Wednesday, August 22, 2012


We bought timeshares from Wyndam while we were in college and Jason was doing well in the door to door sales business. We have, in harder times since then, regretted the amount of money that goes into it. It is when we get to do things like this that we remember the big picture and why we did it in the first place. So the deal is that we have 8000 credits a year to go to any one of hundreds of resorts around the country and in different parts of the world. If we don't use them they roll over for up to 2 years.
This time we chose to go to Grand Lake, Monkey Island, Oklahoma. Look it up. It is literally the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. But the resort and the golf course that is situated on are so beautiful!!! The time on the lake also so awesome! This particular resort happens to be almost exactly half way to my parents in Dallas,TX so it was a perfect place to meet up with them and have an end of the summer fling right before school starts back up again. We really don't get to see my family much. We get together with Jason's family A LOT since most of them live here in Iowa. I, regretably, get jealous sometimes. I have missed not getting to see my siblings grow up and be there for them more. But having this timeshare thing has given us lots of opportunities to make memories with them.
The highlight for me was at the very start of our stay. We had just gotten to the resort and my parents had beat us there by about an hour. While Jason was checking us in, I got the kids out of the car to start walking them down to where the room was and my mom came out walking toward us. From behind me, (anyone that knows Caelyn knows that her little legs are sometimes slow) I hear a little girl scream, "Grandma Bell!!!" Caelyn comes streaking past me with sounds of joy and gives her grandma a big hug. My little girl knows who her grandma is! That is why we do this! I had debated going to my 10 year class reunion in Alabama that weekend too but that at the start let me know that I had made the right decision to go see my family instead.
We did horseback riding with the girls. Lots of golfing for the guys. We celebrated our 9 year anniversary and my parents 29 year anniversary. And the last day we spent on the lake with a pontoon and a jet ski. So much fun! Even in the middle of Oklahoma!

Friday, August 3, 2012

NMFN Annual Meeting part 3

 Probably the biggest highlight for Annual Meeting was the Maroon 5 concert. We had a such a great time. We were probably only one of a very few that had little children with us. The concert did only go from 8-9:30, there was only 1 curse word said, and since it was a private company concert nobody was going super crazy. Likely the most sober Maroon 5 concert ever. Unfortunately, I think the guy from Alabama sitting next to me might have left with the impression that we were polygamist because Jason and I were on either end with Kiera and the kids inbetween us and then I told him I graduated from Brigham Young. He didn't talk to me after that. Oh well :). This was at the end of our busy day at the museums and water park and while the kids did all get good naps before dinner, Caelyn was pretty tired at the end of the concert.
 Past concerts we've been to at Annual: Earth, Wind, and Fire, Reba McEntire, Sheryl Crow, Jerry Sienfeld. But this year was definitely the best so far!
Our pre-concert ritual is to go eat at a place called Kopps. I'm not sure if they have any restaurants outside of Milwaukee but we LOVE it. They do the big burgers, baskets of homemade fries, jugs of homemade root beer, and really tasty ice cream. Most of their seating is also outside which just adds to the experience. We highly recommend it! I'll have to take pictures next time.

Payphone is the opener (the clean version)

So funny and really came across as a class act, down to earth guy
 They looked like they were going to end the concert early without even singing "Moves like Jaeger" until we gave them about 10 minutes of cheering then they came back out with 3 more songs. In one of them Adam Levine  conducted the audience in a round using parts of their song "Beauty Queen" and teased company execs about not singing. Charly thought it was cool that we made them come back out.

Wednesday was the last day so Jason went down for the closing meeting while we cleaned up and checked out of the hotel. By the time he was done we were able to meet up and we headed to the Milwaukee Science Museum where we saw the dinosaurs, an IMAX about monkeys and elephants, and this very cool butterfly room. There were so many butterflies!!! We've been here before and there have never been so many. The girls were screaming and freaking out about the bugs flying all around them so Jason took them out but Carter, Kiera and I stayed. Carter was having the time of his life getting the butterflies to land on him.
We had an all around good time in Milwaukee. It was so busy that it just few by in a whirlwind. I'm so glad that we had Kiera there for extra hands and added fun!!! We are sad that she has flown back home to Texas because we really enjoyed having her, especially the kids.

