The Official List of the Best Board Games

In our house, we have a major obsession (bordering on psychosis, really) with board games. 
It started out when we were first married, we would go to WalMart after work every so often and buy a board game. Eventually, we stopped buying typical WalMart games and started buying a little bit more obscure games online. Now, after a few years, our game closet is completely bursting and every year we add a few new favorites. (Ok, confession: in the last month, between our birthdays and Christmas, we got 7.) 
I don't know if you could call us board game experts (although, go ahead) but we definitely know a lot of good games! Usually whenever someone comes over for game night, we get a lot of "What was that game we played called again??" the next few days.
SO, in an attempt to share some of my wealth of knowledge with you, I compiled a list of our absolute favorites (which I reserve the right to change or add to at any time...)
I separated them by category, but other than that they are in no particular order. Any of the games on this list are ones you should try!
Also, although some of these games may cause some elevated emotions among your friends, they are all guaranteed not to totally destroy your friendships like, say, Monopoly.
You're welcome.

Deception Games

This game starts you off with a secret identity- you're either good or bad, and the only person you can trust is yourself. 
I put these two together because Avalon is basically The Resistance on steroids. (I'm not kidding. They're made by the same people and everything.) We loved The Resistance for a long time, and eventually got Avalon and liked it even more. I will say that although it's one of my favorites, some people at game night just don't love it. This is probably because we have played this game A LOT, and because it's generally the same-ish group and we've all gotten ridiculously good at reading each other, so there isn't much deceit involved in the game anymore. It definitely gets everyone at the table involved and usually ends in a heated argument. I would recommend starting with The Resistance, and although Avalon is fun, it's not totally necessary as they are extremely similar games. Avalon does add some fun new elements for players who already love The Resistance.

Number of Players:5-10

The point of this game is to sneak love letters past all the other characters to reach the princess- and earn those little red cubes. 
Love Letter is easily one of the funnest games we own. It's simple, the rounds go quickly, and it's so addictive to play. This is another secret identity game, but not necessarily a "deception" game, but I put it here anyways because... it's my blog, I can do what I want! 
There are also other versions of the game like Batman, Adventure Time, and The Hobbit, which are all inexpensive and all play the same, so this is a great game to start out with if you just want to test my game-choosing skills. 

Number of Players: 2-4

The premise of this game is that you are villagers trying to run a market, and you have to get your bread, cheese, chickens, and apples past the sheriff... and possibly try to sneak through some contraband. Sheriff switches each round, so the game moves pretty quickly and is a lot of fun.
This is probably my current favorite game in this category. It is super creative and fun, and allows for a lot of interaction and communication between players, and those are my favorite kind of games!

Number of Players: 3-5

Bang! starts you off with a secret identity, and only the Sheriff reveals himself. Everyone is trying to kill certain people and save certain others, and it gets really crazy and confusing- in a good way, of course.
We haven't played Bang! for so long, I almost feel like it doesn't belong on this list. BUT, it was one of the first "obscure" games we bought (if obscure means it's not as popular as Monopoly or Life... Bang! is actually a relatively popular game). It also allows for a lot of interaction between players, and is just a lot of fun!
I would say the only downside to Bang! is that it can take awhile to play, and once you're dead, you're dead. So if you die quickly, you spend the rest of the game sitting around not participating... which isn't fun.

Number of Players: 4-7

Strategy Games

In this game you get to buy rooms and build your own castle- who doesn't want to do that? The creativity and strategy to this game alone make it a lot of fun, but I also love that it works just as well for 2 player, so we don't have to wait for game night to play it.

Number of Players: 1-4

The point of this game is to build a home and farm that is, basically, better than your opponents. There are a thousand different ways to get there, so the game can be different every time. 
This is a really fun game if you prefer working on your own. It's fun to build your own little house and stables, and you can't always tell who is going to win until the end. But the best part of this game has to be the animeeples. Seriously, buy it and you'll see what I mean. 
The one frustrating thing about this game is there is never enough of the wood supply to go around. We basically fight over it for the first several rounds. Maybe one of us just needs a new strategy.

Number of Players: 1-5

The point of Keyflower is to build a village by bidding on tiles and taking actions. Sounds simple, but it is pretty complex.
This one is still really new for us, and it's a really cool game but definitely not one I would recommend if you don't play a lot of board games. Even for us, it took quite awhile to learn and felt a little overly complicated the first time through. But by far my favorite part of the game is the little houses you fold together and stand up to hide your guys behind... I must still be five years old at heart, because they were like tiny little dollhouses and Caleb definitely wasn't as excited about that part as I was.

Number of Players: 2-6

Party Games

In Codenames you start out with 25 cards in a grid on the table, and 2 people give one word clues to their teammates to try to get them to guess their team's words. 
When we first found Codenames, it was listed as "The Best Party Game" and although it's not my favorite game overall, I have to agree that it is probably the best party game we own. Actually, it's so good that whenever we have game nights someone requests it and we always end up playing it all night. (With a closet full of other lonely games!) We've played it so much Caleb and I are frankly getting sick of it, but I think that's a testament to how great the game is.

Number of Players: 2-8+ (Technically you can play with as many people as you can seat around a table. Or standing on bleachers behind them.)

Letter Tycoon is basically Scrabble (but, easier) mixed with Monopoly (but, minus the inevitable bloodshed.) You buy letters, spell words, and make money when other players use your letters.
This is another one of our newest ones, so we haven't had time to get sick of it yet, but I would say it is one of the simplest, funnest games we have. Great for when you are playing with people who don't like to spend a lot of time listening to the rules (ahem, MY family...) or even for playing with younger kids.

