Oh Holy Night

                                       Glowing view of our family crèche.

I cannot believe that I haven't written since September!  I miss journaling and I will definitely regret not having so many wonderful memories shared here....cause if something is not written down, I most likely will forget!

Recently I had an ephinany!  My lack of blogging has many roots, but the main culprit is having a husband who is both working full time and taking online classes.  That means I am pulling extra duty with the kiddos and I never have access to the real computer.

It's an exhausting phase of life, but a good and exciting phase.  Jake is creeping closer and closer to our dream of both working in schools and with kids.  It is going to be a great change for our family and all the trials of today are completely worth it!

Today I am at a work conference and for the next 24 hours, I am alone and soooo happy about it!  I checked into my room and when I return to it, it will be just as I left it!  At lunch, I made a conscious effort to put my fork down between bites, breathe deeply and really taste my food.  Yes, I am enjoying my alone time!  Soon I will check out the pool (hoping it's big enough for laps) and then enjoy a quiet, slow dinner before tucking into my quiet room and reading a novel....while looking out over the ski slopes (super proud of myself for asking for a view upgrade!).

Tomorrow night, we are tentatively planning for Jake and the girls to join me at the conference. They will enjoy the resort amenities while I am at my conference.  By tomorrow, I'll be ready to interrupt my zen and welcome the noise, clutter and busyness of my family :)


Swim tastic

Well, this is a quick post since our computer is broken and it's a beautiful Saturday and I'm anxious to put away my work and head out!  However, I'm going to try to increase my blogging by taking advantage of the convenience of iPad pictures and quick blog posts.  It won't be pretty, but it's better than nuttin!

Today, I want to capture a bit of this:

Granted, it doesn't look like much because I didn't pull out my iPad to take these pics until the last 5 minutes of the girls swim lessons when they have free time.  But if you look closely, you'll notice a few key things:

- it's a rather small pool!!!  That's because it's the HEATED AND SHALLOW therapy pool!  The girls can touch the ground in half of it, but it's only 4 feet at the deep end.
- there are only two kids in the pool....and TWO ADULTS!  In the past, the girls had swimming lessons at a different YMCA and the classes were filled to the brim with toddlers and they had a few teens for instructors.  This Y only allows five kids per class, but we lucked out with just our two in this session!  The instructors are experienced swimmers and teachers and the girls progress visibly during each 45 minute lesson!  (The previous lessons were 30 min, but the girls had blue lips by the time they were done!)

Needless to say, we are extremely happy with their current swimming lessons!  Just look at these happy babes


A wonderfully Frozen 5th Birthday

It's the end of the summer and at the top of my "MUST FINISH BEFORE I GO BACK TO WORK" is writing Hazel's birthday post!  This was our first "invite friends" party and it was a BLAST!

It started with an invitation:

Before someone calls me out for being a crook and a cheat, let me admit...that I AM!  I used someone else's card design and edited it myself.  Not the right thing to do, but I did it.  I get so much pleasure out of all the party prep work, so I justified it.  However, if you want to use the design, I highly recommend paying the actual artist (link), plus mine didn't look as nice when it printed...quite pixilated and grainy.

