Heidi's 3rd Birthday Party!


the only criteria listed by Heidi:  penguins, orange, "Kenzie, Kayla, Jillian, Olivia, Raeggie".  Could this girl be any more perfect, those are awesome criteria!  Fun, easy theme and the daughters of a handful of my dearest friends (aka, my women's circle).

Thoroughly inspired by working side-by-side with Krista, a school psych/ running mate who paints her nails in creative patterns weekly, I tackled our fingernails before I even figured out our party menu!  My nails are the tuxedo shirts with one orange polkadot, Heidi's are under mine with the reverse pattern (her nails are purposely out of focus...layer painting a toddler's nails was not my brightest & best parenting idea.  Jake had to leave his studies to come to Heidi's aid, reminding me that yelling at her wasn't really in the spirit of the occassion!).  

The middle photo are  my nails (I might be a convert, having rebelled against painted fingernails since 11th grade) and my friend, Andrea's.  She had no idea that I had painted my nails and showed up SHOWING ME UP!  Good thing I love her too much to unfriend her (her black & white outfit was cuter than mine too!  FRIENDS, yeesh ;)

The last picture is Andrea's daughter, Olivia.  Gorgeous all the way around, I was especially thrilled with how well she coordinated with the straws :)


I had to struggle to wake her up from her nap at 5:15!?!  She did NOT want to put on her party clothes.  However, as soon as she got downstairs and saw the tablescape and presents, she turned into the sweetest & most hyper almost-3-year-old you've ever seen!

I could not be more in love,

neither could her sister.

(I decorated their shirts and yes, I am proud!)

I'll post inspiration links and tutorials on Lazy Green Mama another day.  For now, some brief descriptions (mostly since this is our family journal).  

FROM LEFT:  Penguin Poppers (painted solo cups with balloon popper hats) & Penguin Eggs (marshmallows); goldfish crackers; olive penguins; orange dreamsicle birthday cake & orange poppyseed bundt cake; guest gifts of black & white bracelets; pizza cones for the kids (not pictured, strombolis from a local pizza shop, salad, shrimp cocktail & the beverage buffet).  Not pictured, black balloons that Jake turned into penguins, white & orange ballons; pin the baby on the penguin (which we didn't end up playing)


While her guests were mainly not quite age appropriate (you might notice that they're mostly 10-12 year olds), it was brilliant!  They entertained while the adults ate and chatted and then took care of helping Heidi with opening her gifts while still being young enough to then PLAY with her and the new gifts!  

Ever a sucker for a theme, we gave Heidi a penguin book, a penguin with baby doll and that adorable penguin costume (which is actually a hand-me-down from my friend who made that awesome skirt.)

We dug out both Pictionary and Pictionary Jr. which ended up being a BLAST!  Even Hazel, Heidi and Raegan got in on it- Hazel made letters while Regs and Heidi drew whatever the heck they wanted (and agreed with our guesses once the timer went off).  

Bottom left pictures:  Mackenzie popping some "eggs" at someone; Makayla giving Heidi a dose of her own medicine... Heidi brought the TOY gun out at the beginning of the party and started to shoot her guests... while we do allow gun playing, we don't aim at people, however this is what Heidi wanted and I gave Makalya the AOK to indulge Heidi.... She's weird, but wonderful!

Heidi's 3rd birthday party!  It was our best yet (*I say that after every birthday)!  Fun for all and Heidi L.O.V.E.D. it!  We had the party on a Friday night because that's when the "big kids" were available.  However, as a now working mom, that sure did make my Friday a tad stressful.  Thankfully most of the decor was done in advance and using easy foods was one of my most brilliant party ideas :)

I can't believe 3 years have passed since her birth.  Tomorrow I will share my thoughts on simply THE GIRL.  For tonight, I will tiptoe into her bedroom, kiss her soft cheek and sweaty neck.  When she sleeps, I still see my baby.  When she wakes, she will be my smart, funny, loud, fiercely independent, dare devil 3 year-old.  I am richly blessed.


HEADLINE: Sisters Caught Reading In Bed!

While I don't have memories of toddlerhood or playing with my sister for days on end, as country girls, we were certainly each other's best friends and only playmate.

Hazel and Heidi have such a beautiful relationship!  Do they fight, OH YES.  But mostly, they play, love, laugh, share.  They each think that the other is her "best friend" and I often catch them showing each other love.

