five favorites (02/03)

I didn’t get this done on Friday, but what better way is there to start the week than with a “Five” post? These always put me in a good mood. I love sharing my joy.

ONE. Last week, Michael had a business trip out to Utah! We missed him so much, but we made it through. The girls were all such HUGE helpers the entire time he was gone. They even kept lists so they could show Daddy their good deeds. We took them to Sweet Frog for frozen yogurt as a special treat when Daddy came home.Just being all together is the best ever.Eve was really happy about getting something sweet.We sure missed our Daddy!TWO. In addition to the conference he went to, Michael had a whole lot of fun in Utah. He got to see Kevin and Jack, visit with some of his cousins, and stay the night at our dear friends’ house. To be honest, I’m totally jealous I didn’t get to go and see all of them, too!He was able to visit some temples. This one is Manti!He was also able to do some work in the Provo City Center Temple. We saw this being built about 6.5 years ago. It’s so beautiful! Look at these amazing clouds he flew through on the way home. The fact that humans can fly at all is still so amazing to me. This is breathtaking.THREE. What’s better than a baby fresh out of the bath? Those big blue eyes and cute hooded towel over her head just melt me.Also, these pruney little toes!Tickles from Kaelyn. Kaya loves to help give Nella and Eve their baths lately. She even made a mohawk for Nella! This was too funny and cute.FOUR. Kaelyn might still be in Kindergarten, but she completed her math books back at the beginning of December, and has moved on to her first grade curriculum. Math comes so easily to her, so she’ll just do as many pages as she can in a day. It feels crazy to already be going through this book again, since Kaya did the same one a couple of years ago. How does time go that fast?I’m so proud of these girls and all their hard work.FIVE. Kaya is getting really good at using my camera. She took this in manual mode, using back-button focus. She’s done it a few times now, and I’m really impressed. She keeps filling up her own camera’s memory card, too. I’m sure she’s going to get into photography when she’s older.Happy Monday!

thanksgiving with the irwins 2017 (and family photos!)

We celebrated Thanksgiving with Michael’s side of the family a couple of days early! Tori made these beautiful place cards, and along with using special silverware, our dinner felt a little extra fancy.
Per Mom’s request, we went around the table and each said something that we felt grateful for this past year. There was laughter, some tears, and just general heartfelt goodness in the room as we all thoughtfully prepared our statements. That seemingly small exercise turned out to be the most memorable moment of the entire holiday.I’m grateful for each of these people around the table, and that I’m lucky enough to call them my family! I think Dad is most grateful for chocomint freeze!Nella slept through the meal, but these big kids had fun chowing down at the picnic table! I love that we have cousins now, and a need for a “kid table”.After the meal, we prepared for family photos. I’ll tell you, it isn’t always easy getting everyone ready and putting everything in place (especially because my kids hardly seem to nap when we’re away from home), but it is always worth it.

And, truth time: this photo is a composite of four separate shots! It must be against some natural law that all kids will look at the camera at the same time and not appear sad, because I didn’t have one single shot where they all looked reasonably happy. Hey, at least I’m honing my photoshop skills!We get a little crazy……and clearly, there’s more where that came from.Mom gets major points for putting up with Dad’s shenanigans… all the time!Love these two.This shot was a test for lighting, but I just love how natural and “grandmotherly” it feels. We have some lucky kids!More tests for lighting, but someone loves her Daddy! (Also, can we just mention how beautiful Virginia is in the fall?)And someone else loves creepy photobombing…Brothers!!!Love this one!Siblings! (Also, I think I should start a photo series called, “weird things I do with my hand while trying to hide the camera remote”. Ha!)Apparently, they dance while they’re waiting for me to set up the shot. I don’t even remember this happening!And I’m not sure when there was time for someone to steal my camera and do this……or this……or THIS! Hahaha. Honestly, I love finding these surprises on my memory card later.Meanwhile, Jeff was working on his “Flynn Rider” face. Disney, he’s ready for hire.These two are so natural in front of the camera together.
Melt my heart!Seriously, so cute you guys!I know I’m gushing, but again, seriously. I’m surrounded by beautiful families! Our kids were so done with photos by this point, and we had already taken some photos of just our little family a couple of weeks prior, but since we had the camera out, we snapped a few anyway. I kind of love Kaelyn’s funny face!We ended the evening with an early holiday gift exchange, since Kevin and Tori wouldn’t be flying out again for Christmas. Nella was clearly excited!Bryce snuggles!Kaya had to jump in and get some cuddles too! She just loves her baby cousin and her Auntie.

shenanigans with the irwins (bowling, cousins, and a puppy!)

