Happy Birthday Ashlyn!

Ash turned the big 5 this year. It's crazy seeing my baby get so big. She's not so little any more. Her birthday was a lot of fun though. For starters, we made cupcakes for her preschool class the day before her birthday. She said she wanted butterflies, so with an idea that started on Pinterest, this is what we ended up with. I've decided that I am a fan of the compressed frosting. Talk about making my life easier.

Chocolate butterflies w/ red sprinkles.
Then, she was able to go on a field trip to our local nursery and plant a flower. She had a lot of fun and was super cute about the whole thing. She was even able to do the tour with her little friend. I think she quite enjoyed it.

That afternoon we had a birthday party. She was so sweet about the whole thing and loved her cake (note the red - definitely her favorite color - again here's another plug for prepared frosting) and was really cute about her party. She had chosen to decorate it with black and red. I was surprised. It seemed a bit sophisticated for a 5 year old.

Ash is really growing up. She loves being silly and still thoroughly enjoys singing and dancing. It's quite fun watching her. Ashy is still rather shy and prefers staying right close to mom most of the time. She is very self entertaining, but she loves it when someone will play princesses or Littlest Pet Shop with her. I'm amazed at what a good colorer she is and how much she enjoys looking and making other things look pretty. She's our little princess, and we love her.

Easter Weekend!

Easter weekend was quite the event. We had originally planned on staying home, but then Nick received a job offer in Cheyenne, WY that we needed to look into. It was bitter sweet for me personally. It wasn't that I was sad to be going, it just also happened that we ended up traveling on my birthday, and I'd really been looking forward to spending my birthday with my girls. I didn't even get to see them. :( Oh, well. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

We left the girls in Mt. View with Grandma and Grandpa and drove on to Cheyenne. The job offer was quite nice, but after driving around and looking at the city and looking at available housing and neighborhoods, neither of us felt like it was the best choice for family. It really didn't have anything to do against Cheyenne, necessarily. It just wasn't right for us for some reason.

The main highlight for the entire trip for me though was getting to stop and see Sarah B. in Laramie. I've missed her so much, and it was a wonderful, if too short, visit. Truthfully, when Nick got the job offer, being close to her was top on the list of reasons to move to Cheyenne. Not being close is also the main reason I was sad we turned it down. It's a good thing that friends can still be friends even over great distances. In Laramie, we did get to stop by the chocolate store downtown that our old landlords still own. I loved that place then, and well, I couldn't help but buy myself a bit of chocolates for a birthday treat. They were perfect on the way back to the valley.

Back in Mt. View, we enjoyed a fun Easter with Nick's family. Brady even tolerated letting the girls put little bows and barrettes in his hair. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. It was also fun to get a birthday/Easter package from my mom while we were there. She gave me a beautiful maternity statue and gave each of the girls cute Easter baskets with light-up bunnies. The bunnies ended up being a bit of an ordeal, because Emma's stopped working. It was rather traumatic for her, and she ended up writing the Easter Bunny a letter asking for a new one. It was a good thing that the Easter bunny was prepared for just such an emergency with an extra toy. Easter morning ended up being quite fun for everyone. Again, I don't have many pictures because everything is on video. If you're really interested, I guess you'll just have to come visit and look at our videos.

Brady all "dolled up:

Emma striking a pose - don't you love the WY Cowboys hat!

Cheesey Ashy in her UW hat.

Cousin Carson enjoying his loot.

One of the main Easter highlights though was our rather red-neck Easter egg hunt. I'm pretty sure that the guys had more fun setting up the hunt than the kids had doing it. They used drills to attach eggs to trees, tied them on the end of strings to make "trick" eggs, and hid them in places no kid could reach. Everyone had fun figuring out the hunt, and even the kids saw the humor in it once they got the trick eggs emptied. And of course, it's always fun to open eggs.

I'm always humbled by Easter. When I stop and ponder the real reason for the holiday, I can't help but truly be overwhelmed. My Savior did so much for me, and I am so grateful for his love for me and the rest of the world. It's such a personal feeling of love and appreciation.

It's a Boy! (Feb 8, 2012)

I have been really nervous this pregnancy. For those of you familiar with our story, you'll understand. But I was incredibly nervous the day of our ultrasound. Apparently I shared a good dose of adrenaline with the baby, too, because the tech could hardly get the pictures she needed. I LOVE those sneak peaks of my little people though. There are often times I've wished for a small window so I can just peak on my little one's progress. It's hard to be patient. I can't imagine what it was like to wait for the full 9 months to get even a tiny glimpse of the life growing inside you.

 Our tech was really good. She was a traveling tech who normally did the ultrasounds to double check for potential issues, so she spent a lot of time with us explaining in what ways our baby was growing healthy and normally. With all my nervousness, it was a tremendous blessing. The gist of it is that our little one is strong and healthy, with normal heart, spine, brain, and extremity development. And of course, we were very excited to see that we're getting a BOY! We love our girls, but unless something unexpected happens, this is our last pregnancy, and we really were hoping for a boy. It feels somewhat horrible to say we hoped for a boy, because of course we would have loved another girl, too, but everyone in this family is excited for a boy. Dad especially. I think he's looking forward to potentially a little less drama. Maybe. We'll see if that's what we get. We're certainly looking forward to our little one no matter what.


