Madison recently had a birthday and turned four. We love just about everything about this little girl.

She is now a sunbeam and gave her first prayer in Primary. She was the model of reverence waiting for her turn:

She’s also reverent when she sleeps!

Madison is obsessed with Hatchimals which are little eggs that have a heart on them. You rub the heart and when the heart changes colors, the egg is ready to hatch. Inside the egg is a tiny toy animal.

Madison wanted a Hatchimal cake. Easy enough:

We decided to celebrate her birthday with Chuck E.

New toys prompted the kids to play together nicely for a time:

I have some Madison funnies I’ve been saving up. Now seems like a good time to share them.


Madison: “Mom! Come quick! There’s a rattlesnake. It’s pinch black!”

Interested to see a “pinch” black rattlesnake in our backyard I followed her outside.

It was an earthworm.


We were meeting my sister and her boys at a museum. We saw them coming down a long sidewalk.

Me (jokingly): “Go run and give the boys a hug and a kiss!”

Madison (indignant): “No! Lincoln is not a prince, and I am not a princess!”


Madison was playing with her toys. I called her to dinner. As she was getting up to come to the table I heard her say, “Thanks for watching! Please like and subscribe!”

Apparently she has been watching way too much YouTube.


As further evidence of her YouTube addiction, Madison saw her presents on her birthday. She held them in her hands and kept trying to figure out what could be inside. Finally she said, “I wonder what this could be? Trolls? Or Hatchimals? Leave your answer in the comments below!”


We sure love this little girl!


Christmas was fun, but the week after Christmas was even better. My brother Ben and his wife Haley surprised us with a visit. The first thing Ben said to me when he told me he was coming was, “Get a babysitter. We need to do an escape room.”

I told him I had an even better idea. Enter Lockbox Mysteries. My super clever and creative friend started this business which is basically an escape room in a box. You rent the box from her and inside there are clues and codes and locks and boxes that you have to crack in order to solve the murder mystery.

We went over to Jeff and Sarah’s house and the six of us shooed the kids in the basement with a movie and popcorn while we (literally) donned our detective hats and got to work solving the mystery.

It was so fun. I had done one escape room before and this was every bit as good as that was, but we were able to do it in our own home! No need to pay extra for babysitters! No need to possibly be grouped up with weird people you don’t know! You just play with all the weird people you already know!

Not to brag, but we solved the mystery in 46 minutes and used zero hints.

If you’re local, you should definitely get a group of friends or family together to try this out. We all loved it!

We took advantage of the first real snow of the season and went sledding:

What is is about kids all bundled up in snow attire that’s so adorable?

Someone please give Haley the best aunt award! Turns out Madison is a total thrill-seeker, and she loved going down the biggest hill. Haley walked Madison up that hill and slid down with her at least five times. Each time Madison would jump up out of the sled before Haley could even catch her breath and yell, “Again! Again! That was so fun!”

We went back to Sarah’s house to warm up and take cute cousin pictures:

But SOMEONE wasn’t having it.

Sarah’s boys got a lot of dress ups for Christmas that were put to good use during our stay:

Brooke went cross-eyed over her cross stitching:

Dollar skate night was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up:

Bonus! Princesses were there!

Brooke helped Haley and Sarah make pizzas and was very proud of her accomplishment:

Ben and Haley love to play games. They always introduce us to fun, new games. Codenames quickly became a favorite:

If Codenames quickly became the favorite, we might say Legacy Pandemic: Season 2 slooooooooowly became the least favorite. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, here’s an amateur’s synopsis of it. It’s a cooperative game which means you all work together to beat the game. In this case, we were trying to find a cure to save the world from a pandemic.

When you start the game, you’re happy and excited and smiling:

As the play progresses you draw on the board and add stickers and pathways. Some cards have things you scratch off. You can only play the game in its entirety one time. However, the game consists of 12-24 rounds, and each round takes about an hour to play and an eternity to set up, so when you tell your brother and sister-in-law that you’re “game” to play the game, you better know what you’re in for.