The other night, a very sleepy mommy and very busy daddy hurried them off to bed.  Typically we have one fall asleep in our bed, but this night I was so tired that I wanted my bed!  So, we read them each a book, tucked them in, gave a few reminders/threats and closed the door.

From my room, I could hear them talking, but ignored it hoping it would quickly end.

It didn't.

Finally, I struggled out of bed (granted it was barely 8:30) and opened the door intent on giving them quite the lecture.

This is what I found:

Heidi had walked across the room and climbed into Hazel's bed.  Hazel was "reading" her stories.


This particular night, they looked up with guilty faces and were quite surprised when I immediately closed the door.  I grabbed my iPad (the most convenient way to take and upload pics these days) and reopened the door to snap this pic.

What's a strict mama to do?

Well, they didn't get a lecture, but I did separate them, give very strict orders about lights staying off and bodies staying in bed.

They obliged me with falling quickly asleep.  Phew!

As for books, I have been enjoying more and more reading time with the girls.  Often while Jake is either cooking or cleaning up from dinner, I'll gather the girls in my arm chair and we dig in to a pile.

This week my school librarian has been putting a ton of great books on the staff "give away" table.  Our district has closed many satellite schools over the years (small rural schools) and she has duplicate/triplicates of some books.  While I try not to be a hog, I couldn't help but pick out a few!

Our favorite one...that is read multiple times a day:
(photo is affiliate link)

Emma Dilemma:  Big Sister Poems by Kristine O'Connell George.  Hazel canNOT get enough of this book which very accurately describes the joys and hardships of being a big sister (though I don't think my big sister could relate AT ALL!  I NEVER copied everything she did nor explored her bedroom nor ruined her new markers...oh, I still shudder when I use markers worried that I'll press too hard and make my sister mad!).

PLUS, it's POETRY!  Earlier this year at my school, Dr. Mary Bigler presented at my school about the importance of reading to our kids.  She talked about reading fiction, nonfiction AND poetry!  Now, I am a fiction type of girl.  Nonfiction is left to dad.  Poetry is left to the scholars...but our house seems rather void of those ;)  While I don't dislike poetry, I'm not drawn to it and never think to purchase it!

Emma Dilemma isn't cutesy or rhyme-y.  But it's lyrical and fun and WE LOVE IT!

So there you have it, my thoughts about the blessings of sisters AND a book recommendation!

See here for an earlier post where I recommend another book for sisters.



Trip of a lifetime. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!

Last week Jake and I got to travel to the Hard Rock Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico compliments of Thrive Life.
man do we look WHITE!  I got a slight burn the first day and we lathered on sun screen every minute after!  Long term health & beauty :)

We are truly grateful to Thrive for letting us earn this trip.  Only 30 consultants were able to qualify and it blows me away that I was one of them.  I am definitely not the most successful consultant, but I did a few things right and scored this trip... A free vacation just for eating better and sharing it with my friends, really?

30 trip winners plus guest, executive team & consultants who bought into the trip.

For Jake and I have to have a vacation, just the two of us, without the worry of finances was a great blessing at this point in our lives.  We needed to have fun being a couple, I needed to rest and rejuvenated, we needed time to miss our children... We spent much of the plane ride home looking at pictures of the kids, by that point missing them had become painful!

While I struggled the entire 5 days with letting go of the need to have a schedule, we did vacation in a way that is very foreign to us!  We are not resort people, but really appreciated the comforts of a resort.  Ordering whatever, whenever was so freeing!  At the Asian restaurant, we finished our main courses and ordered a new batch, just to try more foods!  At every meal, my goal was to try new and different foods/ flavors/ drinks.  It was so wonderful to not worry about the price!  Champagne delivered to our room, why not.  Ice cream cones at 11am, sure!  While I didn't stuff myself silly or drink myself to oblivion, I certainly never felt hungry during the entire trip!  

One peak experience of the trip was the group excursion to extreme zip lining.  I regrettably admit that the experience didn't give me the adrenaline rush I was hoping for.  I suppose my hours and hours spent high in a tree running a zip line at Camp Lutherlyn changed my perspective on fear of heights/ zipping through the canopy.  The best part was the Superman which caused a faint glimmer of adrenaline as I watched others zip while lying on their stomachs, way over the trees, for 1000m.  However, once the zip started, it brought a feeling of utter peace.  At one point, I looked to my right and noticed a hawk gliding at the same height.  Very cool!


