32

I turned 32 this week! We’ve been dancing around and changing the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s “22”, eating too much chocolate cake, and partying with Lelia and Bryce! It’s been a good birthday.

I always get introspective around my birthday, and when I saw this idea from here to share one fun thing for every year of your life, I just had to jump in. I had SO much fun writing this! I spent a whole lot longer doing it than I’d planned, mostly because I went right down memory lane looking at all these photos.

Here we go! One fun thing from each of my years (and writing them all out this way makes it feel like a lot of years!):

0 years. Clearly, I had a pretty good first year of life, being the oldest and only child. Haha. I love this picture of me and my mom on my Dad’s boat.1 year. Apparently, I was really happy when I had spaghetti!2 years. I have one clear memory around this age of visiting my Great Grandma’s home. She passed away when I was nearly two, so my memory is probably just slightly before this age. I wish I could remember more about her.

3 years. We went fishing on my Dad’s little boat a lot when the weather was nice. I had this cute little fishy life jacket, and sometimes my Dad would let me “help” him drive.4 years. I became a big sister! I was in love with Karl from that first moment I saw him.5 years. I went to kindergarten and loved my teacher. We always had graham crackers and honey at snack time, and I refused to try honey the entire year.

6 years. In first grade, we put on a play of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”. My teacher had a piano in the classroom that she used to play for us regularly, and it really was the best.7 years. Apparently, I lost and grew a bunch of new teeth. And don’t we look adorable in our Easter clothes?8 years. I had a really strict third-grade teacher, and I always finished my work early and asked for jobs I could help with.

9 years. We got our Shar-Pei dog, Barney.

10 years. I was obsessed with Pound Puppies!

11 years. I finally got to be in the same class at school as my childhood best friend, Heather.

12 years. We took a trip to Six Flags Great Adventure with our friends! (I’m in the Pokemon shirt. Haha!)13 years. I got really interested in singing and participated in the school choir as a second soprano.

14 years. We moved from New Jersey to Virginia!

15 years. I took guitar classes in high school.

16 years. We adopted our dog, Sockie!17 years. I got my guinea pig, Maggie, as an early birthday gift. She was my pal for her entire life.18 years. I went to Virginia Tech and became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

19 years. I showed a sheep for the first time!

20 years. I met Michael! I also studied abroad in Switzerland and traveled all over Europe!

21 years. I married my best friend, moved into our first apartment, and got our guinea pig Juni.

22 years. I found my lifelong friend Lelia… who became my sister when she married Jeff a couple years later!23 years. I graduated from Virginia Tech with a BS in Animal Science and a BA in French.24 years. My world totally changed for the best when I became a mom for the first time (to Kaya)!25 years. I took some cake decorating classes!26 years. We had our sweet baby Kaelyn!27 years. We got Freyja and Claire!28 years. We added Nella to our family and bought our first house!29 years. We adopted Scout!30 years. I brought Eve into the world and traveled to Spain!31 years. I had my best running year yet. I PR’ed the half marathon and won my age group in three races.This little post filled my heart with so much gratitude. There have been hard things, too, of course, but focusing on the good was a really good exercise. I’m so thankful for all of it.

nella’s 3rd birthday party (an elmo party)!

My kids have come down with colds, so while I’m snuggling a sick baby on my lap, I thought it’d be good to use this time for a little catching up on here!

Nella was very excited about her birthday party this year, and although it was perhaps one of the simplest celebrations we’ve had, I know that she had the absolute best day. As soon as she woke up on her party day, she kept asking, “Happeh Birbeh?”, meaning that she was ready for us to have cake and presents.She was even a really good sport about getting her picture taken! She smiled and let me take quite a few before she tired of it, which is really unusual for her. She had been undecided about having either an Elmo or a Daniel Tiger cake. They are both her favorites, but ultimately, I ended up choosing Elmo, which was a lot simpler. She was yelling, “Yaaaaaay!” the moment she saw me put the frosting on. She was so shy when we sang “Happy Birthday” that she wanted Daddy to blow out the candle for her.