Number of Players: 2-5

If somehow you already have all these, here are some games that are still on our list that we haven't tried yet: 

And finally, a brief list of the games you should already own (or else, what are you even doing here?):
Bang (yes, this belongs on both lists.)

And, if this list wasn't at all helpful to you, here is the source of all my powers: We use this site a lot to find new games, and it helps that they are all ranked and reviewed. Go crazy.

NOW... Who wants to have a game night?

My Crazy Week

Just as a forewarning, for some of you, this might be one of those posts where I way overshare about medical stuff. Feel free to skip this one, if ya want.
Also, let me just say that this post is NOT intended to scare anyone, or sway you towards anything you do or don't want to do. When I got my IUD placed right after Dayen was born, I made it a point not to read all the scary stories online. I trusted (and still do trust) my doctor, and didn't want any reason to convince myself something was wrong when it wasn't. Turns out, I'm one of the unfortunate few.
So, this week was pretty crazy. If you read the last post, you know we were feeling pretty watched over and blessed this week. But, apparently I am a major pessimist, because the more wonderful things that happened to us, the more I felt like something really bad was coming.
So on Tuesday, which also happened to be my birthday, I was in a lot of pain from my period. For me, this is kind of the norm. But as it got worse and worse, I finally sheepishly asked my nurse friend if I should be coming in to be seen. She said with an IUD it was probably smart, so we scheduled an appointment for the next day.
That night it got worse and worse, so of course I did a Google self-diagnosis. By the time my appointment came around, I was fairly certain I knew what was going on. I was prepared to ask for an antibiotic and be on my way.
But, guess what guys? I didn't go to medical school. And I was totally wrong. Luckily, my midwife Annie (who happens to be one of my favorite people in the world) is a lot smarter than me and figured we should check my IUD. I told her I was planning on getting it out soon, but not for a few more months. She assured me we could just check it and she would only take it out if she needed to.
So, with my 18 month old sitting on the table with me, I prepared for a two minute procedure. I figured, I birthed an almost 10 pound baby a year and a half ago. I *think* I can handle a simple IUD removal.
Annie told me the IUD wasn't where it was supposed to be, so she was going to pull it out. But when she tried to remove it, I was in immense pain and the IUD broke into pieces, with only a few pieces actually coming out.
My IUD, not really resembling an IUD anymore.

She tried for awhile, while I sat there yelling and wondering if I really still wanted to try to go natural with the next baby, and finally she decided to ask the doctor to come look at it. After spending the entire morning and afternoon at the office, calling my mom to come babysit, and getting a cervical block, the doctor tried to remove it. The pain was so bad I couldn't stand it, so we decided to remove it surgically instead.
After how bad it hurt, I was honestly really relieved to not have to be awake through it. I could deal with the recovery, but not all the pain during.
So, we scheduled surgery for the next day. All of that was fine until he mentioned that the IUD was so deeply embedded, that there was a chance he would have to do a hysterectomy if I started bleeding too badly. He assured me he would only do that if it saved my life, but still, it's not something you want to hear at 26 years old with only one child. (And a cute one, at that.)
The other scary thing was that there was a chance he wouldn't be able to remove the whole thing. That meant after going through surgery, I would be living with this pain every day. This is a 5 year IUD, so in another 4 years when the hormones wore off, there was a chance I could get pregnant. A chance.
Needless to say, I had sort of a rough afternoon. I was trying to remain positive, but it was a really scary thought that one day I had the possibility of more kids, and in 24 hours that possibility might be gone forever. I can't even begin to explain everything that was going on in my head all day. I thought of everything from what it would be like to adopt, to what it would be like if Dayen was our only child. I thought of who I would be if the identity of "mom" was stripped away from me like that. I thought of how Caleb would feel down the road if he couldn't have any more children because of me.
Like I said, it was a hard day.
My doctor, who is also really awesome, went over the possibilities with me, and then asked, "Are you LDS?" I told him I was, and he recommended that I get a blessing before my surgery. This, of course, made me cry even more.
But that night, that's what we did. We asked one of our friends to come over, and they were quick to run over and help. I told a couple people, just in case I would need the support the next day. And, basically, I felt sorry for myself. In the moment, I couldn't imagine a much worse trial to have to go through than losing the opportunity of having more children. Especially over something as silly as an IUD.
So that night, me and myself had to have a serious talk. After I was basically done with my pity party, after I was all cried out over what might happen, I asked myself, "Anndee. Will it really be the end of the world?" And instantly I knew: no, it wouldn't. It would be a challenge, for sure. It would be a loss. But I would still have everything I have now. My wonderful husband, my darling baby, our home and dog and this whole life that I have. So what if it didn't turn out the way I always wanted, even expected? Does losing the idea of something really take away from what you already have?
After the blessing, both Caleb and I were feeling a lot more peaceful. I expected the blessing to assure me that things would be fine, that I would definitely get to have more children. But it didn't. Caleb knew that was all I wanted to hear, and it was probably all he wanted to say, but he didn't. I remember feeling peace from the blessing, but also frustration that I couldn't be assured of this one thing that was making me so anxious and worried.
But I think I understand now: that isn't how the Lord works. When does he ever just give us exactly the answer we want, right when we ask for it? Where is the trial of our faith in that?
Everything with the surgery ended up going really well. They expected it to only take about 20 minutes and it ended up being over an hour. I was really grateful to be asleep for that. The recovery hasn't been the easiest, but I will say our fridge and stomachs are full of delicious food, there are beautiful flowers on my table and my child was taken care of the whole time, and I feel so lucky to have all you wonderful people in my life! Through my very short trial with this, I never felt alone, and I am so grateful to all of you for that. 
After everything, I just can't help but feel grateful. I think all this time I've just been trying to control everything. I was so concerned about when we would have our children, how close in age they would all be and how I could basically plan out every moment of the rest of our lives. Now, I just feel grateful for the chance to have another one, whenever it happens. I think it's the same way with a lot of our trials. We are all flawed humans, and for some reason we never appreciate what we have until it's nearly taken from us. 
But we have a lot. We all do. This experience has made me realize how many people I have fighting in my corner with me. It has made me realize that if this is all I ever had, if life never got any better than this, I could and would be happy. Because what I have is really amazing.
Not to mention totally adorable.

