christmas at grandma debbie’s (2019)

I’m still catching up on the Christmas posts, and I’m hoping to be done here in the next week or so. I used to feel like I had to blog every single memorable thing we did… but now, I’m really just trying to highlight the big stuff so the girls will have it when they’re older.

We got to spend a couple of days before Christmas with my side of the family, where we enjoyed my mom’s amazing home cooking, relaxing and watching Gomer Pyle with my Dad, and opening some Christmas gifts!

My mom always does such a great job on her tree.This was Nella’s face through most of opening things. She doesn’t like to show emotion, so she’ll get super serious. Clearly, everyone else was excited about her Elmo ornament.Grandma Debbie always gives the girls matching Christmas jammies! I hope we’ll always be able to find identical sets in all their sizes, because this is quite possibly my favorite part of Christmas. Calico Critters! Kaya and Kaelyn were hoping for these buses for a long time. Koalas for a Nella who blinked.Hatchimals!A Care Bear (who she named “Cherry Bear”) for Nellie.Eve got really into opening gifts this year. She loved her Duplos!Michael received a couple of signed Greg Olsen prints! So beautiful. Ponies! My mom really wanted this “inside out” umbrella. It was pretty cool, actually!And a Chewy gift card for my Dad so he can spoil his favorite Buddy.I’m looking wiped out here, but happy with Fantastic Beasts 2 and some pretty hair clips. My mom knows me well!

halloween 2019

Our Halloween was a little different this year because we were out of town due to Karl’s wedding, which was the night before. We were able to visit with family and trick-or-treat in my parents’ neighborhood, which was a fun opportunity. Since we weren’t home, we did miss a few of our usual Halloween activities, like trick-or-treating at Daddy’s work and the annual church trunk-or-treat.

Kaya also woke up with a fever, aches, and chills on the morning of Halloween, so she missed out on most of the trick-or-treating. Kaelyn was really lost without her best buddy, which you can see in the group pictures.

Everyone was also content to wear costumes we already had, so we didn’t buy anything new this year. I was grateful that they were fine with keeping it simple.

Eve wore the lion costume that Nella wore two years ago, which is still just as cute as ever. She wasn’t very interested in pictures, but she was fascinated by the leaves. Oh my heart. Too much cuteness.Nella wore the elephant costume! It’s so fun to think of my three oldest all having worn it now.This was the first year I couldn’t really get everyone on board with a family theme, and then when Kaya ended up sick, Michael stayed home with her and didn’t worry about a costume. I’m glad I still got this picture of him with Nellbells!This giraffe costume always makes me giggle a little. Kaelyn was almost too tall for it! This is her giraffe face, I think. Haha.They weren’t really into group pictures without Kaya.I have always wanted to be a witch for Halloween, so I created my own version of the Wicked Witch to go with Eve’s lion costume (although there is absolutely nothing ”cowardly” about this brazen girl)! I had so much fun doing some different-than-usual make-up.My Dad had this brand-new wolf mask that  he was so excited to wear. The mouth really moved and everything, which made it a little scarier than it’d seem.My Dad, Mom, and I took all the kids except Kaya out around the neighborhood for a while. They were so happy to take their grandkids trick-or-treating for the first time ever, and I’m glad we could all do it together.Eve ate any candy she could get her hands on before we figured out that she shouldn’t be allowed to hold her bucket. She came home with a very chocolatey face! Kaya stayed home with Michael and handed out candy on the porch. She finally felt well enough to eat something, and so when we returned with the younger girls, she said she wanted to try to go out for a bit. It was just her and I, which felt really special. She also got a lot of candy, because by this time, people were wrapping up and just dumping all the candy they had left into her bucket. Toward the end of our time, a thunderstorm started, so we ran home just before the rain poured down.My mom baked some sugar cookies that everyone decorated at the end of the night. It was the perfect way to finish the day.We traveled home the next day, and as it turned out, our town had postponed Halloween due to horrendous weather.  Kaya wasn’t up for going out, but I took Kaelyn and Nella around our neighborhood for a bit and had a lot of fun. I was excited we got to have a second, unexpected, Halloween.

mill mountain zoo

Back in the fall (when the weather was still warm and glorious!), we went up to Mill Mountain Zoo for the first time ever. It was the morning of Kaya’s birthday party, and we thought it would be a really fun activity to do with the Grandparents in town. Luckily for us, our friends, Ben and Brittany, were also in the area, and agreed to meet us there. We had quite a group! It wasn’t crowded at all, and it also happened to be a special-event weekend, where they had different booths set up by various nonprofits. The girls ended up getting various free things, like sunglasses, bouncy balls, cups, pencils, and bubbles. They even received several quality books courtesy of the public library.

