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!

happy birthday to me! (29)

On my birthday, I woke up to the sweetest surprise from my best friend- flowers and my favorite candy! These, vibrant, beautiful flowers ended up lasting for about two weeks, which is quite possibly the longest I’ve ever had anything green stay alive in my house.

The girls were so very excited to surprise me, and now that Kaelyn is using sentences, she repeatedly told me “happy burtday mama!” Her soft, sincere little voice melts my heart.
My birthday was on a Sunday this year, which meant that there wouldn’t be much time for celebrating, since we have church pretty much all day long. In addition to our regular schedule, we had our special New Beginnings program for the Young Women later that night. I love church, but I honestly was feeling a little disappointed that we wouldn’t have time to do anything special together as a family.
However, my heart immediately changed when I arrived at church and saw our Young Women, all excitedly shouting “happy birthday!” After all my previous feelings of disappointment, I realized that being with these amazing young ladies was right where I wanted (and probably needed) to spend my birthday. I made cinnamon rolls to bring to New Beginnings that evening, and we had a fun and uplifting day.
Later in the week, my mom came up to throw a belated mini birthday party for me. She read the girls all the books they asked her to and even played some games with them. No one can resist kissing these cheeks!And no one wants to nap when grandparents come to visit… until this happens:
My mom brought me a cookies and cream cake with fluffy, whipped frosting!My girls were so excited to have a tiny party for their mommy. I really can’t believe that all three of these little sweethearts are mine.
My mom gets all the credit for putting this birthday together! We’ve got some crazy blowing-out-the-candles faces, that’s for sure. My mom spoiled me with some potholders, kitchen utensils, and a shirt. The kids were so into helping me open everything that it almost turned into a race!

That’s the end of the birthday shenanigans. Here’s to making the last year of my twenties amazing!

9 for 29

The last couple of years, I’ve started this little tradition where I share a few facts about myself in honor of my birthday. I turned 29 years old on Sunday, so I thought I’d post my list this week! I write so much about the kids on here, but I’d like to think that one day, they’d like to look back and learn something about their mom, too.

1. I didn’t play any sports growing up, but in adulthood, I’ve found that I love running. I’ve been an avid runner for 8 years now, and it seems like the older I get, the more miles I want to do. I ran my first race last year and I’m looking forward to doing at least one in 2017!

2. I eat a big salad every day for lunch, but don’t worry, I balance it out with plenty of ice cream later! 😉

3. I like to pick on Michael for being older than me, even if it is only by 6 months.

4. I am a serious bargain hunter and only buy things on sale or clearance, especially clothes for the kids. If the price is right, I’ll store away items that won’t fit them for two or three more years.

5. Photography is still my favorite hobby. I take all of our own family photos, and although it can be extremely challenging with little kids, overall, it’s incredibly rewarding. I also love documenting other people’s special moments, and although I haven’t been actively trying to grow my business, slowly but surely, it is expanding with each passing year.

6. I was never a baby-crazy kind of girl until we actually had our own. Now I love baby snuggles, that sweet baby smell, and their infatuating little smiles.7. I’ve been working with the Young Women at church for over 3 years now, and I think I’d be happy to do that for the rest of my life. I love those girls so much, and I’m so grateful that I get to learn about life and the gospel alongside them. We really have an amazing group of young ladies who are so valiant and good-hearted.

8. My go-to, oops-I-didn’t-plan-ahead food is grilled cheese. I really like mine with sharp cheddar or Colby-jack cheese, pickle slices, and pepperoni.

9. My current favorite song is “Dirt on my Boots” by Jon Pardi, and my favorite actress is Lauren Graham.

Since my birthday was on a Sunday this year, we didn’t get much time to really celebrate. My mom will be here visiting this coming weekend, so I’m looking forward to having some cake and fun then!

kaya’s random birthday celebrations (2016)

Yeah, yeah, I know Kaya’s birthday was forever ago, but I’m basically a million years behind on everything I need to do (folding laundry, blogging, photography business stuff, you name it)… better late than never, right? Plus, I have some very cute pictures that I just couldn’t refrain from sharing here.

