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!)


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.


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!

A Fun Birthday Present!

 By “fun birthday present,” you may have assumed I was talking about my Vitamix (which is the most totally awesome machine ever!) but no, I am talking about another birthday present. Samuel’s birthday present!

Ben’s mom went in with us on a very fun birthday outing for Samuel! This past Sunday, we headed down to Cincinnati for the day to watch a Red’s game!! It was the first major league baseball game for Eliana and I to go to and the first Reds home game for the boys.

Within probably 15 minutes of the game starting, thunder started rumbling fiercely, followed by lightening. They quickly covered the field and asked all of us to take cover down by all the concessions, etc. So we huddled along with thousands of other people and watch the storm slowly move over the field, soaking it and then when it stopped, we went back to our (wet) seats and watched the fascinating process of the many workers uncovering the field. It was actually really fun to watch!

As you can see, all 3 of my guys had Reds shirts on:) We all inherited the Reds as our team because Ben loves them (although if you asked him this year, he would tell you they stink!)

Eliana and I don’t have Reds shirts, as you can see:) After the rain went away, the sun came out and it was SOOOO hot and humid! We were literally dripping in sweat and had to keep reapplying sunscreen through the afternoon.  I had to keep taking Eliana down where they had this humongous fan that blew mist out. There were crowds of people around it, trying to cool off!

We drank so much water, it wasn’t funny! The game was really exciting to watch and made all the more fun with the announcements, fun music ditties they play here and there and crowd shots. The cameras did silly things like the “smile cam” or the “kiss cam.” It was fun to watch! We were a little too high up to have the cameras make it to us, bummer.

One of the most fun things about the game was the home run that Suarez (a Reds player) got. They make a huge deal of home runs, shooting off fireworks, etc. It was awesome! Also, the relief pitcher, Chapman, who comes out for the last inning or two to finish the game threw his 500th strike which was the fastest record in MLB history. He was a fun pitcher to watch! We even got to see him throw a few 100 mph balls! (all the pics are on Ben’s phone though) Zakkai was so fascinated with watching the speeds of the balls so he was thrilled to see it reach 100! (and so was I, quite frankly:)

We lasted the whole game (11 innings!), only to have the Reds lose but it was still a blast and the kids all got certificates saying it was their first game and/or happy birthday. We were all hot and sweaty and exhausted by the time we left (it was almost a 5 1/2 hour game!) We got in bed late but happy and full of memories:)

Go Reds! (or as Ben says, those Stinking Reds!) haha.

Happy Birthday, Zakkai!!

 Yesterday, our sweet, spunky, loud and very funny Z-man turned 8! Eight? Wow. I kept trying to buy number seven candles at the store the day before and Samuel kept saying, “Mommy? He’s going to be eight!” Everyone warns you that time will fly and you know that but then it really hits you when your fat little blue-eyed monster goes from 9 months old to 8 years in the blink of an eye!

I procrastinated, as usual, in planning a party and then suffered over terrible bad-mommy guilt the past week. But to my surprise, all 8 kids ended up coming to the party, despite my borderline late invitations! I was even getting rsvp’s yesterday afternoon. Good thing I went ahead and planned for everyone coming!

We chose a Lego theme for his party, since he and S are mega Lego-lovers. It is a GREAT theme for a party! You can do primary colors for decorations, which are easy to find at the dollar store and use the legos you have on hand. It was actually fun to pick all the decorations and games, even though it was stressful, too. (Have I mentioned that I am ready to boycott parties?!!!) I just really really wanted our Zakkai to feel special. He is the middle child. King of hand-me-downs and always being “shushed” because he’s talking so loud or pounding on the table like a drum. He simultaneously drives me up the wall and captures my heart in the deepest, most tender mommy part. He is so incredibly precious to us!

No school again yesterday so all three were begging to help me with party preparations all day! Wednesday night I finished the planning and then all day Thursday and Friday I did party prep. Here was one end of the table.

Juice boxes covered with construction paper, to look like Legos!

The boys built a fork holder out of their Legos!

I wish it hadn’t turned out so blurry, but these were the Lego head pops! Made from marshmallows and almond bark coating. I painted the faces on with black cookie icing.

I thought they were adorable! Probably my favorite thing I made:)

The boys drew faces on yellow balloons and helped color Lego figures for decorations. Thankfully, my mom and stepdad showed up early and helped us tape up decorations really fast!! I forgot to take a picture of the cute sign we put out on the door…

My mama!

Ben and his mama! He’s such a goofball….

