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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Day of School Pictures

Monday, August 30, 2010

Make-Ahead French Toast Casserole

This is our go-to breakfast for holiday mornings or for when company is over. You make it the night before, leave the butter out to soften and in the morning just mix the butter mixture together and you have a wonderful breakfast. This is Allison's favorite. When I make it for just my family I will leave the topping off and serve it with syrup and make it with a combination of whole and skim milk but when we have guests I go for the gusto.

1 loaf of white bread (don't do anything fancy, just the regular, cheap, white bread works the best)
8 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half-and-half
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) butter softened
1 1/2 c packed (9 1/3 oz) light brown sugar
3 Tbsp corn syrup
1 c (4 oz) chopped pecans or walnuts

1. Toast the slices of white bread.
2. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Make 2 layers of bread in the pan with the slices tight together. Whisk together the eggs, milk, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and pour mixture over bread. Press lightly on bread to submerge in mixture if needed.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
4. When ready to bake, heat the over to 325 degrees. Mix together the topping and spread over the casserole. Place the pan on a cookie sheet in case of spill overs and bake for 60 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 to 8 people

This is a total kid cake. They can make it pretty much without help and I have yet to meet a kid who doesn't like it. My friend Kristen Strong made this for my birthday when Taylor was a little baby.

4 c milk
1 12 oz tub of cool whip
1 large box of vanilla pudding mix (you can use sugar free - weight depends on whether its regular or sugar free - regular is the 6 oz size)
1 large box of chocolate pudding mix (you can use sugar free - weight depends on whether its regular or sugar free - regular is the 6 oz size)
Small box of Graham Crackers
2 squares unsweetened chocolate melted
2 tsp karo syrup
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp melted butter
3 Tbsp milk
1 1/2 c powdered sugar

Butter bottom and sides of 9 x 13 pan.
Layer whole graham crackers in pan.
Mix chocolate pudding mix with 2 cups of milk and 1/2 the tub of cool whip. Pour over crackers.
Layer whole graham crackers again.
Mix vanilla pudding mix with 2 cups of milk and 1/2 the tub of cool whip. Pour over crackers.
Layer whole graham crackers again.
Mix the unsweetened chocolate, karo syrup, vanilla, butter, milk and sugar till smooth. Pour over the top. Spread it out with a knife.
Refrigerate over night. The longer is sits the better as the crackers become soft.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The most wonderful time of the year

Dear Family and Friends,

School started this Wednesday. Kids were excited and so was I so we were all doing our own happy dance. Monday Spencer and Allison had their school assessments where they meet with their teacher for awhile and then do these computerized tests to place them in reading and math levels. I thought we would be in and out in an hour or so. Two and a half hours later I was starting to wonder what was up! Spencer came out in tears because he hadn't realized till the end that he could ask for scratch paper so he was doing all the math problems in his head. Somehow he ended up doing great anyway so everyone ended up in the math class they wanted. Robyn got to go have some swim time at her cousin Brynn's birthday party. Then we met up with neighbors that night to make homemade root beer and roast s'mores to celebrate our last non-school night for awhile. The sun has decided that fall is here. All of a sudden it is dark in the morning when I get up and dark when kids go to bed. It seems like just last week it was still light at 9 p.m.!

Tuesday we tackled the dreaded shoe shopping. You factor in kids wants and needs plus school restrictions and it gets a bit tough! I sometimes long for the days when I could just pick up a pair of shoes at Target BY MYSELF and then hand them to my child as a fait acompli. No stress or worrying about style, fit, price etc. Then to test our stamina we did our monthly shopping trip to Costco. My kids love that store and I just try to embrace the chaos that is involved. Then duty done we packed a dinner and spent the rest of the day at the pool for one last time. Between all the excitement and exercise kids were out cold early that night to get ready for school the next day.

