Back Burner Blogging.

Blogging has taken a serious back seat the last month or so, as much as I hate to admit it.  There’s just too many things to do in my 2 hours of quiet time to myself in the morning and those 2 hours go awful quick!

But we’re still here.  We’re (mostly) doing well.  We’ve had some serious bouts of sickness the last several weeks (2 weeks of stomach flu, 3 weeks of pink eye for all kids, and just getting over a week of colds now too.).  It’s nearly wiped us but not completely.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what our last several weeks have looked like:

In between sicknesses, we’ve put in numerous hours just trying to finish up the main parts of our yard work so that we’ll actually have a summer where we get to enjoy our yard!  I. CANNOT. WAIT for this part to be done!  I just want to throw a blanket in the soft grass for a picnic, clear off the back deck (aka Skyler’s temporary workshop… temporary being like the last 5 months… ;)), use the deck for BBQ’ing, enjoy evenings around the fire, and let the kids enjoy the tree house.  We’re so close but not quite there on all of the above.

Because our back yard is so shady and forest-like, the grass was still looking really sparse this spring, despite re-seeding it about 3 times last summer.  Here it is looking like a middle-aged man, but you can see in the background that we’ve started adding bark!  (See!  Finishing touches!  We’re getting there… :P)


I’ll be posting pictures of our updated yard progress soon (you can see the progress that it has already made since we bought the house here.  My goodness, I just read over that progress post and it’s wild how far our yard has come since that post!).

We’ve gone on a fun family vacation/road trip, briefly down to California – our “family edition” Amazing Race:


I’ll be posting more about this soon because it was SO FUN.  The kids can’t wait for the next leg of the race and frankly, neither can we.

I started a book/Bible study up at my house again and have enjoyed diving into another great book with some great girls.


The boys joining me for my early morning reading time.  We’re going through the book “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God” by Lysa TerKeurst.  Super great read!

And Skyler’s started up his next term of classes.  This hefty textbook (probably weighs 30 lbs.  I received the Amazon box and could barely lift it off my porch it seems.  Wondered what the heck it could possibly be and immediately felt waves of sympathy for my poor husband who gets to devour the nearly 2000 pages in this book. haha)


The boys and I are still plugging away with our own schooling.  It’s been so fun and rewarding to see what they have learned and gotten more skilled at already in just this year or pre-schooling.  And yes, I’m painfully aware of how far behind in posting about our weekly schooling adventures as the last one I posted about was letter K and we are on letter V this week.  EEK.  I am still deciding if it’s worth my time to be posting them still… leaning towards no. ;)


We have decided on curriculum for kindergarten next year (with some modifications for Asher but he’ll likely just be plugging along with us).  We’ll be doing My Father’s World, which spends the first 2 weeks of school talking about Creation and the world and then does weekly units on things in this world – butterflies, rocks, oceans, etc.  Very similar style to what we’ve been doing this year and I think we’ll really like it.  I bought the materials last week and I’m excited to have to summer to go over it and see what we need to do to prepare.  :)

Ellery girl is turning into a little toddler girl, full of emotion, full of opinions, full of sass, and full of sweetness.  She’s a walking/running independent machine and isn’t afraid of exploring anywhere and everywhere and we are learning just how good of an eye we need to keep on that one.   On another note, I just bought my first stroller (like, nicer than an umbrella stroller)… ya know, just 3 kids in.  But, unlike her brothers, that girl does not like to be in a baby wearing device and looooves to be in a stroller.  The boys hated it.  So… there’s that.  But I’m pretty pumped and cannot wait for the weather to turn sunny again so we can make a trip to the zoo with our new stroller!  Whoop!

Anyway.  *whew* it feels good to just catch up a little on the blog again.  I always dream of just sitting and typing with the sun streaming in and the coffee hot, click click clicking away on the key board and writing out all my stream of thoughts.  And then the baby wakes up, not finding her binky.  And then Asher comes out crying because at some point daddy got out of bed and went to work and why did he leave me?!  And then Zeek wakes up wanting to eat.  So… for now, the days of many hours spent writing are much much shorter and farther between… But I’m not willing to let go completely.  :)

Thanks for hanging out with me even when I’m like the long lost friend who never calls.

Hope you’re all doing well too!

The Amazing Race {Leg 2}

For my 30th birthday in January, Skyler celebrated me well.  He went all out and planned the best birthday I have ever had.  Being ‘The Amazing Race’ fanatics, he planned my entire birthday as a leg of the race and promised we would continue having dates in this fashion!  It was the best date, ever!

I knew I had to do something fun and outrageous for his 30th birthday in March too.  Not to compete or because I felt I had to keep up with him, but because I wanted him to feel just as celebrated as he had made me feel.  So, I told him that for his birthday I would be taking over the March leg of the race.

He came home on a Friday night, the day before his birthday, to his wife headed out the door with some girlfriends for “Mom Prom” and this backpack on his side of the bed:


Inside was this note and suggested packing list:

TAR Invitation Packing List


Now, granted, we had already been on one leg of the race from celebrating my birthday but I needed something that would let him know he needed to pack and prepare that night instead of waiting for his first clue the next morning.  So I went out of true order and put in this ‘congratulations’ note to get the ball rolling.

Note: Match-Match = athletic shorts in our house, named by Zeek a few years ago.  Also, our running joke since we were dating and making surprise dates for each other is that the only info we ever give the other person before our surprise date is to “pack matches and a paddle.”

The next morning, the kids and I made daddy a big breakfast of eggs and sausage and sang him Happy Birthday.  I told him to go shower and get dressed for the day and after emerged, we started playing this video for him:

Yes, I made him go drive the kids to grandma’s house!  I needed that extra hour that would give me to get a few last minute tasks completed. :)

When he arrived back home an hour later, the car was packed and ready to go.  I handed him his first clue and in true Amazing Race fashion, I made him hop in the driver’s seat.


