Happy Halloween from the cast of Inside Out!

Three cheers to my family for fulfilling my Halloween dreams this year!  Introducing...

If you didn't catch the Disney Pixar movie, Inside Out, at the theatre this summer, you're probably a bit confused, but as soon as it comes out of DVD, I suggest you HIGHTAIL it to the video store to watch it!  All ages will love this movie and as an elementary school counselor, I LOVE the way this movie explains how our emotions effect our lives...and are all important and necessary :)

Now scroll down to see how my Inside Out dolls morphed into human form!  Oh, what a little Halloween magic can do...

p.s. Disgust is the "fancy" one who simply MUST be stylish.  Fear is the dorky one, cough cough.  Joys is...well, joyful (and just possibly twirled and leapt throughout an entire day at school in this costume.  Sadness is 100% sad in this photo as she just woke up from a nap and cried her way through the photo shoot :)

Happy Halloween!  May your days be full of joyful trickery and more than a few peanut butter cups!


9th Anniversary: Lumberjack and Amish fantasies

Today I have been married to this weirdo for the past nine years of my life.

 Above: Typical Julie face.  She looks like she stepped in poop or sharted.

 Left: Taken during an adventure in the Wind River Range of Wyoming during year two.

Julie has been with her mom in Germany visiting her sis, bro-in-law, and niece Annie. I do miss that kid.

The girls and I spent some time this week visiting with family in Westmoreland county.

 Above left: Gamma Baird and Hazel  

Above: Granmpa Baird and Heidi

Left: Aunt Lou

Below: Pappy and Joey hang out while we make dams and bathtubs  at Loyalhanna Creek/Sleepy Hollow causeway. The girls learned how to freeze a salamander on the ice in our lunch cooler and re-animate it again in the water.

 Ligonier Beach with my step-bro's daughter Kenzley. 

 During the last week I have received a half dozen or so images from Julie.  

She sent me a picture of all this long meat and tells me that she is thinking of our friend Ty.  

Then I think I got these same two images on the next day: fried chicken feet and a picture of my wife kissing Christoph while they drink alcohol.  A few weeks ago Julie approached me in the yard while I was hard at work lumberjacking.  She oohed and ahhed and told me that I looked sexy. I thought that maybe it was because I was sweaty and covered in sawdust and perhaps fulfilling some part of that Amish fantasy she has.  (Ask her about that one.) However, I told her, "I know why I look sexy."  She yelled, "No.!!!!!" as she proceeded to attempt hitting me as I doubled over in a laughing fit of joyous mirth that men only experience when they amuse themselves and no one else.  My wife and I know each other so well that without stating it directly she knew I was referring to Christoph's penchant for cutoff sleeveless shirts and being sweaty (sexy) in general.  I told her it was ok to be turned on by him and that I think he is sexy too. She still won't admit it.  

When I got home yesterday evening I put on my lumberjack suit and had our babysitter take these steamy pics of me.  She was amused for sure. Here is the Jake meat you are missing Julie. See you in two days.


Hazel's SIXTH Birthday:: Art Party!

Oh my, our sweet Hazel turned SIX this week!  Though this blog has turned into a big events only blog, I hope it's still apparent how in love we are with this creature!  She is sweet and creative, loves friends, but often prefers to simply craft on her own.  As mentioned earlier, she had a really nice preK class, so we invited them ALL for her birthday party!  Yes, I broke my "invite as many as your age" rule, but just by a smidge ;)

Hazel started the morning by opening a few small gifts (Hello Kitty Pez tin from me and daddy & Uncle Josh's Transformers collection) and having her ideal breakfast of donuts and OJ.  Then she ran upstairs to get dressed.  She came down wearing her "birthday" dress!!!  The dress Grandma Kosker bought for her FIRST BIRTHDAY!  I LOVE that she thought of this on her own...and it's a pretty adorable tee!

Oh my goodness, look at those chubby knees...  I'm ready to snuggle my computer screen.  SHUT UP OVARIES!

I made the invitation using PicMonkey and used wording from similar invitations that I found online.

