five on friday (01/13)

ONE. Michael gave me a KitchenAid stand mixer for Christmas (the best gift ever, second only to my DSLR, am I right?), so baking lately has been even more fun.

Kaya and Kaelyn have been my little baking buddies from the days they were each old enough to stand up at the counter on a step stool. I’m so glad they love to help combine ingredients, melt butter in the microwave (Kaya), and taste-test the batter. I cherish our time spent in the kitchen together.TWO. I go upstairs for a few minutes and come back to a girl who painted her face with ketchup! I’m pretty sure Daddy encouraged this one, but there’s no limit on her art media – Greek yogurt is also fantastic for making messy, fake mustaches. Who knew?THREE. This girl makes a double chin look like the most adorable feature in the entire world…

FOUR. What better way is there to do school than in your pajamas? We had a very cold and snowy start to the week, so I let the girls stay comfy. Honestly, I think they’re both a little obsessed with their jammies and would stay in them all the time if they were allowed.

FIVE. Apparently, being tickled by your big sister is one of the funniest things! I adore how much my big girls love taking care of Nella. They’re always concerned about her happiness, and they’re constantly teaching her new things. They already have this intense, unshakable bond between them, for which I am so grateful.

Happy Friday!

Linking up here, here, and here today!

family nativity party

The night before Christmas Eve, we headed up to Michael’s Aunt Becky’s house for a family Christmas party. This is a tradition held every year, but we haven’t attended for a few years (it seems like we stopped traveling once we started having kids). It was great to see many of Michael’s aunts, uncles, cousins and his grandpa for the first time in quite a while. Nella met her Great-Grandpa T! He loved her instantly (but with cheeks like hers, who wouldn’t?)! It really is something to see the patriarch of the family together with the newest addition. I hope that one day, far in the future, Michael and I will be at the head of a big family, surrounded by our own grandkids and great-grandkids. It’s truly amazing to me to see all that Michael’s grandparents have accomplished through their posterity.We had a delicious potluck dinner (and I practically ate my weight in mac and cheese…)! I brought this s’mores cobbler as part of the dessert buffet. Yummmm. My girls were just so excited that there were cupcakes at this party! We’d missed out on cupcakes at our church Christmas party a few weeks prior, and Kaya had cried over it for the rest of the night. She was so happy to finally have her favorite treat! The family always puts on a nativity play, which is my very favorite part of the evening. My babies were old enough to participate in it this year, which made it even sweeter. They were so excited to dress up as little lambs! Kaelyn just kept shouting “lambie!” Michael was the donkey (which was the part he played the first time I went to the family Christmas party, as his fiancée, 8 years ago)! Nella had the most-important role of baby Jesus. 🙂 We watched the play, sang hymns, and felt the awe of the birth of our Savior.

I’m glad we could be there this year. Here’s to many more!

nella: 3 months

Clothing size: She’s still in 0-3 month items, but some shirts are already starting to get short, so I might be moving her up to the next size soon. Seriously, she’s growing so very fast, and I feel like I can’t keep up with how quickly time is going by.

We also started using her small cloth diapers full-time this month. This girl could set a record for making the messiest diapers, so for a little while, it seemed like we were constantly having leaks and explosions. If we double-pad her and change her exactly every two hours, we’re mostly leak-free. I think her legs are chunking up a bit and the diapers are starting to fit better, anyway.

Eye color: They’re a bright, gorgeous blue!

Nursing: About every 2.5-3 hours during the day.

Sleep: Nella has completely spoiled us in this category. She goes to bed around 8 pm, and will sleep for about 10 hours (and usually I’m the one waking her up so she can eat before I go running). After she eats, she goes back to bed for another 2 to 3 hours. She takes a catnap in her little bouncy seat in the morning, and in the afternoon, she takes full advantage of having me all to herself while her sisters nap. She’ll snuggle, nurse, and sleep on me for a couple of hours. I really cherish our afternoons together.

Favorite things: SMILING!She’s also fallen in love with her big sisters. They can make her smile even when she’s crying! Both Kaya and Kaelyn ask to hold her all the time and are so tender and gentle with her.

I always get a smile out of her when I kiss her bare skin or pretend to eat her up (and make obnoxiously loud noises while doing so)! She also enjoys bath time, listening to music, getting her diaper changed, and being close to mommy. She even gave me a slobbery “kiss” when I first put her in the wrap last week!Dislikes: Getting buckled into the car seat. I think that’s all- she really is a very contented baby!

Nicknames: Baby Sunshine, Nella Sunshine, Nell, Nell-Nell, Cheeks, and Kaya still calls her “Baby Nella Sunshine Sprinkle Pop”.

Milestones, etc.: -She’s LAUGHING! Grandma Gina got her to do it for the very first time! She has the sweetest, softest little laugh. I just love it.

-She started to notice her toys this month! She smiles at the little fox attached to her seat. I love that she is so much more aware of her surroundings.

-She reaches out and grabs things… usually my hair, haha.

-This month, she met her Great-Grandpa Teerlink, Aunts Lelia and Tori, Uncles Jeff and Kevin, cousin Jack, Grandpa Peter, and Great-Aunties Joyce and Carol. Her fan club just keeps growing bigger!

