Sunday, May 6, 2018

Birthday Month

April is a big birthday month in our family, so we've had lots of celebrations recently.

Dan's mom and dad both have birthdays in April. We got to take Mom Jester out for dinner in early April and attend Dad Jester's birthday party with all the family later in the month.

My dad's birthday was in mid-April, and we took him out to dinner that night to celebrate, also.

We celebrated our niece, Miriam's, 3rd birthday at the end of April. She's on the right, peeking at her cupcakes with her sister, Naomi. 

And right in the middle of the big birthday month was Emma's 5th birthday!!

The day before her birthday, she got a #4 pancake since it was her very last day to be 4 years old. Sniff, sniff.

We also surprised her with a couple of big girl gifts.

She got her first real bike, and we took a family walk so she could practice on it.  I did buy a helmet to go with it, but it was too big for her head and it flopped around so much that she was better off without it.

She also got a booster seat! 

Hallie benefitted from Emma's gifts, too, since she inherited Emma's old tricycle and car seat. 

 On her birthday morning, Emma got to open a few gifts from us and an awesome science experiment kit from Uncle Steve, Aunt Sheila, and her cousin, Meera.  She loves doing science experiments at school and often asks us to help her do them at home, so it was perfect!

Then we headed to Dan's parents' house for her birthday party with the family.  She makes the birthday cake easy on me since her very favorite dessert is brownies!

She had a great birthday celebrating with her cousins, and we spent the next day playing with all her new toys at home.

This awesome 5 year old is such a gift to us!

She's sweet and nurturing and loves taking care of people and her stuffed animal "pets."  She got a Hatchimal for her birthday, which is a mechanical stuffed animal that hatches out of its own egg and develops new skills as you play and interact with it. She absolutely loved it! She also got an awesome doctor kit for her birthday and she takes good care of our imaginary injuries.

She's so smart and loves learning new things. She's already reading simple words and books and she enjoys everything about science, nature, and history.  She's a good artist and singer, too! We're excited to see where her talents and interests lie.

She's generally obedient and considerate (with some reminders), and a few times recently when she's been quiet for a while and we check to see what she's up to, she has been cleaning up and organizing all the toys in the play room and her bedroom! Best. surprise. ever.

She's such a good big sister, and Hallie is determined to follow in her footsteps!

The top of the fridge was dirty, so we sent them up there with rags to clean it off. heh!

Trying on Dan's hats - as if they didn't already look just like Daddy

Building a Lego castle for their characters

Silly sister faces!

We are so thankful for this girl and the joy, laughter, and fun she adds to our family!

Easter Celebration and Dan's Homecoming!

While Dan was traveling through France on his school's Senior Trip, we celebrated Easter in Virginia! One of our local parks has a fantastic Easter event and egg hunt, so I took the girls there the Saturday before Easter.

We got there a few minutes before the event started, and there was already a crowd of families

They had several bounce houses, and one inflatable obstacle course where two kids could race at a time, and Emma beat the older boy she was racing!  This is her victory pose. Heh!

There was a toddler area with toys, small slides, and tunnels, which Hallie loved.

The girls had a blast at the Easter egg "hunt".  The event coordinators just dumped eggs all over the grass in a fenced off area of the park, so the kids didn't have to find the eggs at all.  Hallie picked up two and was completely satisfied with having one in each hand, but Emma grabbed as many as she could carry in her bag before all the eggs were claimed.  

Then they played a giant game of Connect Four

Until Emma realized that the game pieces made terrific bracelets!

We watched Emma play in the bounce house, then headed home for Hallie's nap time

On Easter morning, we had bunny and egg-shaped pancakes for breakfast

And the girls put on their fancy dresses for church

Hallie kept asking for a bow in her hair, and then she'd rip it out as soon as I put one in. Oh well.

Emma insisted on a glamorous pose to match her dress. Ha!

Easter picture at church

After church, we headed to Dan's parents' house to spend time with the family and have Easter dinner.

It was a full, fun house!

After dinner, we hid eggs all over the backyard, and let the younger kids find their eggs first. Each kid  was allowed to find a certain number of eggs, and then they left the rest behind for the other kids to find. Mom Jester is talking to the kids about Jesus' death and resurrection which paid the price for our sins - the source of our hope and salvation as Christians!

After the younger kids found their eggs, the older kids hunted for the harder-to-find eggs.  

A group shot of all the cousins on Easter. We had the best time together!
Top row L to R: Benjamin, Nathan, Dylan, Tucker, and Aaron
Bottom row L to R: Miriam, Naomi, Micah, Josiah, Emma, Chloe, and Hallie

 And then ... Dan came home!!!!!
His flight was delayed by a couple of hours that night, but despite his bedtime arrival, we were SO happy to have him home!

Emma celebrated Dan's homecoming by asking for a baguette, just like they eat in France.

 Hallie celebrated Dan's homecoming by falling face-first on the sidewalk.

Dan and I are taking turns giving each other a break here and there, and we're just appreciating being together as a family again. Those two weeks apart felt like forever!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Happy Spring!

Well, the weather is fluctuating like a menopausal woman and we can't breathe through our noses half the time. It must be Spring! Ha! Poor Hallie has caught some pretty bad colds this month and passed them on to Dan, my mom, and I, but praise the Lord, Emma has been the healthiest out of all of our family recently!  

Dan is reading a story to Hallie's 1-year-old class at church.  He and I have been volunteering in their class once a month.  Those sweet little germ carriers keep passing colds around.

Hallie's babysitter, Jessica, attends our church, too. Hallie really seems to love her and her two sons, Tytus and Wesley.

