It's a New Year! 2016 Quick Review

12.31.2016

It's been a good year.  As I look back, I am amazed at how much we did!  We were busy.  This year was one to remember for sure.  We've been blessed with so much: health, loving family members and friends, and the opportunities to travel and adventure.  The crowning highlight, of course, was welcoming Conrad earth side.  I have to pinch myself.  We're a family of five now and I couldn't be happier.

Here's what happened: 

January:  We celebrated Kaleb and Chantee's wedding!  We visited the Living Planet Aquarium in Utah and hiked to Ross Falls as a family when there was three feet of snow.

February:  We enjoyed a fun day of sledding as well as an epic date snowshoeing in the South Hills with our friends, the Horsleys.  I also attended my very first photography conference, but the highlight was getting to hang out with my Grandma.

March:  I traveled to Arizona to see my sister and cousin's new babies.  I also found out I was pregnant!

April:  We celebrated Jed's 6th birthday!  We took the kids to Park City to see the Imagination Movers live in concert!  I don't remember anything else because surviving morning sickness was all I could concentrate on.

May:  Bron and I went on vacation to Kauai!!!  We will never ever forget our legendary overnight backpacking trip to Kalalau.  It was an amazing trip.

June:  We celebrated the beginning of summer with a party and a pool full of kids.  We had fun at the Nelson family reunion.  Jed played his first season of t-ball.

July:  We rock climbed and sat under the best fireworks show we've ever seen on Independence Day.  We found out our growing baby was a boy.  Bron exhuasted himself on a week long 50 mile backpacking adventure with the scouts in the Whitecloud Wilderness.  Jed and Levi learned to fish with hot dogs and we went camping.

August:  We celebrated Levi's 4th birthday, Bron conquered Pierre's Hole for the third time, and Jed started the first grade!

September:  Two of my photos won prizes at the county fair.  Jed played soccer for the first time.  We saw the Wagon Days Parade in Ketchum.  Bron and his brothers tinned a barn in just one day.  And Bron and I stayed out way past our bedtime at a Boise State football game one evening.

October:  We took the boys to the Hogle Zoo and celebrated my grandma's 80th birthday in Moab, UT surrounded by the beautiful chaos of family.  My girlfriends spoiled me with a baby shower and pedicures.  And the boys were the Dark Side for Halloween.

November:  We welcomed Conrad to the family!!!

December:  Bron did some snow skiing.  We adjusted to being a family of five and enjoyed another magical and blessed Christmas.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Christmas Day 2016

12.28.2016

Due to the demands of a newborn, this year was a little bit harder for me to catch that magical Christmas spirit that makes me so excited.  I mean, I didn't even have anything wrapped until two days before the big day!  Instead, that Christmas spirit came in waves as we visited the lights at Rock Creek, made peanut butter balls, went sledding on Christmas Eve, and of course as I anticipated both Bron and the kids' reactions to the presents I'd bought.  Plus, it was Conrad's first Christmas!  Having a baby at Christmas feels so special.  I told Bron to just wrap Conrad up and place him underneath the tree.  I didn't need any other gifts this year.

The boys are still at such fun ages.  Young and innocent, they believe!  And they make the magic of Christmas come alive.  We got out the globe and tracked Santa on Bron's phone as Santa made his way around the world on Christmas Eve.  "Where is Santa now?!" they'd excitedly ask.  "He's in Colombia now and heading North towards us!"  They screamed.  "We gotta go to sleep so Santa can come! Hurry!"    

The boys slept in with the sun.  No one got out of bed until 7:45AM!  Santa brought Jed and Levi big Nerf guns this year complete with refillable magazines.  And he brought Bron an automatic Nerf gun because dads need an unfair advantage against their formidable offspring, right?  Right. 

Upon seeing everything that Santa had brought, Levi exclaimed, "I guess we WERE good this year!"  Bron and I laughed, but Levi's comment means one of two things: A. We're awful parents and make our kids feel guilty or B. Levi knows when he's being naughty but tries to get away with it anyway.  I'm going with the latter.

I'll let the pictures do the talking.  We have been blessed with so much.  I am grateful for my Savior who made it possible for this family I love so much to be together forever.  It was another magical Christmas!

Co-Sleeping

12.27.2016
^^Christmas Eve. This sweet scene stole my heart for a minute.^^

I have never co-slept with any of my babies... until now.  I've cautiously thrown the experts' safety warnings to the curb in exchange for my sanity.  Sleep deprivation is REAL!  And it is hard.  I was an absolute mess for a few days, teetering between flat out bawling and irrational anger.  I wasn't myself.  So for the last week or so, Conrad has slept curled up on my chest or next to me all night long.  We wake several times to nurse, but I'm finally feeling rested. I love hearing his soft sighs of contentment and feeling his small comforting weight.  There is no better feeling than snuggling a sleeping baby... except my arm starts to hurt being in the same position for so long!  A part of me knows that this is just a phase and I tell myself to just enjoy.  But the other part worries that I'm creating bad habits.  Motherhood is so perplexing.  Third time around and I still have no idea what I'm doing.  Just hoping for the best and loving with all I've got and then some.

