Happy 4th of July

7.08.2019
^^My boys on the 4th of July! They were so stoked about their dollar sunglasses and bandanas and dressing in red, white, and blue. So of course, I gathered the three together for a quick picture in my favorite spot of the house. I've taken about a half dozen pictures of these brothers in this same corner since Easter. It's totally becoming a series that I know I'm going to cherish.^^

Independence Day landed on a Thursday this year, the most genius thing ever.  The 4th of July should always land on a Thursday!  It was a long weekend of celebrating and getting absolutely nothing done.  We deviated from "tradition" this year and chose to spend the holiday with the entire Nelson crew on the dairy farm.  (But first, we attended the annual Kimberly 5th Ward breakfast where I led the children in singing two fun holiday songs!)  The Nelson get together included loads of food (duh!), lots of chit chat, a tour of Talon's new home under construction, noise and chaos, cuddling babies, and finally, our very own fireworks show.  The kids claim we had nearly 100 fireworks.  I believe them!  It was quite the amateur production.

The next day, Nichole kindly babysat Conrad so that Bron and I could take Jed and Levi mountain biking with Grandma and Grandpa.  The boys biked five miles round trip on a singletrack trail!  I am so impressed with them... except for the part where Levi crumpled to the ground in despair on our way UP a steep hill on our way back to the truck.  I think the kid needed some lunch.  But he's only six, so considering it was his first big ride, he did really well over all!  We biked out to an old dam made in the late 19th century.  It's decaying now, creating two waterfalls on either side.  It was a beautiful destination and the trail was in pristine shape.  What a fun little adventure!      

Happy Independence Day!

7.04.2019

Happy Independence Day!  My second favorite holiday of the year is here!

I drove the boys up Indian Springs last night just as a storm was blowing through.  The clouds made for a dramatic backdrop and inspired a few fireworks themed images in post process.  I love getting my creative late night hat on.  It's so fun to try new things and learn more about editing.  It makes me happy.

Anyway, the three boys stomped around the rocks and sage brush waving their flags and pretending to be soldiers while I snapped pictures.  I admire their patriotism.  Considering their family background in the military, I would not be surprised if one -- or even all three brothers -- joined the armed forces someday.  It's something Levi talks about often.

I love this country.  Despite a number of heavy and hard things she's currently dealing with right now, I have faith she will pull through.  There is just so much to be proud of and thankful for.  I am grateful to be an American.  "Land of the free, because of the brave!"  May God continue to bless America.

June in a Dozen Short Paragraphs

6.28.2019
^^My bare chested boys of summer!  Procrastination at its finest.  They didn't want to read or practice, so they raided my craft closet.  I helped them make the headbands.  Then they promptly went off to "war" in the backyard.  But first, a picture.^^


June in a Dozen Short Paragraphs (ish)


1.  I WON a $100 gift card to Maverick from a drawing!  Pretty cool.

2.  Levi hit Jed in the head with a two by four.  Kid has a temper.  No worries, Jed is okay and probably partially deserved it.

3.  My hormones are all out of whack again.  I know because I have felt abnormally stressed and have a very short temper the week before I start my period.  Then I feel relief when it finally starts.  (At least I recognize the severe mood swings, right?)  It means I am hopping back on birth control, bringing a year and a half stint of trying for a fourth baby to an end.  It's really bittersweet, but feels like the right thing?  I think.  Secondary infertility is the pits.  My friend Danielle empathized with me and told me that it's okay to mourn that loss, that dream.  Bless her.  I could have kissed her and cried; she understands.

Slowly, I think I am learning to trust God and His plan for me, to be content with what I've been given.  Three healthy boys are more than enough to fill my motherhood cup!

A Day at the Zoo on Summer Solstice

6.23.2019

Summer solstice.  I kind of wish we actually celebrated the day like it's a holiday because I love summer that much!  I love how it's still light outside til nearly 10PM.  I often lose track of what time it is and realize we should have eaten dinner two hours ago.  The boys are going to bed late and sleeping in.  We're not keeping to an exact schedule anymore; meaning I need 20 extra minutes to get anywhere on time.  Haha.  Our pace has finally slowed a bit.  The boys are enjoying less expectations and stress with the absence of school and I am enjoying all this extra free time with them just soaking them in, even if it does include more chaos from time to time because summer also means cuddles in bed, trips to the pool, and time to talk and to listen.  Ultimately, summer is time together as a family and more outdoor adventures, two things that make my heart and soul happy.  I love summer!

On June 21st, the longest day of the year, the boys and I made a quick day trip to Boise to visit my mom and brother.  Conrad was so excited to visit, "Gramma Kelley house!"  We enjoyed a really fun afternoon exploring Zoo Boise where Conrad took his time oogling over every animal and exhibit.  Two year olds are the best to take to the zoo!  I was glad to see that Jed and Levi haven't outgrown the excitement of it either; they actually started reading the signs and educating themselves a bit!

Afterwards, a child must have left the car door open or something because I had to find help from someone to jump my car!  But it all worked out.  We ate pizza for dinner and the kids had a blast riding down my mom's sloped driveway.  Good times and good memories.  Thanks for letting us come visit, Mom!
       

It's Baseball Season!