Here is a brief description of the party with TONS OF LINKS for further inspiration and tutorials:
  • We used white streamers with styrafoam balls to make icicles throughout the house.  
  • I printed these signs to hang around (the one over the present opening chair says "some people are worth melting for", the one on the woodstove says "the cold never bothered me anyway".  cracks me up!). 
  • I ordered the Elsa and Anna dolls online.  Elsa was holding a card for Hazel letting her know that she was sending Hazel a matching dress, but it didn't arrive in time for the party (sigh).
  • My husband made a Pin the Nose on Olaf game (coincidentally on the back of the "cow jumped over the moon" picture he made for the Goodnight Moon Party).  
  • I made two types of fake snow (this one  and this one.  I don't have a preference over which recipe...and of course the kids quickly mixed them.  But they were a lot of fun to play with!).  
  • We used pom pom streamers and sticks to make icicle wands.  Perhaps my only original idea :)
  • We made crowns (here.  didn't print on cardstock and let the kids use way too much glitter glue, so they weren't wearable). 
  • We did the epsom salt painting (here.  note: the thicker the mixture, the more obvious the crystals will be). 
  • The night before, Hazel and I made these snowflake barrettes.  I intended this to be one of the crafts we made during the party, but intricate cutting and hot glue just aren't toddler friendly activities, so we made them all ahead of time!  Glad we did a trial run :)
  • In addition to princess puzzles and Frozen storybooks, I had a coloring quiet station to help the kids keep from getting overstimulated (GREAT in theory, in reality, they wanted to be at every station all at the same time).  I printed these coloring pages and mazes.
  • We played a "hot potato" type game to disperse the snow barrettes and frozen charm bracelets that were our guest gifts.  We listened to "Let It Go" and grabbed a charm/barrette each time we heard the refrain.  (Again, great in theory... a little too tricky for 5 year olds).
  • I should mention that I follow the rule of "as many friends as your age" when it comes to parties.  So, she was allowed to invite 4 friends plus her sister (aka her BFF for life).
  • After the food, the girls changed out of their Princess dresses and we played ice games!  Inspiration here.  I had one bajillion ideas of activites to do with the ice, but by this time, the girls were really wanting just to PLAY and frolic together.  It's always better to have too much planned, than too little!

Now onto my favorite part... THE FOOD!
  • I used these labels and styrafoam balls cut in half to hold the signs.
  • True Love Sandwiches (aka PBJ with a heart imprint)
  • Frozen Grapes (next time I'll cut them in half before freezing)
  • Snowballs (powdered donuts)
  • Snowman eyes (black beans)
  • Snowman noses (carrots)
  • Snowman arms (pretzel sticks)
  • Edible Icicles (snow cones)
  • La piece de resistence:  Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Snowflake cookies!  A local woman makes these delicious sugar cookies and when I saw her Frozen cookies, I knew that this party would NOT have cake!  These were a really fun way to celebrate Hazel's favorite movie!  Before the party, I prepared a special Celebrate plate and tea light to bring the cookie to Hazel while we sang "Happy Birthday".  But in the spirit of the moment, I completely forgot... so Heidi and I sang to her after everyone went home when I realized my mistake :)

aaaannnnddd... one last collage (because I can't resist and there are a few more gems I want to share).

  • Princess Hazel with her icicle wand... I LOVE this picture!  
  • Hazel opening her presents...wish I could bottle that joy!  Also her feet... she's still so tiny and her toes are adorable.
  • Sending all the princesses down our zipline!
  • Pin the nose on Olaf was a highlight of the party!  For the record, Heidi rarely wears pants...she's 3...and stubborn.
  • Hazel's new helmet.  Granted, I accidentally bought a snowboarding helmet, so this one just got returned and it was replaced by a similar, but less insulated unicorn helmet :)


My clown 3.0

This girl fills my heart with more joy than I ever thought possible.  Granted, she's NUTS-O, but being brave and adventurous are traits we admire in this household!  From the get-go, she has loved to make us laugh and she does it SO well!  She's also my calm girl, always keen for a cuddle and face snuzzle.

She is beginning to surprise me with her insights, memory and imagination.  The other night as I carried her from my bed (where we often have her fall to sleep because otherwise she TALKS AND TALKS and keeps her sister awake), she woke up and gazed into my eyes in that adoring, pure way that only a small child can achieve and I said "You are so beautiful.".  Then, as I often do, I added the question, "Is it more important to be kind or beautiful?".  (My fear is that my kids hear praises on their looks so often that they will become vein and misguided.)  She wisely answered "Kind" and then added "but I'm both!".  True, true my sweet clown.

Jake and Hazel are endless balls of energy, more keen to literally run around than to be still.  Heidi is more like me, enjoying active time, but more keen to snuggle on the couch with a good book or tv show.  She still sucks those two fingers ALL THE TIME and her bunny is more and more a permanent companion.

Last night she was having trouble sleeping and as I climbed into her bed for the third round of snuggles, I wrote about her in my head, as I often do.  If only those words were kept somewhere so I can share them in their entirety. 

I climbed into her bed and she immediately whispered (in her whisper that is impossibly quiet):  "Will you scratch my back".  This is a request she gives many times a day.  Then she clarifies the request with, "use your lion paws".  Sometimes this means hard scratching and sometimes that means gentle scratching, but fortunately I've learned that she simultaneously gives her bunny a "lion paw back scratch" and I can mimic what technique she is using.

