Monday, July 9, 2018

Water, Water, Water!

Two weekends ago we used our season pass to visit a nearby farm for their watermelon festival! When we went to the farm for their Easter egg hunt, it was packed, so we were fully expecting the same thing. BUT thankfully there weren't nearly as many people, and our kids were able to enjoy the special water things that were set up, as well as the usual things (slides, swings, pony rides, the little rubber ducky pump races.)

Noelle and Jonah both loved the bubble station. Jonah would run in and get himself all covered, and then run over to the splash pad and get it all washed off. Back and forth, back and forth.

Clara did pretty well, and thankfully it wasn't too hot in the shade. It's a hard stage with her getting more mobile but not able to move around on her own yet. Plus she gets tired and fussy, so then we have to cut it short when the big two are ready to keep going.

That evening I didn't have anything planned for dinner, so we decided to use some gift cards from Christmas and go to Cracker Barrel. I don't think I've been there since sometime in high school, but the biscuits were delicious, the kids were able to get chicken tenders and fries and play the little peg games, and Clara kept it together for most of dinner.

On Thursday last week, we had no plans, so I told the kids we were going to the pool! Jonah was immediately excited, but it took some convincing for Noelle. I talked her into bringing and using her puddle-jumper, and as soon as she got into the water with it, she LOVED it! We stayed for two hours, and only left because Clara was done. They stayed in the water almost the whole time, with a small break for a snack. Noelle was making new friends with another little girl, and I felt bad taking her away right when they were getting into it! We went back on Friday, but a storm came through, so we were only there for about 45 minutes.

This past Saturday we went to the zoo for their Splash Day! There were water slides, bubble stations, and baby pools set up on the lawn, as well as free Icee and Bluebell ice cream samples.

The big hit though was the giant playground! The kids played on this in 2016 when we came to visit my brother-in-law, but I haven't taken them yet since we moved because I wouldn't be able to keep up with the two of them while holding Clara. It's probably the coolest playground I've ever seen, and it kept them busy for well over an hour. They probably would have played longer but we (aka I) needed to stop for a snack break. We convinced them to go see a few animals, and then headed to a cookout with Luke's boss. (Where they provided canvases and paint for the kids, which my art-obsessed kids loved!)

It was a busy day, and Clara was cranky and ended up with only a 10 minute car nap. Noelle and Jonah got lots of down time once we got home, and Luke and I tried to keep Clara happy till she went down for an early bedtime!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Birthday Celebration and the Fourth!

Tuesday was full of celebrating Noelle's sixth birthday! I'm still not used to Jonah being 4, so now I have to get used to saying my kids are 6, 4, and 1! (Although, let's be real, I'll still count the baby in months until she's 2!)

When she woke up, I had streamers hanging in the kitchen and two balloons tied to her chair. Those little things definitely make her feel loved, and I wanted her to feel celebrated! I also had a free pastry from Panera that needed to be used, so we headed there first thing and Noelle chose a sugar cookie, Jonah a chocolate chipper cookie, and I got coffee. 

The kids didn't know the plan for the afternoon, but after we'd been home for a little bit, I told them it was time to head out again. We drove up to Franklin and met Daddy at Chuck E Cheeses! It was Noelle's second time going to one, and Jonah's first, and they were both so excited. We spent $12 and they both had a blast running around to different rides and games for an hour.

According to Noelle, her favorite was the horse riding game! (Also, multiple people have asked me if Noelle is tall for her age, and I was beginning to wonder if she'd had a good growth spurt or something. Her measurements from her well-check put her at the 25th percentile for height, so I think it's mostly because she has long legs that she looks so tall. And she's leaned out a lot this past year- only about 3 pounds heavier than Jonah!)

Jonah had a blast, and his favorites were the "shooting" games. He seems to have some pretty good hand-eye coordination, maybe also because he's already playing video games at home. (eek!)

Clara hopped on rides with them when she could, and was otherwise pretty content to watch everything going on! Also, the fact that the girls were wearing matching dresses and bows today was by Noelle's request. (And ultimately thanks to Heather who bought them both the dresses and bows!)

And let's be real- Luke also had an absolute blast. He said someday he needs to just go during his lunch break and play skee-ball.

After we were done playing, we headed to Chick Fil A for lunch! We said goodbye to Daddy, and once we got home, Noelle was allowed to open one present. She decided to open her little Melissa & Doug horse painting kit. She immediately got to work and painted her two little horses!

We had a pretty quiet afternoon, ate dinner, and she opened the rest of her presents. The day before I had hosted our church's moms day, and we bought a cake to celebrate Noelle with our church friends. There was a piece left over, so on Tuesday we stuck a candle on it and sang her Happy Birthday again.