I planned a preschool friendly and EASY PREP menu of:  hamburgers ("art of burgers" with ketchup and mustard served in a dish with paintbrushes to paint your bun), veggies chips ("paint chips"), Juice boxes and mango juice ("creative juices"), fruit kabobs ("rainbow wands", both girls could help make these and loved that!), Italian Ice Pops ("frozen water colors"), and cake pops ("paint splatter pops").  It completely cracks my husband up that I made labels when none of the guests could read.  I do it for myself and it made me SO HAPPY!

Keeping in mind that kids love to simply have FREE PLAY TIME, I tried to control myself with all the great ideas for art themed parties that I found online!  Our organized activities were:

  • Splatter painting/ leaf prints
  • Colored bubble prints
  • Paint-filled egg throwing (at a drawing of Hazel!)
  • Color run war
  • Face painting (good ole MFA Uncle Josh took that station)
  • and my favorite...HAZEL MADE HER OWN PINATA!  She mentioned buying one, which I dismissed.  Well, I guess it meant a lot to her, so using an empty Frozen kleenex box and random junk from her art drawer, she made her own!  It was her favorite part of the party!
  • also, we planned to do a water balloon pinata & water balloon fight, but the weather was uncharacteristically COLD so we cancelled that idea!

For gifts, Hazel got everything she wished for!  I wrote on facebook last night that one of the best and most fleeting parts of childhood is that you can get everything on your wishlist.  Granted, I'm disregarding her dreams of riding in an airplane, going to Disney World, and going to Germany...she knows those are unreasonable and so aren't "real" wishes.  This year she asked me for: a brown skinned American Girl doll with matching clothes so they can be twins; a new bicycle; art supplies; and a fashion designer template (that her friend Maddy had at Lutherlyn last week).

Heidi's facial expressions are the best part of this collage!

We got her a brown skinned doll (thankfully she doesn't read and doesn't know that it's from Target, but I THINK the "American Girl" request is more about having a realistic girl looking doll to play with than the brand, if not...sorry future Hazel, you're in for some major disappointments!) and matching outfit.  Heidi gave her a horse riding outfit for her new doll!  Llama (Grandma Orris) gave her A BEAUTIFUL NEW BIKE, Gma Baird got her the fashion designer toy; and everyone else gave her awesome ART SUPPLIES!  It was a very successful gift opening where she truly adored every.single.item!

Now, before I wrap up this post, I must confess one memorable experience from the day.... when the kids all arrived, Hazel immediately took them into the garden to pick berries and RUN.  I thought it was great.  Until they started SCREAMING... Yup, the kids ran smack into a YELLOW JACKET nest and 3 of them got stung!  My kids have never been stung, but Murphy's Law dictates that the first kids to be stung on the property would be party guests.  The kids were major troopers and nurse Jake helped smooth their tears with some predinner ice pops!

Here are a few of my favorite moments from the day:
  • Simple decorations with the "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" banner made many years ago by my sister and I had grabbed lots of pink paint chip cards from the hardware store recently and sewed them together into a simple banner.
  • Llama gave Hazel clues to find her birthday present!  Spoiler alert:  the bike was in the shed.
  • Heidi wanted Uncle Josh to paint her like a tiger.  He's a perfectionist and began to research pictures of tigers.  So, she took it upon herself to make herself painted.  I love her to the ends of the earth. 
  • Hazel snuggling with her twin:  a brown skinned doll.
  • Hazel with rainbow hair during the color run war.
  • Hazel blowing out her candle (3 cheers for Jake who grabs the camera every now and then so that I exist in our picture history).
  • Kids exploring the garden...BEFORE the evil yellow jacket catastrophe.
So that wraps up a fantastic day celebrating the beautiful life of Hazel.  When she grows up she wants to be
 a singer or work at the North Pole!

We are so blessed to be on this journey with her! 


Movin' On Up!

Recently both girls "graduated" from their classes.  I know there are many dissenting opinions on "graduating" from every tiny thing kids do, so at home we call them "programs" :)  Jake has a theory that perhaps putting our youngest in graduation caps so often will firmly plant the idea of graduating into their heads and increase their chances of completing high school?  It's a nice twist on the discussion!

