Alicia & Ben » Blog


Our little peanut created a bit of upheaval in our normally organized and productive lives.  We knew the first 6 months were going to be hard.  They were.  We knew we’d survive.  We did!

We had a small 6 month celebration with the family on Andi’s half birthday which fell on a Sunday.  We made her a little cake which she unexpectedly grabbed while we were singing to her.  She wasn’t happy when we put a quick end to her exploration. I think she’s be thrilled to demolish her first birthday cake!


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Looking back here are a few little items about Andi during her first 6 months…..

Andi was our hardest newborn.  She was also our smallest.  Alicia thinks her small size caused her fussiness – her intestines weren’t large enough to digest the larger proteins yet? We did everything we knew to do to help ease her discomfort – chiropractic adjustments, medicines, sleeping at an upright angle, lots of burbing, small feedings, and dietary restrictions for Alicia.  It helped but those first few months were pretty looonnngggg and exhausting.

Andi was a pretty chatty newborn.  Lots of cute sounds and expressions!

Andi started smiling early.  I think she was 5 1/2 weeks.  Those early smiles gave us so much hope and happiness that happier times were ahead.

Andi was not the best day-time sleeper, but maybe our best night-time sleeper.  Early on she was up a lot at night, but quickly got into a routine of only about 2, maybe 3, night feedings.  There were a few nights she slept clear through the night – 9pm to 6am!  Because of her small size Alicia started waking her up at night to feed her, though.  Also, Andi’s routine was interrupted during our trips to Utah and DC and we’ve never been able to get her to sleep those long stretches again.  One day. In the day time, the only way we could get her to sleep was in the mobi wrap.  The mobi wrap naps eventually evolved into stroller naps.  We’d take her for a walk in the stroller and she’d relax and fall asleep.

Andi hated bath time.  She didn’t like the water and would cry and cry.  Needless to say, bath time was always very quick.  She’s changed recently, and now loves bath time.  She likes to splash the water.

Andi’s first word was “Mama.”  It came out very clearly when she was crying.  When life isn’t quite right for her, there is no one in this world that can calm her like her mama.

Andi loves to nurse, and has been great at nursing from the beginning.  But she has not transitioned easily to baby food.  She’ll take a bottle when she’s really hungry, such as when Alicia is on a long photo-shoot.  She would take a few bites of baby food when offered to her, but after about two bites, she preferred just playing with the food rather than actually eating it.

Andi had a lot of hair when she was first born, and it was very dark.  Over time it seems her hair has thinned out and lightened in color.  People often say she looks like Ben.  Ben’s response is “it’s because she is bald and chubby.”

Andi loves to be held!  Her favorite spot is in Alicia’s arms. Her second favorite spot is in Ben’s arms.  She likes to face outward so she can see the world.

Andi is always looking around and has a very inquisitive personality.  She’s not what I would call a laid-back personality.  She’s on high alert most of the time.

Andi loves to pull hair or squeeze the skin on a person’s face.  Ouch!


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Our lives got interrupted a few weeks ago by Hurricane Irma.  It created quite the excitement in Florida.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it really.  The nervousness in the air was palpable for the whole week leading up to landfall.  The grocery stores ran out of some foods and the gas stations were mostly empty.  People were going a little crazy.  I had a feeling from the first time I heard about it that it was going to be bad news.  At first they were predicting an east coast landfall, similar to Hurricane Andrew.  So we made necessary preparations – food, generator, oil lamp, flashlights, boarded up the house, removed stuff from the yard, etc.

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However, the track kept pushing further west as the storm approached Florida.  Our plan was to stay home if it was a Cat 1 or 2 but on Saturday morning, the day before landfall, they were predicting a Cat 3 or 4 coming straight into Tampa Bay.  So, we made the necessary preparations and evacuated.  It was our first evacuation in all my years of being a Floridian.  I left with quite a bit of sadness.  Ben insisted we had to leave.  I felt things would change and figured we’d end up with a Cat 1 over our house, which is exactly what happened.  I really hate road trips and I wanted to be at our home to take care of clean-up as soon as the storm ended. But we didn’t feel like we should risk it in case it did ended up being a stronger storm.  The kids probably would have been scared.  Hurricane winds sounds like a loud freight train going by outside.  Also, we expected to lose power and didn’t think Andi could be in the heat too long without A/C. If it was just Ben and I, we would have certainly just hunkered down and experienced our first hurricane together.