It also occurs to me that she hasn't completely lost her babyness.  She isn't a passive cuddler, oh no!  While I'm snuggling her, one hand has her fingers in her mouth while the other rubs my cheek/arm/wherever she can reach.  One of my favorite things about babies is how they don't yet realize that their feet are not hands.  When snuggling, Heidi's feet and toes revert to their babyness and join in on the snuggling.  The silky smooth pads bury their way into my skin and join in with the gentle touches.

Since I never shared the pics from her 3 year old shoot...here's a little recap of the past 3 years:

1st Birthday:  She's A Peach Party

2nd Birthday:  Goodnight Moon Party

3rd Birthday:  Penguin Party

This year will mark an exciting change for Heidi as she attends Toddler Time school 2 days a week and joins her sister in gymnastics and swimming lessons.  One thing is for sure, she will keep us laughing and snuggling all the year through!


Gracefully made

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there lived a mostly sweet 4-year old who dreamed of being a rock star and whose parents decided to defy genetics and enroll her in a dance class.

the perfect pose for the girl I call "my philosopher"

While I have videos of her dancing, I'm not able to transfer any of my videos onto the computer.  So, take my word for it that she is ADORABLE!  She is graceful and poised... and typically a tad silly.

Overall, she LOVED dancing, even though she often wanted to skip dance class.  However, once she arrived and entered the room of mirrors, she would jump, twirl, curtsy, smile and stare.

Her teacher was a friend of mine, so once again, Hazel had the benefit of knowing her teacher well and feeling comfortable.  What a gift!

If I looked like this, I would stare too!

I must admit, that by the time the recital came around, the DANCE MOM in me began to roar it's ugly head.  It really bothered me that she didn't know the routines (but neither did the rest of the girls).  Practicing once a week for 9 months just didn't cut it.  So, I learned the routines and began practicing them at home.  It helped a lot, but next time, I'll do that MUCH earlier so that her knowledge and confidence are ready.

During her shows, she literally sparkled!  The big stage, bright lights and full auditorium didn't phase her in the least!  I was super nervous, but she was merely excited.  She did a great job, sometimes even leading her class in the right steps!

Here are her professional group photos.  She had a really nice, small class and enjoyed these "friends" (though in true preschool form, never learned their names!)...and I enjoyed getting to know their parents as we watched each week through the 2-way mirror.

Until the girls have a strong opinion, I'm alternating them between dance and gymnastics.  This year Heidi is old enough to join in on the fun!  She has waited patiently (often by dancing in the hallway of the dance studio in her ballet shoes) and I can't wait to see what amazing things the girls will do this year!

Regardless, I know there will be no shortage of adoring fans :)


Summer Projects

We are at the tail end of one of those blissful summer weekends in which there are no steadfast plans, errands to run, reasons to do anything other than what you want to do.  In theory, all weekends are like this, but in reality, they are rare gems.

We watched a rocket launch and visited with friends, organized a few more small areas in the home, did a yard work, read a book in the hammock (THIS ONE WAS ME), watched a parade, shopped, cooked healthy dinners, laughed with our kids, etc.  In fact today I actually said "This is one of those days that seems to have extra hours!".  I've had time to worship, clean, play, read, do a craft project, visit, cook, and now blog!

Jake spent the day taming his gardens.  We took this year off from gardening since he was out of time between work and school and the yard has been a tad embarrassing.  Now, even though we aren't getting ready to harvest anything, at least it is tame and it is easy to imagine the gorgeous gardens that will be there again one day.

As I write, the girls are enjoying some parade candy and watching Aladdin.  I'm anxious to get back to my book, but wanted to squeeze in a little blogging time since there is so much that I want to post on here.  Jake is organizing his clothes (we've all had massive closet/dresser/etc reorganizations this summer) while waiting on friends to arrive and help lift the girls playhouse INTO A TREE.  Did I mention that it is POURING?  Thunder, lightening, torrential down pours, flood warnings, etc!

Yet, he thinks his comrades are still going to show up and lift the house into the platform he's built in the trees.  I'm a tad doubtful... and yet I've come to believe that most things are possible with Jake.


