***I'm determined to catch up on cataloging our family's events this year. Be ready for outdated posts galore!


One Year Later

and we're doing well.

the weekend of august 22nd was perfect. it was exactly what i wanted and needed. a HUGE thanks to my in-laws and husband for being so willing to juggle the girls back and forth all weekend to make that trip possible for me.

hannah and i made a list of things my dad and brother liked to do/eat and tried to do as many of those as possible, even if that meant staying up till 3 am playing harry potter clue and singing the primary song 'sing, sing, sing'. yes, we actually did that.

plus a few other things:

snow shack
crazy rook
cheese crisps
four wheeling/cabin
dad's office
black licorice
rolled up and down the driveway (don't ask)
watched home videos
aebleskivers (danish pancakes)
jubilee house
happy factory (before i got there)
pastry pub
hannah took my dad's restored camero out for a spin with mark's help
gardenia's in the flower arrangements for the headstones

the list went on and on. thats all i can think of right now and hannah should be on her way to her first class at byu right now so i'll have to call her later to refresh my memory.

we visited the cemetery and i was so pleased to see that the headstones were finally finished and in place (they were put in the night before). both turned out beautifully and i like that they differ so much from each other. i'm grateful to have that sacred spot in the cemetery, finally marked properly.

that afternoon we headed to the cabin and hannah and i fit in some quality four wheeling time. loved it. then mark's family met us up there and we had dinner. it was great to visit with his kids and mother and get to know them better. we watched the video SWSC (southwest skin and cancer) made for last year's christmas party and i was fine until the picture of my dad's briefcase was shown. he LOVED it and everyone used to tease him about it being a 'manpurse'. we were sad to find out it was on the plane that day. after the movie we squeezed in a little dance dance revolution. my mom and mark even did it together!

back at home that night i was on the computer and read this sweet post from jared's wife, judy - he was dallin's best friend. i cried and cried. but thats ok!

hannah and i stayed up way too late and hanging out in the hall and getting ready for bed at the same time in the bathroom reminded me of the two years dallin and i shared (and fought over) that bathroom. there were many late nights spent talking about girl he liked, boys i liked, this and that. i am so grateful that hannah and i were able to do that last weekend.

sunday was the Oquirrh Mountain Temple dedication and church all across utah was canceled so everyone could attend the broadcast. it was wonderful.

that evening we hosted a large number of my parents friends and associates at the cabin for "memories and milkshakes". mark thanked everyone for their acceptance of him and my mom thanked everyone for their love and support this past year and said, "we recognize that you loved them too and you lost your friends that day as well." it was a sweet evening as we drank strawberry shakes (thin of course - that was my dad's favorite) and visited. and i didn't get to see it but apparently there was a full rainbow directly over the cabin as it stopped raining - people saw it as they drove in.

monday morning i had to get up bright and early to start the drive back to AZ. i said my goodbyes and it felt eerily like the morning i left for missouri, one year before. i headed to the cemetery briefly and then hit the road. the first hour of the drive i just listened to I Know That My Redeemer Lives on repeat. it was a special time. it was a fulfilling weekend - some tears but mostly laughing and happiness as we remembered the people we love and miss.

at the funeral this last weekend, my cousin said he hopes that one day when this life is over, his little rachel will say, "daddy", and take his hand, and lead him to meet the Savior. i echo this hope - that i want i live my life in a way that it will be possible to be reunited with my dad and brother and that they can introduce me to our Savior when the time comes, and that i can live forever with my own little family. we have so much to look forward to.

i am grateful for all that has been done for our family in the past year. we have felt the love, the support, the prayers. we have appreciated every phone call and every email. we could not have done this without you. thank you, thank you, thank you.