6.17.2019

We are right smack dab in the middle of baseball season with two evenings a week preoccupied with games!  Jed and Levi are on the same machine pitch team this year.  Unlike many of their friends, neither of my boys have become fixated on any one particular sport.  They're just out there to have fun!  (And if we're really being honest, Levi is there for the treats afterwards.  Haha.)  It definitely feels like we're the odd ball family in our little town when it comes to baseball.  What?  They're not dressed to the nines baseball pants?  But I'm okay with that.  Jed and Levi will eventually hone in on their own interests and passions, and when they do, Bron and I will be all in to support them.

This season, both Jed and Levi love to play catcher.  I've watched them excitedly volunteer as their teammates shrink away.  Jed has also improved so much since last year; it's fun to watch him swing that bat.

Finally, Moms, please tell me your kids look like this in the dugout too?!  These boys just can't seem to sit still.

^^Levi playing catcher.^^
^^Kimberly has that All American small town feeling in the summer.^^

The First Week of Summer in Photos + A Few Paragraphs About Real Life Lately

6.08.2019
We've kicked off the summer strong and hard!  I've found myself reaching for my camera often because I just love everything that screams summer and outdoors and childhood.  Our skin is sun kissed and we've been going to bed late.  I'll let the pictures tell most of the stories.  After all, a picture speaks a thousand words, right?


Three Points About Real Life Lately:

1.  First, I just want to acknowledge that the struggle is real!  There are challenges over here that come in all shapes and sizes.  (Our first week of summer together has been... intense, for lack of a better word.)  I know it's easy to assume that perhaps we live a life without problems because I seem to post only the highlight reel, but please know that our hard moments -- the ones that make us stretch and grow -- exist every day.  Some are pretty darn monotonous too.  Motherhood is as physically exhausting as it is mentally exhausting!  However, I don't like to dwell on the negative.  I'm here to celebrate motherhood and family!  I'm here to seek out beauty in the small moments of life that make me feel happy.  Please don't ever mistake my optimism for perfection.  This blog is a summary of our life, but I omit a significant amount of details/opinions to protect the image and feelings of my loved ones.


No thunderstorm was going to deter us from attending the Young's annual summer kickoff party!  It thundered and rained on and off the entire afternoon.  But the kids ate popsicles and jumped in the pool anyway.  Our friend Shonni brought six wee rescue rabbits to share.  I wish we could have brought one home with us.  Conrad's outfit killed me.  The red boots + Dad's socks + his tiny pants + a bunny = winner of best dressed for the party.  Clearly!

After the party, I took Levi to get a baby tooth pulled.  Am I the meanest mom ever?  Probably.  But no worries.  He bounced back quick.  

A Day in the Life 2019

5.29.2019

Welcome to the 7th annual Day in the Life post!  I can't believe I've been doing this for so long.  I have enjoyed documenting a day each May.  It's a lot of work, but I cannot believe how much changes from year to year.  It means so much to me to be able to click on this label and see our lives evolve right before my eyes.  Time seems to be speeding up faster and faster, and though I dig in my heels to reign it back, time marches on.  I really am trying to notice and cherish the little moments -- enjoyable and not so enjoyable -- every day.

*****

This year, I picked Tuesday May 21st as the day to document.  Since wrestling season ended in March, we don't have anywhere to be on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.  It's really nice!  As much as the boys enjoyed wrestling, they also got tired of not having any significant down time during the week.  It's been a healthy break for the boys.  However, baseball games begin in June and so our Tuesday and Thursday evenings will be full again, but it'll be summer!  

To document for my sake, this school year Levi has piano lessons on Mondays from 4:15 - 5:00pm.  On Wednesdays, I pick the boys up from school armed with snacks and a water bottle.  We go to Jed's ukulele lesson at 4:00pm.  Afterwards, we often hit up the Twin Falls Library.  Sometimes all three boys get their hair cut.  Then I cook dinner and drive Jed into Kimberly for Scouts.

But let's talk about last Tuesday...

The 3rd Annual Nelson Camp and Climb

5.26.2019

I just made that title up, but I think it's about time this little shindig of ours got an official name.  Yes, this is the third year in a row that the Nelson crew has gotten together in the month of May to camp near Castle Rocks and go climbing the next day.

This year, Kaleb found this awesome teeny cabin with a kitchen, bathroom, and one room sleeping area in the drop dead beautiful valley of Elba, Idaho.  (In fact, if we could just pick up and move there, I might just do it!)  The cabin he rented sits on a few acres and is meant for camping and group get-togethers just like ours.  Access to some electricity, running potable water, and a bathroom made camping that much nicer.  Way to go, Kaleb in heading that up!

Unfortunately, this Spring has been the season of the never ending rains.  Rain storms have rolled through every day for nearly two weeks now and it looks as if it's going to keep on raining for another week.  Nooo!  I've been wearing a jacket everywhere because the temps are hanging out in the 40's and 50's.  Brrrr.  Idaho please reclaim your happy, sunny, dry desert self!  We miss you!  

My Feral Toddler and Spring Cleaning

5.16.2019

The weather is beautiful which means I can no longer hide my feral child under warm layers or within the walls of our home.  Conrad's new favorite activity: get naked and play in the dog water.

Remember, he poops he pants and loses his shoes too.  Wherever we go, even though I am prepared, I just can't seem to be prepared enough for whatever he throws out.  

Two is both the best and the worst age.  On one hand, Conrad is so stinking cute!  The way he talks and thinks and all the unconditional love he gives just melts me to a puddle on the floor.  (Those kisses!!)  On the other hand, he is sooo exhausting.  Conrad throws a fit over things I cannot control (Sorry, it's Thursday), makes all sorts of messes in the name of independence... poops his pants, and loses his shoes.  Heaven help me, I struggle to keep up.  But he makes me so incredibly happy.           

