cousins, horses, and puppies, oh my!

On our way home from our long weekend of celebrating my mom’s birthday and meeting our newest nephew, we made plans to stop and visit with Michael’s cousin, Nicole! She’s been inviting us to come up to their place ever since they moved back to Virginia, so I was glad to finally make it happen!

They live out in the country, and her husband Brian works with the horses there. We arrived in the early evening, just around golden hour.  Between the animals, the middle-of-nowhere feel, and the sunset, this was basically a little slice of heaven for me. (Can you find Scout?)They had several horses, and I was so excited to meet them. This one, named Dublin, was my favorite! Such a sweetie. Kaelyn was the most smitten with the horses. She could not stop stroking their noses and talking to them. I loved seeing her fascination and joy. There’s just something about a horse barn… ok, everything about a horse barn… that makes me feel so much peace, calm, and happiness: the smell of hay and sweaty horses, the soft sounds they make as they move in their stalls, and the sweetness of a horse pressing his giant head up against your side, waiting for you to rub his nose or scratch his ears. Horses have a profound effect on me that nothing else seems to, which is why I often miss my days of working at the barn and riding so very much.Nicole also has a few chickens (and the coolest chicken coop I’ve seen), so the girls loved watching them, too. Kaelyn even helped find an egg! I promise, she was much more excited than she looks here.They also had a litter of hunting dog puppies for us to visit with. The girls were so excited (and these babies looked so little compared to Scout)!Brian grilled up some chicken and corn on the cob, and we enjoyed dinner outside together. Nicole brought out ice cream for dessert (a Teerlink family tradition for Sunday nights!), and I believe this was Kaya’s first time ever having it in a cone. It was a hit! Kaelyn’s first cone! Michael, with his ice-cream-sandwich-shoved-into-a-cone-topped-with-an-extra-scoop dessert, covering up his eye to be funny, because for the first time since I met him almost nine years ago, he had an allergic reaction to something! His eye was completely swollen and red. He was fine, but it was a little concerning to me just because he’d never had anything like this before.Being silly (with that swollen eye)!It was sad to leave, but we still had a few hours of driving left to get home. There’s nothing like having fun with your cousins (and second cousins)!

meeting baby bryce

About a month ago, we visited Jeff and Lelia, which meant that we got to meet baby Bryce for the very first time! I’d been looking forward to it so much that I was counting down the weeks until this very day. My girls were equally excited to see their newest cousin! It brought me so much joy to see Lelia as a mommy. Bryce is one lucky little guy! I love that we could take a picture of us together, each with a baby in our arms. Kaelyn just couldn’t believe it when we asked her if she wanted to hold two babies! This right here was pretty much heaven for her. She seemed to be extra connected to Bryce, too. He just had a sense of calmness around her.

Two days later, we were able to attend his baby blessing!
So many family members were there, but I didn’t get a photo of the entire group. Here’s our four-generation shot, though!
We were so glad to see Grandpa Teerlink! Grandma loves Nella… …and Grandpa loves being completely silly! After the blessing and pictures, we enjoyed some refreshments (Lelia’s Andes mint cookies… mmmm)! I also got to hold Bryce one more time, and he took a little nap on me. I already miss when Nella would curl up on me like this. Why are these newborn days so fleeting? It’s safe to say, I’m smitten with my little nephew. I’m so glad we were able to be at his blessing and enjoy some time with family.

grandma debbie’s 60th birthday

My mom’s 60th birthday was in July, so we took a long weekend and headed to my parents’ home for some quality family fun. It’s been a long time since we’ve had then entire family (both of my aunts, Karl, and me) all together, so this was something really special.