First clue: make your way to the Dutch Bros. on Mission Street for coffee!  (Also, I have to note that the Dutch Bros. employees were awesome and ecstatic for their small role along this race.  One asked if we actually were on the race…. *laughing tears emoji face*)


Once he had gotten his drink, the server handed him his next clue:


He knew exactly how to get there after a quick study of this map but wasn’t sure what was there.  He was pleasantly surprised when he pulled up to one of the local gun clubs (Mid-Valley Clays & Shooting School).

Once parked, I handed him his next clue which was a Road Block – something only one member of the team could complete.  :)


He was impressed that I managed to secretly pack everything – his gun, his shotgun shells, his safety goggles and hearing protection… (if you’ve ever seen inside our garage, you might be quite impressed with my ability to find everything too! haha).

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After about an hour or so of shooting (it doesn’t take long to get through 50 clay targets, as we found out!), we headed back to the car.  I had already laid out the next clue for him to find:


Yield’s are things of older seasons and aren’t used anymore but I thought it would be perfect for this next part of our race!


We waited out our Happy Hour Yield time at Gustav’s pub in Tigard with neither brats or beers, but rather some fondue, caesar salad and chicken schnitzel!  It was an excellent choice that we did not regret. ;)


After we feasted, he received his next clue – a Detour where he had to choose one task to complete:


He had never heard of the Interactive Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery (which I just realized I spelled wrong on the clue!  Ha!  Whoops.) before so he chose to head there.  Now, this place is a little hole in the wall in some industrial area.  It’s not done very well as far as atmosphere and is not trendy whatsoever but it’s fairly clean, relaxed and an amazing idea of a place.  If they wanted to amp up their business, they easily could make this a super cool place!  It does cost, I think it was a suggested donation of $5 per person or you could buy a membership for the year for less than $30 I think.  They have over 3400 games and are the largest game center in the states!  Not only that, but all the games were alphabetized.  I have no idea how they maintain that kind of order but it was awesome!

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Side note: I need another Friends fanatic to go back with me and play Bamboozle!



We played about 5 different games (yes, including the dvd version of The Amazing Race!).  It was so fun to just look at all the games they had and find old children’s games that we remembered playing… you know, way back before either of us was 30!  (waaaaaah).


Skyler, a remarkable mosquito magnet, has an irrational fear of mosquito’s and even of perceived mosquito sightings.  He took one glance at this game and stated, “wow, that looks like the worst possible game in the world.”  Needless to say, he didn’t want to play it.


They had this game on display as a valuable antique in their museum portion of their shop and I had to snap a photo to send to my mom because we have this exact version sitting in our attic space at home!


We finished up our games and snacks (oh yeah, you can take your own snacks and drinks in to enjoy while gaming, or buy some there!), and we headed back to the car where Skyler learned that we had been Blind U-Turned (oh NO!  He didn’t see that one coming…) and had to complete the other side of the Detour: video gaming at Ground Kontrol!

Blind U-Turn March


As we were making our way to Ground Kontrol, we saw signs just off the road pointing to Pittock Mansion.  I had never been there so we made a quick stop to check it out – even though the weather was crummy and we didn’t have the normal mountainous gorgeous views of Portland.

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Fun fact: The Amazing Race Season 13 had its final leg filmed around Portland area and the finish line of the race for that season was right here in front of the Pittock Mansion!  So, even though we made a detour from our own planned out Amazing Race adventure, we felt okay breaking the race for some real Amazing Race reminiscing!

This is Nick and Starr (brother and sister team) racing to the finish line in front of the Pittock Mansion (photo from CBS).


So of course, Skyler had to close out our time there imagining that he was winning the race…I think this is his victory pose.


We got back on track and headed into Portland towards Ground Kontrol: a 2 story, jam-packed, low-light, beer-serving, vintage arcade game venue where all games are still a quarter.  The low light lent to some crummy pictures, but we enjoyed playing several games: Time Crisis II, Bust-A-Move, Ms. Pac-Man, Tetris, TMNT and more.

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We played for about an hour and then started getting quite hungry (as it was already 7:30).  Thankfully, I had his next clue ready which would lead us to dinner…


This led us to a new little Thai food restaurant called Chai Thai.  (He loves chai tea and Thai food.) It had great reviews and the food was amazing but I should have researched it a little more because it was a very very small restaurant and the atmosphere wasn’t great.  We stayed just long enough to scarf our delicious dinner and then he got his next clue, as well as his Travelocity Gnome (thanks Target Dollar Spot!):

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We drove the 30 or so minutes to get to the Pit Stop of the race – the Best Western hotel in Cascade Locks.  We settled in quickly with a glass of wine and decided that we had better relax by watching the episode of The Amazing Race that took place in Portland (Season 13, episode 11).


It wasn’t until part way through the episode that we realized we were staying in the hotel that was actually IN the same episode!  In it, the 3 remaining teams had to do a zipline from the Bridge of the Gods to the little Marine Park island.  Our hotel was smack dab in the middle of those two things!

Here are some screen shots from the episode (so they’re blurry, but you get the idea…):


Here they are pulling into the Bridge of the Gods and you can see the Best Western sign in the background!


The brown building in the background is the Best Western and the grey building is its partner restaurant where we ate breakfast the next morning.


And there they are ziplining to the Marine Park.  Our hotel was directly on the other side of the railroad tracks.

Our little TAR-hard hearts were geeking out.  I couldn’t have planned this Amazing Race date any better if I had tried!  I couldn’t believe it worked out like that.  I was tempted to lie to Skyler and tell him I knew that was the hotel and that’s why I planned us staying there… ;)  Truth was, we love Best Westerns and I was hoping for decent weather to be able to do a short hike at the nearby Multnomah Falls…

The next morning we ate our delicious breakfast at the restaurant next door and gawked at the Bridge of the Gods and Marine Park which we could see from our breakfast table.

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(Also, this was the hotel’s complimentary breakfast!  If you are ever out that way and need a place to stay, this was a fantastic hotel.)

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Then, just like the episodes where the contestants get to a pit stop, get told they’re still racing and get handed another clue, I pulled the same move on Skyler.  Handed over his next clue and told him we’d better get going.