Now that’s she’s a little older, Kaya definitely knows what her favorite foods and activities are, so it was really fun to take her out and do what she really likes. We decided we’d treat her to a special birthday dinner, and we let her choose the place. She really loves Red Robin, so on the Friday night before her party, we headed there (along with Grandma Debbie)!img_20160916_195103 img_20160916_192036

The waiter even brought her a special birthday ice cream. This little girl couldn’t have been more excited!

On her real birthday, we asked her what she wanted to do… and predictably, she answered that she’d like to go to the mall. This is one of her favorite places (which might have something to do with the cookie place and the playground being there)!

We had a little “picnic”, and let her pick out a treat. We stuck her candle in the cookie, and sang “Happy Birthday” one more time!

These are some happy people right here. (Kaya was also wearing her most favorite things on this day: a rainbow tutu and a Hello Kitty shirt!)

We had to spend some time playing on the playground afterward, of course.

Daddy ran around with them like crazy (and I love these animated GIFs that Google makes for me, haha)!vid_20160919_204923-animation A couple weeks later, Grandma Gina brought Kaya a special gift she’d made…_mg_5420 _mg_5422 _mg_5424 A rainbow blanket! It turned out so beautiful, and Kaya was instantly in love._mg_5426

It was so much fun making her birthday truly special for her. Sometimes it’s tough watching your kids grow up so fast, but as they get older, there are so many more opportunities for enjoying time together.

a rainbow horse birthday party (kaya’s 4th birthday!)

Kaya had been saying that she wanted a “rainbow Chance party” for the majority of the past year. Like most people, you probably have no idea who Chance is… Well, he’s a horse who lives over at the barn I used to volunteer at during college. His pasture was right behind our old neighborhood, so Kaya saw him fairly frequently. I don’t know what it is about that gray horse, but he’s been her favorite for quite a while!

She loved her rainbow party last year, so she requested that again, too. What’s better than rainbows and horses combined?

We kicked off her party day with her favorite donuts. Daddy took the girls to our local donut shop to pick them up, and of course, Kaya chose mostly chocolate cake donuts or chocolate-frosted ones with sprinkles!
_mg_5162 This cake… oh this cake. It might not look like much, but it turned out to be a major labor of love. I actually ended up decorating the entire thing twice because it fell apart overnight… and then it started drooping again before she blew out her candle._mg_5176I think the decorations failed to stay on because I used a new death-by-chocolate recipe that was incredibly moist (and also called for using cooking spray and no flour on the cake pans when baking). It was the easiest cake ever to remove from the pans… but that also meant that the frosting didn’t stay on well at all. It tasted amazing, and I’d definitely use the recipe again, but not for a birthday cake with any kind of buttercream decorations.

The horses are from Playmobil. They really are so cute and well-made, and I’m glad I chose these!_mg_5189This little girl loved her cake so much (and couldn’t wait to play with the horses, of course)!
_mg_5170 _mg_5174 She was so excited for us to sing to her!_mg_5200 _mg_5202 Seriously… this cake was almost as fudgy as a brownie. Mmm._mg_5206 _mg_5208 Some of her presents included undies…_mg_5211 …a Hello Kitty shirt…_mg_5212 … and a “Chance” stuffed animal. She had asked for a “Chance snuggly animal”, and her reaction was just as adorable as I had hoped._mg_5216 Chance has gone everywhere with us ever since. I think he’s going to be a long-term favorite!_mg_5217 Her big gift was this horse stable from Grandma Debbie. I think Lelia and I enjoyed playing with it just as much as Kaya!_mg_5225During all the present-opening, Kaelyn had a good time goofing off with Uncle Jeff. These girls sure do love their aunts and uncles. 🙂
_mg_5220 We kept the decorations as low-key as ever, but we did surprise her with these cute horse balloons!_mg_5232 She also got to wear a fun rainbow tutu, which pretty much made her day!_mg_5237 _mg_5240 Jeff and Lelia brought their puppy, Fallon, so my girls had a great time playing with her all weekend._mg_5246 After the party, we cooked breakfast for dinner. French toast…_mg_5248 … scrambled eggs, and bacon!_mg_5249

Kaya even had a perfect day in Primary at church on Sunday. She got to stand up in front of everyone with her special birthday card while everyone sang to her (and I might have teared up watching from the back of the room… motherhood does crazy things to you!). They also had a lesson about God’s creatures, so her teacher brought in a cat for them to visit with (if you know Kaya, you know she loves cats)!