My Three Boys

12.16.2016

Adding a third child has come with its challenges (read: the witching hours are REAL!) but for the most part Jed and Levi are adjusting to their baby brother's presence like champs.  They're not actually sure what to DO with Conrad because he just just kinda lays there; that's very boring when you like to run laps around the couch.  But they smother the baby's face with kisses and declare over and over how cute he is and even sing him made up lullabies when he's fussy.  It makes my heart smile.  I think their brotherhood is off to a great start and can't wait to see what unfolds over the years.


Such a tender scene!  I often hear Jed comforting his baby brother by singing, "Baby Conrad don't you cry," over and over. I couldn't have asked for a more caring biggest brother.

A Birth Story for Conrad

11.25.2016

Written in a notebook in the hospital and over the next few days...

He's here!  And I am still in thankful disbelief that he's real.  This perfect little body with a wide nose, big eyes, and soft cheeks is now a part of our family forever.  He's a cuddly ball of endearing reflexes and tiny intuitive instincts that make me 'ooh' and 'aww'.  I can't wait to get to know him!  So far he seems pretty chill and I am already hopelessly head-over-heels in love with him.  Conrad was worth the wait.  He is worth every sad and frustrated tear over the past three years or so, a testament that God is good and mindful of me.  I can't help silently thanking my Heavenly Father over and over again for this precious gift.  The depth of sweet joy I feel for this baby is indescribable.  I am so, so happy.

Conrad Joseph Nelson was born 8 days before his due date on Friday November 11th at exactly 3:30PM.  He weighed 9lbs 5oz and was 22 inches long.

Perhaps part of my disbelief that he's here and real is that going into labor was absolutely the last thing I expected to happen that day.  Friday was Veterans' Day and both Jed and Levi didn't have school.  My plan for the day was to prepare for my induction Monday morning by cleaning and picking up the house (the house was trashed!) followed by the boys playing with friends. We were also completely out of essentials like milk and eggs, but a shopping trip could wait til Saturday.  Or so I thought... Ha!

Welcome, Baby Boy!

11.18.2016

He's here!  Introducing...

Conrad Joseph Nelson
November 11, 2016
3:30PM
9lbs 5oz
22 inches

It's appropriate to say that I'm a puddle on the floor, head-over-heels in love with him. I can't help but silently thank my Heavenly Father over and over again for this precious gift.
 

Third Baby Bumpdate: 38 Weeks

11.06.2016

I am thrilled to announce that this is the very last bumpdate of this pregnancy!  In fact, it could possibly be my very last bumpdate ever.  The thought makes me feel a bit nostalgic as I look at this big round belly in the mirror.  Wow, my body does amazing things!  The idea that I may never do this again makes me both sad and happy.  Never again feeling those kicks and rolls from the inside, the exciting anticipation of bringing another life into the world--it's pretty neat and I feel so grateful I get to do it three times over.  It's sad to let that go!  But never again feeling nauseous and exhausted and just plain hurting for months on end sounds pretty amazing too.  So I suppose I'll soak in every last drop of this pregnancy for all its worth as we excitedly anticipate meeting our new little guy!

The thought of a third child still blows my mind.  This is real?  This is going to be real?!  There will be another real live body in that room peeking over the crib rails at me in the mornings?  No way.  It's like a far-off dream.  I wonder what he'll look like.  I wonder how I'll survive the sleepless nights again.  But I absolutely cannot wait to get to know his little personality.  He will be his own person, different than his brothers.  How can I possibly have a third opposite of Jed and Levi?  And how are their little relationships going to play out?  It's all a mystery to me now.  I think I'm ready for this next big life change and challenge.  Or maybe more accurately I'm just tired of being pregnant and know that this big life event is inevitable.  Either way, I'm happy and excited with just a tinge of worried nerves on the side.


Happy Halloween from the Dark Side

11.02.2016

The Holiday Season is officially upon us.  And I am feeling the buzz!  Lucky for us, the Holidays are made 100 times better with little kids around.  Their enthusiasm and excitement just seems to rub off on me.  Plus, we'll be adding another little jumping bean here in just ten days or so.  TEN DAYS!  It's going to be a crazy but special year.  I can just feel it.

This Halloween, we found our costumes more than a month ago at Costco one day. I wasn't too concerned about Levi changing his mind because the kid is dead set on becoming a storm trooper when he grows up.  He talks about it all the time.  I did convince him that he needs to finish high school first though before he flies a tie fighter... which perhaps the military will develop in a few years.  So maybe that dream isn't too far fetched.

I'm not sure what the boys' fixation is with the dark side of the force, but since Jed chose to be Kylo Ren, we just ran with it.  Bron became Darth Vader and I became the Death Star on account of my huge pregnant belly.  It was super simple and fun!