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Ben had to work until Friday and I had a wedding to photograph on Saturday (crazy, I know!?!) so we left late on Saturday night, September 9th, and drove through the night.  We had a number of concerns about this plan.  The news and social media were making it clear that the roads were packed full of cars, trucks and RV’s evacuating from all over the state of Florida.  Some were predicting it was too late to leave, that you would get stuck somewhere and have to find a shelter to weather the storm – absolutely NOT what we wanted.  The other issue was gas.  Even in Tampa, gas was hard to find by afternoon, so how would it be along the evacuation route?  We had concerns of going from gas station to gas station, having to wait in long lines, dealing with rationing. or maybe being stuck on the freeway running out of gas.

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Well, all our concerns turned out to be for not.  I guess by the time we left, we were among only the very few who were crazy enough to leave when we did.  We felt we had a safe enough window – we would have had to have had a 15 hour delay and goggle was telling us the road were clear.  So we went for it.  There were very few cars on the road, maybe just as many leaving Florida as were coming into the state on the other side of the freeway. No slow-downs at all, other than the policeman who pulled Ben over concerned he was drunk (not the first time Ben has been pulled over for drunk driving).  He may have been a little distracted listening to the end of the BYU/UofU football game, and the connection going in and out going from cell tower to cell tower.  When we pulled off the highway after Tallahassee for gas, the first station we entered had no lines and plenty of gas.  We refueled and were back on the road in no time.

We arrived in Alabama at 5:30am.  We had a great time visiting Wendy and her family for two days! They have a large, private upstairs playroom and bathroom and we all camped out together.  We visited the park, went to Payne’s place of employment – an indoor bounce house, and ate a scrumptious meal at Aunt Judy and Uncle Ken’s home.  It was a fun 48 hours and it was so nice to have the emotional anticipation and concern relieved.

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The worst of the storm arrived Sunday night in Tampa.  The eye of the storm was literally over our house.  We figured we would lose all the food in our fridge and freezer (a few hundred dollars), I expected our pool screen to get torn, and maybe a few trees would be down.  Our neighbors were great to text us Monday morning with updates.  They said we had a few big branches down and our house light fixture was hanging off the house – that’s it! We never lost power (yeah for keeping all that frozen meat!), the pool screen was fine, and there was no flooding.  We were so relieved!  We packed up and headed home Monday night.  Drove through the night again (and through a Tropical Storm Irma) to get back to our happy home.  Two all-nighters in 4 days was tough but the kids slept the whole way so it was worth it.  We were some of the last people to evacuate and some of the first to return so the roads were still empty.   We had about a 8 hour drive.  I know lots of people whose drives lasted 18 – 22 hours along the same or similar routes.  The news said it was the largest evacuation in American History.  Half of Florida left it seemed like.  So the drives could have been much worse and I’m grateful things went smoothly.


The blue line (above) shows the projected path of the storm at one point was only about a mile from our house, and directly over our church building.

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We were so, so, so, so happy to get back home!  When I shut off the kitchen lights and walked out the front door I remember wondering when we’d have a normal meal around the kitchen table again.  So I was so thrilled to be back in our home just 2 days later with power, internet, and safety!!!  We went out for celebratory frozen yogurt the evening we got home.  Many shops and stores were still closed but we were lucky enough to find one open!

IMG_20170912_193633084 IMG_20170912_193621893There were lots and lots of trees down around the area and almost everyone we know lost power for some amount of time.  Many Pinellas county residents were without power for days.  We’re feeling pretty good about the location of our home.  Maybe the jungle in the backyard helped to block a lot of the wind and Heaven was just watching over us?  We didn’t see any trees down in our neighborhood and we’re one of the few areas that didn’t lose power.    My parents and Joe and Julie were without power for days.  I went and cleaned out their fridges and freezers so it wouldn’t be stinky when they arrived home.  Ben went down to Naples to help with clean-up last week and there are still so many people who don’t have power or who can’t return home because of damage.  So sad!  We feel so grateful that we were so blessed and protected!  And we’ve been eager to help those who were less fortunate.

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I was a bad/good wife and followed Ben’s wishes to not buy him presents or make a big deal about his birthday this year.  I felt bad we didn’t do more to commemorate the occasion but I’ve accepted that some years we’ll go bigger for adult birthdays than on other birthdays.

Ben choose Olive Garden for dinner.  We hadn’t been there in years.  Andi was a little tired and fussy so I left early with her.  We had ice cream sundaes back at home, and the kids presented him with homemade cards.

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That’s about it.  Not much to report but I still wanted to jot it down so we’ll remember it one day!

Love you Ben!

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We were in Utah from 8/1 to 8/8 this year.  We packed a lot of fun and visiting into the trip.  Let’s see if I can remember what all we did:)

We had McKay’s birthday celebrations on 8/2.  McKay’s 6th Birthday blog post has tons of pictures and details.

