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McKay’s 3rd Birthday

Our baby, who’s not really a baby but we all treat him like a baby, turned 3! It’s nice to have it official – he’s been telling people for a while now that he’s three and “all grown up”.

We celebrated his birthday on Saturday, the day before his real birthday.

He woke up to find presents waiting and the house decorated:


We made his requested breakfast – crepes.

Then we headed to Publix to pick out a cake and then to the gymnastics place for open play time.


The family came over for lunch, swimming, and games.

When we asked McKay what foods he wanted for his birthday he requested chicken on the grill, watermelon, and his favorite vegetable – onions. We delivered on the first two requests but skipped out on the onions.

Opening presents was the highlight of the day for him!

McKay had requested a soccer pool party so Ben put together a few kiddie soccer-like games.  The adults got a little too into the water balloon games.  Mike and I ended up soaked.  He cannot be trusted!

The party started at 12:30 and I literally kicked everyone out around 5:30. I guess they had fun. I had a photoshoot in St Pete so I had to leave to get there on time.

The next day was his real birthday. We went to church, packed, and went to stay the night at Mimi and Grandpie’s house (in preparation for Girls Camp the following morning). My parents were sweet and made him a nice meal and bought him another cake.


Happy birthday to my big three year old baby who is “all grown up” now!

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August 17, 2014 - 7:43 pm

Shannon - What a fun party! Happy Birthday Mckay. I can’t believe he’s three already :)

Utah Trip 2014

Another great summer trip to Utah! We really packed in the fun this time. Some trips are low key and we stay close to home base in Heber. This trip I decided to plan as if we were actually on vacation. We visited friends and a few sites. The kids had a blast!

I was starting to wonder if the trip would ever happen. We had 4 delayed flights, spent the night in Las Vegas (without any of our bags), and finally arrived to our destination 34 hours after leaving our house! It was exhausting. Luckily, the kids were champs and did less complaining than Ben and I did.
Christy and Maddie were so sweet to meet us at the airport the afternoon after the day we were suppose to arrive.  It was a happy moment to see them standing and waving to us!  We had a great time visiting while Ben went to long term parking to grab Kimmy’s car (thanks Kimmy!) and then we went out to lunch.  The kids adore Madeleine!  They treat her like a little baby even though she’s really not that much younger than them.   She’s very polite and patient about being babied.  McKay feels it’s his personal job to babysit her and keep her out of trouble.  He is often found corralling her and yelling at her, “Maddie Jo, come baaaaaaack!”

After lunch we hit the road and drove to a beautiful cabin which Cliffie had reserved for a family reunion.  The kids were about at their break point so the drive felt especially long.  We finally arrived and we were so, so, so happy to see family and finally be at our destination.  We enjoyed dinner, a talent show program with the kids, and a lesson by Grandma Cliffie that evening.
DSC_6558The next morning we had a family photo shoot led by Bekah.  She did a great job.  It’s never easy with a large group but she managed everyone so well.

We spent the rest of that morning lakeside - visiting, swimming, and canoeing.  Jax is quite nervous around water so we were pleasantly surprised by his willingness to ride in the boat and on the rafts.  Lane put a motor on the back of one of the boats and pulled the kids around the lake on rafts.
That afternoon we had a women’s retreat and did manicures and facials while eating chocolate.  My best little girl friend came with me:
DSC_6687After a little while she got bored and decided to catch lizards with the boy cousins instead.  So Sadie-like!  She loves her girly dresses and manicured nails but there’s a little tomboy inside of her, too.


Catching tiny fish.

DSC_6727That evening Troy and Becky hosted Minute To Win It games:

Sunset walk around the lake:

Smores around the campfire:
The next morning we had a little shooting practice and played horseshoes.  McKay especially enjoyed the shooting experience!  We packed up and headed out just after lunch. Bret and Shannon took Jax in their car and Cliffie took Sadie in her car.  We had a peaceful drive – only one sleeping child!  Ben and I enjoyed our uninterrupted conversations.
That evening I met some fabulous Florida friends in Salt Lake.  We were all best friends in high school.  They all live out there so I don’t get to see them too often.  When we do get together it’s just like old times!  I do so love them!
The next day was Sunday so we got dressed and headed to church.  Jax and McKay enjoyed using some binoculars to inspect hot air balloons while the rest of us got ready:
After church the boys napped while Sadie and I went to see Troy’s coworker’s puppies.  This was the highlight of the trip for Sadie!  She had a little emotional breakdown when we left and she still tears up when I show her the pictures.  “When can we go back, Mommy???”  She was entirely, painfully in love!  Time stopped.  She had entered her earthly heaven!  I hated to make her go.  She loves animals and loves to mother – this experience combined her two great loves.
After a good cry she regrouped and spent 3 hours jumping on Grandma Cliffie’s trampoline with her cute cousins who came over for Sunday supper.  We all had a ball enjoying the soft, summer grass and one another’s company.
The next day Christy’s mother-in-law was kind enough to take us to the Museum of Natural Curiosity by using her Grandparent’s pass.  So many clever things to discover!  Desire and Asher came, and Bret and Shannon and family.
I left part way through to visit with Raven, a former roommate, at her new home in West Valley.  We had fun catching up and chatting about days gone by.
That afternoon we visited the Bean Museum.  A mighty big hit with the kids, I must say.  Although, their favorite part was the small kiddie play area which had a small cave-like crawl area which had a spooky bear carved into the wall.  Grandma Cliffie was prepared with a flashlight and all the kids took turns shining the flashlight at the scary bear.
That night we attempted to do an outdoor campfire meal at a park in the canyon.  There was a fire ban, though, so we drove back down to Provo and roasted our hot dogs at a church owned area by Matt and Christy’s house.  The sunset was spectacular!


Male bonding while fire building.


Not sure how many of these she snuck when her parents weren’t looking. I didn’t have the heart to tattle.

Ben had a work obligation the next morning so the kids and I watched Frozen and had a calm morning.
Natalie treated us to lunch at her favorite Indian restaurant.  It was yummy!  McKay inhaled the food.  Sadie and Jax – not so much.  Jax got sick shortly after we left so I’m assuming he wasn’t feeling good.  Note his grumpy face below!
Natalie was sweet enough to watch sick Jax in Heber while we went to Kamas pool with Kurt, Des, Asher, Troy, Jadyn, and Jace.  I think this is the 3rd summer in a row we’ve gone there.  It’s always a hit with the kids.
Natalie kept the kids entertained on the trampoline that night!  It was a steady stream of giggles for an hour and a half straight.  She’s got a way with kids.
The next morning we packed up while Troy and Cliffie entertained our kids at Troy’s house.  We stopped by the bank to say goodbye to Natalie and then we went to Provo to return Kimmy’s car to Christy’s driveway.  While in Provo we met another Florida Friend, RoseAnn, at the Creamery.  RoseAnn spent many, many hours teaching me to wakeboard in high school and has always been so great to our family!  We had a wonderful short visit:)
After that I said a tearful goodbye to Christy and we left for the airport. Thankfully, the trip home was uneventful! We arrived in 8 hours instead of the 34 it took us to get there.:)

It was a fun-filled, friend-filled, family-filled trip! Those are the best kind!

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August 17, 2014 - 7:48 pm

Shannon - We loved having some time to visit with you during the reunion weekend. I just wish we could have been around a little longer to see you some more before you left to go home. Your family is always so much fun! We look forward to seeing you in November too.

Done, Not Done!

We had so much motivation when we first moved in the house.  I think I was nearly completely unpacked in 5 days.  Then I realized I had a few big items coming up: my birthday trip, Utah trip, McKay’s birthday, and girls camp.  So, shortly after moving in we had to pause from house projects and get through those other commitments.  Now that girls camp is over I thought it best to take inventory of where we are and what we have left to do.

Disclaimer: I took these pictures today and the house is far from clean and tidy so please do overlook clutter and messes.  I straightened up a little but it’s still far from perfect.  Also, I did minimal editing to the pictures.

Note: If you have ideas or suggestions - please share!

Big things we’ve already had done: new AC, new drywall in the ceiling of the garage because Ben slipped while putting stuff in attic, painted the whole house inside and outside including ceilings, new flooring in the whole house, and new baseboards.

So, shall we start with the biggest items yet to be done?

The stairs still look like this:


Not so pretty! Our plan is for Ben to DIY the stairs and do white risers and wood treads. Can’t wait to get that done.

Before we do that, though, Ben is going to tackle the “living room”. Right now it looks like this:

Most of that is girls camp stuff that needs to be organized and taken to the church.  The sofa needs to be sold.  Haven’t found a buyer yet :(  The big project in this room is we plan to build a long built-in desk with drawers and then bookshelves up above.  Perhaps, something like this:

Right now we’re using our old TV console table as our computer desk.  It’s quite rough on the back to type stooped over as I am right now.

After the built-ins we then need to do molding in the front two rooms.  Something like this but not as tall:


Once the molding is in, we should be able to finish the base boards.  We still have to finish a few rooms and do a lot of the detail work filling the nail holes and touch up paint.