However, I admit, those pictures up top were anything from simple.  Ha!  I spent a solid hour or more in Photoshop editing each of those individually.  But I am silly proud of how they turned out.  And the boys are "over-the-moon" stoked about how cool they themselves look in them!  Definitely a fun experiment and worth every minute.

Now pictures from Halloween Night!

Hiking in "The City" and Other October Highlights

10.30.2016

This Fall has been a little different for me.  I just haven't seemed to have the energy to get out and go and do {and photograph!} all of the fun seasonal stuff that I love.  But that's understandable.  I'm very pregnant for the third time.  So I'm cutting myself some slack.  But we have managed to squeeze in some fun and beautiful colors.  And I don't want to forget it.

On Saturday October 22nd, we joined our friends at the City of Rocks.  We meant to help the kids do a little rock climbing but the place was crawling with people.  Imagine that.  A super nice day in October brings people out.  :)  So we wound up hiking and exploring.  It might have been even more fun!  (Side Note: Let me just insert here that hiking up and down rocks at 36 weeks pregnant is no easy task because I can't raise my legs more than 90 degrees; there's a baby in the way!)  The views from within "the city" are just incredible.  Such a unique place out in the desert.  I feel lucky we get to visit so often.

A Baby Shower + A Girls' Night Out

10.24.2016

My sweet friends threw me a baby shower Friday night and words cannot express how lucky I feel to have their caring presence in my life! We began by stuffing our bellies full of some AMAZING homemade soups for dinner followed by opening presents.  Amy knew I had my eye on a Rock 'n Play Sleeper so the girls all pitched in and bought me one!  I'm seriously over-the-moon excited about it.  It looks so comfy.  I kind of want a grown-up version!  Then we all went to the mall for manicures and pedicures.  Ahhh, those massage chairs are where it's at.  I could have stayed all night feeling those rollers knead my back into smithereens.  And of course, a true girls' night isn't complete without a trip into Ulta where Shelly helped Dani and me find just the right eyebrow fillers, a new-to-me add on to my makeup routine!  Then we headed back to my house to finish it all off with chocolate cake and a late night chat.  It really doesn't get any better than that.

Thank you!!!

A Video: Princesses VS Big Bad Wolf

10.20.2016
For our ward Harvest Party this year, each auxillary was asked to make a short video.  This is what my Beehives and I came up with.  You've been forewarned: it's painfully corny.


Grandma's 80th Birthday

10.14.2016
^^Grandma with five of her great-grandchildren: Jed, Levi, Jaxon, June, and Carter^^

We spent the most memorable weekend with extended family at a cabin way up in the La Sal mountains outside of Moab, UT.  We all gathered there to celebrate my grandma's 80th birthday!!!  She just radiates love.  Words cannot describe how much I admire that woman. There was no cell service and it was wonderful to truly unplug from everything: no internet, no advertisements, no pressures of the everyday grind. It was just family (noisy family!) and food (sooo much food!) and some small adventures. I wish we could relive it because I'm missing my weird but loving tribe of people already!


On Friday morning, I dropped off this studly man (and my uncle Ed) at 11,000 feet at the top of a mountain to ride 27 miles of what is called the Whole Enchilada.  Pretty incredible, yeah?  You bet I was jealous!

You guys, I married a good one. I can't imagine my life without this man. He's the one I talk late into the night with, adventure with, work and plan with, and parent with. He is patient and loving and involved and does his best in every facet of his life. I couldn't ask for a better husband. I love you, Bron!


View from the front porch of the cabin.  These horses just wandered in and out of the yard nibbling on the grass (and pooping all over the lawn).  And would you look at that scrub oak?  The leaves were changing colors and it was beautiful in its own deserty way.  

One afternoon, my cousin Rachel, Aunt Becky, Kelsey, and I all went for a little exercise walk that turned into a hike!  And another afternoon, our family of four strapped on helmets and took off in the razor that my Uncle Jeff rented.  That thing was buttery smooth over the dirt trails!  We let the boys take turns riding in the front seat.  "Step on it!" they commanded.  It goes without saying, they had a blast. 

Trip to the Hogle Zoo

10.13.2016

We spent the most memorable weekend with extended family celebrating my Grandma's 80th birthday!!! But first, I want to reminisce about our pit-stop a the Hogle Zoo on our way south.

Jed had both Thursday and Friday off from school.  So we packed up the car and headed out Thursday morning, arriving at the zoo in the early afternoon.  The boys were sooo excited to see all the animals!  Jed was especially excited to see a rhino.  He was pretty fixated on that and wanted to find them right away.  Ha!  (I think the movie Hatari may have had some influence on that.)  We've found that Fall really is the best time to visit the zoo.  It wasn't crowded and the weather was cool and overcast, which meant all the animals were out and active!  We spent over three hours exploring and re-exploring the different attractions.  I was quite impressed, actually.  The Hogle Zoo is small but really nice and harbors all of the major large animals.  I am so glad we have zoos to help foster a love and fascination for animals.

