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!

fourth of july weekend 2016

I know… how long ago was the Fourth of July? I’m always behind, but these are things I don’t want to forget, so here we go!

We kicked off the long weekend in the best way possible on Friday morning- with some pool time! My girls love playing with their buckets and rubber ducks and would probably do it all day long if we could. Of course, they do love taking a little break to have lunch in the shade.

This little goofball wearing my sunglasses still cracks me up!IMG_20160701_125329-01 On Saturday morning, I enjoyed an awesome 7.5-mile run. I really felt great the entire time, which I especially relish these days- you just never know when pregnancy is going to throw you an achy ligament or make it feel like you need to pee for 5 miles.IMG_20160702_100157-01 Mom and Dad Irwin arrived right around noon! Dad and Michael immediately started work on some house projects, including adding new posts to the deck! They finished it in just a few hours. I was both grateful and impressed!_MG_3450 Because they couldn’t make it up for Kaelyn’s birthday party the previous weekend, they had a few gifts to give her. Everyone gets excited about Daniel Tiger books!_MG_3458 _MG_3459 These Duplos were also a big hit. I’m honestly impressed with the things my little girls can build!_MG_3461 Sunday afternoon brought naps and more block-building fun…_MG_3468 … and we somehow managed to convince Michael to make some square shooter cookies!_MG_3470Grandma Gina and I played “Trouble” with the girls… but it might have been more trouble than it was worth (see what I did there?) because Kaelyn kept moving the pieces. It was more like a game of “Remember Where All Your Pieces Are, Because They Will Most Definitely Be Moved”! Haha.
_MG_3473 There were daddy-daughter-granddaughter (and guinea pig!) cuddles, along with lots of Wii-playing! 20160703_190111-02 On Monday morning, we got to sleep in until about 7:30! Grandpa Skip loved waking up to a cute little cuddlebug… 🙂_MG_3478 Michael’s parents had to leave around lunchtime to head back home, so we spent the rest of the day enjoying time as just the four of us. Grandma Gina gave the girls these pinwheels (their first ones ever!), so they had a whole lot of fun getting them to spin. Grandma Debbie gave them some matching patriotic shirts, so I think we pretty much mastered American festiveness on the 4th!_MG_3497 _MG_3499 We were invited to a barbecue by some church friends, so after naptime, we headed over there. The weather was on-and-off rainy, so we probably sat outside for .0005 seconds before we had to go in to finish our meal.IMG_20160704_173652She acted grumpy about the food on her plate, but then proceeded to eat two hotdogs. Ah, two year olds.
IMG_20160704_173658Have you ever seen someone more excited about eating in a camping chair?
IMG_20160704_174545 After the barbecue, we headed out to the town fireworks show. We wondered if it would be canceled due to the potential for severe thunderstorms that night, but thankfully, the rain held off until the very end._MG_3507 I surprised the kids with glowsticks (which they absolutely loved) and sparklers (which they were slightly terrified of) while we waited for the show to start!_MG_3509 Kaya actually held one for a few seconds, but overall, she didn’t want to be anywhere near them once they were lit._MG_3510 My intentions were to enjoy the fireworks without taking too many pictures, and I thought I did better at that this year, until I realized how many fireworks photos I have to share. The photography nerd in me just can’t help myself.

Both girls were a little apprehensive of the loud booming at first, but as long as they were snuggled up to us, they were enjoying it.07042016_1The show finished right before a tremendous thunderstorm blew through. We were running to our car and ended up completely soaked to the bone by the time we got there! I’m grateful for the the time we could spend as a family, enjoying the many freedoms we have in this country. We truly are blessed.

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!

one million visitors

We’ve had a whole lot of visitors since we moved into our new home- not quite one million, but we’ve enjoyed hosting both sides of our families. It’s also been nice actually having a real guest room for them to sleep in!