NMFN Annual Meeting part 2...

Carissa's First Oreo
Jason was busy the Monday that we were in Milwaukee. He had meetings starting at 6am and he wasn't done until midnight. The day before had been pretty busy between church and race and zoo so we just hung out at the hotel. We took our time at breakfast, swam in the pool, took good naps, and had treats. Carissa really enjoyed being allowed to eat a cookie. So cute!

Charly working in the deli
 Monday was relaxed but Tuesday was very busy. As part of Annual Meeting the family can get passes for all of the different attractions downtown. So we started the day by going downtown with Jason. We found a place to park that was kind of in the middle of everything that we wanted to do. Then, we walked to the Children's Museum which is very fun. Each year they have different themes. In previous years they've had things with golf balls and things with potato heads but this year they had a stand for each of the 50 states to represent what each state is known for. It was a blast!
Carter fishing in Minnesota

Caelyn working the construction zone

On the bridge to the Art Museum
 After the kids museum we got a snack and walked across the bridge to the art museum. For the past 4 years we've always just skipped past this one but my sister, Kiera, is a little bit of an artist so we decided to venture in. The buidling from the outside is a beautiful work of art itself and it's right on the lake so the view from inside is breathtaking as well. If you watch Transformers 3 this is the building that Patrick Dempsy has his office and cars all set up in. The movie shows an arial view and then all the cars are set up in the big lobby area. We didn't realize that until we were watching the movie back at the hotel and the kids all shouted, "Mom, that's were we went!" The kids were all really good in the museum. We didn't destroy any art so I call that a success.
The kids after we were done swimming.
 The art museum is close to the Northwestern Mutual Home Office and they were running a shuttle all day if we had our name badges so we caught that back to the mall instead of walking. Once there, we ate lunch and then changed into our swim gear and headed over to the Hilton where there is a very cool indoor water park that we hadn't ever done before either. There was lots of shallow water so Caelyn and Carter felt confident enough to run around without floaties and go down some slides. Once we got changed we went to go pick up Jason from his meetings. Caelyn and Carissa were both asleep before we even got out of the Hilton.

NMFN Annual Meeting

Last week we made our treck to Milwaukee for Nothwestern Mutual's Annual Meeting. We always start out checking in first and letting the kids run around the information stands inside. This stand had info on being politically involved and there was a cardboard pic of Obama and Romney. This is who the kids wanted to get their picture taken with ;).

We also had to take a look around for the quiet bear. Charly wanted her picture taken with him but Caelyn and Carter were crouched down behind me and Carissa was mostly just curious.

There is an Elephant behind him but it's dark.

You  don't think that Jason enjoyed doing that do you?

The kids' favorite part of Annual Meeting is getting to go to the Garden Party at the Milwaukee Zoo. It is not a huge zoo but we have a lot of fun. They put up inflatables, we go through the zoo, there are huge tents set up with live music and different kinds of food and there are lots of games set up for the kids. Everything you walk by like the popcorn and ice cream stands are all free. Our favorite foods are always the ribs, mozarella sticks, grilled corn and lemonade.
There is a race at on the first official day of the festivies. They call it Roots and Wings because it is a race between the home office and all of the district offices. This was the 35th year they've done it and Root won, darn it. It is huge though. 7,500 runners all taking over downtown Milwaukee. Jason ran the 10K and my sister Kiera ran the 5K but the rest of us just did the 1 mile walk.

Charly's Cheer Camp

Charly got to participate in a one week cheer camp this summer and really loved it. You can tell by the huge smile on her face. The camp was put on by a few of the Waukee High School Cheerleaders. Charly has never taken dance but after watching her it made me rethink puting her in a dance class or something. She's pretty good.