Heidi, age 4, Toddler Time.                                                         Hazel, age 5.75, preK.

Fortunately, my girls LOVE school!  This was Heidi's first year and she attended Toddler Time at our church (Good Hope Lutheran Church) two mornings a week.  She learned A LOT about making friends, dealing with mean or naughty behaviors from classmates, and LOVES to write letters and spell "Hazel Heidi Dad Mom Llama".  When Hazel was 3-4, I just started teaching her to write her name, so Heidi has astounded me with how much she can do at such a young age.  I give much of that credit to her daily babysitter who is a natural teacher and encourages Heidi to practice and grow daily!

During the program, Heidi was a complete CLOWN!  Looking at other kids, making faces, twirling, etc.  After that we discussed program etiquette and the importance of singing along and participating.  That lecture worked this week at a VBS program...she sang and did the motions, but also kept running off the stage to interact with me and trying to talk with the big kid next to her.  She ended up being carried out of the room, screaming and crying, by her mean mother.  Now the lecture on program etiquette has been expanded and I've overheard her talking to herself about staying on stage, not talking to other kids while they are singing AND participating.  There is so much to learn while growing up (and mama's hair gets grayer and grayer from this goof-ball child!).

This was Hazel's second year in a preschool program.  While it was a really difficult decision whether or not to send Hazel to Kindergarten this past year, it was 100% a fantastic decision to wait!  SHE BLOSSOMED this year!  Her preK program was more days and more hours than last year's preschool, so it still provided good movement.  Also, the preK was part of a local Chrisitan school, so she arrived each morning while buses were dropping off other kids, walked the halls with the big kids, interacted with other grades...a perfect stepping stone!  Her teacher was FANTASTIC!  I can't sing her praises loud enough!  The classroom had structure, but also emphasized play, the most important fundamental in learning... and the most ignored in public education.  She also got daily naps after school, something she would have missed had she gone to full day Kindergarten!

One of my favorite parts of the year were the many deep discussions we had about peer relationships.   Of course, she typically would voice her questions and concerns RIGHT when I pulled up to her school in the morning, but I would revisit the talking points in the evening when we had more time to hash out the intricacies of friendships.  Her biggest struggles were how to handle it when her friends would fight over who could sit and play with her.  She is 100% kind and loving and very concerned in making everyone feel welcome...while being true to herself and preferring some friends.  Her biggest accomplishment of the year, according to her, is that she was the only kid in preK who never got in trouble ;)  

From top right clockwise:  Hazel and Mrs. Jones after receiving her certificate; reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and Pledge to the Christian flag; singing her favorite song by Mercy Me (I love how she led her friends through the motions!); Getting ready to toss their graduation caps; Telling a knock-knock joke; Posing with two of her dear friends...who fortunately will also be joining her at their new school next year!

She has also really grown in her creativity!  Her teacher allowed them to spend time each day, using any art materials.  For Hazel, this was incredible!  She has made thousands of construction paper envelopes, filled with construction paper stick figures/ unicorns/ rainbows.  She calls them blind bags and gets giddy every.single.time she gives one away.  She also started making "stuffed animals" out of construction paper, cotton/kleenex/crumbled paper, staples or tape and a string tale.  At the end of the year, I was able to chaperone a field trip (to Pizza Hut, yum!) and snapped some shots of the classroom.  The kids had free time before we left, Hazel immediately started making some 3D art.  Then I noticed how Mrs. Jones actually decorated with Hazel's artwork!  Every available space was filled about 80% with Hazel's creations :)  What a way to build up a child!

What a fantastic year!  The girls have grown in unexpected way, learned more about the Bible, letters and friendships than I ever expected...and have a beautiful LOVE for learning!  We have much to be thankful for.


Heidi's Horsin' Around 4th Birthday Party!

