Alicia & Ben » Blog


This past weekend I had the creative time of my life at Clickaway, a photography conference sponsored by ClickinMoms.  This was the first conference they have done and it was in Salt Lake City.  Too convenient to pass up!  It was Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  We have the Southwest Companion Pass so one child could fly free with me.  Jax was the lucky child.  My mom had McKay during the days, Sarah picked Sadie up after school, and Grandma Cliffie watched Jax.  Thanks to all for your babysitting services!


My mom gave Jax $10 to spend on his trip. He was thrilled! He was sweet and used some of it to buy presents for Sadie and McKay.


“Pose for the camera, Jax.” This is what he does.


Loved having one-on-one time with him!


The Fullers (family friends; Ben’s employer) have a beautiful second home in Salt Lake within walking distance to the convention center so I slept there all but the last night.  It was perfect.  This was my view when I went to bed and woke up:


I almost slept with my contacts in so I could see it more clearly as I was falling asleep and waking up.  It was fun to walk through Temple Square each morning on my walk to class.

The conference schedule was packed!  So many interested classes from brilliant photographers!  All my favorite topics: lighting, lightroom, posing, couples, candids, equipment, lifestyle, composition, beach photography, off camera flash, travel photography, creativity, etc.  It was really a thrill for me.  The first class began at 8:30 and the last one ended late afternoon and some evenings there were shoot outs.


My all time favorite blogger: Ashley Ann Cambell. I’ve read her blog, Under the Sycamore, for years. It was so exciting to meet her! Blog:


Took a class from kellie Penn all about posing on wedding day.

I learned a lot from the classes.  Although, one thing that surprised me was how much  more I knew than I realized.  I went into the conference nervous to admit I was in business and the words, “I’m a professional photographer” have never graced my lips.  I have never felt legit as a photographer.  But I realized how far I’ve come and that I knew more than I realized.  And I walked away with a lot of inspiration!

DSC_1400I’m so happy I was able to go!  It was a rejuvenating and motivating few days.


Holding my newest niece for the first time, Lucy.


Showing Grandma Cliffie his tricks.


Saw Troy, Jadyn, and Jace for about 20 minutes.


Playing in the park the last night.


She has the best head of hair!



Facebook Share|Tweet Post|Email Post|Contact Me

Shadow went to heaven

It’s been a week since we had to have Shadow put to sleep. He was almost entirely blind, deaf, and was having difficulty getting up and down. Although, I never thought it would be, it was very clear that it was finally time.

That dog was difficult to live with – all the shedding, barking to go out or come in every 5 minutes, and mischief right up until the end. But I sure miss him. He was a good dog. I should have been a better caretaker.


Kids saying their farewells


Shadow came to live with us when I was 16. It was around Valentine’s and we were told he was almost one so we just decided that valentine’s day would be his unofficial birthday. Our neighbors, the Joneses, had rescued him from the neighbor of Mrs. Jones’ sister. His original owners couldn’t get him potty trained and frequently mistreated him. One day Mrs. Jones’ sister over heard the neighbor yelling and hitting Shadow and she offered to take the dog since they were always so frustrated with him. The owners gave Shadow to the sister but after his temper softened he came knocking asking for his dog back. The sister said no and the man was upset. The sister brought Shadow to the Jones’ house to avoid further contention with the owner and a possible dognapping. They were searching for a good home for him and I felt I was the answer. My parents didn’t agree. I begged and they refused for weeks. My mom slowly started to fall in love with him and after forcing me to make promises to care for him, walk him, and take him once I was on my own they agreed to let us keep him. I was ecstatic!

Shadow, unfortunately, wasn’t the easiest dog to live with. He frequently had accidents in the house during the first year. He was scared of brooms or any stick and would hide at times. So sad! He ate food off the table when our backs were turned. He barked. And he was a lot of work, and frankly, I didn’t keep up my end of the bargain. There were several times my mom almost got rid of him. Once she had him in the car and they were heading to the SPCA. I was sobbing and told her if she got rid of my dog that I would NEVER forgive her. Off they went. Back they came. I was so relieved! Thanks mom!

