The Beav is Open

Beaver Mountain is open, Chris has his new skis and the season passes are hooked to our ski coats.  We're ready for another season of skiing.

With Brielle only having learned to ski last year, we were surprised at how quickly she got her ski feet under her again.  You'll see what I mean in this video.  I almost couldn't keep up with her, she was going to fast.

(My favorite part is when she puts her arms up in the air and gives a big "Whoo-Hoo!")
Today. Was. Fun. 

Our Christmas Card

Chris and I feel truly blessed this year.  Our family is happy and healthy, Chris's business has continued to grow and be successful and I feel lucky to have such a wonderful job.  We've had the opportunity to travel this year and moved into a beautiful home that couldn't be more perfect for our family.  Izzy, Dandy & Cocoa still bring us loads of entertainment and a lot of fun and laughs. 

Spiritually -- our family has grown leaps and bounds.

Christmas was perfect.  December started off a little rough for me and I wondered if I was truly going to enjoy this Holiday season. Lacking in Holiday Spirit, I set out to find it with activities and experiences my family would love.  Once I set my mind to it, Holiday Spirit came naturally and our family had by far, the most wonderful ending to 2011.

Chris was able to get what he's wanted for years and years... his own skis.  Brielle, who wanted her own iPad got the next best thing... an iPod Touch, along with the usual outfit, book and Wii game.  And for me, the loves of my life gave me a new ski coat and tickets to 7 ReAL Salt Lake games (which, to those who are surprised, is actually perfect -- it means more fun times with my family).

Besides our own family, we were able to give Christmas to "Heather," a girl whose family has been affected by cancer this year.  

We sincerely hope that our family and friends had as memorable and wonderful a Christmas as we had.  We pray that the new year will continue to bring blessings and happiness to each and every one of you!


Doughnut Day 2011

Christmas time means Doughnut Day at the Potter house.  This is a tradition that goes back as far as I can remember, and continues each and every year.  I'm not sure why my mother still plans it... it results in the most ridiculous mess and the consumption of many, many, many, MANY calories.  We all love it, so this year won't be the last.

Doughnut Day also gives Brielle a chance to spend loads of time with cousins that she doesn't get to see everyday.

As you can see from all the kids faces, decorating doughnuts is serious business.  Especially when you get to choose from chocolate, vanilla, orange or maple glaze and a large selection of toppings, such as sprinkles, nuts, coconut and.... wait for it.... Bacon.

Yes, the maple glazed doughnuts with Bacon was a huge hit this year.  There were barely enough left to put on plates for neighbors and friends.  Ask my BF Carrie.  The moment we left her house, she was texting me asking why her family only received one.  Next year, Carrie.  Next year.

In lieu of the dreaded gift exchange, my family does something much more fun and much, much more memorable.  BINGO.  Yes, who knew that a game played frequently at the old folks home could be such a hit, but it is. 

We all buy one gift for each member of our family (a few more if we are feeling generous).  The gifts get wrapped and get placed in a large pile in the center of my mom's dining room table.  We all know how to play BINGO, so I won't explain the rules, but the first to get BINGO selects a gift.  The next to get BINGO selects a gift and so on.  Then we play for blackout.  Gifts may be stolen a few times to make the game interesting.  You can tell from the above picture that Brielle clearly does not want her prize taken.

Traditions are a big part in bringing the Christmas Spirit into my life.  They make me happy at time when life is nothing short of crazy, and it brings me joy to see Brielle enjoying the same traditions that I grew up with as a child.


North Pole Express

We are well on track to making this the most memorable Christmas ever (and finding my Christmas Spirit).  Especially since this is the first year Chris and I have tried to make Christmas more memorable through experiences and activities.

Today's activity was courtesy of Chris's parents, who gathered up the entire fam for a ride on the Polar... I mean the North Pole Express in Heber, Utah.  Funny though.  They said we were going to visit Santa at the North Pole, but I swear the train was headed South towards Provo.  Oh well, the kids didn't notice.

The "elves" on the train made this trip as close to the story as possible, passing out Hot Cocoa & Cookies, singing Christmas songs and just letting the kids play and have fun.