This antenna has been attached to the roof of our house for a LOOOONG time.  It isn't something we use, but was not a priority to remove.  That is until a storm this spring ripped 3/4 of it from our roof.  Somehow it didn't break the window beneath- which would have been quite the horrid wake up call that it was past time to tackle this problem.

I INSISTED we hire someone to do this because this part of the house is 3 stories from the ground.  In true martial harmony, Jake ignored me and one day I found him like this (above).

Luckily, rock climbers are versatile and he had quite the system to safe guard himself.  Using more rock climber knowledge, I was able to assist the antenna down using a friction belay and the problem was solved.  Well, the antenna problem was solved.  The "how to get Jake off the roof" problem was what he had been waiting for!  Sigh...

And that my friends is what happens when you marry a Kosker.  Another project tackled, another eye roll from a wife, another happy homesteader.


Lutherlyn Family Camp :: The Perfect Vacation!

I had to take a few weeks off before writing this post to fully reflect on why our week at Lutherlyn's Family Camp was the PERFECT vacation.  Spoiler Alert:  After reading this, you will be racing me to sign-up for Family Camp next year.  GO AHEAD... that's precisely what I want to happen.  I'll even offer to camp in a tent for the week if all the cabins get filled (I believe there were 5 empty cabins this summer... that's not very many!).

First a little background:  I was a camper at Lutherlyn for 5 years, summer camp counselor for 3 years and full-time staff for 2 years.  My husband was a camper there for probably 10 years and counselor there for 1 year.  We met there, we fell in love there, we've baptized our children there, we've made the majority of our "lifetime" friends there, my sister worked there, I met my brother-in-law there...  This place is HUGE for us.  It is the greatest place on the planet (though I might be a tad biased).

When I worked there, I could never understand why families would come there for vacation.  It's a place for KIDS, yet a huge amount of family campers are adults without kids.  WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT?  Even for families with kids, I didn't get the appeal.  Hey, if you live in paradise, you become immune to it, right?

Despite my history of not understanding the allure of Family Camp, this past winter I had, what my husband has deemed "MY BEST IDEA EVER"!  "Jake, why don't we go to Family Camp this year?".  The subcontext that we both immediately understood was:

  • Let's go to an all-inclusive resort where 70+ highly trained college students (they have a rigorous 2 weeks of staff training, WAY more than any other camp I've ever heard of) will entertain, teach, engage our children for part of the day while we do ADULT THINGS.
  • Let's go on a vacation where we don't have to cook or wash dishes.
  • Let's go on a vacation where we never get into our car to go anywhere.
  • Let's go on a vacation where the day is packed with awesome activities that we can chose from, without ever shelling out money for these activities.
  • Let's go to a place that attracts interesting people so we can engage in meaningful conversations while our kids do whatever they want to do on this safe, beautiful 600 acre property.
  • Let's go on a vacation with some of our favorite people (granted, this was an advantage for us... but even if you don't know anyone there, you will quickly meet people who you "click" with... there's something in the water there that makes this happen!).
I tend to think anything that isn't free or less than $10 is expensive.  It blows Jake's mind that I can look at any restaurant menu and feel aghast at the prices.  It's a gift.  So, let's cover this part first because for this family, this is always the first obstacle discussed.  In fact, we hadn't gone on a week long vacation with our kids EVER!

Here is what it cost my family of four (click here to see your family scenario costs):
  • Cabin= $258.  Now when I say "cabin", I mean gorgeous wooden cabin with large porch, six beds, nice bathroom, carpet and plenty of plugs for the multitude of fans, clocks, etc I travel with.
  • Adult program and meals= $284 x 2 = $568
  • Kid program and meals= $125 x 2 = $250
  • TOTAL = $1076
Ok, that is a hard pill to swallow!  But, that works out to about $180 a day (Sunday dinner through Saturday breakfast)... or $60 per meal... or

$15 per person per meal!?!?!  WAIT ONE GOSH DARN MINUTE!  For $15 per person, I can feed my family GOURMET food without lifting a finger, stay in gorgeous clean cabins, have programming for all interests and ages, get perks like swimming lessons, high ropes course, pony rides, parade with candy, have s'more roasts and dessert buffets, etc FOR NO EXTRA CHARGE?!?