A Full Heart

"i just love this beautiful world."
rachel allen

i attended rachel's funeral this morning. i wasn't prepared for the sight of her little body lying in the white casket. she was so still and peaceful - angelic even. it was hard to watch ben and anya say their last goodbyes and close the casket. part of me was grateful we got to skip that whole step at the funeral for our family last year. but part of me wished i had that chance to say goodbye.

my cousin, ben, spoke. i can't even fathom how hard that would be but he did an excellent job. we smiled, we laughed, and we cried. it was a sweet and tender remembrance of his little girl. the music was uplifting and inspiring - Families Can Be Together Forever (sung by the little cousins), Consider the Lilies of the Field, Angel Lullaby, and My Heavenly Father Loves Me.

it's interesting that with the few funerals i've attended, i remember sitting, wishing it could go on forever. don't think i'm crazy. obviously i'd prefer a more happy gathering, but i've decided i like funerals. they are special.

there is something spiritual and sacred about celebrating and memorializing someone's life and being reminded and taught again of the plan of salvation. it seems the Spirit is so strong that it's almost tangible. they remind me how short this time on earth really is and that we have to endure only a brief separation.

i came away from the service with a stonger testimony; edified and ready to work harder to do what i know is right.

an added bonus was seeing many people from tucson that i remembered and love. my old young women's president, my favorite primary teacher (almost 20 years ago - just saying that makes cringe. where has the time gone?), and our previous stake president along with many more family friends, some of which traveled a great distance to be with us at this time last year. i grew up in tucson and seeing these familiar faces was wonderful; they all knew and loved my dad.

this evening, i also attended the baby blessing of my newest cousin, journie london farnsworth. that was an equally sacred experience. coming to bless this new little body and her spirit with so many important things to help her throughout her life on earth. i couldn't help but be touched by the sweet miracle that life is, as i held this little girl briefly and watched her sleep. i might have felt the first signs of being baby hungry again - uh oh!

after the blessing and over dessert, i was told a story by my uncle's wife's sister's husband (did you get all that?), about my dad and how my dad had blessed his life as a young man. what a small world this is!

as today progressed, i felt it came full circle. we mourned rachel and blessed journie. i reminisced about my dad with many. my testimony of the plan of salvation, of the importance of families, and of my Savior was greatly strengthened. what an incredible blessing the gospel is in my life.

i have a full heart.


Happy Family

we went here last night. it was wonderful as always. {go HERE if you want to know more.} after we put gracie to bed (the poor girl has been feverish for 2 days) we had a snuggle fest with madison. she was excited when i asked if we should take pictures and insistent that we say "HAPPY FAMILY" instead of "cheese" during the photo op.

after a few group shots she said, "ok. mom and dad sit. me take pictures."

i love the temple
and i love
my little happy family.


We've Got An Addict In The House

make that two.

we all know madison loves her ya ya's. she does pretty well at leaving them in her room after she wakes up but only after saying, "mom, one more suck. k?" then she drops them on the bed. well lately i've been finding her at random times of the day just lying on the bed for a minute or two, with her ya ya's in hand/mouth. it's like she needs a fix or something!

then there's gracie. she's picked up on the fact that madison leaves her ya ya's on the pillow and has recently begun crawling into the bedroom to take them. in this picture she spit out her own pacifier and it's sitting by her feet.

grace's new trick doesn't leave madison very happy. so now madison has resorted to hiding her ya ya's under her pillow!


Refiner's Fire

{rachel and her little cousin baby gabe}

i was in the kiabab forest, driving home from a fulfilling weekend in cedar city when i got a phone call that my cousin's little girl had passed away(ben allen's daughter). it was an unexpected, sudden tragedy that occurred august 22nd, the anniversary of my dad and brother's crash. she died the next day.

i am heartbroken for them. i can't know what it's like to lose a child but i do understand heartache, suffering and grief. they have a long road ahead.

but what i also understand is the peace and comfort that will start to take the place of the constant pain they feel now. i know they can have hope that they will see little rachel again and that they will have even more motivation to live worthily so they can be an eternal family.

my aunt said the following in an email this week, " I don't understand why but the Lord seems to be allowing some of his best and finest to return home sooner than we here are ready to let them go. We just have to keep turning our faith to our Heavenly Father and our Redeemer who made it all possible for us to be united with these sweet members of our family."

beautifully said.

ben and anya - we love you and have you in our prayers.

