Happy New Year! Quick 2019 Recap


I selfishly love putting these year at a glance collages together just to see how cohesive and colorful my photography is!  It's surprisingly gratifying.  Plus, it's of course fun to review all that has happened and all that we have done.  I can't help but feel grateful for this one crazy BEAUTIFUL life and the people I get to share it with!

2019 was a really great year overall.  My boys are getting older and more independent.  There always seems to be some mess to clean up, some fight to referee, or some unwanted behavior to redirect, but there's also always something to laugh about, something to look forward to, and most importantly, someONE to hug.  These boys of mine (yes, especially the big one!) bring so much sunshine into my life daily.  I can't wait to add one more someone in 2020!

Here are the highlights from 2019:

January:  Bron and I enjoyed an overnight ski trip to Grand Targhee and I began potty training Conrad.

February:  We enjoyed sledding and snowshoeing to Ross Falls in the snow.  Jed and Levi wrestled.  Everyone in the family caught the actual flu except Conrad.

March:  Jed and Levi participated in their first Pinewood derby and we spent a week playing in St. George, Utah over Spring break!

April:  Jed turned 9 years old.  Bron and I spent a blissful and adventurous week in Maui!  

May:  Bron and I celebrated 12 years of marriage.  I spent a special girls' weekend at Women's Conference in Utah with family.  I got to play my violin for MCO in both Boise and Orange County; it also meant I got to spend a fun weekend visiting my dad.  We got rained out during our annual Nelson Camp and Climb event at the City of Rocks.  

June:  The boys began spending all their free time in the water and at baseball.  We started our Sunday evening tradition of roasting marshmallows in the South Hills.  Bron took the young men on a four day High Adventure Campout and got snowed on!
July:  We celebrated Independence Day!  I visited New York City with my mom and sister and played my violin in Carnegie Hall.  Bron and I rode our bikes in a relay race called El Doce.  We went on our first mountain bike ride all together as a family of five!

August:  Levi turned 7 years old.  We took a fantastic family vacation to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Glacier National Park.  We found a camping spot with the most incredible view of the stars.  The boys started 4th and 2nd grades.  

September:  The kids and I performed in the Primary Program at church.  The big boys started swim team.  I found out I was pregnant!

October:  I took the boys to their first Haunted House, we carved pumpkins, and celebrated Halloween!  I tried not to fall apart with a calendar full of family photo shoots coupled with morning sickness.

November:  Conrad turned three years old!  We celebrated Thanksgiving and got to see our newest addition on the ultrasound screen for the first time.  

December:  We closed on five acres of land to build a new home, hosted a delicious donut party with friends, played in the snow, and celebrated Christmas!  Lastly, Levi got 13 stitches in his face.

13 Stitches for Levi's Face


 WARNING: These are some slightly real life graphic images.

Guess who got 13 stitches in his face over the weekend?!?

We had just arrived at Grandma Nelson's house and been there for maaaybe a half hour, when Levi came through the back door crying, his face and hands covered in blood.  I immediately set to work, asking for some paper towels to wipe away the blood.  (All moms know head wounds are extra bloody and always look worse than they really are, right?)  I wouldn't let Levi look in the mirror.  I didn't want him to see the gash in his face and become hysterical.

Levi had been helping his cousin Leah feed calves on the dairy farm when he slipped and fell onto a metal pipe.  (Actually, it sounds like they were playing -- not working.  Lol.)

"Bud, you are definitely going to need stitches for this one," I said matter of factly.  "Do you think he needs stitches?" I asked my sister in law, Amber.  "Yeah, he needs stitches," I answered my own question.  There were two big gashes across Levi's nose and cheek: one looked particularly deep and neither were clean and straight.

Nearly everyone had left the house to go night skiing, so Amber jumped right in to help me out.  She's such an angel!  She offered to watch the other two boys for me, warmed up her van for me to borrow, and suggested I head into the Rigby Community Care.

Merry Christmas 2019


You guys, the magic of Christmas is REAL!  The lights, the treats, the anticipation.  It's all so much fun!  I can't believe another Christmas has already come and gone.  It was another happy/crazy one at the Nelson home with three little believers.  Bron and I intended to keep this Christmas simple and low key, but the boys somehow wound up spoiled rotten anyway!  The living room was littered in boxes and wrapping and more toys and games than the kids knew what to do with.  I am so grateful we get to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and all that He did for us in this way.

This December, we followed the study guide in the 25 Days of Christ, a gift my sister gave us last year.  I think our whole family enjoyed studying and discussing Christ's life in bits and pieces throughout the entire month.  Jed was the one who actually instigated our family devotional each evening. I know these almost nightly studies turned my thoughts more towards Christ this season and made Christmas just that much more meaningful!