He got frosting on his nose and she licked it right off, haha.It was just our immediate family, but it was actually nice to just have a small, easy party. Nella definitely didn’t mind, as long as she had cake and gifts. I love this silly girl so much. Kaya took this picture. She’s getting pretty good at it! Nellie wanted to skip eating the cake and open presents first. We had just three things for her, since her Grandmas and Grandpas had already given her their gifts at Kaya’s birthday party when they were in town. I also made this Elmo t-shirt, which she absolutely loved. She had waited so long to have her own Calico Critters, and she was so happy when she opened them! We got her the baby treehouse, monkey family, and guinea pig mom with babies. Her sisters were just as excited because now Nella won’t take their Critters all the time! She had early presents at Kaya’s party two weeks before!Elmo undies! She was so excited about these that I think they really helped jumpstart potty training.A plush Elmo and Elmo books! TWIN BABIES!!!I sincerely hope she grows up to have lots of real babies. She just loves them so much.We went back to the table to eat cake. This is true happiness right here:The way she eats cake always cracks me up. At least she used a fork this time!
She played Calico Critters with her sisters for the rest of the day. I loved seeing our Birthday Girl happy.

We love you so much, Nels!

kaya’s 7th birthday party (a rainbow cat party… again!)

Kaya’s 7th birthday party was bright, happy, and beautiful, just like our girl. She had requested a “rainbow unikitty” birthday cake this year, but when I made the little gum paste cat cake topper, he was just so adorable as he was that I wanted to leave the horn off. Kaya was okay with that- she was so in love with this little kitty and never wanted to eat it. I’m slowly getting better at these little animal figurines, and I’m really having a lot of fun doing them.MEOW!Four years ago (how was it that long ago already?), per 3-year-old Kaya’s request, we had a “rainbow rainbow cat” party. It was fun to take that same theme and kind of recreate it.We had spent the morning at the zoo (a dream come true for Kaya), where she had her face painted as a kitty. How perfect! Grandma Debbie, Grandma Gina, and Grandpa Skip were all able to be there, so we had quite a pile of presents on the table for this party.When I see this picture, I can’t help but think of our first pictures together with her as a baby, and as a new family of three. Can the years please slow down a little? She is growing into such a wonderful person, but her birth day still feels like yesterday, and I just can’t figure out where all the years went. She actually blew out the candle on the first try!

Mmmm chocolate cake!I had to put our little Dalmatian girl in here, too.Dalmatians like cake.We had some present time…A silver Hello Kitty necklace……a Fingerling giraffe……tights!…Reese’s!…shoes!…books from The Good and the Beautiful!…the perfect shirt from Grandma Debbie……panda jammies! Do they make these in my size?And perhaps her favorite… Smokey the cat! …and a Hatchimal baby!There were many thank-you hugs all around. This girl is sweet.The best part of all was that she told me her birthday was even better than she imagined it would be, and her favorite part was the special cake. That means the world to me.

We love you, Kaya! Happy 7th Birthday!

michael’s 32nd birthday!

The girls helped me make a perfectly simple birthday celebration for their Daddy. They were so excited to put everything together for him before he got home from work, and I just love their enthusiasm and joy over celebrating each other on our special days.

We had a playdate in the morning, and then I took all of them up to the closest grocery store so we could load up on cake-making supplies. We wanted to cover his birthday cake with candies, so we raided the candy aisle like we never had before, which made the girls so excited.I don’t take them all out shopping often at all, but every time I do, everyone else always stares at us or says something. My kids are generally very well-behaved, so I’m not sure if the onlookers are just amazed to see that many kids with one mom (I get, “Are they all yours?” a lot!), or that they are all girls or what. Anyway, we had a successful shopping trip!We made a homemade Hershey’s chocolate cake, and Kaya and Kaelyn had the best time decorating it with as much candy as I’d allow them to use. Nella was so excited about having the party that she didn’t want to nap, but she went to sleep for a little while, and she was very happy to see the cake when she woke up!YUM. I think we need a repeat of this cake.Then, we got to sing happy birthday! This seems to be everyone’s favorite part. Eve was ready to dig right in!

