a minnie mouse birthday party (kaelyn’s 3rd birthday!)

Kaelyn had talked about her upcoming birthday for weeks, if not months, before the big day actually arrived. She had decided on a unicorn-themed party long ago, but somehow ended up on the fence between that and a Minnie Mouse party. A couple weeks before the party, she finally landed on Minnie Mouse, and there was no turning back. She has always had a love for Minnie, although I’m not quite sure where it came from, since she doesn’t watch her show, and we don’t have any books with her in them, either.

The day before her party, we shopped for cake-baking supplies and her balloons! She was beaming when we picked these up at the dollar store!

I based the cake off of this one, and followed that same bow tutorial as well. I used homemade fondant for the bow, polka dots, and the shape of the ears (which I then covered in melted chocolate), but the frosting is all buttercream. I was actually really happy with how smooth-looking this turned out. Kaelyn was giddy when she saw her cake, and gave me so many cute smiles (which is a big deal, because she usually doesn’t like to be photographed)!
I love this beautiful, amazing, funny little girl. Celebrating her was the best. She actually got to blow out the candles twice, because for some reason, my camera wasn’t ready the first time.

Kaelyn had requested that the inside of the cake be “sprinkles”, so I made this funfetti recipe. It was delicious, but I think she was too excited for presents and didn’t actually eat any of it! She did, however, enjoy eating Minnie Mouse’s ear! Grandma Debbie was the only one who could make it to the party, but she brought lots of surprises for the birthday girl. Kaelyn was very happy to see everything wrapped in Minnie paper! She received a remote-controlled Minnie car, but it actually didn’t work, so we exchanged it for the airplane equivalent at Target. It’s one of her favorite toys now!Have you ever seen a kid so excited about socks and shirts? (Only if they’re Minnie-themed, I guess!) Undies sent by Auntie Lelia, Uncle Jeff and baby Bryce! Her only three gifts that weren’t related to Minnie Mouse- Paw Patrol puppies… … a water coloring book… …and donut chalk from Uncle Karl and Kaitlyn! We ended the festivities with her favorite food- pizza! She was so tired, but so very happy.

We love you, Kaelyn Grace! Happy 3rd Birthday!

nella: 9 months

Height: 27.75 inches (50%)
Weight: 16 pounds 12 ounces (23%)
Head circumference: 17 inches

Clothing size: I just switched her to 9-12 month clothing! I have a lot of very cute summery rompers from when Kaya was her age that I’m excited to use, but I might have teared up a little while packing away her smaller things. She just grew too fast!

We also decided to go ahead and move her out of “newborn” cloth diapers to the one-size snap ones. We ended up replacing the Bumgenius ones from the older girls (they were pretty worn out and not always leakproof) with some Alvas, and those have worked great so far.

Eye color: The brightest blue.
Hair: It’s really starting to fill in, and it’s still blonde, like her eyebrows!
Teeth: Two on the bottom in front, and that’s still all. She was super cranky for about a week, and I thought for sure she’d get some on the top, but nothing so far.

Eating: She’s nursing every 3 hours for the most part. It’s nice to have a bigger gap so I don’t have to rush out of the house for my run immediately after feeding her, or I have more uninterrupted time to sit and work with the older girls on their school lessons.

I gave her just tiny bit of pureed food (a blend of strawberry/apple/banana) for the first time, and she wasn’t really a fan. Other than that, we haven’t tried anything besides peanut butter. Kaelyn also tried to feed her a Goldfish cracker when we weren’t looking. Nella gagged a little, and Kaelyn was pretty upset and knows not to do that again.

Sleep: Not to brag, but if there were awards for how well babies sleep, Nella would be number one. She goes down around 7:30 or 8 pm at night, and then typically doesn’t wake up until I go nurse her at 6 am. She also takes a 3-hour-long nap every afternoon, as long as we’re home. If we’re out, she’ll nap in the car or stroller, but she crashes hard later that night if she doesn’t get her full nap time.

She also hates to see me go when I lay her in her crib, and will almost always start to cry as I walk away. I usually give her this pink Little People plastic pig to hold in an effort to distract her from missing me. Sometimes she holds it while she sleeps.