We wrapped up the afternoon at the gift shop by purchasing the boys stuffed animals to remember their trip by.  Jed chose a rhino.  Levi chose a snow leopard. They're inseparable new best friends and kind of go everywhere with us now.

Pictures!

Snapshots and a Few Stories from Lately

9.28.2016
Life has been humming along this September.  Levi and I enjoy our {mostly relaxed} days together doing laundry and reading stories and just getting stuff done: like making caramel apples for lunch!  We've gone to regular doctor appointments and followed them up with little dates together.  We saw Pete's Dragon in the theater one day, ate a picnic lunch at the historic Stricker Station another day, hit up the Herrett Museum last week, and of course, have gotten some ice cream.  From the backseat Levi said, "Mom, you're the prettiest!"  It made my day.  I think he's the cutest!  My four-year old companion is the best.  And I am so glad I have him.  We're really soaking in this one-on-one time together while it lasts.

However, once Jed gets home at 3:50PM, it feels like life all of a sudden speeds up to 100mph.  We scramble to fit in all that needs to be done before bedtime: homework, dinner, soccer, showers, ukulele practice, and mutual for me...  It's exhausting!  Both Jed and I are still adjusting to this new schedule.  (Ohhh, the tantrums!)  As fun and good as soccer is, we're both looking forward to mid-October when it's all over and Jed can have some time to unwind and just play like a kid--well, for an hour or two.  And don't get me started on school and homework.  Sooo much homework for a little guy!  Jed has come a long way since school started and I see progress weekly and even daily in his schoolwork and behavior, but wow has it been a stressful few weeks working with his teacher trying to figure out what works best for our first grader. 

This new journey into big kid territory has left me feeling helpless at times!  BUT it also makes me all the more grateful that I get to return to newborn territory in less than two months. Then I can fix all of someone's problems with a fresh diaper and my boob.  :)  Though I'm nervous the combination of exhaustion for caring for a baby and helping my first grader just might kill me.  However, a friend reminded me that if it isn't one thing, it's another.  So I'm trying to roll with the punches and just enjoy the ride!

A few pictures and stories from around the house to document:               


Teamwork!  Backyard apple picking with Kyle.  These two four year old neighbors have become inseparable (and mischievous) peas in a pod since school started.  So I put them to "work" for me one afternoon. I think this picture tells the whole story!  Hehe.  ^^Look carefully in the tree!^^

Third Baby Bumpdate: 32 Weeks

9.27.2016
^^The bump at 31 weeks^^

It is approximately a mere eight weeks (maybe less!) until we meet baby boy number three! I have so many thoughts and feelings about this pregnancy floating around in my head. Although this has probably been the hardest pregnancy physically, it has actually been the easiest in every other way.

Part of it may be because mine and Bron's relationship usually takes a dip during pregnancy, but this time, it hasn't.  We've met in the middle this third time around with lots of communication and understanding.  Plus, we understand that pregnancy is definitely temporary!  It has helped morale a lot.

However, I think the real reason this pregnancy has been so great is that we're truly thankful to be bringing another baby into the family!  This pregnancy isn't being taken for granted.  We prayed two long years for this baby; two years of tears and emotional lows... which is why this pregnancy feels so so incredibly sweet.  He is so wanted. This baby's kicks and rolls inside my tummy mean the world to me. They're like little Morse code messages telling me he's all right from the inside.

I am really enjoying this big 'ol bump out front.  I'm wearing it like a badge of honor because I know I am really going to miss this one day.  No, I won't miss the pains and awkwardness or exhaustion, but I will miss being a part of a miracle that is much much bigger than myself.  How amazing is my body that it's facilitating the growth of another human being?!  I feel like pregnancy is a special privilege.  And if I'm really being honest, the anticipation of meeting our son is half the fun.  It's exciting and life-altering.  I really cannot wait to meet our baby boy!

^^There's nothing like seeing teeny tiny clothes all freshly folded in a drawer to make Baby's arrival feel real!^^

Now to document some details...

A Family Afternoon in the South Hills

9.19.2016

This weekend left me feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.  I think we all needed a little mountain air and family time!  It's been a little different this year, modifying the way we explore and adventure together.  Being so pregnant, I'm just simply not able to be on my feet for long periods of time. So the four (and a half) of us spent all of Saturday afternoon together in the truck meandering down new-to-us dirt roads way up in the South Hills.  We periodically stopped to hop out and wander down some short trails and especially enjoyed soaking in the first of the Fall colors.  We rounded out the evening around a campfire roasting hot dogs and marshmallows for s'mores.  Pretty dreamy, right?  Exactly what I call a good day.

Take a peek at what we found!
 

Flying Airplanes

9.13.2016

Flying airplanes! I think I needed this more tonight than the boys did. I feel like there's so much to squeeze inside those precious hours between 3:45 and bedtime: snack, homework, sports, dinner, shower... there's just not enough time to play! Well, today homework went quickly and smoothly, so we headed outside with some new toys.