In the Christmas Spirit

2016 seems like, for us at least, it wants to go out with a bang. We have had so many incredible and humbling experiences in the last few weeks alone, and I wanted to share today's with you.
Today, I decided to go to WalMart to finish up my Christmas shopping. I needed to fill Caleb's stocking, and that was all I planned to do. But as I walked through the store, I kept remembering more and more things I needed. Several times I went to walk to the check out line, and then veered off to grab something else I remembered.
By the time I finally made it to check out, I had quite a cart full of stuff, including a winter coat for Dayen, presents for my niece and nephews, and even a tube of mascara that I had just run out of this morning. Everything was more expensive than I was planning, and I was kind of stressing about it the whole way through the store. Christmas is just so hard, and I hate spending so much money at once, even on things we need. As I loaded things on to the belt, I started questioning everything I bought. Could I wait until next week to buy this? Should I put this back?
As I contemplated all this, there was an older man waiting in line behind me. His cart was mostly empty, with just two little cartons of orange juice and some eggs. He smiled at Dayen and I, but he seemed to not be paying much attention because he kept bumping me with his cart like he was pushing me out of the way. When I finally got up to the checker, he literally used his cart to force me out of the way.
I turned towards him, surprised but ready to stand up for myself, when I heard him tell the checker, "I want to buy this girl's groceries."
I quickly protested, "Oh no! That's very sweet but you don't have to do that."
"I want to buy them," he said again.
"I have so much stuff here! Really that is so nice of you but you don't have to!" I was panicking now, thinking about all the things I had chosen to buy today that I had been putting off buying for months. That's when the checker turned to me and said, "When someone offers to do something nice for you, just let them!" Then she turned back to the man and said, "She would love to let you buy her groceries!" So I finally smiled and said, "Yes, that is what I meant!"
And I just stood there and watched as he paid way, way, way too much money for his measly two bags of groceries.
After he paid I gave him a hug and said thank you. I told him, "Today is my birthday, so you couldn't have picked a better time!" He asked how old I was and when I told him he looked at the checker and said, "Twenty six! Wouldn't that be nice?" He told me he is ninety-two.
I walked out of the store with him, thanking him the whole way, and just shocked that anyone could be that kind.

Since then, two things have been stuck in my mind:
#1: The Lord is always, always, always mindful of us. It was no accident that I ended up with a cartful of things I needed but couldn't afford. It was no accident that I went to that checkout lane, on that day, at that exact moment. Believe what you will, but I know that I was being watched out for. And with everything going on in the world, to think that God cares about whether or not my child has a coat today... well, it's humbling to say the very least.
#2: It feels like the world is so bad and wicked and evil and going increasingly downhill, but when I really stop and look around, I don't know if I believe it. Yes, of course there is wickedness. People do bad things. Bad things happen for no reason. But that's always been the case. There is still so, so much good.
And to be clear, I don't think it's necessary to pay a ton of money for someone's groceries in order to serve them. But that's the thing: this man had no rhyme or reason for serving me. I'm not homeless or jobless. I wasn't out in the snow with no shoes. I wasn't even scrounging around in my purse for enough change to pay for my meager groceries.
I was just an average person doing a normal thing. I doubt most people would have looked at me and thought, "she could use some of my money." I'm not the most needy. But still, he served me.
That is the most Christlike service I can imagine.
Why do we wait until a friend is in need before serving them? Why do we only bring dinner if they are going through a hard time? Why do we sometimes have to be slapped in the face with a request before we are willing to serve?
You don't have to find the most needy person out there and do the most incredible thing you can think of. The small things count, too. You don't have to search for someone to serve, because we all need service. Because spreading love like that benefits everyone.
I doubt that ninety-two year old man will ever read this blog. But I hope he knows how much it affected me today, and I hope everyone who can read this blog will keep his actions in mind, and take it to heart. If we could all show even a little bit of that amount of kindness everyday, this would be a completely different world we would live in.

The Power of Negativity (and what its like to go sort of locally viral for a day)

Last week I was at the grocery store when I started thinking about that awful car accident that happened a few days before. I had just read on Facebook that morning that Officer Ellsworth had passed away, and so I was thinking about it as I did my shopping. Then I started thinking about the girl whose car hit him, and I realized I might have a way to reach her. I wrote the post in about ten minutes flat, didn't even bother to spell check, and posted it.

When I came back an hour later, it had been shared 30 times and viewed over 1,000 times. I also had a message from someone telling me they were going to forward the post on to the girl. I was happy that it had gotten to her so quickly, and that so many people wanted to show their support.
At the same time, I was a little worried. I have yet to see a story on Facebook these days that doesn't have at least a few rude or negative comments. And even worse, this wasn't really my story to be in the middle of. I didn't want to seem disrespectful to either family, and I really didn't want it to look like I was out seeking fame. (For the record, I don't make any money off this blog, so I definitely wasn't seeking fortune.)