The weekend before Thanksgiving, we headed down to my in-laws’ place for some family time! Nella was so excited to play with baby Bryce! And seriously, the only thing cuter than one baby is two babies… so of course, I had to take a bunch of photos of them together!This really old pretend phone was the most popular toy for this crowd. Sharing can be hard when you have no idea what sharing actually is.Kaya is a really great helper with the babies! My girls really loved having time with their cousins.And I just had to throw this one in here because Bryce looks like he’s dancing, and Nella isn’t so sure about his moves. Haha.Kevin, Tori, and Jack flew in from Utah to spend a week in Virginia! These “big kids” loved having little picnics at the table every chance they got.Bryce and Jack had a milk-bottle chugging contest…I enjoyed some baby Bryce cuddles too! We were totally twinning in our stripes so there had to be photo evidence. He’s just so smiley and happy. I love this little guy!Nella had some Grandpa Skip cuddles! It was so fun to see them playing together on this trip.We also got to visit with their neighbors’ new puppy (which my in-laws have adopted as their “grandpuppy”)! His name is Scooter, and of course, my girls just loved him. They kept saying, “He’s so soft!” Michael, Kevin, Jeff, and Dad did some shooting and frisbee throwing. They dubbed their activities, “The Brolympics”. I’m not sure if anyone officially won, but they had so much fun, and I’m grateful that Michael could have quality time with both his brothers.

Later that evening, we went bowling! This was a first for my girls, and I have to say, I was really impressed with how well they did! Kaya completely surprised me by picking up and throwing the ball all on her own.
Kaelyn needed some more guidance, but she was so good at rolling it! Grandpa Skip taught Jack how it’s done…Go Mom!Tori held Nella for most of the evening! They were little buddies by the end of it. I’m glad Nella is such a laid-back baby.My score started out really great… and then quickly plummeted. I may have bowled the worst I ever have in my life, and I don’t have an explanation for it. I still had so much fun though!Michael is always good at sports!We were very much ready for sleep by the end of the day’s activities. We share a big room with all the girls when we stay at my in-laws’, so of course, I can’t resist taking pictures of them sleeping like little angels.

christmastown, cousins, and crazies

The Christmas posts just never seem to end around here, right? Thankfully, it’s because we had so many family members to visit and enjoy the season with this past holiday.

A few days after celebrating Christmas at home, we headed down to visit Michael’s side of the family! Kevin and Tori flew in from Utah- it had been about a year and a half since we last saw them! We had never met our nephew Jack before, so needless to say, we were pretty excited!

I instantly fell in love with Jack (sweet sweet baby boy!), and my girls really loved playing with him, too. It was so fun to finally see the cousins together! Of course, I also had to get pictures of everyone meeting Nella! 🙂
And yes, there were plenty of Grandma cuddles for her, too.Kaya enjoyed some snuggling with Auntie Lelia!There were some presents, of course… … including a rainbow hat made by Grandma!This was the first time the older girls have slept in the same bed. At first, we heard some complaints of “she’s touching me!” and “she’s taking my animals!”, but eventually, they settled down and slept soundly.On the second day of our visit, we headed to Busch Gardens Christmastown! The last time we were there, Kaya was just 3 months old! It’s crazy how quickly everything changes with kids.
We wore our new hats made by my mom-in-law!I always love admiring the decorations. It almost feels like a world away from this one, made entirely of glowing lights and Christmas spirit.Kaya was old enough to ride the mini roller coaster this year! She was so excited when they pulled out of the station, and I knew she’d return either completely petrified or absolutely elated. Thankfully, she had the time of her life and even asked to go on it again! Seeing her so happy was the highlight of the trip for me, although hearing Michael, Kevin, and Jeff screaming all through the ride was pretty fun, too.Kaelyn was too little to ride most of the attractions, so we let her walk around and explore the brightly-lit trees for a bit.She did get to join everyone on this mini Mach Tower ride! I wish I had a better photo, but it was so dark that I couldn’t get my camera to focus. Good picture or not, these kids had a blast.I feel like I haven’t been able to go on rides for forever (being pregnant with three babies in four years will do that to you!), so it was extra-fun for me to join Grandpa Skip and Kaya on the bumper cars and flying swings. When everyone else headed to the train, Dad and I went on my all-time favorite ride. Busch Gardens calls it “Le Catapult”, but I think it has other names at different parks.Of course, we went to the Festhaus to warm up, eat dinner, and nurse the baby. It’s always nice to get a little break from the cold.
The girls really enjoyed watching the performance inside!On our last afternoon together, we took a family picture. I love having everyone all together (and let’s face it, I really lucked out and got some amazing in-laws).When we got home, they wanted a brother picture…… which quickly turned into chaos…… and… sorority squats? What?!And apparently, it only takes one minute of me not paying attention for my relatives to steal my phone and fill it up with a million surprise photos before we left that evening. I love these crazies!

kevin and tori come to town

Kevin and Tori flew in from Utah last week! They spent the first half of their visit on the east coast, but they came to town on Thursday afternoon to spend a few days with us. We had a fantastic long weekend filled with family time, good food, and even a little sleeping in!