Favorite things: Her sisters, ripping/eating paper, stuffed animals, riding in the Ergo, and being outside. She loves snuggling, being tickled, being held high in the air, and trying to throw herself backward so she can hang upside down when someone is holding her.

Dislikes: Sometimes, she doesn’t like being buckled into her car seat. She is also very sensitive to other kids crying (or big sisters throwing fits), so sometimes she’ll bawl right along with them. She also really dislikes nursing with a cover, so I’ve pretty much given up on it.

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

Milestones, etc.: -She’s so close to crawling, but still not doing it quite yet! She just rolls and rolls until she gets to where she wants to go. She’s our first baby to do that (Kaya was a crawler, and Kaelyn would just scoot on her bottom across the floor). It’s fun to have a roller, although I am pretty surprised at how far she can get with this method of movement!

-We’ve seen her attempt to wave a couple of times, but it hasn’t happened all that much.

-Her main “language” for communicating with us is growling! Seriously… she can make a happy-sounding growl, as well as a sad and frustrated growl. It sounds crazy, but it’s true!

-She initiates peekaboo with us by pulling a blanket over her head, and always has the biggest smile when we “find” her!

-She still has no interest in standing on her legs… but her pediatrician and I agree that she’s just kind of lazy and doesn’t want to.

-She started giving the best big kisses! Daddy definitely gets the most though, by far!

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Nella Sunshine,

I love you more than words. I enjoy all the moments we have together, even if you happen to be a little fussy. You light up when I walk into a room, and don’t think I ever take that for granted. You are still very relaxed and will generally let anyone hold you, but I think your mommy is still your favorite.You love to put your head on me and curl up to rest, almost like a newborn baby. I love your smile and laugh and chubbiness. You still have that sweet baby smell, so sometimes, I just hold you and breathe it in.We sure do love you, Nella Joy!

Love, Mommy

 

five on friday (07/14)

ONE. We had an extra-fun week, because my friend Amanda and her two boys, Liam and Ryan, came to stay with us for a couple of days! We’ve known them for several years, but they moved away, and the last time we visited with them was nearly 3 years ago!We got some of our original play group back together for some fun, but we definitely missed having Katherine and Brittany there, too. Bianca invited us over for lunch on Thursday afternoon, and we enjoyed watching our kids play. In total, we’ve added three new little people to this group since the last time we were together.Kaya and Liam didn’t remember each other, even though they practically met at birth. They were fast friends though, and played together constantly once Kaya didn’t feel so shy (even though my girls couldn’t seem to remember the boys’ names, and kept calling them “The Big One” and “The Little One” instead of Liam and Ryan)! We sure were sad to see them leave!

TWO. This is how the girls come down to breakfast lately… It’s a good thing we only have three kids, because Michael is out of arms!

THREE. Nella started computer programming this week! 😉 Everyone wants to be just like Daddy.

FOUR. When you take out your long-forgotten selfie stick, and the little girl who most dislikes being photographed strikes the cutest pose next to you… I love this sweet, pigtail-haired three-year-old!

Sweet, sweet girls. I love how they cuddle up to me for a picture.FIVE. The best entertainment for Nella is always, without fail, her sisters! Kaya was rolling across the floor over to Nella, just to make her laugh. She loved it and could have done it all day long. I love watching them play together.

Happy Friday!

race 13.1 roanoke recap (my first half marathon!)

On race morning, I woke up to the engulfing blackness of night that still exists at 4 A.M. I was excited, jittery, and just the slightest bit nervous for the day ahead. I picked up Nella so she could nurse, and Michael gently woke the older girls, managing to get them to use the bathroom and get buckled into their car seats while they were essentially still asleep.

We left home around 5 A.M. to make the hour or so drive up to Roanoke. We needed to be at least a little early so I could pick up my race packet! I ate half of a Kind bar on the way, but I was too anxious to have anything else but some water.