Treasure Hunt and a Twisted Ankle

Grandma and Grandpa Charles really like to spoil the kiddos whenever we go to Wyoming. This weekend Grandma had a volcano to set off and made a treasure hunt, and Grandpa flew kites and let the girls ride the horses. It's always fun in WY. It was rather sad though when Em twisted her ankle on the trampoline and wasn't able to join the treasure hunt. She did her best watching from the side lines. I wish blogger wasn't such a pain uploading videos. The videos of the volcano and digging up the treasure are really quite cute.

Ashy and cousin Carson reading their treasure maps.
Em tried to participate from the lawn chair. Poor kid.

Skiing and a Hockey Game

We bought Utah's Pass of All Passes last fall and have loved them. With them we got free ski days at Wolf Mountain and tickets to see the Grizzlies hockey team play in Salt Lake. When we went skiing this time, we couldn't get Ash in a class, but she did great on Wolf Mountain's Magic Carpet, so Dad took turns skiing with each kiddo while they alternated hanging out with me in the lodge. (I opted out of skiing due to my growing belly and did some editing in the lodge instead). Emma has become quite the pro on the lift, and for a while, she was just riding the lift and cruising down by herself while Dad helped Ashy.

Have I mentioned how fun it is to see your kids doing something you enjoy doing so much yourself? Nick and I LOVE skiing and have spent many fun days riding lifts and enjoying the much faster shoosh of the snow under skis. Watching our kids enjoy it so much makes us very excited for the upcoming winter. It's going to be fun.

 After skiing, we headed into Salt Lake for the Grizzlies game. I'd never watched a hockey game, so it was a blast watching the insanity. The girls really enjoyed it, too, especially since we were able to meet up with Grandma and Grandpa down there. It was a very fun trip.

Ash Goes Skiing!

We were able to take Ashy skiing to Wolf Mountain outside of Ogden this year. She has heard Emma talk it up for two years now, so she was very eager to give it a try. It was a bit tricky for her at first, but she did great and stuck with it. Sometimes Ash gets really frustrated, so we were a bit nervous about how it would go, but she was determined and will be tearing up the slopes next year.

Ash with her class (she's in the white coat and helmet).

Lunch time in the lodge equals goofiness!

Ash with her much loved 'pirate' face.

Happy Birthday Emma! (Feb 2012)

Happy 7th Birthday Emma! You sure are a fun, happy kiddo. We're very lucky to have you in our lives. You are always quick to be silly and up for anything to get a good laugh. You make friends very easily, are becoming an incredible little reader, and are a very good big sister. We love that you are missing LOTS of teeth, but it reminds Mom that you're growing up fast. Thank you for being you and for being our little snuggler.
7 years old!

Cake and ice cream.

A definite favorite.

There are so many fun games to play with balloons!

Popping these balloons proved to be a bit of a trick.

Dad really looked forward to giving you this pogo stick, and it was a hit!

I had to include Grandpa's famous self portrait, and check out that beard.


A Hay Ride

While Dad was sick in the hospital, the rest of us took turns moving from Kerri and Rebecca's houses. We missed our Grandparents, but someone was almost always at the hospital visiting and we tried to make the most of just being together.

One of the advantages of having a little sister who grew up wanting to be a cowgirl is that she married a cowboy. One of their favorite things to do is share their love for their animals with the rest of us. One evening, we all bundled up and went for a hay ride to "help" feed the cows. Uncle Heath is a lot of fun, and his dad, brother, and neighbor all pitched in to make it a very enjoyable trip. The cousins were quite enamored with the farm life, and everyone had a good time. Thanks Reb and Heath.

Reb and her draft horse

I love every single one of these kiddos


Smiles were quite common (I love those missing front teeth)

I love my family and am grateful for the memories

Crappy News

My family had been planning a 3-night trip to a large cabin in Island Park for all of us siblings and the cousins to get a chance to play together. The plan was to kick it all off with family pictures first. Well, on our way to family pictures, we got a phone call no one ever wants to get - Dad, Grandpa Millar, was in the hospital. The trip was automatically cancelled. There was no way we were all going to head up there without Grandma and Grandpa.

NOTE: For the next little bit, I'm going to summarize Grandpa's experience written in hind sight, since it is now May after all.

Grandpa's Story: At Thanksgiving I noticed that Grandpa's cheek was a little swollen but didn't mention anything about it. It was something that had apparently been bothering him mentally for quite some time. He just had a bad feeling about it. After some rather emotionally roller coaster-like tests, we learned that it was sarcoma. The only fortunate aspect was that it was a very treatable form of cancer. Just before Christmas, Dad received what was to be the first of six chemo treatments. Unfortunately, as well as I understand it with my non-medical background, Dad's weak liver wasn't able to filter the treatment like normal, and his blood counts went crazy. He had virtually no white blood cells and got really, really sick. Off to the hospital he went for three days.