Spilling the Details About My First MCO Concerts

5.14.2019

Remember when I auditioned and joined the Millennial Choirs and Orchestra back in February?  Well, everything turned out better than I could have ever anticipated.

First, I have to say that the MCO repetoire has exceeded all of my expectations.  I love making music and being a part of something so much bigger than myself.  The music is legit; some of it is challenging to play -- which makes it all the more fun for me!  The repetoire's energy and emotion coupled with the solidifying testimony of the spirit is overwhelming.  It gives the production a purpose.  And since that purpose is so near and dear to my own heart, it feels worthwhile.  

The website says, "MCO was founded for the purpose of teaching and encouraging excellence in quality sacred and classical music. Its primary purpose is to fulfill the need for more refined music performance education in our communities, with a focus on God and country. Similar to the music of the masters—Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms—we are bringing God back into the concert hall with the sacred/classical music that is such a rich part of the history of the world. We feel this is vital in today’s society, particularly for the youth of America."

Spring Stories

5.09.2019

Spring is here!!!

::  Sometimes when I want to shoot just for me, I attach my old and not so reliable 50mm lens with the intent to capture what I can and practice free lensing.  It helps me let go of my perfectionism and just shoot from the heart.  My boys feel it too because these are the moments when I often capture some of my most favorite photos of them.

We had so much fun last night playing outside together on the "bike track" the big boys are obsessed with.  Some kids with a four wheeler and dirt bike put in the track on a small piece of "no man's land" a few weeks ago and now Jed and Levi (as well as their friends Caleb and Josh) have claimed it as theirs.  They've carried a shovel out there a time or two after school to make improvements.  These kids have the life!

A Special Girls' Weekend

5.07.2019

Yes, it's as crazy as you might suspect.  I spent three days at home recovering from jet lag (Poor Jessie.  She went to Hawaii.  Haha.) and then turned around to drive to Utah for a special girls' weekend with some of the ladies in my life whom I hold most close and dear to my heart.  It was completely worth it.  In fact, I kept thanking Bron over the phone for putting up with the boys tired and solo to let me do this.  I felt spiritually uplifted, deeply connected to these women, and ready to start fresh with some new goals in mind.

We all gathered at Grandma's house to attend BYU Women's Conference.  It was two full days of food (Rachel's first priority!  I love that she loves food so much.), fun, shopping, laughter, learning, and late nights.  I gleaned a number of great insights from Women's Conference, but my favorite part of the weekend was when Grandma gathered us (+ my cousin Devin) around the kitchen table Saturday morning to discuss with us some things she'd recently learned.  The gathering turned in to a testimony meeting of sorts.  Personal stories and heartaches were shared alongside some really tender spiritual experiences.

I learned three important things on Saturday morning:

1.  Learning never ends.  If my 80 something year old grandma whom I look up to so much is still learning and growing, then I definitely will be doing the same if/when I am her age.

2.  I need to periodically gather my family to openly talk about Christ and things I have learned.  It not only invites the Spirit in to teach my children, but I also become an open book sharing my mistakes and knowledge.  I don't want to be a mystery to my children.  I want them to know of the things their family has been through and ultimately conquered.  I want them to feel loved unconditionally.

3.  Heavenly Father is acutely aware of each and every one of us.  He loves us and has a plan for each of our lives.  Through Christ's atonement, he makes our mistakes and weaknesses okay.  He makes up for what we cannot do in very real ways.  Sometimes we can count those blessings and other times we can only feel His love and the love of our guardian angels.  Everything will work out one way or another; in this life or the next.  We simply need to move forward with faith, trust, and Christlike love.  Christlike love somehow solves all problems.  Oh, if only I could learn to be as wise as Jesus Christ was while he was on earth!            

A Dozen Years Together

5.05.2019

Celebrating 12 whole years together with this handsome man!  I didn't grow up with very many good examples of what a healthy relationship looked like, but this guy right here has patiently taught me how to build a marriage that is much more than just teamwork; we spend our evening hours talking, our weekends on dates, and our efforts attempting to shoulder one another's burdens.  Marriage to Bron is better than I initially imagined it ever could be.

Happy 12th Anniversary, Babe!  I love you!!!

Naughty Puppy

5.02.2019
^^Unsolicited puppy kisses.^^

Misty, our six month old puppy, has given us a couple of scares recently!  Perhaps she's just reminding us about how much we really do love her despite her efforts to dig up the yard and steal every morsel of leftover food from off the kitchen table.  We nearly lost her twice and each time I was so sad at the thought of not having her here with us at home!  So puppy, you have been ridiculously expensive and caused us more worry and stress than we deserve, but we sure love you, Misty!      

Story 1:

One and a half full days before we were to leave on our trip to St. George for Spring Break, Misty followed the boys over into the neighbor's yard and was attacked by their German Shepherd!  It's our fault; we know it and take full responsibility.  It was an awful accident.  

Jed and Levi were playing with the neighborhood kids, and though I had warned them many times not to let Misty follow them, they didn't take me seriously.  However, it took everyone by surprise when Ava, the German Shepherd, literally ripped into Misty as soon as she crossed over onto her turf.  Misty suffered a bite under one leg that was a couple inches long and deep into the muscle tissue.  Misty ran home bleeding.  The neighborhood kids were hysterical.  Jed and Levi were sobbing.   

No adults actually saw the attack.  The Young's grandma was the one who stepped out to put a stop to the dog fight.  Thank goodness!

