Surprise Birthday


Brian’s dad surprised Becky with a birthday party in August! Under the guise of a very small group of friends enjoying their own version of Vintage Ohio, the party grew over the course of the afternoon until Becky realized what was up!


My contribution to the big event was an enormous photo of Becky’s senior portrait requested by Ed, printed with Staples Engineer Print option. Close up, it’s grainy and out of focus — I did some blurring to eliminate the halftone and you can’t help but lose quality blowing something 1 inch or so across into 18 inches!

Plenty of cars stopped to stare at the photo, which looks great from a bit of distance. Mission accomplished!



The kids had a blast. Coraline loves her olives! We tried to keep them from loving on their grandma too much so she could enjoy her party and socialize with her friends, but it was hard to keep them apart!



The cake was from a local place, a carrot cake which is Becky’s favorite. Pecans coated the sides!




The kids needed to get to bed, so we headed out early in what turned out to be a late night party! It was a huge success. Brian, his dad and sister all did a wonderful job putting it on.

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Pumpkin Time

Over Labor Day Weekend, we did our annual tradition to visit the Canfield Fair. Minutes away from arrival, Coraline said she had to go potty and promptly had an accident without trying to hold it. It was a bit frustrating to be less than a minute from a gas station bathroom she couldn’t used but we had bought a change of clothes (and smartly returned her to pull ups for the rest of the day).

We started with the pumpkins, because I like to get photos done early in the morning before it gets too crowded. Plus they’re my favorite. I love to see the giant pumpkins.



Jameson enjoyed himself this year, and made observations about some of the crafted items with the pumpkins. He overall really enjoyed himself, and there was only minor discontent about the fact that we only had one stroller. Coraline didn’t want to get her photo taken, but otherwise was her usual cheery self.



After pumpkins, we visited some of the animals. This sheep was very affectionate, and was vocal about his requests for being petted. I think he was sad when we went to leave! Coraline was a bit intimidated by the large animals, but was happy to pet anything small or not able to get at her, like the bunnies. This year we were a bit bummed that there weren’t any poultry: no chickens, turkeys, or ducks! This rule was apparently across all Ohio fairs.



We had an early lunch, our traditional cavatelli. Jameson had a hotdog, and the stand I got my pasta at was kind enough to split it so that Coraline could have some plain. I was pretty good at not overeating at the fair this year. I had a couple fries, but I didn’t have much of anything else to eat but my lunch and a lemonade. It wasn’t really on purpose, so I was a little bummed when we got home that I hadn’t tried anything else. The kids kept us busy!


This year they had a giant metal rooster to hang a lock on (which they also had last year but we must have missed it). They sold locks, and Jameson sat down to write his name on his. I was impressed he was able to write small enough to fit his name on the lock! We hung it up, and even though Jameson initially wanted to keep the lock, he was happy enough with just the keys to take home.





The health and wellness building had a lot more interactivity for kids this year, and Jameson played a big version of Operation.



We couldn’t miss out on doing at least a few rides. Coraline refused all rides until Jameson climbed on the Batman one, and at the last minute she changed her mind to join him. When the ride started I think maybe she was regretting her decision, but she was happy when she was done!



We didn’t go in the little historical village, but we did try something new. We fed butterflies! There was nectar to dip your finger into, and the butterflies would rest and eat on your hand. Coraline only had one land once, and after that preferred to watch. Jameson was very into it and tried all the butterflies he could. We saw one of Coraline’s friends from school, Teagan, there too.

The monarch butterfly was heavier than I expected!




The kids were getting hot and tired, so we started back to the front of the fair. On our way, we purchased a couple beanie babies for the kids at $2 a piece, which was pretty amazing compared to what they used to cost us when I collected them as a kid.

We visited Old McDonald’s barn, a baby and small animal petting barn. Coraline sat with a bunny for a while with Aunt Holly.


We finished our trip at the popcorn machine, where Jameson had a little meltdown when he wanted more that signaled it was time to leave! We had a good time with Meemaw, Grandpa, Aunt Holly and Grandpa’s cousin Linda who joined us this year.

We definitely aren’t able to spend a full day at the fair yet, but in a couple years we might. I missed out on the crafting and quilting buildings this year, and some other things I like to see that we haven’t really been able to since Jameson was little and napping in the stroller. But I was happy with what the kids got to see, and we had fun!




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Bubbles & Pine Cones

The weather’s starting to feel like fall today, so this is a nice throwback to the heat this summer. We had a cookout with Grandma, Poppa and Aunt Melissa for the rest of our 4th of July weekend. Coraline is wearing an outfit that was mine growing up, so fun to see her in it!

The kids love to collect pine cones beneath Grandma’s tree, which they call the “Tree House”.




They don’t know it, but all the pine cones they collect actually get returned out to the tree prior to them visiting, so they can re-collect over and over again. Never-ending fun!