Santa came through each train car and passed out the first gift of Christmas... bells from his sleigh, of course.


Along the way, we passed this beautiful barn.  I told Chris he had to reconstruct ours to look exactly the same.  No, this has nothing to do with the train ride, but I loved it.

Thanks G & G Merkley for a fun and memorable Christmas activity.


I was unsure how the early morning orchestra lessons (twice per week) were going to go... in addition to her private lessons... in addition to after school practicing.  Flashbacks of piano lessons had me worried.  Very worried.

But it seems this but has a knack for the violin, and seems to really enjoy it.

Her very first Christmas Orchestra Concert (first concert in generally) took place last week.  And not only did she remind us every day, 10 times per day, for the last 10 days, she let everyone else know about it too.  Friends were invited, family, etc.  She was excited.

Let's play "Can you spot the cute and talented Brielle?"

Did you find her?

By the way... is it too late to ask Santa for a SLR Digital Camera?  My camera clearly sucks.

Now THAT's Christmas Spirit

Anonymous Donors Pay Srangers' Layaway Accounts
By Margery A. Beck | Associated Press | December 16, 2011
The young father stood in line at the Kmart layaway counter, wearing dirty clothes and worn-out boots. With him were three small children.  He asked to pay something on his bill because he knew he wouldn't be able to afford it all before Christmas. Then a mysterious woman stepped up to the counter.

"She told him, `No, I'm paying for it,'" recalled Edna Deppe, assistant manager at the store in Indianapolis. "He just stood there and looked at her and then looked at me and asked if it was a joke. I told him it wasn't, and that she was going to pay for him. And he just busted out in tears."
 Trust me... you should read the Full Article.

I have a sudden urdge to visit a Kmart layaway counter.


Pickleville Playhouse

The Pickleville Playhouse is quite a treasure to us local Cache Valley/Bear Lake folks.  Once Chris and I caught on, the yearly Christmas play became a family tradition and something we don't miss this time of year.

And it was stop #2 on my search to obtain some Holiday spirit (which was difficult yesterday, because "Santa" showed up at Cafe Rio while I was at lunch and annoyed the H out of me).

This play always has great music, a rap or two, a wonderful holiday story and they typically throw in a fart joke and make fun of Twilight.  Perfect for kids and adults.  This years story, which included some of last years music and  dancing, did not disappoint and reminded everyone about the magic of Christmas and the spirit of giving and hope.   It made for a perfect night out with the family.

Also included in this tradition are the Peppermint Chocolate Chip Shakes from Chick-Fil-A afterward.  If you haven't participated in either... you're Christmas is completely incomplete.


Festival of Trees

This project really started December off right.

My little sis lost a baby 8 years ago this December.  It's hard to believe it's really been that long...

I'm sure in her mind, every December, while people are busy making preparations for Christmas, she's thinking of little Bridger.  Since this year, Bridger would have been baptized, my mom came up with a special way to remember him, and remind Leslie that we remember, too.

Two trees were purchased and decorated in a cowboy theme.  The first was donated to the Festival of Trees fundraiser for Primary Children's Medical Center, decorated by Rachel, my mom and myself, and the other was given to my sister as a gift, to keep in her home. 

Ride away, ride away, Bridger shall ride.
And he'll have a six-shootertied to one side.
And he'll have a lasso tied to the other,
and Bridger shall ride,to see his Grandmother.
 Bridger Layne Smith, December 13, 2003

We gathered together every person who was there the night we lost Bridger (except Chris, who was home sick, poor guy).  Leslie's family loved it, and I personally could not think of a better way to start off this holiday season.


Lack of Holiday Spirit

I'm going to be completely honest.  Because that's what I do here on my blog.  I sometimes say things that others may not like, and what you're about to read is no exception.  But, just to remind you... it is my blog.

I would say for the last 3 years or so, I have not be able to get into the "holiday spirit."  I used to completely deck out my house with Christmas Decor, the tree went up before Thanksgiving, Christmas music would constantly play throughout my house and I couldn't wait to start baking up a storm.  And buying gifts.  I'd even host a party or two.

Not anymore.