So, let me start over again.

When you drive up to the house you see this:


Getting that pink gone did a world of good for the house, but we still need to get the trees trimmed and do some landscaping.  We also have a quote from a guy to install gutters; just need to call him and get on his schedule.  We’ve already cut down 8ish trees but there’s still loads of yard work to do!

When you enter the house you see this:

DSC_0019The Master is to the right; the kids bedrooms are to the left.

Let’s start with the Master bedroom. I’m not so much in love with it, to be honest.  I wanted a darker grey but the color looks brown in most light.  Also, I’m a little tired of our bedroom set because I feel like it’s dark and heavy and I’d like something lighter and happier but I keep it for sentimental reasons and because I don’t want to spend the money to change things. So, our room is like this:



The Master bathroom is in dismal shape.  We don’t even have running water from the faucets!  We had one of the four knobs working and we bought all the parts to replace the hardware but it turns out one small piece was the wrong size.  We brush our teeth in the other bathroom and wash our hands in the bathtub.  We still haven’t painted and there’s no mirror.  Things we HAVE done include: ripped out the wallpaper (took hours and hours and hours!), bought and installed a new shower head, scrubbed every inch, and installed a new toilet.


Now, for the kids’ rooms.

Sadie’s room currently looks like this:


It’s a little blah. I painted the chest and her bed – they were cheap things I found off of craigslist. My dad did her whole closet system and we LOVE it!

The boys room is even more blah.:)


I think I’m going to paint it a dark blue. I like the beds because they are convertible and it’s great that they don’t consume the room. They’re a little feminine, though?  One wagon was a freebie from my parent’s garage. The other I bought for $15 off craiglist. The kids put their books, night time toys, and blankies in them.

The kids bathroom looks like this:


We installed new hardware and a new toilet and painted. We plan to redo the bathtub and tile so it’s a perfect white instead of a dirty looking yellow-brown.

Coming back downstairs:


Do you like my huge ‘J’?



We need a new rug but poor Shadow is about to die and I’m worried he’s going to have accidents on it so we’re holding off on buying a few things until he passes to the next life:(Sad but true. We also need two new chairs, a stand for the TV, and décor on the walls.

The kitchen isn’t transformed too much. We bought a new dishwasher, a new garbage disposal, and oven racks.  We planned to do a new backsplash, under cabinet lighting, and have the countertops professional cleaned/polished.  We need to buy chairs for the table. I think I may try to paint the current table white. The bookshelf was hideous until I painted it turquois.  It was part of Sadie’s bedroom set, but I’m using it in the kitchen to hold cookbooks.


I wonder if I should keep this “Wash” sign in the kids bathroom for a gentle reminder to wash their hands after they use the potty.


The downstairs bathroom still needs a new shower put in. It was leaking badly and needed a new shower pan. The plumber has put that in and replaced the shower hardware; now we just need to pick out tile. We are struggling to decide on tile.


Downstairs playroom:


I really want to buy a kids table set for that room and get rid of the futon. I’ve found my perfect table but it comes with a hefty price tag. (


I love it. It’s brilliant. It’s expensive. Oh well.

The backyard is still crazy. We have put a lot of money into the pool. $300 for the kiddie fence, $500 to repair cracks and paint the decking, and $250 for a creepie crawly. That was why I didn’t want a pool. We do go in it a lot so it makes it a little easier to deal with the cost of upkeep.


Playing with tadpools.



That’s where we’re at now. It’s been a lot of work! Still a lot to do, too! We’re very ready to get going again and get this stuff finished up in the coming months!

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August 12, 2014 - 3:58 pm

Desiree - It’s looking GREAT! You’re really making it a cozy home. I have to keep going back to look at old pictures for the before. Fabulous job really! I especially love the sleepy pictures of Mckay

August 13, 2014 - 2:48 pm

Niki Kemple - I love it! Even uncompleted and in the middle of projects, I’m still having house envy! The staircase is my favorite detail of the house, and the little wagons at the ends of your boys beds are genious! I love the giant “J”, and Sadie’s repurposed bookshelf for your cookbooks is perfect! One day I’ll have to come see it in person!

August 17, 2014 - 7:52 pm

Shannon - Wow! You have done so much to your house. It’s probably overwhelming to see how much left you want to get done, but you really have accomplished a lot. I love your ideas for the shelving and molding in your house too. I would love to do that some day too. I’m not great at suggesting home decorating. I usually need someone to offer me suggestions, but I really like the changes you have made. Everything looks so bright and cheery too!