With all her rainbows, horse gifts, playing with Fallon, and holding a cat in Primary, I think she really had the perfect birthday weekend.

Happy Birthday Sweetie! I hope this is one you remember!

happy 4th birthday, kaya!

Dear Kaya,

It’s hard to believe that four years have already passed since I first held you in my arms. You were our first little miracle, and each day, I am still filled with gratitude and wonder that your care has been entrusted to us._mg_5170

You are a nurturer. Compassion comes naturally to you, whether it’s for a baby, a plant, an animal, or anyone who is hurt or upset. You are always playing with your baby doll, or pretending that Kaelyn is your real baby, and you need to take care of her. Sometimes, in the mornings now, you even help your little sister get dressed and ready for the day. I’m so appreciative of your willingness to contribute to our family.

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You are a protector. You always watch out for Kaelyn, making sure she isn’t doing anything unsafe or breaking any house rules.

You are an innate learner. Over this past year, we’ve been doing “homeschool preschool”, and you relish nearly every moment of it. You beg me to “do school” almost every day (we try to do it at least three times per week), and you are excellent at copying letters and telling me their phonetic sounds. I think you are actually ready to start learning to read, and I’m excited to help teach you and see you discover the literary world._mg_4436

You love to give gifts and surprise people. Oftentimes, you’ll “write” notes to each of us, tape them closed, and hide them so we can find them later. Anytime we have a special treat for Daddy or made something especially neat in preschool, you excitedly tell him to close his eyes and run toward him with whatever the object is. Of course, you find immense joy in receiving surprises yourself.

You are a helper. You’ll help Daddy with just about anything he asks of you, and you especially enjoy helping me make everyone’s lunches or with baking._mg_4425

Music is one of your very favorite things. You love singing time in Primary at church, and you frequently pretend to be your music teacher. You love doing family home evening just so we can sing songs together.

You love to cut, glue, paint and create art._mg_4586

You love to play games. Candy Land, Trouble, Connect Four, and a modified version of Blokus are your favorites.

You are silly, sweet, and shy. Many people tell me that they didn’t even realize you can talk because you are very quiet (and well-behaved) when we’re out in public.

Kitty (or “Meowy”, as you call him most of the time), is still your very favorite. He had to have a few “stitches” and be restuffed a few months ago, and I think now that he’s more “fluffle-y” (as you say), you love him more than ever. You are also still obsessed with your purple cat blankie._mg_4413

Believe it or not, you still take a nap every afternoon. I’m sure that some of the time is spent playing quietly in your room, but usually, I can expect about 2.5 hours of near silence each day.

These past few months have been some of the most exciting for you as you’ve watched my belly grow and anticipated the arrival of your baby sister. These days, she is almost all you can talk about. Through my morning sickness and other ailments, you were always there, checking on me, tucking me in with blankets, snuggling me, and just making sure that I was okay. You tell me that you want to be a mommy yourself someday, and I know that you will fill that role perfectly.IMG_20160619_124616

Kaya, I love you more than I can say. There are probably a million more things I could write about you, but I’ve tried to capture the biggest parts of your personality so that we will always remember what you were like at this age. Time is going by so quickly, and honestly, I wish I could slow down these days so we could have more of them, just as we both are right now.

Love, Mommy

michael’s birthday celebrations (29!)

Michael’s birthday was on a Tuesday, so really, it was a pretty typical weekday for us. He had to work, and I had to be at church youth activities later that night. He was celebrated at work with a chocolate birthday cake, so I planned to make him some other type of special dessert for later on.

The night before his birthday, his mom texted and asked if we’d like to have her spend the day with us. She had been helping out Michael’s great grandma, who lives about two hours from here, for the past couple of weeks, so making a quick day trip was actually feasible! Of course we said yes, and everyone was super excited to see Grandma._MG_4782

