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.  

A Bike Race Called El Doce


Last weekend: Carnegie Hall in New York.  This weekend: a twelve hour relay style bike race in the Rocky Mountains.

I can't help laughing at myself.  All those personal healthy habits I've been working on all summer suddenly got thrown away this month.  I've eaten way too much sugar, gained three pounds, and haven't gotten nearly enough sleep, but I'm not letting myself feel even a twinge of guilt because this is what living life to its fullest looks like for me right now.

Bron and I packed up the truck and the kids with us and headed down to Ogden, Utah on Friday night to meet friends for the El Doce bike race at Powder Mountain.

We used Bron's points for a suite style hotel room.  As we were unpacking, I just had to Polo my sister about the room we were staying in; quite a drastic difference from our hotel in Manhattan.  When I hung up, I realized Conrad was not there.  "Did Conrad just leave?" I asked in disbelief.  That toddler is Harry Houdini re-incarnated, I swear.  So Bron took off down the hall one way while I took off down the hall the other way.  Luckily, Bron found Conrad fairly quickly... riding the elevator.  Of course!  Conrad was having the time of his life pushing allll the buttons.  It took a while for Bron to catch the elevator, but when he did, Conrad's fun stopped immediately and some fear about not seeing Mommy ever again instilled in his little head.  But probably not.  Conrad is two, forgets quickly, and has no fear.  So even though I hope Conrad never runs away again, he probably will.  The whole scenario was stressful then, but hilariously funny now.  Whew!

We tried to rescue the evening by going out to eat at a pizza place down street.  Dinner was a fail.  I mean, the food was great but it took more than an hour to be delivered to our table.  To sum it up, everyone was feeling and acting hangry.

So with our tummies full, I took the boys swimming at the hotel pool.  Finally, a success!  Because the pool was so small and shallow, I decided to take Conrad's life jacket off to hopefully instill some realization that he can't swim on his own just yet.  Conrad immediately jumped right into deep end!  I grabbed his foot and scooped him up.  No problem.  Conrad had held his breath and was all smiles.  He then continued to throw a ball and jump in after it over and over again.  Each time, he would kick his eyes to the surface but just couldn't quite get his nose and mouth above water.  Conrad is totally getting survival/swimming lessons as soon as school starts.  While we were there, Levi practiced swimming laps.  Then he did countless push ups.  He was determined to wake up sore in the morning!  Haha.  It worked.  The pool was a fun way to end the night for all of us.

So yeah, vacationing with kids in a nutshell.

And then... we were all up to see the sun rise at the top of Powder Mountain.          

I Played My Violin in Carnegie Hall!


Someone pinch me.  I got to check off a once in a lifetime bucket list item by performing in Carnegie Hall Friday night!!!   And with my mom nonetheless.  It still feels surreal.

I also got to fan girl over the violinist Jenny Oaks Baker in person too.  She was there just four feet from me during both rehearsal and during the concert.  The rehearsal in the cultural hall below the LDS Temple in Manhattan was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole trip, honestly.  All the orchestra members from all five MCO locales gathered in one place.  It was huge.  It was loud.  It was fun.  After the concert at Carnegie, we celebrated by going out for gelato at Grom.  And guess who was there in line with her girlfriends in front of us?  Jenny Oaks Baker!  So I can pretty much claim we got dessert together, right?  Haha.

I was also awed by the sopranist, Erin Morley.  After performing the Doll Aria, she stayed in character, hanging her head and arms as if she was a tired mechanical doll on stage.  The conductor didn't know what to do!  It was hilarious.  Erin is definitely a performer.

Take me back to do it all over again.  I love making music.

But that's not the end of the story...

Unfortunately, while I got to perform in Carnegie Hall on Friday night with the Idaho and Texas groups, the concert on Saturday night for the Utah and California groups was cancelled.  Break my heart!  The concert was cancelled due to a blackout in Manhattan that lasted hours.  All that sacrifice of time and money for a dream crushed.  What are the chances of that happening?  New York City hasn't seen a blackout like that in fifteen years!  It was also the first time in the history of Carnegie Hall that a concert was cancelled due to a blackout.

However, I'd like to believe it wasn't a coincidence at all.  I'd like to believe God had his divine hand in it.  After delivering the sad news of the cancelled concert, Brandon Stewart stood up and said, "We're going to leave this city with 'I Believe in Christ'... and we're going to let it rip."  The videos show just how powerful that moment was!  Thousands of people getting off dark subway routes, walking through the city, or peeking their heads through the windows of adjacent buildings stopped to watch and hear the message of hope and faith in Jesus Christ.  The message has been shared a million times over now.  Wow.

This is exactly why I feel the Millennial Choirs and Orchestra are worth my time and effort.  I get to be a part of something bigger than myself.          

Happy 4th of July


^^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!


Happy Independence Day!  My second favorite holiday of the year is here!  (Or maybe it's my third favorite?)

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.

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