But for the next 24 hours, the whole post just basically exploded with love and support for both families involved. I felt really touched and humbled to be a part of it, and I was and am really grateful that my love of writing might have been able to help someone on one of the hardest days of their life.

In the end, the post was shared over 1,200 times on Facebook, and viewed almost 150,000 times. To put that into perspective, if each person only viewed it once, that would be the entire population of the greater Tremonton area, Brigham, and everyone in Logan twice. Unless Blogger is crazy, I had views from Canada, Australia, Germany and Japan. If you know me, I'm small potatoes. Most of my posts get about 100-200 views, and rarely any shares. So to reach an audience that big was huge for me. All I kept thinking was why didn't I bother to spellcheck??? 

It was an interesting day that I might never get to experience again, so I thought I would share a little what it's like to go sort of locally viral.

First, a lot of random people try to add you as a friend. Which I find weird. Can you follow my blog instead? Why do we have to make this personal? This is sort of like when you talk in church and then random people from your ward talk to you in the grocery store because they recognize you but you have no clue who they are. Am I the only one?

The best was the people who I used to be friends with, but who had apparently deleted me at some point and were now trying to re-add me. I had to chuckle about that.

There were also a lot of comments I happened to stumble across on random shares of my post from people I barely knew saying things like, "I know the girl who wrote this!" or "She's one of my best friends!" I wasn't upset with any of it, but thought it was funny and interesting to see how people react when they have a brush with fame. (Even Box Elder County, extremely local fame.)

I got a lot of wonderful messages from people close to this girl and those were the best part. They were all very kind and made me really glad that I had reached out.

Tomorrow, the post will be appearing in The Tremonton Leader and The Box Elder News Journal. I am honored, but as my brother put it, "What is this newspaper you speak of? I'm sure Grandma and her friends will love it!" Still, when I was 12 I wrote a riveting piece about the pledge of allegiance and sent it to the Standard Examiner, and I'm pretty sure my mom still has it framed somewhere. So this is a big deal.

So in the midst of being surrounded by all this love and positivity, it finally happened: my blog got not one but two rude and negative comments. I deleted them the second I saw them, not because no one can disagree with me, but because I wasn't going to let my blog be the place for someone to bring negativity into a story like this. Hopefully, I am one of the only ones who read them. But they still stuck with me. I wanted to fight back, to argue, to tell them they were wrong. I wanted to say that they were missing the whole point of the post, that forgiveness is not only important but completely necessary in a case like that.

But I didn't. (Ok, with the above paragraph, I guess I sort of did... oops.) I decided to let it go because I knew that was best. But it's still stuck with me. Which made me realize: hundreds of kind comments can be completely undone by one unkind comment.

Do we realize the power our negativity has? When we criticize someone, when we talk behind someone's back, even when we post anonymously online? It's the most basic thing we teach children: treat others nicely. But it's becoming less and less important in our society. What's more important is finding your own happiness, and not letting anyone get in the way of that.

I'm not suggesting that we all tiptoe around each other and not try to break our porcelain feelings. I'm just asking that we all think before we speak. That we ask ourselves: Is this constructive? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

We've all been there. I'm sure we could all sit down right now and write a list of the negative things people said to or about us. I could go clear back to childhood if I had to. But I would have a harder time thinking of the kind things.

For some reason, negativity is just more powerful. And sometimes I think we feed off of that. I think that's why the media is the way it is, I think that's why my news feed is generally full of terrible, haunting stories.

So next time you're really feeling down and wondering what happened to all the good in the world, just remember: the negative is more powerful, but that doesn't mean there is more of it. If it takes a thousand kind words to undo one bad one, then there must be a lot of kindness and goodness out there to undo all the bad.

Thanks again to everyone for sharing and commenting and spreading the love last week. I really appreciate it, and from what I've heard from both families, they do as well.

To the 16 year old girl whose car struck Officer Ellsworth

To the 16 year old girl whose car struck Officer Ellsworth last Friday,

I, like the rest of the community, have been thinking about this story a lot. I didn't know Officer Ellsworth, but in such a small town I knew people who knew him. I've met a lot of people this weekend who were upset and depressed about the accident. And every time I forget, there is a new post on Facebook to remind me. Like everyone else, we are all thinking of the family of this highway patrolman.

But I want you to know, whoever you are, that we are also thinking of you.

My birthday is in a couple weeks, and it just dawned on me the other day that this year will mark 10 years since I got my driver's license. I remember my birthday that year was the first Wednesday of the month, which was a late start day. My mom took the morning off work and drove me to the DMV to get my license. Then she refused to let me drive myself to school. Still, I thought I was pretty cool. I can remember that day so vividly. I remember feeling so grown up. But that's the thing about being young: time is different. A year is so long, and you change so much. As you get older, time speeds up. A year passes and you barely notice sometimes. I'm only 25, but I imagine with each passing year, it gets worse.

At 16, I didn't really realize how recently I had been a child. How my parents and grandparents must have still seen me that way.

The first place I got to drive was to my work Christmas party. I wanted to take back roads to elongate the drive and stay away from other drivers, and I ended up getting lost. In Brigham City. It was not the best start to my driving career, and it was definitely a sign of things to come. (I still get lost everywhere I go.)

I just remember it being a fun and exciting new experience. It was like a ticket to adulthood and freedom.