I can't seem to pin it on one particular thing, but lots of little things that seem to drive me crazy about Christmas.  The fact that Thanksgiving has now become "Black Thursday" as if Black Friday wasn't bad enough.  Watching all the crazies on the news trampling people in the stores to get their hands on whatever has replaced ZhuZhu Pets as this years "it" toy.  It's madness.

Store ads are piling up at my house.  I hear a lot of "I want this, I want that."  And don't even get me started on Gift Exchanges.  I swear, they are only a way of getting a gift from someone that normally wouldn't be giving you gift anyway.  As if a gift exchange is going to make or break your Christmas.  It definitely won't mine.

I guess you can say that everywhere I look, it seems that I see greed, not giving.  Sales & parties, not Christ & his birth.  And I'm not completely exempt from it myself, trust me.  I've already purchased what my husband will be giving me for Christmas.  I guess I just feel that it's become so hard to remember what Christmas is truly about without making a ridiculously hard effort to ensure that you do.  Does that make sense?

Chris and I have thought about ways to ensure we don't forget what Christmas is all about.  It doesn't include 37 gifts under the tree, spoiling eachother with things that we don't need.  We've been blessed this year, beyond measure.

So, I had an idea.  Christmas at our house would be simple this year.  But remembering Christmas will about making memories with my family and giving to those who truly need it.  I can already feel my holiday spirit returning just thinking about the wonderful things we are going to do this month!

So... watch for it.  Our family's Holiday memories will be posted right here on my blog.  This is going to be the best Christmas the Merkley family has had in a really, really, long time.



This year, Thanksgiving was spent out in Tridell.  I have no pictures, because I spent the weekend playing and reading on my iPad (see previous post).  And, the one event that I planned on taking pictures of (tree hunting at White Rocks in the Uintah's) I had an unforetunate experience that caused my quick retreat.  Which will also not be discussed.

Everything Thanksgiving, I've posted about the things that matter most in my life which are also, the things I'm most grateful for.  It's a reminder of my blessings and the things that bring me the greatest joy.

I'm thankful that we are together. 
I'm thankful that my family is Eternal. 
I'm thankful that we're well and that the illness that currently plague our home are temporary and not life threatening.
I'm thankful for extended family who love us, help us, visit us, support us, etc.

I'm thankful for the horses.
I'm thankful for the pup.
Surprisingly, I love the responsiblity and work that comes along with having them, even when it's cold outside.
I love that the horses meet me at the fence when I go outside.
I love that the pup bum shakes while wagging her tail when we play.

I'm thankful for my home.
I'm thankful for the opportunity I have to live where I live.
I'm thankful for the warm feeling I have when I'm there, with my family.
I'm thankful for a husband who can take something worn and old, and turn it into new and beautiful.

I'm thankful for my job.
I'm thankful for Chris's work.
I'm thankful for the ability we have to provide for our family.
I'm thankful to be able to work with such wonderful people, and that Chris has been able to work for some amazing clients.

I'm thankful for my friends.
I'm thankful for Bunko, late night movies & fat free salads.
I'm thankful to be validated, when needed, and put in my place, when necessary.
I love their honesty and I cherish their friendship.

I'm thankful for the Gospel.
I'm thankful for our ward family, who are wonderful.
I'm thankful for my callings, even though they (yes, I have more than one) test my patience.


“We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



I have literally been consumed by my iPad, which is why the lack of posts recently.  After being annoyed by how often I wanted to use Chris's iPad (at church, at home, at work, etc.) he thoughfully purchased me one of my own for my birthday this year.  I'd like to believe his motives were purely selfless.

But here's the problem... my house isn't as clean as normal.  My laundered clothes don't get folded.  Dinner gets made (or purchased) but then not cleaned up after.  Brielle's bench seat cushion?  Still not sewn.

What could be so cool about my iPad that the rest of my life get neglected, you ask?  Let me tell you.

Words with Friends.  I can literally play Scrabble with my BFF in Sacramento, my sisters in Alpine, and my other BFF while she's at work... All at the same time.  Trust me, once you start, you can't stop.  Although, I would like to figure out why I lose 2/3's of the games I start? 

