spring birdhouses

Last year, around Easter time, we made these cute little graham cracker birdhouses as part of our craft/snack for our co-op preschool. I thought it would be so much fun to do it again, but as a family this time! This was our Monday-night activity this past week, and it was a big hit. How could anything that involves frosting and graham crackers not be popular with kids four and under? Kaelyn was pretty much obsessed with trying to sneakily eat the frosting.She wasn’t a little crazy from the sugar at all
Kaelyn and Daddy collaborated on the same birdhouse at first, since she’s still a little too small to really get it started on her own. This is real teamwork! She did add her own Peeps and some Cadbury eggs, and she was so happy with how her house turned out! Michael made his own later on, complete with a wreath over the entrance. Classy. Kaya needed a little help with getting the walls up, but this design was all her own. She looked at mine for basic inspiration and then added her own finishing touches. Kaya told me that her marshmallow Peeps had a lot of kids… as you can see, they didn’t all fit in the house! I love that Kaelyn added a half-unwrapped Starburst to hers… …and then we have Michael’s house, complete with chocolate “bird poop” next to the Peep, as described by him.

We’re all a little crazy, but I really love these simple family moments together.

five on friday (04/28)

It’s the final Friday of April… what?! We’re already moving past spring into summer, and I can’t believe how the time is flying by.

ONE. We’ve had a tremendous amount of rain here for the past week and half, so when the sun finally came out again, we were more than willing to run outside! This little princess is the calmest baby. She’s happy to just sit in the stroller and watch everyone else play or work. That little tongue!

TWO. Between Michael being out of town and then all the rain, there wasn’t an ideal time to cut the grass this week, so our yard was starting to look a bit like a jungle. Michael was working late on Wednesday night, so I decided to mow the lawn as a surprise for him. This was my first time ever mowing the whole thing on my own, and I won’t tell you how long it actually took me to finish… but Michael was so happy and I felt pretty accomplished for getting it done. Plus, this totally counts as cross-training for my half marathon, right? Kaya took the picture- she’s getting good!

THREE. Speaking of my half marathon… Overall, I’m still feeling really pumped up and excited about it, and training is going well. I ran nine miles this morning, which is my furthest-ever distance. Running greater distances makes me want to nap more, and my appetite is a lot larger, too. #runallthemiles #takeallthenaps #eatallthefood

Needless to say, I was pretty happy when we all went out for Chinese after my long run last week! We’ve been trying to have one “family date” out for dinner each month, and it’s really been fun for all of us.

Don’t be fooled by all that chicken on her plate… Kaelyn pretty much gorges herself on Jello every time. Good thing she’s still only two and free!

FOUR. Anytime we go anywhere, Kaelyn loves pretending to drive… …and if you can’t drive the real car, a pretend one is a good substitute! Both girls love getting this grocery cart at Kroger. I’ll admit, it makes running errands a lot more fun!

FIVE. When your dog starts to shake off in the middle of you snapping a photo… haha!Linking up here, here, and here today!


We adopted Scout on National Puppy Day (March 23rd, without even knowing there was a whole day in celebration of puppies!), so now that we’ve had her for just over a month, I thought I’d write a little update.

I almost can’t believe she grew from this little baby…

…to a taller, longer puppy in such a short time. She still only weighed about 17 pounds at her vet check-up at 14 weeks old, but she seems so much bigger overall.

Scout is still learning to walk on the leash without playing tug-of-war with it, and she’s getting used to walking alongside the stroller when we all go out. She also loves to sit outside with us when we’re working or playing in the yard, although clearly, her leash isn’t long enough, because she tends to wrap it around whatever she’s tied to until she can’t go anywhere.

The girls love to take turns dishing out her food at mealtimes, and she’s actually very good at practicing “sit” and “stay” while they pour it into the bowl. Kaya spends every morning playing with her, and sometimes even cries when we need to put Scout into her crate while we go get washed up and dressed. She sure does love her puppy. Kaelyn took a little longer to warm up to Scout, but now she loves to pet her. I’ve even heard her say, “I love you Puppy”, which completely melted my heart.