Levi's First Day of Preschool

9.07.2016

 Dear Levi,

This morning was your very first day of preschool!  You've been anxiously waiting for this day, asking over and over again when it's finally your turn to go.  Well, today was your big day!  You'll be attending our local private preschool three days a week for 2.5 hours.  I think we're both going to love it.  You'll get a chance to learn and play with friends and be accountable to another adult, but we'll still get to spend most of our time together; I like having a little buddy to keep me company during the day.

You dressed yourself in a new t-shirt and jeans this morning and couldn't wait to get out the door.  However, you suddenly became nervous and clingy when we got into your classroom.  Luckily, your friend Rhett sat down next to you at the table and you were all smiles from there.

When I picked you up, you came out wearing your backpack on one shoulder and strutted out like a pre-teen stud, except you had the biggest grin plastered to your face.  I think I died of cuteness right there on the spot!  I held your hand on our way out to the car and asked what your favorite thing was that day.  You exclaimed, "EVERYTHING!!!" And then promptly told me in detail what you had for a snack.  Yup.  You're totally ready for this.  It's going to be a good school year.

I love you so very much, Levi!  Thanks for putting a smile on my face and making me happy every single day.

Love,

Mom

Labor Day Weekend

9.06.2016

I always look forward to Labor Day weekend: summer's last hoorah!  And somehow, it always gets swallowed up with extended family.  But I don't mind.  That's half the fun.  So let me briefly recap what we did all three of our free summer days.

Friday:

We visited the Twin Falls County Fair!  It just isn't Labor Day weekend if we don't visit the fair.  I love the crazy atmosphere, the dust, the barns, the exhibits, and watching my little boys enjoy all the 4H animals like they're at the world's largest petting zoo.  (I mean, it kind of is, isn't it?)  The boys' favorite part, however, is the model train exhibit.  The joy and excitement!  We sat down and let Jed stare in awestruck bliss with his jaw on the ground for a solid twenty minutes.

However, hands-down, the most exciting part for me was seeing how well my prints did in the photo competition.  I nervously entered four photos into the county fair in the professional class and two won ribbons in their categories! My black and white photo came in second. And the group of boys on the tire swing won first. But not only that, I was pleasantly surprised to see a giant purple and gold ribbon hanging on it as well for "best fair theme"!!! I came away feeling pretty happy about that.

Jed's First Day of First Grade

8.29.2016

Dear Jed,

You handsome stud, you.  It's here.  Your first day of first grade!  You were busting at the seams with excitement this morning as you dressed in the brand new outfit you helped pick out.  We parked and played on the playground for a few minutes while I held back the tears.  You see, Jed, you're growing up!  It's hard for me to let go, to give you the freedom you deserve to make your own choices and to spend more time away from me.  It's good and essential for you to become more independent, but gee whiz, does it pull at my heart strings.  It even makes me a little nervous!

I hope you're happy at school this year, Jed.  I hope you make some good friends and that you do well in your academics.  I hope you never ever feel lonely or stupid or bad because you're a good kid, Jed!  As your mom, I am your biggest fan.  I see many of your weaknesses but I also see all of your strengths.  You make me so proud, Jed.  I know you are smart and caring and capable of absolutely anything.

As the bell rang this morning, you anxiously ran to your classroom door.  But before you entered, you remembered to give me a sweet hug and a kiss.  It melted my heart.  I'm really going to miss you while you're at school all day long this year!

By the way, your teacher called before you got off the bus today.  I knew it couldn't be a good thing getting a call from your teacher on the very first day of school.  Apparently, you punched another boy and gave him a bloody nose!!!  Come to find out, you were playing superheroes with some friends at recess.  The play-fighting got a little too close and suddenly became real!  But that wasn't the only problem that occurred today...

So your first day of school got off to a rough start.  You're a creature of habit and this new routine and new teacher and new everything has you feeling like your life has just been turned upside-down!  Don't worry, Jed.  We'll get this all figured out.  It might take a few weeks for the dust to settle, but we'll adjust together.

Remember how much I love you!  No matter what.

Love,

Mom
     

Wrapping up Summer at Ross Falls

8.22.2016

For the entire past week Levi has been walking around {and going places!} wearing one green size 8 sandal and one yellow size 10 sandal.  I swear, that kid would lose his head if it wasn't attached.  I keep waiting for the other sandal matches to show up someplace, but they haven't.  It's kind of funny.  I have a feeling I'll find them sometime after school starts... which is in exactly one week!

For the first time in my entire life I think I am actually okay with saying goodbye to summer and welcoming a new school year.  Part of it is because I'm getting bigger and slower with each passing week.  The commencement of Fall just means I'm that much closer to meeting our newest family member!  Plus, a regular routine is sounding awesome.  Jed and Levi are frankly bored at home.  A few hours away from each other every day will do them some good.  They're cute and play well together most of the time, but gee whiz are they competitive and wow are they physically cruel when they fight!  On top of that, Levi seems to calculate whether the punishment is worth retaliating; it almost always is.