The Gospel Library.  Can I just say, in an age where I can't seem to get my 9 yr old class to sit still, be reverent and listen, this comes in handy.  I plan my lesson, they get to read from my iPad and I download church vidoes (which guarantees me at least 3 minutes of silence).

StumbleUpon.  I've blogged about this app before.  You tell it your interests, and then sends you highly reviewed websites (which go along with your interests) that they've "stumbled upon."  Because of this app, I've found many recipes, including that of an orange, cranberry muffin with streusel topping that I plan to make this weekend.  Yum.

iBook Library.  Here lies the real problem.  My iBook Library.  I've been able to download a lot of books, at a fraction of the price, and read right here.  This book is thin and light, fits in my purse, and currently goes everywhere with me.  I'm currently hooked on a series that has consumed my mind this week, making me unable to focus on anything else. 

So, my iPad.  The best gift my husband has given me in a long time... and the cause of my organized life falling apart as we know it.



This is where DandyMan can be found every morning about 7:30  and every evening about 6:00.  You might think he's excited to see me everyday.  But he's not...

He's a bit impatient when it comes to feeding time.


For CCP... Mario

While in California, I hoped there might be a celebrity sighting.  Namely, a member of the Twilight cast (who was in fact in LA for the premier of Breaking Dawn).  But instead, we spotted...

Mario Lopez.  I thought it was cool, but no one else at "The Grove" in LA thought so.  Apparently, he's there everyday.  Well I'm not, so it was cool!


Our Vacation Memories

The first thing you see when you enter Disneyland is this...

Well okay then!  Let's make some memories, shall we?  And oh, this trip was memorable.  So memorable, we may not ever forget it.  And it will surely take awhile to pay for it.  We should start at the beginning...

(Disclaimer.  My phone camera sucks.  And all photos were taken with my sucky phone camera.)

My work sent me to Anaheim for the National Association of REALTORS conference and Expo.  I was lucky enough to stay at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Resort.  It only made sense to drag Chris and Brielle along, so I did.

Wednesday morning, while packing, Brielle laid down and fell asleep.  I assumed she was worn out from all the built up excitement and didn't think a thing of it.  Until I had to wake her up.  She had a fever.  She fell asleep again on the way to the airport, then again on the plane, then again on the shuttle to the hotel.  Little did Chris and I know, this was only just the beginning.

Thursday morning, Brielle wakes up, doesn't feel good, but it too excited to find out what the big "surprise" was that I had been planning for weeks.  After a long drive to Los Angelas (LA traffic sucks), we entered "The Grove," and upscale shopping district where it just so happens that Mario Lopez films "Extra" everyday.  I know this, because I saw him.  But that's not why we were there.

This is why we were there...

The American Girl store.  Brielle was shocked -- totally surprised -- could have never guessed that she'd be able to visit this amazing store.  This lucky little girl was assigned her very own, personal shopper "Ann" who showed her around the two-story store, told her all there was to know about the historical AG dolls, and helped her pick out one of her very own.

Doll #53.  She has the same color hair and hair length, same color eyes and has been named "Lily Ann."  Chris let Brielle break the bank and buy all the accessories and clothes that she wanted.  Chris didn't want to participate in this activity at first, but once there, I think he enjoyed it as much and Brielle as I did.

Afterward, we decided to hit the beach.  Venice Beach wasn't that far away, and supposedly had some killer good restaurants nearby.  The day was overcast, cool temps and the beach was not a bit crowded.

But, the water was freezing.  It is the Pacific.  We didn't last long.  Not to mention, Brielle was fading fast.  Fever had returned and she just wanted to sleep.  There went lunch at Venice Beach.

For the next 3 days, Chris and Brielle would only see the inside of our hotel room, with me bringing food, gatorade and medicine in between conference classes (which was a block away, which I also credit to a 2 pound reduction in my weight -- apparently good things do come from bad).

There was very little sleep.  Fever reaching 102 plus.  Lots of chills, sweating and body aches, and a few cold bathes in the middle of the night.  Normally, Brielle is a snuggler when sick, but this time, she didn't even want to be touched.  She was sicker than sick -- sicker than I can remember her ever being.  My previous post details my gratitude for the Priesthood and for the co-worker that assisted in giving Brielle a blessing.