We were some of the first people to arrive, so there was no line to pick up my bib. I had plenty of time to use the bathroom, take a pre-race photo, and try to nurse Nella again before I had to leave her for the next couple of hours.
Around 6:45, we heard the national anthem, and then all half-marathoners were called to line up. The only other race I’ve run is the Monument Avenue 10k, which has an excessively large number of participants in comparison to this half marathon. Needless to say, I was surprised (and a little relieved) to see so few people lining up.

I tightened my shoelaces, the countdown began, and we were off! I got to wave to Michael and the girls on the way out!
I started out right behind the 2:00 Race Pacer, and I got a little ambitious and thought that maybe I would be able to stick by him through most of it. Thankfully, by mile 3, I wised up and decided that I needed to just do what felt good for me based on my training.

The course was a very flat trail, winding through some trees near a river. Around mile 4, I heard the guy behind me repeatedly asking race volunteers, “Is this the hill up here?” I knew there were going to be hills, but I really wasn’t worried about them, since I’m used to running in this area. I wasn’t sure what this other runner’s preoccupation with “the hill” was, but as soon as I saw it around mile 4.5, I knew.

It was the steepest hill I’ve ever run in my life! So many people immediately started walking, but I pushed on. Another runner girl cheered for me. Once I was past it, I was worried for the turnaround, because next time, I’d be trying to go down it.

The course was no longer flat after that point- we had one more large hill and then some slight inclines and declines all the way to the turnaround point at 6.8 miles. I was starting to feel the effects of only eating half of a granola bar before the race, so after circling through a tiny parking lot at the end of the route and getting back on the trail, I pulled out my fruit snacks and ate one at a time over the next couple of miles. I was drinking Gatorade out of my pack, as well as taking some at all but one of the aid stations. I was also surprised to see that so few runners had brought their own fuel belts, and although it was a perfect day for racing (overcast and not at all hot), I was glad to have mine.

In my training runs, running miles 1 through 6 would feel almost effortless. On race day, however, I felt like I was pushing my body the entire time, and I was just tired. Once I was at mile 7, I started playing number games with myself:

“I just have to run 3 more miles until I reach 10, and I can run 3 miles easily. Then I just have to make it 1.5 more miles to get to 11.5, and then it’s basically just one more mile until that finish-line adrenaline kicks in. No big deal; I’ve got this!” I know it sounds crazy, but when you’re pushing through the miles, somehow, that thought process is convincing.

At mile 11, just like in training, the muscles in my legs and feet started to burn. My respiration and heart rate felt just fine, but my legs were absolutely ready to be done. These last few miles definitely weren’t flying by, but I was managing okay.

At mile 12.5, I started to see the buildings where we had started out, and I heard the music at the finish line. I remembered how Lelia had encouraged me to give it my all for that last quarter of a mile, so I started to kick it into gear, despite how tired my legs were.

To my surprise, Michael and girls were waiting for me at mile 12.9! They were just standing there, chatting with a race volunteer, waiting for me to come over the bridge. I was so happy to see them, but Michael shouted, “Keep going!!!”, which was probably a good reminder, because I hadn’t thought I’d see them until it was time to stop. Michael started jogging with the stroller behind me.

I gave that last 0.2 all that I had, and when I crossed the finish line, I felt so much relief, and even some sadness to realize it was already over. 13!!! Nella was the only one of our kids still in a good mood, so she was willing to take a picture with me! The other girls were absolutely exhausted from being up so early, an I can’t say I blame them! Nella takes medal-wearing very seriously.
My average overall pace was 9:53 min/mile, and I finished just 29 seconds before my goal time. Overall, I’m really happy with how I did. And now, it’s safe to say I’ve caught the half-marathon bug. I’ve already been contemplating which race will be my next!

nella’s first food

Nella had her very first taste of baby food last Wednesday! I like to put off starting solids for as long as I can (within reason), so I planned on waiting until she turned 9 months old. My girls seem to have pretty sensitive gag reflexes, so delaying this until they’re a little older seems to work better for us.Feeding her for the first time produced a record number of grossed-out-face photos.
We tried some Gerber strawberry-apple-banana puree. She definitely wasn’t a fan!
Somehow, she still managed to throw me a cute smile in between having the most revolting experience of her life. I only gave her about a quarter of the jar before she seemed done, and really, I think she spit most of it out.
We haven’t tried anything since, but I’m not at all in a rush to replace nursing with solids.