They also played with bubbles, and kept anyone watching them busy by running around, up and down the hill and to the creek to throw rocks and back.




This photo of the two of them was cute, but I noticed after I took it that Jameson’s hair was in his face. So, I tried to get them to go back down the hill to take it again. However, Coraline started running way too quick on the steep hill and slammed onto her face.

After about 10 minutes of recovering, crying, and asking to go back up the hill, Jameson actually joined us and she perked up again.


And so I got this beautiful gem, the best photo of the two of them I’ve taken in a long time, no crazy photoshop needed. It’s hanging large on our kitchen collage wall now! I’m glad that committed to re-taking the photo, despite our mishap (and Coraline probably believing I was the worst mommy ever for a time).

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My Golden Birthday

For the big 3-0 this year, my husband actually planned a surprise party for me with a couple of my friends! I had been joking with him on and off for years (he’s 6 years older) that he needed to be planning my party! As it happens he didn’t quite start planning that far in advance. I did get the surprise party I didn’t expect particularly because just a couple months before I gave him a pass and told him he didn’t need to plan anything special since we were both going on separate vacations this year.


My mom and sister came up to visit and said they wanted to do a special girls day, so I already assumed I was done with surprises. They took me for pedicures (which I managed to guess at before leaving the house when I saw their shoes on the cooler day) but we also got massages and manicures! It was an awesome surprise, and when I wanted to go shopping afterward they had a hard time convincing me to leave.


We pulled into the driveway, and I really didn’t get it until I saw my friend Emma’s car with her out of state license plates. I was reeeeally slow on the uptake and thought all the cars I was seeing before that were for the neighbors’ house.


To make the surprise even MORE awesome (is that possible!?), Brian had ordered Chipotle catering. It was an awesome make-your-own-anything bar all along our counters in the kitchen. Good thing I hadn’t eaten much yet!


The theme for the party was, of course, gold because it was my golden birthday when your birthday coincides with the date of your birth. I turned 30 on the 30th of April.


The kids’ favorite part were the balloons, which entertainment lasted for days.




My co-workers threw a surprise for me too, with a completely decorated desk, balloons ready to fall from the ceiling (since I had said that all I ever wanted were balloons to come down on my head — like the winner of a game show), and sash, button and crown to wear. We went out to lunch, had champagne and SO MUCH DESSERT.

Best coworkers evarrrrr

It was such an awesome week to celebrate! I really feel grateful to have such wonderful friends and family to celebrate with. However, that milestone birthday is really going to be hard to beat!

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Easter and Spring!

Easter this year was adorable. We decided to go to a later Easter service, so the kids could find their eggs after breakfast. This year, the weather was nice so the Easter Bunny hid eggs inside and outside!




It only took Coraline a minute to figure out what was going on (though she didn’t find her first one as quickly as she did last year), but then she wanted to eat everything in her eggs before finding the next. She didn’t really get the “find first, eat later” mentality. Luckily, Jameson was a generous big brother and collected eggs that he voluntarily gave to her.





In their Easter baskets were more treats, bouncy balls, and blankets. Jameson got an Avenger action figure the snaps apart, and Coraline got some dress up people. But the blankets were the winners!



After church and a nap, we headed over to Brian’s parents for more Easter hunting fun. It warmed up nicely too, but it was very windy!



At grandma’s house, more than just eggs were hiding outside. The kids loved the little plastic dinosaurs, and Jameson loved the craisins wrapped up. Both kids were a little over the picture-taking and crazy windy hair!




The kiddos always have a blast at grandma’s, and it had been awhile since we were last over so we all enjoyed the afternoon.


There was even some evidence of spring!


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Birthday Girl

On Coraline’s actual birthday, we let her open her gift from Jameson (which he also picked out for himself I’m certain). She loved her new Anna and Elsa dolls! They are her favorite princesses, along with Princess Sophia. And Jameson got to play with Elsa, so he was a happy camper.



We had a party for her the next day, on Saturday. Coraline’s 2nd birthday party was much more low key than Jameson’s have ever been.


Between planning for upcoming vacations and work, we really just didn’t want to do the big bash. And I think we both kind of liked this better in its own way. Certainly, the grandparents probably liked it better. The family all gathered for a calm (well, there was still a 4 year old and 2 year old) gift opening and cake celebration. My mom and sister came up for the occasion too!



Jameson enjoyed helping Coraline open her gifts, and Coraline kept her tutu on like a rock star!




She definitely can be a little girly. She loved pink stuff, Frozen and her new dolly. Coraline really got into ripping the wrapping paper and was definitely a pro.



The biggest gift was her new dollhouse, a joint gift from Grandpa, Poppa and Aunt Melissa. But probably mostly for the box it left behind.