Fourth of July was also a super fun day, and I kept thinking that it was Saturday all day! Luke was working from home for a few hours, and I took the kids to our town's bicycle parade. Noelle and Clara rode in the stroller, but Jonah rode his bike! It was hot, and we were sweating before it even started, but I kept reminding them that there was ice cream at the end!

At one point there was a sloping downhill, and Jonah is terrified of hills because he has fallen a few times. He started freaking out a little, and a mom walking near me asked if I needed any help. I said probably, and she was immediately on it, holding one of Jonah's handlebars, while I held the other and pushed the stroller. She talked to him to keep him distracted from the hill, and helped me all the way to the finish, including getting into the shade. Not only did she help me with all of that, but after kids were finishing up ice cream and people were leaving, she came over to make sure we were all okay and offered to watch the kids so I could ride back to the starting point with her husband to get my van. I had already called Luke to see if he could come bring the van to us, and he was on his way. But it was incredibly sweet because I was completely dreading the idea of pushing the stroller and Jonah on his bike back up the hill in the sun. I think maybe she was my guardian angel for the day! 

That afternoon we had Luke's brother's family over for a cookout, and the kids played in our baby pool and in the play room for awhile. Cookout food is just so good, and I would love to get a picnic table some day so we can enjoy summer meals outside. Though I'm probably the only one that would want to eat outside with how hot it is. :)

We started hearing the pops of fireworks around 8:30, so we ran out front to see what was going on. A little girl we hadn't met yet, who lives three doors down, ran over to us and invited us to come see her fireworks. Jonah and I went down and I met our neighbors (yay!) and they were super kind and let Jonah do some sparklers and shoot off a few roman candles (they saved their big ones for when it got a bit darker.)  The street that branches off from ours apparently has an unofficial competition with fireworks, so we were able to stand in our driveway and watch the fireworks from that street, as well as all over town. It was pretty spectacular, and fireworks were going off everywhere for well over an hour. Both Noelle and Jonah loved it! And thankfully Clara slept right through it. :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Happy SIXTH birthday to my firstborn!!

You have blown us away with your growth and learning in the last year. Coming home from school actually reading easy sentences to us, and spouting off the answers to math facts like it's no big deal. You have done SO well. And not only that, but you transitioned beautifully from your school in MD to TN. It was seamless, and you embraced your new friends and teacher like you'd been a part of them all year long.

You've done such a great job growing into your roll as big sister to two. You and Jonah love each other, and he clearly looks up to you. While you're both learning how to share and take turns and don't always agree, you continually come back to each other and have such a great friendship. You take great care of Clara! You get her toys when she's upset, you love to give her little bites of your food, and you try to keep her entertained when I'm trying to get something done. You're like her second little mama, and are so proud to show her off!

I love having my big girl to talk to. You listen to me read books, talk with me about Jesus, perform dances and songs you make up, and tell me what you've learned on the Magic School Bus. You make me multiple crafts a day, and "give" me gifts, aka little toys wrapped up in blankets or bags. You're goofy, and fun, and I love that we get to have you home with us for the summer.

Your favorite is going to the library when it involves making a craft, going to the zoo, doing ANYTHING that has to do with crafting, listening and dancing to Shake It Off, watching tv shows on your tablet, playing with the neighbors, and the fun things that get sprinkled into our everyday. Things like a trip to the splash pad, or seeing fireworks from the front yard make you say "this is the best day!" And I hope those fun, simple things always bring joy to your life!

You are a girly girl through and through. You are all about dresses and skirts, wearing your lip gloss and hair accessories (assuming you'll let me brush your hair), and all things pink and glittery.

Your big girl attitude is coming through as you figure out this whole growing up thing, and believe me, I'm learning right there with you. I'm praying most of all that you know Jesus, that He would just capture your heart and give you a desire like none other to follow hard after Him. I love you so much and am so proud to be your mom!!

Happy Birthday, Noelle!


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Bell Buckle and Build A Bear

At the end of May, and while my family was visiting, we kept noticing this little dog running around our backyard. It would never come close, and we just assumed that it kept escaping from its house. Well, my mom kept seeing it for the few days she was watching the kids and thought it looked skinnier, and eventually seemed to be staggering a bit in the heat. My neighbor and I talked about the dog, and a picture had been posted on the neighborhood Facebook page, and no one knew anything about the dog. My mom encouraged me to call animal control, and they brought us a trap to set up in the back. We caught the pup, and the poor thing was so hungry and covered in dime sized ticks. Luke and I talked briefly about keeping the dog, or adopting it if no one came to the animal shelter to claim it. But having a dog would just make it harder to travel, and often I'm out for hours at a time with the kids and that wouldn't be fair to the dog. But he/she was awfully sweet!

