We didn’t do anything out-of-the-ordinary…but that doesn’t mean we did nothing extraordinary

We didn’t do anything out-of-the-ordinary…but that doesn’t mean we did nothing extraordinary.
This spring, we:

Celebrated life at 38 years old…

Explored the world…
We watched the Olympics Opening Ceremony and found ALL the represented countries on our map.

Appreciated fine workmanship…

The BYU Museum of Art hosted two wonderful exhibits simultaneously. One was E.C. Escher (famed “Impossible Constructions” artist) and the other was Tiffany stained glass. Nate’s a big fan of the illusions and I’ve always been a big fan of these lamps.
The kids and Rob were studying this display of different glass and I was elsewhere. Nate asked Rob to choose two favorites. A couple of minutes later I came over and Nate asked the same of me. 
Guess what? Out of all these samples, I happened to choose the same two favorites that Rob chose. Match made in heaven, we are!
Were awestruck by nature’s resilience (and OUR OWN!)…

Worked hard and went for it…

Visited the House of the Lord as an eternal family…
Played a prank on mom (who HATES PeeWee!)…

Expanded newly discovered brain cells…
Played at the Happiest Place on Earth in Utah…

Nate doesn’t look quite as happy here as he did on Cannibal.
Snuggled our peeps…

Created joy through craft…

Can you see Nate in his tank (with working gun)?
Every so often we clean out the fridge/freezer and pantry and let the kids “cook” 
with all the throw-away ingredients. They get such a KICK out of this tradition! It started when Nate was a wee lad of 2 and I caught him “cooking” in the kitchen with food he found.
Now he’s making stuff like this!
And we basically just keep growing up way too fast!
These are extraordinary days that will be cherished forever.

Our Ballroom Babe

Madeleine joined the school’s ballroom team this year. She loved every minute of it! With her mix of choreography memorization skills and theatric pizzazz, she wowed Rob and I every time she got on the dance floor.

She went to practice twice a week before school and practiced in our family room every afternoon. She loved going to competitions and really enjoyed being part of a team.

Her team did really well and went to state (which is where Rob and I had our first encounter with a real dance mom…Scary and yet so hard to look away!).

We are so impressed with her instructors and are grateful that they work so hard to give these kids an amazing experience.

Madeleine had quite the birthday this year. She decided months earlier that she wanted to use her present and party budget (and saved her own money) and stay overnight in a hotel with her cousin. We had a lot of fun! Since the hotel was mostly paid for with points, she was able to choose some fun activities to do including going to Classic Fun Center, a movie, and Build-a-Bear.

When we arrived back at home, she found her sister had made a surprise for her…rice krispie treat hedgehogs!


Although her celebration had already been a blast, Rob and I decided to throw her a surprise party anyway…at SWIG! It was a swinging success!

While we are on the subject of Madeleine, I have a funny story:

Madeleine and I had a dentist appointment this week. She has a cavity and I have one from a couple of years ago that needs to be redone. She really wasn’t looking forward to it. The day came and I was still congested and getting over a cold. I decided to reschedule and when I called they asked if I wanted to reschedule Madeleine’s as well. “Why yes, let’s do that,” I said.

Madeleine came home from school and immediately started crying because she was so nervous. I broke the good news to her and said we were going to sneak away to go shopping together instead. Well now that cheered her right up, of course! So off we went to the Outlets.

She requested mini pretzels and we sat down on a bench in the lovely sun eating them together. I remarked, “This is nice!” She responded,

“Yep! I would be sitting in a chair with a weird man hovering over me,

but instead I’m sitting on a bench…eating pretzels…

like a BOSS!”

I laughed pretty hard and told her I love how funny she is. She says “I know. It’s one of my great qualities.”

Sure is!

A Good Day for a Photo Jam

Today is a good day for catching up on Fall and Winter 2017 photos and happenings. Note that I used to do this monthly or so but now I seem pretty happy with myself if I get to it on a quarterly basis. Life…right?!

Caroline’s 7th birthday festivities (Please ignore the various tripping hazards):

Nate-er Gator turned the big 1-2 in December.