Coraline does love playing with the little baby in the dollhouse, and we’ve combed the living room looking for the missing baby a couple times. It’s a clever little set.


I made Coraline’s cake as I have for all birthday so far. This one was one of the more time consuming ones (they all seem to be after I get started). I made a homemade funfetti cake in a bundt cake pan, and cut it in half to make a caterpillar. The icing got stiff pretty fast, but I suppose that was helpful in order to keep it on the cake! It was pretty tough trying to keep caterpillar stripes even, and I almost ran out of one of the colors.





Really, I could’ve just made a big batch of icing and made the kiddos happy. But I was pleased with it! I made it especially because my grandma made me a caterpillar cake when I was a kid, and I think she would’ve been proud of my effort!

Happy happy birthday little lady!

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Racing to Disney


About a year and a half ago, I started running (jogging). I started out with a friend’s encouragement on the Couch to 5K app. My friend Lauren had already done it before, and was a pretty regular runner who had taken a little break, so she acted as coach and motivator and did it again with me. It took us about 4 months, but I was running a 5K, without stopping.

I did a couple races. The Color Run, which really was fun but not really a race. I tried to do a biathalon, but I biked too hard to run properly so that wasn’t a great race. Then I started training with Lauren while she was getting ready to run a longer race last fall, and I started running up to 60 minutes straight, and then 6 miles, and then, last September actually a 9 mile run.

It was especially exciting because I was confident that I could run an official 10K (6.2 miles) in Disney in February with my family. Of course, then winter happened. Luckily, a treadmill kept me almost in shape, and I could run 3-4 miles on it.

Before the run on Saturday, we spent some time at Universal Studios, since we were kid-less. Brian stayed home, and I went with my parents and siblings. It was really very cold (especially for those of us who packed for 60-70 degree weather instead of 40 degree weather)

Cold Florida morning!


Going to school

My favorite part was Harry Potter world that day, of course. Tyler and I went back then on Monday after everyone else flew out, and I got some photos with super heroes for Jameson, and that was a pretty fun experience, complete with slipping and falling trying to run to be first in line for Captain America, ha!

Hellooooo Captain America

Saturday morning we were up and ready bright and early, like 3 AM, for the Disney Princess Run. I made tutus for my sister and mom, with glitter and all. We stopped the night before for gloves, having realized that it was too cold to stand for a couple hours without any! But when it was time to run, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it was going to be. The weather for running was really perfect.

Ready to run!


All the winners

I was so happy with my run. Despite not having run more than 4 miles since the fall, I ran the full length of the 10K without stopping (no, not even for characters! we were hardcore!). My siblings were very kind, and ran with me despite my slowness for the entire race. Tyler ran ahead and got photos of my running my first race. My favorite is the shot by the Epcot ball. It was so pleasant to run as the sun was rising in Disney.



After the race, we went back, showered and refreshed, to Epcot later that day and ate with the princesses at Askerhaus that evening.

Family Epcot day

The only request Jameson made of my whole trip was to bring back another Duffy, so we got him at Epcot, and he enjoyed the day with us.


Yes Sleeping Beauty, we do intend to be sleeping beauties in the morning

The next morning, we had our last character dining experience with the classic gang at Chef Mickey’s, where I enjoyed the Mickey waffles, of course. We took photos with all the characters for Jameson to see!

Chef Mickey's for breakfast

Goodbye Magic Kingdom!

Another highlight of the trip was getting to meet Tyler’s girlfriend. Since he lives so far away, sometimes his life is a bit of a mystery! All in all, it was such a wonderful, short getaway. It certainly¬†wasn’t relaxing, but I felt really reenergized by it, as did the rest of my family since we all decided to sign up for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November!

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Christmas Finale

This is it! We’re finally done with Christmas. Mostly, anyway. We still have a live wreath on the front door as of today, which looks surprisingly well. It’s probably smothered in preservatives.

After naptime, we headed over to see Grandma, Poppa and Aunt Melissa.



Melissa had some air filled bags for Jameson to pop, and Coraline wanted to try. She got right into it and tried to jump and fell right on her butt. Hilarious!


Jameson got a Pink Floyd shirt from Aunt Melissa that he adores. However, it’s not washing very well unfortunately. It’s pretty much see-through when it’s not on him, now.

And as usual, boxes are also a hit!



Brian and Melissa exchange some kind of gag gift. Mostly it’s Brian gifting to Melissa, but then it typically comes back around. This time, he got her grasshoppers from the pet food store. We had to open them… Jameson (and all) were pretty disgusted.


Another favorite: Jameson got a transforming helicopter/dinosaur that makes all kinds of sounds. He loves it!


Coraline also got this cute little book with her little face showing on every page.


It was wonderful to be able to spend time with family and have a lot of vacation time from work to do so. We didn’t get to go see Great-Grandma this year though because of various illnesses, so that was the end of our 2014 Christmas season.