Speaking of meals, camp has come a LONG way from the 5 years I was on staff.  They have a head chef who specializes in delicious foods and fascinating flavors.  I wish I had more pics, but my saliva almost ruined my camera:
Salad bar at every meal and a delicious turkey dinner!

Here was a basic day for us:
Daily Schedule and coloring fun
8:30 breakfast
Kid Bible study music into, parachute games, Adult Bible Study
9:15-11:45 take the kids to their camp counselors for their age group activities and Bible study.  I don't seem to have saved their daily schedule, but they learned A TON of songs, had a simple Bible Study played games, etc.
9:30-11:45 Jake and I head to one of the Adult Bible studies and engage in meaningful dialogue about the state of our world, the climate, our responsibilities, etc.  Jake is not interested in the Bible, yet he loves having discussions with the Director, Pastor Randy because well, we talk about REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF!
11:45-12:15 Swimming lessons
12:30 LUNCH 
1:30 Head to the cabin for rest time.  This is when we often had a babysitter (counselors available FREE OF CHARGE) so that we could do adult things like crafts or the high ropes course (granted, a friend of ours asked to be in the adjoining cabin so that she could be my kids camp Grandma for the week.  Spoiled much?  THANKS LESLIE!)
3:00 pool, explore nature center, fish, craft cabin, pony rides, parachute games, etc
5:15 DINNER 
6:00 Group activity (one night this was a talent show, one night this was minute to win it games, one night was "Christmas in July" activities, one night was SQUARE DANCING, etc)
7:15 Preschool Campfire (only offered on select nights)
8:00 Camp style worship (if we could stay up that late!)
9:00 BED (for the kids)
9:30 PARTY ON OUR PORCH with old and new friends

Hello Joe Ice breaker song, Hazel on climbing net (note: this activity is for 7th grade and older, we brought special gear and made special arrangements.  This is not available for others (ie non-Koskers), Heidi lounging on the creek hike, Hazel at swimming lessons, posing in front of the sign for the first week of camp (this was taken on July 4th), Jake and Hazel at the square dance, the FACE DIP challenge on the creek hike, by the end of the week Heidi was EXHAUSTED :)

Phew, that was one busy day!  Notice how we NEVER got into our car?  It was awesome!  My kids actually smiled for the entire week!  Plus, since it's such a safe place, they could be FREE.  After each meal, Hazel's favorite thing was to leave our table and RUN OUTSIDE where she would play with other kids.  Can you imagine simply letting your children leave your table while on vacation and running free?  Yes, they had boundaries for how far they could go, but I didn't have to worry.... there were always staff and guests near and handfuls of other kids doing the same thing.  It was so awesome for her growing sense of autonomy and self confidence!

Lutherlyn has the uncanny ability of attracting interesting people.  Sit next to anyone and you will find yourself deep in a great conversation.  While the majority of people there are Lutheran, certainly not everyone is and diversity is the spice of life... so the more diverse, the better!  All worships and Bible Studies are optional, I know quite a few people who attend neither and that is ok.
The majority of people who attended all week.  In case you're playing "Where's Waldo Kosker":  We are at the bottom right.

Okay, I can't resist ONE MORE COLLAGE!  I call this one "Favorite moments":
clockwise:  Hazel sang "I'm A Little Tea Cup" for the talent show...she got a standing ovation, super cute kids at a camp worship, one of the "free play" times after dinner (they found our dear friends TyManda and were playing duck duck goose.  RUN Heidi RUUUN!), more parachute games, floating candles during Friday night worship (Amanda and Hazel got to do this together with our "family" cross), Hazel riding Susie- her FAVORITE horse!

So, who is joining us at Lutherlyn's Family Camp next year?


Hazel's Preschool Graduation

May I present...

On May 20th (ahem, I am quite behind on many posts!), I had the privilege of watching a self confident, sweet, joyful girl join her Preschool class for their graduation program.

She learned SO many things this year!  The first time she blew me away this year was when all of a sudden (like in October), she was able to recite the ENTIRE LORD'S PRAYER!  It never occurred to me that a 4 year old could learn such a long and difficult passage!  Throughout the year, she LOVED going to "school".  We are so blessed that our church houses a wonderful preschool program.  Hazel's first formal learning experience was in a place where she was completely comfortable and her teachers were familiar faces.  IDEAL!

