The 6th Annual Christmas Card Challenge


Having already received our first Christmas card in the mail, I thought now was a good time to announce the 6th annual Christmas card challenge. Thanksgiving snuck up on a lot of us last year and is early again this year, so I thought the early reminder to get a card made (and capitalize on those Black Friday card deals!) would be good for all. 

This contest was born out of my love of Christmas cards. Well, not just Christmas cards, but any holiday card. We've even gotten some New Year's cards, which I think is fun because it makes the card season last even longer! I get so excited in this season to check my mail every day. I love seeing smiling faces of those I love on cards, I love the handwritten notes, I love the updates, I love the lush beautiful cards, I love the funny ones. I just love it all. 

The categories for cards will remain the same again this year, but I also have a fun little prize for anyone that is local, so be sure to keep reading! As a refresher, here are the categories:

     * first card to arrive
     * best handwritten note
     * best photo(s)
     * best update
     * best overall

The first card to arrive spot has already been snagged by someone who was obviously on top of their game. And being on top of their game helped me, as it reminded me to get to work on my own card. 

In the spirit of supporting my hubby, and supporting a local small business, I will be giving a bag of Bean Counter Coffee Roasters coffee to the winner. How it works is, after the New Year, I will choose a winner from each categories, then use a random number generator to pick the winner of the coffee. Now, for you locals, I have a separate prize. Also in the spirit of supporting a local small business, I will be giving away a month subscription (February) to Alchemy Bread. If you've never heard of her, go check her out. Her bread is AMAZING. If you win, you have to agree to pick up your bread once a week (either on Tuesday or Thursday) in downtown Modesto on 12th Street. You also have to be willing to provide your phone number for the subscription. You really want to be willing to do this because, guys, it's soup season and this bread is like no other. Your mind WILL BE BLOWN. And if you're not willing, I know plenty of people that would be, so...

If you want to join in the fun, but don't have my address, feel free to email me at jgrimbleby(at)gmail.com and I will provide an address to send it. And you need not be shy, I have had many people participate in the card challenge that aren't my close pals. And, guess what? Some have won categories! And, each one of their cards put a smile on my face because I LOVE CARDS.

If you are looking for some inspiration, here are the winners in years past - 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013. Just a little tip, funny cards are totally my jam, as are anything that makes your card stick out from the crowd. That could be a different shape, a different colored envelope, or perhaps forgetting to change your last name on your card, so it says the wrong name! 

Now get to work on your cards! Remember, Black Friday and cyber Monday are always great times to score great deals on cards and is normally the time I order them every year. And, what's nice is you can have them all designed and ready to go ahead of time and just purchase them when the good deal comes around. 

I'm excited for my mailbox to start filling with cards! 



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The Minivan Kind of Life


I knew deep down in my heart that adding a fourth child to our family meant a minivan was in my future. I just couldn't imagine two big kids constantly having to climb between an infant and a toddler to get strapped in. Never mind thinking about doing that in the rain when everyone is wet and dirty! 

We already had a Honda and figured we would just go with another Honda again, just a minivan this time. We aren't exactly warm and fuzzy when it comes to buying a car. We tend to know what we want and just go for it. The day we bought our minivan we were actually just stopping to look at them, as we had never even looked at them. I had an idea of what my must haves were for it, but that was it. We weren't picky on color and they happened to have this silver one with the exact trim package I wanted. And they offered us a deal we couldn't pass up, so we went for it. 

I've noticed the minivan club is quite large and all seem to be very excited about minivans themselves. Now, I am not going to deny that the thing is super functional. It has more cargo space than my pilot did. And the seats that move side to side in the middle row are super convenient for vacuuming out the car and having to reach for things in the back. BUT, I will say, I miss how my pilot drove. I am not joking when I say I have made this minivan squeal it's tires more times than I can count...especially going around corners. Apparently I drive a little too peppy for this bad boy. And I miss the right side camera my pilot had...that really made cutting people off a breeze. Also, my pilot got better gas mileage. Other than that, I really am satisfied with the minivan. It has a lot of great options and works well for the stage of life we are in. 



And someone, cough, cough, Isla, was beyond thrilled that we got a minivan. It was literally every hope and dream of hers coming true. She claims she even wants one as a first car, which I feel like I will hang over her head right around the time she is turning sixteen ;)


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A Weekend in Monterey


We went to Monterey for the weekend. We went not because of the holiday weekend, but because Ian was going to run a half marathon. It was one of those weekends that had some really great memories made, but also had some low points. A great memory would be Callum loving the lighthouse that we drove around at night and was still talking about it the next day. A low point would be our back window being smashed out on the van while we were playing at the park with the kids. Another high point was stumbling across the worlds largest doughnut...actually, I am sure there are bigger ones out there, but this thing was massive! And, a low point would be Ian's half marathon being cancelled the night before due to the air quality from all the fires in California right now. 