My favorite part of the trip was when we took a 30 minute taxi ride to downtown Puerto Vallarta.  Regrettably, we only had about 2 hours to spend on the boardwalk, but it is a beautiful place!  Lovely boardwalk peppered with cooper statues and interesting people.  Streets full of colorful vendors and gardens tucked into every nook and cranny.  The buildings are mostly covered in white stucco, trimmed in vibrant colors.  Truly lovely!  In the future, I'll make sure to spend more time in the city!

The non destination highlight was making friendships with other thrive life consultants.  I had never met my mentor and spending time with her and her husband was simply a blast!  We made other lifelong friends with other couples, discovered that the executives are down to earth, lovely people and left feeling so connected and proud of our work with Thrive Life.
While 3 of these pictures were taken on the same night, it appears that I opted for horizontal stripes almost every day!  Also featured in these photos:  dinner with Misty & Cory Marsh (my mentor) and poolside drinks with Holly Cooley (the only other "east coast" consultant on the trip).  As for goofball Jake, most of the pictures speak for themselves... in the lower left, he is having a very happy moment holding a newly hatched turtle before it's released into the ocean, in the top right he is trying on a mask that I very much regret not purchasing ;) 

Heading to warm, breezy Mexico during a frigid February (it was negative 10 degrees when we left!) was such a perfect way to refresh the mind and body!  Perhaps we' get to do it again someday???


Preschool Picasso

One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong...

Guess which reindeer was made by MY DAUGHTER?  Ok, I made it easy... I put a ribbon on it.  I couldn't resist!  To say that we are incredibly proud of this preschool art project would be an understatement.  In fact, my husband and I made a point to stand in the preschool hallway on multiple Sundays (she happens to attend a preschool which resides in our church) and point it out to people.  My mother dubbed her "the Picasso of Preschool" and we wanted to yell it from the rooftops!

Now, I am not an expert on art or how child development and art intersect, but I am an expert on creativity (and awesomeness).  I just want to yell "NOBODY PUTS BABY IN A CORNER!"  every time I look at these (that quote is from Dirty Dancing which has nothing to do with this blog post except that my baby is daring and unique and creative...and awesome).

If I could rid the world of cookie cutter art projects/ Oriental Trading prefab garbage/ teaching kids there is only one right way, I would!  Fortunately, Hazel seems to know this without my having to teach it...or maybe I did?

One of our favorite books is Willow by Brennan-Nelson.  I discovered it in a list of recommended books for independent young girls.  It is truly fabulous.  Willow doesn't paint red apples on green trees, as much as the teacher tries to force her to.  In the end, Willow changes her school and it is a much happier, creative, unique world.

  (affiliate link, please purchase through this link so I can have a penny and reward my artist with new paints)

Whether because of this book or because of her own idea of what this reindeer should look like, Hazel broke away from the mould!  These art projects were displayed in the hallway.  She is the first, the others lined up after her like the most boring parade in existence.  I don't mean to demean the work of the other 4-year-olds.  They did a great job replicating the teacher's example.  But man-oh-man am I excited to see where my independent spirit ends up!

post note:  I assume that many people would react quite opposite to discover their child's art project looks drastically different from the rest of the group.  I think God knew what he was doing when he gave Hazel and I (and her father who grinned ear-to-ear when he saw the line-up) to each other.

Also, I must admit to giving in to prefab art projects many times and my kids love them... Though my mom always "tsks" and mumbles about creativity.

Also, this isn't meant to be a critique of their preschool art projects, they are always adorable and let creativity like this happen!


A Very Merry Christmas

Joy has FILLED this house!  The magic and wonder of Christmas has been tangible in our children.  They have enjoyed giving AND receiving.  We have sung Christmas carols, worshiped, feasted, celebrated & surprised.

In an attempt to share way more pictures than feasible, I've created two collages.  These will give you a better feel for some of our highlights:

From left:  Our tree (and cat); the girls in their new "I love Santa" pjs on Christmas Eve at Llamas house; their stockings; reading the Polar Express, an Orris tradition before sharing gifts on Christmas Eve; Heidi sound asleep while Santa visits (she always kicks off her covers!); our beautiful girls in their Christmas dresses before church (the girls picked out their own dress this year...hence no official family photo...I couldn't pull together bright red and hot pink); Hazel deep asleep (love how she always gets sweaty hair!)

