Thursday, May 28, 2009


Ashlee & McKell have been so excited about their 1st grade field trip for MONTHS! They have been counting down the days until they finally got to go. They went to the Utah Lake State Park in Provo. I have never been there, but the day's events including a nature walk, pond dipping, etc. It made it even more fun that Rob was able to meet them there and go with them. They saw all sorts of cool things, caught things out of the pond in their nets, and overall had a great time.

That is, until the mosquito bites started appearing. By that night, my poor girls were itchy, scratchy little miserable girls. Rob affirmed that the mosquitoes were out of control. He tried desperately to find someone with bug spray, but no luck. He also had his fair share of bites. I believe he counted close to 20.

I thought we had seen the worst of it Tuesday night when I put them to bed. Just some small, little bumps here and there. I gave them some Claritin to help with the itchiness and any allergies and tucked them in for the night. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come. McKell woke up with 3 or 4 really nasty bites on her arms and legs that were driving her crazy. And Ashlee...poor Ashlee, she was like nothing I had ever seen. Her left eye was completely swollen, she had a welt on her neck where multiple bites had just all gone together. She had a bite on the back of her leg with redness aroudn it that was about the size of a cereal bowl and numerous other bites all over her legs and arms. (They wore their uniform dresses to the field trip which meant their legs were bare and open for the mosquitoes.)

As yesterday progressed, it got worse and by last night, they were both miserable again. A warm bath helped a lot. And thanks to our great neighbor, the Calamine lotion also helped. The girls looked like little pink-spotted creatures going to bed last night.

This morning still isn't great. Ashlee's eye is now completely swollen shut and her bites are as big as ever. She is being such a trooper about it. We re-applied Calamine before school which seems to be helping.

So, here's to the first grade field trip. I'm not quite sure why the people at the park, knowing a group of children were coming for a field trip, wouldn't alert the teachers to bring bug spray. It really makes me mad. But for sure this will be a field trip they will never forget!
A few of McKell's many bites

Poor little McKell was NOT happy about this!

This is just 2 of the bites on Ashlee's legs. The one below is HUGE!

Just a few bites on Ashlee's neck. These have gotten a lot better.
And finally, poor little Ashlee's eye. She is not trying to close it, that is really how it is...swollen shut! It was really itching her so we dabbed a little Calamine lotion on it. Poor girl!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Angels watching over us...

I want to share an experience that happened this past week. On Memorial Day, we always go to my parents' home in Bluffdale for a big family BBQ. My parents live in a gully on Redwood Road in Bluffdale which is currently being torn completely apart as they turn the 2 lane road into a 5 lane road. It is a huge mess. Fortunately, my parents' home is back off the road quite a ways. They have a huge beautiful back yard that the kids love to play in. We rarely have to worry about the kids because there is so much land for them to play on.

On Monday, Memorial Day, we were all gathered together. We had eaten dinner and were cleaning up, visiting, etc. Most of the kids were playing in the yard and a few family members decided to take a walk over by the road to see the new tunnel they were constructing under the road. I didn't think much of it and continued helping with clean up. And then, that "Mommy Instinct" hit me like a brick. Where is Ashlee!? She had been in the back yard just a few moments earlier. Usually with Ashlee, I don't panic. We have learned that panicking with Ashlee doesn't do a whole lot of good. But this time was different. It is hard to explain, but it is like I knew she was in danger. At this point, I offered up a very quick but very sincere prayer that she would be safe and watched over. These "Mommy Prayers" may be short, but any mother who has said one, knows that there is true faith and sincerity in those prayers and that God listens. We immediately began searching the yard, the back gully, etc. and then it dawned on me - could she have followed the group over to the road? Just the thought of it made my stomach sink. That is such a busy busy road, especially on Memorial Day and with the construction going on, there is absolutely NO sidewalk.

My niece had her cell phone and quickly called her husband who was at the tunnel. He told us that yes, Ashlee was with them, and she was fine. I breathed a sigh of relief and called off the search efforts.

It wasn't until later that afternoon that I got the whole story. Ashlee didn't actually go with the group, she actually followed the group without any of them knowing it. In order to get down to the tunnel, they had to go down a very steep incline with loose dirt and to make it more risky, there was a fast moving irrigation ditch that was very full and very deep that day at the bottom of the gully. My older brother, Shawn, and his daughter were the last of the group to head down the hill, or so they thought. At this point, Shawn felt a very strong prompting that there was someone following behind them. He asked his daughter if she had seen anyone and she said no. Shawn could have continued on, but as he told me later, the Lord gave him a strong prompting and was persistent in that prompting. He turned back around and went back up the hill. There was Ashlee, literally hanging off of a rock. It was too steep for her and she must have slipped. If she would have let go, she would have gone right down the hill and into the running water. I shutter to think how it could have ended.