It was a Friday evening just before 6pm.  Bron and I desperately called around but couldn't find a vet that would take her.  It was so frustrating because she needed help.  Finally, one of Bron's connections got us in touch with a vet in Jerome.  Misty had surgery that night to clean and fix up her wounds.  Thankfully the bite didn't seem to sever any nerves.  Poor baby was pretty miserable that night and felt lethargic the next day, but soon she was up and limping around on three legs.  She also wound up wearing the obnoxious "cone of shame" for a few weeks.

Greg Young graciously offered to look after Misty while we were gone on vacation.  It was hard to leave her, but we knew she was in good hands.

Everything worked out.  Misty is completely healed and back to running and bounding around on the trails.  Whew!

I just hope my neighbors know I hold no ill feelings whatsoever.  It was simply an awful accident.                

A Week in Paradise: Maui Part II

4.30.2019

We heard that Honolua Bay was one of the best places in Maui to snorkel, so on our third morning we went to check it out!  It didn't disappoint.  Just the walk from the road to the rocky shore was incredible; it was a jungle in paradise.  The water was warm and relatively clear.  And the coral reef held a wide variety of sea life.  We saw red sea anemones, a parrot fish munching on coral, eels, and a plethora of the iconic Hawaiian state trigger fish: the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.  My favorite.  It was so cool!  

A Week in Paradise: Maui Part I

4.29.2019

I'm not quite sure where to begin... except with maybe an honest but cliché phrase that we had one of the most memorable times of our lives in the land of palm trees, sun, and sea turtles: Hawaii.

Bron's work through Progessive Dairy Solutions holds an annual conference every spring.  This year, it was held in Maui.  So naturally, we flew out a few days early to get a head start on all the adventuring and fun!    

Easter 2019

4.19.2019
^^Three silly boys in the frame.  I love this!  The masks were all their idea.^^

Can there be such thing as too many egg hunts around Easter?  I think not!  These kids and their enthusiasm for every holiday tradition makes the effort worth it.  Plus, I love all the colors!

We kicked off our Easter festivities with a family gathering at the Nelson Dairy.  Grandma went above and beyond making the weekend special for all the grandkids.  And she was brave.  Saturday night, Merri Sue had everything ready for 17 of her grandchildren to dye hard boiled eggs.  I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it went!  Some eggs got smashed but no dyes were dumped.  Totally a success.  The kids were so excited about their little pieces of art.  The next morning, they got to go search for their individual eggs outside before breakfast.  Brilliant!

After dying eggs, Grandma got the kids situated for a movie night with caramel popcorn.  She allowed us adult siblings and wives (+ a girlfriend) to sneak out for a group date together.  We went to an Escape Room in Idaho Falls.  It was so fun!  Together, we solved the puzzle with just barely over a minute to spare.  Woot!  Then we hit up Sonic for ice cream and slushies... where Bron accidentally dropped our ice cream and the bottom completely fell out of the cup.  It was the saddest thing, but we were all laughing.

Sunday, we watched General Conference, ate a delicious meal, cuddled my brand new nephew Blake, and watched the kids hunt for candy filled eggs in the yard.

It's always loud and chaotic with so many people under one roof (one night is about all I can handle), but the memories made are always worth it.  

On the ride home, I asked the boys what their favorite part of the weekend was.  They had so many things to say.  Then I reminded them that all those special things Grandma prepared for them is the way she shows her love; everything from preparing great food to coloring eggs to watching a movie with popcorn.  Merri Sue loves her family so much!       

"Say Cheese!"

4.18.2019

When you give Conrad a camera, he'll go outside to look for flowers.  He'll run excitedly from pretty thing to "pretty thing," (the hub caps of the car?) snapping pictures as he goes.  He'll command you and the dog to, "Say Cheese!"  You'll laugh and smile because this is undoubtedly the cutest thing you've seen in a while.

Like mother like son.  I am such a proud mama.

Today I charged up my 10+ year old digital camera; the camera I used before Jed was born.  It still works!  Well enough for a toddler anyway.

^^Conrad spies a yellow dandelion!^^

The Quote About Parenting I Need on My Wall

4.17.2019

“Parenting has nothing to do with perfection.  Perfection isn't even the goal.  Not for ourselves or for our children.  Learning together to live well in an imperfect world, loving each other despite or even because of our own imperfections, and growing as humans while we grow our little humans, those are the goals.  So don't ask yourself at the end of the day if you did everything right.  Ask yourself what you learned and how well you loved, then grow from your answer.  That is perfectly imperfect parenting.” ❤️
-L.R. Knost

Celebrating Jed's 9th Birthday: Halfway to Adulthood!

4.15.2019

We celebrated Jed's 9th Birthday a few days early!  On Sunday we invited two family friends over for lunch and dessert after church.  The Horsleys and Sondereggers are both families who share similar opinions on how to raise boys.  Their boys are already good kids and I can only hope they will be the best of influences on my own boys as they play together around the neighborhood this summer.  After eating some lasagna, we adults chatted while the kids played outside... on a drizzly day.  Then it was time to open presents and devour Jed's favorite dessert: peanut butter brownies!  It was a loud and chaotic three hours, but completely worth it; Jed felt so loved.  These low-key parties are totally my jam.  A big thank you to our friends for making Jed's birthday feel so special!    


Validating Success

4.12.2019

Happy email morning!  This photo was featured in National Geographic's Best Photos of the Week!!!  My whole heart is in documenting my children and little successes like these just feel so validating.