My dad came up for a few days before Karl’s graduation to work on some house projects (repairing shelves, getting the dryer working, sanding down closet doors, and replacing all the locks were some of the things he did). Karl came over to hang out and help, too!_MG_1765 My mom arrived the day before graduation. The girls are always SO excited to see her! It probably doesn’t hurt that she always brings them some sort of surprise- this time it was sneakers for Kaelyn and new socks for Kaya._MG_1772 _MG_1778 Jeff and Lelia came to stay with us the next weekend! They were going to their friend’s vet school graduation, so in between those festivities, we got to spend some time with them. Lelia and I had a great 5.6-mile run together, and of course, their favorite nieces were more than happy to cuddle and give kisses._MG_2101My mom and dad-in-law stopped for a quick visit as they drove through here on their way home from Utah! _MG_2390We cooked breakfast for dinner and went on a walk to the playground.
_MG_2401_MG_2395_MG_2396

It’s been a busy month, but we’re so glad we have a fantastic family who wants to visit and spend time with us. We can’t wait to see them all again in just a few weeks for Kaelyn’s birthday party!

my baby brother is all grown up

On May 7th, my no-so-little-anymore brother graduated from Radford University! He finished with two Bachelor’s degrees (for Accounting and Criminal Justice), and I was so proud to see him walk across the stage that I started to tear up a little._MG_1806I missed out on his high school graduation, so I was glad to be there for him this time. The ceremony was outdoors, and the weather was perfect… maybe even a little too perfect, because after sitting in the sun for a few more hours than we were expecting to, we each had a slight pink tinge to our skin. Oops.IMG_20160507_125902I stood up at the front, waiting to take this photo for probably close to an hour… Karl and Kaitlyn are good sports when it comes to my paparazzi-like tendencies._MG_1796We took a ton of photos afterward, too, as you might have expected. It was so nice to see my whole immediate family together!_MG_1812Seriously, I’m already missing this kid, but I know he’s moving on to bigger and better opportunities._MG_1808_MG_1820 _MG_1815 Since my Mom, Dad, Karl and I were all in the same place at the same time (and looking pretty sharp, I might add), I absolutely had to get this photo of the four of us. Kaya really wanted to be in it, too, and that was just fine by me._MG_1829My sunshine in her favorite rainbow dress! The kids were so well-behaved for the entire outing, despite being hungry and tired._MG_1826We all went to Subway downtown for lunch afterward. Someone couldn’t quite make it through the afternoon without passing out on Grandma (which she seems to do almost every time she visits)!

Congratulations Karl and Kaitlyn!!!

breakfast at grandma’s

We spent some time visiting with my parents when we went down to Richmond for my first official 10k race. We arrived on Friday night, enjoyed some pizza, and watched our girls get spoiled by their grandparents, per usual. My mom made them some belated Easter baskets, and Kaya and Kaelyn were so glad to have some new things to play with away from home.
_MG_1553 _MG_1557 _MG_1560 Chapstick… always a favorite for Kaelyn._MG_1564 These chapsticks actually taste like jellybeans, so it’s amazing the kids haven’t completely used (aka eaten) them. Kaya’s also been really interested in Winnie the Pooh lately, so she was excited for this tiny plush. Later, she enjoyed watching one of the old Pooh VHS tapes I had as a child._MG_1562 Grandma kisses!_MG_1567 _MG_1568 We went to the race on Saturday morning, and then spent the rest of the day relaxing and showing my parents “Despicable Me” for the first time.

Sunday morning, Kaelyn enjoyed some chocolate donuts (what other kind is even worth mentioning?) while my mom cooked a special breakfast. Those are some sleepy eyes!_MG_1572 French toast…_MG_1578This is what Michael and Kaya were doing while all the breakfast-making commotion was happening in the kitchen, right next door! Traveling really takes a lot out of all of us, especially the kids. They’re past the age when they’d nap in the car for most of the trip (even if we leave town right at nap time), and then our nap and bedtime schedule is almost nonexistent when we’re not at home. Hence, we had some exhausted kids._MG_1576Socks was begging for some bacon. Too bad he’s on a green-bean diet…_MG_1582 We finished our breakfast, headed to church, and made the drive home. It was a simple, but fun, weekend!_MG_1584