-She found her thumb this past week! Who needs a paci when you have one that’s built-in? I’m actually impressed that she’s coordinated to shove just her thumb (as opposed to her whole hand, most of the time) in her mouth.

-She coos and “talks” to us.

-Her neck is getting pretty strong, and she often tries to hold her own head up when I’m carrying her around.

-She kicks her legs and flails her arms when she gets excited about something (usually just seeing one of her family members)!

-She absolutely loves looking at herself in the mirror. She always gives her reflection a big smile!

Dear Nella,

Your personality is really starting to shine through, baby girl. You smile all the time! You absolutely love being with your family (we get the best and biggest grins out of you)! You add so much light and joy to our home. I’m so happy to have you here with us.In public, people love to comment on how adorable you are, how big your cheeks are, and how much hair you have. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on whether or not you look much like your sisters- some people say you fit the mold, and others say that all three of you look so very different. I see a little bit of both of your big sisters in that happy face of yours.

I love you so much, Nella Joy! (and clearly, I also love putting you in Halloween pajamas long after the holidays have passed, haha).

Happy 3 months, princess!

Love, Mommy

christmas cookie delivery 2016

I’m basically a bakeaholic, so when Christmastime rolls around, I’m very happy to have an excuse to make treats. Over the years, I’ve collected some of my very favorite recipes for holiday cookies, and I love sharing them. Here’s what we made for our traditional cookie delivery this year:

gingerbread cookies (these are the same ones my mom has made for as long as I can remember)

Michigan fudge

snickerdoodles (this was my first time making these, and they were heavenly!)

chocolate-chip cookies

We delivered 18 plates of goodies, which (I think) is more than we’ve done any other year. I really love seeing all the plates filled and organized right before we take them out! Part of this tradition includes wearing goofy hats. Two Santas, two reindeer, and then a baby in Santa pajamas. We’ll have to get her a hat next year! It’s hard to believe that we originally started doing this when Kaya was Nella’s size!Kaya was the most excited about this activity. She loved surprising her Primary president and enjoyed ringing doorbells. I loved seeing my kids feel the joy of gift-giving, and I hope that this is a favorite family tradition for many years to come.

five on friday (01/06)

Happy first Friday of 2017! It felt good to ease back into our regular routine this week. We’re due for our first snowstorm of the season this weekend, so I’m hoping it either passes over us or that we end up getting a big heap the kids can play in!

Here’s our week in a nutshell:

ONE. We finally decided to rip the built-in tables out of the basement. They were here when we moved in (8 months ago already!), and I never really loved them, but we had thought that if we ended up using the basement as an office, they would have been useful. This week, we settled on turning the current playroom into the office, and then making the basement into a playroom.

The room feels so much more open without those tables! Michael is spackling, priming, and painting that section of the wall, and then we will be officially finished with the basement.
TWO. The end of the holidays means that we’re back into our preschool routine, and we actually accomplished a lot this week. Honestly, life has felt like a bit of a juggling act since Nella was born, and we haven’t been as consistent as I would like (then again, we did continue to do schoolwork all last summer so that I could be flexible when the baby came).

Anyway, I’m feeling like it’s getting easier to balance it all, and I’m very proud of how well Kaya is doing. I recently went over a “kindergarten readiness list”, and out of about 80 items, I can check off all but a few for her. Not bad at all for only 4.25 years old!THREE. I joined in on a photography challenge this year- Click It Up a Notch’s #portraitsofme. It seemed like something new and fun to do (plus, I am notoriously good at not getting in photos, so this might be a good change). Kaya was eager to jump into a picture with me.She took this one herself! She’s already a pro at using my remote.FOUR. Sometimes, everyone wants to do tummy time with the baby! (Kaya and Kaelyn don’t remember that they both absolutely loathed this activity when they were babies…)FIVE. Nella started laughing this past week! As if I wasn’t already completely smitten with this girl, she had to go pull out her newest trick and melt my heart even more. Seriously.

Linking up here, here, and here today!

gingerbread cookies 2016

I’m just going to keep talking about Christmas, partly because I still have a lot to document, and partly because I’m not completely ready to admit that the holiday season is over! Cookies, Christmas carols, and spending extra time together as a family are my favorite things.

Kaya was eager to help roll out the gingerbread dough this year. I thought she was still a little too young, but she actually did a great job for being just four years old.
Now Kaelyn is old enough to help cut out cookies! They were both just a little excited. 😉Silicone baking mats will change your life… I didn’t break a single cookie this year!After they were all baked, we started decorating. Michael and the girls were only able to do a few before it was bedtime, so I ended up finishing most of them.
We ended up with exactly 60 gingerbread cookies, and we gave away all but 5 or so! Here were some of my favorites:Michael made that adorable little house on the left; Kaya did the multicolored bear, and it seems like it’s become some odd tradition that I make that blonde swimsuit girl. I really love seeing each of us express our creativity so differently.

five on friday (12/30)

ONE. I can’t believe Christmas has already come and gone! In a way, I’m sad it’s all over, but in another, I’m ready to feel a little less busy. I still have a bunch of holiday-related activities to write about!