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Christmas Lights & Family

I really enjoy Christmas lights. I think we should have Christmas lights up all winter long! We do take ours down when the weather permits, but I really wouldn’t mind if they were up until April. The past couple years, when we’ve gone down to Meemaw and Grandpa’s for Christmas, we’ve also visited the local neighborhood light show at the rec center. This year was much less muddy than last years.




You pay to get in, but they have free rides when you’re inside. The kids rode this flying Santa ride. Coraline leaned over and stared out the side the whole time.


Then they did this mini coaster, and Coraline lost her hat on this ride. It was very jerky around the corners! The operator rescued her hat before it hit the rails. She was very concerned by the end of this one and almost crying. I’m sure she’d do it again though if Jameson wanted to!




It was actually on Meemaw’s birthday that we went. Happy birthday Meemaw!


We also celebrated all the December birthdays with Uncle Tyler. Meemaw got her gifts from all of us, but Uncle Tyler came to visit from Florida and had gifts for Aunt Holly’s early December birthday and Jameson’s too.


Jameson got binoculars, which we brought to the park later to see the birds.


Coraline knows Aunt Holly, Meemaw and Grandpa, of course, but she wasn’t sure who Uncle Tyler was at first. She doesn’t have some of the shyness though that I had observed in Jameson when he was little.


We had Christmas at Meemaw’s on the 23rd. We were leaving on Christmas Eve and wanted to give the kiddo’s an opportunity to play with their gifts before we had to leave.





Coraline enjoyed showing off her gifts. The cups were a big hit! Jameson loves his Jake and the Neverland Pirates pajamas.




We really had a lot of fun seeing my side of the family, and I enjoyed the Christmas cookies and Christmas dinner maybe more than I should’ve!


We were lucky to see Meemaw and Grandpa three times from Thanksgiving to Christmas, but especially enjoyed seeing Uncle Tyler and his pup, Athena, who we usually only see once a year.


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Last Minute Party

We weren’t going to have a big party for Jameson’s 4th birthday, but when we sent out invitation via email about a week and a half before the party, we got a surprising response. Most guests RSVPed yes, and the small party became a bit of a big one!

Meemaw and Grandpa came up to visit, and we FaceTimed with Aunt Holly while Jameson opened her gifts the day before his party.


Jameson loved his Ninja Turtles shirt from Aunt Holly and immediately wanted to put it on with the new swishy pants from Meemaw and Grandpa. They got him a soccer outfit and a net which we put up when it was relatively warm a couple weeks later. He was really loving kicking his new soccer ball into the net!


Coraline wanted to put on the swishy pants too.



Along with a lot of our friends, Brian’s cousin Griffin also came to the party. Every time Jameson sees him, he loves watching him play video games, following him around and playing with what he wants to play with. Jameson really seems to look up to him, and Griffin is so friendly and plays with him.



Jameson was not happy that Coraline was sitting on his gifts.


Jameson’s big gift was a pirate ship by Playmobil. It has lots of small parts, and we’ve already lost a few. Oops! He hasn’t really been into playing with it other than shooting the cannons, which seems typical boy.


He also got a Pete the Cat book and stuffed toy from Aunt Melissa, which Coraline immediately grabbed saying “my meow”. She’s since given it up but it was pretty hilarious.


The highlight of the party though was the gift from Uncle Mike, cousin Gabrielle and Griffin: the remote control car which flips every which way. The kids were fascinated with it! Even though Jameson is very into doing things himself, he was happy to let Griffin show him how to use it first.


For a cake, he said he wanted chocolate and vanilla (like I made for him when he was three, apparently he remembered), so I decided on a Neapolitan cake I made from scratch. The bottom was actually brownie, a classic vanilla cake, and then strawberry made with handpicked strawberries we froze from the summer on top. Then he wanted orange icing on it, and I decided to go crazy and we put candy eyeballs on it. It was pretty funny looking, but the kids loved the eyeballs and it tasted excellent so that’s all the matters, right?






It was a great party, and Jameson loved seeing all his friends. Even Nathan was able to come! We loved showing off our new basement (which they were working on right up until that morning!) and we invited people to bring dog toys, treats, food and cleaning supplies for the local shelter rather than gifts for Jameson.

We finally dropped all that off a couple weekends ago, and it was so nice to know we were helping the shelter. It was Jameson’s first experience giving to people animals in need. Luckily, there weren’t too many dogs to see in the cages, and it was tough answering Jameson’s question if people leave their dogs in the cages. (People leave dogs here for all kind of reasons, and then they stay here until they can find new homes)


On his actual birthday, Grandma and Poppa came over with his gifts to open, a cool construction set. Jameson is driving his little motorcycle over his gifts.



I can’t believe this little guy is 4 years old, and yet at the same time, I can believe it because he’s changed so much in the past year.

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