Kaya kicked off the weekend by coloring with Grandma! That’s something I remember her doing with me when I was little, so it’s fun to see it continuing on with the next generation.Of course, there were Dunkin’ Donuts, courtesy of Karl! I think these will always be my favorites, despite the amazing local donut shop we have here in town.We also got to meet my parents’ new puppy (I know, he doesn’t look like much of a puppy, right?) for the first time! His name is Buddy, and he’s part pit bull, just like Scout! The only difference is that he is stronger than an ox (I’m not even exaggerating here)! Scout didn’t like being pummeled by his overzealous attempt to play with her, so they didn’t really get to be friends.
But yeah… I pretty much fell head over paws for this puppy. How could you resist those eyes? I think my Dad is pretty smitten with him, too.We had some naps on Daddy… (and a change of clothes for Kaelyn, after she tripped and landed in Buddy’s water bowl!)……and then the whole crew went to an early dinner at Cracker Barrel, which is one of my Mom and Dad’s favorite places.Clockwise: Auntie Joyce and her friend, Melissa; Karl and Kaitlyn; hopefully you know who those people are; and Auntie Carol and Alan!
Princess Nella sat in her throne with her foot upon the table for the entire meal. She also cast a spell on everyone with that sweet little smile of hers.We all headed back to the house for some cake and gifts! My dad had an Oreo cookies and creme cake for his birthday party, and everyone loved it, so of course, we had to repeat it!
It’s not a birthday party with my family unless there’s a big pile of gifts!I found this little decorative watering can at Goodwill and just knew my mom would love it!It turned out that my dad hadn’t finished his gift shopping for my mom, so the day before the party, he took me out with him to get some ideas. We went to five different places without having much luck.

However, we did find a very heavy lawn decoration in the shape of a chicken, and we kept joking around that the “concrete chicken” was our fallback gift. Seriously, I think that thing weighs more than Kaelyn.

My dad actually ended up going back and getting it, and as it turns out, my mom loves her Concrete Chicken. I think I like the joke about the gift even more than the gift itself.I also helped him choose a new bird feeder for her, shaped like a butterfly!
But Karl and Kaitlyn’s gift had to be the best of all…

An iPhone! My mom had been managing with a smartphone that had almost no space to install anything or even be used properly… so now she can actually talk to us and see all the pictures we send. She was so surprised! As you can see in the video, I persuaded Karl to wrap it in a box, and then put that box in another box, wrap it, and so on. It was so much fun.They even made a case for her that had all the kids’ pictures on the back!And, of course, there was a whole lot of baby cuddling on this trip. Auntie Joyce always loves my babies.Apparently, Nella loves pinching her Great-Auntie Joyce’s cheeks. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?I was so happy to see these two… it’s been way too long!Grandpa Peter was obviously smitten with “Pumpkin” (as he calls her)!
My mom said this truly was the best birthday ever. I’m so glad we got to celebrate it all together!

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!

tour de cure (2017)

At the end of April, Michael completed his seventh Tour de Cure bike race! I almost can’t believe he’s been doing this for so long already, but I’m still just as proud of him as ever for helping to raise money for diabetes research.

This year, he did the 65-mile loop, and he got to ride along with Lelia’s mom, Mary!The girls and I ended up staying home again this year (I think we’ve only actually been to two of these races in the past five years, so we don’t really have the best track record)… I always want to go and be there to support him, but it is a long car ride for the kids, who were already unhappy about taking another “big” trip when we originally told them about it. We decided it would be so much easier for Michael to go on his own- he could drive there faster without having to make so many stops, and he’d be able to get a little more sleep the night before the race without having kids there to wake him up. We definitely missed him though.
Thankfully, he took pictures along the way for me!It was a super hot day (probably the warmest of 2017 thus far)! Michael wasn’t able to get much training done before this year’s race (he did only two rides in the weeks leading up to it), so I was a little worried about him in the heat. Thankfully, they have aid stations all along the way, and he was just fine.
He caught up with his mom just before the finish line! This year had the most participants from our family! Lelia’s mom posted this picture on Facebook and I had to share it here too. Michael, his Aunt Liesl, Grandma Gina, and Mary are all hardcore! While Daddy was gone, we enjoyed the warm weather by taking the kiddie pool out for the first time this season! (But seriously, when did Kaya’s legs get so long?!) She loves splashing down into the water, but hates getting any of it on her face. It makes for an interesting experience!Kaelyn didn’t like sliding, so she just played in the pool.

Michael came home late on Saturday night, so everyone was very happy to see him when they woke up on Sunday!

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!