First day of school emotions are always high. Got up early to make french toast for everyone and to pack their lunches (only happens on the first day). Kids had Jeremy give them a Father's blessing which seemed to calm them down. And off they went with big bags of supplies in hand. Jeremy took pictures and I will have them posted when he gets back. Robyn had a bunch of friends over the first day of school but by Thursday it hit her that the neighborhood supply of children was sorely diminished. We have had many tears since as she realized that everyone was in school but her. Her preschool starts next week and she and I can't wait. Spencer and Allison have been loving being back in school and have even been excited about the homework. Spencer's teacher uses music to announce the different periods ie "hey, hey, good-bye" is played at the end of school or "we will rock you" for P.E. Allison's teacher is all about reading and crafts so she is in heaven. We made chocolate chip cookies to celebrate the first day of school. But after eating her cookie Allison turned to me and said she didn't feel so good. She had a 102 degree temperature so she was off to bed where she slept and moaned till morning. But in the morning with red eyes she was up and wanting to go to school. She took a cold shower as she was at 99 degrees just to make sure she was cool enough - she got down to 96 degrees! So she was off to school!

Thursday night Robyn had her back to school night and toured her little preschool. She has been counting down the days till she starts with Miss Nicole.

Jeremy has had a photography week. Tuesday he had a photography class here in our basement. Wednesday and Thursday he fit in two photo shoots as he tried to get his project ready for his retreat. Then he left Friday afternoon for a photography retreat with his friends up in the mountains. He is away from all communication which has felt a bit odd. Usually I can at least email or text him. He gets back tonight. Hopefully he has had a relaxing and inspiring time.

Friday night Spencer had a scout camp-out. In the neighbor's backyard. In the rain. Despite these challenges he had a great time. In fact it was so great that Saturday I found him snoring on the living room floor where he had been reading. Those camp-outs just leave him tired. Allison and Robyn each had a friend over for pizza and movie night and we would occasionally look over at the scouts next door in the storm and giggle.

Saturday night Allison and I had our mother-daughter date that she has been planning. We went to see Ramona and Beezus at the dollar theater, eat a deli tray of shrimp from Costco at the playground, go shoe shopping and get frozen yogurt. That is just exactly what she wanted and we had a great time. It seems strange sometimes to realize how old she is getting and how we are having real conversations now.

With Jeremy gone I have been staying up late eating chocolate and watching chick flicks. But I did finish up Robyn's robins and hang them up. It has only taken me 10 months to finish up that little project!

Taylor's seizures have been doing better. We are seeing the neurology team this week to discuss any changes so we will see how it goes.

Love to you all, Heather

Spencer and his friend Brenner playing Clue in the back yard.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Dear Family and Friends,

Wow, 2 amazing weeks have passed by quickly. Now kids are looking with glee over their stash of school supplies and we are counting down to when school starts.

A week ago we traveled down to San Clemente, CA to spend a week with my family. It is the first time in 2 years we have been together and the first time EVER we have all been together. We went down on Friday and met up with my brother Daniel's family at Ruby's on the pier at Newport Beach for hamburgers and milk shakes. All we wanted to do was sit in the cool air, watch the sunset and feel the beach air once again. It seemed like we had just been there although a year has passed. But we were off to bed as the next morning we met Daniel's and David's family at Disneyland! Taylor had perked up for the day and enjoyed Its a small world and the Tikki Room although rides like Space Mountain left him with eyes ride open and a look of "what the heck has happened to me!". It was a fun day of catching up and enjoying the magic of Disney with cousins having fun together.

We met up with my parents at the hotel the next morning. We haven't seen them for 19 months so it was a happy time. Off to church and then we all went down to the beach house where we would spend the week. It was an amazing house right above the beach at San Clemente. You could walk down a slippery slope in the back yard and duck under the train tracks to get to the beach. (Yes there is a train that runs along the beach there. Toots its horn all hours of the night too! I am sure that it was the only property they could find to run the tracks on down the coast but it sure seems strange to have a train on the beach.) I preferred walking one block down to the stairs though. We spent the week playing in the water and sand, eating tons of food, and visiting. Kids were entranced with access to cable T.V. I ran/walked the beach trail as often as possible. My sister-in-law was attacked by a sting ray leaving kids and adults anxiously shuffling their feet whenever they were in water. Jeremy took lots of fun pictures. Taylor had a bad week after the Disneyland high but had his periodic moments where he would stretch out on the sand with a big smile on his face. For our 16th anniversary Jeremy whisked me away to Cheesecake factory for my favorite dessert. And we made a stock-up run to Trader Joe's. We roasted s'mores and enjoyed the outdoor fire pit that overlooked the beach. We tried fishing one foggy morning without success. It was just an amazing vacation and no one wanted to leave or say good-bye to family. The drive home was quite depressing and seemed very long.