This little observatory is called the Vista House and I had never been to it but seen it every time we drove past on the highway.  Unfortunately, the weather was so crummy and foggy so the views weren’t as breathtaking as I know they could be underneath all those clouds, so we’ll have to go back another day.  :)


He successfully completed his gnome picture, so I gave him his next clue:


We were making better time than I anticipated and had an hour to kill before the next activity, so on the way home I suggested that we stop at our favorite bakery, the White Rabbit Bakery in Aurora, for some coffee.  Skyler said we take our coffee to go and stop by the Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage down the road from the bakery – of course I wasn’t going to say no to that!


Even though everything there is astronomically priced, it is still one of my happy places.

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After some lovely mindless wandering, it was time to hit the road again and make our way back home.

We walked back in our home to the wonderful smells of elk roast cooking in the crock pot (thanks to our amazing neighbor-friend Michelle coming over and preparing the food before we arrived!), and Skyler found a box on his bed with another clue:


Skyler loves Napoleon Dynamite.  If was really thinking this one through, I would’ve chosen a picture with Uncle Rico like this:


The box was filled with his old high school football team attire, his cleats and a couple packs of flag football sets.


He put on his gear, I packed up the food and we met up with his brother and a group of guys from church at one of the nearby high schools where we had elk roast sandwiches, chips and cookies and then the men played a serious game of flag football.


The weather was questionable the whole time but the rain held off until the very end.  It was so fun to watch them running around together!  I even captured one of Skyler’s touchdowns on video:

After the football game was over, I handed Skyler his last clue:


Some of the guys headed over to a friends’ house to have a night of Halo (I think?  I have no idea what men play when they gather! haha).

Skyler came home later that night from this last Road Block grinning ear to ear.  He couldn’t stop smiling and thanking me for the fun birthday adventure that I planned out.  He loved the parts where we spent time together of course but he what really filled his cup was the extra mile I went by planning the last two activities with his brother and other dude friends.  It always makes him feel so honored when friends gather in his name.  I’m so glad it turned out so well and am thankful for all the helpful hands working behind scenes to surprise him!

HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY SKYLER!  Love you madly.

I think it’s safe to say that we are hooked on doing our dates The Amazing Race style!  While I’m sure these first two were the most grand ones that we will be doing for a while (since they were for our 30th birthdays), I still want to plan more dates in this fashion even if they will be much simpler. It’s so fun for both the planner and the receiver. 

If you want to do some similar style dates, you can find the templates for The Amazing Race clue cards all over on Pinterest!  In true Kayla fashion, I got so excited about all this that I downloaded my templates and didn’t pin them or save them to figure out where I got them from, and as always, I can’t re-find them on Pinterest.  Gah.  I always do this.  Anyway – so many ideas already out there!

{A Celebration} 65 Years of Marriage

This past weekend, my family had the honor and privilege of celebrating with my grandparents for their 65th wedding anniversary!  We have done a big celebration about every 10 years for them and even though it is generally pulling out the same kinds of items in remembrance of their wedding each time, it is still just so special to see those items again and again.  Her wedding dress.  His wedding tie.  Black and white photos of them after they met, their wedding pictures, pictures of my dad and uncles and babies, and eventually newer and newer photos including more and more members which have since joined our family.

Grandma and Grandpa are two pretty special people.  I have never met another woman as kind as my Grandma is and has been since I’ve known her.  I’ve never known her to not be speaking in her soft and gentle, kind voice – except for when she’s doing her joking stern voice with Grandpa.  My Grandpa is the soft and gentle teddy bear type – strong though.

Just look at them!  I have been just swooning over these pictures this last week as I put together a photo board for the anniversary party.  They are so adorable.  I showed Skyler some of these photos and his exact comment was, “Wow, Earl was the MAN!”

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Grandma in her wedding dress (if I remember correctly, they didn’t actually get photos of their wedding.  This was quite a while after the wedding and I *think* she’s about 5 months pregnant here with my oldest uncle.):


The start of their growing family;  my oldest uncle Keith, and my dad, the 2nd, in Grandma’s lap:


Grandma with all 6 of her boys!  My dad is the cute boy in the hat.

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We had such a fun time at their party!  It made me wonder if Skyler and I will still be around for our 65th anniversary… and what family members new and old may be in our lives at that point (58 years from now!).


We did just a dessert and coffee and the desserts were uh-mazing.

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I saw Grandma setting up her wedding dress and my heart just got all sorts of weepy feeling watching her fingers carefully button her dress.  We all commented on how tiny she was and she told us that her mother made her dress for her and actually made it quite baggy on her because her mother didn’t want to accentuate how petite she really was.

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Her wedding dress pattern (I’m so glad she saved all of these!):


Grandpa’s tie:


Photo board that I put together:


Grandma and Grandpa together:

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Their growing family through the years:

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Each of the 6 brothers had a table devoted to them and their families and were in charge of decorating with items and photos that represented them.  It was really fun to look around and see what all everyone came up with!  (Apparently I didn’t get a pic of my Uncle Roger’s table!!  Sorry Rog!)

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Probably one of my favorite parts was seeing them with their friends that came and watching all their faces light up and the grins and giggles with seeing their dear friends.

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A good portion of our large family (missing about 7 people):

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Oh these sweet, sweet people who started it all…


The original Miller family:


The great-grandkids (and one grandkid – Quinn, who has always been closer in age to the greats!):


Life lesson from Grandpa & Grandma: always keep a marriage fun.  :)


Celebrating with Grandma and Grandpa, seeing all their friends and our family (and distant family), and just lavishly honoring them and their wonderful marriage that has impacted so many people was just the best.

Happy Anniversary, you two, and thank you for the example, the light you’ve been, and the firm foundation of our entire family.  You two have been an incredible example to so many people, in our family and out.  You are so so loved and treasured.

Love you guys.

