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!

monument avenue 10k race recap (2017)

This was my second year running the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k, and I had even more fun this year than last!

I convinced Karl to do this as his very first race, and I was so excited to be able to start together! Any reason to see my brother is a good one, especially now that he lives several hours away from us. Credit goes to my dad, who came to cheer us on, for these first couple of photos!
Karl and I started at the same time, but we didn’t stick together- I told him I’d see him at the finish line, and I took off! I started a little fast, but I decided to keep it up for as long as I could (and pass up some of the slower groups).Apparently, I also do really weird things with my fingers while I’m running…I took the first half a little too fast, and I really started to feel it around mile 3.5 or so. I slowed down, but still tried to stay within my goal pace of 9:00 min/mile. At the finish, I clocked in at 53:34, which was an average of 8:37 min/mile. While training here in the mountains, my best 6-miler averaged out to 9:14 min/mile, so shaving off that much time made me ecstatic!Last year, I was so nervous for this race, because I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, and dealing with a lot of nausea and fatigue. My only goals last year were to finish and keep the baby safe. This year, all I could think about was seeing my family and holding my sweet little Nella at the finish line. It’s amazing how much can change in just one year. Photo-bomb courtesy of Karl!Jeff and Lelia ran too, and we met up with them afterward! Lelia gets some serious credit for doing this at 30 weeks pregnant. Mom and Dad Irwin also came to see us finish, but they had to leave shortly after.
Of course, there had to be donuts afterward, so we picked some up and hung out at Jeff and Lelia’s place for a little while. These were delicious, but I’ve realized that almost anything tastes amazing after a run.Here’s to another race down, and more to come- I’ve got the fever now!

pumpkin picking 2016

We had our very first outing as a family of five this past weekend (and I still can’t believe we’re numbered at five now… how did that happen so quickly?)!

Anyway, we met up with Karl and Kaitlyn and went out for our annual pumpkin-picking tradition at our favorite local farm. I could go out there every year for the rest of my life, and at the end of my days, I think I’d still be completely blown away by how gorgeous it all is. The sun breaks over that mountain ridge, warm on your face, and as you walk through that big old field, you almost wonder if this was a little piece of heaven that fell down to earth._mg_6061

We took a hayride up to where the pumpkins are laid for picking. Kaya remembered the ride from last year, and she was so very excited to do it again._mg_6054We let Kaya and Kaelyn each choose their own mini pumpkin to bring home._mg_6064Kaelyn was such a trooper through the entire afternoon. She trod up the hills with her pumpkin in one arm, and her stuffed “Baby Margaret” tiger in the other, and never faltered. This was also the hottest it’s ever been when we’ve gone pumpkin picking. Usually, we’re freezing (or at least wearing jackets)!_mg_6067

They loved “milking” this wooden cow._mg_6076

This was serious business, you guys._mg_6072

We went through the corn maze, and allowed Kaya to choose our path for most of it. We ended up hitting a lot of dead ends and being completely turned around before we shamelessly used the entrance as our own personal exit. At least we made it out!_mg_6080

We visited with some alpacas, and then stopped in the farm’s little shop for some homemade fudge and a new ornament for our Christmas tree. We also splurged on some amazing kettlecorn (Michael’s favorite) that completely disappeared before we even got it home.
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I’m grateful my brother and Kaitlyn could come into town for the weekend. I miss them living locally!_mg_6083

If you can’t tell, Kaya was pretty tired by the end of the afternoon (although she’s totally “fake sleeping” in this picture)! I love this little (can I still call us little now that we have three kids?) family of mine, and I cherish these simple, sweet days we get to spend together._mg_6087

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!

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!!!

christmas 2015

Finally, here it is, our Christmas day post! I wanted to remember all the details when we look back at this someday, so I included way too many pictures.

On Christmas Eve night, we went to our church’s Christmas Eve devotional. It is always the perfect activity for putting me in the right Christmas spirit and keeps me thinking about our Savior’s birth as I finish preparations for Christmas morning.

We wrapped a few last presents and set everything up. It’s always so magical to see everything all put together under the glowing lights of the tree.