Sarah and I most certainly did not know what we were in for.

I think we knew how seriously Ben takes his games, but we had never seen this type of serious. There were multiple dramatic pauses, giddy exclamations, and intense shoulder rubs during each round.

This was a game of logic and strategy playing to Ben and Haley’s strengths…and not so much to my and Sarah’s. Sarah bailed on us about four hours into the game. Some of the more invested players did not mourn that loss, though others keenly felt the absence of her cheers, hollers, and dance moves.

We took a break from our game playing, and I was able to remember I had a husband and a life outside of supply cubes and Hollow Men. We had a fun group date at Boondocks for some bowling, laser tag, go-karts, and 4-D movies.

We saw the princesses again!

Do we look like expert bowlers? Because we are not.

After our Boondocks break we went right back to our marathon game. Hours and hours and hours and hours later we did it. Against all odds we saved the world from disease. Our score was kind of crappy, but we blame that on the fact that we misread a few key rules which made our play much more difficult than it would have been had we demonstrated better reading comprehension skills.

The game ended and I felt a strange emptiness. My brain had no idea what to think about. I kept worrying about our cities and hoping they were doing okay. Now that several weeks have elapsed since we played, I no longer dream about epidemics and outbreaks…but I think it will still be some time before I agree to play a game like that again!

We had the best Christmas. I have lately resolved to get out and do more things as a family. I’m a huge homebody, but I want to take better advantage of all the fun to be had around us…starting with a festive trip to Temple Square!

We love to visit Temple Square with our friends from our Orem days. Brooke and Emma hit it off as if no time had passed…except time has passed and now instead of running off to play with stuffed animals they take selfies when they see each other?! They’re growing up!

I forced the family to humor me on a two-hour roundtrip road trip to look at Christmas lights. They grumbled the whole way to this office building which had lights set to music:

They complained a little less when we saw the magnificence of the Tree of Life in Draper (though in spite of the fact that I hollered ten times for the kids to get their coats before we left, Caroline apparently didn’t get the memo):

We hit up the Christmas streets in Taylorsville and South Jordan and ended at this house:

The kids were completely awed at the unbelievable number of decorations and lights that this house had and finally conceded that they were glad I had dragged them out on an adventure.

The kids’ favorite holiday tradition is making candy houses:

We always get together with Dallas’s cousins for a Christmas party. Brooke got a good hug from Oma during the party:

We lit luminaries at the cemetery and sang to Opa and Great Grandma and Grandpa Stadelbauer:

Christmas day came and the kids were super excited:

We had a couple Santa mishaps this year which threatened to ruin Christmas. Santa got Caroline a Lego set she already had and he also got Brooke a Lego set that ended up NOT being a Lego set but a knock-off Lego set. Oops. Get your act together, Santa. Sheesh.


The girls got socks and underwear. I jokingly asked them to hold them up for a picture and they surprised me by complying immediately. Ha!

I’ll end with a sweet Spencer story. My parents went to Jerusalem a few years ago and brought all the kids back a nativity. When I was putting it out this year Spencer was sitting on the couch quietly watching me put each piece in its place. When it was all set up he peacefully sighed and said, “That’s my favorite Christmas decoration.”

You know me well enough by now to know that I can’t seem to post about events until months after the fact, so what do you say we relive Halloween?

Brooke was a vampire:

Caroline was a fairy:

Madison was “fever Elsa” as she called it. I guess this is the dress Elsa wears when she is sick in one of the Frozen movies:

Spencer was a dinosaur. He would probably want me to specify he was an Indominus Rex:

Dallas went to work as Russell from the movie Up in the hopes that he would win his work’s costume drawing. Better luck next year.

Brooke’s actual costume on Halloween was a Minecraft character:

Our trip was drawing to a close. We wanted to spend one more day at the beach. Oceanside is so close and nice, so we went there again.