{this picture was taken near the end of june as we gathered before my grandpa ellsworth's surgery. it is a rare occasion to have these great-grandkids/second cousins together. it was a tender mercy that we were able to see their family and sweet little rachel so recently)


Busy, Busy

my eyes hurt from crying last night. crying because i was laughing so hard.

i made in to cedar safely and am enjoying some quality sister time - hence the laughing, way into the night.

today has been busy. lots of things to do. i'll have to write about it soon. in the meantime, here are links to the four articles printed in today's newspaper:

Couple finds love again after loss (this is the best one)

Memory remains fresh for most

Cause of crash remains a mystery

Practice running smoothly year after loss


Our Last Conversation

dan and i were in the car driving from the airport in kansas city, where i landed, to columbia. we were excited to see each other after a few weeks apart and he had some good news to top it off. dan's second round of board scores had come in and he did awesome. i immeadiatly wanted to share the news with my dad, knowing he had taken the same tests and would be proud of dan's accomplishment.

i called and caught my family in the car on their way to a bbq at cedar high for some event. i said i was checking in so they would know i arrived in missouri safely and to tell them some good news.

my dad was so excited. he said he already knew dan was going to do well but getting the score back confirmed it. my dad used to tell people that dan was his exit strategy - he wanted him to come take his place at southwest skin and cancer when we finished, so my dad could retire. he would have been supportive of wherever we ended up, or coarse, but loved the idea of dan replacing him.

then they pulled into the school parking lot.

"well i need to go so i can show off madison to everyone!" i laughed and knew it was true, he loved showing her to everybody.

i expressed my thanks because they were watching madison while i visited dan. my dad said once again how pleased he was with dan. then we said we loved each other and got off the phone.

i LOVE that my dad wanted to go show off my little girl. those two had a special relationship. during the weeks leading up to the crash, my dad would come home from work and take madison in her stroller, walking around the neighborhood. he'd stop by to visit people or stroll down to the church.

it was such a sweet surprise to see how much he loved being a grandpa.

My Dad

i kind of have a theme of 'LASTS' going on so i'm going to keep with it a little bit longer.

last year, on this day, i woke up pretty early to drive to vegas, catch a flight, and fly to missouri to visit dan for a few days. i was grabbing some breakfast to eat in the car when my dad walked in the house and handed me the keys to the car i was taking. i gave him a bug hug and said i love you and thank you and was on my way.

that was the last time i saw my dad.

what i didn't realize until after the crash, was that the last thing he did was serve me. that wednesday morning, on his day off, he woke up early and took the car and filled it with gas - for me. something so simple but it showed me how much he cared about me.

how grateful i am that my dad was up that morning and that i was able to give him a hug good bye as i left. my dad sure loved to serve.

and it turned into a tender mercy for me.


Can't Take It Back

regrets are a waste of time.
don't spend any time thinking about them
they will drive you crazy.
having regrets doesn't make it easier.

i was told all of these after the crash. i figured they were true so i pushed any thoughts of regret aside. or tried to at least. but they crept back in, unknowingly.

last march, a friend said she would struggle with regrets if she was experiencing this same thing and the asked how it was for me. obviously hindsight is 20/20 and we all have things we wish we could go back and change. but when she asked me this, one conversation stood out in my mind, most clearly, and i was surprised at how deeply emotional i got when telling her the story.