While Michael was at work, we made some family-favorite choco-mint freeze, picked up ingredients for his mom’s homemade chicken nuggets at the grocery store, and bought him some mylar balloons (which really ended up being more for the girls than for him, haha)! Still, they were so eager to surprise him as soon as he came home. Of course, he had to close his eyes, per Kaya’s request!_MG_4784 They loved running at him with their balloons!_MG_4786His gifts were some new bluetooth headphones from us (which he couldn’t resist opening that morning before work!), and a check from his parents._MG_4788 This was Kaya’s reaction when she saw that he got money in his card… 🙂_MG_4789 My mom-in-law cooked some amazing homemade chicken nuggets, and after dinner, I went to youth activities. When I came home, it was time for choco-mint freeze!_MG_4797 They were pretty excited… and pretty goofy._MG_4793 Like father, like daughter._MG_4794 _MG_4795 Kaelyn was too busy actually eating her dessert to goof off (or even look at me for a picture). Girl’s got focus!_MG_4798

This was probably one of the simplest birthday parties ever, but we all loved celebrating our favorite guy. Hopefully next year I’ll have more energy to put together something awesome for his big 30!

Happy 29th Birthday, best friend!

to the guy who lets me steal his clothes (happy birthday, Michael!)

Today is my favorite guy’s birthday! He does so much for our little family, and I’ve loved watching him grow and better himself in so many ways every single year. He works so hard and juggles so many different roles- husband, daddy, software developer, student, teacher, ward clerk, and business owner (to name a few!). I honestly am not sure how he gets it all done!

So Happy Birthday to the guy…_MG_3424

…who met me exactly eight years ago today (and will never live it down for not saying hello to me when I tried to introduce myself)!

…who remedies all my technology struggles (even when he could make me figure it out on my own) without grumbling.

…who never complains about eating sandwiches (again) for dinner when I haven’t cooked.

…who takes care of pouty lips and booboos like a pro._MG_4131

…who lets me steal all his most comfortable t-shirts to use as pajamas.

…who takes care of our kids so that I can have a photography business.

…who probably never suspected that he’d be so popular with the ladies

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…but truly is the very best daddy there could ever be._MG_4128

We all love you, buddy!

HAPPY 29th Birthday, Best Friend!!!

a rubber ducky birthday party (kaelyn’s 2nd birthday!)

I’m finally blogging about Kaelyn’s 2nd birthday party! Anytime I take a lot of photos all at once, it seems like it takes me a while to actually go through them all and share them. I definitely snapped a lot of pictures that day (June 25th), in part because I’m still adjusting to the lighting in our new home, so I kept changing my camera settings and trying different things. Many of these photos aren’t perfect, but I’m grateful I have them to remember my littlest’s special day.

Anyway… Grandma Debbie came up to stay with us for a few days, and as seems to be tradition, Kaelyn took a nap on her right before the party! We started our celebrations at 2 pm, so this little catnap was actually very much needed in order to avoid an afternoon meltdown._MG_3257 Kaelyn absolutely loves rubber ducks and gets SO excited anytime she sees one that she has to yell “QUACK!” over and over again. I knew she would be ecstatic with these rubber duck balloons!_MG_3261 Hugs for the ducky!_MG_3264 Uncle Karl and Kaitlyn brought her some more fun balloons when they arrived!_MG_3407This was one seriously happy little girl._MG_3267 I made her cake super simple this year. The only real goals were for it to look like water and have some bubbles and rubber ducks on top._MG_3269 I used this lemon cake recipe (minus the blueberries) with this frosting recipe, which I think pretty much equaled perfection. What’s better than a lemon cake on a summer day? (Not to mention, I almost always make chocolate cake, so this was a nice change!)_MG_3276 _MG_3293 We started the party off with Kaelyn’s favorite food- pizza!_MG_3280 _MG_3282_MG_3283 _MG_3291_MG_3307 Soon it was time to blow out the candle (and she was still in love with her balloons)!_MG_3317 _MG_3314I am so blessed to call these two precious girls mine.
_MG_3325Kaya was extremely excited for the party, and it wasn’t even her birthday! She is definitely looking forward to her own special day in a couple of months._MG_3320 _MG_3329 Kaya ended up helping Kaelyn blow out the candle, because she had absolutely no idea what to do! We completely forgot to “practice” beforehand._MG_3333 Well… this is the best family picture we could get. I kind of think it’s hilarious._MG_3334 She loved her lemon cake!_MG_3345 Everyone had blue lips afterward…_MG_3347After cake, she opened a few gifts.
_MG_3353 _MG_3355 We gave her this VTech Horse Stable that both girls have loved building and playing with together._MG_3357 My mom’s friend, Susan, sent her this stuffed penguin and a couple of books. She loves stuffed animals so much that she snatched it out of the bag as fast as she could, with the biggest grin on her face._MG_3362Uncle Jeff and Auntie Lelia gave her some money for her 529 college fund. It’s definitely something she will appreciate when she’s older!_MG_3360

