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!

nella’s blessing day

Our little Nella Joy received her baby blessing a few weeks ago! I had a really hard time narrowing down which photos to post… but that’s not really a problem when your baby is just so sweet and perfect, right?

Grandma Gina crocheted this gorgeous dress and headband. I’m lucky to have such a talented mother-in-law! The blanket and her booties were made by her Great-Grandma Teerlink. Great-Grandma crocheted and stored away a plethora of baby items for all of her future great-grandbabies, including those born after she passed away. I’m so grateful that even though she isn’t here on earth anymore, Nella still has these special gifts from her.
I’m so overwhelmed with love for this sweet angel.
Kaya and Kaelyn were so excited for Nella’s special day, too! Grandpa Skip, Grandma Gina, and Grandma Debbie all came up to be there for her blessing. We love having family visit, especially for memorable days like these. Michael gave her the most beautiful blessing. I always cry during our babies’ blessings, so it was no surprise that tears welled up in my eyes when he carried her up to the front of the chapel. I had a sense of just how precious our youngest daughter truly is, and I’m so grateful she came to our family.

We sure do love you, Nella Joy!

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!

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!

pre-christmas visitors

The weekend before Christmas was one full of visitors! I absolutely love it when our friends and family take the time to drive up here and spend some time with us. We’ve seen so many people move out of our town, so I always end up feeling a bit nostalgic for the “good old days” when we get to visit with everyone again.

Ben and Brittany came to Virginia all the way from Texas to visit their family for Christmas, and spent a day and a half of their trip with us. It was fun to see how much their kids have grown in just 5 months. Kaya and Caroline were instant buddies! They played together all day.Brittany got to meet the baby! Nella was pretty comfortable and took a long nap in her arms.
Brittany and I had a girls’ getaway date to the craft store and Sweet Frog. It seems like Michael always takes the kids out for frozen yogurt when I’m not able to be there, so of course, we had to take a picture to send to him and make him a little jealous.It was a crazy-windy day, and eventually, the powerful gusts caused our power to go out. Ben and Brittany were going out for Brazilian food, so we decided to join them. I’d never tried any before, but I ended up really liking it! Who knew beans and rice could be so flavorful?
Kaya was pretty obsessed with Alice. I think she was amazed that a baby could play and move so much (compared to Nella, who’s still working on learning those things)!After Ben and Brittany went home, we got to hang out with Jeff and Lelia (and Fallon)! This was their first time meeting their newest little niece!
Lelia and I got in a good run together on Saturday morning, which is always my favorite part of her coming to visit. I completed my longest postpartum distance thus far- 6.4 miles, so despite the rain and slick trail, I was happy with my progress.
They couldn’t stay long, so they headed out in the early afternoon. I’m grateful for any time I can get with so many of my favorite people!

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!

what happens in vegas

A few weeks ago, Michael had the opportunity to attend the Amazon Web Services conference in Las Vegas! He was gone for a whole week, and we definitely missed him (getting all three girls washed up for bed without him was the hardest part of the day!), but this is basically where all his nerd dreams came true.img_20161129_083215

Luckily, he sent us a lot of photos, so we were able to see what he was up to and how attractive the city can be.

img_20161128_160310He stayed at a cool hotel called the “Flamingo” (and yes, they did have live flamingoes there)!img_20161128_182111

He did a ton of walking (about 85,000 steps in 5 days) and took several panoramic shots. This was taken inside his conference building, The Venetian!pano_20161130_072958He even met a ninja…img_20161129_084656 …and had an 80’s-themed dance party one night (what you can’t see in this photo are his neon orange leg warmers!)img_20161130_203009 One of the highlights of his trip was visiting the Las Vegas LDS temple! I love the palm trees.img_20161202_151211Back home, we spent about half the week on our own before Grandma Gina and Grandpa Skip came up for a few days.

_mg_6890 _mg_6892This was the first time Nella met her Grandpa!_mg_6901Where there are grandparents, there’s bound to be Chinese food. 😉 We all enjoyed a dinner out on Thursday night.img_20161201_182601img_20161201_182621 Kaelyn probably ate her weight in jello…img_20161201_185612These girls loved snuggling their Grandpa as soon as he woke up.
20161203_090337 They also had one of the giggliest games of hide-and-seek._mg_6907 Kaelyn was pretty good at hiding for only a few minutes at a time before giving away her location…_mg_6904On Saturday, we went to Lowe’s for their free kids’ workshop. Kaya and Kaelyn were both so excited to make Christmas ornaments!
20161203_102655This was only Kaelyn’s second-ever workshop, but she did a pretty decent job with the hammering.20161203_102706

20161203_102835020161203_103344We had so much fun (and I was thankful for the extra hands and just the fact that I wasn’t alone all week), but we were definitely excited to see our Daddy when he came home late on  Saturday night!

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!

five on friday (09/16)

ONE. My Dad came up for a couple of days this week to help us work on our basement. He and Michael ripped out old baseboards, cut and installed new ones, and patched drywall. It was almost two full days-worth of hard work, and it’s still not completely done, but I am so grateful for the help and the fact that this project got started!

Kaya is in love with each of her grandparents (especially when they share candy with her- this time it was Whoppers)!_mg_5006 TWO. I picked up a used game of Candy Land for $2.50 a couple of weeks ago, so we’ve been having a good time playing together (and teaching Kaelyn her colors)! This was my favorite game as a child, so it’s extra fun to see my kids enjoying it._mg_5084 Somehow it seems like I always end up back at the Peppermint Forest whenever I’m close to winning. Kaya always reassures me, “It’s okay, Mommy, we can play again”. Aww._mg_5085

THREE. The young men at church made dinner for our young women on Tuesday night, and they were literally running to give each girl a rose as she came in. So sweet! We leaders each received a rose too, and I’ve been enjoying its fresh scent and beautiful color all week.

FOUR. The weather is changing, and we’ve had a fair mix of hot days and somewhat chilly mornings and evenings. We took a walk without the stroller (Michael had the car and it was accidentally left in the trunk, whoops!), and Kaelyn actually walked a whole mile on those little legs. My girls are getting so big!

FIVE. Speaking of growing up… someone has started wanting to sit on the potty this week! (And yes, this is a completely unrelated picture of her blowing bubbles, because one thing I won’t do is post pictures of my kids sitting on the toilet…) We haven’t had any luck yet, and honestly I’m not sure I’m up for potty training her a few weeks before baby comes, but this is a positive step in the right direction! Both of my girls have shown interest in potty training right around the same age, all on their own._mg_4998

Happy weekend!!!

Linking up here, here, and here today!