Emma and Hallie are becoming the best of friends. It warms our hearts to watch them play and laugh together.  Hallie of course is interested in everything Emma is doing, and Emma handles it well most of the time. She knows to put things in high places if she really doesn't want Hallie to mess with it.
Emma has been teaching Hallie how to cuddle

Read books

Dress herself

And other important life skills

We took another step in finishing the kitchen/den renovation this month. We invited our parents over for a "painting party" one Saturday, and they were gracious enough to say they'd help us for the day.  In a single day, the den and laundry hallway were completely painted, and we love the new look! I took the girls out of the house for several hours to keep them out of everyone's hair.

By the time we brought lunch home for our painting crew, the den was complete!  And the laundry hall was finished shortly after lunch. It was a blessing to have it done quickly, since this is the room that our family spends the most time in.

My coworker, Lori, and I ran the Yuengling Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach during St. Patrick's Day weekend.  The day before the race, we met at the race expo to pick up our bibs and check out the vendors.
The girls got a kick out of the Shamrock Bear

My little leprochauns!

Lori and I with the girls before the race. She and I have been running together at lunchtime for the past year. It's been great accountability for both of us, and she had always dreamed of running a half marathon but didn't have the courage to attempt it alone.

Lori and I after crossing the finish line!  We ran together the entire time, which made the race a lot more fun!  We finished with an 11 minute/mile pace, which is what we were hoping for. It was Lori's first half marathon, and she ran it like a pro!  She started working at a different company a few weeks ago, and we've really been missing our runs and chats!

That same weekend, I also attended a bridal shower for our dear family friend, Christina.
Christina with her mom, Joyce, and sister, Kim.

Christina with the Jester ladies - Robin, Audrey, Dawn, and me

After Christina's shower, our family stayed in Williamsburg to have dinner and a birthday celebration for our nephews, Josiah and Aaron (standing to the left of Dawn)

In school news, Emma participated in a special annual event at StoneBridge. They celebrated the students' family who are active or former military members on Liberty Day. 
She and my dad, "Papa," walked down the aisle together during the ceremony.

Hallie made sure to get her time in with Papa, too!

On another day at school, one of the parents brought chickens for the kids to interact with.
Some of the kids were afraid of them, but not our girl!

And just last week, they had the biggest preschool event of the year at StoneBridge - Beatrix Potter Day. They have read Beatrix Potter's books as part of their curriculum in K-4, and planned a big day of celebration where the kids got to dress up as their favorite characters.

 Emma's class and teacher, Mrs. Baines. Emma was dressed as a white bunny named Lily.

The day was filled with activity stations for the kids to participate in, like fishing, sewing, washing clothes with a wash board and drying them on a line, painting, planting seeds, and making special snacks and crafts. It was SO much fun!
Hallie and I tagged along all day and Hallie did her best to be in the middle of the action.

She wasn't the only little sibling there, and she made a couple of baby friends before the day was over.

One of the sweetest parts of Beatrix Potter Day was the elaborate, fancy tea party they set up for the kids to enjoy. They had real china, hot tea, beautiful flowers and decorations, and lots of snacks for the kids to try. 

They asked the boys walk the girls to their seats like gentlemen. It was so sweet.

Emma at her fancy tea party table. She did not like the tea, but loved the sugar cubes. 

Outside of school, we've had some fun play dates with Emma's best friend from school, Elisha, and his mom, Jenna. They came to our house one day and it was pretty enough for the kids to play outside on the playground that the girls' cousins passed down to them.

They also loved the roller coaster that Dan's mom bought for Christmas last year.

On another day, we met Elisha and Jenna at the mall to play and eat lunch.

We ended up in Barnes and Noble after lunchtime to check out the books and toys there. They happened to be having an Easter event at the store that day, so we stayed a little longer to check it out.

Emma got her face painted for the first time.

And there was a special appearance by Peter Rabbit! Emma was so excited since she knew all about him from the Beatrix Potter books!

Hallie wasn't shy at all about going right up to meet him, either! She talked about the "Hi, bunny!" for a long time afterwards!

Since Easter is coming up soon, Emma has been asking questions about things we do around Easter. We talk about celebrating Easter because Jesus rose from the dead, and some of the fun things we do around the holiday like Easter egg hunts, dinner with family and friends, and decorating eggs. 

 She couldn't wait to dye eggs at home and wanted to do it that night before we even had dinner. I had 3 boiled eggs in the fridge, so that's how many eggs she got to dye. We mixed water, food coloring, and vinegar in cups and let the eggs sit in the dye while she ate. (which was motivation for her to finish her meal sooner - yay, sneaky mom trick!)

The colors turned out fantastic, and she had a blast decorating them with stickers after they dried. She was upset the next day to learn that I had peeled and packed one of her "friends" in her lunchbox. Heh!

Once a month, our church forgoes a Sunday night service so we can have small group meals instead. I hosted a couple of families from church at our house for dinner. They had young kids, too, so it was lots of fun for the girls and I.

The parents (and Emma)

 The kids played outside, mostly, so I didn't get a great picture of all of them. There were 5 girls and 2 boys at our house under the age of 8.  Needless to say, there was a lot of noise, laughter, and fun going on.

Dan has missed some of the action at home this month since he is in Europe on the Senior Class Trip! 
He and two of the StoneBridge teachers are chaperoning the Senior Class through Germany, Italy, and France. It's an awesome experience each year!

Before he left, the girls and I snuck in as many breakfast and lunch dates as we could with him!

While he's away, we are sending him lots of photos and videos of our days.  During Beatrix Potter Day, Emma wrote on the front cover of her sketch book, "I miss Dad" and "I love Mom".

Dan is really good about calling, FaceTiming, and texting us every day. So after seeing amazing sights in famous cities, he ends his day with a FaceTime chat with his girls. We miss him like crazy, and can't wait until he gets home!