"i know i said i'd come see the nursery but there is no way i can make it over there tonight dallin. i still need to finish packing for my trip and then put madison to bed. i should have gotten it all done earlier. plus i have an early flight to catch. i'm sorry! but i will see it when i get back from missouri in a couple days, ok? i'm sure the room looks super cute."

the only other thing i remember was hearing the disappointment in dallin's voice when he realized i wasn't coming. but he understood and we said goodnight and i love you.

that was the last time i talked to my brother.

i hate it. i hate thinking about. i hate the choice i made that night. and i hate regretting it. this has been a really hard thing for me to let go, though so small.

but i had an epiphany tonight. one with very random timing.

i was driving some of my beehives home from mutual (girls from our church youth group) and they turned my cd player on - the high school musical soundtrack started playing. i'm not at all the world's greatest singer but i am proud to say i at least kept up with the girls while we belted out song after song.
then all of a sudden it just hit me:
don't let that night keep bothering you!

dallin let it go THAT night - i am sure! of course he was disappointed i didn't go see the nursery but that isn't something i have to feel guilty about forever. he wants us (me) to be happy and enjoy our lives, not mope around feeling sorry. we need to live life to the fullest.

and for dallin, part of living his life to the fullest was telling those he loved, how much they meant to him. now, i will try and focus on that part of our conversation we had one year ago - that the last thing we said to each other was,

"I love you."


"I love you too."


I Turned My Back For Just A Second...

and when i turned around, i found this.

"open...open..." (grace had her lips locked shut)

"yay! good job gacie!"

"come on gacie... almost done!"
{she told grace that after every single bite}

"mmm, yummy!"

madison hopped right into my chair and took over.
that's never happened before.
we'll have to fix that.


Last Time

one year ago, today, was the last time i saw dallin. it was fairly late on sunday night and he stopped by unexpectedly to grab something from my parent's house. we had some small talk and then he was off on his way. as simple as that.

it's a hard to think about.

but i remember that he was happy and pleasant that night - as always.

dallin was incredible and such an example to me. he always wanted to do what was right. he had an enthusiasm for life that was contagious and his smile could light up the room. people gravitated towards him and he was a loyal and devoted friend.

he loved the Gospel and lived it every day. i remember when he came home from his mission and said," i'm not sure anymore if i could raise my family in cedar city- i just don't think there is enough missionary work to do!" it was so cute! i miss his bluntness and honesty..

we grew to be close - he was one of my best friends.

and i am grateful for every minute i was able to share with him here on the earth,

small talk and all.



one year ago, today, there was a plane crash outside of st. johns, az. the pilot died the next day and both husband and wife were severly burned - 80% for stephanie. i remember last august, being in cedar city, and checking the blogs daily for any new information regarding them.

then august 22nd came. it had happened to us. only no one survived our crash. those were long and draining days but i continued to check the blogs for updates on stephanie and christian's status. religiously. desperate for any good news.

good news did come.

it has been a long and hard road for the nielson family- change, change and more change. but it has created a timeline of strength, courage, determination, and faithfulness.

this family now resides in provo, ut and hiked the Y last night to mark a huge milestone in stephanie's recovery. i would have loved to be there. she and her family have been an inspiration to me- helping me in my own path of healing and faith through our own trials.

here's to NieNie and her sister CJane.

well said girls.


Canyon Villas (Scottsdale)

my mom and sister, hannah, came to AZ for a week in august. they stayed out in scottsdale and we spent a couple nights with them and then kamber and porter came for a couple days too. it was great to get together. there was an AWESOME baby pool (pictured below) that didn't get deeper than 18" and it was deserted each time we went.

we shopped, ate, swam, read, slept, visited, played games, had an incredible BBQ, watched my cousin win 25,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and celebrated hannah's 18th b-day. and i can't forget to mention water aerobics, right mom? wink wink! (she's pictured below, on the left)

have i ever mentioned how much i love madison's little chunky thighs? or how as soon as she puts sun glasses on she struts around like she's the coolest thing ever? i love her.

one night hannah braided our hair - i was impressed she could work with my mom's short hair and that she got madison to sit still long enough.

it was fun to see the cousins playing together. i love grace's smashed little face in this one. porter and madison were so excited for their group hug.

and i know i tend to be a little bit biased
i seriously have

cutest nephew ever.