Grandma Debbie gifted her a rubber duck water table. Obviously, she has absolutely loved this over the past couple of weeks!_MG_3369 After gifts, I tried to get a couple of pictures of her in her birthday outfit, mostly to no avail. She did like standing next to Fallon (Jeff and Lelia’s dog), though._MG_3376 _MG_3380 We had to test out the water table, of course. Everyone ended up getting pretty wet!_MG_3384 _MG_3388 Kaya insisted that she needed her swimsuit… and when she came back out after changing into it, she was still wearing her undies and socks, haha!_MG_3392 We had one happy (and tired) princess at the end of the day. I really think this was the perfect birthday party for her._MG_3398

We love you, Kaelyn!

happy 2nd birthday, kaelyn!

Dear Kaelyn,

It feels like yesterday that I was holding you in my arms for the first time. Now, you’re already a little lady, with your own ideas and interests._MG_3300

If I had to choose one word to describe your personality these days, it’d be “determined”. Whenever you have an idea, you follow through with it. You try your very hardest to complete tasks that are sometimes beyond your years, and never want to give up.

Sometimes, this personality trait can make it difficult to persuade you to listen to us and be obedient, but I know that being so very tenacious can be a great help to you as you grow older and meet life’s challenges. I hope that being strong-willed will one day help you to stand up for your values and live the gospel of Jesus Christ to the very best of your ability, despite whatever obstacles come your way._MG_3436

You are independent. You always want to try and do things on your own, and will try for a long time before allowing us to help you. You’re always so excited to show me something that you’ve seen or discovered, and will softly shout “Mummy!” to get my attention. I love that you enjoy sharing your enthusiasm with me.

You are creative, and love to make art, whether it’s with crayons, markers, paint, or even stickers. You love to “do school” and regularly join your big sister for our preschool lessons. You’ve already started pointing out letters and numbers and trying to name them, although it is hard to understand what exactly you are saying. You’re obsessed with glue and often insist that I hang your creations on the refrigerator._MG_3054You are strong. You can climb the tallest ladder at the playground! You love to explore and be outside, and if we pass by a park without stopping, you will oftentimes burst into tears. You always want to go on the swings before you play on any other part of the playground, and you giggle your hardest when I make you go fast. You love to try and “kick” me while you’re swinging, and apparently, it’s the funniest thing.IMG_20160620_182418

You are tender-hearted. You have a love for all animals, both real and plush. You are gentle and kind, and love to take care of your little stuffed buddies, whether it’s cuddling them, “nursing” them, feeding them a bottle, or tucking them in for a nap. You love to snuggle with Daddy or me when you’re feeling especially sleepy, or when you want to read a book.

You are a comedian. You do the silliest things to make us laugh, whether it’s putting bits of muffin up your nose, hiding in the curtains, or dancing the way you do- doing squats with your legs and bobbing your head from side to side. You’ve started humming songs while you’re nursing and will often look up at me and giggle. I think you know that you’re absolutely hilarious to us.

You love to pick out your own clothes, and if it’s in your drawer, your favorite outfit is your Myrtle Beach shirt with your hot pink star leggings. You’re probably wearing one or both of those items in nearly every picture I have of you, even though you have plenty of fashionable options. You also love to mix different patterns, and if an article of clothing has a heart-print pattern on it, you’re likely to choose it._MG_3073

You are a big little helper. You will do anything I ask you to, whether it’s sweeping, putting away your clean laundry, throwing dirty laundry in the hamper, carrying groceries, or unloading the dishwasher. You absolutely love to be of assistance, and I really hope that never changes. 🙂_MG_3079

One of my favorite moments of the day is when I get home from running, and you’ve just woken up. You usually have your head on Daddy’s shoulder, and say, “Mummy!” softly, but excitedly. I just love how sweet and special you are to our family._MG_3227

I love you Kaelyn Grace. I can’t wait to see who you become in this next year.

Love, Mommy