As I tucked her into bed that night, I said another "Mommy Prayer". Only this time it wasn't rushed or quick. It was a prayer of sincere gratitude. I was thankful that my little girl was safe. I was thankful that I had a brother who was in tune with the Spirit and listened to the prompting that was given to him. I was grateful that my earlier prayer to keep Ashlee safe was so directly answered. And I was grateful that there were angels watching over my little girl that day, helping her to hang on, until another angel, my brother, could get to her.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I love Memorial Day. It is truly one of my favorite holidays. Some of it is because it signals the first real holiday of summer. But mostly it is a day of family, togetherness, and remembering those who have gone before us.

As a child, I remember this holiday being very big in our family. We would head over to the Bluffdale Cemetery early in the morning for the Memorial Day services. We would then "decorate" the graves. In fact, for a long time, I thought this holiday was actually called "Decoration Day" because that's what my mom always called it. After the cemetery, we would walk across the street to my Grandpa and Grandma Neilson's home for a big extended family breakfast followed by volleyball, games, and BBQ's.

Not a whole lot has changed since I was a child. I now take my own family to the Bluffdale Cemetery early on Memorial Day. We listen to the services and are reminded of the great sacrifices that were made by those who have served our country. I love seeing the older veterans who are at the program. They have patriotism running in their blood. I honor them and thank them. I teach my own children to do the same.

We visit the graves of family and loves ones who have passed on - most of which, my children have never even met. This year after the services, we walked to my Uncle Denny's and Aunt Gloria's home for the traditional breakfast followed by visiting, volleyball, and good times. That afternoon, we headed to my parents' home down the street for a BBQ with my family.

It was another perfect Memorial Day...and let summer begin!
Sadie loved all of the flowers. She walked around smelling as many as she could...real or not

My dad sits with the veterans up in front during the program. My dad is a retired Major in the Air Force. I am so proud of him!
One of the many veterans putting on the program. True patriotism!

The firing line up. These men have been doing this program for years. The kids all scramble to find the empty bullet shells when they are done firing.
Rob and Sadie listening to the program

My Uncle Denny conducted the services.

Melanie was here from AZ which was fun. Above is her and Jay at the services.

Sadie loves these flower windmills.
She will spin them over and over and then clap and say "Yay!"

Ashlee, Brandon, and McKell. Hanging out on Grandpa's hammock at the BBQ. My girls (and I) adore Brandon. These three were all born on May 9.

My goofball brothers - Jay and Shawn

Hanging out on the lawn - Jules, Melanie, Madi, and Katie

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pinewood Derby 2008 and earning a Bear

Another year has passed which means it is Pinewood Derby time again. I remember as a child that this was a very special time of year. My older brother, Shawn, would spend hours on his car for this Cub Scout annual event. And now, as a mother, we look forward to Pinewood Derby time every year.

First, let me say that Cayden is fully in charge of this project. We order the car and supervise, but Cayden is in charge of most everything else. He brought me a drawing of his car weeks and weeks ago. This year? A basketball car. Rob showed him how to sand it down, measure the right weight, and caulk it. Cayden also spray painted his car all by himself and did a fantastic job! Rob helped him get the wheels on and I helped him with the lines on the car and we were done.

We had a little pressure this year because Cayden took first place last year. We kept reminding him that it didn't matter if he won again, it just mattered that he was a good sport and that he had fun. That is one thing I admire and love about Cayden. He really does find joy in seeing joy in others. He would have been just as happy and excited if his best buddies Ben or Ethan would have won.

We also let the girls do a car, just for fun. No cutting, sanding, caulking, etc. They get a block of wood on wheels and they get to paint it and decorate it. This seems to be enough for them.

I would be lying if I didn't say that it for sure helps that Cayden has a dad who is an engineer. He does have a few extra ideas and "tricks" that help. But most of all, they have fun working on it together which is what it is all about.

So, we had the big event tonight. We were a little nervous because at the last minute, something happened to one of the axels on the car and it seemed to slow it down a little. But in the end, Cayden won again. He was a really good sport and a humble winner. He showed genuine happiness and excitement and interest in the other boys' cars. I was very proud of him. We were also very proud of him because he earned his "Bear" achievement tonight. He has only been in the bear den for 6 months but has worked really hard to earn his "Bear". He also has great scout leaders, the Sweets, who have been great to help him. It was a special evening for Cayden and our family.

The beginning stages - sanding, caulking, etc.

The two Pinewood Derby experts!
Ashlee's Car
McKell's Car
McKell loved watching Cayden do his car
The car is all sanding, prepped, and ready to paint

Cayden painted his car all by himself and did a GREAT job!
It was shiny and smooth and looked terrific!