Anyway, here are pictures from our messy but joyful Christmas morning.  I love capturing the looks on my boys' faces as they open up something that makes them happy!      

December Shorts


^^Just happy to play in a big box.^^

Fourth Baby Bumpdate: 16 Weeks


^^This baby bump feels so much bigger than it actually is!^^

 Alternate Title: The Happiest Reason to Feel Miserable

My goodness.  How am I already less than a month away from being halfway through this pregnancy?  And less than a month away from the big 20 week ultrasound scan?

A part of me is exhaling.  Thank goodness this pregnancy is going so fast.  Pregnancy is nooo bueno.  I'm still feeling occasionally sick during the day, but I especially feel puny at night: nausea, bloat, gas, and headaches.  Yup.  I'm still experiencing all the classic morning sickness symptoms.  It has GOT TO END SOMEDAY, right?  Well, there's a definite end date if it doesn't go away soon; it's called May.  So I'm hanging in there.  I remind myself that the aches and pains of pregnancy are always worth it.  That precious baby is worth it all!  But with that said, I never want to do this again.

I explained to Bron, "Pregnancy is like going through puberty super fast.  My body and hormones are changing so quickly, I can hardly keep up."  Bron replied, "Imagine living with that person!"  Bahaha.  Touche!

It's Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas!


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!!  Look at that beautiful winter wonderland.  

We enjoyed our first big snowfall this weekend: inches where we live and a couple of feet up in the mountains!  The best part is that it's cold enough to stick around for a while.  I love going up into the South Hills after a fresh layer of snow has fallen.  The snow hanging on the evergreen branches just feels magical.  It makes me giddy with happiness... until about February.  Haha.  But for now, I'm soaking it in for all it's worth.

After a few chores around the house yesterday, Bron and I loaded the boys up into the truck to take them sledding for the first time this season.  The hill was surprisingly uncrowded.  Bron helped the boys cut some brand new tracks in the snow and they careened down the hill over and over again.  I'm pretty sure they all got a face full of powder at one time or another!

Conrad would not keep his gloves on.  He complained that his hands were cold, so he'd take his gloves off only to stick his hands in the snow.  That routine was obviously not working for him, but a couple of cups of hot chocolate seemed to reverse the damage.  Conrad is such a happy kid.  He really had a good time overall and chatted my ear off about it.

After our snowy sledding adventure, we returned home for some dry clothes and then took the boys into town for dinner and some Christmas shopping.  We really wore them out!  Sunday morning I felt so stupid walking into their room after 8am to wake them for church.  Who wakes three sleeping boys?!?

Good memories I hope we'll get to repeat a few more times this winter.

A Traditional Nelson Thanksgiving {Video}


We just spent yet another Thanksgiving weekend doing what I think we all prefer best: hanging out on the Nelson Family Dairy Farm!  Merri Sue does not get enough credit (nor gives herself enough credit) for all that she does to make this holiday so special.  Those Nelson boys all come flocking home for a reason -- or maybe twenty reasons.  And they're all so good.  I feel so lucky to have married into such a loving and solid family.

This year, I decided to practice my budding videography skills to make a moving video of a typical Nelson Thanksgiving.  This video really is made just for sentimental value and the learning experience.  There was low light, mixed light, color casts... all sorts of difficult and unpretty photography situations.  Plus, my weaknesses in videography are becoming pretty apparent to me, which honestly just makes more anxious to hurry and learn some more!

BUT this is what a typical Nelson Thanksgiving looks like.  It's pretty special, actually.  The house is busting at the seams with people and noise.  We chat and play games and eat until our stomachs can't stand the thought of another bite. Then the next day, we go bowling.  It's a tradition worth repeating every year.

P.S.  I love how the cabin/farm is a character all of its own!  

Exciting News: Part II


It's HAPPENING!  We got an accepted offer and just signed papers to buy five acres of land.  We're going to build our dream home!!!  And add a few trees and animals to the property too.

It's all been a whirlwind.  I went out with Bron one Sunday afternoon to see this large triangle shaped piece of property and its beautiful views from atop a hill.  I wasn't expecting to even like the property, but it was love at first sight.  You know, one of those things that just feels good.

The property is in an oversized neighborhood just a few miles South of our current home.  In fact, we know most of the neighbors.  Nothing significant will change for the boys.  They will still be in the same ward at church and go to the same school; just ride a different bus.  So they're all in on the move!