But now, I look back at all the close calls I've had. It's not that I'm a bad driver, it's just that things happen. There were countless cars that almost collided with me, scary snowstorms where I almost slid off the road, even little kids running out in the street and I only just slammed on the breaks in time.

Close calls. Those moments that leave your palms sweaty, your heart beating fast, and teach you to be more alert and careful next time.

I was not ready to drive at 16. But I had to learn somehow. And I am still learning.

What happened last Friday was terrible. But I think one of the hardest parts to swallow was that it had to happen to you.

A girl who got her license less than a year ago. A girl who was a child only a couple years ago. A girl who probably hadn't learned a lot of those hands-on driving lessons, and who had to learn this one the hardest way possible. A girl who is probably scared to drive anywhere now.

I don't know the details of what happened, because I wasn't there. But I do know that the media has been covering this story like crazy. I know that the support from the community must be a huge help for the family. But you... what is it doing to you?

I was relieved to see the family offer forgiveness to you in their statement made yesterday. I want you to know that even without knowing you or them, I can tell you it's heartfelt. I can tell you they won't blame you. No one blames you. Our hearts break for you that you were the one behind the wheel in such a horrible tragedy. But no one blames you.

Whatever you believe, please know that these things happen for a reason. I believe God consecrates even these worst moments in our lives to be for good. When something horrible happens we feel the weight and sadness of it, but it's not usually until later that we find the little miracles, that we realize God was there all along. Watch for the miracles. Wait for the signs from God. And let it remind you that everything that happens to us is for our good.

A few months after I got my license, my oldest brother was in a bad car accident. His girlfriend was driving down the freeway when a car from the other side of the road tried to make a U turn in the emergency turn around. Their car was struck and thrown into a semi, which was then dragged and crushed. My brother, who despite constant reminders throughout his life never wore a seatbelt, was thrown from the car. His legs were dragged along the ground. His girlfriend died instantly.
He should have died. He was in the hospital for a long time. When he finally made it through the worst of it, we were told he would lose his legs. He didn't.
It was a miracle.
But through all those times in the hospital, waiting to hear what would happen, I don't think my family ever had any anger towards the car that caused the accident, or the semi that hit them. I never even remember hearing much about the car that struck them, but I remember hearing about the driver of the semi, who was haunted by what had happened.

I truly believe that we don't always know how we affect people. For all we know, we did something to cause an accident behind us and never saw it happen. But for you, to have this happen and then to have the constant reminders on social media has to be devastating. When I heard today about the passing of Officer Ellsworth, I thought of his wife and kids, and the family we saw yesterday as they made a statement.

But then I thought of you.

And I just hope that there is peace for you.

I hope you can see that our accidents, our mistakes, even our reckless decisions, and the consequences of those actions, are not who we are. We can't be defined by moments like that. So throughout the rest of your life, I want you to remember not to let it define you. It was one moment. And yes, it might be the worst moment of your life, but there will be so many others worth living for. There will be happiness and peace again, if you let it.

It took the family of this Officer only days to offer you their forgiveness, and I'm willing to bet their forgiveness really happened instantly. So if there is any good you can take from this, let it be the ability to forgive yourself. Let it go. Don't live with the weight of this any longer than you absolutely have to.

I hope, as a community, we never learn your name. I hope you are able to take some level of anonymity with this experience. But no matter who you are, just know that we are all thinking of you, praying for you, and most of all, hoping you can move on.

It could have been any one of us behind the wheel that night. And I am so, so sorry that it had to be you.