Scout hardly ever barks. She did howl and cry a lot during her first few nights here, but now she sleeps soundly. Thankfully, we’re also done with 3 am wake-up calls for me to take her outside to go to the bathroom!

Speaking of going to the bathroom… I was just about to laud her for going 3.5 weeks without a single accident… and then she peed on the floor last night. Whoops. Overall though, training this time around has been a whole lot easier. She’s still banned from the carpeted areas of our home (except for the office, but only when we’re in there working and can supervise her closely).

Apparently, she only likes to sleep on her dog bed when it’s upside down and/or folded in half.

Rawhides are her absolute favorite thing… I should probably buy stock in them, because they’re the only thing that can entertain her for any real length of time. She loves any toy with a squeaker in it, and actually hasn’t destroyed any of her things yet.She’s earned the nickname “Skit-Skat-Skoodle-Scout”, which might seem completely random, unless you’re a big fan of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, in which case, you’ll remember the line “Skit, skat, skoodle doot, flip, flop, flee. Everybody running to the coconut tree.” Sometimes we shorten it to just “Skit Skat”. We really, really, like that book in our house.And if you’re wondering where the name Scout came from… Kaya really likes the Leapfrog series, and insisted long ago that any future dog we’d have would be named Scout. Or maybe we’re more sophisticated than that and named her after the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ll let you decide! 😉

She absolutely loves to snuggle… on your lap, under your legs… or both. She will take any cuddles she can get, which might be my favorite part of having a dog.

And to keep this post real and honest… With having a dog again, I have had moments where the anxiety and fear of something awful happening to my children floods over me. Sadly, through training Scout, I’ve realized that I haven’t completely forgiven myself for Kaya being bitten two years ago, despite being told (and reminding myself repeatedly), that it truly wasn’t my fault. We’re trying to make Scout into the best dog she can be, and we’re teaching the kids how to be safe around dogs. We’re giving it our best effort, which is all anyone can really do.

easter dresses (2017)

I look at these photos and I just feel so blessed. I’m grateful for these amazing, beautiful baby girls. Their soft, flowy new dresses and shiny shoes made them giddy with excitement this year. Those bright eyes and happy smiles are everything to me.I won’t even tell you how many treats I bribed them with to get these photos taken, but it was totally worth it.The candid ones are always my favorites (although I obviously have a lot of favorites, since I clearly couldn’t narrow down which photos to post…)!
Kaya’s dress is from The Children’s Place… if only they made an adult version!
She is so stunning.
It’s nearly impossible to get Kaelyn to look at the camera (not much has changed since last year, I guess!), but even when she’s looking away, she’s a real beauty.
We love her sneaky little sideways smile… Kaelyn’s and Nella’s dresses are from Crazy8, and I bought them before Nella was even born. Sadly, Kaya’s size wasn’t available, so I settled for having two of them match.
This squishy-cheeked princess had no idea what we were doing, but she’s already a pro at smiling for the camera!
I tried so hard to get her to sit up for a couple of photos. Yes, I made her exercise even while wearing a nice dress!
Those cheeks and lips!

Happy Easter!

five on friday (04/21)

Whew! This has been a long, tiring week, and I’m so excited to get the weekend started!

ONE. This nerdy guy (and I say that as a compliment, because he loves his work, and I love that he enjoys what he does) headed to Austin, Texas, this week for Docker’s big developer conference. He had such a great time, but we most definitely missed him. When we would talk on the phone with him and then hang up, Kaya would cry, “Talking to Daddy makes me miss him even more!” Me too, kid. I feel a little lost when my best friend isn’t here.

TWO. Thankfully, Michael’s mom came up to help out and spend some time with us this week while he was gone. I was so grateful for an extra pair of hands, and that she could watch the kids so I could still have some time to myself to go running. We all love Grandma!

We did a lot of fun things with her, including reading at the library, swinging at the park, doing puzzles, visiting the vet, and going to Kangaroo Kids! I think we tired ourselves out. She also helped me rake and pull all the weeds in our garden so I can get some vegetable plants started here soon!