I know for a fact that a new home will not make me any happier; I'm already happy and content with where we are now.  But selfishly, the idea of more space for the kids and more organization and a home that is designed with things I love, really appeals!  More importantly however, the boys will have opportunities to raise their own 4-H animals.  (I might throw an alpaca in there because they're fuzzy and cute.)  They will learn the value of responsibility and physical labor by digging fence post holes, changing water lines in the pasture, and feeding their animals.  They will also inevitably spend their summer days playing in the creek in the canyon with the other neighborhood kids.  All these factors combined are what really appeal!

Exciting News and Really Exciting News!


BIG changes are on the way for the Nelson family!  Do you want to hear the exciting news first or the really exciting news?

I'll begin with the really exciting news: we're expecting a baby due the end of May!

The news came as sort of a shock and sweet surprise.  I honestly thought three children was our number!

We tried to get pregnant for a year or so with no luck -- even with a little medical help.  Eventually, I decided to give the quest up all together and hopped back on some oral birth control.  (For reasons I don't feel obligated to explain here.)  As we gathered our family around for prayer in the evening, seeing my three boys there just made me feel content and at peace.  However, every time I mentioned to a friend that we were done having kids, something inside me said that wasn't the truth.  I chalked it all up to just being in my head; it's hard to let go of a dream.

Fast forward to this summer when I forgot to take my birth control pills a few times and my period came nearly a week early two months in a row.  I thought, "Forget this! I'll call my OB when school starts and get on something more permanent.  It's about time I seriously start the cancer prevention ball rolling anyway."

Well, a few weeks later found me in the bathroom trying to smear what just had to be a hair casting a shadow onto a positive pregnancy test, right?!  LOL.

I instinctively knew I was pregnant.  I was getting light headed when I stood up too quickly.  I was using the bathroom in the middle of the night.  And I suddenly wanted nothing to do with my poor husband. Haha.

Still, that positive pregnancy test came with a host of emotions!  They ranged from joy and excitement (A real squishy baby to hold!  More innocent childhood to soak in!) to disappointment (All those summer backpacking plans put on hold!) to fear (What if I miscarry again?  Can I really handle four kids?).  But really, that second pink line was the most welcome surprise.  I still can't help but thank my Heavenly Father for this sweet blessing to be pregnant once again.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Conrad! {A Video}


I can't believe the day is here.  Our littlest man turned three years old!  He has been SUCH a sunshine and delight in our family.  Conrad is a big personality wrapped up in a little body.  He makes us smile and laugh (and pull out our hair too) all day long.  Have I ever mentioned that he's high energy, super independent, and loves to run away from me?  That last part causes me so much stress from time to time, but still,  I just can't get enough of him.  And he knows it too.  Conrad can get whatever his little heart desires, including a donut with "sprinklers" from the grocery store, every time.

This year, I wanted to capture Conrad at this cute stage in the way only video can.  I wanted to make sure I captured how he's obsessed with all things that "go round and round".  I wanted to document his "Uh-uh" jump (I have no idea where that came from, but it's important to him.) and his imaginary birdie that hatches and comes to play with us daily.  The sweet little yellow bird lives on either my shoulder or his until it ultimately flies off or dies.  (Is that not a boy thing, or what?!)  Most of all though, I wanted to capture his voice.  Conrad never stops talking and he is such a tease!  I will miss that little voice as he inevitably matures.  There's just something extra cute and special about this innocent toddler stage.

Don't grow up too fast, Conrad!  I kind of want to bottle you up just the way you are now, forever.  But I know there is so much more fun ahead.  Happy 3rd Birthday!!!  We love you so very much.  

Halloween Night 2019


"It's Halloween night.  A night to beware.  A night to scare." -- Olivier Dunrea  I couldn't help myself.  I've been reading Ollie's Halloween to Conrad on repeat; the words are just stuck in my head.  Even Conrad quotes it!  Haha.

One of my favorite holidays of the year came around again: HALLOWEEN!  After summer is over and school begins, I live for all things Fall.  (Except for pumpkin spice. You crazy folks can keep that nasty flavor.)  There's something about the crispness in the air, the colorful leaves spread all over the ground, and the anticipation of all things spooky and fun that just gets me excited.

This year, Jed had his heart set on becoming a creepy vampire for a night.  (Don't you love his makeup??  I'm pleasantly surprised with myself.)  Levi found his kick butt ninja costume for $2 at Once Upon a Child.  And Conrad, well, he wouldn't let me sway his decision to be a pumpkin on Halloween night one bit.  His mind was set in stone.  It was so funny and cute!  Ever since we carved Jack-o-lanterns last season, Conrad's intrigue in pumpkins has only heightened.