Some Days

For those of you who don't obsessively follow my personal life (you should, I'm fascinating), I am back to stay-at-home-mom-ing it. I also do my photography business, and in the Fall it's pretty much a full-time job. But I really love it! I'm also working as an Associate Photographer for one of my favorite photographers, Amber Rust, so I'm really excited to learn from her!
But, all that being said, guess what I'm here to complain about today? That's right, the stay at home mom stuff!
The thing is, I read a lot of blog posts and articles about how hard it is to be a SAHM, how awesome it is to be a SAHM, etc, etc. Heck, that's pretty much all I write about anymore. It's my whole life! And most days, I really, really love it. Every day, I am grateful for it. But some days...
Some days are like today.
Some days you wake up way earlier than your body was planning on (and as punishment, it spends the next 45 minutes refusing to work properly, making you spill your son's juice on the rug and run into walls and stuff) and pretty much from the second you crawl out of bed, you want to get back in.
Because your child is extra-crabby and starving, but suddenly none of the food you're offering is good enough. So you make him a PB&J because, let's face it, he was going to eat that for one meal today, so why not breakfast? If that bread was toasted, it would be a totally acceptable breakfast food. It's fine.
And then when you get back from your walk, your sex-crazed dog who you thought "Oh, he'll be just fine if we breed him. It won't change is personality or behavior!" pees on the carpet right in front of you. And when you yell at him to stop, he gives you a dirty look, wanders into the kitchen, and pees on the stove.
And under the stove.
And he's a giant husky, so it's probably at least a quart of liquid on your clean kitchen floors.
And under the stove. Don't forget that it's under the stove,
And why couldn't you stop him? Because you, like a normal human, need to use the bathroom once in awhile. And when you had a child you signed away all rights to your privacy, so he's trying to crawl on your lap the entire time, and it's not nearly as cute or funny as it sounds when it's happening several times a day.
And when you yelled at the dog you scared your cute kid, who is now wailing and saying, "Mom! Mom!" as if you've betrayed him. It only makes it worse when you go put him in his crib while you clean up the swimming pool of dog pee, because if you don't, he will most definitely, absolutely, without a doubt play in it.
And then you lock the dog up for half the morning and give him dirty looks every time you pass his kennel and wonder if dogs are smart enough to know what a dirty look means, or if he just keeps thinking, "Whatever. You're not the alpha."
Most days when you change your sons diaper, you fully understand the risks involved, and it doesn't matter because your gag reflex is practically made of steel by now, and nothing can phase you. Other days, it's just all been too much and when a little poop gets on your hand (cause it WILL, I PROMISE YOU IT WILL) you just have to fight back tears and the urge to cry, "Someone else's poop is on my hand!"
So some days, by noon you are completely at your wits end, your entire house smells like bleach which always give you a headache, so you decide to hit the reset button. Go for a drive. Get out of the bleach-smelling house that is run by some wild animal who you currently can't stand, even if you secretly still love him.
Some days, like today, you can't even put on shoes before you go out to the car, because if you don't get out right now you're just going to lose it, and there will be more yelling, and we already know where that goes. Some days you accidentally drive to McDonalds and get a Dr. Pepper, even though you're trying not to drink soda because marriage and all this stress and all this soda are making you fat. But the bleach headache has combined powers with the yelling headache and the guilt headache and they are taking over your mind.
So, you drive and play music as loud as you dare with little ears in the backseat, and pretend you're 16 again and your car is spotless because you clean it all the time, and no one is depending on you to keep them alive, and you resist the urge to call your mom and whine that you are done being an adult.
The weird thing is, I've had a lot of jobs before, and a lot of bad jobs. If this was any other job, I'd find another one and quit. I'd hate my job, because who wants a job where you have to clean up some animal urine from under your stove, or someone else's poop off your hands? If I read that job description, I would go running for the hills. No one wants that.
And yet, it's exactly what I wanted. It's the weirdest thing ever how rewarding it can be, even when you feel like a total failure, even when you wouldn't repeat some days for all the money in the world. Because yes, some days are what feel like bad days. But most days are wonderful days. And even the bad days aren't all bad. Like today, Dayen started saying, "Tan I has tiss?" because I always ask him, "Can I have a kiss?" That's what I'm really going to remember about today.
So I'm going to forgive myself for drinking soda today, cause dang it, I deserved it. I'm going to admire how spectacularly clean my floors are after today's fiasco. I'm going to kiss that cute kid of mine and forgive him for refusing to take a nap.
And I'm going to go change the laundry, because literally all of my rags were used before 10:00 am.
Some days are just like that.

All My Little Ducks

WARNING: If you're one of those people that words like "moist" make you gag, you're definitely gonna want to skip this post. And maybe just having children in general. I'll let you decide that one.

Every night before I fall asleep, I have the best intentions for the next day. I am going to wake up early! Read scriptures! Make a nutritious breakfast, and go for a long walk with my cute dog and baby! In fact, if anyone asked me my morning routine, I would lie and say this even though this only happens this way, like, once every two weeks.

But still, I try to get all my ducks in a row the night before. Do the dishes, vacuum, get ahead on homework and photo edits. Because if I can somehow follow this perfect morning routine, then that will in turn lead to a perfect day, and everyone knows at the end of a perfect day you drop 10 lbs and win $1,000. So, obviously, it's the goal.

But the last two mornings, Dayen has been sick. And before anybody starts thinking what a bad mom I am: I am very concerned about it. I've been taking care of him nonstop, and in fact willingly went through the following because I love his cute face. But this is my blog, and this post is really all about me. So, there.

Yesterday I opened Dayen's door in the morning to the smell every mother loves to smell, and I knew there was trouble. Turns out, he had thrown up at some point during the night, and rather than waking us up and crying about it, he just fell back asleep in it. The effect was dried vomit stuck in his hair, on his face, and all over his blankets and stuffed animals. Do you people know how hard it is to change crib sheets? Who invented this system? Well, I did it anyway. I even gave Ellie, his favorite stuffed elephant, a special bath with baby soap and a rag so she wouldn't fall apart. As I sat there blow-drying a stuffed elephant, I realized my life hasn't exactly panned out the way I thought it would. 

He went to bed last night feeling a lot better, and this morning his room smelled neutral, so I got a little too comfortable. I fed him breakfast and even did my makeup before 9 am. I found a cute outfit because, hey, why not? 

Then I picked him up from his high chair and within seconds noticed my shirt felt wet.
The panic set in. Please oh please let this be my imagination.

I set him on the changing table, and saw, yep, the butt of his pajamas was soaked. I looked down and my shirt was soaked. I mean soaked. So, of course, I had to smell it. Because maybe it's not what I think it is. Maybe, somehow, my child sat in a puddle of Drakkar Noir and I am in for a special treat.

In this case though, you can probably guess what it was.

Really though, what was I hoping for? On the off chance it wasn't poop, did I really think it was going to be something good? If I found it to be, say, milk, would that really stop me from changing my shirt? (Ok, some days, yes.)

Anyway, after whining to my giggling child how gross that was, I pulled off his pajamas to find the world's worst April Fool's joke staring me in the face. I'm not going to post a picture because I refuse to be that person, though I did send a picture to my mom. And Caleb. But let's just say when the diaper came off, what had managed to remain inside broke loose like a dam and his newly washed changing table looked like... well, use your imagination. You know exactly what it looked like.

The next ten minutes were so poop-filled, I don't even know where to start. Cleaning up the dripping diaper? The pile of suddenly poopy laundry that, by the way, I had just finished the day before? The fact that I actually had to wipe poop off my wall?