For instance, just earlier this week, I oversaw Jed scrub his toilet and sink after he severely scratched his brother.  Levi waited until Jed was done cleaning and then got his revenge with a mean scratch of his own!  I took him outside to weed the front courtyard.  I'm not sure what we're going to do with that kid.  We've tried taking away toys, time-out, spanking, chores... but revenge always trumps the consequence.  "But Mom, I get angry a lot," he said to me when I sat down and talked with him one day.  I laughed.  I know!  Hopefully we can channel that competitiveness and aggression into something productive one day.

Anyway, the shopping is all done and both boys are super excited to start school.  I can't help but be excited along with them. Jed will be going into first grade and Levi will start preschool.  We live in such a great community and school district.  I feel at ease knowing the boys have supportive teachers and a good group of kids from which to choose solid friends.

But until then, we're going to enjoy our last sunny and completely carefree summer days doing the things we love to do best.

These pictures are from an afternoon trip into the South Hills last week when the boys needed to get out of the house and burn some energy!  I packed my camel backpack with water, jerky, cheese, crackers, and apple slices to eat at the top of the short Ross Falls hike.  Clouds moved in over the sun and we got to explore the falls in balmy 70 degree weather.  It was nearly perfect.  I'm hoping our last week of summer has many more moments like these.  I love my boys.  And I love spending quality time with them.       

Third Baby Bump Date: 25 Weeks

8.09.2016
^^Wow, does five weeks make a difference!  Check out how I wore the same shirt just over a month ago.  Whoa.^^

It's time to document this growing bump that feels like a heavy soccer ball and the baby that we're all getting super excited about welcoming to the family!

How far along: 25 weeks plus some.  Closing in on the third trimester.  Whew!

Size of baby boy: According to the books, approximately 9 inches in length and 1.5 pounds in weight.  Or he can also be described as the size of a baseball glove or a Napa Cabbage.  However, when I went in for my last appointment over a week ago, I told the doctor I was hoping for a "light weight" 8 pound baby.  She shook her head as she measured my stomach and said, "Don't plan on it!  Baby is measuring big."  They'll most likely induce this baby a week early just as they did Levi.  I hope if it does come to that decision that labor will go just as smoothly and quickly!  So keep your fingers crossed with me. 

Stretch Marks: Who knows?  Probably.  Don't care anymore.

Weight Gain: About 22 pounds.  I'm ready to quit counting now.

Sleep:  Still sleeping well with a pillow between my knees.  Our mattress rocks!  However, I've turned into the ultimate night owl.  I sometimes don't go to sleep until 1AM or even 2AM.  There are just so many projects to do and so much to learn (I'm trying to master skin tones right now) about photography and it feels like life as I know it is about to end in approximately three months!  Time is running out!  I know that my fear isn't entirely true though.  All my projects and things will just be put on hold for approximately six months or a bit longer.  I'll come back to them eventually.

Symptoms: All this lack of sleep coupled with photo shoots, babysitting, and fun summer activities with my boys have apparently taken a toll on my immune system.  I've been completely wiped-out sick with a stomach bug twice in three weeks!  It's no fun.  I think I need to slow down?  Fortunately, being sick with a six year old and a four year old is pretty mellow.  They're happy about all the extra screen time and I'm happy about a long nap... even if Levi did decide to eat ALL the candy in the pantry for lunch yesterday.  :)

Still struggling with pelvic floor swelling and pain so I sit down and kick up my feet a lot.  Three and half more months, I chant!  But putting my feet up often is probably good as my ankles have begun swelling from time to time during the last two weeks as well.  Water!  I'm trying my best to chug plenty of water.

Favorite moments:  Levi comes up to my belly often to give his baby brother kisses.  "I love that big fat baby!" he exclaims.  Me too.  I can't wait for you to meet him.
   

Pierre's Hole Bike Race

8.08.2016
^^Biking buddies: Bron, Dan, and Bryce^^

This weekend Bron conquered Pierre's Hole, a 30 mile mountain bike race around Grand Targhee, for the third time. He got a PR coming in at under 4 hours. So proud (and slightly jealous) of my man!  One of the hardest parts of pregnancy for me this summer has been sitting out on adventures like this!  But there will be next year.  :)

Pierre's Hole is no joke.  It's a grueling race that takes preparation and mental fortitude.  My friend Shelly and I waited and cheered with our kids to see our men come over the finish line.  As Bron climbed off his bike, he was visibly shaking.  He had been cramping up and needed salt stat!  But friends and strangers came to the quick rescue with pistachios and salt pills.  And after a good meal and conversation, Bron was tired but as good as new.  Surprisingly, he felt better about that race than ever before!  As he should; his time is proof that he's improving.