My mom heard about Noelle's constant asking to go to Build A Bear and got her a giftcard for her birthday. In true Noelle fashion, it was burning a hole in her pocket and needed to be spent ASAP. We went a few weeks ago, and she had a blast picking out her animal (a rainbow leopard), choosing a name, and picking out a few accessories. It's the first time I've ever done Build A Bear, and it was fun!

A few weekends ago, we heard about the Moon Pie Festival in Bell Buckle. There is a 10 mile race that I had hoped to do, but since getting injured that was out. But we still thought a festival celebrating the Moon Pie cookie and RC Cola would be fun! As is typical for us, we were running behind and missed the parade, but we were able to wander around for a bit to see some of the vendors. It was hot so the kids didn't last long, but while they were slurping up their snow balls, I checked out a few stores full of antique items. It was a super cute town, and I'd love to go back and explore some more! I mean with a name like Bell Buckle, how could it not be cute!

My girls! Sometimes I still can't believe I have two! Noelle is pretty much still just as in love with Clara as she was when Clara was first born. Noelle is a pretty good helper, and I'm curious to see how their relationship develops. I worry that a five year age gap will make it hard for them to be close, but I also know that adulthood shrinks that age gap right up (I love that my sister six years younger than me is more in the same place of life!)

And all three of them together.  Jonah can make Clara laugh, and they both get so proud of her when she does anything- pulls herself up, says mamamama, scoots around on the floor. It's the sweetest!

And a baby on my hip. How we're closing out this baby stage, I just don't know. We did reach a point before I had Clara where I wasn't holding Jonah as often. But then Holden came. And then Clara came. She's no where close to walking- at least another month or two. But for now, I'll wear that girl on my hip! (Also, check out that sass!)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Exploring Downtown, Jack Daniel's, and My People

One day we decided to hit up downtown Nashville in the 12South and The Gulch neighborhoods. Mostly to take pictures in front of (some) of the many murals around those areas. It was a sunny, hot day, but thankfully the kids did pretty well. And were mostly easily bribed by fruit snacks.

Getting pictures with all four of the cousins together was fun. I mean how hard can it be to get four kids, five and under to all look at the camera and smile? ;)

And of course with other people visiting, we were able to get pictures of our whole family! It's rare these days when I have a picture of all five of us. Of course that could also be because the older two in particular don't love cooperating. :)

While we were downtown, we decided to eat at Biscuit Love. I've been following them on Instagram for a little while, and every time I see a picture of the food, I just want to go! The kids got super thick french toast, Luke got some sort of chicken and biscuit combo, and I had a whipped yogurt and berry concoction and a brussel sprout salad. It was all SO good!

After a few hours of wandering around, we took the kids to Centennial Park to play on the play ground. Holden wasn't feeling great, so Heather and Jason headed home. Our kids played for awhile, and as we headed to the car we saw a NoBaked Cookie Dough place (another food place I had heard about!) and decided to go in and look. Which of course turned into us buying something. But we bought one small scoop for the four of us to share, and we still didn't finish it all. It was SO good, and also very rich. But so good.

Having family in town definitely got us out exploring Nashville more than we have since we've moved down here. I'm not a big city person, but I do know there is a lot to do, especially for kids, so I want to be brave and be willing to explore downtown with them. Nashville at least seems like a friendly, more navigable city than Baltimore or D.C.

The next day my mom scheduled a tour for all of us at the Jack Daniel's Distillery. The older adults (aka the 60+ group) went on a 30 minute air-conditioned bus tour, while those of us with little children went on an hour and a half walking tour that was outside and in hot buildings. I think the older adults won that one, especially since they at least got to have a tasting. BUT the kids did surprisingly well- again, there were bribes/distractions with fruit snacks. It was a warm day, but not overly humid, and no one had a complete meltdown.

Watching the assembly line- probably the most exciting part (aside from the brief video) for the kids. There were some interesting facts told on the tour, and the little town (Lynchburg) was super cute with their town square. But still- I questioned my mom if she would have ever taken us to something like this when we were my kids ages! And she just laughed.

Reaching for that pricey stuff! 

We did more while everyone was here- dinner celebration for my Uncle's birthday at Bishop's with ice cream back at the hotel, Heather and Jason made dinner for everyone at our house one night, we tried to go downtown for the country music awards festivities but kept getting turned away for various things (needed a clear bag! couldn't bring in outside food after I had just paid $10 for an acai bowl!) so we headed home. We turned on the Caps hockey game since my Grama is a big hockey fan. It was good. SO SO good having everyone here.  I'm especially thankful my Grama got to have every single person in her family all in one place.