On the morning of 8/3 I met my BFF from high school for breakfast.  We had fun catching up and laughing about times gone by.

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Then we drove up to Alpine, Wyoming for Ben’s Johnson Family reunion.  It’s a place where 120 of the nicest, happiest people on the planet sit around and laugh and visit for a few days.

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On Saturday afternoon we drove to Idaho Falls to visit Grandpa Clint’s resting place and for the Fish Fry on the Johnson Family Farm.  Visiting the grave was one of the highlights of the trip for us.  The kids could really feel something and were very calm and sweet.  It was a special stop.

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McKay lost his first tooth by natural causes while we were on the farm.  Now he’s missing three teeth on his left side.  He’s still cute, though!


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Sunday we spent at church and had supper with all of Ben’s siblings and Mom.  The kids loved the cousin time!

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On Monday we went to Provo Rec Center and swam with Grandma Cliffie, Lane’s family, Bret’s family, Des and boys, Christy and girls, and Troy and kids.  Lots of fun!  Sadie was brave and adventerous.  Jax and McKay were not.  Very typical.  One of these  years those boys will get in touch with their wild sides, I just know it.

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After swimming we stopped by the Creamery for an ice cream cone and walked through the Bean Museum.

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After returning from Provo we packed up again and Troy was kind enough to take us up to Wasatch Stake Park (maybe that’s the name?) for some stocked pond fishing for the kids.  Ben was worn out so he stayed home with Grandma Cliffie and Andi.  The kids had a great time and we caught three fish.  I always feel sad for the fish and guilty about catching them for recreational purposes yet I have fun at the same time.  Complex feelings about fishing.

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We woke up super early on Tuesday and caught an 8:20am flight home to Florida.  Farewell Utah.  See you next year!

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My sweet baby boy turned 6.  I know Andi is my baby now but I’ll always think of McKay as my baby, too.  He is the most adorable, most affectionate, kindest little kid.  My heart skips a little beat every time I look into his sweet, dark brown eyes. I thank my lucky stars every day that he’s mine!


His birthday happened to fall on the first day of Ben’s Alpine Family Reunion this year, so we celebrated him a day early which also happened to be Lucy’s 3rd Birthday.  We arrived into Utah late on August 1st and Christy picked us up from the airport and we went to the Haggard Home.

On the morning of August 2nd he woke up to a cutely decorated house, cousins to play with, and a few presents to open.  He requested that I keep his birthday plans a surprise.  So, all throughout the day we had surprise destinations planned, delicious meals, and a present for him to open after each activity.  He loves a good surprise!

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We started the morning with Kolachi’s, a Czech pastry.  I thought they were delicious!!!  He took a few bites and then asked if he could have a bowl of cereal:) Fine by me.

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After breakfast we quickly got ready and headed up to Sundance Stables for a short little horse back riding session for each kid.  Children under 8 can’t ride unsupervised so the employee at the stables took each of the kids on a 15 minute walk through the forests.  It was beautiful and the kids had a fun time.  Poor Jax got a little carsick and lost his breakfast, but everything else went smoothly!

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After horseback riding and a present we went to Sundance to ride the lift up to the top of the mountain.  We had planned to hike to Stewart Falls but the 3 mile hike sounded a little too exhausting so we skipped it.  We loved the peaceful ride up the mountain.  Sweet Andi nursed and slept the whole ride up. I loved holding her sleeping little body and taking in all the mountain beauty!

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We ate lunch at Bearclaw Cabin at the top of the mountain.  Beautiful scenery in all directions!

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After the lift and another present we headed to Blickenstaff Toy Store where we let McKay pick out a toy.  They kids enjoyed wandering and exploring; it’s a very interactive and interesting store.

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Next we picked up Maddy and went to Scales and Tails – a warehouse of reptiles in West Jordan.  I think this was the highlight of the day for the kids.  It was so hands on – the kids could hold and pet any non dangerous animal that they wanted!  An employee stayed with us for at least an hour and a half showing us animals, teaching us about the animals, making funny jokes about the animals, and letting the kids pet and hold the animals.

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After that….another present!  Then we grabbed Thai take out and ate McKay’s favorite meal, Panang, at Christy and Matt’s house.  Cliffie and Natalie joined us.  We ended the day at the fire pit two blocks away from the Haggard Home with fire building, smores, and the final presents.

20170802-DSC_9137 20170802-DSC_9161 20170802-DSC_9165 20170802-DSC_9171 20170802-DSC_9183 20170802-DSC_9192I think he had a fun, surprise-filled, exciting birthday!

You never know how many birthdays you’ll be blessed with in this life so I think it’s important to make each one really special:)

I love that little boy!

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