Take a minute to read the article.  The author actually talks about my image specifically.  And the image of the shadow of the animal in South Africa is just AMAZING.  Can't believe I get to contend with this talent.

P.S.  Still doing a happy dance.  

Spring Break Part III: Mountain Biking, the Temple, and Other Fun Memories

4.11.2019

Can playing in the sunshine all day with my boys be my real life, please?  I know!  I'll just hire a maid and make sure I {mostly} keep up on the laundry and dishes.  Also, forget things like piano lessons and baseball and the kids' education.  Okay.  So it really wouldn't work out as well as I'd like, but it's a good idea!  Maybe that's why vacations feel so amazing.

We did so much during our time in St. George that it's all becoming a big blur.  I carted my camera around to most of our adventures but wound up leaving it at the townhouse the last couple of days.  I suppose camera burn out set in and living right smack in the middle of the moment won out!


Memories Not Pictured: 

::  The morning we fed ducks half a loaf of bread at the park.  Conrad thought it was the coolest thing!  He was lucky though; there was one lone goose there who snipped a piece of bread right from his fingers, without scraping said little fingers!

::  The afternoon spent at the Washington City Rec Center pool!  Jed floated his way around the lazy river until he turned into a raisin.  Levi was determined to stop all three water geisers at once on the playground.  (Lol!)  And Conrad wouldn't stop raving about the dump bucket.  "Bucket!" he exclaimed over and over in his excited little voice.  He rode on my lap down the fast three story hydro tube at least a dozen times and begged for more. I think Conrad might have had a died and went to heaven afternoon there in that pool.  Our water baby was so happy!

::  The afternoon the boys and I struggled and then finally succeeded in finding a battery powered scooter belonging to the city to ride!  I paid to rent time on it through an app and they took turns riding around the city block while Conrad ran through the splash pad in his pull-up.  He had goosebumps but didn't care a bit!

::  Nielson's Custard!  It was overpriced and delicious.  Worth it.

::  A couple of pit-stops at the gas station for a refreshing ICEE.  I love seeing all three boys in the back seat with those big plastic cups and even bigger smiles... stained blue, of course.  Haha.

::  Visiting Uncle Dustin and Aunt Cami for a couple hours at their home one evening.  It was so good to see them!  Those Nelsons are really good and fun people.

::  Other visits to parks and the neighborhood swimming pool.  We were enjoying the hot tub one evening with our friends, the Raigers.  It was about 9pm and Conrad had only caught a 20 minute nap that day in the car.  He was tired!  He actually begged to go to bed.  "Naaap.  Bed," he requested.  It was the most pathetic thing I have ever heard.  And so I wrapped him up and walked him home.  He was sleeping peacefully in bed within ten minutes.    

Spring Break Part II: Snow Canyon

4.08.2019

We spent an entire day of our trip touring Snow Canyon.  I thought the state park would feel more remote, but instead it looked and felt more like a national park with a main road and a map highlighting all its unique treasures.  I'm pretty sure that if Zion's wasn't so close in proximity, Snow Canyon would be a national park because the scenery was just incredible.  The park is certainly deserving of that status.

We began our day's adventures by exploring the Petrified Sand Dunes.  There wasn't really a trail.  Instead, rolling mounds of petrified Navajo Sandstone allowed us to hike all over.  The (leading) lines and curves of the stone made it a photographer's dream.  We even found some puddles that Conrad was dying to jump into.  Levi, however, excitedly found some small living creatures swimming around in the water.

Jed is afraid of heights; always has been.  He said he felt tricked when we ascended the first big hill without him -- promising to come back around to pick him up, of course.  So Bron put Jed in charge of our hike.  It was Jed's job to lead us around the dunes.  And lead us he did... right to the very top of the biggest dune with the most incredible view of the park!  We were so proud of Jed.  Not many people there that day had the tenacity to scale that giant hill.  Plus, Jed didn't bat an eye at the height.  The five of us sat atop to eat a snack and take in the stunning landscape.

Then, of course, we had to march down with a very tired toddler.  I carried Conrad on my hip because all he wanted was me.  But three quarters of the way down, my arm became sore.  So Conrad got to hold onto both Bron and my hands and swing his way to the bottom between us.  Lucky duck!              

Spring Break Part I: Biking, Swimming, and Pioneer Park

4.05.2019

We had so much fun with the kids in St. George over Spring break last year that we decided to do it again.  (Pssst.  I think we did it even better this year!  No one threw up and I didn't have to change a gazillion bed sheets, so that's definitely a win.)  The warm sunshine of southern Utah did not disappoint.  In fact, please notice how often my sun-starved boys laid on the rocks like lizards to soak it up!  We couldn't have asked for better weather for playing and exploring.  There is so much to do in the St. George area.  I feel like we could visit every year for a decade or more and never get to it all.  We had so much fun.  We did a variation of hiking, biking, swimming, and eating of ice cream every single day; AKA Nelson Heaven.  It was hard to come home!  It was wonderful to be able to leave all of the chores, responsibilities, and gray gusty skies behind for a carefree week of quality time with my loves.  I am honestly one lucky and spoiled girl.  I'm feeling so much gratitude for this special week.

Also, just to be clear, there were times during this trip when Bron and I would look and each other and ask, "Why did we bring them along, again?"  Vacationing with kids still requires parenting.  Kids can be such turds.  They whined and fought and didn't listen at times.  So in turn, Bron and I would get frustrated, stressed, and sometimes yell.  Yup.  You name the emotion and it probably happened somewhere along the line.  So yeah, I'm pretty sure that makes us a normal family.  