And I LOVED seeing all my siblings in one place. We're all spread out now. Although Heather and Jason are planning on moving to CO, so I'll be the loner here in the south. But just an excuse for us to make frequent trips to CO!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Happy First Birthday, Clara Irene!

My dear, sweet Clara Irene! My little bug!

My baby girl, you are one year old! My mommy heart hurts to say goodbye to baby-hood. It is such a unique, short time of life with so much change and growth, and I have loved watching you grow!

the moment you were placed in my arms

You make us laugh with your goofy faces, especially as you scoot around on your hiney and peek around at us from corners in the house. Your giggles are contagious and have me laughing out loud!

I love watching you watch your siblings. You want so badly to join in the fun with them, but also have no problem pushing them away when you've had enough loving. Before I know it, you'll be running around with them in the backyard, keeping up with them on your tiny legs.

You LOVE water! Bathtime, the baby pool in the backyard, the splash pad, the neighborhood pool- you kick those little legs like crazy when you know you're getting into the water. Maybe you and Jonah will be our swimmers like Daddy!

This past year has been full of change for our family, and I'm so thankful you were along for the ride. When you were born, little did we know that just a few months later, we'd be moving to a new state. You tagged along on our trip to TN to look for a house, making the drive back down less than two months later to move. You are quite the traveling champ. You even had your first plane ride at two months old to go visit your GG.

You've been the best little tag along as we took your siblings to school,  went to play dates, trips to the library and zoo. In part because of our move, you stayed with me at church the longest, not really going into nursery until recently. While I didn't get to pay attention to the sermon from week to week, I am thankful for the time I had with you. We're attached at the hip, and I'm not complaining. :)

Girlfriend, you are such an answer to prayer. For over two years, I longed for another baby. The caboose to our trio. My heart ached as I prayed and begged God for you. And in His timing and way, He blessed us with YOU. I will always look at you and be reminded of His answering my prayer in just the right way. I pray that you come to know Jesus and love Him with your whole heart. Mama is still learning and growing in Him, and my hope is that you know of His love your whole life.

We love you, our sweet Clara Irene. Happy first birthday, little love!


Friday, June 22, 2018

Birthdays, Tea Party, and Biscuits

The Sunday that the whole family was in town we decided to have a big celebration for the 4 littles for their birthdays. With Jonah's birthday in April and Holden's in August, and the girls in between, their birthdays all happen within 4 months of each other. We ordered pizzas and salads and spread out all over the house and patio (all 23 people!)

We bought cupcakes from Target and set the kids up to sing happy birthday. Clara dug right in to hers and clearly enjoyed the icing. :)

My mom, sister, and aunt were on top of things and had gifts for the kids to open. Which was of course the most exciting thing!

Me and my Grama. 94 years old and she knows how to party. And of course she enjoyed a cupcake because why not??

My poor brother arrived in TN with some really bad back problems- he's not sure if/how he pulled something, but he was having a really hard time getting around. Originally we had planned to have him sleep on an air mattress in the bonus room, but that would have been too uncomfortable, so we pulled out one of the futons in the main room each evening for him. Which of course meant not much sleep for him since at least one of the kids was up early. And the boys especially wanted to climb all over him.

My mom decided to plan a little early birthday celebration for Noelle at the American Girl Store in their cafe. We had an afternoon tea complete with little sandwiches, tiny desserts, and tea (or lemonade for the birthday girl), as well as chairs for our old school American Girl dolls to sit in. Despite Noelle not being much of a doll person she had an absolute blast!

She wore her birthday tiara with pride, dressed up in one of her fancier dresses, and the only "sandwich" she ate was the muffins.

Clara did really well for being there for about two hours, and was mostly entertained by the tiny teacups and plates that were given to her and the dolls.

That evening, we took the whole crew (minus Luke who volunteered to stay home with Clara) to Loveless Cafe for food. Luke ate there with his family when we all came down in 2014, but I stayed behind with a then four month old cranky Jonah. Then when we came in November to look at houses, we went so I could taste the goodness that is Loveless Cafe. There were 18 of us for a 6:45 p.m. seating, but they were ready for us and our waiter was full of southern hospitality. After we ordered, my sister and I took the kids out front to burn off some energy until our food came!

After we stuffed ourselves with biscuits, fried chicken, salad, and waffles for my Grama, we hung out outside for a little bit to say good night to everyone, and then headed to our respective beds.

It was a full day for sure, but Noelle felt super loved celebrating her birthday early, and all the West coasters and my immediate family got to experience the deliciousness of Loveless Cafe.