After, let’s see…10 years?…I finally convinced Rob to put on a jacket for church again. Doesn’t he look oh, SO debonair?

Whoops! Wrong picture. My bad! Here’s the one I meant to post. Of course, he had to throw in the ever-so-classy Hogwart’s tie:

Christmas woodland creature pjs.

What the…morbid massacre?!

See that giant trophy? Madeleine joined the school’s ballroom dance team and they won the sportsmanship award. I guess they don’t do “winners” but it was the second biggest trophy awarded so that must mean something, right?


She only looks a tad nervous.

This is the sweetest. Madeleine is helping her read.

One story from Little Miss Literal:

Over the spring Caroline started complaining more and more about sore legs. She would collapse when she was running outside and would crawl inside to tell me, very sadly, that her legs hurt too much to play. At first I didn’t think much of it but it kept happening more and more and she was miserable because during those episodes she couldn’t put any weight on her legs. During one of these episodes I told her that I would carry her so she didn’t have to try to walk. I assumed it was growing pains, but then remembered she had some hip problems as a baby and her joints are loose like mine (which flare up occasionally).

After a month or two of these fits, and me carrying her around regularly, I decided to just have her checked out by her orthopedist (since she had hip issues before) because all this was happening right before we were headed to Europe where we’d be walking a lot.

At her doctor appointment, which Cara literally limped throughout, the diagnosis was…wait for it…growing pains. Betcha didn’t see that one coming! After the appointment Cara was walking juuuuust fine. I confronted her, asking “What the heck?!”

Her response…”You said that one time that I should rest my legs so that’s why I’ve always been having you carry me around, but they don’t really hurt.”

Cue the deep mom sigh…

Love this cuckoo crazy family of mine…even on days like today…


Summer Summary

Here’s just a quick(ish) roundup of all our summer antics.

Caroline got married to Scouts. Luckily the officiator was able to squeeze in his speech just before the runaway groom took off.

Nate got an exciting summer haircut. It’s not supposed to be a heart…but there was a miscommunication.


We went to the OKGO concert in Ogden and it was rad. Our kids are huge fans of their music videos. The confetti cannons that shot off regularly were much enjoyed and we all sang at the top of our lungs.

Umm…when did we get a teenager??

Bear Lake camping and wave running with the Snow family is always a lot of fun. Our kids are speed demons.

For my birthday we went mini-golfing, walked around the International Peace Gardens, got pastries from Gourmandise Bakery, explored Gilgal Sculpture Garden, and bought flowers.

I took the kids to BYU campus to visit a few of the museums there that don’t  necessitate a trip all on their own. Then we got super creamy ice cream, of course.

As far as my kids know, this is the famous liger from Napoleon Dynamite.

Eclipse-alypse 2017

Rob and Nate decided to hightail it up to Idaho to spend a couple of days camping in the path of totality. They loved it, even though it took them 7 hours to drive home + getting rear-ended (no auto damage to us).


The girls and I had fun mini-golfing and watching the semi-eclipse with neighbors.

Other antics:

Cousin Twins. They look, sound, and act like they were grown in the same womb.

Rob is super excited about his new sun shade. I, however, get in the car and take it down as fast as I can before anyone else sees that it belongs to my car.

No explanation needed.

Foam Day!

Caroline’s favorite new accessory.

Nate’s gotten into fishing and wishes he had more chances to do it.

That’s our nutshell!

San Diego and Oxnard 2016 Video

One of the things I asked from Rob for my birthday was to catch up on making some of our family vacation videos.

Here’s our vacation from last year with his family. It’s so fun to watch and remember!


P.S. I promise to start blogging “real” life and not just “vacation” life again real soon. If I’m going to be honest, “real” life has been real messy as of late and “vacation” life is just so much more pleasant to talk about. So don’t get the wrong impression that our life is nothing but fun and exciting. It’s not. And maybe once the kids are all in school full time (WOW!) in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to come out of survival mode, have a moment to decompress, and write.

In the meantime, enjoy the music on the video!!

Snowy Ice Castles

As a member of a photography group, Rob was offered 5 free tickets to the Ice Castles in Midway, Utah in exchange for 5 professional photos of the event. Score!

