Friday, July 24, 2015

Party Preparations

Since Cody and Jaden's #1 toy is any type of vehicle, and has been that way for quite a few months, choosing their birthday party theme was simple-- cars and trucks! I copied an idea I had seen on Pinterest for the photo on their party invitation.

Grandpa and Grandma were still in town and were wonderful helpers as we were preparing for the party. They came over the night before and assisted with a number of tasks-- Grandma baked the cakes (along with 2 eager helpers),

and Grandpa swept the entire downstairs.

We took a brief intermission for the boys' storytime and bedtime....

...and then finished up a few last minute decorations. Grandma helped me find a spot to hang this happy birthday banner in our new home. (We still love your beautiful homemade gift, Aunt Sarah, and think of you every birthday!)

Grandpa blew up a number of balloons for us, and then I remembered that we had a balloon pump! The rest of the balloon-blowing was much easier. :)

Because we are still so new to the area, we haven't yet made a lot of friend connections. So, our party guest list was solely comprised of family members. Making only two gift bags was quite effortless. 

We filled the bags with games and activities that we did at the party and then this bag of "spare tires," which was simply Oreos and extra doughnuts from the boys' cakes, The label read, "Thanks for sparing some time to come to my party!"

The party was an afternoon affair, so I figured I had plenty of time to assemble and decorate the cakes that morning. As it turns out, the cakes took much longer than expected, but they were (barely) completed before our family arrived! Kim graciously spent the morning at our house to help, while Jason and Matt watched all 5 boys.

I chose to make a school bus and a garbage truck cake since those are the vehicles that Jaden and Cody are most excited about seeing when we're driving around town. We started with the school bus cake which proved to be a bit easier. The cake is made from two loaf pan cakes set atop a wrapped book. Pulling up google images of school buses (Kim's idea) was a huge help when adding the embellishments.

Our second cake was much harder, as it took us quite a while to figure out how to shape the cake to look like a garbage truck. Kim was definitely the brains of the operation in the cake-carving department. In the end, I was really happy with how it turned out.

What a blessing it is to have my sister live close enough now to help with party details!

Here are the final creations.

Happy 3rd birthday to my vehicle-loving boys!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Month 1 Highlights

Our first month living in Texas was a very full month! Of course, we were busy with the obvious things like settling into our new home and getting established in a new community. But in addition, there were also quite a few fun family events that we loved participating in. Here our some of our highlights from May...

Prepping for Ian's birthday party
We were excited to be a part of two nephews' birthday parties this year! We were still living with Matt and Kim while the preparations for Ian's party were taking place. In order to provide extra seating for the party guests, Matt borrowed a few tables from Concordia. Cody, Jaden, and Ryan were eager helpers when it came to carrying the tables into the garage.

Maybe this same team of cousins will cooperate on a sports team together someday, too! :)

The best part about helping with the tables meant that the boys got a free ride around the neighborhood in the school's bus. This all took place while Mommy and Daddy were signing papers for our house closing. Jaden and Cody were absolutely thrilled to tell us about their adventures when we got home.

The night before Ian's party, everyone chipped in with the party preparations. Jason and Matt were superstars in the kitchen...

... I designed a few decorations for the science-themed party,

... while Mom and Kim were the master cake decorators. The kiddos were especially excited about all the candy used to embellish this fun cake!

Ian's Science Party
It had been 4 years since either Jason or I had attended one of Ian's birthday parties, so we loved the chance to celebrate with him again! My sister Kim planned such a creative science-themed party for our 6-year-old nephew. After arriving, all of Ian's guests received a lab coat and safety goggles.

Then, they participated in a series of "experiment stations." The boys were giggling and filled with wonder at the results they saw.

I was assigned to lead the station that involved building structures out of gumdrops and toothpicks. The boys had some creative ideas! We tested the strength of their creations by trying to balance a textbook on top. When the structures collapsed (and I'm pretty sure most or all of them did!), the boys had to revamp their building plan.

Cody and Jaden napped through nearly the entire party which worked out perfectly. Here we are doing some post-party reading. Don't you love Ian's science party shirt? :)

Mother's Day
What a unique blessing that Jason and I could both spend mother's day with our moms! Jon and Chelsea hosted the whole crew at their home for dinner that night. 

Mom and her two girls (we missed you, Andrew!)

Mom and her three sons (we missed you, Beth!)

Jason and I are thankful for such loving, thoughtful, and Christ-centered mothers. We love you both!

Ryan's Car Party
Neither Jason nor I had ever attended one of Ryan's birthday parties, so it was a joy to be in Texas to help our second-oldest nephew celebrate. Ryan's car-themed party was right up Cody and Jaden's alley! Our entire family got to participate in this exciting morning. As the guests arrived, Cody enjoyed playing with these car ramps...

...while Jaden took to the giant-sized parking garage.

The party games were just perfect for 3-year-olds! We played red light/green light in the cul-de-sac,

and hunted for traffic signs in the front yard.

Once we found all of the traffic signs, the little guests used glue stick to paste the signs into a booklet.

We even got to take the book of traffic signs home. I think this activity was Jaden and Cody's favorite.