THREE. The teachers at Kangaroo Kids usually pull a new and different activity out of the closet each week, and this week, it was these jumping balls! Riding around on these was one of my favorite things to do in gym class in elementary school, but I had completely forgotten about them. Kaya and Kaelyn loved them just as much as I always did!

I found out they make them in adult size… can you imagine me hopping around my house all day long?

FOUR. This sweet baby girl has had a rough week. She went to the doctor for her shots, which always make her feel crummy for about a week, but then she came down with her very first cold on top of that. She’s been so congested, which makes nursing and sleeping a little difficult.On Wednesday, we had the roughest night of sleep since the day we brought her home from the hospital. I was so grateful my mom-in-law was there to hold her for a couple of hours so that I could get some sleep after being awake most of the night.

FIVE. Favorite Dollar Tree purchase ever- whale bubble machines! These have been so much fun! Scout wasn’t quite sure what to think of the bubbles!

Happy Friday!

Linking up here, here, and here today!

nella: 6 months

She only just had her doctor visit (and received her measurements) this week, so this post is late… but still super cute!Height: 25.25 inches (17%)
Weight: 14 pounds 14 ounces (21%)
Head circumference: 16.25 inches
Clothing size: I just moved her up to 6-9 month clothing, and we moved her cloth diapers up to the next snap setting as far as height goes. Even with larger-sized pants, it still seems like everything is tight over that big puffy diaper!
Eye color: Baby blue.

Nursing: Every 2-3 hours during the day. We haven’t started solid food yet, although we probably will sometime in the next month or so.

Sleep: She’s still a perfect sleeper. We did have one week where she was waking up around 4 am for an extra feeding, but I figured she might have just been hitting a growth spurt. She goes to bed around 7:30 pm, and then typically sleeps until 5:30 am when I nurse her. Usually, she’ll go back to sleep until 7:30 am, but sometimes, she stays awake for a while before falling back to sleep. She naps for about 3 hours every afternoon, and takes a mini catnap for about 30 minutes each morning, too.

And yes, she’s still sleeping in our room. I just don’t have the heart to move her! I love my little roommate, and she’s so quiet at night that we aren’t bothered by her being there. We’ll probably move her to the crib soon, but I’m putting it off for as long as I can because I love having her close.

Favorite things: Her sisters are her number one favorite! They can make her smile or burst out into laughter with just a word or a look. Seeing them all having fun together is the best. She also likes her yellow stuffed giraffe that plays music, and really any toy that she can hold and put in her mouth. She likes to ride in the stroller and swing at the playground.

Dislikes: She’s pretty happy about almost anything. She has started to get a little bit of “stranger danger”, so sometimes she’ll cry when she doesn’t know the person who is holding her very well.

Nicknames: Nellbells, Baby Sunshine, Nella Sunshine, Nell, Nell-Nell, Nels, Angel, Cheeks, Cheeky, Newwie (by Kaelyn), and “Baby Nella Sunshine Sprinkle Pop” and “Pushy Cheeks” (by Kaya).

Milestones, etc.: -She’s so close to sitting up! She can do it for a few seconds before toppling over. We’ve started putting her in the exersaucer so she can practice being upright, and she absolutely loves being able to look all around and watch everything going on. I don’t think she really likes it much when I make her practice, though!

-She’s started doing this low, growl-like noise to talk to us. She’ll try to have “conversations” with us just by using that noise alone. It’s pretty funny and adorable.

-When she’s happy, she kicks her legs! She’ll smile at someone, all while those feet are moving. During walks with the stroller, I look down and see her little feet bobbing up and down as she excitedly observes the outdoors.

-She’s always chewing on her hands, and she’s a devoted thumb-sucker. I keep thinking she’s going to get some teeth, but all we’ve seen so far is a whole lot of drool!

-If I don’t do anything to her hair, it curls as soon as she gets out of the bath. She’s also lost so much of the hair she was born with, and a lot of the new growth is very light blonde. Her eyebrows are still platinum, so I’m really curious to see what she looks like in a few months.

-She is a pro at rolling from side to side, so she can move and grab things that are within rolling distance now. In the exam room at her doctor’s office, she grabbed and completely crumpled all the paper on the exam table!

