christmas cookie delivery 2015

Delivering Christmas goodies is quite possibly my very favorite holiday tradition. There is just nothing like gifting a homemade treat to your friends and neighbors! It takes me about two full days of baking, and it’s so worth it to see the joy on people’s faces.

I used a lot of the same recipes this year (why change something that’s already excellent?) and tried out a couple of new ones too. Here’s what we handed out:_MG_0314gingerbread cookies
Michigan fudge
candy cane cookies (mine ended up looking more like a mess instead of candy canes…)
no-peanut-butter kiss cookies
and buttery spritz cookies!

We delivered 15 plates again this year, same as last year.cookiecollage2015

However, this was the first year ever that it was almost too warm to wear our traditional festive hats! We were out there delivering cookies in short-sleeved t-shirts and no winter coats. We still wore our hats, although Kaya wanted to trade her reindeer for Daddy’s Santa one.

I already miss having a reason (excuse) to bake lots of cookies! Kaya is excited to decorate some again when Valentine’s Day rolls around. 🙂

making the magic

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve written. Just a week really, but it’s been a quiet, wonderful break from feeling like I constantly need to be working on a project.

Michael has been off of work since the afternoon before Christmas Eve, and we’ve been enjoying some relaxing time as a family. Sleeping in, leisurely getting ready in the mornings, and having nowhere to be at any certain time has been good for all of us. I’ve even had time to sit and read a entire novel in these past couple of days!

Our Christmas was magical. I couldn’t have hoped for it to be any better. If you know me well, you know that I love counting down to Christmas, and for me, the anticipation of the day is nearly as exciting as the day itself. As always, it’s a bit sad when this season ends, but this year, I also felt a new emotion after all our festivities, when both my children were tucked into bed.

A relieved sense of accomplishment._MG_0494

I pulled it off- all the planning, shopping, present-wrapping, baking, cooking, photo-taking, videotaping, and of course, holding meaningful conversations about our Savior and the true purpose of Christmas.

My family had the happiest smiles on their faces all day long, and that’s what I would call success.

It is no small task being the mom around Christmastime.

I really have a new-found appreciation for my own mom and all the work she has always put into our family holiday gatherings. My children are getting old enough to start remembering our activities and traditions, and I’ve felt the importance of really putting forth the effort to make memorable experiences for them.

Another Christmas has passed and become just a memory. I’m grateful I get to be a part of making the magic of the holiday happen for my little family.

oh christmas tree (2015)

We obviously did this a few weeks ago… so right along with my usual timing, this post is late! We also tend to make a huuuuge mess when we put up the tree, so excuse the boxes and plastic pine needles everywhere in these photos._MG_0227The girls were both sooo excited to see all these new things come from our storage closet! They fell in love with these Santa hats, and Kaelyn spent most of her time just playing with all the musical, battery-operated knickknacks we brought out._MG_0228 Kaya thought the stockings were for wearing on her feet…_MG_0231 Michael put the basic frame together, and I did the lights, per usual. Michael unboxed all the ornaments so that Kaya and I could hang them. She was so into it this year!_MG_0235 Of course, a lot of ornaments ended up on the very bottom of the tree, so we had to do some rearranging later. 🙂_MG_0245Obviously, there’s a home video to go with all these photos…

2 more days!!! I can’t believe it!_MG_0472

christmas cookies 2015

As always, we made our favorite gingerbread cookies to give to friends and neighbors. This was Kaelyn’s first year being able to help! We started rolling and cutting cookies while Kaya was at preschool, so it was a special mommy-daughter time with just my littlest.

And really… with that smile and a smudge of flour on her cheek, she couldn’t be any cuter._MG_0259 She mostly just tried to scoop the dough out of the bowl and eat it, and when she wasn’t doing that, she was wearing the cookie cutters on her arm like bracelets._MG_0253

When we picked Kaya up, she was super excited to help out, too.
_MG_0263 I baked them all (and ended up with a total of 55 cookies!), and then Karl and Kaitlyn came over to help decorate them later that afternoon._MG_0264 I really like Karl’s “santa” made out of a stocking. We did pretty good work. (I also made a “bathing suit girl” on the top left that I found too funny… hey, gingerbread people go swimming too, right?)_MG_0265 The kids napped through the first part of our activity, but Kaya was eager to jump into it as soon as we returned from visiting Santa._MG_0294 _MG_0295 Kaya has been a sprinkler-extraordinaire this year. She’s always so willing to help me in the kitchen. I’m excited to see what she creates as she gets older! _MG_0302

3 more days!

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: christmas edition

We’ve been doing a lot of little things to get ready for Christmas over these past few weeks… so I thought I’d combine them all into a nice, neat list for Friday. I can’t believe Christmas is only one week away now!

ONE. Kaya had her preschool Christmas party this week! She made so many fun things, including a snowman, a Santa ornament shaped from her hand, and rice krispies Christmas trees! She had such a fun time.