Of course, I had to get this on video too! I love Kaelyn’s sweet, excited little voice in the background- the big sisters had been eagerly waiting for this day! I’m sure it won’t be long before they want to help feed her.

father’s day 2017

This already feels like forever ago, but we had a sweet, simple Father’s Day celebration for our one and only best guy. Michael is the most amazing Daddy. His girls are his whole world, and I’m so grateful for his love, patience, and guidance when it comes to raising our daughters.

Each of the girls surprised him with one of his favorite candies…
…and subsequently begged him to share everything with them!Kaya made him a custom pipecleaner-pony-bead bracelet. He’s actually worn it every day for the past two weeks, and it’s surprisingly still holding up!I think the pictures just get crazier as this post goes on…
We ended up having our church’s stake conference on Father’s Day, which made our Sunday schedule a little different than usual. The primary kids sang “I’m So Glad When Daddy Comes Home” the previous week, and at the end of church, all the dads enjoyed some pie.

Of course, we still wanted to make him a special treat on the real holiday. We mixed up some homemade brownies. Kaelyn is always the first to jump up and help me bake!
If you can’t tell, the girls got completely sugar high on the brownie batter. Needless to say, they didn’t eat any actual brownies.

Kaya came home with one of those “my dad” surveys from primary, too. Here were her answers:

My Dad is… 29 years old.
My Dad’s favorite thing to do is… tickle me.
My Dad’s job is… helping me take a bath.
My Dad’s favorite food is… pizza.
My favorite thing to do with my Dad is… play hide and seek.
My Dad is really good at… volleyball.
My Dad makes me laugh when he… tickles me.
I am so happy when me and my Dad… hug each other.

Happy Father’s Day, buddy! We sure are lucky to have you.

five on friday (06/30)

It’s super late and I should be in bed, but I have a hard time letting a Friday go by without listing five great things from the week!

ONE. The biggest event of the week- our second sweet princess turned 3 years old! We had her party last weekend, but on her real birthday, we went out to the local bakery and treated her to any cookie she wanted. She, of course, chose one that had a 10:1 frosting to cookie ratio. A girl after my own heart! She was beaming as we sang “happy birthday” to her right in the middle of the mall. We went to play on the indoor playground afterward. I love how the simple things are her favorites.

TWO. Grandma came down for Kaelyn’s party, and stayed for a couple of days at the start of the week. We had a nice long walk and some time at the playground and in the yard with her. These girls sure love their Grandma Debbie (even if I could only convince two of them to get into a photo with her)…

THREE. My garden is growing! For real! I’m amazed to see these plants growing so big, and I’m actually getting kind of attached to them, so here’s to hoping that nothing comes along and eats them. There’s no produce yet, but I have a couple of cucumber plants… … some green beans… …and one lone cherry tomato plant. I’m so excited to hopefully see some food growing on these soon!

FOUR. What’s cuter than a baby in just a tank top and her diaper? One of my favorite things about summer is being able to leave her arms and legs bare so I can see those squishy little rolls of hers! Baby chub is the best.

Also, these little toes!

FIVE. It’s been a while since Freyja and Claire have graced the blog with their presence, so here they are in all their fuzzy glory. Kaya and Kaelyn helped me give them a little “spa night” a couple weeks ago, where they had baths and got their nails clipped. The pigs didn’t enjoy the process, but I can tell you that they do like to feel clean when it’s all done. Claire reminds me of a little teddy bear!Happy weekend!

Linking up here, here, and here today!

happy 3rd birthday, kaelyn!

Dear Kaelyn,

I cannot believe you are three years old! I can remember the moment we met so clearly, that in a way, it feels like yesterday. I still get choked up thinking about when I saw the tiny features of your face for the first time, and remembering how I was overcome with the distinct feeling that you were meant to be ours.

Now, I look at those steel blue eyes of yours, usually accompanied by a sly grin, and I can’t help but laugh. You are so completely silly, but in a generally calm, quiet way. You love to say things that don’t make sense just to make us all giggle.