We've been living in our neighborhood eight years now and we've developed a tradition with our neighbors on Halloween night that I think we've all come to love.  It's super simple really.  First, everyone gathers in our front yard for pictures.  (Yup, you guessed it, I'm the official photographer.)  And then we all head out together as one giant group of friends to trick-or-treat around the neighborhood.  Some years the turnout is bigger than others, but the invite is always there and my boys love, love, love the tradition of going door to door with their friends.  This year, we did just that again.  Such sweet childhood memories!  Halloween night would not be the same without our awesome neighbors.

The Jack-O-Lanterns Have Been Carved


We carved our Jack-o-lanterns tonight!  Jed and Levi carved their very own for the first time (I'm impressed Levi didn't cut off an eyebrow or something) and Mickey Mouse was done free hand by the best dad in the world -- who does not like Halloween by the way, but humors the rest of us anyway.  The boys are so excited!  However, none were more excited than Conrad who, during the entire carving process, would not quit talking.

Also not to be forgotten, is the night I took Jed and Levi to their very first spook house.  They had been begging to go to one.  We headed out on a Friday night around 7pm to Stricker After Dark.  The old Stricker station is kind of creepy during the day!  But the haunted house is a short tour of the old museum that I know the boys are familiar with, so I thought it might make for a good first experience.  We sat around the bon fire eating caramel popcorn until our group was called.  Levi wasn't sure whether or not to believe the short story that was told before going into the spook house.  "Mom?" he asked uncertainly.  There were actors, low light, and lots of loud noises.  It even creeped me out!  "That wasn't real, right Mom?" Levi asked as we left.  "No Bud.  None of it is real.  It's just for fun," I explained.

No one had nightmares so we'll totally be back next year.  I love that my boys share my enthusiasm for Halloween.

Artifact Motherhood | An Essay on Happiness + One Summer Day {A Video}


There seems to be this big universal question going around the internet these days:


Well, here are my thoughts on the matter.  I'm no expert, keep in mind.  But I do feel like a generally happy person.

First, I've got to say that I don't believe that we are meant to be happy 100% of the time.  No way.  Having "opposition in all things" (2 Nephi 2:11) includes our feelings.  And if you suffer from an illness like depression or anxiety, feelings are a lot more complicated.  Anyway, that said, the sweet is so much sweeter after the sour!

Next, I believe that our thoughts create our feelings.  It's totally something I learned from listening to some Jody Moore podcasts and I think she is right on.  We are in charge of our own lives, so let's take control of what we can and conquer those dreams and goals!  Think positively; see the glass as half full.  And give other people the benefit of the doubt.  Being lenient and forgiving of others has silently given me permission to forgive myself of my own shortcomings. (Or at least that's what I've noticed about myself!)

Lastly, Happiness = Summer Time!  Duh!  The warm sunshine, the outdoor adventure, and family time are the perfect trifecta for making life extra good.

September Snapshots and a Few Paragraphs About Life Lately


Welcome Fall!  I can't tell you how excited I am about wearing sweaters and watching the leaves change colors.  It's here!!!  Conrad and I have been going on weekly Friday morning dates to play and just be outdoors.  I love having a little buddy around who genuinely likes to explore with me.  Conrad is so cute and so much fun.  Plus, he might even enjoy the Taco Wagon more than me!  I am so grateful we have three more years together before he heads off to school.

A few things that happened this month:

::  The kids performed in their Primary Program at church last Sunday!  I've been the primary music leader all year and I am so glad that the program is over.  Haha.  We sang 13 songs!  I am so proud of the primary children; they knew every word and sang their little hearts out... especially Levi who sang with a lot of enthusiasm!  That kid has so much personality.  My mom even came out to visit to see the program first hand.  The boys were sooo excited to have Grandma and Grandpa Kelley there to see them!  I admit, it was fun for me too.

::  I served on a jury last week.  It was my first time being able to serve on a jury.  There was just six of us and I found it really kind of interesting.  It was a he said - she said kind of a case about a young man eluding a police officer.  When we went back to deliberate at the end of the day, I thought there was no way we had enough evidence to find the kid guilty.  But then we began discussing things through logically and proving all the points the judge sent with us.  (One observation: education and life experience make a difference when thinking logically!  A young person without an education can be a bit difficult to work with on a jury.)  In the end, we found the young man guilty of eluding a police officer.  I don't know what his sentence was, but I do hope the judge wasn't too harsh.  The defendant was just a scared mouthy kid, after all!  But the facts spoke for themselves; we couldn't let emotion get in the way.  Did he commit the crime or did he not commit the crime?  I suppose a good judge fills in for the emotion and can show some mercy when appropriate.  It was a misdemeanor anyway; it won't stay on his permanent record.  