Once Shadow and I went to the Wiley’s house and unbeknownst to us he had an accident and poor Heather, faithful friend that she is, stepped in it! We felt so bad.

When we were newly weds Ben made me cupcakes for my birthday. I couldn’t figure out where Ben had left them as I was preparing to frost them. I looked in the over – no. I looked in the microwave – no. I looked in the fridge – no. I called Ben had work and he said he had left them on the counter. I called out, “Shadow?!?!?” He had the guilty look and went to his crate. He had eaten all 12 cupcakes including the wrappers!!! We never found a crumb.

Shadow and I had a bit of a falling out once kids starting appearing in our family. I didn’t want one more thing to take care of. So we began shared custody with my parents. They’d take him for a few months and then we would switch back. We loved him but no one wanted to live with him.

Sadie enjoyed Shadow the most and she cried the hardest when she said goodbye. Jax was just starting to like him. He would burst into tears whenever Shadow barked. FOR YEARS. Drove me crazy! McKay mostly liked to walk him on a leash and boss him around.

We shared many good times together.  He was a great dog. Most likely my last dog.  We miss the old man but I’m happy he’s at peace.


Facebook Share|Tweet Post|Email Post|Contact Me
September 10, 2014 - 6:16 pm

Shannon - So sad to see Shadow go. I didn’t know the back story to how he became yours. What a sweet story :) I’m sure you’ve got lots of fun memories of all the mischief he caused and happiness he brought to the kids. So no more pets, huh?

September 16, 2014 - 8:54 pm

alicia - Nope! No more pets :) Maybe a bunny or hamster or something in the future. I think that’s about it, though.

1st Day of School

School is up and running again….1st grade and preschool. McKay is my little stay at home buddy. He cried two days last week when Jax left. I was sad the first day but now I’m enjoying having the extra time and peace:)

Jax LOVES preschool. He is really ornery when I pick him up though. He especially gets mad if he hears McKay and I did something interesting without him. We had a hard time getting him into the school we wanted. The good ones close to our house were full. I think I toured 8 preschools before we settled on his current one. It’s a long drive but a great school. His teacher is very nice. She’s different from Mrs. Kelly (Sadie’s preschool teacher) – more strict and academic, a little less loving. She’ll be a good teacher, though. His school is strict – uniform policy, pay $10/minute if you’re late picking up, only allowed 100% fruit juice in lunch boxes, no unhealthy snacks allowed, mandatory parental involvement, etc. We’re a little more laid back but I’m happy he’s getting a good education. Although, really, it’s only preschool?!?! I’m mostly wanting him to learn social skills in a safe, loving environment. They’re trying to create the next Einstein. I admire their determination.

Sadie tolerates 1st grade. Can’t say she enjoys it; not sure she dreads going either though. Her teacher seems fabulous. I requested her and I’m so happy I went through the extra effort. Sadie seems pretty comfortable already. She starts at 8AM and gets out at 2:15. It’s great to have so much time with her in the afternoon. Her school is a uniform school, too. She thinks it’s so fun to wear a uniform so that’s convenient. We started the tradition that every Thursday I go to her school and eat lunch with her. This last Thursday she was sitting next to a sweet boy and they were laughing hysterically. That made me happy. I’m hoping to get to volunteer at her school frequently. Her previous school didn’t want volunteers so I never went in. Her new school seems eager for help.

We are hopeful it will be a great school year for the kids!


Facebook Share|Tweet Post|Email Post|Contact Me

Summer 2014

Summer is my favorite season of the year.  I love the freedom, sandy beach days, tanned skin, sleeping in, grilling, trips, warm nights, and moody thunder storms.  By September/October I’m sick of the heat; but during June, July, and August I’m loving it.

Last summer we had a long Summer Fun List on our fridge that kept us busy and entertained – parks, beaches, crafts, visiting friends, and other iconic summer activities. The summer of 2014 was all about house projects, moving, and girls camp. The kids didn’t seem to notice the lack of recreation, thankfully. They stayed busy rediscovering their toys, reading books, playing in the pool, and helping with house projects.

A few pictures from our summer:


Well visit doctors appointments.


I think we set a record for number of chocolate chip cookies made and consumed.