*you may notice the girls Christmas pillowcases.  That was my little holiday craft this year :)

From left top row:   Promptly reading Heidi's new "Pete the Cat" book; Hazel pulling the stellar wrapping off their new vanity; immediately playing beauty shop; spending most of the morning with their magical princess vanity

From left middle row:  Heidi snuggling with her Pete the Cat doll after opening gifts; Hazel testing the lollipop that is EXACTLY like the one she cut out and glued to her wish list for Santa; Hazel coloring her jumbo princess book; Heidi & Llama using glitter glue on her jumbo Hello Kitty book

From left bottom row:  Jake made me a "ruler" so I can keep track of the girls' growth, Jake reliving his childhood on his new "old school" Sega; the girls setting up their new tree house/ doll house.

PHEW, what a Christmas, eh?  We are surely counting our blessings this holiday season!

Merry Christmas to all!,
the Kosker Quartet


Holiday preparation

This had been a blissful weekend.  Friday evening the girls had an event at the church, so Jake and I had a free evening which we spent sharing good conversation over a yummy restaurant dinner (compliments of an early Christmas gift from a beloved elf).  Saturday was my mom's birthday so I spent the afternoon making lemon bars...from scratch..., artisan bread and lasagna.  God decided to send copious amounts of snow for her birthday, so instead of guests, we enjoyed a quiet yummy evening together and topped it off attempting to make a gingerbread house (we dearly dearly missed my artistic sister during that fiasco).

Today, I'm refocusing in finding my joy.  Over dinner, I finally admitted to my husband that the year of my dad's illness and now the roller coaster of grief has changed me.  Unfortunately one of the ways I've changed is that I've lost my joy, my humor.  That is the opposite of my dad's legacy.  Granted, my sweet girls bring me lots of joy, but the ability to be funny has escaped me.

Not so coincidentally, today's scripture and hymns focused a lot on the gifts that are soon to arrive in the form of Christ's birth.  The gift of joy is one of those gifts.  What epic timing!  What good news!  Please join me in praying that this gift will return to me.

This afternoon I am contininuing my preparations for this great day.  I've just finished making the dough for gingerbread cookies (dad's favorite) and now I'm going to join Hazel as she works on her enormous fruit loops garland and watches The Polar Express (a Grandpa Junko classic) for the very first time.  I hope he's smiling every time she whispers "wow".

Excuse the unedited photo.  In an effort to realign my life, I'm allowing myself to write less and use the convenience of my school iPad for these short posts.



Turkey prep

While the rest of American society is in the kitchen, preparing for their Thanksgiving feast, Hazel and I are elbow deep in my annual tradition of making napkin rings.

I suppose some years we recycle previous works of art, but in general, this is a tiny task that I enjoy.  A way of honoring everyone that's sitting around the table...

This year, simple card stock turkeys covered in paint by an industrious four year old (who is doing a great job creating brown out of red, yellow and blue.


All Saints Day

Today in church we celebrated All Saints Day.  It's a day where we remember those from our congregation who now dwell with the Lord.  A dear friend texted me on Friday to let me know that she was thinking of my dad and laughing at how he'd react to being called a saint.  He would've LOVED tooting his own horn with that title :)

Hearing his name today was so surreal.  They can't possibly be referring to my strong father who supported our families and church.  He filled his days with so much service, I still can't comprehend how we and all those who counted on him will adjust to life without.  At times, I'm certain that I'll look and his arm will be resting on the pew behind my mother; he'll be pointing a finger at Hazel in attempt to silently control her behavior but really adoring everything she does; his strong bass voice will belt from behind me in the choir.

Nary a day goes by where someone doesn't ask me how my mom is doing or how I am doing.  It's a question asked out of love and concern and it's an impossible question.  When asked about my mom, I comment "as expected".  She's a woman in love with one man since she was a teenager.  She spent a year at his bedside joining him in his fight to live.  She watched him die without the benefit of knowing that he was dying, so she was still blindsided by a sudden death.

When people are asking about me, it's so much harder to answer.  "Well, I'm ok.".  Happiness has a new element to it and it is lacking, it has lost it's purity.  Everything is overshadowed by the loss of my father.  I wonder if I'll feel as happy as I once did?  Is this how everyone feels when they've experienced great trauma and loss?  Is it permanent?

This loss has made me so much more aware of the preciousness of life.  I reflect upon those whose families have been torn apart by war and corruption.  I reflect upon those who never knew a parent's love.  I reflect upon how blessed I have been in life.