Most of what Hazel would discuss with me were the nuances of social interactions.  She loved making new friends and playing with these friends, but she had (has) A LOT to learn about giving friends space and picking up on their cues.  However, she is like a flower, attracting a beautiful array of butterflies around her.  She is getting really good at setting boundaries on how people are allowed to treat her ("friends don't treat each other that way") and has learned that sometimes friends say hurtful things, but if you forgive them and talk to them, you usually still have a wonderful friendship.

Perhaps my PROUDEST MAMA MOMENT was when we received a Thank You note after her graduation from one of her teachers (we gave them flower seeds and chalkboard pots), her teacher wrote:

  "She really is a special little girl and her self confidence and independence will serve her well as she goes forward.  She's also a nice little girl, willing to include others anytime- great attitude and not all that common!" (underline in original)

WOW!  I could not have asked for a better end result to her first year of education!  We are SO proud of this little girl and honored to be her parents.

Her favorite activity in school is coloring pictures and her coloring has matured in leaps and bounds over the year.  She can consistently spell her name, though sometimes she jumbles a letter or two and she can name almost all of the capital letters correctly.  Truth be told, I really eased off forcing these skills at home once my research taught me that forcing young kids to drill writing/reading skills doesn't improve their skills long term, but often does create a distaste for learning and reading.

One of the coolest things has been watching her family portaits (and name) evolve:

I LOVE how insignificant she made Heidi in this one!  Art = Honesty :)
any day now we are going to all start getting ARMS!  It's an exciting life we lead :)

All in all, Hazel "graduated" with all the skills we had hoped for:  confidence when facing new tasks, growing social skills, understanding school expectations and letter recognition.  I never imagined her changing so much in such a short time... sniff sniff...

Additionally, after A LOT of discussion and hand wringing, we've decided to send Hazel to a second year of PreK.  If she had not been born 5 weeks early, she would not be eligible for Kindergarten this fall.  She was, so she is... but we're opting for another year of childhood rather than an earlier year of adulthood.  Following?  Plus, these days Kindergarten is INTENSE!  All day, rigorous, awesome, but chock full of reading, writing, arithmetic.  Since we have the option, we're choosing to give her another year full of imagination, free play, NAPS and small intimate groups of friends.  We are sending her to a different Preschool that is in a school building and more days & hours per week.  A perfect stepping stone (we hope!).


One {precious} year ago!

The other night Jake and I attended a looong awards banquet (where he was recognized for earning 2 of the 10 nursing scholarships!  SO PROUD!) and I found myself cleaning out my phone and looking at old text messages (yes, very bad manners, but it was so looong!).  There are so many texts that I just can't erase and reread them about once every 6 months.

Well, I found this one...from exactly one year ago today.  It simultaneously made me very happy and incredibly sad.

One year ago, mom snapped this photo to share the joy of their new return to normalcy.  My baby girls snuggled close to their Junko to hear Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  All of us feeling confident that our year of horror was over and the best was yet to come.

What a precious NORMAL moment.  What a precious FLEETING moment.  IF we knew then what we know now...

As I write this, I see my selfishness.  The year of horror was over for those that love my dad, but he was still living in intense discomfort with more limitations than he would ever have agreed to.  However, he had survived and we had him physically present.  We had much to be thankful for and much to hope for.

While I would have done anything to change the outcome, I know now what my dad knew during his last week of life...that his year of horror was finally ending and the best was truly coming for him.

I yearn for that level of faith and acceptance of my own death when the time is near.


Happy Easter!

Happy Easter from "a princess and a cowboy"!  Such a joy filled day with our sweethearts!  The day starter with new pjs from the Easter bunny, difficult hunts for Easter baskets, baskets filled with goodies, frozen tee shirts, new books and games.  Hazel immediately decided to make a card for Llama and on her own accord, picked a card that looked like one of Junko's shirts and drew a family picture inside....with the Junko head holding a tiny baby Hazel.

The miracle of the season is not lost on these two... Though I find this the most difficult religious holiday to explain!

Hope your day is full of thoughtfulness...and perhaps a tad too much sugar!

Exhibit A:


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.