five on friday (01/27)

ONE. We went to a big birthday bash for our friends, Aaliyah and Talyah, this week! My girls were beyond excited about having cupcakes. Funny enough, despite all her enthusiasm, Kaelyn didn’t even take a bite out of hers.

Kaya fell in love with the elephant pinata, and was the queen of collecting candy once it was broken open. Sadly, another kid tore the eyes and most of the paper off of it after this, and Kaya was on the verge of tears to see her new friend ripped to shreds. She’s so very sensitive and loving, even toward fake cardboard animals.

TWO. We’ve been doing some more work on the house, from small things like changing out all the brass doorknobs to a “brushed bronze”…

…to painting the office (which is still in progress)! Have you figured out what my favorite color is yet?

THREE. This little princess has started having very animated “conversations” with us every day. She coos, grins, and just melts your heart. Her excitement multiplies a hundred fold when you smile and talk back to her!FOUR. I’m getting a new nephew!!! Lelia and Jeff announced this week that they are having a sweet baby boy in June, and I just cannot wait to meet him!Of course, we had to recreate this silly picture from nearly five years ago (what?!) when I was 15 weeks pregnant with Kaya, but we comically reversed roles and shoved a kitchen towel up Lelia’s shirt. Lelia actually sent me this picture in a card in the mail to announce their pregnancy a couple months ago, and I was so excited that I could barely talk when I called and left her a voicemail.
Really, I’m so happy for this sister of mine and I can’t wait to see our babies all together.

FIVE. Speaking of little babies… I love my sweet, sleeping angel, tucked in so tight.

HAPPY FRIDAY!

Linking up here, here, and here today!

neigh-neighs, the sprinkle monster, and great-aunties

After visiting Michael’s family, we went to my parents’ home for the last of our Christmas celebrations. Their family room quickly turned into a wrapping-paper explosion- it was like Christmas morning all over again!

You never know what Grandma Debbie might surprise you with…

Each girl (including me) got a spatula in her stocking!
Kaya was pretty excited about these pants… … and can you tell that someone is in love with Minnie Mouse? There was a giant Hello Kitty plush for Kaya, of course. The girls’ big gifts were these horses! Kaya names every horse she has “Chancey”, so of course, we all knew his name before he even escaped the box. Kaelyn calls all her horses “Neigh-neigh”, this one included.Michael (a.k.a. Mister Home Improvement) now has a drill! He’s already been able to use it for several projects.
Kaya gives the best hugs. After exchanging gifts, Kaya, Grandma and I cut out gingerbread cookies. The next day, we decorated them with sprinkles! Kaelyn used up most of the sprinkles by herself… She was completely covered by the end of it all. What a mess! I’m glad she enjoyed herself, though.Nella will be in on the mess next year, but for now, she sat in her seat and took a little nap.This trip was the first time Grandpa Peter met Nella! It was love at first sight.My aunts stopped by to see us, too! Nella met her Great-Aunties Joyce and Carol! Of course, they instantly loved her too.Everyone always loves Grandma snuggles!

I’m glad we were able to visit our families for the holidays.This is the last of the Christmas posts, so now it’s officially over! (Only 333 days to go until we do it all again!)

christmastown, cousins, and crazies

The Christmas posts just never seem to end around here, right? Thankfully, it’s because we had so many family members to visit and enjoy the season with this past holiday.

A few days after celebrating Christmas at home, we headed down to visit Michael’s side of the family! Kevin and Tori flew in from Utah- it had been about a year and a half since we last saw them! We had never met our nephew Jack before, so needless to say, we were pretty excited!

I instantly fell in love with Jack (sweet sweet baby boy!), and my girls really loved playing with him, too. It was so fun to finally see the cousins together! Of course, I also had to get pictures of everyone meeting Nella! 🙂
And yes, there were plenty of Grandma cuddles for her, too.Kaya enjoyed some snuggling with Auntie Lelia!There were some presents, of course… … including a rainbow hat made by Grandma!This was the first time the older girls have slept in the same bed. At first, we heard some complaints of “she’s touching me!” and “she’s taking my animals!”, but eventually, they settled down and slept soundly.On the second day of our visit, we headed to Busch Gardens Christmastown! The last time we were there, Kaya was just 3 months old! It’s crazy how quickly everything changes with kids.
We wore our new hats made by my mom-in-law!I always love admiring the decorations. It almost feels like a world away from this one, made entirely of glowing lights and Christmas spirit.Kaya was old enough to ride the mini roller coaster this year! She was so excited when they pulled out of the station, and I knew she’d return either completely petrified or absolutely elated. Thankfully, she had the time of her life and even asked to go on it again! Seeing her so happy was the highlight of the trip for me, although hearing Michael, Kevin, and Jeff screaming all through the ride was pretty fun, too.Kaelyn was too little to ride most of the attractions, so we let her walk around and explore the brightly-lit trees for a bit.She did get to join everyone on this mini Mach Tower ride! I wish I had a better photo, but it was so dark that I couldn’t get my camera to focus. Good picture or not, these kids had a blast.I feel like I haven’t been able to go on rides for forever (being pregnant with three babies in four years will do that to you!), so it was extra-fun for me to join Grandpa Skip and Kaya on the bumper cars and flying swings. When everyone else headed to the train, Dad and I went on my all-time favorite ride. Busch Gardens calls it “Le Catapult”, but I think it has other names at different parks.Of course, we went to the Festhaus to warm up, eat dinner, and nurse the baby. It’s always nice to get a little break from the cold.
The girls really enjoyed watching the performance inside!On our last afternoon together, we took a family picture. I love having everyone all together (and let’s face it, I really lucked out and got some amazing in-laws).When we got home, they wanted a brother picture…… which quickly turned into chaos…… and… sorority squats? What?!And apparently, it only takes one minute of me not paying attention for my relatives to steal my phone and fill it up with a million surprise photos before we left that evening. I love these crazies!