Of course, there were some shenanigans from the birthday boy. The girls made him all these homemade presents and even wrapped them up, like leaves on paper… …some custom artwork……and REESE’S!!! Because we didn’t have enough candy, obviously.I also surprised him by signing him and the older girls up for a day of indoor rock climbing. Everyone was pumped and couldn’t wait to go.This was the moment Nellie waited for all day. She gave up on the fork, but when you’re two, no one minds much. I can’t wait to see her excitement over her own birthday soon.The next day, Michael, Kaya, and Kaelyn went to the climbing gym and had a great time. I’m glad they could spend some special time together. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEST FRIEND! We are so lucky to have you and love you so much. (P.S.- You’re officially older than me now, old man!)

happy birthday, michael! (2019)

Happy Birthday Michael!!!

In true Michael-fashion, he spent nearly his entire birthday serving others. He helped people move, connected internet for others (all optional and not part of his job), and when he came home after a long day, he played with our kids and tucked them into bed. He is one of the most selfless people I know.

He’s always being goofy or snuggling with one of our girls. He also has no shame in wearing a unicorn headband.He’s always up for fun family adventures.And he leaves these hilarious pictures of himself for me to find on my DSLR. These are the best because they’re so him.We love you, best friend. Thanks for taking care of all of us, all the time. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

eve’s first birthday (a monkey party)!

I’m very loosely calling Eve’s first birthday, “a monkey party”, mostly because the only monkey there (besides the wild and crazy birthday girl) was this little gum paste figure on the cake. I decided to make a monkey cake topper at the very last minute, because one of Evie’s biggest personality traits is how loudly she can yell! She’s also really great at climbing and just getting into everything in general… so what would be better for her little cake than a monkey?This “cake” was actually a giant brownie that I made in a springform pan. It was easy, and we actually like brownies more than cake, anyway. The only downside is that frosting doesn’t really stick to the sides of a brownie-cake. It still works in this case, since the brownie just looks like the dirt under the jungle grass! Someone was excited to party!!! This was possibly the smallest party we’ve ever had, since none of our extended family could make it (Michael and I also had colds, so we were all for keeping it simple, anyway). It was still just as special.Yay!Watching a baby’s reaction to dessert never gets old. Eve put her fingers in it immediately!See that smudge of green frosting under her chin? She also wore the same special birthday shirt that my mom bought for Nella when she turned one.Nella was pretty excited for the party, too.We didn’t actually light the candle, but we sang and let her get nice and close to the cake… I think she likes birthdays.

I love you, Evie.All her sisters were incredibly excited. I’m just glad they wanted to get in a picture!She dove frosting-first into the brownie! She loved it, but she still gave me some pretty funny faces.Grandma Debbie was here the previous week for Kaelyn’s party, and she brought Eve a few birthday gifts to open early.A toy phone… Eve’s favorite thing! She is always stealing our phones and remotes.And a couple of cute outfits that she’ll be able to grow into! Grandma Gina and Grandpa Skip came to visit two weeks after her birthday, and brought her a bubble machine!She also got the biggest container of bubbles I’ve ever seen!Happiness! I know she won’t remember her first birthday, but I hope that one day, she’ll look back at the pictures and be able to tell how special she’s always been to us.

We love you, Eve!

kaelyn’s 5th birthday (a dalmatian party)!