The next photo you'll see, you will honestly think nothing was ever wrong with Brielle.  She looks like a happy, spoiled child riding thrill rides in the park.  But don't let it fool you...

When they were done, Brielle begged to back to the hotel room, where you'll find her doing more of this...

Then she'd wake up, ask to go back to the park, ride a ride, and then beg to back to the hotel.  Honestly, Chris was lucky we were staying at the Disneyland Resort, so walking back and forth was manageable.  3-day Hopper passes were purchased for this trip, but we spent less than the equivalent of 1 day actually in the park.

Monday morning, we packed, loaded into the shuttle and hit the road for the airport.  But Brielle continued to get more sick.  But now, she was having chest pain and trouble breathing.  We landed in Salt Lake, picked up the pup, and headed straight for an Urgent Care center in Logan.  She hadn't even been examined before they placed her on breathing treatments.  Soon after that, they sent us straight to the ER at Logan Regional Hospital.

We were blessed to have to neighbors working last night, one an ER Doc and the other a Respiratory Specialist.  They confirmed what we already knew... Pneumonia. 

Because she had such a high fever (which was lower than it had been in California) AND her heart rate wouldn't drop below 140 beats per minute AND her oxygen levels were extremely low, we had to camp out in the ER for several hours.  We were lucky though... had all of the above mentioned symptoms not improved, she would have gone from being a guest at the Grand Californian to an admitted patient at Logan Regional.

But now we are home.  Chris and I and especially Brielle are all trying to recover.  For now, Brielle is quarantined... watching movies... sleeping... and working her hardest to get better.

We made memories all right.  Although, I don't think they are the memories Mr. Disney had in mind for families visiting his resort.

As I conclude this journal entry of our epic family vacation of 2011, I'd like to mention just one more thing...

Parents, if your kids are sick, don't send them to school.  It may result in another kid getting sick when they are about to embark on a magical family vacation, therefore, leaving them with a not-so-fun, miserable 5 days.  Oh, and they may not be insured, which, as a result, will result in a hospital bill the size of their vacation bill.  M-kay?


When will the Magic Start?

We've been at the Grand Californian Hotal at Disneyland for 3 days now. We have yet to step foot in the Magic Kingdom, ride a roller coaster, see a Princess or take pics with Mickey Mouse.

Ms. Brielle has a serious case of the flu. The last time she was this sick, and for this long, she was a baby and admitted to Primary Children's hospital for dehydration. Brielle was so distraught this morning about NOT going to Disneyland, she literally cried until she threw up.

They say that this is the happiest place on earth... but we find ourselves asking when the magic starts for us? I wandered the streets of Anaheim (on foot and in the dark) and finally found a Food 4 Less to stock up on meds and Gatorade. It helped, but not enough.

We are fortunate to be traveling with co-workers, one of whom is a high councilman in the stake we previously resided in. He kindly agreed to step away from dinner with his wife to venture over to what could possible be, our flu infested hotel room to assist in giving Brielle a priesthood blessing.

Brielle is resting comfortably now, and the hotel has provided us with DVD's to keep our little B entertained while couped up inside. Our mini vacation might not be magical (yet), but I sure feel blessed to be married to a worthy priesthood holder, and to be surrounded by other worthy priesthood holders. During a month where we ponder on gratitude and blessings, the priesthood certainly nears the top of my list.



I may not love Halloween...  but I sure made a cute Pirate.

Note to Parents:  Watch out for the Milk Duds.  After taking just one bite, Brielle was left with on less tooth in her mouth.


Allergic to... Snow Crab?

We hit the first playoff game of the MLS Westerern Conference, were ReAL creamated the Seattle Sounders 3-0.  We have yet to go to a game where our favorite soccer team hasn't won.

Just before the game started, something strange happened to Brielle.  Itchy eyes, scratchy throat, aching tummy and super warm cheeks.  She wouldn't wear a jacket (and it was cold).  This sudden onset of what seemed to be an allergic reaction was a first for Brielle.  But what the heck had caused it?