Eve really knows how to rock a pair of sunglasses!Blowing bubbles kept Nella occupied for quite a while.The actual zoo was incredibly small, so we really only saw a few animals, but I really enjoyed the simplicity of it. Some favorites included this Snow Leopard……the Red Panda (who we also got to observe during feeding time!)… …the Bald Eagle……the Red Wolf…
…the Eastern Screech Owl……and some turtles! The girls loved seeing all of these in real life so much.There were also some fun crafts, like this paper Red Panda and some pinwheel flowers! While the older girls did crafts, Eve had some Grandma snuggles and snacks.She also loved having some extra play time with Daddy. Her cute little belly button peeking out in this one really gets me.We all went to an “Animal Encounter” show, where we learned some facts about ferrets, and the girls even got to pet one. Afterward, we waited for the zoo train, which only runs once an hour. Ben read a book to everyone while we were in line.I also took a bunch of pictures while we waited, because why not?Yay! So happy I could spend some time with Brittany.And my mom!Baby switch! No one was quite ready for this picture.We squeezed onto the train, all except grandparents because we literally took up the entire thing. It was such a fun little ride!We went around the zoo twice!Ben and Brittany headed home, but we stayed a little longer so we could do some of the extra activities. We met a giant Red Panda!Kaya and Kaelyn both had their faces painted. This might have been the highlight of the trip for them. I loved watching their reactions when they looked in the mirror for the first time. Cutest little kitty. Sweetest little Dalmatian.This is surely one of my favorite memories. I’m grateful for all of these amazing Grandparents and our wonderful friends. Those smiling faces are everything to me.

claytor lake

We had the chance to spend one Friday night at the lake for a friend’s birthday party, and I’m so glad we went, because these little girls had the best time. This was Nella and Eve’s first time ever playing in sand, and they loved it! Nella immediately started adding to another child’s sandcastle, and Eve sat on the shore happily.

Nella also surprised me with how willing she was to let me take a few pictures of her. That little foot pop and smile… be still my heart.The water washing over her legs made Eve so excited! She was laughing and trying to crawl right into it. My mom was in town. It was so nice to have her join us! Outdoors is my happy place.Kaya and Kaelyn were playing nonstop and didn’t even want to take a break to eat dinner! Eventually, they did, and we had a little picnic in the sand.Michael got to go out in our friends’ kayak with each of the girls for very short little rides… until we found out you’re not supposed to launch kayaks from this part of the shoreline. Whoops. It was fun while it lasted. Nella looked unsure, but she had a good time, too.The girls had freezie pops to end the night. It was a perfect evening.

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!

monument avenue 10k recap (2019)

My fourth time racing Monument Avenue is in the books! It feels like I just started participating in races, but the years are flying by, and this was my 6th race overall.

The weather leading up to the race was looking dismal. I kept hoping the forecast would clear, but we were scheduled to have thunderstorms that morning. I obviously didn’t want to take my kids out there in a storm. We ended up leaving Nella and Kaelyn with my mom at her house, and only took Kaya, who was running the Kids’ Run, and Eve, in case she needed to nurse. We decided to head to the race and see how the weather was upon arrival.

I’m not so great at navigating Richmond, and we weren’t able to pre-purchase a parking garage pass, so we headed to one garage, but ended up turning around and heading to the garage my mom-in-law had parked in. We were cutting it close on time, and with changing garages, we ended up being late and running to the start of Kaya’s race. If Grandma Gina hadn’t been there, they would have closed the Kids’ Run start line and we would have missed it, but thankfully, they held it open for us.

Despite sprinting to the start, Kaya was still so fast and ran the whole thing at a 10:23 pace! I was so proud of my little girl, running as fast as she could, enjoying the cheers from spectators, and even giving some of them high fives!We got a little drizzled on, but there was no thunder!Her quads were a little sore for a day or so afterward. I know it was worth it for her, though. I love seeing her set a goal and achieve it!Michael deserves so much credit for going to all these races and helping with anything he can. Where’s the Runner Husband medal?I had about 20-25 minutes between Kaya’s race and my wave start time, so I got in line for the bathroom, and planned to meet Lelia before the start. The line moved a lot slower than I had hoped. As we were making our way to the start line, the announcer was calling out wave letters just before mine, and I knew I wasn’t going to make it. It’s easy to jump in a slower wave, but Lelia didn’t know where I was, and we each spent half the race trying to look for each other.