Faith in His Timing

i've had thoughts racing through my head for weeks now, about what i want to say or the message i want to convey this month as it gets closer and closer to Aug 22. should i write about the struggles i still have and the heartache that hits out of nowhere? the continuing tender mercies i feel blessed to experience? a tribute to my dad and brother? there is so much to say, some of it very personal, but some of it is stuff i'd like to share. i want to write about it- i just haven't figured out how.

this blog has become important to me - a place where i can post pictures of my darling girls and boast about my wonderful, hardworking husband, make travel logs of our incessant trips, and fill posts with 'fluff'. but more than that it has been a way for me to express my thoughts, emotions, yearnings and most importantly my testimony. this has become our family history.

i don't know what i will feel inclined to share or write about in the upcoming weeks. but i do know that i will be traveling to cedar city (due to the graciousness of my in laws to take care of my girls). i know that there are people who read this blog because they loved my dad, or loved dallin, or both, and because they care about my family. i know that we continue to feel loved, supported, and sustained through the continuous heartache and change we have experienced. i know that through this blog, people have reached out and made a difference in my life.

i am grateful.

for now i'd like to share a quotefrom Pres. Monson that i found today from this blog. {their family's strength and testimony is inspiring.}

"Mortality is a period of testing, a time to prove ourselves worthy to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. In order to be tested, we must sometimes face challenges and difficulties. At times there appears to be no light at the tunnel's end—no dawn to break the night's darkness. We feel surrounded by the pain of broken hearts, the disappointment of shattered dreams, and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea 'Is there no balm in Gilead?' (Jeremiah 8:22). We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. If you find yourself in such a situation, I plead with you to turn to our Heavenly Father in faith. He will lift you and guide you. He will not always take your afflictions from you, but He will comfort and lead you with love through whatever storm you face."

Thomas S. Monson, "Looking Back and Moving Forward," Ensign, May 2008, 90


i got some.
madison wanted to take my picture to show you.

{her first attempt . somehow she made my legs look skinny - we should try this more often}

{thats more like it. she only took 34 pictures in about one minute flat}

{gracie wanted in on the fun}

{and this is how madison felt about the photo shoot ending}

nap time!


Madison Keeps Us Laughing

*madison was doing something silly today:

me: madison, you're so goofy!
madi: no mom, me Minnie!

*madison was using a little etch-a-sketch and this was our conversation:

madi: mom, me draw couch.
me: oh how fun! why don't you draw grace sitting on the couch?
madi: ok!
...a minute goes by...
madi: mom, look!
me: oh good job! is that grace sitting on the couch?
madi: no, zebra!

i don't know if i have ever heard her say that word before!

*we have been helping madison pray for a long time now- we say a phrase, she repeats it. so today at lunch this is what happened:

me: ok, lets fold our arms for the blessing!
madi: no!
me: ok, well that makes Heavenly Father sad! we need to fold our arms to be reverent.
madi: no!
me: ok, well i am going to go ahead and say it then.
madi: ok!

...a few minutes into lunch...

madi: mom, blessing! (with folded arms)
me: ok, do you want to say it?
madi (bows her head): yeah! "blessings... Jesus...Christ...amen!" (that was her first solo prayer ever)
me: oh madison that was perfect; i'm so happy!
madi: mom, blessing!
me: oh again, ok!
madi (folds arms and bows head again): "Chris mission...Brett mission...Christ...Jesus...amen!"
me: that was so good!
madi: Jesus happy now!

*on tuesday, kamber was in mesa looking at houses (yeah!!! we are SO excited for her to move closer) and madison pulled porter's little crocs out of her diaper bag right before they drove back to tucson. so they got left behind and i told madisosn i'd call kamber to ask if she wanted to come back for them.kamber said she'd get them next week and that was fine with me.

but it was not fine for madison!

madi: mom, me call kamber. my phone. (gets her plastic phone from her kitchen)
me: ok, thats fine. you can call her.

next thing i know....

madi (yelling into the phone): KAMBER, COME BACK!! POTO'S SHOES! COME GET SHOES NOW! KAMBER, COME BACK!! (hangs up the phone)

me: oh good, did you talk to kamber?
madi: uh huh! (walks into her room to keep playing)

{this is the face i got when i asked her to smile big for the picture}

i sure do love this little girl!