Also of note is that Peter Sagan, Olympian and green jersey winner from this year's Tour de France, was there as well!  Such a cool opportunity to say that Bron and his friends raced with a world-known professional.  Peter Sagan schooled everyone when he came in at exactly two hours flat.  Whoa!  I think it's because his bike changes color in the heat.  Yeah, that's totally it.  :)  Haha.

Levi's 4th Birthday Party

8.05.2016
^^My favorite 4 year old!^^

Summer has got to be the best time of year to celebrate a birthday!  There are just so many fun things to do and the party doesn't end until the sun goes down--well after 9:00PM.  It's like a dream!  I know I spoil my kids from time to time, but I just can't help it; they are my whole world.  And so a party at Bass Lake to celebrate Levi's 4th birthday was planned!  Levi picked three of his little friends and we invited them and their families down to our favorite summer paradise for pizza, swimming, paddle boarding, fishing, cake, and a pinata stuffed full of candy.  The weather was warm, the sun was shining, and I'm pretty sure it was a party riot success for everyone!

Here are a couple dozen colorful pictures to prove it.  

Happy Fourth Birthday, Levi!

8.03.2016
 ^^I took Levi to Sips for a special birthday treat: soda and a cookie with a lime on top!^^

Dear Levi,

Happy 4th Birthday!  I want you to know what a spot of sunshine you are in my life.  Happy, energetic, and charismatic, you are a whole lot of personality bottled up inside one short body!  You often make me laugh out loud and then want to pull my hair out in frustration all in the same ten minutes.  But still, I am irrevocably smitten with you.  I can't help admiring your blonde curls, the smooth shapes of your cheeks, or that contagious grin.

You know exactly what to say and do to work me over, Levi.  "I love you, Mama," you sweetly mention.  Or sometimes you place both little hands on my cheeks and give me a quick kiss on the lips!  (It's to tease your dad too!  Haha.)  Other times, if you need my attention, you gently say, "Excuse me, Mama."  I have to stop what I'm doing to look at you then!  Little boy, have you got me figured out, and many other folks figured out too.  In fact, there's been times when I truly cannot tell if you are faking a cry or if it's real!  The whining through, especially when I say 'no', well, that's real.  :)  At least I know that!

Levi, you are one smart and independent little boy.  It's awesome because I don't feel like I need to dote on you hand and foot; you grab yourself your own drink of water.  I don't worry about you much.  You can hold your own and generally obey the rules like not leaving the yard.  You know what you want and go get it!  But that's the flip side to your independence.  You may be perfectly capable but you're not responsible... yet.  For instance, I've gotten out of the shower on multiple occasions this summer to find Otter Pop wrappers scattered throughout the house.  On the kitchen floor are six plastic tops which you have snipped off with scissors all by yourself, each oozing with melting sticky popsicle juice.  My floors are so dirty.  Come to think of it, everything is covered in crumbs or hand-prints.  This independent streak keeps me picking up mess after mess all day long!  I hope this lets up soon as you learn and grow because my energy to keep up is bottoming out.

We Beat the Heat Camping

8.01.2016

We escaped the 100 degree heat this weekend and headed into the South Hills for a little camping adventure!  The boys had been looking forward to this trip all week and they were busting at the seams with excitement.  (Full disclosure: I drove home to sleep and drove back first thing in the morning because camping while pregnant sounded like self-torture.)

When we arrived at our spot, it was twenty-five degrees cooler and it actually started to rain.  What a pleasant relief from the heat!  Fortunately, the rain didn't last long.  Our evening was full of fire starting, roasting hot dogs, exploring trails, s'mores, and all sorts of silly shenanigans.  At one point, I sat with Levi in what's left of my lap in front of the fire.  He and Jed traded off telling long and intricate stories about Green Ninja and Blue Ninja and Red Ninja.  It was a hoot just to listen to!

I helped Bron tuck the boys into bed around 10:30PM and headed down the mountain in the truck.  Except for a lousy night's sleep, I didn't miss a thing!  Jed and Levi did surprisingly well sleeping though.  I arrived back first thing in the morning as the boys were clamoring out of the tent.  We ate muffins and Donald Duck orange juice (Levi's favorite) and packed up.  Because Bron has everything organized into bins that we can just throw into the back of the truck, camping was a virtually painless chore!  I was impressed.  We can totally do this over and over again.

I hope the boys will remember this little one night adventure for a while because it's a sweet family memory I'm going to hold on to.

Snapshots and Our Top 5 July Highlights

7.29.2016
^^This handsome stud.  He insisted I take his picture here because my original plan was ruined by the sprinklers.  Haha.  What a sweet kid!^^

Best Frien-emies. Some hours of the day I want to throw my hands up in the air out of frustration. These two hit, scratch, bite, and can be downright cruel to one another. But then there are sweet moments such as these. I watch as brother tenderly takes care of brother and I suddenly know that I'm still doing something right as a mom. Whew. They really do love each other!