Dear Nella,

You personify your middle name, Joy, every single day! You smile at anyone who looks at you, whether you know them well or not. Everyone who meets you absolutely loves you, and it’s not hard to see why.

You are blossoming into your own little personality, but you’re still the calmest baby I’ve ever met, and everyone likes to comment on how easygoing you are. I sure hope you can keep your bright demeanor and positive attitude as you grow up- those are the things I love most about you! Your chubby little cheeks and chunky legs are a close second, though. 😉Nellbells, we love you so very much.

Love, Mommy

five on friday (04/14)

It’s already evening, but I just can’t let a Friday go by without listing some of my favorite moments from the week! I basically feel like I have four kids now (puppy included), so I just have to write whenever I can, even if it’s at odd times of the day. I’m always so grateful that I take the time to do this, though, because without these little blurbs about our everyday lives, I forget so many of the little details.

ONE. The weather has been gorgeous all week long, so we’ve been walking, playing at the playground, climbing rocks, drawing with sidewalk chalk, and using the water table again. Being in the sunshine automatically lifts our spirits so much! Kaya drew our family! I absolutely love her little people and that sweet heart she made at the start of the lineup.

What’s better than being able to work outside with a sweet baby on your lap?

TWO. I almost feel like Scout needs her own series of blog posts, titled “goofy things my dog does”. The best way to use your dog bed is to fold it in half, and then rest with your head under it, obviously.While Michael is working on one side of the yard, Scout’s trying to dig holes on the other side……but when she’s not getting into something, she’s busy snuggling with anyone who will sit with her. We really love having this little puppy in our family.THREE. One benefit of doing preschool at home is that we can do our lessons all cuddled up together, if we like. I love any reason to snuggle with these too-grown-up girls of mine.And we can take a break to take silly pictures together…
FOUR. This big kid is officially out of the high chair and sitting in a booster seat at the table! I love having her so much closer to us at mealtime.FIVE. Because there weren’t enough chubby cheeks in this post…  Happy Easter weekend!

Linking up here, here, and here today!

grandpa peter turns 60!

When we traveled back to my parents’ neck of the woods on race weekend, we also celebrated my Dad’s 60th birthday! Having a party with all of my family was really the perfect way to end an already-great Saturday.

After the race, we headed to Longhorn Steakhouse for my Dad’s special birthday dinner! He had to wear this special blinking birthday pin that my aunts both wore on their sixtieth birthdays- it’s a tradition! Hey, at least it got him a free ice cream sundae at the restaurant.
I’m so glad everyone could be there together. Michael and I ended up on opposite ends of our very long table… so I think this picture pretty much sums up what he was doing for the duration of the dinner- wrangling these big kids! He’s such a good sport, and I love him so much for taking care of our girls. Nella’s little hand grabbing onto my arm… melt my heart. And it’s always fun to hang out with Auntie Carol and Auntie Joyce! We headed back home for cake and gifts! Kaya is so into birthdays (she actually pretends it’s her baby doll’s or Kitty’s birthdays on a nearly-daily basis at times), so anytime she’s allowed to participate in the festivities, she’s all for it.I think Grandpa liked having a candle-blowing-out, present-opening helper.
When I was about six years old, I made my dad a “birthday necklace” out of strips of paper that I had colored and stapled together. I made a giant paper birthday cake and stapled it to the center of the necklace, and of course, he had to wear it, even though it was probably the ugliest and most awkward necklace in existence. He donned this plastic, blinking birthday necklace this year, a sort of tribute to that awful paper necklace from years past. He received lots of great gifts, but Snoballs were obviously the most exciting! I think the grand-puppy was cuddled more than the grandbabies on this trip! I was a little concerned about traveling with such a young puppy, but she really did great. She slept on the floor of the van for the entire drive, and didn’t make any trouble or destroy anything at my parents’ house. I’d call that a success! I think she won my Dad over when she fell asleep in his arms. On Sunday morning, we got to sleep in, which was so refreshing after getting up early for the race the previous day. I get to share a room with Nella at my parents’ house (everyone else sleeps downstairs), and I always look forward to waking up and having some one-on-one time with this smiley little baby. My mom made us the biggest pancakes in the world for breakfast!