five on friday (01/20)

ONE. These sweet sisters melt my heart daily. Last weekend, the big girls crawled right into bed with us to snuggle baby Nella. They practically fight over who gets to hold her, and there’s no quota on how many hugs and kisses they give out.

TWO. Daddy reads Kaya and Kaelyn bedtime stories each night, and they are currently obsessed with the book RRRalph, by Lois Ehlert, that we picked up from the library last week. They love just saying the title over and over! Who knew dogs could really talk?

THREE. The new semester started this week, so Michael is back to teaching! He has about 250 students, which makes this his largest class thus far. I have to brag a little and tell you that his students last semester absolutely loved him- at the end, he received thank-you cards, chocolates, and upstanding reviews. I’m so proud of him for excelling at something he loves doing.

When he’s not busy, this baby girl is chatting him up! 🙂

FOUR. For school science this week, we learned about sea turtles! Both girls were fascinated by a video of a mother turtle laying her eggs on shore, and then loved watching the babies scurry to the sea once they hatched. Of course, we had to make our own turtles! Kaya wanted hers to be completely pink!

FIVE. We’ve dealt with some difficult behavior from our oldest two girls this week, and being completely honest, at times, it has felt overwhelming. When the quiet moments finally come, I feel extra gratitude for this sweet, calm little baby girl. She refreshes my mind and spirit in so many ways.

Happy Friday!

Linking up here, here, and here today!

christmas day 2016

I’m writing about our Christmas day about 3.5 weeks after the fact, but hey, this way, I get to relive our special family moments over again. Christmas morning seems to become more fun each year as our kids grow older. Their excitement seems to multiply exponentially with age, and I truly wish this trend could continue forever.

As usual, Michael and I stayed up far too late on Christmas Eve (it was nearly 3 am when we finally crawled into bed), cleaning the house and wrapping gifts. It just seems like there’s always so much to do in preparation for a holiday.

Thankfully, the girls slept in until about 8 am. I’m sure they won’t always be willing to stay in bed so long on future Christmas mornings! I felt so grateful to have these three little girls of mine under the tree this year. Everyone was anxious to dive into opening gifts. Kaelyn instantly cuddled all of her new stuffed animals. Kaya received various Hello Kitty paraphernalia (a water bottle, a plush, and a jewelry box)…  Kitty Surprise! This Puppy Surprise was the only thing Kaelyn asked for for Christmas. She had talked about it every day for at least a month, and I was so excited to see her open it. Of course, we had to immediately count how many babies were in her tummy! This little girl was the puppy queen this Christmas.I just can’t get through a holiday without gifting something educational!Kaya had been asking for a “camper truck” for about 4 months. She loves to visit Grandma Gina and Grandpa Skip in their real camper when they come out to visit, so she wanted one for her little bunnies to drive around, too.The girls’ big combined gift was a Furreal Friends baby dragon! Her name is Torch, and they love taking care of her every day.This gift was Michael’s favorite- a STEM robot mouse. He’s already preparing their young minds for coding!
When you’re an adult, you get very excited about new slippers.I’d call this “the slipper Christmas”, since we all received new ones. I love those fuzzy little feet on each end.
We had our traditional snowmen donuts, but this was probably the fastest we’d ever eaten them, since we had to be on our way to church before long.
Church only lasted about 45 minutes, and then we returned home to play, nap, and cook a Christmas meal.My favorite gift this year goes without saying…
I love having a new baby at Christmastime, because it helps me remember our Savior’s birth even more often. This little angel had a wonderful first Christmas. I’m so grateful to have her.We really do love her so very much.
I made our traditional pot roast, mashed potatoes, veggies, and biscuits.I think Kaya and Kaelyn ate more M&Ms than anything else on Christmas day.We ended the evening with choco-mint freeze, cuddles, and my sweet Kaya telling me how happy she was. I love celebrating this most special day with my sweetheart and my babies.

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!