For our animal lover's 4th birthday, Heidi chose to have a HORSE theme!  I dare say, this party will go down in history as her all-time favorite.  As you can see, we had REAL HORSES!  A dear friend of mine from work offered to bring some horses over and let the kids ride!?!?!  Talk about generous!  Horse owners forget what a HUGE deal it is to non-horse owners to get to see, touch and ride a horse!  I dare say, I was itching to take a horse on a trail ride during the entire party... ride off into the sunset and let someone else clean-up the wrapping paper explosion ;)

Since I try to stick to only inviting the number of kids as her age, we kept the guest list pretty small and invited 3 families over for the party.  Her birthday party was on Easter eve, so it was a one BUSY weekend...but so full of fun!

By now, y'all probably know how much I LOVE throwing birthday parties for my girls!  (Frozen Party, Penguin Party, Goodnight Moon Party, She's a Peach Party, Adult Birthday Square Dance, Look Whoo's One Cake, Rainbow Fish Cake, Angelina Ballerina Party)

I TRIED to keep this party really simple with easy foods and the focus on the horse rides!  I made my favorite Thrive chili the day before and let it heat all day in a crockpot.  My mom made cowboy caviar (chips and dip).  I made rice crispie treat hay bales and super easy horse cupcakes.  We also served hot dogs and carrots w/ranch.  I bought a colorful assortment of bandannas from Oriental Trading for each kid to wear and to use as decorations.  I also bought a cute horse craft from OT.  The girls helped me round up our ENORMOUS collection of horse toys and we decorated with those.  Hazel was excellent at this task (note the My Little Ponies everywhere).

Head to my Pinterest board for more ideas and/or tutorials.

Of course, the kids had NO interest in eating and wanted to stay out with the horses for the entire party :)  Fortunately, it was a {rare} sunny day!

Once we wrangled the kids back inside, they made their horse handprint crafts, ate yummy foods, sang Happy Birthday, opened presents...and then somehow (in what might be the most stereotypical Kosker thing ever)... everyone ended up at the zipline!

*Michelle, since you were nice enough to bring the horses, I'll be nice enough not to post a pic of you ziplining :)

All in all, it was such a wonderful time!  I'm thankful that some of my favorite people have kids that have become some of Heidi's favorite people.  It makes for very pleasant gatherings :)

I'd say Heidi felt incredibly special and well loved this birthday!  I certainly feel blessed to have the privilege of being her mama!


Orris Family Christmas Recap

How many times can you say that you got EXACTLY what you wanted for Christmas?  Well, I can say that this year!  In fact, the Kasch family has the power to give that gift to me every year... no pressure... better buy a lottery ticket or two :)

Even though my mom and I live on adjoing properties, when the Kasch family comes to visit, it isn't close enough!  We are each constantly bundling up, hiking the short path between houses, hosting each other, separating into evolving groups, etc.  So, for Christmas my mom had the most brilliant idea...she rented a large condo at Peek N Peak so that we could all spend a few days under the same roof!

My mom's brother, Mark, and his wife Charlene and son Kaelen also joined us at the condo.  They live in Miami and so we rarely see them and never spend much quality time together (when they visit, there are usually a dozen other relatives around and conversations are short...but LOUD!).  Kaelen was a great sport to spend a week surrounded by 3 pint-sized adoring 2nd cousins.  As per usual, Heidi velcroed herself to the boy (she has had this habit since she could first walk and assert attention from male species!).  She renamed him "My Best Boy" and I'm afraid that name has stuck.  In fact, it is taking me much longer than normal to finish this post because Heidi keeps coming in to beg me to pull up the pictures of her Best Boy so that she can stare at them each for a few minutes before returning to play.  We are in trouble with this girl!

The condo was perfect because each family had their own bedroom, but could also comfortably fit in the main living areas.  Mom and I enjoyed planning this and spent hours pouring over the options, choosing the most allergy friendly condo.  There was a game room in the basement and a living room/ dining room that provided ample space.  We went on walks, talked, laughed, ATE, played games, and headed to the main lodge for swimming, hot tub, sauna and the indoor playground!  Such a great way to spend quality time together.

clockwise from the top:  Uncle Mark being a goofball entertaining the girls, of our our intense game nights (photo taken from balcony), trio of happy girls at indoor playground, Aunt Charlene reading to the girls, fancy table for raclette dinner, coordinating cousins at the breakfast bar.