I started in Wave Q instead of N. Can you find me?
I was making good time. Thankfully, it was still only drizzling. It did seem like there were fewer people there, since I had the whole left side of the road open to me for most of the race. I think the potential thunderstorms might have deterred some people from coming at all.I was almost at the halfway turnaround point when Lelia finally spotted me and yelled to me from across the grass median. She finished strong!And this is me trying to wave to the girls while running…DONE!!! My official finish time was 51:34, which is a personal best for me! GIRL POWER!It’s so special to stand with Kaya after the race, and crazy to think that just 7 years ago, I’d go running with her in my belly!I’m still just beyond proud of this beautiful girl.Lelia and Bryce!! His shirt says, “Run like you’re being chased by a baby dinosaur!”Lelia was prepared and brought her previous medals to make the 20-year-anniversary triad. Yay!It felt weird having just two of our kids there. Eve passed out while she was waiting!Grandma Gina is always behind the scenes, holding babies and helping with whatever she can. I’m glad she could come! Lelia made these amazing homemade donuts for us to have afterward! We headed to a park to have a little time together. Mmmmm! Those chocolate ones were heavenly. We went back to my mom’s house, and spent some time with her. Kaya shocked and amazed her while playing hangman.We got to hang out with Buddy dog and get some Grandma cuddles.There was a lot more donut-eating, and I got to go on a walk with Lelia and Scout a little later in the day.On Sunday, before we left, Grandma Debbie surprised the girls with these plush Easter bunnies that used to be hers (given to her by my dad), before I was born! They look like new, and of course the girls loved them. I love that they have something that was special to her.Race weekends full of family time are my favorite.

the last of the christmas shenanigans (2018)

This is it! The final blog post about Christmas, just before we roll into March. Ha! Better late than never. I lumped an entire weekend into this one entry, so here we go!

The weekend after Christmas, we headed off to Michael’s Aunt Becky’s house for the Teerlink family Christmas Party! I got to hang out with some of my favorite people! (And see some other awesome family members we haven’t seen for awhile)!My favorite part of the entire party, year after year, is the nativity play. There’s always just such a sweet, sweet spirit present when we reenact the scenes and sing hymns together. I also love seeing the costumes made by Grandma and Grandpa Teerlink so many years ago.

Eve was the youngest baby there, so she got to play Baby Jesus this year! She was so perfectly calm and content.My other three girls were little lambs (Nella just wanted to sit on Grandpa’s lap the entire time, though)!Cousin Bryce was a cute lambie, too!The entire cast:I love this wiseman and his little sheep.It’s so special when Grandpa Teerlink gives a short speech, which always includes something about his Sweetheart. Their love is the kind of love I aspire to have when Michael and I are in our 80s.We drove straight from the party to my parents’ house, just a couple hours away. We had some homemade chicken noodle soup made by my mom, and then, everyone was excited to have a late-night Christmas. Eve was well-entertained by the wrapping paper!Pajamas for everyone! I just love seeing my mom’s face in all these photos. Gift-giving is most definitely her love language and brings her true joy. Nella’s big present was… …a horse!The teddy bear had to be the first to ride the horse, obviously. Calico Critters cars!And clothes for their dolls!We had this special pillow made for my Dad with Buddy and Sockie’s photos on it. I think he might have choked up a little when he saw it. Sockie passed away last fall, so this was a good way to remember him.There were tons……and tons of cookies! Mmmmm.Grandpa got to hold Evie quite a bit! Eve also met my Auntie Carol for the very first time! She loved her right away. My aunt is good at having fun, and she was dancing around with Eve, so it’s no wonder they had a good first visit! Auntie Joyce visited with us too; I just didn’t get any pictures.Auntie Carol brought Eve a hat, which was a little too small, but we tried to get a picture of her wearing it, anyway.

Nella might have been obsessed with every single one of Grandma Debbie’s decorations.I also found my old Guess Who game in the closet, which Kaya loved playing so much.
On New Year’s Eve, Lelia and I kicked off the morning with a nice 7.7-mile run! The miles just flew on by (perks of running with a great friend), and I think I was riding a runner’s high the whole rest of the day. They invited us over for lunch, and Bryce ate up some Evie cheeks. He just loves her so much and hugs and kisses her as much as possible. It’s really so sweet.Grandpa Skip and Grandma Gina stopped by for a few minutes, too, and in the midst of all the family togetherness, I had one of those rare moments where everything felt perfect.Later that night, we stayed up way too late to watch the ball drop with my mom and ring in the new year. These weekends with family fill up my heart to the brim.

the children’s museum of richmond

Back around Thanksgiving, we spent the day at the Children’s Museum of Richmond! We met up with Jeff, Lelia, cousin Bryce, and Grandma Gina late in the morning and spent nearly the entire day there. It was our first time going, and it definitely didn’t disappoint!