It took about 15 minutes for everyone to arrive so we sent everyone upstairs to the boys’ room to play Legos until it was game time. We are limited on space in here, with a really small living room so I made the boys clean their room so we could use it, too.

The first game was a car building game. We divided up the kids into two groups of 5, each getting a bowl of the exact same Lego pieces. They had 15 minutes to build the coolest, most creative, drivable car they could!

This was the upstairs group working hard. I supervised the upstairs group, making sure everyone was playing nicely and fairly! They were both done in about 10 minutes so we started the judging!

We brought their cars to the table and had them gather around and brought Ben and a friend of ours (whose son was invited) who stayed for the party to be the judges.

This was group One’s car. They said it could drive and fly and they had to prove to us that it was drivable. It was! They won “Most functional Car.”

Group Two went wild with their elaborate creation and won “Most Creative car!” They even said their car was computerized! How’s that for some modern kids?!

Zakkai listening to the judging:) They were having so much fun!

For their prizes, each team got to pick a Lego Head Pop out of the jars. Most kids liked them, although a few handed their gnawed off pops to me wanting to save them for later:) ha!

I didn’t get a picture of it but while they were waiting for the pizza to be ready, we played Lego Bingo! It was SOOO fun! They all sat in the living room and I handed out Lego Bingo cards. They all got a little pile of Legos to use as the markers and I was the caller. I had cards that matched all the Lego mini figures on their cards and I would call them out and show the cards around. We had time for 2 rounds before eating.

Coming up with prizes for games can be expensive on top of everything you already have to get so I did no prizes! The winner of round one got to be first in line for pizza. They loved it! We had a tie for round two so they had to do rock, paper, scissors to see who got to be second and third in line. Who needs a prize?! Here were some of them eating at the table.

It started out being the “girls club” in the living room but by the end they were all in there together. They started to get a little crazy at this point (and this is about when my mom and stepdad made their escape!!) I didn’t get pictures of this part either because I was so busy trying to round everyone up and get them ready but we did Lego Head jars. You can click on the link to see what they are supposed to look like!

The kids and I ate baby food (yum!) so we could have jars to use. Pears are my favorite:) I painted all the jars and lids yellow and then at the party, set out plates of red, white, black and brown paint for them to paint Lego faces on them. Some of them turned out cute; some just look like paint blobs and 2 boys messed up and wanted me to re-paint them yellow so they could re-do them at home! It kept them busy until cake time.

I tried valiantly to make a Lego block cake and it looks awful but I tried! (It’s okay, I really do know it looks bad! I was disappointed but I am hard on myself and Zakkai was happy so that’s what matters!

The bottom layer was chocolate and then top layers were vanilla. The block parts were marshmallows and oreos. It may look terrible but it tasted pretty good!

Z blowing out the Lego candles! (found those at Meijer!) Poor kiddo got a bad tummyache during the painting part and sat on the couch with his Grandma for awhile. He didn’t even try his cake until today!! We set aside a big chocolate piece for him. His friends went around the table and said something they really liked about Zakkai and then before they were even finished, the parents started coming!

For goodie bags, which can get way too pricey, I got plain yellow cellophane bags and drew Lego heads with faces on each one and wrote their name. In it we put a cool sucker, glowing slappy thing (who knows), smarties and if they wanted, another Lego Head Pop. They were supposed to have their Lego Head jars, too, in the bags but they were all wet! I told them Z would bring them to school Monday…

Everyone rushed off into the cold night and then we were left to open presents. Ben’s mom stayed with us to watch, which was really nice. Couldn’t believe how quiet it was after all the chaos!!

Such a beautiful boy:) I hate that his tummy felt so bad. He wouldn’t get off the couch so we had to hand him his presents. (He felt much much better after some “manly time” in the bathroom right afterwards;)

Ah! Look at all these presents he got!! He got lots of Legos, a game, a giftcard and even a Dictionary from us. He seriously asked for a Dictionary for his birthday and was thrilled with it! He has been using it all day today:)

Happiest 8th birthday, sweet boy! You fill our life up with your zest. You drive us crazy constantly beating on everything like a drum but you tell me you like it and it makes you happy so how can we get too upset?? You are so funny, tell the most elaborate stories with the most minute details, have captured the hearts of your teacher and student teacher with how fun and smart you are.

You can build anything, figure out problems and mechanical things quicker than anyone I know, love to write your full name on all your homework, hate to dance, love doing math on the computer and underneath, when you stop and are still, you have the sweetest, most tender heart. We absolutely adore you, Z-man! Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthentine’s Weekend!