{A Year of Dates} iFly Indoor Skydiving

You know how Skyler and I are “The Amazing Race” people?  As in, we love the show.  It’s the only show we watch together, we have The Amazing Race themed dates, when we have tasks we don’t particularly want to do, we call it “race training” and we hope to actually be on the show some day.  The one breaking point in nearly every season is that there is almost always some sort of bungee jumping or skydiving challenge.  That is the point in the show where I always tell him, “sorry honey, this is where we are out of the running for the race.”  Because while jumping out of airplanes is among the top of Skyler’s bucketlist, it is far from even reaching the bottom of my list and I’m not sure that I would be able to do it, even for a million bucks.  It’s this point in the show that Skyler always second guesses my abilities and mutters something along the lines of, “well, maybe you shouldn’t be my partner… maybe I’ll just take my brother.”

In an effort to step out of my comfort zone and meet him halfway (and show him that I do want to go on The Amazing Race and ‘please, oh please let me be your partner!’), I decided to surprise him with a special date to iFly in Portland.  Both of us had seen the building a number of times while passing by, as it sits right across the highway from the Washington Square Mall but neither of us knew much about it.  All I knew was that it was indoor skydiving without the risk factor of actually jumping out of an airplane.  Done, sold, I can get on board with that!  (And by “on board”, I don’t mean “on board an airplane.”)

When you schedule a flight time at iFly, they ask you to show up 1 hour before your scheduled time so that you can take a short lesson and get your flight gear on.  We arrived up in Portland about 20 minutes before we needed to be there so we popped over to the other side of the highway to Panera for a little morning boost.


As we sat there sipping our smoothie and nibbling on an egg sandwich, I could look out the window and see the tall tower of iFly looming in the skyline.  All the sudden, I started getting a bit nervous.

I knew there was no danger involved but still my stomach couldn’t help but start getting antsy.  What should I expect?  What will it feel like?  Will I be in there by myself?  Normally over-prepared for such occasions, I didn’t take any time to familiarize myself with what would actually be happening.

With equal amounts of hesitation and excitement in my bones, we headed across the way to iFly.


We made our way in and met some of their lovely staff members who helped us sign waivers and get all checked in.


After we were all checked in downstairs, we headed up to the Flight Deck.


While we waited for the rest of the people who were scheduled to do flights in our group, we sat and watched some very skilled flyers.  You can buy all sorts of packages and all different skill levels use the wind tunnel; this guy was highly skilled!  It was awesome to watch him almost dance around the tunnel doing different moves with the iFly employee.  I told Skyler it was like watching Peter Pan.


Watching these guys move around in the tunnel put my mind (and stomach!) at ease and I quickly got excited for our turn!  I’m one of those that gets nervous of new experiences where I have no idea what to expect.  Watching for a while beforehand really helped!  Soon, all of the other members in our flight group had arrived and we all shuffled into the classroom for a short lesson.


The lesson was short and sweet with a little video and then our flight instructor showed us the position we needed to be in for flying and a few hand motions that he might use to signal to us how we need to adjust our bodies in the tunnel.


After our short lesson, we headed back out to throw our stuff in lockers and gear up for flights!

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After we had all suited up, we were ready to head into the tunnel!  There’s a bench along the backside of the tunnel that your entire flight group waits on while we each take turns inside the tunnel.  Every person seemed to have a different package deal with varying flight times and some had “high fly’s” where the instructor helped you fly up to the top of the tunnel.  Having the group there with us was so fun – it immediately created this little camaraderie within us as we were all first time flyers and in it together!  There was even this sweet little 5 year old girl in our crew and she was amazing!  She had no fears of jumping right in.

Being the Nervous Nancy that I was that day, I sat at the very end of the line, graciously letting everyone else go first ahead of me.  Finally, Skyler was up.  He was grinning ear to ear and couldn’t wait for his chance to jump on in!


And then… it was my turn.  I headed to the door, put my arms up in position…


… and dove right in!  Holy flying, Batman!  That was an instant rush and thrill!

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You can see that the jumpsuits we wore had handles at our hips and our shoulders.  This was for the instructor to help guide you and keep you stable.  Especially as a first time flyer, it is the most different experience than you’ve ever had and it takes a bit to get used to!  Each of us had two 1-minute flights (the average time of a real free fall when sky diving is 45 seconds).  By the second of my flights, I was stable enough to be on my own without help for a bit!


Excuse the glare of that shiny wind tunnel, but I had to post this picture showing that I’m flying without his help! 

We were on such an energy high after our flights!  Look at these goofy grins (and messy flight hair and indents in our cheeks from the goggles! haha!):


There’s a little room off of the tunnel where the operator sits and controls wind speeds (which were an average of 100mph!) and also where he took photos and videos of the flights.


The videos are sooo cool to be able to watch back what you had just experienced!  I can only explain the flight tunnel like being a dog with his head out the car window on the freeway – a face full of wind and exhilarating!  Skyler and I both cannot wait to go back and next time with the boys in tow.  The little 5 year old girl who was in our flight crew was the cutest little thing in there and Skyler and I just kept saying, “can you picture Zeek in there flying around?!” or “imagine Asher’s cute little teeth and chipmunk cheeks in there with the wind blowing on them!”

At the end of my video (since I was the last one), you can see our instructor doing a quick flight to show off some of his skill!  He is awesome!

We finished our flying experience with some cute little certificates showing that we accomplished the basic skills for a first time flyer.


Let me break it down as I do for all my reviews:

Name: iFly (Portland, OR)

Locations:  There are 37 iFly locations already (even some international) with more coming!  Find a location near you here.

Cost:  Flight packages and prices vary, but here is a snapshot of some options from their website:

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There are also some promotions offered through Costco and repeat flyers can also receive discounts on future flights.  At first glance, this may seem spendy but the entire ordeal lasted about 2 hours of time.  For what you are getting, this is a very reasonable price when you consider a real sky dive is only about 45 seconds of free fall time and even with the basic package at iFly, you are receiving at least two 1 minute flights.

Cleanliness:  The iFly Portland facility is only about 6 months old and so everything is nice, new and very clean.  The jumpsuits, helmets and gear were all well cared for and as soon as we removed them after flights, we saw the staff cleaning them up for the next crew.