My sweet, special five-year-old girl had been planning her Dalmatian party for about a year. She has been absolutely in love with Dalmatians for quite a while now, and since I was also obsessed with the 101 Dalmatians movie when I was her age, it’s been very fun to watch her enjoy them, too.Kaelyn wanted a Dalmatian cake, and after looking at so many ideas online, I ended up making an extremely simple design. I really wanted to create a 3D Dalmatian for the top, though, so I bought some gum paste and watched some video tutorials before coming up with this little doggy. He wasn’t perfect, but she loved him.She had counted down to her birthday for months, so when it was finally time to sing and have cake, she was beside herself with excitement! I kind of can’t believe we were putting a number five candle on that cake!We sang to her twice and let her blow out the candle a few times. It’s always more fun to do it more than once! Her joy is my joy. This was my usual chocolate cake recipe, and it was a hit, as always!We were so happy to have Uncle Karl and Grandma Debbie here to celebrate with us! The only thing better than cake time is… present time!!!Grandma Debbie gave her these easy-reader books from The Good and the Beautiful. She absolutely loves reading them, and has even told me “the pictures are so pretty!”Grandma also gave her her current favorite stuffed puppy, who she named “Pokie”!There is nothing like the true happiness of a child.She gave hugs when thanking each person for her gifts. So sweet.Kaya made her a coloring book, full of Dalmatian pictures printed from the computer. I was proud of Kaya for being so thoughtful. Mini Hatchimal eggs from Uncle Karl! Dalmatians from Mommy and Daddy!And… the one thing she’d been asking for for months, a Robo Dog! She was a little overwhelmed by how “energetic” the puppy was at first when we turned it on, but she quickly warmed up to it. She named it Gracie!We spent the rest of the day just relaxing and enjoying time together. There’s no one who just “gets” me like my own brother, and I’ve missed him!I love my family, and I’m so grateful they could come celebrate Kaelyn!
Fun fact: Nella and Eve aren’t in any of these pictures because they napped through the entire party!Kaya and Kaelyn were so excited to play with Uncle Karl that I don’t think he got much downtime while he was here! He was really great and goofed around as much as possible. That’s what an awesome uncle is for!Daddy had taken Kaelyn to the Dollar Store to pick out some balloons before we had the party, and since they didn’t have any Dalmatian ones, she chose her other favorites: Mickey, Minnie, and a unicorn! We took a few pictures outside to end the day. I made her shirt for her! I loved seeing her light up when she finally saw the finished product. It definitely wasn’t perfect, but it was my first time making a shirt with multiple layers of vinyl, so it was still a win in my book. Seeing her happy was all that really mattered!Happy 5th Birthday Kaelyn!!! We all love you SO much!

kaelyn’s 5th birthday shenanigans

It’s always a little challenging when a birthday lands on a weekday instead of a weekend. We  try to make sure our girls feel special on their real day, and then we have a simple party with family on the weekend. Over the past few years, I’ve started calling these random fun things we do on their actual birthdays “birthday shenanigans”, so here are Kaelyn’s from this year!

She woke up before all her sisters (as she always does) and ran downstairs right away to find her balloons and streamers hanging from the ceiling. These simple things seem to mean the most to our girls.She ran through the balloons, laughing and smiling.We took the day off from school and headed to the pool as soon as everyone was ready!  We were lucky that it wasn’t crowded at all that day, so the girls had an extra-fun time swimming wherever they wanted and playing on the slide and under the “dumping buckets”. We came home for lunch and some sister snuggles. Kaelyn really, truly, adores Evie.Everyone had naps, and when Daddy came home, we had Kaelyn’s favorite for dinner- homemade pizza! She had been waiting to wear the birthday crown for months, so she was excited it was finally her turn!Now, Kaelyn had been talking about Dairy Queen for months. She had only ever been there as a baby, when we used to have one in the mall and would frequently make going there our “family date” activity. We gave her only little tastes back then, so she never remembered having it. The food court at the mall closed, and we hadn’t taken the girls to a Dairy Queen for years.