We have been so unbelievably busy around here! I got 2 new part-time jobs this week, one being another cleaning job and another being a preschool teacher! Eliana’s teacher is leaving for another position somewhere else and called me earlier this week to ask if I would finish out the school year. Thankfully, it will work for me to get the boys to the bus stop and then leave immediately for preschool.
So now I clean 3 times a week some weeks and teach preschool 2 days a week. Add all regular activities and household errands on top of that and I am swamped! I had to turn down an extra day teaching at the preschool because I just knew I couldn’t handle it. On Friday Ben was leaving for work and he said, “Don’t take any more jobs today!” haha.
We’ve had a fun weekend. On Friday night we went to Ben’s mom’s house and had a birthday dinner for Ben and his grandma, whom he shares a birthday with. It was really fun! We had a yummy Olive Garden dinner and cake and played a game.
Yesterday morning we had a special treat and went to breakfast for Ben’s birthday! We found a really inexpensive cute diner and had the best waitress! She even put a birthday candle in Ben’s toast:) We ran a couple errands and got caught in a white-out on our way home. I have a couple cute pictures from breakfast but my phone keeps dying randomly so I can’t get it right now. (gotta love technology!)

In the evening, Ben’s mom came over and happily took on our Trio to allow us to go on a date! Can’t remember the last time we actually got to go out on Ben’s birthday (we don’t celebrate the Valentine’s Day part of it so he can feel special!) We went out to eat at PF Changs, which we loved and got some cheesecake and browsed at a bookstore. Our kind of date;)

Today it is FREEZING outside, so admittedly we played hookie from church which we never do but we’ve had 2 late nights and it was -2 out this mornings so….we stayed warm inside! We’re having a dinner of popcorn and leftover muffins from breakfast and tucking everyone in their warm beds:)

A great ending to a great weekend!

Chickens and Halloween and Surprise Time Change!

 Well, there’s nothing like waking up to a time change that you didn’t know was happening!! I heard the boys up and peered at my phone clock through one slitted eye to see 6:20am staring back at me. We recently laid down the law and enforced some morning rules about times they are allowed up to read and then to play. (ex. on the weekends: stare at the wall or go back to sleep if it’s before 7am, read a book if you’re awake between 7-7:30 and after 7:30, they may get out of bed and play. Simple!)

So I threw on my robe, went to their room and said in my evil-mommy-perturbed-by-the-early-hour voice, “It is only 6:20 in the morning! What are you doing up?!” And of course, to pierce my heart, they turned from the books they were reading so nicely in their beds and replied in their innocent voices, “But mommy, it’s 7:20!”  What?! Oops:)

I roasted a whole chicken in my cast iron skillet a couple of weeks ago with potatoes and carrots nestled around it and it was SO yummy!! Juicy and tender and delicious! Cheaper than store bought, too:)

My mom and I have been going to story time together for the past month and a half or two with E and Little E (my niece) on Wednesdays. A couple weeks ago, we decided to kill time afterwards by going to the mall to let them play! They had a lot of fun!

Getting so big!

Here is Eliana watching Daddy cut the cake at her birthday party:)

And playing with her new favorite Elsa doll the next morning! She loves this doll!

Feeling very proud of herself that she is learning to write so well! The pictures always turn out badly on this blog so if you can’t read it, she wrote all of our family names, first and last!

Trick or Treat from Queen Elsa, Captain America and Samuel the Magician! Samuel didn’t want to go trick or treating this year but changed his mind at the last minute (seriously THE last minute) so he threw on last year’s costume. He was upset about it but ended up having fun. Next year, we’ll plan better!

We met up with Rapunzel (a.k.a. Cousin E!) and found a nice neighborhood to collect some loot:) Our little neighborhood is so filled with children that they are all out trick or treating and no one is home passing out candy! So everyone has to find a different neighborhood to go to. Isn’t that funny? Anyone happen to notice that the girls have bigger candy buckets than the boys? Hmmm, how did that happen?! People were more than willing to put multiple pieces in cute little princess buckets and the princesses were more than willing to accept them:)

Thankfully, we have places to donate our unwanted candy this year. Ben took the extra yummy stuff (a.k.a. chocolate!) to work the next day where it was inhaled in mere minutes by a bunch of hungry warehouse workers and we are taking all the non-chocolately/peanutty stuff to Awana. They have a big candy bucket and the kids get to pick out one piece every week if they say verses. So we were just left with the top 15 pieces in our kiddos buckets and a few extras for their dearest mummy and daddy and that’s it!