Alicia’s 30th Birthday

I don’t plan to belabor the point but I have to at least acknowledge it: I turned 30.  I never expected to be a person that cared about aging.  And it’s not that I’m disturbed by it - I’m just shocked by it.  I’m 30?  I’m 30.  I have to keep reminding myself.  Really?  I’m 30?  Yes, Alicia, you’re 30!  How did this happen?  I feel no older than 26 and no wiser than I was at 23.  Just the same, though, I’m 30.


Me at 30.

I guess I belabored the point.

The 20′s were great to me!  Here’s a brief recap of major events:

20 - Finished up school at BYU (right before turning 21)

21 – Married Ben in Orlando Temple (right after turning 21)

22 - Graduated from University of Tampa with Master’s degree in teaching & bought our first home

23 – Sadie was born & ‘retired’ from teaching

24 – Started doing photography with Sarah

25 – Jax was born

26 – A good but busy year, became pregnant with Mo when Jax was 4 months old

27 – McKay was born

28 - I miraculously survived a year with three very small, cute children.  Most tiring year of my life.

29 – Loved every minute of it!  Probably the best year of my life! The kids were so fun and small, yet fairly manageable.  We were blessed to go on fun trips.  We moved out of our home in New Port Richey into a home we like much more in Tampa.

Lots of happy memories and major events for one decade!!  I have some regrets in those years but I’ve tried to learn from mistakes and experiences.  I guess my 30′s will be called Take 2: Trying to Become the Me I Want to Be - a more patient, relaxed, go-with-the flow, and love and help everyone around you type of person.

Incidentally, most of the family was traveling internationally on my birthday so we decided to do a little beach getaway.  We found a hotel on the beach in Daytona (Perry’s Oceanfront Hotel) which looked wonderfully relaxing.  The last few months have been so busy and chaotic.  The slow pace and rays of sunshine were the perfect reprieve!




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July 25, 2014 - 8:08 pm

Shannon - Happy belated birthday Alicia! I’m sorry I wasn’t able to tell you the day of, but I was away from the computer at a family reunion. It sure does look like you had a wonderful time celebrating your jump into your 30′s. You are the best!

Kiddos Updates

Haven’t written about each child recently so I thought I’d jot down some details.



Sadie is perfect lately.

She transitioned so well to her new school. I was worried it would be too much, and we were thought about homeschooling for those few months. But, with all of life’s craziness I knew I wouldn’t have the time to devote to homeschooling during that time of transition so we enrolled her in Bauder.  She did great!  Several times while walking to school she would look up at me and say, “I really enjoy this school, Mommy.”  When I picked her up she seemed peppy and energized.  When she was attending her old school she often would protest about going and seemed so, so, so tired and irritable when we picked her up.  Maybe it was coincidence but she also seemed to make an academic leap while she was there.  It was a great thing for her!

Sadie loves maternal type activities – always playing with a doll or pretending one of her brothers is her baby horse.  She also likes to ask me to give her “homework” which are just simple worksheets I have.  She spends a good half hour or more in her room reading aloud to herself or Jax everyday.  It’s been so nice that I don’t have to push her to do school/educational type of things.  She seems to naturally like that type of thing.  She loves skirts and dresses and femine things.  I was a tomboy so this a little new for me but so fun.  She’s an interesting mix because she’s feminine but most of her friends are boys and she plays great with them.  She loves to play chase and run.  Her endurance is remarkable.  She is also really enjoying the pool and is doing great at swimming, although, she still prefers to have a pool noodle propped under her to make things easier.

We still have her on a gluten free diet.  We aren’t perfect, but we try hard.  Maybe once every week or two we’ll cheat.  It was more when we were at my parents but we’ve tightened up again.  I have started using dairy here and there in my cooking instead of almond milk and she seems to do fine.  I also put butter on her toast and whatnot.  It’s still not easy but at least we have found a solution to her eczema problem. So grateful!

She’s usually pretty easy and cooperative.  If she’s out of routine or exhausted she can get fussy but that’s rare.  I have enjoyed her so, so, so much the past year!  She’s just at such a great, sweet age and stage.



The little man.  Jax has been rough the past year.  He’s the hardest of the three lately which is shocking to me!  Sadie was difficult at this age, too.  She came out of it just after turning four so I’m hoping Jax will, too.  He’s a  really good kid but he was the easiest, most perfect baby and I expected that to continue.  He can be aggressive when wronged and has a short fuse with certain people and over certain issues.  Sadie and Moe are good at turning the other cheek after being wronged but Jax won’t walk away and won’t let it go.  We often sing him Frozen’s “Let It Go” song in such situations.  He is still sweet, lovable, cuddly, hilarious, and so clever.  Just stubborn, too.  He’s learning. I’m trying to be patient.

