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!

five on friday (06/30)

It’s super late and I should be in bed, but I have a hard time letting a Friday go by without listing five great things from the week!

ONE. The biggest event of the week- our second sweet princess turned 3 years old! We had her party last weekend, but on her real birthday, we went out to the local bakery and treated her to any cookie she wanted. She, of course, chose one that had a 10:1 frosting to cookie ratio. A girl after my own heart! She was beaming as we sang “happy birthday” to her right in the middle of the mall. We went to play on the indoor playground afterward. I love how the simple things are her favorites.

TWO. Grandma came down for Kaelyn’s party, and stayed for a couple of days at the start of the week. We had a nice long walk and some time at the playground and in the yard with her. These girls sure love their Grandma Debbie (even if I could only convince two of them to get into a photo with her)…

THREE. My garden is growing! For real! I’m amazed to see these plants growing so big, and I’m actually getting kind of attached to them, so here’s to hoping that nothing comes along and eats them. There’s no produce yet, but I have a couple of cucumber plants… … some green beans… …and one lone cherry tomato plant. I’m so excited to hopefully see some food growing on these soon!

FOUR. What’s cuter than a baby in just a tank top and her diaper? One of my favorite things about summer is being able to leave her arms and legs bare so I can see those squishy little rolls of hers! Baby chub is the best.

Also, these little toes!

FIVE. It’s been a while since Freyja and Claire have graced the blog with their presence, so here they are in all their fuzzy glory. Kaya and Kaelyn helped me give them a little “spa night” a couple weeks ago, where they had baths and got their nails clipped. The pigs didn’t enjoy the process, but I can tell you that they do like to feel clean when it’s all done. Claire reminds me of a little teddy bear!Happy weekend!

Linking up here, here, and here today!

easter bunnies, eggs, and baskets

We didn’t have a big Easter celebration this year, mostly because I really wanted to keep that Sunday truly focused on Christ and the real meaning of the holiday. We taught our girls some of the stories about Jesus during the last week of his life (I really liked using these lessons as a basis for ideas, and these Bible videos are a great supplement). They’ve loved hearing the lessons just as much as I’ve loved teaching them.

In an effort to keep things simple, I didn’t put together Easter baskets this year, but I did let them each choose a chocolate bunny at the store on the Monday after Easter (hello clearance)! Kaelyn was ready to eat as much of it as she could before I could say, “let’s put it away and save some for later”, but Kaya sobbed and sobbed that her bunny was going to disappear if she ate him. She’s a truly tender-hearted animal lover.  We did have a small Easter egg hunt for family night. They were both so good at finding the eggs that I think I’m going to have to make it a lot harder next year!Have you ever seen anyone so excited about jellybeans?Grandma Debbie also sent some Easter surprises!
Kaya always gets (and adores) cats… …and Kaelyn always receives puppies (who like to give pretend kisses, apparently)! PEEPS!Nella had no idea what was going on, but she did get a cute singing lightning bug, so she was happy. Happy first Easter, Nella!

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!

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!)

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!

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.
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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!