Also, jury duty wiped me out!  The next day I was sooo tired.  I'm not used to sitting and paying close attention to detail all day.

::  Bron and I took all three boys to Sushi Ya for an all you can eat sushi dinner.  Bron and I looked at each other and laughed, "What have we done?"  These boys are developing some expensive pallets!  But I am so proud that the boys love to try new foods and often find that they like them.  It was so funny to watch Jed and Levi stuff themselves.  Jed leaned back in his chair with his hands on his stomach.  There was no possible way he could eat another bite.  Levi claimed he launched his "emergency stomach".  "Don't throw up!" I begged.  We pretty much rolled the boys to the truck.  An expensive but totally successful and memorable dinner outing.  #worthit    

Bushwhacking with a View and a September Family Update


Popping into the blog today to share some pictures from our little bushwhacking adventure in the South Hills Sunday night.  Bron is really excited about his personal project to restore some old trails for mountain biking and has his buddy Bryce on board as well.  They're just big kids: exploring the hillsides, rolling rocks, and cutting through brush.   Those two have been having so much fun.

There's really not much to report so far here in September.  We've settled in to the new school schedule quickly and life has just been rolling along.

Jed and Levi are pros at getting themselves up and showered in the morning.  They enjoy school and seem to be doing well, so far.  Swim team starts next week!  It will add one more dimension of places to go and things to do, but I think we'll all enjoy the water.  Bron has also been reading to the boys at night.  They're right smack dab in the middle of the Storm Testament; it's keeping them on the edge of their beds for sure!  While the big boys read, Conrad and I snuggle up on the couch to read in the other room.  It's a great evening routine when it happens!

Bron is carefully balancing work, Young Men's, family life, exercise, and mountain biking.  It's quite the tightrope act, but I couldn't be more proud of that man.  He has his priorities straight and our relationship feels really solid right now.

As for me, with Conrad in daycare two days a week, I have been getting all. the. things. done!  It's really impressive what I can get done in a few hours without any interruption.  So far this month I've cleaned out and organized the boys' room, the toy room, the office, and just today, the master bedroom.  I have time to sweep, mop, and vacuum the floors more regularly.  I've been taking Conrad's little friend on one day a week while his mama packs up their house to move.  I've been exercising.  I've been editing.  The privilege of "me" time has made a huge difference!  I notice I am more attentive to the boys after school.  And  I feel like I can truly relax -- get just one or two things done when Conrad is home -- and then ENJOY him!  Last week, we played at the park and then went on a little lunch date to the taco truck.

So at the moment, life is really good for the Nelsons.  We're all often tired by the day's end, but we've been blessed with a lot.

Apple Pie {A Video}


I have always wanted to learn how to properly use my camera to make videos, but it always felt overwhelming... until an online friend directed me to the Filming Life Academy.  They held a free 9 day filming life keepsake challenge this past week in which they shared a little bit of basic beginner information every day with the purpose of encouraging new film makers (like me!) to make their own one to two minute film.

You guys, I am hooked!  I not only get to combine my musical background with my obsession of photography, but I get to capture the people I love most in full motion and sound.  Their laughter!  My boys' voices that will surely change.  The funny things my children do.  Video is exciting to me!  I have found a whole other world to dive into and learn about.

I have this insatiable desire to document and create.  Photography (and video) fill both those inner desires of mine and make me so very happy.  Naturally, my favorite subjects to photograph and practice on are my children.

Yesterday, we made a pair of apple pies together with apples from our backyard tree.  It's something we do every September, except this time, I filmed it.  I know practically nothing about the technical side of videography.  In fact, all my work is probably half wrong.  But every time I watch this little video, I laugh when my boys laugh.  It means a lot to me that I captured those giggles and this little tradition!

I hope you watch and enjoy!        

New York City Girls' Trip


Remember when I wrote a blog post about performing my violin in Carnegie Hall?  And remember all those silly pictures I shared of my siblings and me having a fun time and making awful faces?  Well, this is the post where I share the rest of the story and pictures.  Are you ready?!

This trip to New York City in July had been planned months ahead.  It all began when my mom joined the Millennial Choirs and Orchestra in Boise and encouraged me to join as well because they were going on tour to play in Carnegie Hall -- pretty much every musician's dream venue.  Of course, the plan snowballed to include my sister.  And so a girls' trip to New York City was born!  We spent a few days exploring the city, performed in Carnegie Hall, and then hopped on a plane to Indianapolis to visit my brother Joe and his wife Karmen for two days.  It was sooo much fun!  (Even more amazing, you'd never know my sister battled breast cancer just over a year ago would ya?)

