry when he comes home in the evening.

There's nothing quite like gaining a little perspective from my husband's point of view--for at least one afternoon--huh?  Thanks for a good day, Honey.

^^Frost on every branch.  What the views from my window looked like one morning last week.^^

Our Handsome Little Sunbeam

1.08.2014

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, To shine for Him each day;
In every way try to please Him, At home, at school, at play.
A sunbeam, a sunbeam, Jesus wants me for a sunbeam
A sunbeam, a sunbeam, I'll be a sunbeam for Him.

^^I snuck a peek through the Sunday school window and this is the look Jed gave me.  Classic.^^

A new year means that Jed has officially graduated from nursery.  Hip, hip, hooray!  At age three--going on four this year--he is considered old enough to sit on the very front row in primary.  He also gets to go to his very own classroom with the other kids his age for a {brief} lesson.  (Bless his teacher!)  In short, this means no more toys during church. 

I was a little nervous on Sunday about how Jed would react to this big change.  We're talking about my child who has carried a toy in each hand (or pocket) since he could grasp!  And just like all little kids, he's a creature of habit and change feels scary.

But... he seemed to adapt quite well.  I mean, look at him.  He's beaming already! 

I'm sure proud of my handsome little Sunbeam.

Skiing with the Nelsons (My Very First Video!)

1.05.2014
Pestilence has cursed this house.  We began the New Year as sickies and it looks like we'll continue feeling gross for another little while.  I'm tired of feeling tired.  But I think Levi takes the cake on sickness.  He was diagnosed with a double ear infection!  Poor baby.  I was surprised.  Levi seems to wear a perpetual grin no matter the situation.  He's as tough as nails, that kid.  It made me grateful I decided to take him in to see the doctor on a Friday night--you know, just in case.  So on top of a little medicine, we've been singing praises to the humidifier, Vicks vapor rub, and hot steamy showers.
 
Speaking of hot steamy showers, Levi decided he was ready to hop out of one before I had finished dressing for the day.  I quickly dried him off and set to brushing out my hair as fast as I could because if I didn't, I knew I'd get distracted and my hair would be a dried rat's nest by lunch time.  After all, three minutes wasn't an unseemly amount of time to let my one year old run around naked, was it? 
 
It was. 
 
I had just finished brushing my hair when Levi walked into the bathroom with poop smeared all over his fingers exclaiming, "Yucky!  Yucky!"  I sighed--it was my fault, after all--and then couldn't help laughing.  Levi was genuinely confused and concerned about this "yucky" stuff!  He had no idea where it came from or how it happened, really.  He was worried and perplexed!  Silly boy.  I was suddenly thankful he thought it was yucky and not something fun to play with!  Five minutes later, crisis cleaned up and averted.  Whew.
 
All this sickness coupled with a stressful week at work for Bron, and well... 2014, I think we started off on the wrong foot.  Hopefully this will all be short-lived.  If there is anything I can do to turn this around, 2014, please let me know.  I want to be friends.
 
So let's rewind time to that lively week we spent with family just after Christmas.  Bron, his brothers, and I all went skiing at Kelly's Canyon one day and took the GoPro with us on its maiden voyage.  And then I stayed up last night putting this video together.  It was so much easier than I had anticipated, though I don't think I will ever proclaim myself as a videographer.  It's just for fun.  So try not to laugh at our outdated gear or our skiing skills.  It was just a blast of a day out on the slopes.   
 
Music is "Hey Brother" by Avicii
 


Welcome 2014!

1.01.2014

A Quick 2013 Year Review:
 
In January, we bought a new car and went to a Jazz game

In February, Jed was officially potty-trained!

In March, we had a ton of fun with our sweet friend, Anna, who came to visit from New York.

In April, Jed turned three, I bought a piano, and we celebrated Easter.

In May, Bron and I celebrated our sixth anniversary and we kicked off summer with a visit to the Nelson dairy.

In June, we spent the most blissful days just playing outside.  Dierkes Lake is most definitely a favorite.

In July, we hiked Alaska Basin, I attended my ten year high school reunion, and Bron conquered his very first triathlon. 

August was busy.  We celebrated Levi's first birthday, attended the Smith family reunion in Utah, and drove to California to visit my dad and family where I ran my very first half marathon.

In September, Bron went on a fishing trip, Levi got his first haircut, and we cooked s'mores up in the hills.

In October, we took full advantage of the beautiful Fall colors and went trick-or-treating on Halloween.

In November, we spent lots of time together as a family and ate ourselves silly on Thanksgiving.

In December, we found our Christmas tree in the snowy South Hills and celebrated Christmas for five days straight.

Browsing through this last year's archives has suddenly made me feel very grateful.  What did I do to deserve a life so richly blessed?  2013 was a good year.  Not only were we able to do a lot of fun things, but my marriage to Bron has never been stronger.  And both the boys grew so much!  Levi morphed from a rolly fat baby into a full blown toddler while his big brother Jed is proving to be the sweetest most energetic preschooler around.  I just don't see how 2014 could do better. 

Can I let you in on a little secret?  There's a little piece of fear that lives in the back of mind, a little shadow that is scared that something out of my control is waiting to bring tough problems and heartache at the opportune time when everything seems to be rolling along seamlessly.  But I try not to let fear rule my life and rely on hope instead--hope that no matter what life throws at us, everything will be okay.  A little growth is actually good for the soul after all, isn't it?  So 2014, I have high hopes that you'll deliver just as many smiles as the last year.    

*******

A Few Personal Goals to Make 2014 the Best Year Yet:

Add five new clean eating recipes to our regular dinner regimen

Turn my photography hobby into a legitimate Idaho business

Lose a couple of inches off my arms and belly... just in time to get pregnant again?

Slow down.  Though there are instances when being punctual is important, right now, 90% of the time, my little boys and I really don't have a strict timetable.  So I will tell myself that it's okay if it takes an extra ten minutes to load the car to go to town.  I will not tell Jed to "hurry up" as he explores the weeds on a walk through the neighborhood.  And I will say "yes" more often to playing with my boys while leaving the dirty dishes in the sink.  It's about enjoying life in the moment.

Spend significantly less time on the internet (by checking Facebook and reading blogs just twice a week?) and spend more time tackling personal projects like paint touch-ups, putting baby books together, and sewing stockings for next Christmas.  Believe me, I have a project lined up for nearly every month this year.  Wish me luck!

*******

I ushered in 2014 rocking a sick one year old, but I actually didn't mind too much.
Wishing you all the health and happiness that 2014 can bring! 
Happy New Year!