Playing in the pool to get the wiggles out and cool off.


Kimmy was home a lot and that was fantastic.


Late afternoon naps after pool time.


Yard work! Lots of yard work!


Playing with toys.


Kimmy visits!


Tearing out trees with Gramma and Kimmy.


After open play gymnastics.


Girls camp meetings.


Dealing with wildlife from the jungle in our backyard.


Pool play time.

School has started up again and it’s nice to have a little more free time.  Sadie and Jax were getting pretty restless by the end of summer so it’s great to know they’re happily engaged in more meaningful activities.

Good bye summer!  I will miss you.  See you next year.

Facebook Share|Tweet Post|Email Post|Contact Me

Girls Camp

This post will be really, really long yet completely insufficient.  In fact, I’ve thought about just not writing it, because, really, words just can’t do justice. Ben says to at least try, so here I go.

Things went wrong.

Lots of things went wrong.


Kimberly’s injured arm.

But, good news….lots of things went right, too!


We were the last girls camp group of the summer and the couple running it said we had a record for the most rainfall and the most issues. Direct quote, “We haven’t had this much trouble all summer – let alone this much in a single week.” I didn’t think things went that bad but we did have our issues.

So a little background info. This is mostly for my record keeping.

The theme was We Are Family and we used the quote from the Family Proclamation, “….the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” (Family Proclamation).  We focused on family is the past, present, and future each day – strengthening PRESENT family relationships, preparing for FUTURE family, and blessing our PAST/deceased relatives through temple work. Also, on Monday we focused on camp family as that was our get to know you day.


Our family tree

The Stake Leaders were the Great Grandmas, the YCLS were the Marvelous Mama’s, the 4th years were the Awesome Aunties, the 3rd years were the Cool Cousins, the 2nd years were the Sweet Sisters, and the 1st years were the Beauty Babes.  We had a total of 83 registered girls.  I think 79 came.


Clever – marvelous mamas dressed up in aprons and used balloons as baby bumps!

My partners in crime were Katie and Jaclyn.  Great fun!  Jaclyn kept things running when I was away and did certification stuff, and Katie dealt with drama and crafty things.  Equally important was Kimmy.  She was the YCL Level Leader and was so much help, too!  So grateful for their support and help and wisdom and happiness and patience!


Each night we did a letter writing activity where the girls had 20 minutes of scripture study and letter writing time. The letter topics tied into each day’s topic – Monday (Friends/Camp Family) they wrote their testimony in a Book of Mormon to share with a friend, Tuesday (Future Family) they wrote a letter to their future self describing what they want their family to be like and what they can do now to achieve that, Wednesday (Present Family) they wrote a letter of appreciation to a family member, and Thursday (Past Family) they wrote a memory of a relative and hopefully will enter that info into when they arrive home after camp.

So, to kickoff our theme us stake leaders created a choreographed dance to the song, “We Are Family” and dressed up as Grandma’s.  One problem – sound system didn’t work.  So, after stalling and troubleshooting for 10 minutes we finally decided to try blasting the song from our car.  It didn’t work.  So, we just looked crazy dressed up as grandma’s and never got to do our song.


Also during that kickoff we planned a game where the girls organize themselves into groups by making animals sounds. Each girl is assigned one of eight animals and when the game begins they must keep their eyes closed and make the sound their animals makes and try to find all their other animal matches.  Sounds easy and kindof fun, right?  Well, the pavilion we were meeting in had a metal room and the sky decided to open and a torrential downpour ensued and we couldn’t hear a thing.  So, that game was a bit of a wash.  Even with the microphone we couldn’t hear over the pounding of the rain above us.  It was actually pretty hilarious to hear all the girls screaming their sounds.  Total chaos!


Loud screaming chaos = hilarious!

So, eventually once we helped everyone organize into their 8 different groups we gave them all hair accessories and told them they had 15 minutes to do each other in wacky hair-dos.  We tied it into our theme by saying that not every family member is picture perfect but we need to love everyone, even those that we think are odd or different from us.  A bit of a stretch but hey….good enough!  The girls had fun and were very creative.  It helped loosen everyone up, too.


