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!


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!

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!)

Last Day of School and Party!

Yesterday was kind of a hard day for all of us. It was my last day of babysitting for Baby C and that was really hard for me. Eliana and I both cried after he left. He is such a busy boy and such a little joy and he has been our little buddy for almost a year now. It was also the last day of school and was full of very mixed emotions for the boys this year. On one hand, who doesn’t like to be out of school for the summer? But on the other, it meant that they had to say goodbye to the school and friends they have loved so much for the past few years. I made sure to bring my camera and take pictures for them!

Here they are after school with two of their buddies. Danny and Marissa were some of our first friends here and their mom and I walked to and from school almost everyday the past couple of years until she went back to work. We will miss them!

Zakkai with our beloved Mrs. Shapiro. She was such a blessing to our family, as we had her for both S and Z!

She is a teacher we will never forget. Such a perfect blend of grandmotherly and firm with the kids. She commands respect and yet is so sweet with them, they all love her! She helped get our boys off to a really good start in school!

Here is Samuel with his teacher, Mrs. Davis. She is full of energy and gets the kids really excited about learning. She has been such a great listener and encourager and Samuel loved her!

Today we switched gears and got ready for our good-bye party! The boys were mostly excited about it. Again…the whole good-bye thing…This was the invitation. Very cute!

I made memory books for the boys from mini binders and had each of the kids bring a picture to the party and write a message on a paper for the boys. I will put them all together tomorrow, hopefully. I need to do it quickly since there is so much to do!

I think the boys will really treasure these. They took them to school a couple days ago, before I even had the covers finished and had their teachers write them a note. They were really sweet notes! I also put together small “stay-in-touch” cards for each boy to give to their friends. On one side, with a little soccer logo, it had some info to stay in touch with friends, including their very own combined email address! They are very excited to have an email address to stay in touch:) And on the other side, I put a picture of the boys (the ones on their memory books.) I laminated them and they turned out so cute!

It was a VERY low-key party. I made little soccer cupcakes. The soccer balls are actually rings. Eliana was thrilled about having another ring to add to her jewelry collection:) So the kids played soccer on teams, had treats, played some more soccer and kick and catch and then played on the nearby playground. Easy and fun!

Waiting patiently for cupcakes!

Samuel and one of his best friends, T.

T, Samuel and J. J moved here from China at the beginning of the year and has learned SO much English, it is amazing. He is the translator for his mom, who is very shy. He loves to goof around, as we have found out!

For instance…

Silly boys:)

And oh, we can’t forget Mikey! He showed up at our doorstep within 3 days of us moving and has been a regular fixture at our backdoor. He is really a sweet boy and he is incredibly sad about the boys moving. We hope he will stay in touch!

LJ is our neighbor, who has come to/from school with us for the last 2 years and often comes to church with us. He says it will be very boring without the boys next door!

Ben got all the boys involved in a soccer game pretty quickly!

It was pretty warm out in the field so after 45 min, we had everyone come under the shelter for a break and lots of water and juice! And cupcakes:)

Cooling off. Samuel got really overheated and felt really sick for a little while:( We forced him to drink 2 water bottles and rest for awhile. Thankfully, he perked up after a bit. Poor kiddo!

Ben enjoyed some good conversation with one of our friends from church. They have a son in first grade also at the school and they are the nicest family!

The whole gang! We had several kids not show up, which was a little disappointing for the boys but they still had a really good time.

Samuel and his other best bud, R. These two and T (from the first picture) will be having a sleepover next week before we go. They can hardly talk about anything else!! Samuel is most sad about leaving these two. I really hope they’ll be able to be pen pals.

It was a busy but good day! Now on to a very busy last week here….

Back to School Party!

 I promised my boys and end of the year slumber party which quickly turned into a back to school slumber party instead! Last night was the big night since it was the last Friday before school starts. Wow!

We started out the evening by letting the kiddos make their own pizzas!

So proud of his mad dough spreading skills!

Eliana spent most of her time pilfering pizza toppings:)

Finally her dough was spread and she got to decorate to her heart’s content!

We picked up a Wii game at the Redbox for them to play while they ate their own pizza creations. We were hoping for the Angry Birds game but they didn’t have it for some reason so we ended up with Madagascar 3 Wii.

Eliana kept saying, “It’s our own pizzas! Where’s your own pizza, Zakkai?”