It was frigid that night. 5 degrees, I think? The kids had a blast and barely noticed the arctic temps. Rob and I were frozen solid but enjoyed watching the kids have fun. 

Verdict: Pretty cool. Kinda fun. Glad we didn’t pay to go.  
Here are some pics of us exploring and playing around.

Here are the requested “candid photos of people enjoying themselves” that he shot for the marketing campaign.

(Can I just say that it takes a VERY good photographer to be able to pull off these AMAZINGLY crisp and PERFECTLY exposed pictures of both people and colored ice at night without even using a tripod?!!)

End of Year Wrap Up

2016: OVER

Thanksgiving was splendid. Here are a few funny family candids by the Rob. He thinks it’s great being in everyone’s faces all night long. He got some lovely shots as well but these are more fun to post 🙂

We had a wonderful surprise party for Rob’s grandpa. Family came in from out of town and we all went to lunch and had a good visit with all.

December was really nice. One night we went to the live nativity in Alpine.

We always put up our Christmas decorations on the 1st Sunday of December but this is torture for our kids because all their friends decorate up to a month earlier than us. Nate, Madeleine, and Caroline think Rob and I are the biggest grumps because we make them wait until December hits. We make up for it by being one of the last to take them down…

I had a work casino-themed Christmas party. I’ve been writing for the company for 2 years now but I’ve never met anyone in person so it was nice to put faces to names.

One night we went downtown for a bunch of festivities. We ate dinner and then took in the view of Temple Square from the top floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. We looked at the Macy’s Christmas windows made out of candy. We took the train to the Grand America Hotel to do their window display scavenger hunt and eat gelato while listening to a great band in the lounge. We rode the Jingle Bus around town back to our car.

The 23rd brought the Raines Family Christmas Dinner and Party. There was a kid and an adult scavenger hunt, Christmas Pictionary, and lots of delicious food. After, we drove through Christmas Street in Taylorsville just like I did as a kid. More silly shots!


Madeleine had her Scera Theatre Christmas Performance. She is a natural.


Nate had his birthday at Top Golf with a few friends. I can’t believe I have an 11 year old! At his checkup the doc said he needs to start eating 1 1/2 portions for his meals because he’s under weight. He is 4th % for height.

We (Rob) tiled our bathroom floor. We (Rob) still have some decorating to do but it’s looking beautiful!

I had the kids earn some money so we could take them to Dollar Tree so they could each buy gifts for their siblings. They love doing this!

On Christmas Eve Rob baked rolls, pizzas, and sugar cookies. We watched a Christmas movie, played board games, and did all the other traditional Christmas Eve things.

Christmas Day brought church and a lot of relaxing and playing with our new stuff. Rob’s family was sick so festivities with them were pushed back a week.

I ended up getting sick Christmas afternoon, had a day off of sick on Tuesday, then woke up Wednesday morning really sick all the way through the end of the week.

New Year’s Eve I was still recovering so I sent Rob ice skating with the kids. Cara bit a chunk out of her tongue while jumping on the couch. Then we all made it to midnight playing games and watching movies.

New Year’s Day we had a delightful Christmas dinner with Rob’s family.

I’m pretty sure there were a bunch of other things we did, like the usual shopping/returning/re-shopping dance, wrapping, losing gifts, buying too much, eating way too much, and listening to GOOD Christmas music (Anyone else sick of Mariah Carey’s Christmas??? We like to find hidden gems that are awesome but never get played on the radio. Next year we’ll have to share our playlist because it’s da bomb and I promise you’ll love it).

Bring on 2017 and all the LOVE and LIFE that it will bring!

A Romantic Trip to Mexico 2016

I just finished putting together a video of our adventures in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico earlier this year. I made this video for Julie and me to enjoy over the years and so it is quite long (20 minutes). If you want to watch you’ll see wonderful places we visited and listen to the great songs we chose for the trip.

The songs we used in the video are as follows:

  • Stay Alive by José Gonzales (Link)
  • Where You Go by Young Romans (Link)
  • Saint by Mission South (Link)
  • So Much Sky by The Temper Trap (Link)
  • Only Love by Ben Howard (Link)

Julie posted a quick outline of the trip back in February in case you are interested (read about it here).�

Random Photo Roundup

Here is a fun roundup of random photos and videos from the past couple of months.