We always tend to stay up too late on any given day… but on Christmas Eve, we stay up even later. We are just a couple of big kids, too excited to lie down and close our tired eyes. We finally went to bed around 1:15 am, only to wake up to Kaya needing to use the bathroom at 5:30 am. Luckily, she fell back to sleep in our bed… until 8 am! I was surprised at how late they slept._MG_0476

Their big shared gift was a princess castle tent. The squeals and giggles we heard as they entered the living room couldn’t have been any louder!_MG_0486

Obviously, this was a big hit. Kaya insisted on putting each of her gifts in here after she unwrapped them!_MG_0490

Kaelyn still doesn’t really know what to do with candy, but she loved her stocking anyway._MG_0491

Puppy for Kaelyn, cat for Kaya (of course)._MG_0493

Lately, Kaya has been obsessed with Silly Bands. She got a pack of pet-themed ones in her stocking and usually insists on wearing all 24 of them at once. Haha.
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This is real life… one sister always wants what the other one has. But hey, an Olaf backpack is pretty cool.
_MG_0502Don’t worry, Kaelyn had plenty of her own things to open, too. She was so good at ripping the wrapping paper off of everything!_MG_0505

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Olaf had to read his own story, obviously._MG_0518_MG_0520Perler beads were one of my favorite things as a little girl… I think Kaya might still be a little young to use them on her own, but we’ve had fun sitting down together and making something.
_MG_0521An aquadoodle for the girl who already loves to draw…_MG_0522I ended up wrapping a few of the things I bought to use for our preschool lessons. Why not?_MG_0508A Daniel Tiger trolley! This was the only thing she specifically said she wanted for Christmas._MG_0514Kaelyn was so excited for her special gift…_MG_0528… a baby doll! She tried to take her out of the box before we could even undo the packaging._MG_0532One very happy little girl._MG_0533You can’t really tell from this picture, but Kaya has been loving Minnie Mouse lately and was SO excited about this little dress-up set._MG_0525_MG_0524Michael got a new Star Wars t-shirt…_MG_0538… and something I’ve been wanting to get for him for a while… K’nex! He and the girls have already had a lot of fun making different things to play with together (usually Daniel Tiger fits perfectly inside whatever car/truck/hot air balloon they make, so that’s pretty convenient)!_MG_0542And, you can’t really tell what’s going on here (besides Kaelyn screaming), but Michael’s big gift was a hammock! It will be so nice to have when we go camping (hopefully when it warms up), or just to set up outside whenever we like._MG_0543We kept breakfast super simple and enjoyed some snowman donuts…_MG_0551_MG_0553_MG_0561… while Michael temporarily set up and enjoyed his hammock. I’m pretty sure this was the perfect gift for him this year.
_MG_0563Someone else really liked it too…_MG_0569_MG_0573_MG_0577

My gifts were some bluetooth headphones and a selfie stick, so of course, we had to put that to good use. Here’s to getting in more pictures with my family!

Michael spent most of the day building helicopters, stars…_MG_0581… and a camera! This one was my favorite for sure._MG_0578Uncle Karl and Kaitlyn stopped by on their way back into town. They had presents for the girls… an Olaf hat and a ball pit! Needless to say, Kaya was having a blast._MG_0587We ate our Christmas dinner late, but it was so delicious. I’m definitely improving at this whole cooking-holiday-dinner thing. We had pot roast (in the crockpot), the best, creamiest garlic mashed potatoes I’ve ever had, broccoli, and homemade rolls from the Teerlink family cookbook._MG_0590Kaya thought that Jesus should have a birthday cake on Christmas, so we made this Norwegian chocolate cake (Sjokoladekake). It was less than beautiful (especially since this picture is after I already cut off a chunk to send home with Karl), but oh so delicious. I’d love for this to be a new tradition._MG_0596

The festivities ended, and all I could think about was how much I loved seeing my whole family smiling all day long. Their joy is the greatest gift they could ever give me.

five on friday (1/08)

I think I just keep pretending we’re still on vacation… so I know I still haven’t posted any photos from our Christmas day yet (maybe because I took too many and still haven’t gone through them all… ha), but we had a good week, and I couldn’t let it go undocumented.

These small, seemingly-mundane posts usually turn out to be some of my favorites when I go back and read them later.

ONE. Winter has finally arrived on our little hillside- we had our first snow! It didn’t really accumulate, but it came down in big, fluffy flakes, so I’m counting it. The girls were quite excited… especially Kaelyn, since she is too young to remember the many blizzards we had last year!

TWO. What better food to eat during the cold weather than warm, gooey pancakes? Kaya and Kaelyn have had pancakes for breakfast every single day this week. My mom gave me a griddle for Christmas, so I put it to good use by making a double batch of these and freezing them._MG_0687

THREE. We also tried a couple of new recipes this week, including these buffalo chicken wings and these cheesy potatoes. Both were keepers!FOUR. We did get back on track with our homeschool preschool this week, after taking a couple weeks off for the holidays. Kaya has been SO excited and asks me to “do school” almost as soon as she wakes up every morning. We did the letter “D” and so of course, we had to make a “dog” craft.