Thanks Mom for putting this all together.  It will for sure be a special memory that I will cherish for a lifetime.

The Obligatory First Day of School Pictures


Bringing you photos of the first day of school... on the third day of school!  These two handsome studs started 4th and 2nd grades on Monday.  Levi was a little nervous Sunday evening, but didn't show any inhibitions come morning.  They were so excited!  Both boys were up, showered, dressed, and ready for breakfast by 7:10AM.  I am so glad they love their routine; it makes mornings go so smoothly.

This year, Levi has Mrs. Casperson.  She's a sweet and typical type A teacher who will hopefully teach Levi how to be organized and responsible this year.  I have no doubt Levi will have fun with all his friends and succeed in whatever he puts his mind to this year!

Jed has Mr. Butler and I am thrilled.  His teacher is going to be teaching the kids through reverse engineering this year... something I know Jed is really going to enjoy!  I think this teacher is going to be the perfect fit for Jed this school year.

Camping Under the Milky Way


A couple of weeks ago we were headed up into the South Hills together as a family on a Sunday afternoon when Jed asked if we could go camping.  I could see Bron mulling over the request in his mind.  He passed the idea by me later that evening.  I was all in; it sounded fun!  But then we debated on where.  Do we keep it simple and head up into the South Hills or travel a little further and discover some place new?  I am so glad we decided to put in the extra effort at the last minute to camp in an area of Idaho none of us had ever visited before because... It. Was. Epic.

We left the house on Friday afternoon, three days before school started; one last summer adventure.  We found a large camping spot in a grassy area near a creek under some beautiful mountain peaks.  The place was like a dream!  We hardly saw or heard other campers all weekend.  The place felt so remote.  It was wonderful.    

Last Half of Summer Round-Up


^^Two year old potty humor.  He thought he was hilarious! 😂^^

You guys, I take it back.  I'm not quite ready for summer to end and school to start after all.  It's no secret that summer is hands down my favorite season: the warm sunshine, water play, adventuring, sleeping in, and being together as a family.  It just can't be beat!  I am going to miss these carefree days and late backyard sunsets like crazy.

The other day I turned on Pandora to jam out while I cleaned my kitchen.  The song 'Summer of '69' came on.... "those were the best days of my life."  I wondered to myself what the best days of my life might be when I'm old and wrinkly and ready to pass on.  I thought of those days when Bron and I were dating and newly married.  Those were definitely good ones.  And then it occurred to me that these just might be some of the best days of my life.  Right now!  The last couple of years and perhaps a few more ahead.  The kids are at such fun and innocent ages.  They're independent enough that they sleep through the night and can grab their own breakfast.  The boys love my attention and don't mind hanging out with me.  In fact, they think their parents are pretty cool!  Bron's career is humming along.  We live in a nice home on a beautiful piece of property with some of the best friends God ever created.  Life is good and we're pretty darn lucky.  Yup.  These are the days!

Our Coeur d'Alene Family Vacation Part III: Glacier National Park


By Wednesday evening, after Grandma and Grandpa Nelson had gone home, Bron and I weren't ready to be done vacationing!  We were having too much fun exploring with our boys.  Then we had this idea.  Since we were so close to Glacier National Park, we should drive up there for a night and show the boys one of our favorite places.  After all, it had been on our wish list to take them there since Bron and I visited five years ago!  So that's how we spontaneously extended our family vacation.  Worth it!

We miraculously pulled straight into a parking spot late Thursday afternoon in Glacier National Park and took the boys on the short hike to Avalanche Lake.  But first, to see the Cedars Trail.  

Our Coeur d'Alene Family Vacation Part II: Tubbs Hill + The Hiawatha Trail


Tuesday was a bit more low key as we set out to explore a few of Coeur d'Alene's downtown highlights at the kids' pace.

First on the list was to hike Tubbs' Hill!  We didn't finish the hike.  Instead, we pulled off at a beachy spot and the boys enjoyed playing in the water!  I didn't think to wear swimsuits or bring our towels.  (Actually, I wasn't thinking at all.  I was just surviving with my sore throat!)  But we all had a blast anyway.  I didn't talk much, but I sure did enjoy myself.  Hanging out at the water's edge in the sunshine and watching my boys happily play is a day in heaven in my book!

Ten. More. Days.