Earlier at dinner with our friend's the McB's, Brielle was determined to try the kid's Snow Crab bowl at Joe's Crab Shack (I suspect her daring choice of cuisine had to do with the fact that her friend, Macie, has just ordered the same thing).  You could tell, within a few bites, this poor girl was just not herself.

After a stadium hot dog (mustard only), a Sprite and 3 crazy good goals scored by ReAL, Brielle started to look more like herself again.

We left the stadium sure of two things...

1.  ReAL plays better when the Merkley's are in attendance.

2.  No more Snow Crab for Brielle.



Halloween is not my favorite holiday.  President's Day tops Halloween -- I get a day off for that holiday!

I came across a quote by a person I don't know (never heard of) but what he said is hilarious and makes perfect sense.

"There is nothing funny about Halloween. This sarcastic festival reflects, rather, an infernal demand for revenge by children on the adult world."

Go ahead kids... take my candy, make me spend a ridiculous amount of money on a costume you'll wear once for less than a couple of hours, and ring my door bell 'til 1:00 in the morning. 

Happy Freaking Halloween. 


Hunting Widow

You've heard the term "Hunting Widow" before, right?  When Chris goes hunting, I hear there "oh, I'm so sorry you're a Hunting Widow this weekend" at least a half-dozen times.

Thing is... this HW doesn't mind a bit.  It gives me an excuse to spend a special weekend with Brielle.  And we made it special, with snuggling in bed, playing games, loads of shopping, lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and a ReAL Salt Lake game.

Now, Brielle has never been to the Cheesecake Factory, so rather than have you imagine the joy she felt when looking at all the difference cheesecake options, I just took a picture.

It's a tough decision, even for me.  She settled on a Lemon Raspberry, although the one with Caramel, Butterfinger and Peanut Butter Cups was a close runner up.

I think she likes it...

After our 4000 calorie lunch, we headed down to Alpine to visit with cousins and see how big the Dane puppy was growing.  Just for kicks... this was Daisy the Dane back in August...

And this is Daisy now...

...complete with paws the size of... well, my own hand.

Yes, 3 months and probably 100 lbs of food will do this to a Great Dane.  They'll grow.  Fast.  And large.  Keep in mind that she's only about  months old, and won't reach full growth until the age of 1 to 1 1/2.

The game was fantastic, putting ReAL in the Western Conference Playoffs, which means another game next Saturday.  This time though, it won't be just us girls.  The hunter has returned.


So sad.  Fall Soccer is over.

Way to go "Orange Crush" on a winning season!  Until Spring...


Scene set up -- driving home with Chris & Brielle after a fabulous birthday outing.

Brielle:  We learned about pollination today at school.

Me:  Really, what did you learn about it?

Brielle:  That bees carry pollen to other plants, which fertilizes them and grows new baby plants.

Chris: That's how we get babies, too. Dads pollinate Moms. (with a chuckle).

(I look at Chris with a complete look of shock on my face, not wanting to have that conversation yet)

Brielle:  Oooooooo-Kay (while looking at him like an idiot).

Pollination.  A good way to discuss the birds and the bees?  Possibly, but hopefully not for awhile.  And I sure hope she doesn't go back to school and tell her teacher.


This Face

This face rarely gets captured on camera.  And when it does, he usually looks kinda grumpy (even though I don't really think that he is).

I love this face.  

When I see this face, it makes me happy and I feel calm.

This is the face of the most generous man I know.  It's the face of someone kind and giving.  He's thoughtful, generous and devoted to his family. 

This is my dad.  Seeing this picture made me think of all the many, many reasons that I love him.



Chris purchased an iPad recently.  He loves it.  Brielle loves it.  I want one of my own.  We just love all the fun things we can do!

He downloaded an app called "StumbleUpon" and if you have an iPad or iPhone, this is a MUST HAVE app.  It asks you questions about your interests and sends you suggestions of places to visit.  

(click the pic for more information)

For example, I love to cook and StumbleUpon now sends me suggestions for cooking sites and recipe blogs.  But not just any website or blog... ones that receive high reviews.