(Kaya’s is on the far right)

TWO. Kaya’s been doing several fun Christmas-themed crafts this month! My favorites were this Santa ornament and this paper-plate tree 🙂_MG_0348 _MG_0349

THREE. We had our ward Christmas party a few weekends ago… and I never wrote anything about it because I took about two photos from the whole thing. Kaya was SO excited that the table centerpiece was a jar of candy canes. She also was given the foil-covered cardboard star from the nativity play to take home… and her night was made.

FOUR. Kaya attended another free Lowe’s Build and Grow activity on Saturday, and made her very own holiday train! She’s getting really good at these building projects- Michael said she drove most of the nails in herself this time (with close supervision, of course)!

FIVE. It seems like we’ve spent a lot of time at the grocery store, stocking up on baking supplies for Christmas treats and ingredients for our holiday dinner. My little reindeer babies just love riding in the special car cart.

At Food Lion, Kaya even got to push her very own kid-sized cart for the first time. Of course, Kitty (or “Meowy”, as he’s known lately), had to ride in the cart, along with all our bags of chocolate chips. And yes, we really bought that many.

7 more days!

christmas parade 2015

We kept our tradition of attending our town Christmas parade two weekends ago. It was one of the coldest days we’ve experienced this season so far, so we were all bundled up to the nines. Sweaters, winter coats, hats, hoods, mittens, and the heaviest blankets we have covered up my girls as they watched the parade from the stroller._MG_0173 Kaelyn sat so quietly and took everything in. She didn’t want to keep her mittens on, and it was so cold that I was afraid her fingers would freeze! Luckily, she had her nice warm blanket (made by Grandma Gina) to snuggle with._MG_0179 I whipped up this reindeer hat a few hours before the parade for Kaya, since Kaelyn is now wearing the one that she used to for the past couple of Christmases. Kaya was the happiest girl in the world wearing this little hat, and even told me “I really wuv mine reindeer hat. ‘Cause mommy made it for me”. And yes, that made my heart melt into one giant puddle._MG_0190The most hilarious car in the parade had to be the one with the giant panda hanging out the window and waving. I have a thing for pandas, and I’m still cracking up looking at this picture.

Waving!_MG_0183 I love seeing all the cultural diversity here. Santa and a Chinese dragon walking next to each other… pretty cool!_MG_0185Several floats always throw candy, but this year, Kaya really hit the jackpot. She got quite a variety of sweets and was so excited to have them all piling up on her tray.
_MG_0188 Olaf was there, of course._MG_0191 I always love the ponies._MG_0198 Thankfully, the firetrucks didn’t blare their sirens this year, so Kaya wasn’t afraid, like last year. 🙂_MG_0192 The Big Man himself finished off the parade. Kaya was so excited to see him waving!_MG_0196

10 more days!

kaelyn: 17 months

_MG_0135Clothing size: 18-month-size everything. I am tempted to try on some of her 24-month cold-weather shirts, though. Size 4 sneakers, but I’ve been tying Kaya’s old size 5 dress shoes tight enough to stay on her feet for church.
Eyecolor: Blue.
Teeth: TEN! This was a big month for getting teeth.
Eating: She is still a total mess when she eats anything (mealtime requires us to strip her down to her diaper), but she can eat an entire Greek yogurt by herself. She loves olives, pasta, cheese, and crackers (but not animal crackers…). She is a little snack monster!_MG_0166

She’s still nursing three times per day with no signs of stopping. I’m thrilled that we’ve made it this long, but there are moments when I contemplate weaning, or at least dropping one feeding. We’ll see.
New words: I don’t know if she’s said anything entirely new… but she has definitely become more articulate with the words she does know. Instead of “mama” or “dada”, she actually says “mommy” and “daddy”. Her little voice melts my heart every time she cries out for me._MG_0143Favorite things: Her plush “Blue Kitty”, her Piggy, pretending to cook in the kitchen/eat play food, and using any kind of cup that has a real straw on it (she monopolizes the water cup any time we go out to eat). She loves going outside and playing on the playground (if we walk past a play area without stopping, she gets upset)! She also loves wearing her boots and playing dress up/wearing necklaces.

She “reads” all the time and is very gentle on books, even ones with paper pages (i.e. instead of board books)._MG_0137Dislikes: Diaper changes, getting her face wiped, sharing, and the car seat.
Sleep: She goes down around 8 pm and gets up around 6 or 6:30 am typically. She really has a tough time making it through the morning without that power nap, but these days, it seems like she’ll only take one if we’re driving in the car. Otherwise, she sometimes passes out in her highchair at lunch. Naptime is around 1:30 or 2 pm for about 3 hours.Nicknames: Baba, Baba Grace, Lovebug.
Milestones, etc.: -She can point to her nose, ears, eyes, mouth, belly button, and toes when asked!

-She’s started more “pretend play” and will put things in her toy microwave, give Blue Kitty a pretend drink or put a diaper on him. Haha!

-She is so good at following instructions and being a little helper now! She loves to put garbage in the trash, clothes (clean or dirty, haha) into the hamper, and even unloads the dishwasher!

-She loves to color and is surprisingly good at holding a writing instrument._MG_0127

-Climbing… she’s mastered it. She loves to climb up on the ottoman and then “jump” up and down before we catch her. She also climbed into a dining room chair at my parents’ house on Thanksgiving.