We had one little problem, though.  Lice.  Yes, sadly, very sadly.  Yes.  Two girls.  So, that took some sensitive dealing with.  We had a priesthood leader run out to get products to treat them, but ultimately we had to send the girls home.  I was almost the driver, too, as their parents didn’t have a working vehicle and we couldn’t find anyone willing to come get them.  It’s a three hour drive each way from their home.  We finally found a member of the stake presidency who took them most of the way home.  So, the rain continued during the afternoon and evening which spoiled our outdoor activities.  Luckily, the crafts we could do and the girls enjoyed their indoor free time, I think.  During the afternoon I was quite distracted as the girls who were going home.  They were understandably upset, needed help packing, arranging rides, and doing the treatment.

That evening when we were driving up to the office to check on the girls going home I was riding with a leader, Tara, and talking about the canoeing.  She asked where we were going to canoe and I pointed to the lake right in front of us.  She said, “Are there alligators in there?”  I said, “Yes!” And she said, “Oh my – there’s one right there!!”  Sure enough, straight in front of us there was a 6 footer crossing the road.  Little did I know I would have another run in with an alligator in that same spot later in the week!

We had a great FHE that night and our YCLs taught level devotionals.  The girls were pretty wired but we finally had them settled down and in their cabins by 11:30ish.

Tuesday morning was a big activity and luckily it didn’t rain and I think the girls enjoyed it.  We did a Certification Holy Hike.  (I may save details for another post).  It went well except for one small problem.  The colors stained the girls hair!  Eek.  Not good.  Especially since we would be at the temple on Thursday.  After the hike we sent all the girls to the water slide in their clothes to get clean.  Not sure if they liked that or not but we didn’t want the cabins to get covered in the Holi powder.


We had a problem with one girl just after that activity.  It got a little personal and hurtful.  I was slightly concerned for my physical safety at one point. I shed a few tears afterwards and rebounded quickly, thank goodness.

That afternoon we did rotations.  That’s when another problem arose.  Ringworm.  So, back to the store we went for ringworm treatment medication.  That wasn’t too hard to deal with.  However, my level of sensitivity for bugs/germs was rising!

That night we had Family Feud – huge hit!  During family feud one of the leaders did that, “Come here we have another problem” beckon to me.  So, over I walk and she shows me this video:

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT!!?!?! She explains that she was in the bathrooms with a few girls and stepped on a large beetle.  She went to get a paper towel to pick it up and the girls start yelling, “It’s moving, it’s moving!”  She says, “No way, I killed that thing good!”  So, she walks over and starts to notice a little antennae moving.  Then the antennae starts growing.  Until finally this entire parasite comes out of the beetle.  So, then we have girls and leaders (myself included) concerned that they will be getting parasites.  I had showered without shoes earlier that day, so I was a little freaked out about my health safety.  In the end, it turns out it was a parasite but only able to infect bettles, frogs, and horses.

The next day was Wednesday.  Ah…half way there!  The morning we had made a rotation schedule of service, shooting and horseback riding.  One problem – we were told there would be 10 horses but only 8 were brought.  Each girl and leader had been told as assigned time to be at each place and our two missing horses meant our entire schedule was off.  It was a bit of a logistical nightmare.  I was stressed.  I felt disorganized.  It wasn’t fun.  Around 10AM, sweet Kimberly Parker had a heart-to-heart talk with me and said something like this, “Dixie (another leader) and I have a walkie talkie and we’ve been listing to you guys all morning and none of you seem happy.  I know it’s disorganized but it’s not your fault and the girls don’t know.  They think it’s going great!  They’re all having a great time!” Ahhhh!  Lights came on.  I was so happy she pointed all those things out.  Totally helped to lighten me up!  Self check: Am I stressed? Oh dear, yes, I am.  Do I feel happy?  On no, I don’t.  Are the girls happy?  Yes, they are.  Ohhhh.  After that things went better but it still was a lot of work and walking to get each group ready and to their needed spots.   My brain was tired, but it ended up okay.


Well, almost okay.