Cayden with his cool Basketball car

FIRST PLACE! Way to go champ! It was a close race for sure, but Cayden pulled out the 1st place win for 2008!

Mommy and McKell Date

McKell and I have been doing "Mommy and McKell days" for quite some time. It is a special time for just her and me to spend together. McKell often times gets overlooked because of the demands that we have with Ashlee. So a few years ago, I made it a point to have special times just with McKell. She looks forward to these times with such excitement and joy. I do too.

This time around, we had a fun evening together. First, we went thrift store shopping - something she loves to do with me. We were looking for some baby clothes for our new little guy coming soon. McKell left the store with a new doll that she named "Cassie". After that, we headed to dinner at Mimi's Cafe in South Jordan. McKell thought it was extra special that she got to order whatever she wanted off the kids' menu and didn't have to share. She was such a little lady. We had fun talking about school, friends, etc. This is one of the reasons I love doing these one-on-one dates with the kids - I get to see a whole different side of their personalities when they are alone. After dinner, we got ice cream and then headed home.

It was a really fun night with my sweet little McKell.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Yee-Haw! Ashlee & McKell's 7th Birthday Party

We celebrated Ashlee & McKell's 7th birthday party with a big YEE HAW!! A few months ago, the girls finally agreed on a Cowboy/Cowgirl themed party. It is getting more and more difficult as the girls get older for them to agree on what kind of birthday party they want. This year it almost ended up as a "Tinkerbell Cowboy Party". Thank goodness Ashlee conceded to drop the Tinkerbell idea. So a few months ago, the planning began.

This is the first year that Ash and McKell have been in different school classes which made inviting people a lot more difficult. It is also the first year that they both wanted to invite not just the girls, but the boys as well. Again, making things more difficult. I am a real sucker for not leaving anyone out, so I did the only thing I could think of -- invite BOTH 1st grade classes --BOTH boys and girls. Add on cousins and neighborhood friends, and you soon have an invitation list of 75. Yes, I know I am nuts. Yes, I know it is crazy. Yes, I know I do this to myself. But it's what I do.

So, the party was a big success. We had a lot more kids show up than I thought - 45 kids in all. And we had a great time. A huge thanks to my sis-in-law Tiffany (my fellow birthday party crazy person), Rob's brother Jon, My parents, Jennah's dad who took all the pictures, and anyone else who helped us so much.

Here is a look at the partyThe birthday invititation

Some of our cute little cowgirls waiting to open presents

One of the games we had was "Roping Steer". Tiff brought down 2 of her plastic "steer" from WY for this. We decided that teaching 45 first graders how to lasso would take all day, so instead we let them use swim rings. This is Jaydee, my cute niece.

Waiting for the hay ride

Our cute neighbor, Kennedi.

Another station was "Grandpa's Hay Rides". My sweet Dad brought up his riding mower and trailer and took the kids on hay rides around the circle. I would dare say this was a favorite for most of the kids. Some awesome friends of our in our ward, the Howlands, even provided the hay for us.
Another station was the "Cow Branding" station. It was a relay type game. Tiff had these cool little branding irons that she and her dad made. The kids had to dip them in pancake batter, run across the lawn, and brand the cows. It was hilarious to watch!
Ashlee decided that riding the steer was more fun than roping the steer!
My cute niece, Mary, ready to brand the cows!
McKell was in absolute heaven will all of her friends here! Below is her good friend Belle.

Another station was the "Barrel Racing". We had an obstacle course set up and the kids rode stick horses, 2 at a time, through the "barrells". (Above is Ashlee. Below is my cute niece Anna)

Giddy Up Ethan!
After each activity, the kids got a little prize to put in their bags that they made. All sorts of cowboy stuff - branding tattoos, little horses, sheriff badges, etc.
Rob, as usual, was a great sport and a big help. This is him demonstrating the Barrel Racing.

Because there were so many kids (this is just half of them), we divided them into 2 groups - red and blue. This is my red group off to do the games. Before the games, we had a cowboy picnic with hot dogs, chips, and "cactus juice" (green juice).
Cayden really wanted to be a helper at the party. He actually really did help out a lot. Now that he is getting older, he wants to be more of an asssitant to me. He met everyone at the gate as they came at the "Buckaroo Check In" where he wrote their name on a star badge for them to wear. He also wrote a cute speech welcoming the kids to the party and named himself "Sheriff Cayden" for the party.
Chow time!

All of the kids made their own cowboy loot bags and bandanas when they came. They all turned out so cute!

Our final game was "Pin the Badge of the Sherrif". Pretty self explanatory.

Happy Trails until next year!