You have blossomed from being the baby of the family into the astounding big sister you are now. You look at Nella and say “my baby”, or “my sit-sta (sister)” as you embrace her and talk to her in the sweetest little voice that you only use with babies.

Your toddlerhood has been very calm. You very rarely throw a tantrum or have mood swings. If I had to pick just two words to describe you, they’d be sweet and spunky.

Your favorite stuffed animals are your pink Piggy, your dog Cinnamon, and your beanie baby bear, Candy (who was named by you because he reminds you of those Valentine’s sweetheart candies).You take care of all of them as if they are your babies, and I love how gentle and loving you are as you tend to them.

You are still completely obsessed with “bluey” (blue).

Your sentences have improved dramatically over the last two months or so. You say most everything very clearly, with accurate pronunciation, so I think even people who don’t know you well would be able to understand you. You still use “me” instead of “I” as a subject, but it’s so cute that I almost wish you’d never realize it’s wrong.

You love art. You color inside the lines in your coloring books and use paint very carefully. You’ve even started drawing people, which are mostly round circles with little specks inside them.

You are so sensitive when it comes to friends and family. If we read you a book (like Little Cub by Olivier Dunrea) where the main character is alone, you actually start to cry for him. You also cried for the horse, Spirit, from the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, when he was separated from his family and couldn’t get back. I love how family is already so important to you at this young age.

Your very favorite book is BooBoo (Gossie & Friends) by Olivier Dunrea. You giggle when Daddy reads it “wrong” on purpose. He’ll say, “BooBoo is a small yellow gosling…”, and you’ll laugh while correcting him, “No… BooBoo is a small BLUE gosling!”

You are a problem solver, like your daddy. You love to do puzzles and figure things out, but you’re also great at solving real-life problems. If you and Kaya are arguing over the same item, and you see it’s creating a difficult situation, you will often just let Kaya have whatever the item is and then move on, even if it’s something you really want. It’s not that you’re giving up the fight; I think you are really good at assessing situations and seeing the bigger picture.

You have an incredible attention span for your age, as well as excellent fine motor skills. You nearly completed an entire perler-bead puppy in one afternoon, which takes a lot of focus and precision for someone so little. You finished it as soon as you had the chance the next morning. I was so proud of you for doing it all on your own!

If we ask you what your name is, you always say, “Baba Grace!” Daddy has also brought back one of the nicknames we used to call you when you were a baby, “Kaecakes”, and you seem to like that one, too.

You have done preschool with Kaya for the past couple of years, just on your own terms. I’ve never required you to work on writing, reading, or math, but you’re already starting to try by yourself. You can spell your nickname (“B-A-B-A, Baba!”), and you’ve started trying to memorize the letter sounds. Anytime you see an “m” you say, “mmmm mmmm!” You can count correctly to eleven all on your own. You’re so excited to “officially” start “preschool… at home!” here soon.

Anytime you and I are eating the same thing or doing the same activity, you say we’re “buddies!” If we both have a cucumber, we’re “cucumber buddies!” Haha.

I still put you down for a nap every day, but you often would rather sit up in your bed, looking at books, doing a small puzzle, or drawing. You stay awake as long as you can, even though you really are tired and in need of some rest.

Blueberry is your favorite flavor of everything. You’d eat a blueberry yogurt for lunch every day if we had an endless stockpile. You’re so excited to go blueberry picking this summer, and I’m sure you’re going to have a hard time not eating all of them as we go.

Your favorite song is “Dirt on My Boots”, by Jon Pardi. Any time it comes on the radio, you start rocking back and forth if we’re in the car, and galloping across the floor if we’re at home. You call it “my boots song!” You say you like it because it “has cowboys” (and it does, in the lyric music video).

You love chapstick and lipgloss and will never turn me down when I offer to put some on you. I save my nearly-empty chapstick tubes for you to finish off so that you won’t play with my real ones, because you love to roll them up until they break!

Sometimes, when Daddy is tucking Kaya in at night, I sneak into your bed and snuggle with you. You like to throw your little arms around my neck and say “Stay with me forever!”, and sometimes I wish I could.