I was so super excited for them to meet Kaelyn for the first time! It’s safe to say that this baby just keeps stealing hearts._MG_6086 Grandpa snuck some cuddles in with his “petunia” (as he calls every baby) too!_MG_6088 Thursday night, we ordered pizza and played “Blurt!” (which is really more like “YELL!” when I’m playing it… whoops)! Michael and Lelia had to work on Friday, but the rest of us enjoyed Xbox (Kevin and Jeff), a Mario Kart tournament (Dad and me), and just plain old relaxing._MG_6099Dad and Jax had a couple of really intense wrestling matches. When he wasn’t playing, my lap dog was cuddling up to (and all over) everyone.
_MG_6102 Grandma had a lot of great snuggles, but Kaelyn still refused to nap for most of the weekend. Oh well._MG_6091 _MG_6096 Friday night, we went to Red Robin to celebrate Kevin’s birthday! Nothing like free dessert on your special day.Processed with VSCOcam with a10 preset Saturday was pretty relaxed. Grandma has some serious skills, balancing both babies on her lap while helping Kaya eat her yogurt!_MG_6108The final thing we did before everyone left was take a family picture! The last time we were all together was Thanksgiving of last year, so it was high time for a new one. It was a warm day compared to what we’ve endured lately, and luckily, the wind held off for a few moments. The light could not have been more perfect… and I think we all clean up pretty good! 🙂
_MG_6120 Everyone left to go home just before dinner time, and all the festivities (and lack of napping) finally caught up with my babies. Kaya passed out in her seat during dinner!Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetIf that’s not a sign of a good time, I don’t know what is. Hopefully we can all do it again real soon!


the time michael (almost) singed off his eyebrows…

… because apparently, using lighter fluid can be trickier than it seems. Somehow, the fire just exploded from the grill and blew him backwards and onto the ground.

I’m so glad I didn’t actually see any of it happen.

His hair and eyelashes are a little shorter, but luckily that’s all (and we still had some pretty tasty food, so everything’s good, right?)
_MG_1990We had some much-needed sibling time this weekend. Kevin and Tori were driving through on their way back from Utah, and they decided to spend a day with us! We hardly get to see them, so it was a real treat. The weather was perfect for a cookout, so that’s exactly what we did!_MG_1991I love seeing Kaya get to know her aunts and uncles better!_MG_1993We finished off the evening with some homemade cookie bars, which tasted a little extra-amazing after all our running and biking earlier in the day. Spring weather, family time, and good food make for some of the best weekends 🙂

kevin and tori’s wedding

So… you might as well wish Kevin and Tori a happy 3-month anniversary, because yes, these pictures are from August 2nd. I gave them their wedding DVD at the end of August, but honestly kind of forgot about the more personal photos I took that day. Better late than never, as they say! 🙂 (If you want to see the rest of the wedding go here!)

It was a perfect day for a wedding. The light was a photographer’s dream._MG_7991_MG_8174 Of course we all got a little crazy…_MG_8181 _MG_8179 Okay. A LOT crazy._MG_8176Michael took the photos of the girls, so he took the opportunity to leave this on my camera, too.
_MG_8203 Brothers 🙂_MG_8367 _MG_8360 _MG_8287 These next two crack me up:_MG_8321 _MG_8309 There’s nothing like a little girl and her grandpa. And yes, he let her stick her feet in the stream!_MG_8115

Love them._MG_8118 _MG_8127My best friends._MG_8429_MG_8397 Lelia and I’s corsages!_MG_8453 Pals!_MG_8466

pumpkin pickin’ 2013

Saturday was our day to go pumpkin picking! I was sooo super excited, because when I was a kid, this was a yearly tradition. I couldn’t wait to take Kaya and have fun as a family. (We did go last year, but Kaya was tiny and slept through the whole event!)

We tried a new farm this year and loved it! It was perfectly located in the beautiful, rolling Virginia hills, and it wasn’t overpriced like most places we’ve been.