We were surprised to see a real fire engine and a full-size bus inside the building. Nella immediately wanted to climb up and drive!There were so many fun things to do, and Kaya ran up to me over and over again to tell me to come see all the amazing places you could go. Daddy and the girls went to a little retro diner where another little girl served them some pizza and steak.I got some Lelia time (and Evie got some Auntie Lelia cuddles)!Grandma Gina always asks Nella, “Are you my cuddlebug?”, and she certainly was that day. Nella played with Grandma almost the entire time we were there, and even snuggled with her on the pirate ship.Kaya and Kaelyn climbed the rock wall about 100 times (and Bryce had some crackers)!There was also this very cool apple tree that would use air pressure to move the balls (“apples”) you put in the tubes. Kaya loved it.We left for some lunch and rest. My mom got off work a little early, so we decided to go back for her to enjoy some time playing with girls. I’m so glad we did. She really loved watching them have so much fun.Kaya gave us all a bus ride!Nella was the backseat driver… and Michael was terrified. Ha!Kaelyn and Grandma Debbie got their workout in!And Kaya climbed the wall some more.Kaelyn rode the scooter around for a while!And we ended up back at the diner. No matter how real those juke boxes look, don’t try to put a quarter in the slot. Don’t ask how I know!Kaya ended her day playing in the veterinary hospital. I just love this picture because it’s so her: wearing her cat shirt, donning cat scrubs on top of it, and holding a cat while pretending to take care of animals. That’s my girl.Nella and Kaelyn ended the day in the little “sandbox”. Nella was also completely soaked because she played at the water station for a long time just before this!It was such a great day with family! I’d definitely love to go back sometime (and I’m sure the girls would, too)!

thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving was forever ago (last year already, ha), and we pretty much always do the same thing, eat the same turkey, and take the same photos, but these are still so precious to me and need to be on here.

We headed down to my parents’ home to celebrate Thanksgiving with family. My mom always puts so much energy and love into the Thanksgiving meal, and this one turned out as delicious as any. My Dad is always the designated turkey carver. Making mashed potatoes!The girls relaxed and waited patiently until it was time to eat. Everyone cuddled Evie a lot!Happy first Thanksgiving, baby Eve!Kaelyn wanted to jump in a picture, too!It looks like a full house (there are two tables put together underneath all that food), but we were missing Karl and Kaitlyn (they were at a wedding in Georgia), and Auntie Carol, who was sick and missed coming so that none of the babies would catch it. We had a good time, but it honestly didn’t feel the same without them.Somebody really really likes corn.And someone else doesn’t like veggies much at all…Your first Thanksgiving is a little bit of a letdown if you’re not old enough to eat any food! Eve was content to sit and watch everyone else.Nella slept through the entire meal, but woke up in time to have her dinner when we were starting dessert.Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, brownies, and apple pie!Extra thankful for my mom this year.
You might think he’s taking your picture, but Michael is really taking a selfie. He’s a tricky one! We had a great visit. Grandpa Peter got lots of Evie snuggles!Buddy tried to snuggle with me, too. Kaelyn always likes seeing her favorite “Dalmatian”!

pumpkin picking 2018

Right after all of Nella’s birthday festivities, we headed out to a local farm for some pumpkin picking. It was a little chillier outside than it had typically been, but the sun was shining down so intensely that it felt wonderful to be outside.While we waited in line for the hayride, we each took a turn pretending to be a farmer! Even Michael and I got in on it this year. Why not? 🙂 We climbed into the wagon and rode to the pumpkin field! We went through the corn maze! Or really, we got lost in it. We wandered around and around for probably 20 minutes, and still had no idea which way we were supposed to go. The mazes here have ranged from very easy to very difficult, depending on the year, and I’d say this was definitely one of the harder ones. We ended up going out the same way we came in!Nella thought the plants were pretty cool. Somehow, Daddy would get her laughing just by yelling “CORN!”They all loved the scarecrow in the middle of the maze!Michael wanted documentation of him “being the shade” for the previous photo. Oh, the things he has to do because he’s married to a photographer.This was our sixth year out at this farm (which also sells Christmas trees), but I’ll never cease to be awed by the beauty of those rolling Virginia hills.I wore Evie in the Ergo carrier, and she was asleep for the entire outing. Sweet sweet baby girl.Nella got tired, and Grandma carried her down the dirt road and back to the main shop. Confession: we ended up not choosing a pumpkin from the field, because once we got out there, we realized we had no way to carry one back (our arms were already full of KIDS)! Plus, all the ones out there were extra large this year, so we chose some smaller ones from the little shop up front.The girls did a little ring toss game and milked a wooden cow.
We couldn’t leave without picking out an ornament for our Christmas tree (Grandma got the girls their own ornaments, too), some fudge, and kettle corn. These really are the best days. I love this little family of mine.(Also, I love how this picture reminds me so much of this one from 2016!)