Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 I have finally figured out how to get pictures from my phone to  my computer, using the good old fashioned usb cord:) I think picture-less blog posts are so boring!

I made a new tree skirt this year for our tree!I got some fabric last year and never did anything with it (story of my busy life!) but finally decided to spruce up our tree:)

Funny…I never took a picture of the actual tree! It was pretty and very tall! The tallest tree we have had yet!

Eliana got shots a couple weeks before Christmas for her 5 year check-up and this was her reaction to the polio shot:( Poor baby!

Eliana and a couple classmates waiting for ballet class to begin:) So sweet!

Speaking of sweet…..Eliana had her first ballet recital just before Christmas! It was the casual Christmas recital (and SO cute!) and the fancy recital is in June. Eliana did a great job! Actually Eliana’s class did the best out of most of the younger classes, if I don’t say so myself:)

We made cookies over Christmas! Ben took the week off of work and we relaxed and hung out!

I was sick with a stomach bug on Christmas Eve so I felt pretty crummy on Christmas, unfortunately and had to take most of my Christmas pictures from the couch! The kids have really been into duct tape lately and they made each other (and us) lots of duct tape presents:) Samuel is holding his present from Zakkai~a printed picture of our family in a duct tape frame:)

Christmas morning at my mom’s house. I barely made it but I so hated to miss out on all the fun! (Samuel is wearing his duct tape baseball hat:)

Eliana and Cousin Evy:)

The boys with some fun educational toys!

We also got money for a COSI membership (a really fun local scienc-y museum) so we went last week with a couple of friends. I haven’t been since I was a little girl and since they built the new one so it was fun for all of us. Now we know what to do during winter!

And Zakkai belt-tested this week for his purple belt! For the first time, there was no one else in his group testing so he was all by himself. He was nervous but he did such a great job! We are proud of you, Mr Z!

We are so proud of him for all that he has learned and the confidence he is gaining!!

And THIS was our best Christmas surprise of all!!! It was a fun story how God worked it all out and we were able to surprise the kids on Christmas morning with the news that we will be headed to Chicago next weekend to pick up our new baby! (just one). We are so excited to meet our new addition!

Happy New Year!

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Happy Birthday, Eliana!

On Tuesday, our sweetest girl turned FIVE years old! She was a huge grouch the night before and was boycotting birthdays, parties and anything else we suggested but after a good night’s sleep, she was on board with having a special day:)

Her brothers pooled together their money to buy her a little Lego Friends set and they were beyond excited to give it to her. I have serious suspicions that they woke her up just so they could have her open it! She didn’t seem to mind too much.

We did school and other small things in the day but that evening we took her out to eat! She had such a good time, except for when they servers showed up with a candle in some cookies and yelled out a happy birthday song for the whole restaurant to hear! She was seriously mortified. I can only imagine what it would have been like if she was a teenager:) (hey, I’ll have to remember that!)

Today, we finally had her birthday party! She has had her guest list set since the spring and changed the theme from Frozen, to Princess to Ballerina in the mean time. She settled on a Ballerina party and it was SO fun! I love planning a party and coming up with ideas but I am a huge procrastinator and then I dread the party. Then I love it while it’s happening and after it’s over. I’m weird like that!

The table was set with pink and purple (and a splash of yellow!), fitting colors for ballerinas!

I served little cups with berries, pretzels sticks, pink lemonade and homemade vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting. As I am delving more and more into “cleaner eating,” I am shying away from products with food dyes in them. So after a little research, I found out that blueberries make a beautiful purple color!

I just simmered a cup of blueberries and 1/2 cup of water in a pan for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Then I poured the blueberry juice through a mesh strainer and pressed the berries until all the juice was out and let it cool. I added it to my buttercream frosting and voila! So pretty!

Some of our decorations:) Ballerina snowflake/origami!

Someone was very excited to finally have guest arriving!!

She invited 5 little girls, ranging between the ages of almost 3 1/2 and 6 years old. (one of the little sisters was too shy to take part in the picture!) They all came in their best tutus and ballet outfits!

Beautiful Ballerinas!