A S'mores Adventure in the South Hills

7.26.2016

We spent our Sunday evening as a family roasting marshmallows over a fire and going on a short hike in the South Hills.

But let me back up a little bit.  I may or may not have gone a little hog wild on my trip to Hobby Lobby with Momma Nelson last week.  Nesting is is full swing around here and it is REAL.  I'm in the process of decorating and re-decorating parts of the house.  And I must say, it is coming together beautifully!  (Now if only I can motivate myself to clean out those closets and organize!  Haha.  I'm coming for you next, junk.)  Anyway, I re-decorated the boys' room with an adventure theme.  There are arrows, a bicycle, and art that says things like, "Climb every mountain," "Brave," and "Adventure awaits."  Needless to say the boys are happy and excited!  It's a room all about them and the things they love most.  Plus, it is my hope that they'll continue to develop a passion for outdoor adventures and pushing themselves to do things they never thought they'd do. 

So of course, now that their room is mostly done, all we've heard on repeat from Levi is, "What's our next adventure?"  Well, since camping wasn't going to work out this weekend, we settled on cooking s'mores over a campfire and a small hike instead.  Win!

I love my little boys.  Sometimes they drive me crazy with their impatience and the way they fight and their endless messes, but in reality they're really good and caring kids with a contagious enthusiasm for life.  They make me so proud and happy to be their mom.      

Gone Fishing

7.16.2016

The boys have been begging to go fishing for a while now.  So Thursday evening, we made it happen!  We took the boys down to {the heavily stocked} Bass Lake.  We baited our hooks with HOT DOGS and began catching fish every 2-3 minutes.  Not joking.  It was a riot!  So many fish to help unhook and release back into the water kept Bron and I hopping.  I think the experience will forever spoil the little boys' expectations of fishing!  But nonetheless, now that I know how to tie a hook to the line, we'll be back at least weekly all summer long.

Pictures from the boys' first real fishing adventure:

Happy Birthday America!

7.09.2016

I think we convinced our boys that Independence Day is indeed one of the best holidays of the year.  There's something about seeing flags everywhere that makes one feel patriotic and proud.

We began our three day weekend with a barbecue and friends on Saturday night (after a full day of chores and errands, of course).  By unanimous vote, the kids' favorite part of the evening was lighting the few fireworks we bought.  I mistakenly bought a "pooping dog" that the kids haven't quit talking and giggling about since.  Boys!  Haha.  There were also some screamers and battling tanks, and best of all, sparklers!      

We began July 4th early Monday morning at a church breakfast and flag ceremony--where I played my violin, the kids sang, and Levi fell on his face and scraped up his nose.  Poor kid.  However, it just felt right to pause for a minute, to reflect and show respect for the flag: the emblem of the land and country I love.

Following breakfast, we spent the afternoon rock climbing at Castle Rocks State Park with some friends.   The clouds rolled in and it wound up being a perfect afternoon.  And we had the whole park to ourselves!  We couldn't believe it.  We all took turns climbing a 5.9- route.  I'm always surprised at how easy something looks from down below, but when I actually get on the rock, it's much more difficult!  But you know I live for the challenge, even 20 weeks pregnant.  And apparently so does Levi!  He's pretty much addicted to rock climbing.  I think he climbed four times. 

Then we polished the day off with pizza, glow sticks for the kids, and a fireworks show in Burley. We sat out on a golf course directly underneath the show. The fireworks were so close I could eat them!  I held Levi in my lap next to Bron and Jed.  We couldn't help screaming and laughing. It was exhilarating.  "This is the best day ever!" Levi squealed.   Yes, it's definitely one to remember.

Words don't adequately express how thankful I am for this beautiful country and the freedoms that we enjoy. I only hope I can pass some of that love and respect along to my boys.

(Scroll down for lots of pictures!)

Levi's Third Set of Wheels

7.08.2016
^^My boys out on an evening bike ride.  They had fun careening down the freshly paved hill behind our house.  It was literally a dirt and gravel road just yesterday morning!^^

Yesterday we took a quick trip to Sun Valley for an appointment.  To help ease my stress about where exactly I was headed, Bron came along with us.  It wound up being a family day trip complete with lunch, ice cream, and a little shopping at our favorite thrift store.  

A few days ago, after watching Levi's little legs rotate faster than the RPM's on my car, Bron and I began discussing the possibility of graduating Levi to a bigger bike.  As we entered into the thrift shop, lo and behold, there it was: a Giant 16" black, white, and orange bike for a steal at just $35.  We couldn't possibly pass it up!  And to our pleasant surprise, Levi took to it like a fish to water.  He rode off like a bullet down the street with Bron running just to keep up!  Levi was ecstatic.  The bigger wheels give him the speed he's been looking for to keep up with his big brother!  Needless to say, Levi's been attached to his bike since.  We rode around the neighborhood last night.  And first thing this morning after breakfast, we went for another ride.  We were gone an hour!  Whoa.