Since Peek N Peak is near Chautauqua where our good friends, the Lindemans live, we also got to spend a little time with them!  The adults (minus my mom who stayed back with the girls) drove over to their house for a blacksmithing demo (Christoph walked away 100% convinced that this is going to be his new hobby and Jake is hoping to take lessons at Family Camp) and one evening we coerced the Lindemans over to the condo to join us for more games!
clockwise from top:  Game night...LOVING the expressions...especially whatever mischief was occurring between Marianne and Lee!; Lee pounding the iron; hot coals (duh); Heidi refused to stay in bed when TWO OF HER FAVORITE BOYS were in the house so her Aunt Marianne took pity on her and made her a nest on the balcony overlooking the living room...worked like a charm and she fell right asleep!; Mary and Luke enjoying the basement games (notice Heidi's proximity to the boy); another group shot of the games from above.

Next up, more CHRISTMAS :)  All these memories are making me itch for another game night...What is your favorite group game?  


Teamwork always works!

Last week's blog post made at least 2 people very happy :)  Aunt Lou enjoyed feasting her eyes on her grand nieces and my sister felt less alone in the blogging world (most of the bloggers we've read over the years have stopped blogging).  

I got my replacement charger for my camera and it was soooo fun to finally upload pics and look at them.  Almost like the "good ole days" when you would find a roll of film, not remembering when you took the photos, drop it in the box at the store and then eagerly await 5 days until you could pick it up and see the pictures!  

Pictures are truly worth a thousand words.  While I ebb and flow with taking the pictures, I'm thankful for each shot.  Each picture brings back the sounds, smells and memories of the moments.

This is my favorite picture from Christmas:

Can't you almost feel the crisp December air and hear their sweet, high-pitched voices (one of whom has an adorable German accent!)?

My niece, Annie, was visiting from Germany and the three girls immediately loved each other (it had been 1.5 years since they had physically seen each other- that's quite a lot in kid time!).  Cousins share such a precious bond, so much stronger than friendship. Annie is as tall as Hazel, but is actually 14 months younger while she only 6 months older than Heidi.  Having them together is pure perfection.

They play all together or break apart, forming and reforming.  This Christmas, Annie and Hazel were more often found playing together, but the love and affection they have for each other helps to smooth over those moments when Heidi felt left out or one of them needed alone time.

In this shot, they were doing their favorite cheer:  "Teamwork always works, teamwork always works, teamwork always works, TEAMWORK ALWAYS WORKS!".  I believe they saw it on a TV show, but I don't know which one.  We would hear them doing this cheer ALL.THE.TIME!  In the bath, when playing, when cleaning up toys, etc.  Soooo cute...and true :)

Scrolling through the photos reminds me of how important teamwork is to raising a family.  Weekly, no DAILY, I rely on my mother, my church friends and so many others to help me with the girls!  While I have the ultimate teammate in Jake, as I shared last week, he's a tad busy these days with work, school and running.  I'm thankful for the moments he chisels out in his days to be with us, but I also spend a lot of time dreaming about our future time together!

Whether it's babysitting, venting, consulting, laughing, crying, etc.  It truly takes a village to raise these sweet sweet girls!  Thank you for being a part of my village!


Hello out there! Quick update from this quartet.

Hi friends!  I've been itching to visit my blog and share with you.  Literally, my fingers twitch and my brain comes up with witty, delightful things to say.  Then I sigh and realize that my husband is doing school work on the computer and my camera charger is missing which means I can't share photos (or actually TAKE photos).