SafetyEven though I had my nerves heading into it, as soon as I walked in and saw the wind tunnel and watched it in use, I knew there was no reason to be nervous.  When you look down in the wind tunnel, you can see what looks like a thin metal wire grate covering the bottom and an entire level down were two huge fans.  Even at that, when you looked in and saw the flight instructor walking with ease on the grate, you knew it would be safe.  There were no concerns at all.  (But for any of you other Nervous Nancy’s like myself, there’s a whole slew of helpful FAQ on their website.  There is also a page of good information on what indoor skydiving is.)

Employees Skyler said it best when we were there at iFly talking about how fun the employees all are.  He said, “well, a fun company like this just attracts a certain type of person to work for them.”  Everyone we met was happy, friendly, relaxed, helpful and fun to be around.  It made the atmosphere even more enjoyable being around such a great crew of employees.  They all helped answer questions we had, showed us different things and were really patient with us.  Awesome employees and as Skyler said, not a surprise to find such a great people working at such a fun place.

Experience:  We seriously had the best time ever.  We walked out of there with goofy euphoric grins on our faces, just as though we had legitimately jumped out of a plane (but thank God we didn’t, right?!).  From arrival to departure, the entire experience was just so cool and an entirely new experience for us.  There was nothing that could have made our time there any better!  Skyler was ready to walk out of there with the most expensive flight package available and declared he had a new hobby.  The guy was hooked! :)  And this anti-skydiving girl was right there with him!  It was such a thrill.  I cannot wait to head back and with our boys in tow this time!  Ladies, if you have a thrill-seeking man like mine, this would be a fantastic gift idea for a birthday, Father’s Day, or you know, like we did… just a Tuesday.  ;)

Family-Friendliness:  As I said, we cannot wait to take our boys back here!  I think they will love it!  Because our children are a little more on a meeker side of things, I think we may stop in sometime before we actually take them up there to fly just so they can sit and watch other people flying and get used to the idea of it.  You are allowed to just sit in the Flight Deck and watch people if you want to just pop in the next time you are in the area.  They said they often have high experienced real sky divers there to practice their maneuver’s and skills.  I think watching for a while first will help ease the mind of my timid oldest boy.  :)

On another note – they can host a wide variety of group events.  Anything from birthday parties, bachelor/ette parties, corporate events, elopements/weddings, youth groups, etc.  The thing that caught my attention however, was that they host school and homeschool groups for STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) educational programs which teaches curriculum that was designed by teachers and STEM professionals to the students.  After their hands-on lessons, the students all get a chance to fly!  Here’s a video from their website giving more information about the program:

Other:  When you make a flight appointment with them, they will tell you to wear shirts without collars and not to have any jewelry on.  I would also add that you should wear some sort of tennis shoe!  I didn’t think much beyond wearing a sweater and comfy jeans and so I also wore booties.  I guess I had in my head that the jump suits we would be wearing were like onesies that covered your feet and so you didn’t have to wear shoes.  Thankfully they are fully prepared to hand over some shoes that you can borrow for your flight in case your shoes aren’t appropriate.  (*cough* like mine. haha.)

Thank you iFly Portland for such an incredible experience and memorable date that we won’t soon forget!

This post was sponsored by iFly Portland and our flights were gifted to us but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Girls Date to the Tulip Fields

FINALLY!  I’ve only lived in Salem for seven years now but I FINALLY made it over to the Tulip Festival in Woodburn!  Holy smokes.  Not that I doubted it’s splendor but even more so now, I understand why people go every year.  It was soooo beautiful!  Even after the last 2 weeks of hot weather that took a toll on the tulips, the majority of them were still just as beautiful as ever.

A few of my mom friends gathered together yesterday to head out there with 12 kids in tow (and I didn’t even have my boys with me.).  I took just a few photos of the fields and our sweet kids (who actually spent a lot of the morning crying about various things.  Ya know, like mud and snacks and picture taking.  Whelp.  Mom outings.  What else can you expect?! ;)).

Most of these pics are of Ellery tromping around – which she LOVED.  She fell a bajillion times on the uneven ground but she didn’t let it keep her down!

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My friend Tara tried taking a pic for me of us girls at the field.  This was the only picture that this cute stinker would smile in, so I’m posting it regardless of my hand in front of my face!  She was obviously ready for the photo and I was NOT! ;)

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Ellery and our sweet neighbor friend Kate.  These two are adorable buddies!

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All the kids!  … right about meltdown time!  This crew of kids were such a fun mixture of cuteness and ridiculousness!  Check out Ellery’s major fit because I’m a mean mom who made her sit for a picture.  Sweet thing, that one.

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My favorite tulip variety that we saw (I always love orange/pink mixture flowers!):



Hauling our tired and hungry crew back out of the field:


This is Ellery’s “funny face” that she makes when she knows mom and dad are swooning over how sweet and adorable she is:


It’s just the best, amIright?! haha!

Thanks for the fun trip and FINALLY getting my tush out there, ladies!


Homeschool {Week J}

Week J

Letter J was a short week because we were celebrating the boys’ pirate birthday party on Saturday and I knew I would have a lot of little crafts and things to finish up for the party.
We did our typical introduction to the letter day: testing on the previous week’s Bible memory verse and nursery rhyme and then learning the new ones for the week, learning about letter J, J sounds and words and tracing/writing the letter.

My boys love love love animals, so I’ve been trying to work in anything about animals any chance I get. I figured “jungle” was a good broad topic. ;)

A couple years ago, Skyler bought this great set of National Geographic pop-up books for the kids. They love to look at them and they are very informative also. I started out our morning by reading the “Explore a Tropical Forest” book to them and talking about the 4 layers of a rainforest and the animals that live in each layer.

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Then I let the boys watch the Planet Earth episodes on Jungles. Planet Earth is one of the boys’ favorite things and it’s watched probably at least every other day. (We have Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Frozen Planet. They love them all!)


Zeek has been showing more and more competency with “legit” school things, so I decided to throw a math worksheet at him! He did one addition page and one subtraction page and he did them beautifully! I showed him two by example and then he flew through the rest on his own. I hope math is his thing… because that would just make schooling a lot easier…. ;)

I gave him Unifix cubes to have him count out the two groups he was adding together.

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Then we worked on some patterns, also using the Unifix cubes.