Monday was a slap back into reality of grocery shopping and laundry. Then the week turned into a cousin week. On Tuesday and Thursday I was able to go to Education week at BYU with my sister-in-law Kelly staying here with her and my kids. Then she went and I was home for Wednesday and Friday. Education week was amazing. Any one who would ever like to go to it or nieces and nephews who turn 14 our basement is always available! My head is still full of ideas and thoughts from everything I learned. The icing on the cake was that I spent both days with my room-mate Emily from college. So we went to amazing classes and then got to walk/visit in between. It was just like old times even though it has been 17 years since we were roommates. Emily is one of those people I can see meeting up with 17 more years from now and would still be able to feel like we were good friends. I really lucked out my freshman year at BYU.

Wednesday night was back to school night for Spencer and Allison. They are both excited about their teachers this year and the friends in the class with them. Friday we went back to have warts burned off again before school starts (one of my least favorite taking care of kids events) and Saturday was our annual shop for school supplies trip. Jeremy was with Allison and Taylor and I was with Spencer and Robyn as we navigated the zoo of Walmart. Spencer and Allison each had a long list of specific school supplies ie. 10 #9 mechanical pencils, a one inch red binder, two composition books etc. You leave with psyched up kids and a head-ache. I was very grateful that this year we split up for the event.

Jeremy had a few photo events this week to enjoy. He went to an ignite salt lake event and took pictures for a BYU football booster gathering and then posed for a friend's photo shoot. It is always nice when photo events work out into his schedule. We went Friday night for a date to a play at Hale Center. It was probably the most amateur like of the plays we have seen but it was so nice to have time with just the two of us after a busy week.

Spencer's big news of the week is that he has grown another inch this summer. So he is now 5 foot 3. Only an inch and a half to go to meet up with his mom - he is very stoked.

Taylor continues to have really bad seizures and is periodically aspirating which leads to him coughing/throwing up. He sees the neurology team on the 30th so hopefully things can be improved.

Love to everyone and hope you are enjoying the transition back into school. I am really, really looking forward to a school schedule again. Although the thought of starting early in the morning beginning tomorrow has me a bit full of dread. One bad week and then our bodies will adjust is what I keep telling myself.

Love, Heather

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Dear Family and Friends,

I am literally counting down the days now till I get to see my family. Kids have been picking out snacks for the road trip, Robyn keeps bringing in stacks of clothes for me to pack for her and I keep going online to look at beach pictures and check the calendar yet again.

No big events this week, just long summer days. Girls finished up swimming lessons for the summer this week and we spent a day swimming with friends in tow. You would think our kids would be swam out but despite straw like blond hair and dark tan lines, with temperatures getting to 100 degrees, the cold water hasn't lost its appeal. Spencer is off guitar lessons for the month of August. So he has been busy downloading and practicing any cool song he can think of - Lincoln Park has a lot to answer for! Taylor has been home all week, with his seizures getting worse for no reason that we can figure out.

Saturday was a good day. Jeremy helped the girls and their friends build a big cardboard house complete with a ceiling fan, bookcases and lots of "accessories". Jeremy then despite the sounds of thunder and dark clouds overhead loaded up the bikes for me and him and we spent the evening biking Provo Canyon. One of my favorite date activities. We followed this by trying out one of Jeremy's top burger places which hopefully was offset a bit by the biking!

Days just continue to speed by. We bought school uniforms which was almost painful. It doesn't seem like school should be starting in just a few weeks! Life is good, life is busy and we are enjoying the calmness of our days right now. There have been a lot of happy moments lately that make the cranky, whiny, tired moments seem less important. Allison had a sleepover at a friends out on the trampoline. Jeremy got 2 new games for us to take to CA and we have been busy testing them out at night. Meredith took our kids to 2 different wedding receptions this week and they had their fill of cake. I read a really good book and got to go for an early morning walk with two of my friends and catch up on their lives. And to top it off our house smells like the new chocolate cake I am baking right now for our dinner with Jason's family tonight. Just a lot of blessings in our lives right now.

Love to all, Heather