Dear Boys,

I am counting down the days til school starts with decidedly more excited anticipation than you are.  I never ever thought I'd utter those words, but here they are plain as day in black and white: I can't wait for you to go back to school!

Perhaps it's this awful sore throat, cough, and fever sickness I've been dealing with for over a week that's talking, but I can't be 100% sure.

You see, I'm ready for my house to stay somewhat clean for longer than five minutes.

There are Nerf bullets on every surface, sand in the crevices of the couch, trash and clutter piled up in your room, and sticky spills all over the kitchen floor.

I'm ready for a break from my job as referee.

I help fill part of our days together with fun outings, but you're frankly bored of each other. Oh, the screaming and the pestering!

I'm your mother.  I love you fiercely, boys.  But you're driving me crazy.

I'll probably be wishing it was summer again when that first school project comes home and we can't make some spontaneous trip to the pool, but for now, I've never been more ready for school to start.

Ten more days.

Until then, Hulu is your babysitter.


Our Coeur d'Alene Family Vacation Part I: Farragut State Park + Silverwood


We just arrived home from an epic family vacation to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho -- and a last minute extension to Glacier National Park!  Something about vacations makes me want to simplify my life so that my real life can feel more like this: time together.  We saw so many incredibly beautiful places and went on some adventures that I know the boys (and me too!) will be talking about for a long time.  These family vacations feel so special to me.  And this one went so smoothly with the kids.

We arrived in Coeur d'Alene the evening of Saturday August 3rd.  It just happened to be Levi's actual birthday! (We celebrated with chocolate cupcakes from the store.)  We checked in to our cute three bedroom Airbnb located in an older neighborhood among some tall trees.  That little home made our stay so much more comfortable!  I mean, I was doing a load of laundry after our first day.  The boys are always getting their clothes so filthy.  I love that we had a separate bedroom from the kids and that there was a full kitchen.  Plus, the boys' room had toys and the front room was loaded with family friendly movies.  It was great!

But it gets better.  The rental was just a short bike ride from Ross' Point, a little park on the river!  That was our first stop Sunday morning as we ventured out to explore for the day.      

Artifact Motherhood | Feelings From My Childhood


artifact motherhood

Dear Boys,

I had an experience this month that showed me how truly broken I am.  I had just spent a week with my mom, sister, and brother.  We made so many fun memories together.  When our trip was over, I drove two and a half hours alone in the car to get back home to you.  And I cried.  I bawled, actually.  My emotions swept me away and took me completely by surprise.  "Why in the world am I crying so much?"

Then it occurred to me: I left my childhood behind -- including all those unanswered and un-dealt with emotions -- years ago.  I turned 18 and moved away.  I attended college, married your dad, and haven't looked back since.  We've created a wonderful life together, your dad and I, that includes you three boys.  It's a life (and a relationship) I always dreamed of for myself.  I feel so lucky sometimes that I have to pinch myself.

The irony is that I know it can be all swept out from underneath me in an instant.  Your Aunt Lauren feels the same way about her life!  We seem to always be waiting for the other shoe to drop, as if some big ominous trial lies around every good corner.  That mindset right there is a reflection of our childhood.

Don't misunderstand.  I enjoyed a great childhood!  I have many precious memories that include bike rides, and beaches, and road trips to see cousins.

But my childhood was also riddled with emotional trauma.  Memories from my parents' divorce when I was eight years old (years of drama!) clear through the verbal and emotional abuse I endured primarily from my stepdad as a teenager, all came flooding back.

I feel like I need to write those memories out here to justify myself, but I won't.  Some stories are just pretty plain messed up. It all happened though and how I feel is how I feel.

How I feel is what's bothering me though.  Apparently I have not dealt with these feelings yet, just buried them in the past.

Celebrating Levi's 7th Birthday with a Nerf Gun War and Night Games


This cool kid turns 7 years old in a few days!  I cannot believe it.  He is getting so big and grown-up.  Like, how are his hands 3/4 as big as mine already?!  We celebrated his upcoming birthday with something Levi has been talking about doing for a long time with his friends: a Nerf Gun War + Night Games!

You guys, this was hands-down the easiest, most fun, and thrifty party I've ever hosted.  Forget Pinterest.  Simplicity is where it's at.

Levi said he wanted a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting.  I came through with a Funfetti box cake poured into a 9x13 pan.  Then I spread some green (Levi's favorite color) homemade frosting and sprinkles on top of it a couple of hours later.  Voila.  No stress and little mess!

As for décor, well, I lost my birthday box full of balloons and streamers and more!  I asked Bron to pick up some balloons; he accidentally bought a bag of pink and purple ones thinking they were multi-colored.  Bahaha.  So no decorations for Levi.  Honestly, he didn't even notice.