At the beginning of the school year, Asher was only 2.5 and not interested at all in desk work and just mainly joined us for the activities we did away from the desks. At this point, almost February, he was 3 and gaining much more interest in having his own worksheets to work on too. I’ve had to try to remember to find some basic activities for him as well! He loved these matching the animal the shadows pages and tracing shapes worksheets from The Measured Mom blog. (Zeek’s also came from there.)


We switched gears a little after that and watched a couple more short videos. I don’t know about your kids but mine love Youtube videos. Their daddy is always showing them animal or hunting Youtube videos and they eat it right up. So I decided to play along and incorporate a few more into our homeschooling. :)

First up was just this cute little “Who is the King of the Jungle?” video:

And then this short little video about chameleons (which is one of Zeek’s favorite jungle animals):

To finish up the day, we did this cute little chameleon craft from Learn Create Love that they loved coloring and cutting out. Many crafts we do get tossed eventually, but this little guy still lives in their desks two months later. :)



Jewels just seemed appropriate with their pirate party looming around the corner. :)

I had gotten this bag of awesome jewels for their party and figured it would be a great learning tool too, since they were so excited to play with them and couldn’t keep their hands off of them before the party! First up, I had them just spend time sorting them by color.

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Then we played a graphing game with them. I gave each boy a worksheet and dice. They had to roll the dice and put one jewel in the column of the number they just rolled. They had to do this until one column was completely filled out and we could see which number was rolled most often. (Found on Teachers Pay Teachers.)

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I had the boys help me set up a treasure island with the jewels hidden and all of their miniature pirate toys. We use our Kinetic sand in these sensory boxes and it is the BEST. The sand is so cool to play with but also completely just falls off of the toys (and your hands!) so it’s not making a big mess to clean up! Even if some gets out of the tub, you can easily just pick up the clumps and throw them back in the tub. There are several knock off brands now and they are okay, but this brand is top notch! Worth the extra buck!


And that was Homeschool Week J!

The Story {Pt. 2: Dating Life}

I started writing this post six years ago.  I’ve known for a long while that I wanted to share it but wanted to make certain that my heart was healed and nothing was written out of anger or heartbreak.

I’ve let it sit… and sit… and sit.  I wanted to be still and quiet and pray over it before I let the words come from my fingertips.  I wanted it to be a true story, not told for my own sake but for everything written to bring glory to the Lord for how He revealed himself to me, brought me through my darkest hour and has redeemed this life that I thought I was willing to give up.

I think I’ve struggled so much with it because as much as I want to share my story and give the glory to God, I would never want to harm the other person involved in this story by doing so.  That said, I’m also much more mentally and emotionally in a healthy place than I was six years ago when I first started writing this story.  I am able to share much more of my journey and what the Lord has done in my life and much less of what my ex-husband had done in my life.

Let me also add that this is the story of my life from ages 16-22.  Being 30 now, I have some really crisp and clear memories, and I have other parts of memories that are very fuzzy and unclear – and likely because they are no longer important details to me to remember, so I have released them from my memory.

It was the beginning of my junior year of high school.  I had been a Christian all of my life (with a heritage of my entire family being Mennonite and Amish) and as much as I knew how to, I loved God with my whole heart.  My life had been pretty easy and stress-free so far in my short 16 years.  I had loving parents, two great older siblings, I easily succeeded in school, I had plenty of clothes on my back and food in my fridge and was under the impression that my parents had far more money for things we needed than they probably actually did.  I felt safe, secure, loved and cherished.  I was always a happy, friendly girl and had many friends in many circles.  Life was good, life was easy, and I hardly knew pain or heartbreak.

I had just started going to a new youth group at a local church.  Right off the bat, I noticed a handsome young man playing guitar on the worship team.  I had an immediate attraction to him and wanted to get to know him better.  A mutual friend introduced us and we quickly formed a friendship and began to spend time together in our youth group setting.  He seemed outgoing, friendly and funny and I was just like a little school-girl totally smitten with this guy who was two years my senior.

After only two months of hanging out just as friends and nothing more, God gave me a dream one night.  A very clear visual that I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with.  As a girl that has never dreamed but a few times a year, I hold onto the ones I do have – even if they aren’t clear at the time.

He and I were in NYC.  I got out of a taxi cab and reached in to pull him out.  He had no arms and no legs.  I carried him everywhere, all over the city.  It was busy and bustling and we were walking through a sea of people.  I kept declaring to everyone in earshot, “This is my husband!  This is my husband!”  No one seemed to notice.  I just continued on, carrying him through the city.

When I had this dream, marriage was no where on the radar but I felt God telling me that if I continued in this relationship and eventually did get married, I would have to carry the weight of my husband.  I took this as a challenge almost and thought God was asking me if I was willing to do this for him, almost as a ministry of serving and loving my him.

A few months later, we started officially dating.  I was now 17 and loving having my first boyfriend!  I honestly don’t remember too much from our dating relationship (mostly because those are not important memories to me anymore so I have released them) but I felt that it was a fun and a loving young relationship to be in.  He seemed to love the Lord as much as I did and to seek His guidance for our lives.

During that first summer that we dated, I remember being in church during a worship session with my eyes closed when all of the sudden a vision (almost like having a dream but while awake) came to me.

I see myself.  I’m in a group of three other women.  Desirae is one of them.  I’m not sure who else.  We’re standing outside of the church in the parking lot.  I look to my right and see him about 15 feet away.  He’s standing with three other men.  We smile and acknowledge each other but continue on in our own conversations.  I am then made aware of a large fiery, brilliant blue sphere suspended in the air between us.

I see God’s hands.  I see Him carefully cup his large and loving hands around the sphere, completely covering it and clearly protecting it.  Then, he whispers.  He tells me that He is my Guardian.  He is my Protector.

I smile.  I don’t know what is in store for me, but yet I am comforted – I know that God will be there.

I was unsure what this vision represented or meant entirely but I took it to mean that the blue sphere was our friendship and that the Lord would be holding it and protecting it.  I didn’t know even what that meant exactly but I held onto that notion for the remainder of our relationship and often thought back to the vision of the brilliant blue sphere, held lovingly and firmly by God.  It would take nearly another 8 years after the time of this vision before I fully realized what it meant.