You are really becoming a sweet little friend of mine. You love to hear stories about when you were a baby, and I love to tell you all about how excited we were to know you were joining our family.I love you so much, Kaelyn Grace. Happy 3rd birthday, baby girl!

life last week

This has been the least amount of blogging I’ve done in many months, and my guilty conscience automatically starts to apologize as soon as my fingers hit the keyboard again. But then I remember that my main reason for writing this blog is so my kids will have it when they’re grown, and I realize that I don’t have to be sorry. I think when they finally read this in 10 or 20 or 30 years, they’ll be glad that their mom was sometimes a little too busy to blog because she was playing outside with them, helping them with crafts, and putting together their birthday parties. Whenever there’s a lot to write about, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to actually blog about it, because we’re busy living it. And in a way, I’m okay with that.

We’ve been spending a lot of time outside and at the playground. These two love “rock climbing” together!Kaya is becoming a little more bold and has started practicing hanging from the monkey bars. She isn’t able to grab onto the next one and keep going yet, but I am proud of her for going out on a limb (a.k.a. monkey bar) and trying something new.
This little monkey is also trying to climb more… …while the littlest monkey isn’t monkeying at all. When you’re the third baby, you sometimes have to nap on the go! On a recent walk, a lady told me that I need more kids in my stroller. I told her that if there were any more, I might not be able to push it up the hill! Really though, I love having all these seats full (and this stroller is still one of the best things ever)!
If you were worried that the girls have just cardio at the playground as their only exercise, fear not- strength training happens via morning push-ups with Daddy!The girls worked on painting these suncatchers one afternoon. They are both pretty meticulous artists now, so they take their time, and I love seeing what they come up with at the end! They also made about a million perler-bead animals, so my iron lived on the kitchen counter for a few days so we could finish all of their creations ASAP. Waiting to melt those beads together inevitably leads to having them spill, which makes for some very sad little girls (and a crazy puppy who tries to eat any bead she discovers on the floor)! We went shopping for baking supplies for Kaelyn’s birthday cake, and Nella sat in the front seat of the shopping cart for the first time ever. As evidenced by her silly little grin, she loved it! She’s had a few more rides since last week, and she kicks her legs and smiles happily every time. Someone was excited to pick up her birthday balloons… … and someone else was excited to show off her cute little teeth! These are the days, and I’m glad I’m living them, even if I’m not writing about every detail.

fun with the grands

Last weekend, we got to enjoy some time with Michael’s parents! It’s been a while since both Mom and Dad have been able to come up here at the same time (January was our last visit all together at our house), so it felt a little extra special and fun. They arrived on Friday afternoon, so we had maximum time for goofing off!

The girls have been really into board games lately, and they somehow charmed Grandpa Skip into playing both Candy Land and Thin Ice.
Nella was tickled by Grandma Gina’s “piano fingers”, and obviously, she loved it! This was Dad’s first time meeting Scout, and I think he really liked her. They played on the floor, ran around the house, and even took a couple of walks. Kaya rode on Grandpa’s shoulders for most of the time. I’m glad she’s still little enough to do so, but it did make me realize how tall she’s getting!
Nella got some cuddles from both Grandpa and Grandma (and I’m sure she seemed so big to them after they’ve visited with newborn cousin Bryce so recently)! On Saturday morning, I had a 10-mile run, and then we all did a little work around the house and yard. Michael, Mom, and the older girls went to help out with a food drive service project, and Dad and I stayed home with Nella while she napped. I might have also crushed him at Mario Kart Wii… some of the time. I think we’re pretty equally matched, actually.

We ended the day with our favorite thing- Chinese food! Dad and Michael always love to go browse at Best Buy, so we all spent a few minutes in there after dinner. Kaya and Kaelyn thought it was one of the most fun places, probably just because they got to act silly with Grandpa Skip in there. On Sunday, we all went to the first hour of church together before they had to head home. Nella took two naps on her Grandma that morning! They both love snuggling, so they’re a pretty perfect match!

I always wish for more time with our family when they have to leave. It goes too fast!