I did order a bag of glow sticks from Amazon and my friend Janie generously donated this box of 500 bullets.  Genius.  It was honestly all we needed for a good time.  That, and ten of Levi's best friends, of course.  Friends always make the party.

So after some cake, ice cream, and presents, the boys loaded up their Nerf guns and went to war!

They played a version of tag with two teams.  Each team had a secret medic.  When a guy got shot, the medic could rush to his aid and revive him.

Then as it got dark, I busted out the glow sticks and Bron taught the kids how to play Steal the Flag.  I think it was every boy's first time playing the game.  I am so proud we were the ones to introduce it to them; it really is the best summer time game.  They played five rounds before someone squirted himself in the eye with glow stick juice.  Ouch!  It was about time to call it a night anyway.

The kids had a blast!  They were all high on life and adrenaline as I dropped them off at their homes.  We are totally going to have to do this again.

A big thanks to all the neighborhood boys and their moms for making this dream of Levi's a reality.

Happy Birthday, Bud!  I love you so much.  Levi, you make me so proud in so many ways.  I can't wait to see what you do this year and for many years to come.

Our First Mountain Bike Ride as a Family of Five


We went for our first mountain bike ride as a family of five.  Yes!  Conrad went along!  It's kind of a special feeling to be all together on the trail.  Jed and Levi even conquered the entire Eagle loop for the very first time too.  Go boys!

We bought Conrad a rad new toy, er actually it's a seat.  It's called a Mac Ride, made by some crazy and innovative Canadians, of course.  It attaches to both Bron and my mountain bikes quickly and easily.  It's genius!  Then Conrad hops on the seat, places his feet in the stirrups, and grabs the handle bars.

"Ready, set, go!" Conrad excitedly chants.

Conrad can't get enough.  He's right in the middle of the action with us, both uphill and downhill; no fear.  He actually thinks he's in charge.  "Daddy on the side," he says.  It makes me chuckle.

Here's to many more priceless family bike ride memories!

A Trip to Ritter Island


We've lived in the Magic Valley for eight whole years this summer.  (I suppose that makes us boring and stable, but I welcome those two adjectives to describe my life with open arms.)  While living here, we've discovered some pretty amazing places to play that are worth visiting over and over again.  And we do!  However, as I put together a list of ideas of day adventures to do with the kids this summer, I suddenly had this desire to discover something new.  It felt like we'd been there and done it all, but I knew that couldn't possibly be true.  Turns out, all I had to do was broaden my radius a bit.  Enter Thousand Springs State Park.  There are multiple attractions to explore within the park, just about an hour's drive from our home.  Sweet!  So on Monday, the hottest day yet this summer, we checked off one of our summer day trip items: Ritter Island.

Ritter Island is literally an island that sits right smack in the middle of the Snake River.  It was once a self sustaining farm with dairy cows, fruit trees, and all sorts of other agriculture.  We wandered around the property and through the near one hundred year old barn.  We heard some owls but never did see them.

There is also a natural underground spring that bursts from the canyon walls in that area.  The crystal clear water is used to create electricity before running into the river.  Our volunteer guide told us that the water runs at about 52 degrees all year long and is so clean we could drink it!  (I wouldn't drink it downstream of Conrad though.  He pooped in his swimming suit.  I dumped the turd out in the bathroom but had no other choice but to put his trunks back on!  No worries, they were clean by the time we left.  wink-wink)

So after touring the island, we set up a picnic on the grass and ventured into the cold water.  The river there is shallow and very slow moving and just plain gorgeous.  The boys weren't too enthusiastic about the water at first, but soon realized they could float underneath the bridge and then they were all in!  A set of grandparents offered to let us borrow their tubes for the afternoon.  We took turns taking short lazy trips down the river and made some pretty amazing memories together!  I can't wait to go back.  (I already bought tubes!)

And just to keep it real, I have to mention the ginormous splinter Jed got stuck in the bottom of his foot!  Poor kid.  He went to cross the old bridge with a tube and must have dragged his foot a bit.  I have never seen a splinter so big or seen one lodge itself so deep.  (Lesson learned: always wear shoes on the bridge!)  Fortunately, I asked around and someone had an entire nail care packet in her car that included tweezers.  Jed screamed dramatically, but I successfully removed it!  We were then able to spend a couple more hours playing in the water.  Never a dull moment with three boys.

So a big fist pump for generous and friendly people who helped make our first trip to Ritter Island so much fun.  I love Idaho and its many pretty gems, but the good people here are what make it so great.  

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