Now on to the pictures, details, and stories!

The Day a Magical Leprechaun Turned My Boys' Poops Green

3.20.2019
^^I'm going to cherish this photo.  The curls.  The missing tooth.  The green eyes.  And the great outfit!^^

St. Patrick's Day landed on Sunday this year!  Jed and Levi had so much fun dressing up for church.  We bought these obnoxious bow ties at Kmart the day prior.  And Levi was very enthusiastic about pairing his bow tie with the cheap rainbow suspenders I found at Target.  I am so proud that he had the confidence to do it.  I hope he never outgrows it!  (Because those older kids, man, they seem to be so self-conscious.)

Anyway, I'm posting here to tell the story about how Levi is CONVINCED that a magical little leprechaun turned his poop green.  It's definitely a boy mom story.

He came running to me out of the bathroom with his pants around his ankles on Sunday afternoon.  

"Mom!  Come see!  A leprechaun played a trick on me and turned my poop green!"

Uhhh.  "Green.  Really?"  I responded.  It must be neon colored, I thought, because isn't all poop kind of green?

"Yeah, like bright green," Levi exclaimed.  "Come see it!"

"I believe you, Buddy.  That's really cool.  But no, I'm not going to come see your poop.  That's gross," I laughed.

He happily skipped away to the bathroom to check on his green poop again.

The Pinewood Derby

3.06.2019

The boys got to participate in their very first (and quite possibly very last*) Pinewood Derby!  

Levi is only six and wasn't an official contender, but he didn't want to be left out of the fun.  So we bought them both some kits and sent them to the kitchen table to sand down their creations.

"Is it smooth enough now, Dad?" they asked at least a hundred times.

I can't believe how much money we dumped into these things between the kits and the paint and the weights.  I also became a hypocrite and did something I promised myself I would never do: put all the finishing touches on for them.  Yup.  I have no painting skills, but I brushed on some gold flames and hot glued those pipes.  Per request, of course.  So I guess these are my derby cars too!  And admittedly, they are equal parts Bron's cars as well, he being the driving force behind this task and all the time and work he put into those silly pieces of wood.

Sooo… the pinewood derby cars are actually a family project!

They're pretty cool.  The boys are pretty proud.     

Jed and Levi both had a blast racing their cars last night.  The cars kept getting faster and faster with every run as the kids tweaked the wheels to make them run more smoothly.  It's definitely a night Jed and Levi will be talking about for a while.  Glad you had fun, boys.  


*I say "possibly last" pinewood derby because the Church is giving up the Scouting program next year and creating their own program for the youth.  I wouldn't mind doing another round of derby cars but it wouldn't break my heart either if we never had to make any more.    

Snapshots of Life Lately: Wrapping Up Winter

3.03.2019

Conrad snuggling with Teddy Bear and his blanket on the couch to watch his favorite show: Curious George!  He has now moved on to binge watching Mickey Mouse Club House, which he delightfully calls, "Mickey Mouse House House!"  We are officially in new parenting territory now: the tv can be used as a babysitter while I shower or get something done.  Yippee!

Splish Splash Afternoon Bath

2.28.2019
I think we BOTH had fun killing some time and energy on this dreary winter day.  I hope I'm not the only momtog out there who entertains herself with a camera while her child entertains himself.  It's a win-win in my opinion.

No; I change my mind.  I definitely get the better end of the deal.  Splashing brings us both joy in different ways.  But I get extra amusement when I see that cute teeny tushy.    

Our Saturday Morning Snowshoe Adventure to Ross Falls

2.25.2019

We loaded up into the truck Saturday morning and as we headed down the road towards the South Hills, I couldn't help but grab Bron's hand as I looked around at what we'd brought with us: 3 boys in the backseat (one ornery child complaining about his mittens), 2 dogs hanging their heads out of the bed of the truck, and what feels like a ton of gear.

"Look at this chaos we've created!" I exclaimed.

"Why did we do it to ourselves?" Bron replied grumpily.  But underneath he had a smile.

"Well, we can't take it back.  I kind of love it."

It's true.  This chaos we call family has steadily grown over the last 12 years.  There is more of everything these days.  More clothes to wash.  More whining.  More messes.  More noise.  More food for the table.  More moments when I feel overwhelmed by it all.  There's also more teasing.  More laughter.  More hugs.  More "I'm sorry."  More "I love you."  More teaching.  More learning.  More purpose.  More prayer.  But most of all, more joy.

Everything has its opposite.  I'll take the lows any day for the highs that erase their memory.

I turned 34 years old a little less than a month ago.  I don't make a big deal of my birthday here on the blog because I feel like being somewhere in my 30's just isn't noteworthy.  It's just another year on the planet.  Looking around, however, I am really proud of what Bron and I have accomplished thus far together.  A loving husband, three healthy kids, two crazy dogs, and a house out in the country may seem very boring and ordinary, but it's actually a very beautiful life.  Sometimes it hits me hard just how lucky I am!  I have so much to be grateful for.

So Saturday morning, feeling a little extra nostalgic about being the lucky wife and mom to these boys I get to call mine, we forged our own trail up to Ross Falls.  I have never seen the snow so deep!  As we reached the top, I just kind of slid into a hole created by the creek bed.  Two minutes later, the kids were in there with me.  It was really incredible to be down there surrounded by walls of snow!  We had a blast but had to head back down the trail quickly once Conrad soaked himself in the creek.  No worries.  Conrad was all right.  Bron stripped him down and got him warmed up in the truck.  I hope my little boys know how much spending time with them and making memories with them means to me!

