family fun

We had such a fun week with my family; it was great to have all of us together for a few days.  I'm still here for another week but Bryan, Neal & Katie, and Jenn all headed back.

One of our favorite things we did was go apple picking.  We went to the "mountains" of Virginia and enjoyed a perfect day with yummy apples and beautiful views.

Katie is a long-time fan of jumping pictures and convinced us to snap a few.  Great entertainment for us and for everyone else on the mountain that day.
youngest to oldest but we're missing mom 

the crazy ballews 

mom and dad (my dad has the very best jumping face I've ever seen) 

can you tell I was once a cheerleader?

Jenn and Leslie had a race rolling down the hill that ended rather unfortunately for Jenn.

and so we headed home for the day...



We have so so so many things to be grateful for.  And, what a blessing it is to have a day to relax and enjoy being with family.

I channeled my inner Manny and designed our centerpiece.  Bryan told me it was "a hit and a miss" but I won't let it get me down.

We had a most delicious feast all prepared by my amazing mom.
our excellent turkey carver 

 around the table  (Jilly was conveniently napping during dinner- we missed her, but it was so delightful to have a peaceful meal)

Jilly's favorite part of the day was her post-dinner lollipop

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



Bryan got here Sunday night and on Monday we went to Maymont.  Half of the park is a petting zoo and the other half has beautiful gardens.

A very close encounter

 I was definitely screaming at this moment

 How cool is Tyler?



This is my first fall in Virginia for 8 years so I am basking in the state's very best season.  In general, I am not a huge fan of yard work.  But I make an exception for leaves- I love love love raking leaves.  Jilly and I got to help my family rake and play in the thousands of leaves that fell on our yard.

Seriously- how cute is that outfit?  She got it from some friends for her birthday 

We put Jilly in a big pile of leaves and almost lost her! 

Playing with Uncle Ty  

and with Grandma



We made it!  The irony of our trip was that Jilly was great on our 4.5 hour flight but much much less great on our 1.5 hour flight.  Guess that's better than the other way around.  Our survival mechanisms included:
- Dum dums: Jilly may have had 4 lollipops over the course of the day.  Don't judge.
- Walking up and down the aisle: people were so friendly and kind.
- The restroom: I've talked to other flying moms before and they agree- being in the restroom is such a relief, no one else is around and you have much more room than your little seat.  We may or may not have hung out in the restroom for much longer than a usual diaper change would have taken.
- Goldfish, graham crackers, pretzels: when she has a lot of food in her mouth it's more difficult to make noise.
- Stroller: You can take one baby item for free and I've always taken her car seat but this time my mom had a car seat we could use so I got an umbrella stroller and it made our time in the airport much more pleasant.
- Sky mall magazine: I let Jilly rip it to shreds then picked up all the pieces at the end of the flight.
- Ice: I let Jilly play with the leftover crushed ice from my water.  I didn't love having freezing cold ice pellets melting on my lap but it kept her very occupied.

Our second flight was rough because we only had a 30 minute layover which was not enough time for Jilly to get the wiggles out.  Then we flew through a huge storm so there was awful turbulence and we weren't allowed to stand up at all.  I would estimate Jilly screamed for 80% of the flight- not the most pleasant experience of our lives, but we made it and were so so glad to be home.



This is our little red townhome.  The other day I looked around and realized that I really love it here.  I love decorating our house, I love the beautiful leaves outside, I love that our master bedroom is no longer a closet, I love that Jilly loves climbing up the stairs.  California didn't really feel like home until we moved to this house.

But, at the same time, Virginia will always be home.  Jilly and I are excited to hop on a plane in the next few hours to spend a few weeks at home.  Hello delicious food that I don't have to make, lots of entertainers for the little Miss, and best of all- spending time with our favorite people.

My magical powers will be greatly needed as we take a 5 hour flight from Sacramento to Atlanta (that's right- one coast to the other in 1 seat!)  Wish us luck!


Birthdaypalooza Part 2

We had a fun second weekend of birthday celebrations with Bryan's parents.  On Saturday while Bryan and his dad worked on the house his mom and I made cupcakes, shopped, and played with the birthday girl.  That night we went to Red Robin for birthday burgers.

On Sunday morning we went to church.  It was lovely to have two extra adults to wrestle with and entertain the birthday girl.  After church and  Jilly's nap we went on a walk.  The fall weather was absolutely perfect.

When we got home Jilly opened her presents.  We got her her favorite kitty book because we had reached the limit of how many times we could renew it from the library.

Bryan's parents got her a baby doll and crib.  She walked around the family room saying "baby baby baby" and lifting the baby in and out of her crib.

She also got some letter magnets, a baby stroller, a ball popper, some cute clothes, and a piano which has been the source of some crazy dance parties in the past 24 hours.

After dinner it was party time.   We had snickerdoodle cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and chocolate cupcakes with raspberry frosting.  I liked the cream cheese frosting best, and Bryan liked the raspberry frosting.  Apparently we didn't even notice the cupcakes beneath.  I made Jilly a mini cake in a mug and frosted it with both frostings.  I found the free cupcake toppers here (and just remembered that I forgot to tie a ribbon on the stick like they did... oh well.)

We sang Happy Birthday and I helped blow out the candle.  Jilly just stared at the cake for a minute.  I gave her a taste on a spoon then she started licking the frosting a little bit.  Finally Bryan gave her a cupcake and because it was small enough for her to hold she went to town on it.  And we ended the night with a very messy and happy one year old!
Janssen, is this looking familiar?  I'm afraid I copied a lot from Ella's birthday party



Exactly one year ago the doctor placed a tiny pink bundle in my arms.  Every single day since then I have counted my lucky stars that this girl is mine.

happy happy birthday Jilly girl
I love you!


Birthdaypalooza Part 1

My husband is now 28.  28, like 2 years away from 30.  I know what you're thinking- I look way too young to have a 28 year old husband.  And, it's true, I do.  But, it is a fact and so we must move on.

For his birthday on Friday Bryan requested a quiet night at home.  We grilled pizza (um, why did I waste so many pizzas in the oven?!?!) and drank icy cold cream soda out of glass bottles.  In lieu of cake Bryan asked for "cookie sandwiches with chocolate cake mix cookies and vanilla ice cream in the middle and hot fudge drizzled on top."  His wish was my command.  And now I know that I didn't just marry him for his good looks, I also married him for his amazing dessert creations.

On Saturday our favorite Schaders came to visit.  We went to Squeeze Inn and each ate one of these beauties.
that, my friends, is what we call a "cheese skirt"

We had planned on hanging out downtown Sacramento but thanks to the rain and the pounds of delicious melted cheese we consumed we opted to just sit at home and gush over these two cuties

Then, to top off a great weekend Jilly wore this to church today- too bad it doesn't come in my size too.

Don't worry- birthday celebrations are far from over around here.



I love November.

I love the colorful leaves, I love the crispness in the air, I love the perfect temperatures, I love the excitement about the upcoming holidays, I love that I can finally listen to Christmas music, I love being thankful, I love eating pumpkin desserts.
I love all the November birthday celebrations (my mom, Bryan, my father-in-law, Jilly!)
I love that this year November brings a couldn't come soon enough trip to Virginia.

Welcome welcome November, please stay as long as you'd like!