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!

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.

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!

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.

gingerbread cookies 2016

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

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

five on friday (12/30)

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

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

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

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

gingerbread house 2016

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

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

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

christmas parade 2016

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

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

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

3 days to go!

five on friday (12/09)

ONE. We are counting down the days until Christmas (16, if you’re wondering)! I don’t think there have ever been two little girls more excited for the big day than these two are, and it’s been really fun to see their anticipation and joy grow so much this year. If you even mention the word “Christmas”, Kaelyn is more than ready to tell you all about how she wants a (stuffed) “puppy mommy [with] babies”. I’m really looking forward to these next few weeks filled with festivities and family._mg_6886

TWO. We’ve been working really hard on our phonics and letter-writing this week. Kaya is suddenly obsessed with copying words, so she’s been diligently practicing that as well as flipping through her alphabet flashcards and announcing all their sounds._mg_6990Her writing definitely isn’t in a straight line, but it is legible! This reads: “I love you Grandma P”. (She added a P at the end because she asked me how to spell “grandpa” afterward, and I told her it was the same as “grandma”, just change the “m” to a “p”. Haha.)
img_20161202_104244For Kaelyn, school sometimes turns into seeing how many markers she can stack without having them topple over.
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THREE. We did it! We started potty training last week, and this little girl was almost instantly a pro. I’m so proud of Kaelyn, and grateful that this endeavor wasn’t nearly as messy as I was expecting (which is mostly why I kept putting it off)! She loves wearing undies like a big girl now (although she only wants to wear pairs that are blue or have puppies on them, which are in short supply at our house, so we might have to go shopping, haha).

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FOUR. Sweet Nella has been smiling so much these past two weeks! I am so obsessed with these cheeks and that mohawk and her little dimples.12072016collage1

FIVE. If that wasn’t enough cuteness for you, Google automatically created an animated GIF just to make everyone’s hearts melt a little more. 🙂

img_20161207_203423-animation

Happy Friday!!!

Linking up here, here, and here today!