First I did a little craft with the girls so it would have time to dry during the party. I had cut out paper leotards before hand in shades of pink and purple. We glued them on white paper and painted their hands and made handprints for tutus.

It was a big hit and turned out SO cute!

I love how each little girls’ was different and beautiful!

Next, we went into the living room for a little ballerina story. I read, “Ella Bella Ballerina and Cinderella.” (Ella Bella books are very cute for those who love ballet!)

Love those listening faces:)

We had soft Nutcracker music playing in the background and I turned it up for some ballet dancing! Eliana led the girls in some stretches first:)

Then they twirled and danced to their heart’s content!

I copied off of something they do in E’s ballet class and pulled out a little stuffed animal to have the girls jump over. Big hit!

Love her face:) There were LOTS of pictures taken during this time but most were blurry action shots so I’ll spare you! We also played, “Ballerina Says” (instead of Simon says) which was so much fun. I started it and then some of the girls wanted to be “Ballerina” and lead the game.

Next we had cupcake time!

Love, love this picture! Isn’t she precious?

Blowing the candles out! The girls munched for a little bit and then we corralled them into the living room again for presents! (not hard to do at a party!)

 Surrounded!

Another Lego Friends set!

She got lots of fun things from her friends and cousin! Then we asked all the girls to turn around so we could surprise Eliana with her big present from us, my mom and stepdad and Ben’s mom.

Surprise!

A new play kitchen!! It was so cute to see all 6 girls crowding around having so much fun. We could hardly tear them away! Until….. Wait til you see the next part. My friend’s husband happens to own and operate a very cool local business. He just happened to stop by and offered to do something special for the party….

Ah!! He set up a princess bounce house in our backyard!! (Oh, how much I love having a backyard!!!) I mean seriously, this was the icing on the cake.

We told the girls there was a special surprise in the backyard and brought them in the kitchen.

Love their faces when we opened the door! They all screamed and ran outside:)

What followed was ballerina/princess mania!

Our happy birthday girl:) I’m pretty sure we’ll never top this so that means I don’t have to throw another party again, right???

My friend’s adorable little girl!

Say, “Ballerina!!” What a fun party. It is a joy to be surrounded with family and friends, who take the time to help you celebrate your sweet kids. We are so thankful tonight!

Sports!

 We were not able to get our kids in sports much in Chicago, other than a few little classes through the Y. We were determined to change that this year! Zakkai, as you know, is now in Tae Kwon Do and he goes 2x’s a week and is doing really well! He is currently a gold belt and will be testing at the beginning of October to become a green belt! I will be sure to post pictures:)

Eliana just got to start her very own, much-desired “sport” (as she calls it) last week! She is finally taking ballet! She is in a 4/5 year old ballet/tap combo class. She has her second class tomorrow and she is SOOOO excited! It’s pretty much all she talks about.

Pretty in pink! Love that soft little belly:) Mr Z had one at this age, too and now he’s a skinny as a beanpole!

She walked right in a sat down. I got to watch through a window the whole time and could not stop smiling:)

Practicing at the barre with her tap shoes!

She learned curtsying, walking on tip-toes, balancing, stretching and some tapping. It was just plain old the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! I can assure you that I will be posting more on this!

Samuel just started fall ball (baseball) a couple weeks ago and last Thursday was their first game. His new team are the “Green Dragons.” Samuel wasn’t thrilled about the new team name (change is hard for him!) but after the game, he was feeling much better about it!

His batting has improved a lot since he first started in April!

He even got to pitch for one of the innings! He says he wants to pitch or play first base so he and Ben have been working hard. His current coach (Ben is an assistant again) is letting all the kids try different positions for a few weeks and then will place them where they fit best. It seems like it will be much better than his last team, where favorites were definitely played and the same three kids got the best positions all season.

Samuel pitched SO well! He threw more strikes than any of the other pitchers and was named ‘Most Effective Pitcher’ of the night! He was very proud and so were we:)

They did lose the game but you wouldn’t have known it from these kids’ faces! They got some great hits and catches in and were proud of their hard work. Go Green Dragons!