We dated for two and a half years before we got to the point in our lives where our group of friends started getting engaged and getting married.  Since we had been (mostly) happily dating at this point, we figured the next logical step was to get married ourselves.

We got engaged in June 2005, one year after my high school graduation and with a wedding date set for that December, just shy of my 20th birthday.

After we got engaged in June, the next 6 months of planning time before our wedding was a whirlwind.  I was a mix of emotions and stresses that naturally came with wedding planning and moving into a new apartment… and because that wasn’t enough, I started my first “big girl” job.

I remember things being rocky at times between my ex and I during our engagement, but I assumed it just came with the territory of wedding planning and other big life changes that were all happening quickly.  I didn’t dwell on it too much and continued with the bustle of wedding planning and preparing for this new life I was about to embark on.

My sweet friend Natalie was one of my closest at that time in my life, who I had also met in the youth group and who had been right there with me since the beginning of my relationship with my ex-husband.  She and I were in the habit of having Saturday morning breakfasts together at our favorite restaurant Novak’s, to just share the ups and downs of life with each other.

One Saturday, shortly after getting engaged, Natalie sat me down with a heavy heart.  I knew she had something on her mind.  With nothing but love for me as her close friend, she took a bold step of faith and told me of her concerns for me getting married and warned against it.  I sat, listened quietly and heard her out.  I understood her reasoning for her concerns but I didn’t want to fully accept her reasoning.  Regardless of my decision to continue on towards marriage anyway, Natalie stood by me in support as a bridesmaid.  To this day, more than 10 years later, that girl is still one of my most precious and treasured friends who first showed me the depths and beauty of true friendship and the richness in being able to speak truth to a friend in love.  I will never forget that moment of sitting across the booth from her and watching her in full bravery, unsure how I would react, telling me her concerns for me.  What a courageous thing for her to do in obedience to the Lord in speaking to me.  (Natalie, if you’re reading this: thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for being an obedient and courageous friend.  Thank you for speaking hard truths to me, even when I didn’t listen.)

December 2005 eventually came around and we were wed on the most beautiful, sunny, 50-degree day of winter in Oregon.  We were lavished and loved upon by friends and family as they came together to celebrate us and our new marriage.

2 DSC_0890Still one of my favorite photos – my sweet niece and I twirling in our princess dresses together.

…to be continued…

Easter Eggstravaganza {I Know. I Had To.}

This was the first full Easter weekend that daddy has had off since he became a nurse 3 years ago, so we opted to take full advantage of it!

On Saturday, we headed out to our favorite local farm, Bauman’s Farm and let the kids participate in one of the best organized kids egg hunts around.  Kids are released in small groups at a time and each kid is only allowed to get 12 eggs.  It makes for a non-frantic hunt, which we enjoy.

I brought them here last year and to make things a bit harder, we adopted the rule that they could only hunt for one color of egg.  They remembered that rule and quickly hollered out their color they would be hunting for.

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After the successful hunt and claimed prizes, we made our way to the bakery to pick up the real prize of the farm: apple cider donuts.

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We saw the farm animals…


Played in the hazelnuts (or in this case, became an ostrich)…


And jumped on the inflated pillow pad.


After going home to nap and re-coup, we headed over to some friends’ house for a BBQ and the boys’ first experience with legit dying Easter eggs…. (yeah, yeah.  We’ve just done other things in years past.  ;))

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On Easter, when the kids woke up, I had them all hunt around the house for their little Easter baskets.  It was a tradition my mom always did for my brother and sister and I and we loved it.  We even used to wake up at like 3 am every Easter and sneak downstairs together to search for our Easter baskets together and then go back to bed when we found them.  Then when we were called down in the morning, we already knew exactly where they were.


Asher is playing the role of my brother quite nicely.  Beary growly in the morning and not wanting to participate in anything, and especially not wanting his photo taken…


Zeek, on the other hand, wakes up quite chipper like his mother.  :)


Blurry, but too cute of her finding her “hidden” Easter basket!

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We spent the morning at our church worshiping our RISEN King (!!) and then headed home for naps.  Nap-time was a mad scramble to make all the portions of the Easter meal that were assigned to me and then after everyone awoke, we headed to my sister’s house for our family gathering.

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We discovered just how much Ellery loves deviled eggs.  I think she ate 8 total that day… Look at those eyes closed, completely taking in the savory flavors!


Sweet Ash asked for me to take a photo of him and of course I obliged.


I could not get enough of Little Miss in her Easter garb! She seemed to love the fluffy dress too and didn’t want it taken off!

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After we ate, we hid Easter eggs all around the downstairs.  Zeek had Batman eggs to find, Asher had Spiderman and Ellery had pink Princess ones.

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Ellery quite enjoyed what hers were stuff with: bunny crackers!  She inhaled them.

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My attempt at trying to get a photo of my children in their Easter-cuteness…

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All the cousins:

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Then, in lieu of dying eggs, I had gotten these cool decorating kits from Target.  Zeek made pirates, cousin Kaiden made space ships and aliens, Asher made bunnies and chicks and cousin Kaily did an awful lot of helping her little cousin.  ;)

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We had a wonderful Easter and hope you all did too!

Homeschool {Week I}

Week I was an incredibly mild one for us.  We had a daddy day (after daddy working a 4 day stretch) and a MOPS day in the week, and overall did not have our act together… I seem to have lost every single photo I took of Week I… and, well, I’ll do my best to share the little we did do anyway!  (Update: a week later and I stumbled upon my photos after a few hours of hunting for them last week with no luck!  I’ve added them to the post and will be sharing again. :))

Week I Week


We did our test on our previous weeks Godly Character Trait/Bible Verse and Nursery Rhyme (both of which astounds me every time – the ease in which Zeek, and even often Asher, can remember things blows my mind.  I surely don’t remember these as easily as they do!

We did our new Godly Character Trait of the week (Courageous, Bible Verse: Joshua 1:9) and our nursery rhyme of the week (This Little Piggie Went To Market).