We decided to take her to the “new” nearby Dairy Queen for her birthday treat, and she was ecstatic! She chose this wild-looking “Zero Gravity” blizzard, which she thought was delicious. We sang to her, and she was the happiest girl in the world.Kaya and Nella were also really happy to have ice cream. Thank goodness for Oxiclean, because Nella’s shirt was blue by the time we left.To top it all off, we surprised her with one small gift- a Paw Patrol Marshall fire truck. She loved it.The weather was absolutely perfect, and the three oldest girls loved running around together in the grass after finishing their dessert. I loved watching their happiness.
I got to hold her for a few moments before bedtime and then tuck her in, which is something Daddy usually does these days. It seems like yesterday that I was holding her as a 5.5-pound baby and waking up with her at night, so I’m grateful I could cuddle her again before saying goodnight.

Happy 5th Birthday Kaelyn! We love you so much!

happy 1st birthday, eve faith!

Eve Faith,

I don’t know how, but meeting you feels both like yesterday and forever ago all at once. Wasn’t it just moments ago that you were poking me in the ribs with those tiny toes of yours from the inside? How has a year gone by so fast?

We were so ready to see you for the first time, and holding you was simultaneously one of the biggest reliefs and greatest triumphs of my entire life. You have taught me so much about strength this year, baby girl.

I remember that peaceful morning you were born, when everything seemed perfect as the first sunlight poured through the windows. You are a little peace of Heaven.

You were loud and loved nursing from the moment you were born, and I’d say that still sums you up well. I cherish our snuggle time and adore that you love to be close to me. I know you won’t always fall asleep in my arms, so when you do, I breathe you in and take in all the tiny details.

You have a big personality crammed into that tiny body of yours, with feistiness, spunk, and big opinions all mixed together. You also give some of the best hugs and sweetest affection to your family. You ask for “Dadada” all the time and reach out to me with both arms. Your big grin hidden behind your pacifier each morning is one of my very favorite things.

Watching you grow is the greatest gift. We are so thankful you joined our family.

I love you Evie. HAPPY 1ST BIRTHDAY!!!

Love, Mommy

my birthday! (2019)

My birthday this year was so simple, sweet, and special. My girls and my best friend planned a few activities for the evening, and it was just perfect for me.

Kaya and Kaelyn were so excited about my birthday (probably more than they ever have been) that they were jumping on my bed the night before it, yelling, “It’s almost Mommy’s birthday!” They sang to me first thing in the morning, and after quiet/nap time, Kaya came out of her room with this very thorough “birthday festivities” list she had written all on her own (with some brainstorming from Kaelyn).I love these little ladies and their enthusiasm so much! Kaelyn insists that any birthday girl must wear this birthday crown that Grandma Gina gave her for her 4th birthday, so I had fun being the “Birthday Princess” for the night! (Also, is it just me, or do they happen to look like teenagers here?)Michael brought home some Chinese- one of my favorite dinners! Mmm.
After dinner, Michael banned me from the kitchen so that he and the oldest three girls could bake a cake. I nursed Eve, and then she rolled around on the floor while I folded laundry and listened to a podcast. It was actually pretty great to have quiet time!Michael’s life lesson from this cookie cake: don’t put the candles in until it’s completely cooled! There was a lot of wax in the middle, but we cut that part out. It was sooo delicious!
I love this picture so much. This is a true Nella face for sure!Mmmm.Now, I know almost everyone would say presents are the best part of a birthday… but these gifts right here truly came straight from my girls’ hearts. Kaya’s own sheet of Hello Kitty stickers, cards from both Kaya and Kaelyn, and something that Kaya wanted to spend her own allowance on for me (she also wrapped it herself)!Kaya immediately hopped into my usual role at their birthday parties… the paparazzi! Look behind her, and you’ll see Nella holding her Beagle up in an attempt to make me smile, just like we often do for her!A rare voluntary picture with Nellbells…Homemade cards and homemade hugs! 🙂New slippers from Kaya!The best part of this gift was seeing how happy she was when I opened it. She’s got a heart of gold.So comfy.I just loved all these cards so much. “I LU” is how Kaelyn writes “I love you” right now.They really know how to make a day special.