I was stationed the whole day at the horse station.  Our last group was out and I was waiting for them to return.  I got down there at the half hour mark and waited and waited and waited.  Another 20 minutes went by and I figured maybe the horseman had taken them for a longer ride since it was the last group and had several adult leaders.  So, finally, they trot up and I yell out, “Did you guys have fun?”  The horseman pulls up with a grim face and says, “That depends on who you ask.”  He helps Kimberly Parker off her horse and shows me her bloodied arm.  Her horse had gotten spooked and took off running and she got thrown mid-run.  We took her to the nurse who treated her open sore.  She also had bruises on her leg and a very sore back.  She had hit the ground at a awkward angle and had severe whiplash.  She’s still not back to normal and it’s been several weeks.  I felt terrible as I was the one who had pushed for horseback riding.  I asked the man early one if it was safe and if anyone had ever been thrown and he told me, “Yes, safe.  No one has ever been thrown.” He comes out regularly to this camp ground to do this for young women’s groups.

I left Kimberly with the nurse and took quick 5 minute pick me up shower and headed to the afternoon lesson.  I needed to regroup and perk up again so I thought a little lesson would be just the right thing.

After about 15 minutes in the lesson a leader walked in and gave me another of those, “Come here we have a problem” look.  She tells me that she thinks one of the first years is having a seizure.  Oh no!  This girl had a history of epilepsy but had been seizure free for 14 months.  She also isn’t a member of our church; she had come with a friend.  So I ran to find the nurse who I thought would still be with Kimberly Parker (hoseback riding victim) but she wasn’t.  So, I notice President Emery is in the large pavilion and he’s an MD so I asked him to take a look at her. The poor girl was sitting on the edge of her bed shaking gently.  It wasn’t a violent seizure like most people think of.  She was frozen, unresponsive, eyes were crossed and slightly open.  She was tight and stiff but rocking gently.  We found the nurse and called her mom.  Her mom said just to leave her, not to call paramedics, that she would come out of it after about 20 minutes.  Well, after a few minutes we decided we needed to call the paramedics because she wasn’t coming out of it.  It was quite a drive for them – can’t remember how far.  30 minutes?  Just as they arrived the skies decided to burst again and they got soaked as they came over to the cabin.  They eventually got her on a gurney and were ready to load her up into their vehicle but another problem arose.  The ambulance and firetruck were stuck in the mud!  The flooding and roads were so bad they couldn’t drive.  *Slap to the forehead!*  Meanwhile, our sweet seizure girl is still in her seizure and it’s been over an hour.  They decided to take the seat out of a leader’s van and put the gurney in that.  Just about the time they pulled up in the van they were able to get the ambulance out of the mud, though, so we never used the van.  We said our farewells to the still seizing girl and the leader/family friend, Tiffany,  who traveled with her.  All that ended around 5:30 or 6ish, I think.  It had been a loonnnggg day; I was ready for bed.  That night was skit night which we got through without injury or parasite problems.  We had ward devotionals after skits and I joined in with Hudson.  Felt good to be back among my people!


Skit night dance

After devotionals Melinda Marshall and I headed to the hospital to pick up the leader who had traveled in the ambulance.  The girl’s mother had arrived so Tiffany needed a ride back to camp.  It was fun to get out for a little while and have some fun.  We arrived back late.  Maybe 1AM? Not really sure.  Tiffany stepped on a massive frog in the pavilion on our walk to our cabins.  We laughed so hard and none of us could bare to pick it up.  Still don’t know who dealt with that.  Sorry to whoever did!

Thursday morning came all to quickly.  The plan for Thursday was to wake up (very challenging to do), eat breakfast (delicious), and travel to the temple (Kimmy and I went the wrong way).  We realized at breakfast that several of the girls still had stained hair from the Holy Hike.  I think it was the girls with really light blond hair or the ones that have color treated their hair.  Some girls braided their hair, a few with the problem weren’t going into the temple anyways, and everyone else we tested to see if color was still bleeding out and it wasn’t.  So, ultimately, the temple staff let them do baptisms.  I loved being in the temple and needed the pick-me-up!


Dixie let me drive her hummer to shuttle kids back and forth from the stake center to the temple.  That was fun.