We did get to visit a live nativity put on by a local church. I love participating in things that reinforce the true meaning of Christmas, and our girls loved seeing “Bethlehem” and baby Jesus. I don’t have any pictures because it was pitch black outside.

Afterward, the same church had a little area where you could visit Santa and enjoy some hot chocolate and cookies. Michael thought it was pretty funny to fog up his glasses with his cocoa.

They took a picture for us, although sadly it didn’t turn out so great. Kaya wanted nothing to do with Santa, even though she knows he’s just “pretend” and this is all for fun.TWO. Sometimes, it’s hard to stay awake during tummy time. This has happened three times now! I am infatuated with her lips and cheeks.
THREE. Nella started using her cloth diapers last week! As long as we use two inserts, she’s been mostly leak-free, and I’ve been happy not to have a trash can full of disposables. Plus, how cute are those little leg rolls? FOUR. My girls have rediscovered their love for their toy drum. We’ve had a lot of “parades” in our house lately, and although it’s pretty noisy, I love watching them have so much fun.FIVE. This post has been dominated by sweet baby cheeks… But come on, I can’t resist sharing this little girl’s big grin. I am obsessed with everything about this little princess.

pre-christmas visitors

The weekend before Christmas was one full of visitors! I absolutely love it when our friends and family take the time to drive up here and spend some time with us. We’ve seen so many people move out of our town, so I always end up feeling a bit nostalgic for the “good old days” when we get to visit with everyone again.

Ben and Brittany came to Virginia all the way from Texas to visit their family for Christmas, and spent a day and a half of their trip with us. It was fun to see how much their kids have grown in just 5 months. Kaya and Caroline were instant buddies! They played together all day.Brittany got to meet the baby! Nella was pretty comfortable and took a long nap in her arms.
Brittany and I had a girls’ getaway date to the craft store and Sweet Frog. It seems like Michael always takes the kids out for frozen yogurt when I’m not able to be there, so of course, we had to take a picture to send to him and make him a little jealous.It was a crazy-windy day, and eventually, the powerful gusts caused our power to go out. Ben and Brittany were going out for Brazilian food, so we decided to join them. I’d never tried any before, but I ended up really liking it! Who knew beans and rice could be so flavorful?
Kaya was pretty obsessed with Alice. I think she was amazed that a baby could play and move so much (compared to Nella, who’s still working on learning those things)!After Ben and Brittany went home, we got to hang out with Jeff and Lelia (and Fallon)! This was their first time meeting their newest little niece!
Lelia and I got in a good run together on Saturday morning, which is always my favorite part of her coming to visit. I completed my longest postpartum distance thus far- 6.4 miles, so despite the rain and slick trail, I was happy with my progress.
They couldn’t stay long, so they headed out in the early afternoon. I’m grateful for any time I can get with so many of my favorite people!

gingerbread house 2016

Making a gingerbread house at Christmastime has become a much-anticipated tradition in our family. It’s not something I ever did growing up, so it’s been extra fun to do this new activity with my kids.

This year, we used one of the Wilton kits. I am interested in doing one from scratch eventually, but with all the cookies I already make each holiday season, it just seems so much easier to build one this way.

Daddy helped the girls put the walls together one evening, and then we let it dry overnight.
Kaya and Kaelyn wanted to get to work as soon as they woke up in the morning. They also loved pretending to eat it! They’re still a little young to use a piping bag, so I put the frosting on the way they wanted it and they applied the candies.
Suddenly, some of the eating was no longer just pretend… They somehow managed to restrain themselves from eating all the decorations, and we ended up with a pretty cute little house!I love how their project turned out.Kaya really wanted to make a flower design on one side, just like the example on the box!Where there’s candy, there’s bound to be craziness!

christmas parade 2016

While Michael was still in Vegas, our town put on its annual Christmas parade! My in-laws were still visiting, so they were able to come along (but, of course, we definitely still missed Michael)!_mg_6910

It was absolutely freezing, so the girls were bundled into as many layers as possible, and tucked into the stroller with their big blankets. The cold hardly seemed to bother them because they were both so excited about watching the parade!

_mg_6912 Nella was in her snowsuit, in the Moby wrap, inside my puffiest winter coat. I couldn’t feel my toes by the end of the night, but Nella stayed cozy, and that was all I cared about anyway._mg_6919 It felt like an eternity before the parade started, but it was worth the wait!
20161202_193619 Some of our favorite displays included: this somewhat-creepy Santa…_mg_6925 _mg_6926 _mg_6927tractors…_mg_6928Minnie Mouse…
_mg_6930 a whole lineup of Mini Coopers…_mg_6938 Olaf!_mg_6941 and, of course, the “real” Santa at the very end!_mg_6944Kaya and Kaelyn also loved the big group of puppies that walked by, as well as the horses who came long after we thought the parade had already finished (hence not having a photo)! I really do look forward to this event each year, and I’m so happy I get to share it with my little girls.

3 days to go!