Tricky Tricky

i wanted to get a picture of madison's hair since she rarely lets me do it but she emphatically said NO! so i told her i'd take a picture of grace instead, which i did, and then i swung the camera back over to sneak a picture of madison and she totally caught me. you can see her looking at me through the sunglasses!

sharing some sisterly love
{just a mere hour later, all the ponytails were out!}


You Know You're In AZ When...

... you go walking at 6:30 AM and come home drenched with sweat

... you want to take a cold shower and the water comes out lukewarm at best

... you literally burn your hands touching the steering wheel, seat belt, or door handle of your car

... you leave a writing utensil in the car and it melts into a different shape {it happens to portable dvd players too. we found out the hard way!}

...when it burns your feet to walk barefoot outside, after 9 am

... it's still 100 degrees outside at 10 pm

... you find one of these on the wall outside your house {or in this case, my in-laws house)

{those little things on it's back is a cluster of babies - they were counted the next day and totaled over 30. YEAH! isn't it horrible how excited i am that they all died? eewww! i hate scorpions!}

in case you can't tell, i can barely handle AZ summers and hate being cooped up inside.

but then i have to remember AZ winters: gorgeous temps, fresh oranges, and did i mention gorgeous temps? i do love our winters!

in the meantime, we do plenty of this:

to keep from burning while we do this:

in fact, we are going to hit the pool today as soon as madi and grace wake up from their naps! and why not one more picture? check out grace's new pose -

love it!


July Jamboree and Vegas

i was in strawberry over the 4th of july and got a phone call from dan, saying he had the whole next week off. of course it would have been too easy to stay in town and have a nice and relaxing, low-key week, so we planned another trip. apparently we like traveling in the car for long distances with two little kids. but really, it worked out perfectly because dan's cousin (ok, 2nd cousin) Lee Cummard was playing on the phoenix suns summer league team, in a tournament in las vegas, hoping to get a contract with an nba team. (he just finished playing at BYU.) unfortunately the game we attended, lee didn't see any playing time but i did snag a picture of mark cuban - the sun's team was playing the mavericks'.

{lee is scratching his head}

vegas is too close to cedar to not stop by so we got to see my family for a short 16 hours, includeing that night's sleep. but it was so worth it. like i've said in the past, i can't get enough of utah - its like i crave it or something. we pulled into cedar just in time for the july jamboree. it's kind of like street fair meets car show, in a small town, and main street is closed for blocks. my dad has a rebuilt camero that he kept parked under his office building that my mom entered into the show; he bought it on ebay and we teased him about having a midlife crisis (he drove a car like that in high school). we had some incredible crepes for dinner from a street vendor and it was perfect weather. i loved it!

sunday my family (my mom, mark, and hannah) left for a soccer tournament in colorado so we had the house and the afternoon to ourselves. we were graciously asked by our neighbors, the hulets, to join them at their cabin for the evening. it was perfect, just what i needed. good food, gorgeous weather, amazing views, and wonderful company. we felt so welcome and well taken care of. madison loves their family too and was spoiled with so much attention.

we went four wheeling and they took us to the top of the mountain, through a huge herd of sheep, where we saw an incredible view of cedar breaks. it was amazing. i think i fell in love with southern utah all over again. madison LOVES four wheelers and was in total heaven and dan even let her drive a little bit. she put her hand right on the gas and revved the engine right up. little gracie was jabbering the whole time and only complained when i was blocking the dust from getting in her eyes; she wanted to see what was going on. by the time we headed back to the cabin she had completely fallen asleep, not even the sound of four wheelers woke her up.

thank you hulets! - for a wonderful evening, for opening up your home (and cabin), and for ALL the things you have done that i can't possibly begin to thank you for. we love you!