Brooke found this bird that wouldn’t move. Turns out if these birds are on the beach, they’re usually injured, so someone alerted the lifeguards. They came and scooped him up and took him to a wildlife refuge center.  This is how you know you’ve had a successful day at the beach:The next day was Sunday. Elder Christofferson was coming to speak at a stake conference in my parents’ mission, so we went with them to go hear him speak. It was only 8:30 AM, but our week of fun had apparently exhausted Madison, so she used our drive as her nap time: We knew we’d need to get their early to get a seat, so after claiming a row we went outside to attempt family pictures again for the millionth time.  After church we went back to the house for puzzles and dinner prep: I wanted a picture with just me and my parents. My kids had other ideas:
Boom! Got one!The two missionaries from Madagascar joined us for dinner. We talked to them all about the plague and about life in Madagascar. As they told us about the plague, I could feel my hypochondria kicking in. Was I feeling feverish? Did my stomach hurt? Were my lymph glands swelling?

Of course I wasn’t coming down with the bubonic plague. It was all in my head. Or so I continued to tell myself that night as we played Qwirkle and I couldn’t seem to get warm even though I was wrapped up in a blanket.

“I’m completely fine,” I told myself as I rifled through the candy cupboard and nothing looked appealing.

“I’m not getting sick,” I tried to convince myself as I lay down to go to sleep and my stomach started churning.

Am I sick?” I wondered at 2:30 in the morning when I couldn’t sleep.

“I have the plague!” I thought at 3:30 AM when I ran to the bathroom…and then threw up.

After that I had a lot of time to think the rest of the night as I couldn’t go back to sleep. We were supposed to wake up bright and early to drive home. How could I drive for 12+ hours if I was dying of the Black Plague? But we couldn’t stay because chances are someone else would get sick and no way did I want kids barfing all over my parents’ beautiful mission home. Nor did I want to get my parents sick.

When it was time to get up and go, I actually felt okay. Maybe I wasn’t dying from the plague after all. Maybe we could make it home. We got all packed up. We said our good byes.

I grabbed some barf bags. We left.

An hour into our drive I received a text from my mom. We had forgotten something at their house. It would have been so fitting if we had forgotten Spencer’s shirts, but no! We had those three cheap shirts packed away safe and sound. Instead, the thing we forgot was our largest suitcase which contained all of my and Dallas’s clothes and shoes and trip supplies. How is it possible for two grown adults to be so horrible at keeping track of our stuff?!

We started to turn around to go back for the suitcase, but my parents forbade us from driving back and adding several more hours to our trip. They agreed to ship the suitcase to us. They are the best! Forever rescuing their children from their ineptitude.

It was at about this time that Dallas pulled off to the side of the road because I thought I was going to be sick again. False alarm.

I got back in the car and fell asleep. I woke up abruptly knowing that I was about to lose it, and this time for real. Dallas pulled over. I got out and was slapped in the face by a gust of wind. Wind! I had just enough presence of mind to quickly tie my hair back in a ponytail and position myself in such a way so that when I threw up the wind wouldn’t splash it back at me. I doubled over, retched, and watched my vomit take flight in the violent breeze. I felt sorry for the poor drivers and passengers who happened to pass us at just the right time to witness that picturesque scene.

Then I turned to the car and saw the horrified faces of my kids and husband and realized it was they who would likely be scarred for life by what they saw. Sorry, family. Not my finest moment.

The drive home was interminable. I just wanted to be able to hold still and lie down in a bed. The hours passed by so slowly. I never thought we’d make it. Finally, at long last, we arrived home. We unpacked the bare minimum and then I crashed in bed.

Miraculously, no one else got sick. How that is possible, I will never know. We were trapped in a car all day long breathing the same air and no one else got my germs. I am so grateful for that!

I knew I was feeling better when I felt like I had the energy to tackle cleaning up the car. Before:

And a very satisfying after:Look what arrived just as I was finishing the car – my suitcase!We had such a fun time on our trip! I’m so glad we were able to visit my parents. Hopefully we’ll be able to make it out at least one more time before they’re home!