This morning my mom challenged me to think of life in Heaven with the same understanding of God's time that we apply to other areas of our faith.  Linear time is an earthly time, God does not live within time's constraints.  Often I feel certain that my father is with me, I feel his presence.  I have no idea what life after death is like, so I take comfort from thinking that my dad is watching us and guiding us.  However, my mom pointed out to me that Heaven is perfect and it is impossible that my dad would be experiencing perfect peace while knowing how much pain and sadness he left behind.  So, perhaps in God's time we are already saints together.  Right now Jesus is being born, Jesus is being crucified, my grandchild is being born, we are reuniting in Heaven...

It's a hard concept to contemplate, but a fascinating one...

"we feebly struggle, they in glory shine; yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.  Alleluia!  (from hymn:  For All the Saints by William How)


Happy Halloween (mwahahahaha)!

While we've never been tempted to cover our house in fake cobwebs (oh, because it's covered in real ones), we do LOVE dressing up in this house!  Kudos for all the anti-Halloween people for their upstanding values, but well... we LOVE a little bit of fright, a little bit of imagination and a little bit of tricks and A LOT of treats!

We've had so many Halloween events already, and it's not even technically Halloween yet!  Still on the agenda is carving pumpkins, a preschool Halloween party and a second grown-up Halloween party.

First up:  PUMPKIN PATCH with baby Ian (my cousin Kathe's 4-week old son) who is living next door for the month!

Then  Jake and I won SCARIEST COSTUME AWARD at a friend's huge Halloween Bash!  We went dressed as "Day of the Dead".

NEXT UP:  KID COSTUMES!  This is my favorite part!  The girls are at the ripe age where just dressing up and prancing around the house brings them oodles of joy (me too).  I lucked out this year because Hazel wanted to be a PINK UNICORN (everything these days must be either pink or a unicorn, but BOTH whenever possible)...and last Spring, before both of these obsessions, I saw a PINK UNICORN at a consignment shop and picked it up on a whim.  Lucky lucky me!

For the trick-or-treating event at the mall (bottom right pic), Hazel simply wore a pink dress while "riding" her unicorn.  For the church trunk-or-treat/ Halloween Party, her rainbow dress from Etsy had arrived!  So, if you can't tell (humph!), she is a rainbow girl flying through the sky on her pink unicorn.  I sewed batting onto blue pants and a headband and well, that was a TOTAL FAIL!  The cotton was EVERYWHERE and completely falling off by the time she got into the car....hence the ghetto white tape. Oh my.  Luckily, I get another shot at this costume this week... THIRD TIME's THE CHARM... I hope!

Now, I'm TOTALLY PROUD of Heidi's costume!  A few weeks ago, she became obsessed with the Care Bear Movie from the 80s which is available on Netflix.  I had NO good ideas for her and was going to slap her into one of Hazel's old costumes... until one night, while watching Care Bears for the umpteenth time, I thought "I bet that's any easy costume to make".  Truer words have never been thought (I'm not known for profound thoughts, clearly.)  A quick Pinterest search yielded a ton of inspiration and off I went!  I'll be posting a tutorial at www.thrivinglife.co soon :)  

Heidi picked Love-A-Lot bear and we are all THRILLED with the result!  Her favorite part is the tail which she LOVES to shake.  My favorite part is the ears...and that FACE!  I'm hoping this "costume" will hold up well in the wash and she'll get a lot more use out of this comfy sweat suit.
Bummer, you can't see that there is a heart on her bum like a real Care Bear.  Well, now you know.

JAKE's FAVORITE PART of this holiday has long been a dream of his...  He LOVES entertaining kids and dreaming on the large scale.  Our friends who throw the adult party mentioned above offered Jake free reign of their treasure trove of Halloween decorations (They seriously cover about every surface in their house...it's incredible and SPOOKY!).  So, before the church Trunk-or-Treat, Jake outfitted my parent's camper into a mobile haunted house/ Roadkill Cafe/ Hell's Kitchen.  We're talking black lights, fog machine, creepy dolls, bloody body parts, cauldrons, candles...THE WORKS!

This picture doesn't do the final result justice (had to use a flash), but it gives you a glimpse as to why Jake is now the most popular guy in town (seriously, he was immediately invited to a friend's daughter's 13th birthday party... which he was more than happy to "attend"):

We have the kids enter the camper and sit at the table where there are two covered serving trays.  They hesitantly look under the first one and find a bloody foot.  Then they look under the second one...AND SCREAM when Jake either smiles gently (with the younger kids) or growls.  AWESOMENESS, eh?

What's your favorite part of Halloween?