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FIVE. We had some fun times with Karl (and Kaitlyn) this week! Mario Kart Wii and Apples to Apples Pictures will never get old. I also love that Karl loves my guinea pigs as much as I do!_MG_0684Happy weekend! Keep warm (like Freyja)! 🙂_MG_0708

seeing santa (2015)

On the day that Santa was scheduled to come visit our neighborhood, Michael was out of town on a business trip. It was sad that he couldn’t be there, but I wasn’t going to miss taking the girls for their traditional Santa visit, so we decided we would go anyway. Luckily, Karl and Kaitlyn came along with us, so I still had a few extra hands to help out while I snapped the pictures.

Plus, I think it was pretty magical for my brother to see Santa through a child’s eyes again._MG_0268Kaya was so excited to see Santa. For several reasons, I told Kaya the truth about Santa this year (I was on the fence about this ever since last year, and I really could write a whole post just about this topic alone). Anyway, she knows he’s “pretend”, and it’s all just for fun… and this is the first year she hasn’t cried when meeting him (besides when she was a half-asleep three-month-old). She was still just as happy as can be.

She looked forward to this moment for weeks. She was still shy around him, but her joy was obvious._MG_0270Santa babies._MG_0282Of course, there has to be (at least) one totally crazy picture._MG_0276Santa gives everyone who visits him a special button from the North Pole. Each child gets to close her eyes and choose one out of the bag._MG_0284_MG_0286The biggest of all hugs. 🙂
_MG_0289I was surprised that even Kaelyn remained tear-free and managed to choose her own button._MG_0291I absolutely love watching my little girls discover the magic and excitement of the holidays._MG_0292

4 more days!!!

five on friday (11/13)

Happy Friday!!! 🙂

ONE. We’ve still been enjoying amazing weather here lately, and Kaya pleaded for me to let her ride her bike this week. The catch was that she also wanted to go to the playground, which meant that she’d be riding for over two miles. I wasn’t sure if she had enough stamina to go that far (or if I could help her on the hills while pushing the stroller), but I always try to give her opportunities to have fun, learn something, and get stronger… so I said yes. To my amazement, she rode for 2.25 miles, only fell once, and figured out how to walk her bike up the hills.

TWO. We had Karl and Kaitlyn over for a small (belated) birthday celebration on Wednesday night. There were tacos and Wii Party and brownies with ice cream. That’s pretty much the ultimate birthday shindig, am I right? I love my goofball brother. Happy 23rd, pal!_MG_0042THREE. We started our co-op preschool group this week, so for the first time ever, I dropped Kaya off and left. I was worried about how it would go, but she was just fine and had a great time.

Kaelyn and I then had some time to run errands all on our own… which really means that we ended up at the fabric store for forever because it was busier than I have ever seen it in my lifetime. Kaelyn loves these little “beanie boos” (beanie babies) and gets so excited anytime she sees them anywhere. Naturally, she had to cuddle them all (and tell each one “hi!” as she hugged them).

Aaaaand we might’ve come home with one… because my kids are only going to be little once, and sometimes it’s fun to give them a surprise gift for no reason. “Blue Kitty” hasn’t left her side all week. 🙂_MG_0035Of course, we brought home a surprise for Kaya, too- a baby dragon!collage11102015FOUR. That moment when you’re folding and hanging laundry, and look over to see your baby wearing underwear on her head… Hahaha. She has another pair halfway up her leg because she wants to be just like her big sister and wear undies (only over her diaper, of course. No way are we ready for potty training again)!_MG_0009

FIVE. #awkwardselfie award. I won’t tell you how many of these are on my phone, just from today (maybe because there are too many to count… haha)!

Linking up here today!

trick-or-treat at the mall 2015

Late Halloween afternoon, we took the kids to the mall to do some easy trick-or-treating! I always have a really hard time getting decent pictures in the mall with the way the lighting is (and I totally grabbed the wrong camera lens too, whoops)… but here are the few photos I did take. 🙂

We met up with Karl and Kaitlyn and had a good time goofing off while walking around getting candy. No matter how old I get… I don’t think picking on my little brother ever will get old. We are kind of obnoxiously goofy together._MG_9819 Our kids were pretty tired (due to a shortened nap/no nap), so they just rode in the stroller the whole time. This made the event go a whole lot faster and easier, and I was surprised when I realized we had been through the whole mall in about 30 minutes._MG_9814 _MG_9816 Kaelyn had never had a lollipop… but she sure figured out how you’re supposed to eat them! She just missed that one very important step… taking the wrapper off! I finally let her try one for real, and not long afterward, we noticed that she had a completely different flavor pop in her hand, and the first one we had given her was nowhere to be found. Our little Lollipop Bandit pulled this trick a few times before we wised up and confiscated her candy bucket.

Sneaking candy on Halloween… she learns fast! 😉_MG_9821This is my last Halloween post for this year… sad! I can’t believe our first holiday of the season is already over and we’re less than three weeks away from Thanksgiving!