We also read a book about cars...

...and then sang happy birthday to the new 3-year-old. Happy birthday, Ryan! We loved being a part of your special day!

Ian's Kindergarten Graduation
What a grown-up boy our oldest nephew and godson is becoming! It felt so official to see Ian receive a little diploma/certificate at his graduation. Jason, unfortunately, had to miss this event because of an extended day staff retreat. Jaden and Cody attended with me but weren't in the mood to pose for a picture... so I got a special one-on-one photo with the graduate before the ceremony.

During our second or third week in town, we met some new friends at a little splashpad in our area. I was thrilled that Jaden and Cody took part in this water activity. Last summer, neither boy wanted to do anything water-related (no splash pad, pool, OR sprinklers!). Perhaps it's a maturity difference now or, more likely, it's just hard to resist water activities when it's so HOT. Either way, I'm thankful that we'll have some good ways to spend our hot and humid summer days here in Texas!

We enjoyed connecting with a few new friends too. The group of kids was very boy-heavy, just like our group of friends back in Montana.

Cody, screaming in the foreground, and Jaden behind him in orange
One morning, we had cousin Ryan over for a playdate while Kim, Nathan, and Ian attended a pool party with Ian's school friends. I'm not sure I had ever seen just these younger ones play together before. They definitely shared some common interests (their obsession with vehicles) and had a similar attention span with their play. They all got along SO well and just babbled back and forth all morning. Their expressions in these pics certainly don't look very joyful, but they really did have a great time! :)

Riding on a "rocket ship" full of vehicles


play-dough creations
Living in a larger community now, we appreciate how there are more options for indoor play. Thanks to Grammy and Papa, we've already checked out the children's museum and gotten an annual pass there (though we forgot to take pictures on that trip!). While Grammy was still in town, we also visited Bouncin' Bears, a site full of inflatables and jump-houses. I'm sure we'll become frequent visitors at this fun place too!

Family Dinners
When Jon and Chelsea moved to Texas last year, they started a tradition of weekly Sunday gatherings with Matt and Kim. Now that our family is also in town, we've jumped right in on that tradition. Each family takes a turn hosting & cooking a meal for the others on Sunday evenings. These gatherings are always one of the highlights of our week!

the whole clan at Jon and Chelsea's (you can even see Jason
taking the photo in the mirror!)

Amy enjoying some cuddle time with nephew Isaiah

Grandma and her twin grandsons (I always think they look SO much
more alike when wearing matching clothes! Cody's on the left above.)

Grandma and Cody; Grandpa and Jaden

Our first night hosting the whole fam at our home
Hanging out with Grandpa and Grandma
Jason's parents were in Texas throughout the whole month of May, taking care of Isaiah while Chelsea finished out her school year and attended teacher meetings. We loved hanging out with them on various evenings and having them pop by our home occasionally during the days. One night, Grandpa and Grandma brought over a pizza dinner and then surprised the boys with an early birthday gift....  

....a new Radio Flyer tricycle! Grandpa's full assembly of the trike was an extra-special gift, too. :)

Having only one tricycle (Jaden's riding our old garage-sale find on the left) just doesn't work in a household with twins. What a perfect birthday gift from Grandma and Grandpa!

Right away, both boys gave the tricycle a whirl. Their favorite part was ringing the bell.

Thanks for making our day, Grandma and Grandpa!

Grandma and Grandpa had one more treat in store-- a trip to Dairy Queen. Yum!

Once their ice cream was gone, Cody and Jaden didn't sit still for long. Thankfully, our family was the only one sitting on this patio, so our boys could run freely.

We so enjoyed our time with you this month, Grandpa and Grandma!

Settling In
And finally, here are some pics of our home. We're still finishing hanging decor on the wall in a few rooms (especially upstairs), but overall we're finally starting to feel settled!

We love our new kitchen! We purchased the table with gift money from our Trinity Billings family.

The master bedroom is the only bedroom downstairs.

We've never lived in a home with a master bath before... how exciting! :) The walk-in closet has tons of extra storage too.

We turned one of the 3 upstairs bedrooms into a toy room for Jaden and Cody. They couldn't be happier! The only wall decoration we have up in this room so far is the "Jesus poster" that was given to us by our Trinity family. This is the poster that Jaden and Cody walked by every Sunday and stopped to give Jesus an enthusiastic high five. Congregation members signed the back of the poster and presented it to us at our send-off supper. What a touching gift!

This upstairs room branches off to all three bedrooms and is typically FULL of toys! Mommy's high hopes for keeping the toys primarily in the toy room didn't really pan out...

This pic of Jaden and Cody's room is already out-dated, but it at least gives you an idea... Since this pic was taken, we purchased (at a great deal!) a bunk bed set from some friends of Matt and Kim. We don't really want the boys to sleep on the top bunk quite yet, but the purchase opportunity was too good to pass up. So, their room is now currently crammed with furniture. We'll take another pic once the boys' room is settled.

The last upstairs room is our guest room. We haven't yet hung anything on the walls, so it looks a bit bare. Perhaps we just need the incentive of an upcoming visitor! The door is always open to you, our family and friends!