Somehow I finally got Dayen in the tub and rushed around cleaning up. (And don't you worry, I changed my shirt.) And during one of my check-ins on Dayen's bath, I saw this.

Am I the only one who sees the irony? The kid literally had all his ducks in a row!

And that's when I realized:

We are all born pretty much a mess. We can't walk or talk, we can't do math (some of us never outgrow that), we even have to learn to use the bathroom on our own. 
But everyday we learn and grow. We go to school for years, we put all our time and energy into growing into self-sustaining adults. 

And we almost make it, too. We can see perfection glistening on the horizon, just within reach. We've almost got it all together.

And then we turn to our spouses and say, "Honey... we should have a baby."

And 9 months later we start the cycle all over again, but this time with our own kids.
I don't have time to live a perfect life, or to discover some brilliant scholarly thing (I don't even have time to think of a word other than thing) because I'm too busy cleaning up poop off every surface of my home!

How did this happen? Wasn't I supposed to be destined for greater things, or something like that? Do you know how many times I had to pause even just writing this blog post because Dayen was destroying something in the house?

So the moral of this feces-filled story, in case you missed it, is this: I love being a mom to this little stinker. But he is officially my excuse for not accomplishing anything worthy of a Nobel Prize. Or even passing math. 


I've been contemplating this post for awhile, ever since my sweet husband very nicely told me that I'm writing a lot about our baby these days, and not a lot about us. I didn't even realize reading my thoughts on our relationship on my blog meant anything to him, but then again, who doesn't love a little public shout out now and then? So, for those of you not interested in just how wonderful I think my husband is, feel free to tune out now. But if you need a little positivity in your day, then you're in luck! Because this is a post dedicated to the absolute greatest blessing in my life... my cute husband!
I met Caleb when we were both bussing at Maddox. I had only started working there a few weeks before, and he had just gotten home from his mission. (On my birthday, in fact!) We were working together one night and he was still in his post-mission, be-nice-to-everyone state, and I remember he asked me a lot of questions all night. How many siblings did I have? When was my birthday? What did I do for fun? I kept thinking, "Great, a returned missionary. This guy is just looking for a wife." Then he said something about graduating in 2009, and I said, "Oh, that's when I graduated too!" and his eyes lit up. (You have to understand, that bussing uniform made me look 16. Clearly up until this point he was trying to decide if he could actually date me... turned out, he could. Legally and everything.)
We had a rocky back-and-forth as he adjusted to being fresh off his mission, but from day one we realized we had a ton in common. He walked me out to my car that first day we met, and we even drove the same car! The more I got to know him, the more I realized he was sort of the boy-version of me.

I love looking back on that time we dated, especially getting engaged and looking for houses and planning our wedding. One of my favorite memories was when we went ring shopping. For some reason I thought he would panic and change his mind about marrying me, so even though I was excited I was trying not to get my hopes up too much. We had a chat with the salesman about the ring I wanted designed, and he told us it would be $100 deposit. I remember Caleb was on his phone and ignoring us, and I felt my heart sink. I figured he was on Facebook or something, and I turned to him and said, "Do you want to go home and think about it and we can come back?" And he looked up at me, surprised, and said, "No, I was just moving some money around. Can I pay now?" And I just had to hold back tears of joy because I couldn't believe we were really going to go through with it and get engaged! (Especially with such a pretty ring.) But I look back now and can only remember us as babies who had no clue what we were in for. I look back and think, "Anndee! You didn't even know how awesome he was yet! Thank goodness you were smart enough to marry him!"

I will never forget how quickly I learned that I was definitely the lucky one in this relationship. On maybe the second day of our honeymoon, I woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible migraine. At this point in my life I had only had 2 or 3 other migraines, but you definitely know them when you have them. They are completely crippling. I stumbled into the bathroom, thinking I was going to be sick, and Caleb was instantly at the door asking to come in. I told him I didn't want him to see me throw up (we had just gotten married!) but he insisted that I let him in. Luckily I didn't throw up, but I went out to lay on the couch because for some reason it felt better than the bed. It was a narrow couch with no room for my new husband. And to really make matters worse, we were in the middle of nowhere and I had forgotten to bring any kind of medicine. So, my brand spankin' new husband sat and rubbed my head until I fell asleep, and when I woke up the next morning he was asleep on the uncomfortable floor next to me.
I remember just being completely shocked. I knew I loved this man, but I don't think I realized until then just how much he loved me. Or just how big of a blessing this marriage was really going to be.
Now, after almost 4 years of marriage, I still can't believe how lucky I am to have found him. Don't get me wrong, neither one of us is perfect, and neither is our marriage. But we are absolutely, completely, perfect for each other.
Honestly, marriage is not much like I thought it would be. There's not a lot of date nights, or surprises, or constantly realizing how lucky we are to have found each other. It's a whole lot of day-to-day. It's a whole lot of goodbyes before work, and discussions about what to eat for dinner. It's a lot of planning, and monotony, and a whole lot of things that are never specifically mentioned in the Happily Ever After.
But when I actually stop and think about it, "count my many blessings" like I'm supposed to do, I realize just how incredibly blessed I am. I found a person who truly loves me unconditionally. Not a Prince Charming, not a Knight in Shining Armor, but just a sweet, wonderful person who is willing to wake up early every morning and work all day just to take care of our family. He loves cookies like me, but he doesn't love onions. He likes video games, but doesn't have a competitive bone in his body. I have only ever seen him angry maybe twice in the five years I've known him, and even then it was pretty mild. He loves to cook, and he is ridiculously talented at it, something I am always not-so-secretly jealous of. He is a perfectionist, and takes his time doing things just right. He loves dogs and always pretends he's going to run over cats when they run out in the road. (Don't worry, he could never really go through with it.) He has this can of grape soda that he's had since like the 5th grade and he's convinced someday we're going to pop it open and drink it in celebration, even though it's probably fermented by now and I'm not going near that thing. He is insanely smart, and when he doesn't know something he researches it to death until he knows it forwards and backwards. He is great with computers. And his son is the spitting image of him, and pretty much thinks he hung the stars. I do, too.