We walked our dogs out in the yard, and Kaelyn enjoyed putting on “makeup” (just lipstick) with Grandma. This is one of her favorite things.Before we knew it, we were back on the road and on our way home!

monument avenue 10k race recap (2017)

This was my second year running the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k, and I had even more fun this year than last!

I convinced Karl to do this as his very first race, and I was so excited to be able to start together! Any reason to see my brother is a good one, especially now that he lives several hours away from us. Credit goes to my dad, who came to cheer us on, for these first couple of photos!
Karl and I started at the same time, but we didn’t stick together- I told him I’d see him at the finish line, and I took off! I started a little fast, but I decided to keep it up for as long as I could (and pass up some of the slower groups).Apparently, I also do really weird things with my fingers while I’m running…I took the first half a little too fast, and I really started to feel it around mile 3.5 or so. I slowed down, but still tried to stay within my goal pace of 9:00 min/mile. At the finish, I clocked in at 53:34, which was an average of 8:37 min/mile. While training here in the mountains, my best 6-miler averaged out to 9:14 min/mile, so shaving off that much time made me ecstatic!Last year, I was so nervous for this race, because I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, and dealing with a lot of nausea and fatigue. My only goals last year were to finish and keep the baby safe. This year, all I could think about was seeing my family and holding my sweet little Nella at the finish line. It’s amazing how much can change in just one year. Photo-bomb courtesy of Karl!Jeff and Lelia ran too, and we met up with them afterward! Lelia gets some serious credit for doing this at 30 weeks pregnant. Mom and Dad Irwin also came to see us finish, but they had to leave shortly after.
Of course, there had to be donuts afterward, so we picked some up and hung out at Jeff and Lelia’s place for a little while. These were delicious, but I’ve realized that almost anything tastes amazing after a run.Here’s to another race down, and more to come- I’ve got the fever now!

five on friday (04/07)

ONE. We spent a lot of time outdoors this week, enjoying the sunshine and trying to wear the puppy out (and let’s be honest, the kids too)! It’s a good thing we soaked in the warmth while we could, because today we’ve had snow flurries and wind gusts of up to 40 mph. April’s weather is full of surprises!

Nella loves riding in the stroller……and napping in it, too!Sidenote: when did Kaya’s legs get so long?!We met up with Daddy at the playground one day after work. The girls eagerly wait for him to come home each day, and I love seeing him act completely silly and play with them when he does.

TWO. Scout’s been learning all the important things a puppy should: house-training, not jumping up on people, sit, stay, and oh, you know, how to go down the slide.  When your best friend is four years old, that’s what you get! She actually did this completely on her own- no pulling, pushing, or coaxing needed (although it might’ve had something to do with retrieving the stick she dropped)!

THREE. One reason I like going to Kangaroo Kids each week is that I can play with my girls without getting distracted by all the things on my to-do list at home. Nella usually takes a little catnap while we’re there, and that’s when I get to be crazy! This week, I helped each of them into these little tunnels and then rolled them around.

I wish they’d never get too old for this.

FOUR. A few months ago, I gave Kaya a lesson on how to tie her shoes. She didn’t seem to understand yet, so I just let it go and figured we’d come back to it another day. This morning, while she was playing with a larger pair of shoes I had stored away for her to use in the future, she randomly came up to me and said, “Look! I tied my shoe!” At first, I almost thought she was somehow trying to trick me, because we haven’t practiced since that one day, and the shoelaces were tied so very neatly.

She then proceeded to show me how she did it. No tricks here!

I’m so proud of this little girl!FIVE. I guess I’m still on a high from running the Monument Avenue 10k last weekend (blog post on that coming next week), because I went ahead and signed up for my very first half marathon. I’ve wanted to try the distance for a few years, and I figured that now is as good a time as any to just go for it! I love seeing what my body can do and how I can grow stronger.Happy weekend!

Linking up here, here, and here today!