Kevin and Tori were passing through town on their cross-country drive, so we were happy to have them join us. It’s not every day that all the Irwin siblings are together!
IMG_0119 We took a hayride to the pumpkin patch!_MG_0091Love these two with my whole heart (plus some…)
_MG_0094 _MG_0089 Of course, we got a little crazy (it wasn’t even a long ride… but apparently this is the only way we have fun!)_MG_0098 They had a corn maze. We all split up in different directions and still made it out alive! The pumpkin patch was right up the trail, so a-pickin’ we went!kayapumpkins20134Kaya’s excitement definitely didn’t disappoint. She LOVED the pumpkins and just couldn’t stop pointing at them, holding them, or trying to lift them.kayapumpkins20132

There was a tractor made out of hay bales, so naturally, we had to “drive” it. Kaya was really unsure of it._MG_0106We visited with some ewe lambs (chunky ones, at that).
_MG_0127 Kevin and Tori chucked some pumpkins!_MG_0122 And then I took waaaaay too many pictures of Kaya. But just look at that face! No mama could resist._MG_0137 kayapumpkins20131 Like I said, she loves pumpkins (I also wish I had a picture of what was going on behind me to get her to laugh… we have a crazy family!)kayapumpkins20133We paid for our pumpkins and browsed their tiny shop of homemade goodies… including some amazing fudge! We might just have to go back sometime soon 🙂

Happy Fall!

insta-jam for august!

This might be the last “insta-jam” that doesn’t include any pictures of a cute little munchkin! August seriously flew by, and I’m guessing that September will too…

1: I tried some more crockpot recipes, including homemade chicken and dumplings! Mmmm. It turned out so delicious! I definitely think the crockpot is going to be my new best friend once munchkin arrives and I don’t have time to stand over the stove.

2: Our friends ding-dong-ditched us some cupcakes… don’t worry, we ditched them some cookies in return!

3: We house-sat/watched a family of kids for a week, but just at nighttime. There are five girls in the family and two of them were eager to paint nails, so I let them do mine! They were pretty creative, as you can tell, and my toes actually turned out even wilder than my fingers.

4: Michael got a new tablet, so I got the “old” one. And what was the first thing I did with it? Change the wallpaper to horses, of course! I am loving using the tablet instead of my old old brick-of-a-computer.

1: This wouldn’t be an insta-jam without some cute animal photos, so here’s Juni enjoying her pink zebra-stripe hut. I’m glad she finally figured out that she’s supposed to lay under it,  not between the back of it and the wall!

2: Parsley is a special treat for a piggy!

3: One morning, Michael decided to get up early for a bike ride before work. It wasn’t even ten minutes after he left when he called me, and of course I panicked, thinking he had gotten hurt. Instead, he told me he had found this puppy, and she kept following him and laying down at his feet if he stopped. He asked what he should do, and of course I said… bring her home! She looked like she’d been outside and walking all night, so we gave her a warm bath and called the phone number on her collar. Her owner came to get her pretty quickly, but it was fun having a puppy for a few minutes!

1: Michael had his 25th birthday! I surprised him with a banner and balloons already hanging when he woke up.

2: Michael got his new tablet. He’s been waiting and waiting and contemplating which one he wanted, and picked the Nexus 7. It was sort-of-an-early-birthday gift and I’m glad he is so happy with it.

3: We went to Macado’s for his birthday dinner, and he got a “Cowpoke” sandwich (I’m not even sure why it’s called that, since there is chicken and bacon on it, but no beef)! I got my usual chicken caesar sandwich.

4: A few days after his birthday, Michael’s side of the family came up to visit. Now, it wouldn’t be a real visit if we didn’t go out for Chinese- that’s pretty much tradition! I’m not really sure what Kevin is doing, but at least it didn’t get us kicked out of the restaurant!

family weekend: part two!

The REAL reason we were traveling over the weekend was for the Tour de Cure for diabetes! Michael signed up for it a couple months ago, and has been training ever since. The route he did was 65 miles! Pretty impressive, huh? He was barely even tired afterward. I’d better watch out, because now people are starting to think HE is the hardcore one in our family. I guess we’ll see!

Here he is crossing the finish line!

While we were waiting, Jeffrey tried to make Michael a crown/necklace out of dandelions. Not bad work, Jeffrey! Sadly, it somehow got left behind and forgotten once Michael came, so he didn’t get to wear it.

We also just had a lot of fun family time, which of course includes spending time with the puppy!

Kevin even made the famous family dip (which I’ve never had, and actually still didn’t try…) Apparently it calls for a lot of ONIONS. Just look at poor Kevin.

Brothers chowing down! Looks like all of Kevin’s onion-suffering paid off.

We had a mini barbecue, too. Jeffrey and Lelia always have lots of fun together, even if they are just squishing raw hamburger meat.

They also had a 5-minute photoshoot. We were supposed to have a real, actual photo session, but as you cannot actually see in these pictures, it was POURING down rain all day long! So we were limited, but just look at those model faces!

This is what happened behind the scenes. Don’t think they’re serious models all the time!