Happy Sunny Sunday!

Birthday Festivities!

 We did some more celebrating for our Missy Girl’s birthday this weekend! I’ll give you one guess as to the theme:) (hint: every single girl in America!!!)

This was the night of her actual birthday. We saved her presents for when Daddy got home and after dinner and blueberry cupcakes! (which were really good, by the way!)

Opening a present from her Aunt C. What could it be?


Proud big brother:) He and Zakkai work really hard to make any family member’s birthday really special! They made Eliana very sweet cards.

Z-man! Growing up so much these days!

Oooh, an Elsa crown and shoes from her brothers!! The perfected compliments to her Elsa dress:)

And her very first Lego Friends set! She got Rapunzel and loves it! The boys loved helping her put it together!

This past Sunday we threw a little family party for our sweet girl! Frozen-themed, of course! I was intimidated by all the crazy Frozen cakes out there on pinterest so I just decided to go with the colors and some snowflakes and I really love how it turned out!

It was a strawberry cake with buttercream frosting! Mmm…

She loved it!

Speaking of the birthday girl…..Ready for celebrating!

She LOVED all the attention from our families:) Her first real birthday party!

Smiling for Grandma:) She requested that I make her hair just like Elsa’s. I asked how that was and she said with a braid and over to the side around her shoulder. So cute!

She finally agreed to put the cape on and ended up loving it! Silly girl…Her happiness is such a joy to us. She is sweet!

Always ready with a big “cheese” for every picture:)

I put on a little “Jim Gill” music for a little while and Z, Eliana and their cousin Little E, sat right down like it was a movie or something;)

We shamelessly pulled out the boys’ fundraiser booklets for family to look through:) They didn’t seem to mind!

Papa and Grandma!

Uncle T!

The table decorated with shades of aqua and blue.

Frozen napkins, of course!

These are special Frozen flowers that Ben gave Eliana on her birthday:) She absolutely loved her special flowers! He’s going to raise the bar awfully high for any future suitors….:)

Ooh, present time!

The boys are always ready to help with opening presents!

Happy girl!

My sweet niece!

This Elsa doll from Ben’s mom was the piece de resistance! Eliana ADORES it! She sings “Let It Go” and we were hearing that by 7:30am the next morning, haha! She came with a little Olaf and Eliana loves him, too.

Showing Grandpa-Great her doll!

E had such a good time and felt like such a special girl. Love how she is easy to love and bring joy, too! Happy Birthday, Eliana! (again!)

Eliana’s Special Day!

 This Cutie,

is feeling mighty fine today on her 4th birthday! Can you tell? 🙂 She has been bouncing around all weekend just waiting for this special day! We had just enough to give her one gift and make her some pancakes before Daddy had to leave for work. We brought her downstairs and led her into the kitchen….

Where she found her very own Elsa dress!! Our sweet girl is Frozen-obbbbbssessed! Pretty much like every other girl in the country:) She decided weeks ago she would love to be Queen Elsa for her birthday and after doing a lot of research on the dozens of Elsa dresses out there, I decided to make my own! I didn’t like most of them and a lot of them are really expensive, especially if you try to get homemade ones on Etsy. I am mostly really happy with how it turned out:)

This is her face after seeing her dress! Funny girl.

Feeling so good! I think she looks just beautiful in this picture.


Even though she claimed to love the dress, she refused to try it on! I had to beg her to try it on and after a few tears, she finally acquiesced. I had to shorten the straps after trying it on her and was disappointed a little with the back. It ties with ribbon and is almost an inch too small. It will look fine with a shirt underneath but oh well. Not bad for not having a pattern! There are some cute little details on the dress that you can’t see like little snowflakes that I stitched on the skirt and around the top of the bodice:)

Eliana and I ran a few errands and I took her to the mall to get some chicken nuggets at Chick-Fil-A as a treat:) We walked around for a little bit and then headed home for a little rest.

Tonight we celebrate as a little family with some blueberry cupcakes, as she requested, and this weekend we will have a bigger celebration with extended family!

Eliana, we adore you. You are such a gift to us. A joy, a delight and such a treasure! It’s so hard to believe that our teeny tiny dark-haired birdie baby is now a sweet, dimpled four year old. You have a silly giggle, love to make us all laugh, soak up attention from your brothers and are SO affectionate with Daddy and I. You come up to us several times a day and say things like, “I really like you, Mommy/Daddy!” You adore anything Frozen, coloring and having fights with me over clothes. We can’t wait to see how God uses your sunshiny personality to touch others around you. You are precious to us all!