While shuttling girls between the temple and Stake Cente one girl came up to my driver’s side window and handed me a note saying I made her feel invisible and she was leaving the church because of me.  A few other leaders got one, too.  Another girl, a friend of the note writing one, had an emotional breakdown at the same time.  Thankfully, Katie took care of that issue.  The three of them sat in a car crying and talking for over an hour.  I’m not good with girl drama.  I have very little tolerance so I was grateful Katie dealt with it.

The rest of that day went pretty smoothly.  :)  We arrived back to the camp ground around 4 or 5ish.  We had testimony meeting that night.  I could have done better, to be honest.  My poor brain was pretty fried by that point.  We got through, though.  I think it was a success? I got a lot out of the meeting.


Huge dance party that night.  The girls had fun.  I was walking around trying to figure out awards for the closing ceremony the next day.


Around 1AM we shut things down.

Niki (who I love dearly!) had a brilliant idea for a prank for Marilyn Glaus – to hide her car!  Those two had been going back and forth with little pranks all week.  So, Kimmy, Niki, and I decided to take her car up the top of the waterslide hill.  We were all so deliriously tired by this point.  At least I was!  Note video below.

So, the prank was a little on us because on our walk back to the camp ground, just 2 minutes after that video, I looked to my left and 20 feet away what did I see…..a 6 foot alligator!  Oh!  I didn’t tell anyone because Kimmy was already totally freaked out because we could hear their growl-like sounds so we knew they were out there.  I just kept walking.  Kept praying.  Walk.  Pray.  Walk.  Pray. Walk. Pray.  I’m here to tell about it, so obviously, nothing terrible happened but it sure had my heart pounding!


Niki is wet because her and Marilyn and Kimmy all dumped water on each other during the dance.


Marilyn was dressed up as a gorilla costume trying to find and scare us when we got back to camp.  Little did she know how scared we were while doing the car prank to her!  Joke was on us!


I think we finally settled into our beds around 3:30ish.

Around 6AM I woke up feeling nauseous.  I’ll spare you the details but poor Nikki Critchlow may forever be scarred after the experiences of that morning.  Bless her heart!

I pieced what was left of me together long enough to get packed up and cleaned up.  I started feeling sick again around 11ish, during closing ceremonies, but nothing embarrassing happened.  We got the girls checked out and I was so, so, so, so happy to finally be done.  Kimmy and I could have cried with joy!


This is the woman who helped run the camp. We LOVED her!

Kimmy almost didn’t come but I needed her in those moments more than I ever knew I would!  Thank you Kimmy.  Thank you!  Couldn’t have stayed sane with out you!  Forever will I be grateful you were there!

Girls camp was a lot of work and a lot of stress. But it was also a really great experience and a lot of fun!  I learned so much.  I’ve never been in many leadership positions and I found I really enjoyed the challenge and the satisfaction of being needed and respected.

The leaders were absolutely fantastic! So fun to be with.  So patient with our hiccups.  So committed to the girls!  There were many things we should have done differently but everyone was so forgiving and complimentary despite our shortcomings.  I once read an article from a former stake camp director who said the greatest advice she could give was to choose the leaders wisely.  Well, I really took that to heart and  thought and prayed about leaders a lot.  And everyone worked out FANTASTICLY!  Each person seemed so well suited for the group of girls she was with.

I’m not sure if the girls had quite as much fun as all of us leaders but they seemed happy, got along really well, and found ways to get into the theme even though it was a little peculiar!

Kimmy and I were so happy to get back to Tampa!

I was thrilled to see my three little kiddos.  Happiness.

I took a shower without ants or millions of jumping frogs or parasite invested beetles.  Happiness.

Ben came home from work with his dependable smile and listened to all my crazy stories and then sent me to bed.  Happiness.

They had a nickname for me at camp: One and Done!

That was my one girls camp, and now I’m done! Hooray!




Facebook Share|Tweet Post|Email Post|Contact Me
August 27, 2014 - 12:36 am

Shannon - Oh my Alicia! What an adventure. I admire you for getting through this experience. You put so much work into this and I’m sure the girls enjoyed their time together. You are so brave too to endure all of those bugs, the humidity, and the alligators. I think that would be too much for me for a whole week. Thanks for sharing. I was wondering how camp went for you.