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!

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

turtles and basketball (weekend)

Grandma Debbie came up for a visit this weekend! Kaya was so excited and just couldn’t wait for her to arrive. Grandma brought lots of hugs and surprises for everyone, including Valentine’s candy, Beanie Baby turtles for the girls, and a steamer stock pot for me. Because of spoiling us, she always has much fewer things to pack up when she leaves. We’re just helping lighten her load, right?
_MG_1007We spent a lot of time just relaxing and playing at home. Kaya loved pretending to tuck us in for a nap on the couch.

After Michael got off work on Friday night, we all went to look at another house. It was beautiful and in a great neighborhood… but there was a line of clients to get in and see it! Crazy! We waited in the car for quite a while before it was our turn.

We knew it would sell quickly, and I wasn’t ready to jump into anything yet, so we didn’t make an offer. It was sold by the next morning, after being on the market for only one day!

After seeing the house, we took my mom out to our favorite Chinese place for her first time ever. Kaya hid behind Michael for this picture and Kaelyn was too busy with her cup to turn around! Haha.

On Saturday morning, Michael headed off to a stake basketball tournament. It lasted about 4 hours, and his team made it to the championship! He was sore for days afterward, and sadly, there are no pictures from this event.

Since he was gone, I took Kaya to her gymnastics class. She is getting so comfortable with most of the activities and even told me that she loves her teachers!

Later, we decided to decorate some sugar cookies with Grandma._MG_1014 Michael decorated two cookies. And he ate two cookies. And that was all for him!_MG_1013 _MG_1012 “Cookie decorating” is actually code for “cookie eating”._MG_1018 _MG_1021 _MG_1023 Kaya got a little excited about covering her entire cookie with candy and sprinkles. She made this bunny on the top right, and she was worried because she “missed a spot”. Hahaha._MG_1026 I got a little snowman-happy._MG_1028

We also enjoyed time with Karl and Kaitlyn, although I somehow didn’t get any pictures of their visit. We had church on Sunday, and finally took naps, after not having our regular nap routine for a few days. We were wiped out! Grandma left on Monday morning, and now, we are looking forward to our other set of grandparents visiting next weekend!