February: Ironically the Longest Month of the Year

2.20.2019
^^Big brother playing Conrad's favorite game after school: Peel the Apple.  It's a type of tickling game that gets everyone laughing.^^

There are only 28 days in February.  It's the shortest month of the year.  Why then does it always feel so neverending?

This year, we are living in an ice box: a place where the snow just keeps coming down, it never melts, and the roads are icy.  Winter arrived in all its fury this February and is refusing to go away!

Okay.  Okay.  So it's really pretty.  And being "snowed in" makes justifying staying home in my sweat pants and watching too much TV kind of sweetly satisfying.  But I, a self-proclaimed sun worshiper, will never truly embrace winter no matter how hard I try.  Nope.  I'm ready to hop on my bike or hit up the park with my little sidekick!  Spring.  Where are you?!?

All this cold has spurred on some nasty illness statewide.  The actual flu virus swept through our home last week.  Jed and Levi had a wrestling tournament in Jerome on February 9th.  I'm 98% positive that's where the bug came from.

By the way, the boys wrestled well.  Even though they didn't win any trophies, they made us proud.  Jed is a scrappy thing with some grit!  And Levi just needs some more time on the mats to really figure out the sport.  The morning was a good experience for everyone and we celebrated by taking the kids out to lunch.

That evening, while Bron and I were out on a date, we got a phone call from Levi around 8:45pm saying that Jed had thrown up everywhere and that we needed to come home fast.  (Poor traumatized babysitter!)  We arrived home to find that Jed had indeed thrown up everywhere and was lying on the bathroom floor with a fever.  Poor kid.  By 10pm, everything was cleaned up and under control again.  By 8am the next day, Jed was acting like nothing had happened!  He's our chronic puker, after all.  (Meaning, when he gets upset or overtired, he throws up!)  I wasn't quite sure what to think.  And so with church canceled Sunday morning (due to winter roads), I went ahead and let him join the neighborhood kids playing in the fresh snow outside.

Sledding Idaho Style in a Winter Wonderland

2.11.2019

There was so much snow on Sunday that church was canceled.  So we played in it... Idaho style!  We really do have the best neighbors and neighborhood.  A big thank you to Ty for entertaining the kids all afternoon!  The boys had a blast.

No further explanations needed.  The pictures tell the story...

Tips and Tricks on How to Potty Train a Boy

2.05.2019

Potty training has been in full swing over here for over a week.  And I gotta say, just for the record, that it's a lot of work but I know it's worth it.  All those claims about having your child potty trained in three days is a load of crap.  Three days is the point of no return!  It's when he "gets it" and I as the parent am obligated to live the next few weeks or months of my life centered around a toilet.  Need I mention the accidents?  Nah.  That's a given, right?

Anyway, it's been a super exciting week here for Conrad.  I am so proud of him.  Conrad was just ready to tackle it!  We are officially moving out of the baby stage and on to bigger things.  It's so bitter sweet, especially since Bron and I are discussing that Conrad should probably be our last child.  (But that's a whole other topic for another day.)

Conrad is my third boy to potty train.  I feel like I'm kind of a veteran in the arena.  I've been asked a few times about how to potty train boys.  While I've never had any experience potty training a girl, I believe that potty training any child is pretty universal in its tactics... boys just have a hose attached.

Everyone has an opinion on potty training.  Everyone is probably right.  Every child is different and every mother is different too.  So please take these next suggestions with a grain of salt.  Pick what might be useful for you and your child and discard the rest.  This is what has worked for us.

January Snapshots and 5 Current Happenings

1.29.2019
^^Puppy kisses!^^

1. Conrad started potty training!  He's doing so well.  No kidding.  I tried it a few months ago and my efforts failed miserably; he just wasn't ready.  But over the last couple of weeks, Conrad has intermittently ripped off his diaper and peed in the toilet all by himself!  What?!  I took that as a sign that I should probably try again.  On day one he had accidents all morning, but by evening had some successes.  Woohoo!  On the morning of day two (today), he pooped in the toilet.  And as any parent knows, that's a big win.  I think Conrad might be just as excited and impressed as we are!  He's smiling from ear to ear and telling me all about it -- even though I was there.  Hehe.  We've been loading on the praise and the treats.  I am so proud of him.  However, potty training has made Conrad a lot more clingy and emotional.  I can only imagine.  What a huge feat to suddenly learn to control your body like that!  So Conrad has been getting lots of extra cuddles today.          

What I Learned From a Phone Call with My Dad

1.28.2019

If there is one word I might choose to describe January it would be: refocus.  It's been a relatively slow and quiet month here; something I so desperately needed.  I hardly picked up my camera and all but ditched social media.  It's renewing to take a break from all the hustle and online advertising.  I feel like I've been able to reprioritize and rebalance my life.  It doesn't mean I have it all together.  No!  Haha.  That will never happen.  But it does mean that I feel a sense of calm and contentment I haven't felt in quite a while.

If you've been following along here over the last couple of months, you might have picked up on the fact that I've been feeling overwhelmed and stressed.  In a constant state of go, go, go, I've been wearing myself thin!

Then my dad called last week.  I am a version of him in so many ways.  We talked for an hour and twenty two minutes.  It was so fun to talk with him.  He said exactly what I needed to hear in exactly the way I needed it.  I got off the phone and happy cried.