Panning for gold on the 4th of July at This Is the Place Heritage Park.

This man’s hoop dance was AWE-Mazing.

Cute girls, cute selfie!

Rob’s insane bed head has a life of its own.


He had a simple task of moving two wall speakers a mere 6 inches. I came home to this. It’s not even the wall where the speakers were mounted.

Madeleine made this sweet craft for me. “Love. Kind. Willing. Nice. Chef. Boss. Thoughful.”

My dad took this picture of my handsome husband while waiting for my niece and new husband to exit the temple.

We spent a Saturday trying very hard to catch a fish. No luck. 

So we climbed trains and played with a lost snake instead.


These next 3 videos are from Father’s Day 2015 but I just found them and think they are cute.




Here’s a drawing Cara drew of me. I’m sleeping in bed and those are hearts at the bottom. Yep. I love my sleep. See?

Caroline called me into her room to take a picture of her with Scouts.


One Sunday afternoon we drove up to the South Mountain Flight Park to explore and take in the view. The kids got a huge kick out of Rob driving through a mud puddle. We are pretty adventurous!

This video of Cara is a good ending for this post. She always makes me laugh!


Hanging in Valladolid and a Mad Dash Home

After leaving Coba and the refreshing waters of a nearby Cenote we made our way to Valladolid. The day had already been one of incredible sights, ruins, food, and color. Valladolid didn’t disappoint.

Valladolid Sign - shot on iPhone 6s
Valladolid Sign – shot on iPhone 6s

Our purpose to traveling inland to Valladolid was to experience some of the colonial architecture and inland culture. We’d have preferred to go to Merida but it was just too far to justify on our short trip.

The city is full of one-way streets and it took us a little while to get our bearings and find our hotel. Google maps was not terribly cooperative and Julie had to bust out her honed mapping and directional skills to get us where we needed to be. She is very good. Part of traveling off-the-beaten path is the frustration of getting around without help in an unfamiliar place. We end up with little periods of stress mixed in with wonderful new experiences, rewarding sites and sounds, and amazing food.

Line of Motos on a Street in Valladolid - Shot on Ektar 100 with QL17
Line of Motos on a Street in Valladolid – Shot on Ektar 100 with QL17

We wandered around the streets taking in the architecture and goings on. During the time of our stay we took many fantastic photos of the street right outside our hotel. It was a lovely spot just off the central square of the city.

VW bug on street outside our hotel - shot on iphone 6s plus
VW bug on street outside our hotel – shot on iphone 6s plus
cute corner - Shot on Ektar 100 with QL17
cute corner – Shot on Ektar 100 with QL17
fun lighting - shot on iphone 6s plus
fun lighting – shot on iphone 6s plus

We wandered around the square and checked out the historic church in the area. It was an amazing area.

Julie in front of the main church in Valladolid - Shot on iPhone 6S Plus
Julie in front of the main church in Valladolid – Shot on iPhone 6S Plus
Main church in Valladolid after nightfall - Shot on iPhone 6S Plus
Main church in Valladolid after nightfall – Shot on iPhone 6S Plus

The central square was a cute little spot. There were many people hocking their wares and trying to make a living. The paint colors are so pleasant and endearing and in the evening hours there was an incredible commotion of birds calling loudly.

Valladolid Square - Shot on Ektar 100 with Canonet QL17
Valladolid Square – Shot on Ektar 100 with Canonet QL17
Valladolid Square - Shot on iPhone 6s Plus
Valladolid Square – Shot on iPhone 6s Plus

We spent the evening wandering the streets. Here are a couple of shots from that night. That night we went in a little early because Julie was not feeling well. We listened to the horn and percussion band playing music in the streets in our charming and lovely hotel room (see the link below).

Post About The Hotels

You would not believe the number of birds in the square. At dusk they went completely nuts. Listen below.


The next morning we enjoyed a lazy morning, a breakfast in bed, a wonderful walk around another part of the town and a relaxing lunch before our drive back to Cancun and the airport.