-She also (usually) insists on climbing down from wherever she is on her own… even if that means tumbling a little.

-She’s started laughing at us when we tell her “no”. I’m not really sure what to do about that…

-She’s getting good at kicking around a ball, almost like she’s playing soccer!

-She can (somewhat) put her boots on by herself. Sometimes they are on the wrong feet, or not quite on her foot all the way, but she really tries hard.

-She does silly things to make us laugh… like initiate peekaboo or say something hilarious over and over again. 🙂

A video posted by Tara (@tarairwin) on

Dear Kaelyn,

You give kisses and hugs all day long, and I hope you always will. You are SO affectionate. I love those lip-smacking noises you make when you want a smooch, and how you wrap your arms around my leg and bury your face into me when you give hugs. You are just the sweetest little blue-eyed girl I know.

Lately, you LOVE to look at pictures of Jesus. We watched this video clip for family home evening one night, and when it zoomed in on Christ’s face, you squealed and pointed with delight. You also love to take His picture off of my nightstand and look at it. I’m grateful to witness how tender and loving you are in these instances. You remind me almost daily that Heaven is not far away, and you are still so fresh from that perfect place.

I love you baby girl. Thank you for all the laughs and sweet moments we share.

Love, Mommy

potatoes and seagulls (thanksgiving with the Irwins)

We’re already almost two weeks past Thanksgiving, and here I am still writing about it! Blogging gets hard during the holidays… there’s so much to blog about, but so little time to actually write it all!

Anyway, the day after Thanksgiving, we headed down to Michael’s parents’ home for our second celebration involving turkey! 🙂

Jeff and Lelia came too! The boys got to work on their multitasking- peeling potatoes while making the goofiest faces possible. I think they pretty much nailed it._MG_0062We had a delicious dinner… I’ll admit it, I can never resist eating an extra homemade roll (or two) on Thanksgiving._MG_0070Dad was working some long hours for the outage, so we didn’t get to see him for too long, but it was enough time to goof off with his grandbabies. _MG_0076Grandpa makes her giggle._MG_0072Don’t worry, there were lots of calm cuddles from Grandma, too._MG_0068The next morning (Saturday), we slept in (yes, you read that right… amazing), and headed over to the ferry to feed the seagulls. Kaya was so excited to ride on a boat._MG_0092_MG_0085_MG_0097She loved throwing pieces of bread through the gate and would laugh and squeal when the birds caught them (especially if they plunged down into the water)._MG_0100My mom-in-law can get the birds to take the bread directly from her hand!_MG_0081After getting off the ferry, we thought we’d just turn around, get right back on, and head home… but the line was long, so we decided to try out one of the playgrounds in Jamestown instead. It was the biggest playground I’d ever been on… and probably the coolest.

I mean, any playground that has a boat to play in has to be ranked pretty high on the awesomeness scale.
_MG_0104We spent some time just enjoying the unseasonably warm weather._MG_0109_MG_0116_MG_0120

And the very coolest part of this park was the huge ZIPLINE! Kaya surprised us all and went on it twice!

A video posted by Tara (@tarairwin) on

After about 40 minutes or so, we headed back to the ferry. Kaelyn actually stayed awake for the ride home and loved looking at the birds for the first time._MG_0122_MG_0125Simple outings like these oftentimes turn out to be my favorites. I love seeing the wonder and joy of the world through my children’s eyes.

five on friday (12/4)

ONE. I finished up my first-ever set of quiet book pages this week, loosely based on this one. They weren’t anything fancy and definitely didn’t turn out perfect, but I certainly learned a few things along the way. And miniature felt food is pretty adorable.

TWO. Mia had Kaya over for a little princess tea party last week. Katherine sent me this photo below. Two adorable girls, dressed up as princesses, sipping from their tin cups… Be careful looking at this, it might just make your heart explode from a cuteness overload.

THREE. Kaelyn had an unexpected trip to the doctor last week for what I thought would be her first stitches/skin glue, and for the craziest reason… she had a piece of hair wrapped around her toe, and when I took it off (not realizing how deeply it had cut her), it looked like it had gone through half the width of her tiny toe! The doctor ended up leaving it open so that we could clean it (instead of gluing it shut and worrying about infection), and prescribed us a strong antibiotic ointment. I feel like this photo doesn’t even show how deep the cut truly was.

So really, check your baby’s toes/diaper area for hair tourniquets. I’m just glad we seemed to find it pretty quickly and it’s healed up nicely.

FOUR. With the rain and colder temperatures lately, we’ve been staying inside more and getting a whole lot of preschool work done. Kaelyn loves to be included, so I sit her up at the table with Kaya and give her any extra worksheets to color. She loves it!

FIVE. We finally busted out our hardcore winter gear this week. The weather is suddenly feeling more like it should for December! One of my goals this winter is to get my kids outside and playing, even when it is on the colder side… so I got them some awesome-heavy-duty-warm coats (and you know, if you’re buying new coats, you might as well make them match 🙂 )._MG_0156

Barring extreme wind/snow/ice, I think we’re set to still have some fun on the playground this winter! 🙂

Happy weekend! 🙂

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