This morning, I stared at the iPad for 10 minutes trying to decide which yummy recipe I was going to make for conference morning breakfast (which we always try to make extra special).  If you want to know what I "StumbledUpon," visit my Recipes I Love page -- cause it was that good!


Fall Soccer

My little Soccer Star...

Who knew being a "soccer mom" could be so much fun.



Elder L. Tom Perry said in a conference talk years ago that...
In a world of turmoil and uncertainty, it is more important than ever to make our families the center of our lives and the top of our priorities.  Families lie at the center of our Heavenly Father's plan.  We need to make our homes a place of refuge from the storm, which is increasing in intensity all about us.  Even if the smallest openings are left unattended, negative influences can penetrate the very walls of our homes.
This past week, I witnessed first hand the "negative influences" that Elder Perry speaks of in his talk.  I was in Washington with my sisters and parents, attending the funeral of a dear Uncle, who died suddenly and tragically.  I watched a family unravel during a time of loss.  It was sad, and it was heart breaking, to say the very least.

It's interesting that at times of change, crisis or loss, we are reminded that what matters most is family.  My experience this past weekend was a loud reminder that families are a blessing, and they are to be valued and nurtured.  I was reminded that we can't just place focus on our immediate families either -- that no matter the circumstance, we can make a powerful difference in the lives of even our extended family with constant love, support and encouragement. 

Long ago, the heading on my blog read this...

You don't choose your family.
They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.

You where God's gift to our family, Uncle Dan, and you will be missed dearly.


Turning Over New Leaves?

Chris and I are both turning over new leaves.

I've become the exact opposite of the organized housewife I once was and Chris now carries a purse.

Just kidding!  Chris only carries a purse when in Chicago, where no one knows him, when it weighs 15 pounds and only because his wife is getting a serious shoulder cramp.  After I snapped this photo, I took it back 'cause I couldn't bare to have him laughed at one more time by a passerby.

You're probably thinking that I'm joking about the lack of organization as well.  I'm not.  I've failed on all levels as a wife, homemaker and mother this past week.

No clean laundry.

Ridiculously dirty house (ask my sister in law... she stopped by).

We ate out every single night because I just didn't want to cook.

If I were issued a grade, it would be a big, fat F-.

Things are changing this week, though.  I can't stand living this way.  My new assistant was hired and this means no more early mornings and definitely no more late nights.  Awwwww.  Sounds heavenly.  And I can promise you... Chris won't be carrying a purse anymore.


It Doesn't Happen Often

Chris is always right.  ALWAYS.  Al-ways.  Are we clear on that?

But this time, he wasn't.  So I just had to document this rare occurrence on my blog.

Funny thing is, it happened back when we were in Chicago, but I can't stop thinking about it, because I was right and Chris was wrong.  I serious giggle when thinking about it.  

Hey, it doesn't happen often, so when it does, I live it up!


Proud Mama

Brielle is back in school, and she (as well as I) could not be happier.  Everyday she told me how bored she was, and everyday, I was sick of hearing about it.

One of my friends made fun of mothers who take "back to school" pics of their kids on facebook.  I'm one of those mothers and I'm proud of it.  I have a picture of Brielle each year at this time, and in each picture, she grows a little taller and looks a little older.  I'll be taking these photos through college, I'm sure.

Brielle's the cutest when riding her bike, I swear.  She makes this quarky smile, and peddles her little heart out.  It's adorable!

I would also like to proudly post that Brielle, during last nights riding lesson, jumped her horse for the very first time ever.  I'm not kidding!

I wish I could post the video of that first jump.  But due to the stinkin' pup, who's leash was wrapped around my wrist, and who suddenly decided to take off running to who knows what, I captured the sky above Brielle, instead of the jump.  This resulted in me missing the jump myself.

I seriously considered kicking the dog.  But I didn't, cause that would be cruel. 


Chicago - Day #4 & 5

Due to the return to reality (work, back to school night, laundry & cooking), I'm just now getting around to documenting the last few days of our trip to Chicago.

Days 4 & 5 both started off with business meetings, which is really what I was there for.  Poor Chris had to wander around the city all on his own.  However, by the looks of the pictures he took while out, it seems he had an okay time.  You should know that I will NOT be posting those photos.  Apparently, he knew they might up end right here on the blog, therefore, he made himself look like big fool.