However, I desperately want to check in, especially for our Aunt Lou and Grandma Baird who only get updates through this blog :)

ME:  I'm good!  In general, I am feeling more happy and joyful than I have in years.  A long time ago, I asked you to pray for that for me and so now I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

I completed the Advocare 24-day challenge and now continue to maintain the eating plan 50-75% of the time.  I've lost over 15 pounds and feel overall healthier!  Unfortunately, I've had to come to terms with the fact that dairy is not my friend.  Doing a whole cleanse really got me in tune with how different foods affect my body!  Odd how I never noticed before, but I am the same person who didn't realize that I have SEVERE allergies until the Doctor told me  (for example, intense headaches every time I visited a house with an indoor dog and NEVER picked up on the correlation!).

As you can see in this snapshot I took of myself with my phone yesterday, I'm GOING GRAY!  That patch at my part is the most gray and I'm hoping it turns bright white or sparkling silver SOON!  While I am always aghast at the saloon when I see all the GLITTER falling from my head on to my black cape, I also LOVE it!  I think perhaps it's because I grew up in an age where Grandmas had unnatural hair colors and my father told women, straight to their adoring faces, that they "were too old to have hair that color".  I also know some BEAUTIFUL women that went grey at a young age and my admiration of them must have spilled over to include their grace in ageing (shout outs to Leslie Boehmer and Aunt Amy Krumich!).  I simply am not ashamed of my age or hair color!  I think it's easier for a dirty blond to go gradually grey because it just blends right in.  Slowly, I'm just loosing the saturation of color.  

Recently I checked in with a few 2nd grade girls to see what my actual hair color is (if you ever need to hear the truth, ask a kid!).  They replied that I'm a dirty blond... HA... if they only knew ;)  So, I'm not quite grey yet, but well on my way and loving it!

JAKE:  He is in his LAST semester of his Bachelor of Nursing program!  This will be his second Bachelors degree and we are SO proud of him!  He balances full-time work, difficult classes, keeping this house warm, being a father and literally running in every snow storm.  

Recently he was sick for quite awhile and I began to wonder if mono was back.  Turns out, the cold medicine he was taking was making him GOOFY and exhausted.  So glad we figured that one out!  

Now he is back to running, playing with the kids and being a sweet husband.  

(I just discovered that I have not taken any pics of Jake with my phone for a LONG time!)

GIRLS:  I have so much to say and plan to write a post on each of them later in the week. 

Suffice to say that these two are GROWING like weeds and BLOSSOMING like flowers.  My heart literally bursts with love multiple times a day!  

Hazel is now nicknamed, our "little theologian".  She attends a christian Preschool and it's been an amazing year for her!  Her compassion and empathy are her strongest personality traits.  But it's the theology discussions and questions that I never expected from a 5 1/2 year old.  Granted, she's told me that I'm wrong once or twice, but the black & white teachings of her school are age appropriate and lead to some awesome discussions about faith.  Perhaps one day she'll turn into a Lutheran theologian and snuggle deep into the grey...

Hazel is also an artist to the nth degree.  Currently she is digging through our recycling bin, building a present for my mom who just returned from HAWAII and is coming for dinner (which I haven't cooked because I'm blogging).  She spends HOURS every day at the table with paper, scissors, tape and colors.  She's very mixed media and abstract.  Clearly taking after her Uncle Josh (who has gained national attention during his Master of Fine Arts program)!  We are so proud of her creativity and thankful her teacher and babysitter encourage this free form art play.

Heidi continues to be my snuggle bunny.  However, she can be one huge ball of energy too!  She is quick to love, especially if you are a teen or male.  She simply adores her "big kid friends" and I am thankful for a church community that provides these relationships.  She is also very into technology and this COLD winter has granted her an abundance of indoor time to play in her OWN Kindle which she simply loves (summer will be severely technology limited!).

Heidi has this adorable grin and double chin that I can't keep my lips off of!  At swimming lessons, she grins the whole time while her eyes show faint signs of fear and her arms paddle at mach speeds.  

We've been having many snow and cold temperature school cancellations and I try to make them more like VACATION days.  Here's a pic from Monday's trip to Chuck E. Cheese!  (They are in the roller coaster simulator).

That's my 30-minute update!  I'll be back soon with tales from the ER, tooth fairy and more :)  What's new with you?