A bit ago, I was being my usual, hormonal, girly self and was upset with some friends about what I felt was a gross misjustice directed at us. Caleb listened patiently, pretended to be mad in all the right places, and then dropped the ultimate knowledge bomb. He said, "I think that's kind of how it's supposed to be. We can have friends, but we aren't supposed to be nearly as close with anyone else as we are with our spouse. Even the best of friends are going to let you down, but your spouse is always there for you. We're supposed to go through this kind of thing to remind ourselves to rely on each other, and to solidify that we are best friends."
Ultimately, that is the best part about marriage to me. Just having someone who you know always, always has your back. Who wants to go through all that day to day monotony with you, because it's all those little days and little moments that make a really beautiful life. It's the most cliche and simplest thing I can say about it, but I can say it with confidence: I have found my eternal best friend. 
And I still can't get enough.


I love General Conference Weekend.
When I originally started this post, it was going to be about our fun Conference traditions. I was going to post pictures of cinnamon rolls and the cute craft I made because it's impossible for me to sit still for that long, and maybe a few cute handwritten quotes from my favorite talks.
But then I realized how much I needed Conference this time around.
I always need Conference. It seems to come at the perfect times. Spring and Fall are already the best seasons (don't even try to argue with me on that one) and there is just nothing like spending the weekend at home with your family listening to the words of the prophets, to counsel that you needed, and to inspiration you've been searching for. Sometimes I need Conference because I've been trying to make a big decision, or because I've been struggling with something. And other times I need Conference because, I don't know, there was a really depressing Presidential debate a few days before.
Regardless, it seems like in the days and weeks leading up to General Conference, everything starts to rain on me. I am full of anger and frustrations and disappointments. And then the music starts playing, and that familiar announcer guy's voice comes on, and I can just feel my soul breathe a sigh of relief.
Let's face it. The internet is wonderful. We are so incredibly lucky and spoiled to have all this knowledge and power literally at our fingertips at all times. And I don't think the internet, or Facebook, or any social media is bad. But boy, do we use it for bad sometimes.
Scrolling through social media has become a lot less about keeping up with our friends and families lives, or sharing moments with each other, and a lot more about voicing opinions, arguing points, and refusing to concede to another's point. I think I've mentioned this here before, but you can't scroll through the comments on ANYTHING anymore without seeing a nasty comment from some troll.
Everyone is just so angry and unhappy. Or at least, their online-selves are. The world has become so insanely black and white, and you have to choose a side. You can't sit on the fence. You have to pick an argument and fight it to the death. You have to form a camaraderie with anyone who agrees with you, while declaring war on anyone who doesn't.
You have to hate.
And I have to admit, I am doing it pretty well.
Because I am angry. I am angry at so many things and the people who stand for them. I am angry that they can't see my point, because I feel so strongly about it. I am angry that the world doesn't fit with everything I think and believe, and no one has lived my life, so almost no one sees things exactly the way I do.
And there doesn't seem to be an escape. Even minutes into General Conference, something I have always considered to be a wonderful refuge from the world, you hear those votes of dissent and suddenly I am angry again. Not just angry, my blood is boiling. I don't understand it. I don't understand how anyone can hate so much what I hold so sacred.
And frankly, I am tired of being held to a higher standard because of my faith. I'm tired of non-members using my imperfections against me. If the church was true, I would be perfect. If I go to church, I must believe I'm perfect.
I'm living in a world that doesn't want to believe what I believe, and doesn't want me believing it either.
And you know what? It's completely exhausting.
But I finally realized: they are right. I do need to be better because of my beliefs. Isn't that the point? I don't think I'm perfect- in fact, I know better than anyone that I'm not- but I am trying day after day to live a life closer to what I believe will bring happiness and joy for me and my family.
I know, I truly believe, that if I am going to be a Christian, I need to be Christlike. And Christ would love them.
Would he accept everything everyone is doing?
Absolutely not.
But that doesn't mean I am in any place to judge. It just means I am expected to love them anyways.
I am finally understanding the scripture about turning the other cheek.
So, I'm dropping my end of the rope.
I refuse to hate.
That doesn't mean I change my beliefs about things that are sacred and important to me.
That doesn't mean I condone that behavior, or that I won't teach my children what I believe.
It just means, I'm not going to argue. I'm not going to fuel the flames. I'm not even going to read the silly comments that are only there to make me upset.
Friends, I want to hear about your lives. I want to see cute pictures of your kid or your puppy, even if you've posted a thousand before. I want to know when you've had a success after a failure, and I want to know when you're struggling so I can try to help.
But I can't read any more of the hate, or the negativity.
We've got 6 months until the next General Conference. I want to see your happiness, and your joy. I want to live peaceably not just with those who agree with me, but those who don't.
I just want us to love one another. Whether you are LDS or not, whether or not you even believe in God, I think we can all agree on one thing: kindness feels a whole lot better than hate.