He adores Sadie.  Sadie often quickly makes new friends when we’re out and about and Jax gets insanely jealous.  He says Sadie is his best friend and he hates, hates, hates for her to attach to someone else.  We had to leave a mall play area a few weeks ago because he just couldn’t handle that Sadie was having so much fun with someone other than himself.  It’s cute but it can be a problem.  McKay and Jax are pretty great friends now, too.  They didn’t acknowledge each other a whole lot when they were younger, but since Sadie was away all day at Kindergarten this past year they’ve started playing together a lot.  They compete over things which gets annoying, “I’m the fastest” “I ate the most” “That’s my truck” but they also have long stretches throughout the day where they play together great.

I worry that I don’t give him all the attention he deserves.  The other two are better at requesting to be held or hugged.  Jax – not so much,  He still loves to be babied and I try to remember to hold him and give him hugs throughout the day.  He’s such a sweet, sensitive, deep soul when he’s calm. People, especially adults, and especially older adults, instantly like him.

Jax loves puzzles and books. He remembers everything and has a never ending stream of questions for me. He is a typical boy in that he loves the outdoors – not creepy crawly things but sports, parks, jumping, climbing type of things.  He seems musical in that he’s always humming, marching, dancing, making up lyrics, and singing songs from movies.  He has tremendous potential and I know he’ll do great things in life.



McKay’s personality has really come out over the last few months.  Before living at my parents house he was very shy and only talked around us.  Now he’ll carry on a conversation with anyone.  We can’t get enough of his cute little voice and all his funny thoughts.  He keeps us laughing all day! He’s such a tease and loves to do exactly the opposite of what we ask. I never know whether to laugh or cry in concern over McKay.

Would you believe me if I told you he still loves to be held and carried and babied?!?!  I’m just shocked he’ll be three in a month!  Just doesn’t seem possible.  He’s still such a baby to us.  He’s super affectionate and craves physical contact.  If we are on the sofa – he has to be right up against me and my arm absolutely MUST be around him.  If we are reading a book – he needs to be on my lap, no one else can be closer to me than he is.  If he comes in bed with us - my arms must be around him and my face must be facing him.  He’ll bring my cheek back around to his direction if ever I dare to face the other way.  He’s pretty demanding of our attention and I suppose I give in more than I should because he’s so cute and funny and since he’s the third I’ve always worried I wouldn’t be able to give to him what I did to Sadie and Jax. In actuality, I’m think I’ve spent more time holding and caring for McKay in his first three years of life than I did for the other two.  He’s just so demanding!

McKay doesn’t like to walk on his own but he loves to run!  His favorite activity lately is to run in a big field in just his socks.  He’ll go and go and go. Huge grin the whole time!  He’ll stop every 5 minutes and say, “I newd ah dwrink; I need moor en-wer-ge.” Love that little voice!

McKay’s behavior is generally good. For the record, all the kids are usually good for other people or for church teachers – it’s usually just us they misbehave for.  They like structure and we weren’t very structured when we were in Seminole.  Things are getting back to a new, wonderful normal now.

McKay is passionate and headstrong.  I do so worry about the teen years with him!  He loves to play with friends but isn’t overly concerned about being the center of their world.  He’s kindof cool in that he let’s people come to him and doesn’t seek out or seem desperate for his peers attention.  Total opposite of how he is with Ben and me!  His little smile, darling voice, bronze skin, and sly smile make me go weak in the knees.  I am totally wrapped around his finger!  Dangerously so.  I worried I wouldn’t have enough energy and love left when he was born but he’s had me captivated since day 1.  Oh, McKay.



Ben and I are doing great.  We’re both so busy with various things – house projects, work demands, girls camp planning, and children.  However, we are so happy about being back in our home and the work is all mostly enjoyable.  We just worry that we don’t have the ability to give each task the attention it deserves.  And progress is slow!  Especially the house stuff. But that’s a post for another day.


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July 3, 2014 - 1:11 pm

Raven - What a cute family! For the record, I don’t think you need to worry about giving your kids too much time and attention. I don’t think you’ll look back and say, “Gosh, I wish I had just ignored them more often!” ;) I always worry about the opposite. That I’m not giving them enough. Motherhood–it’s a tricky one, isn’t it? “The days are long, but the years are short…” These kids are so blessed to have you!