Zeek practiced tracing the letter I several times and writing it on his own in his journal also.



We all had a lot of fun with this one!  Measuring things is commonplace around here with projects always going on and measuring tapes always laying around.  The boys even have 2-3 measuring tapes each of their own.  I knew this one would be good to give them a better perspective of what inches actually were… since Zeek is often known to make remarks like, “How long until Daddy gets home?  About 5 inches?” … :)

We started out with just talking about different units of measurement – inches, centimeters, yards. I showed him on his ruler the different notches and numbers.

Then, with rulers in hand, they got out their playdoh and rolled out some “snakes”.  I had them line up the snakes on the ruler, use a plastic knife and cut out a 3 inch snake, a 2 inch snake, etc.

After playdoh, we moved on to a couple of great little worksheets I found on Estimating Length at

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This was a great little worksheet.  We talked through each object and looked at the ruler to see which measurement made more sense.


Next we moved onto another worksheet by The Measured Mom with using Unifix cubes to measure common objects – except Zeek wanted to actually measure them with his tape measure.  Zeek really loved this activity and it was really good for number recognition.

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Skyler was SO excited and looking forward to Week I because he wanted to do a dry ice experiment in the worst way.  I obliged him… and he totally didn’t perform! ;)  So, no dry ice… but we did watch the Ice Worlds portion on Planet Earth and then dumped a bunch of ice cubes in a tub and did a small world sensory play with all their penguins, walruses, polar bears, whales, etc.  Their hands were freezing when done but they had fun!

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I had painstakingly put together this fun ice cream letter matching activity from Free Homeschool Deals also.  It was a fun tool and Zeek enjoyed matching the letters using ice cream – but it was a lot of effort to cut out! :)



And that wraps up our short week we had learning about Letter I!

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Ellery June {1 Year Old}

Oh sweet baby girl.


It happened.  Your first year, your year of babyhood has passed through like a thief in the night.  And I am pretty sure that it was even faster than either of your brothers.  I look back at your baby pictures and can’t even remember that tiny little dumpling.  Who were you?  Haven’t you always been able to crawl around?  Haven’t you always had a head of hair (which you refuse to let me do anything with)? Haven’t you always been joining us for dinner meals and eating the same food right along with us?

This year with you has been one of the most enjoyable, sweet, joyful years of them all.  You have been a true delight in our family and all of our hearts have been further tenderized just by you being in our lives.  We all have found ourselves giddy over all things pink, we live for those moments that you gift us with a girly belly laugh, and we can’t stop ourselves from covering you in kisses from head to toe.

As you have grown closer to a year old, we have seen you start to have a sense of humor and girl.  I’m scared.  I’m scared that you will quickly beat me out as the comedian of the family!  You make us laugh all the time.  You have been a dream baby in demeanor.  You are just so sweet, so content, so happy and also so independent.  I often have to remind myself that yes, indeed, I DO have a baby in the house that I should probably go check on.  And you’re 99% of the time doing something like reading books, playing with the kitchen in your bedroom, or just playing right along with your brothers and whatever manly thing they’re playing with – like having pirate battles, hot wheels races or setting up the world’s greatest train track.  1% of the time though… that 1% we have to watch out for!  You are the first child in this family to have an affinity to toilets and potty water.  You also love grabbing dirty washcloths out of the shower and sucking the water out of them.  Girlfriend.  I wish you would stop this dirty little habit.  If you don’t, I will tell your future boyfriend(s).

You love most any food and eat happily (and often), but if you have something in your mouth and then see something else that you think you might like better, you immediately pull anything out of your mouth, throw it on the floor, and say “muh?” in hopes of better tasting food.

You are trying to say more and more words, which just melts my heart in an instant.  I love hearing your sweet little girl voice!  Your words you can say are:

  • mama
  • dada
  • muh (more)
  • buba (baby)
  • puppa (puppy)
  • meow (you are oddly good at this one)
  • no

You currently have 2 teeth and are working on 4 more. Since I am so late in posting this, I can say that you started officially full time walking on your 13th month exactly (March 5th), just like your brother Zeek did on his 13th month!  You walk like it’s your job now and you are so tickled with yourself at your newfound skill.

Daddy loves to rock you for a few minutes before bed and he hums his “good night song” that he started with Zeek when he was just a baby (which is really Greensleeves).  Now when daddy starts carrying you to your room, you lay your head on his shoulder and start humming the song!  You even do this middle of the night when you wake up and I go into your room to get you back to sleep.

You love dancing.  Probably more than anything else.  ANY music, ANY sort of beat, and your are moving your arms and bopping your body.  I’m fairly certain you were motivated to stand on your own specifically so you have further range of dance moves.

Little darling, we sure love you.  We have so appreciated the girlyness you have brought into our home and the softness that naturally comes with it.  The tenderizing of our hearts and the appreciation for “beautiful things” in all shades of pink and in the form of hairbows, dresses, cute shoes and dollies.

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We had a sweet and simple birthday party with just the family.  You were so excited to open your presents and see your new girly toys!

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I was so excited to give Ellery this sweet dolly that I picked out!  I first saw these dolls around Thanksgiving time when shopping downtown Albany with my mom, sister and sister in law.  They had these at a little boutique “Emma Downtown.”  My SIL loved them and wanted one for her daughter too and thankfully she was smart enough to write the name of them down!  I found the one I wanted online and picked it up from her directly.  These dolls are so adorable and well made!  Go check them out at her shop Meme & Pearl!

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I cannot get over how adorable and BIG this girl looks sitting on her legs like that!

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Another new dolly!  Big cousin Kaily showing her the ropes of taking care of a baby doll.

And then… CAKE!

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I think she liked it.

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HAPPY 1ST BIRTHDAY, BABY GIRL!  We sure are glad we have you.

Love, Mom

Monthly pictures for her first year:

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This 2 month picture has her bloomers SO high above her waist because her daddy gave her a tattoo of a beaver on her belly!  Ohhhhh, sweet thing.  The things you are sure to endure in our family.

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