Then I got out t-shirts for them to decorate with fabric paint! Boy, were they excited!! Eliana had to go to bed (no all-nighters for her!) so she got to do hers this morning. The boys just loved this!

Here is Zakkai’s creation! His is a car with all the details, driving on a road. He only had to be told 6, 5,789 times not to squeeze the paints so hard;) Samuel decided to finish his creation this morning.

We finished up the night with homemade peach ice cream!

Homemade peach ice cream and Farkle, a really fun dice game!

After breakfast, Samuel and Eliana got right to work decorating! Samuel said he was thinking Eliana could paint a nice barn scene with some animals but I said that she probably isn’t quite ready for that level of art yet!

Samuel working hard and enjoying every minute of it!

No barn scenes! Only paint polka dots for Missy Girl:)

Here is Samuel’s finished homemade Angry Bird’s shirt! He did a good job!


They are already asking when they can do it again:)

Rev Your Engines!!

 And prepare yourselves for an overload of pictures!! Welcome to Race Car Party.

We got a ton of our decorations at the dollar store! Very cheap:) And we made the rest, like Zakkai’s name on the door.

Can’t have a racecar party without checkered flags!

All set up and ready for one of our activities: painting with racecars! I put paint down on paper plates and they rolled the cars through the paint and made some really cool pictures!

Activity numero dos was painting these wooden race cars. I thought I was pretty clever for putting the paint in cupcake liners:)

And here’s the racing car fueling station! The table cloth is supposed to be a road.

Here’s Z’s Race Car cake made out of cupcakes! It was fun to make. Lots of little steps but not too hard to put together.

Zakkai chose to eat the cupcake with the driver in it:)

Decorations in the basement!

And this was the remote control obstacle course that Ben and the boys set up. He had to use all these objects to line it so the cars wouldn’t get out of control. The blocks on the top made it look a little better!

Ready for racing!

The spoiler on the back of the car kept falling off but thankfully, little boys could care less!!

Here’s my happy birthday boy! The boys were such a big help all day, decorating and helping cleaning and setting up. We worked from 8am til the party started at 2:30!

The Goody Bags! I felt a little stressed over this, as it can add up quickly. I didn’t want to give them lots of little junk that will end up trashed in a few days. We ended up putting in a new Hot Wheels car, a pencil and their own painted wooden race cars. They seemed happy! Oh, and one little girl came, that Zakkai just loves (and she is pretty sure she’ll marry him 5/7 days a week:) and I put a little pad of paper, a couple cute pens and her painted car in hers.

The water bottles! I saw this cute idea to jazz up the water bottles online. I just printed off the paper for free and we cut strips and glued them on. Pretty cute!

The kids came within 5 minutes of each other; all 8 of them + one little brother. They jumped right into the art activities because they wanted to finish so they could go do some racing! They did seem to like the painting with cars. They made some really cool pics!

Here’s a few of them painting the cars. Some of them just globbed paint on and Ben had to dry them with a hairdryer before the parents came!

They exited the upstairs en masse and raced down to the basement for the obstacle course. No pun intended:) This was definitely the hit of the party! And it cost $0!

Eliana checked out the action with Daddy.

Some of the boys kept coming back down here to race and didn’t want to leave when their parents came!

Happy Boy!

After things were settling down in the painting area, Eliana came over to paint.

One of Samuel’s best buds! We let Samuel invite a friend and it worked out great because his little sister is in Z’s class and Zakkai really wanted her to come.

Big bro!


She loved painting so much that she threw a big fit when it was time to go eat cake!

Busy boys with noisemakers, party hats and balloons. I tell you, it doesn’t cost much to entertain kids!

I found these really cool candles that have different colored flames when you light them. Z loved it!

We only have 4 broken chairs so we decided to spread out the tarp again and let them all eat on that. Easy cleanup!

Since it was an afternoon party (2:30-4pm), we kept it easy and served cupcakes, clementines, pretzels, water and apple juice. They were happy!

E asked for a cupcake from about 10am on…

Opening presents! He got a lot of really neat things, including 2 remote control cars, a race car shirt and some legos!

This was all the boys crowding around when Z opened up a really cool remote control truck that lights up. Definitely a hit:)

Here are our kiddos painted cars and pictures.

Everyone was gone by 4:15, with goodie bags in hand and smiles on their faces! Zakkai could barely tear himself away from his presents to say thank you for coming. Ha. Ben and I high-fived each other and promptly fell over in exhaustion!

Happy Birthday to Zakkai! I think it was a rooooarrring success:)