He described the kind of person he used to be thirty years ago; it was like he was describing the male version of me!  Growing up, my dad always had a project: building a car, building an airplane, building a boat.  He remembered getting about ten or twenty minutes in to fixing this fender on the car when my mom popped into the garage.  Dinner was ready.  Us kids needed his attention.  And my dad would think, "Geez!  Why can't you people just be self sufficient for twenty more minutes?!"

My thoughts have echoed his more times than I can count!  I just want to get something done from start to finish without being interrupted.  Is it too much to ask?  Well, yes, it is.

My dad then went on to explain about his current project, a boat.  In his mind, he figured it would take about three years to restore.  Well, it's been seven years and it looks like it'll take about three more to finish it.  A three year project turned into a ten year project.  In the mean time, however, he remarried and has been coaching basketball every year.  Coaching has taken him away from the boat, but his time has been used in a much better way by making differences (big and small) in children's lives.

Time is about people.  It's not about ourselves.

So when that home organization project that I think should only take two weeks to complete actually takes eight, it's okay.  If it takes me an extra year to finally put Conrad's baby book together, it's okay.  It really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.  It's okay to plug along at a snail's pace.  It'll get done... eventually.  And in the mean time, I'm caring for those people in my life I love most.  That's where my time really matters.

Aww, I love my dad.  I knew all this, but for some reason, I didn't feel validated in my thoughts and feelings.  Sometimes it just takes a special someone who truly understands to make it all click.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.  I am now giving myself permission to slow down and just be present.  Life is good again.  Thanks for the wisdom, Dad.      

A Very Relaxing Overnight Ski Trip with My Honey

1.22.2019

First, a HUGE THANK YOU to Grandma Nelson for loving on and taking care of our hooligans three.  Without her, this post would not be possible.

Over the weekend, Bron got to cash in on that Christmas gift I prepared for him: a weekend ski getaway with his best girl.  He loves skiing, and since I just tolerate the cold, it was done all for him.  Well, come to find out, I think I was the one who benefited most from our relaxing overnight trip!  It's hard to explain how tight I've let myself become wound!  Always going, going, going and doing, doing, doing. This was just the thing I needed to slow down, relax, and completely unwind.

We left the boys at Grandma's house early on Saturday morning and headed the hour and a half east to Grand Targhee.  The mountain was socked in with fog, but we had a fabulous day on the slopes anyway.  We mainly stuck to the lower lifts because that one time we ventured to the top of the mountain, our goggles froze over with ice!  We were in a freezing rain cloud and couldn't see a thing.  It made me feel motion sick, moving and straining to discern anything in the vast whiteness.  I concentrated on just getting down the mountain to the lodge where I knew we'd be able to eat some lunch and warm up.  We skied in, our clothes covered in sheets of ice.  It melted and we just dripped water.  Fortunately, my coat is waterproof and Targhee makes the most delicious hot chocolate ever.  I've never tasted hot chocolate so thick and rich!  (Plus they have whipped cream, cinnamon, and sprinkles to add on top. Bonus yum!)  We dried ourselves for a few minutes next to a fire and then headed off again.  We really enjoy the Blackfoot lift each time we go skiing at Grand Targhee.  The runs aren't too long, the hill is steep enough to be challenging but not overwhelming, and there's always powder.  We seriously just made loops all afternoon, up and down.  The best part was I was doing it all alongside my best friend.  I'm not sure what we'd do if one of us ever lost our health, but for now, outdoor activities and adventuring are something that help bring us closer together.

After skiing the day away, it was time to check in to our cabin in Driggs I rented through VRBO.  It was a clean, cozy, and comfortable little one roomed studio that used to be a glass shop.  The owners built a new shop on their property and renovated their old wooden barn into an apartment.  The jetted tub felt fabulous after feeling chilled!  I couldn't believe what a great find it was.

We ate at Teton Thai for dinner and then wandered through the snow sculptures.  The judging had just taken place that afternoon and the folks who happened to be our hosts won 2nd place.  Small town.  Haha.  The snow sculptures were incredible!  They were huge, at least 8 feet tall.  And the attention to detail on some of them was just amazing.  It was so fun to see the art people made out of snow!

Then we went back to the cabin to do, well, absolutely nothing.  I could just feel the stress and tension lifting itself away from my shoulders.  It's interesting being away from home and our normal routines.  There weren't any projects or dishes hanging over our heads.  No kids to put to bed.  And none of our usual distractions like tv or computers.  I guess that's why it's called a vacation!  Wow, did we soak it in.  A little adventure, food, sex, and rest is just plain good for the soul.

I had an "aha" moment when I woke up Sunday morning.  I dreamt that the boys were there in the cabin with us.  They were being their normal busy selves and I was playing referee, trying to keep them from making too many messes or damaging anything.  The fridge had soy sauce spilled all over inside!  I was relieved to open my eyes and realize that the boys were not there and there were no messes to clean.

"Oh," I thought, "my kids make me feel stress!"  I have three little stress balls in my life that I love so very much.  They are the main reasons why I feel so anxious and wound tight!  But it's normal and it's a good thing because I believe that stress is a sign that I care so very much about them. They're not going anywhere which means they will continue to be sources of both joy and stress. The only thing to do is learn to manage the stress a little better.  That part will be a work in progress over the coming months.  So ask me how that's going come May or June, will ya?

Until then, I'll be basking in the memory of utter relaxation with my handsome auburn haired other half.