I should post the photos for that exact reason, shouldn't I?

But I won't, because he really does look like a big fool.

DAY #4

We went back to Bubba Gump's place for dinner Monday evening.  It was good the first time, so it was sure to be good a second time.

AND I ATE SHRIMP, PEOPLE!  For the first time ever!  Don't believe me?  I have proof...

This is me, wondering why the cooks didn't peel off the shells for me.  And wondering what the "H" I had just agreed to try.

I ate it.  And it was good.  So I ate a few more.

That same night we took an architectural tour through the city of Chicago -- get this -- by boat!  I had no idea that a river flowed right through the city.  Some may think that a boat tour would be boring, but it wasn't.

There's nothing quite like seeing this city all lit up, from the river.  You get dizzy looking up at  these buildings, because you can't find a building in Salt Lake nearly as tall.  The tour guide was so knowledgeable, giving us a run down of the history of the buildings and of why the folks in St. Louis, MO hate the folks from Chicago so much. 

Since you are probably curious, I'll tell you.  A long time ago, the river was the sewage dump for the city.  It got to be so stinky and so gross, the city reversed the flow of the river and sent the sewage straight down the Mississippi heading directly to St. Louis.  I'd be a little ticked, too.

This tour is definitely a "must do" if you ever visit the Windy City.

Oh, and now I know why it's called the "Windy City." 

DAY #5

Our last day.  

After wrapping up my meetings for the day and listening to an incredible speech by Dick Vitale (sport enthusiasts will know who he is), Chris and I headed out in search of a true Chicago Dog.  It was so good and consumed so fast, we didn't get a picture.  Sorry.  They are really just that good.
We walked around, did some shopping, and then headed out to visit the Sear's Tower -- which is now actually called the Willis Tower.  But you wouldn't know what I was talking about if I said "Willis Tower" now would you?

We hopped on the subway and headed whichever direction the Willis Tower was from our hotel.  Without any mountains around us, I could never tell whether I was headed North, East, West or South.  After we hopped off, we passed a restaurant that Chris just had to have a picture of...

The sign says "Asian Hot Buns."  I told you he was a bit of a fool.

The Sears Tower -- Willis Tower -- whatever.

The glass boxes that they've built off the sides are ridiculously cool.  1400 ft above the earth and over 3 million square feet of office space.

It was raining when we left, so we grabbed a cab and went over to the Art Institute of Chicago.  Now this museum had Art.  Not like the Contemporary place Chris made me go to a couple days earlier.

I had never seen a Monet in person, and here I saw at least 10, among many other artists.

This was a cool museum.  I wished we had more time to view more of the collections, but we got there only a hour before closing.  We didn't see much, but what we did see was incredible.

When we came out of the museum, the sun was shining.  Chris said I just had to see this peanut in Millennium Park, which wasn't too far away.

When we got there, I said "that's doesn't look like a peanut!  It looks like a giant bean!"  And it certainly was, a giant bean.  

Can you spot me?
Not quite sure what the purpose of the big giant bean in the middle of the park was, but it was cool none the less.

Earlier in the trip, we walked past a popcorn shop with a line that literally wrapped around the store and down the block.  I was curious what could be so great about popcorn?  It's just popcorn.  So, I googled and found out that this was Oprah's favorite popcorn.  

Not that I truly care about what Oprah's favorite things are, I read that they were popular for their Caramel & Cheddar mixed popcorn.  Yes, you heard me, caramel and cheddar.  My curiosity got the better of me and we went back.  But on Tuesday's, the line isn't that big.

Holy Yum.  Best popcorn ever.  I'll give Oprah a little bit more credibility now.  It was amazing.  At first, I only ate each flavor separate, but they were right when they said it should be eaten together.  A-maz-ing.

This concludes the play-by-play of the first real trip Chris and I have taken together in over 5 years.  Next year, I'll be sent on a few more conferences, which include Louisville, KY, Washington DC and Orlando.  I think Chris was have to join me on a few of those, too.  He was kind of fun to have around.