They were taught a few cheers as well as some jumps and this beginners lift. The smallest girls got to be the ones to stand. Sorry, Charly, though you did start out very small, you will never be one of the smaller girls. You can blame it on your mother's genes.

She got the award for the best moves.They danced to the song "So Call Me Maybe." So proud of her and happy that she had fun!

Friday, July 6, 2012


It finally feels like summer has arrived and boy is it HOT!!! I'm not quite sure if we will be able to handle much more of the 100 degree weather but we've been having fun regardless. Here are some of the things we've been doing:
 My younger sister, Kiera, joined us here in Iowa on June 19th. The kids were (and still are) thrilled to have her stay with us for a while. She's probably going to get some different experiences staying with us. She's a senior this next year and it's hard to believe. When I left the house she was only 8. I guess I can get payback for all the times I changed her diaper, fed her, and cleaned up her messes...hehehehe! In preparation for her coming we did a little craigslist shopping for a mattress so that she didn't have to spend 6q weeks on an air mattress. I ended up with 2 from a lady that was moving and needed to get rid of all of her stuff. They were FREE! I loaded them up in the back of the van and the 4 kids were crammed together in the front. Probably not going to win mom of the year for it but we made it.
We have also done lots of fishing. We found a pond in Urbandale that  has so many little fish that all you have to do is drop your line and you get a fish right away. It's great for the catch and release with the kids but the fish are really small. We've even done fishing in the rain. This one was in Ankeny over Father's Day weekend. Caelyn thought that just running around in the rain was fun. I made them finish up when the lighting started.
Almost two weeks ago I threw out my back giving the girls a bath and was out for 4 days. I missed church and work and it happend to be the week that my sister had secured a temportary job so I didn't have her help but had some really great friends that brought in meals, prescribed me great meds and arranged for my kids to play so that I could take the time to get better. I love them all soooooo much!!!! But while I was just laying around and not really able to pick things up well, the baby decided that it was her opportunity to learn how to crawl. She is only 7 months old but is getting around and standing up on everything now. It's very cute!

Forth of July being in the middle of the week has been fun too. Tuesday night was hot but we decided to head out and go camping anyway. The Church owns a property in Boone that has restrooms, cabins (not the comfy air conditioned kind but nice wooden structures that have a free flow of air but netting over to keep bugs out and wooden plank beds stacked 3 high to fit 12 people), firepits, and is by a creek. We got breaks from the heat with lots of water and juice in the pavilion with ceiling fans and in the hose attached to the back of the restroom. There is also an area with a tire swing that the kids loved. They also loved walking along the creek and seeing the different animal prints. More evidence of animals was seen and heard after we went to bed so I'm glad we were in a cabin and not a tent. We were the only people there and it was a quiet night. No wind in the trees, only a faint chirping of frogs, makes for a pretty creepy feeling when you hear the scratch and crunch in the leaves at 2 am.

Our Fourth of July holiday consisted of a fabulous breakfast of eggs, bacon, and pancakes on a campfire, heavy duty clean up on both cars and the house, a good time at the Waukee city parade, Jason got to play some golf, grilling out for dinner, and a great time in the front row for the Waukee city fireworks. 
We literally had to lay down on our backs in order to see the fireworks. A couple of times Carter got nervous that they were going to fall on top of him. Carissa enjoyed tagging along for all of it and especially loved the fireworks when there were fountains or at the end for the finally when everything was really bright. We got to sit next to friends for the fireworks so that made it even better. At the parade, every float had treats of some kind and we placed ourselves at the very beginning  when the kids on the back of the trucks are excited to throw candy and we ended up with as much candy as we usually get on Halloween. It was again REALLY HOT (temp was 100/heat index 110) and there were also a few floats that were handing out waters or icees and squirting with squirt guns. Those were much appreciated! Being with the family and celebrating our country made me appreciate all that we are blessed with and hope that we will still be able to enjoy those blessings for many years to come!