Morning Light in Valladolid - Shot on iPhone 6S Plus
Morning Light in Valladolid – Shot on iPhone 6S Plus
Rob blown away by the color and texture of this wall
Rob blown away by the color and texture of this wall
Julie on a lovely street
Julie on a lovely street
Cool corner
Cool corner
Cute square with school kids
Cute square with school kids
Table cloth from our last restaurant
Table cloth from our last restaurant

While eating the last meal of the trip before heading home we reflected on the trip. We had a great time. Little did we know we’d be in for a mad dash to get back to our children that night.

It turns out that Valladolid is not in the same timezone as the coast. The time change must occur very close to the coast as we did not drive very far inland to reach Valladolid. We left Valladolid with what we expected to be a very easy drive to the coast with 2.5 hours to drop off the car, get to the airport, relax, and catch our flight.

We drove most of the way to the coast before we noticed the time on our phones change (apparently the time zone changed at the beginning of 2016). See the time zone map below. We started getting nervous, but we still had a good 1.5 hours to spare right? Wrong. The rental car agreement had a bogus address on the front page. Google maps took us deep into the ghetto of Cancun. It was a residential slums with dirt roads and potholes so deep we were lucky to get out of them. I kept thinking, “I’m sure we’ll pop out of this and find ourselves near the airport.”

Time Zone Map - Crap
Time Zone Map – Crap

After determining our serious mistake we assessed the damage. We’d lost about 20 minutes and the new map to the airport pegged us with a 45 minute drive to drop off the rental car. This would leave us with about 30 minutes to drop off the rental car, catch a shuttle, get through security, and make it to our gate. What a tall order!

My old courier skills burst into prime time and I started driving like a local on dilapidated roads. We were under a significant amount of stress during that drive. At one point we were stuck behind a flat-bed truck fully loaded with cinder blocks. The load was not very well secured and I said to Julie, “I don’t like the look of that load…. looks pretty sketchy to me.” Julie blew off my concern and chocked it up to my intense safety focus. A few moments later I saw two blocks come off the truck directly in front of us. I exclaimed, “They are coming off,” as the blocks hit the pavement and shattered. Julie looked up in time to see several pieces of shattered cinder block careen around our little car. Yikes!

With 30 minutes until the plane was scheduled to leave the gate we finally arrived at the car rental facility. In a panic we pulled up and started unloading the car. The rental car company employee greeted us and asked to see our rental agreement. I handed it to him and asked when the shuttle would leave. He said it just left and that another would leave in 15 to 20 minutes. He then proceeded to hassle me about being 30 minutes later than the return time on our rental agreement. I proceeding to explain the situation in a very inflammatory and anxious sort of way.

I told him, “we don’t have time for this, just tell me what you want!” I was not about to miss a flight over such a small mater. Finally I asked, “how many pesos do we still have Julie?” We had about 300 pesos left I think. I said, “we’ll give you the 300 pesos that we have if you’ll drive us to the airport in this car right now.” He accepted the deal and off we went to the airport.

Finally we arrived at the airport with 15 minutes to spare before our international flight was schedule to depart! Ahhhh! I figured we would not make it. Here we are running through the airport just hoping that security would be fast. Luckily there was no line in security (if this wasn’t a tender mercy I don’t know what is). The security agent didn’t like that our electronic boring pass because it showed the boarding time instead of the departure time (Thanks a lot Delta) and didn’t want to let us through. Ahhhhh! Finally, they figured it out and let us through. As one last insult Julie’s bag was held for inspection. Ahhhh! We decided that I’d run to the gate and hold the plane! At this point it was about 6 minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave. I arrived at the gate with about 4 minutes to spare and sorted out our boarding passes (they changed our seats). With about 2 minutes to spare Julie came around the corner and we were allowed to board the plane.

We were both completely exhausted and emotionally drained. We made our flight despite disaster after disaster! We’d be making it home to see the kids that night. Nice!

Made the flight!!!
Made the flight!!!
Landing in a Cold SLC
Landing in a Cold SLC
Overjoyed to see the kids!!!
Overjoyed to see the kids!!!