The next two rounds of chemo weren't much better. With the second one he ended up back in the hospital with a horrible cold on top of everything else. With the third, he just holed up in the house for days, not daring to be around anyone. It was one of the hardest things I've gone through, watching my dad go through such misery and becoming so weak.

After that third round, the doctor decided to stop with the chemo. It was just too hard on him. Instead they did 30 days of radiation. He had  a special mask made that helped keep the treatment to its localized place on his face, and he endured the treatment with some nasty mouth wounds and very sore lips. It was miserable, but maybe a step up from landing in the hospital.

The treatments worked, though, and he was able to go on his hunting trip to Africa with Bryce last month (April 2012). It was good for him to have something like that to look forward to. It helped him have something big to look forward to. He's supposed to be going back for some follow-up testing in the next week or so to see where things stand now. I pray that everything is gone for good.

Events like that are horrible for everyone involved. The only real positive thing is that it reminded us to appreciate every day we get to have with our loved ones. You never know what tomorrow is going to bring. Love every day like it's the last and you won't have any regrets. I love my dad. I've always looked up to him. As a kid, he was always the man who could do anything and fix anything. He has shared his love for family and the outdoors with me and has taught me that life is meant to be lived not endured. When you treasure what you have and try hard to forget about the things you don't, life is much more fun. I love you, Dad, and I'm so grateful to still have you in my life.

Baby Macee

Aunt Lacee had her baby the day after Christmas, and what a beautiful baby she is, too. We instantly fell in love with her. The only down side was that the hospital didn't allow kids in to see the baby. I thoroughly enjoyed holding her though. Lacee was a trooper and did all that was necessary to keep her little one from coming early. She was worth every minute of it. We love you little one.

Christmas Day 2011

Christmas was a big success this year. In the past, it's been one of the more difficult days of the year for the Charles family. We've since learned to take it very slow and in extreme moderation. Our kiddos quite simply get over stimulated very, very easily. This year Santa remembered to bring fun, but interactive, small toys. Unfortunately, most of our Christmas adventure is on video, so these are the only pictures I have, but they are still fun. Both girls loved that they had matching shirts and wanted to dress the same. The Wii "Just Dance for Kids" and "Nickelodeon Fit" went over really well.Oh, and don't pass up the rather blurry picture of Dad's impressive beard. He kept it much longer than usual this year.

Wii "Just Dance for Kids" is really quite fun for these two.

Emma LOVES projects.

This little one is pretty easy to please.

I almost took it back to the store, but Dad got a huge kick out of the Chia Shrek head.

Polar Express

Emma's 1st grade class was able to go on a great evening field trip on the Polar Express to visit Mr. and Mrs. Clause. It was really quite special, and Dad even got to be the conductor on the "train." It was really cute. Ashy even decided this night that Santa must be okay; it had a lot to do with there being a Mrs. Clause. Merry Christmas!

Decorating Sugar Cookies

It's always fun to get together with friends, especially if you can play with cookies, frosting, and sprinkles. These kiddos had a lot of fun and were one sticky, colorful mess when all was said and done. The cookies were beautifully delicious.

Announcing . . .

I had been looking forward to making this announcement for weeks. Sometimes things don't go exactly as planned, but I'm grateful that watching this video reminded me that some times things aren't as bad in hindsight as they seemed at the time, if you know what I mean. We're very excited to be announcing the upcoming arrival of our new baby. Making it through the 1st trimester is pretty monumental for us, and everyone has been excitedly awaiting the end of June since.

P.S. Blogger doesn't like my video for some reason, but essentially, the kids didn't understand the cute "Big Sister" shirts I had made for them, were rather goofy (they're kids), then Ash got goofier while Emma finally got excited. I'll try uploading the video again later, if I remember.

Visiting "Aunt Kristine's Condo" in Salt Lake

For the last few years, we've been able to spend a special couple of days in December in Salt Lake with Nick's family at Aunt Kristine's condo at the Gateway. The girls LOVE it and talk about it for weeks leading up to the event. We spend the time just doing kids' things and enjoying each other's company. In addition to the activities pictured below, we were able to see Santa, go to The Muppets, and shop at Gateway. It was a really fun couple of days. Thanks Grandma and Grandpa Charles and Aunt Kris.

We love seeing the lights at Temple Square.
This Christmas tree at the Gateway rotates through some beautiful light displays.

Grandma C. looks forward to taking these kiddos and cousins to Build A Bear.
Emma's really coming to love the experience of dressing her animal.

And who doesn't love a train ride through the mall?


Happy Birthday Dad - Nov 2011

Happy birthday Nick! It's fun watching how much fun kiddos get out of celebrating their parents' birthdays. We love you Dad, and we're grateful for all that you do for us. We hope it was a fun birthday.

Happy Halloween - 2011

Who doesn't love dressing up for Halloween! Ash wanted to be a panda bear, and Emma made it really easy and decided to wear the same witch costume she wore last year. They made a pretty cute panda and witch.

Boo at the Zoo!
Post trunk-or-treating - Enjoying the good stuff!