While in Monterey, we got an annual pass to the aquarium and went on both Saturday and Sunday. It was oh-so-busy, but the kids still had lots of fun. Including Callum unexpectedly pulling a crab out of the water in one of the touch areas. I think he thought it was seaweed, as that's what he kept playing with, but he got a surprise! My favorite part of the aquarium is forever and always the jellyfish. I swear they should have those massage chairs you see at the mall set up in front of the jellyfish and let people just pay to sit there and stare at them. There is something just so therapeutic about being in a dark room, staring at jellyfish slowly moving around. I can't be the only one that feels this way, right? Because of my love for the jellyfish, please excuse ALL the jellyfish photos. I just can't help myself. 

After the aquarium on Saturday, we took the kids to play at the park for a while. The park is huge and a lot of fun. The kids did a ton of running around and playing. But it was definitely a downer to go out to our car and discover the window gone. I joked to one of my friends it was because someone was mad that we literally got the front parking spot at the park ;) Thankfully we called our insurance and were able to get the glass replaced on Monday, so all is well in the minivan world again. And, it wasn't nearly as loud to drive home without the window as I expected. We obviously had it taped up, but I still expected it to be loud. 

Saturday evening we went out to dinner with some other people from Modesto who were running in the half marathon. It was at the end of dinner that everyone was notified that the race was cancelled. Whomp, whomp, whomp. 

Sunday we went back to the aquarium for a bit before hitting the road for home. And the best part about the trip had to be that the kids didn't have school on Monday, so we had a day to recover (i.e. do the laundry, grocery shop, get the busted out window replaced, etc.) instead of just jumping back into things. 










^^ said extremely large doughnut


^^ This merry-go-round contraption is crazy, especially at the times when it was so full it was standing room only on there. But the kids played on it for what felt like forever and had such a grand time. 







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24 Weeks


We are going to pretend for a moment that I am not halfway through my 25th week because this is the last picture I took. It's hard to keep up with these updates with three kids already apparently. I also miss our wood fence in our old backyard that made the perfect and easy backdrop for any photo. Anyway, here's me at 24 weeks. 



24 weeks. 6(ish) months. Viability. 

I always feel like I can breathe a little easier when I make it to 24 weeks. That's when most medical facilities are willing to perform life saving procedures should a baby be born. Sure, I've never gone into labor early or had any issues that would make me have to deliver early, but this is still always a milestone that I am happy to hit. 

I have been feeling good and feel like I am even getting some energy back. I'm not going to sleep as early every night and haven't been feeling the urge to take naps every day anymore either. Bending over is starting to be uncomfortable sometimes. I think it has to do with the position of the baby because most of the times it is fine, but other times it is downright painful. My gag reflux is still alive and well. I will be happy when this is gone. I still struggle brushing my teeth and anything touching my neck sets me off. 

I am starting to feel the urge to nest and get things ready for the baby. I started thinking about where I should organize the uber adorable and small newborn clothes. For now I am thinking I will set up a little changing area on a dresser we have in our closet. It's the same dresser we used for Callum when he was a baby and the perfect size to hold just the essentials. I've bought a couple things for the baby that I wanted as I have managed to find them secondhand for a price I was willing to pay. I got a mini crib for our room (as no one is wanting to move to the bedroom downstairs and I am not wanting to go up and down the stairs in the middle of the night to tend to a newborn and I figure it can just sleep in our room for the first while anyway), a swing and a diaper bag. 

We still have yet to discuss names and I haven't really done much research or even made up a list of names I like to discuss. I guess we should get on that one soon..ish! 

I had my anatomy scan at 22.5 weeks. I'm guessing all is well since I never heard back and was told to expect that "no news is good news". But I have a check up this week and I am sure they will tell me all is well or whatever. At the scan, the baby was pretty dang uncooperative. It took a really long time, them having me get up and move around and them trying me in different positions on the table to get all the pictures they needed. But we got to see the profile of the baby, see all its fingers and toes and even see its mouth moving. The mouth moving was pretty dang fun to watch. 

It's hard to believe that I am getting pretty close to my third trimester. Things really are moving along pretty quick! 


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Halloween


Halloween was an insanely busy day for us. Like nonstop. It was all fun, but it was still crazy. It started with the kids halloween parade at school in the morning. Above is them all dressed up and ready for school. Isla decided the day before halloween that she didn't want to be a mermaid, the costume she had picked out at the store, but would instead use her witch costume from last year. I tried for a second to change her mind, but really didn't care. But now I have a costume with the tags still on it that I don't know what to do with. Oh well. Moving on. 

The halloween parade at school is slightly chaotic because the whole school participates in it at the same time. Isla gets really excited to see us when she is walking in it though, and I totally love that. Connor is more reserved, but still smiles and waves at us. After the parade, I went straight to Isla's class for her class party. I led the bingo station and must say I did quite the good job ;) Then I had a little break between parties to run to Target and pick up candy for the trick or treaters...nothing like waiting until the last minute, right?! Then back to the school for Connor's party. His was less party and more art project with a bunch of food involved. The kid who sits next to him was absent, so I got to sit next to him, which was nice for this pregnant lady because I felt like I did far too much standing up that day. Then it was off to get Callum with 20 minutes to spare before turning back around to get the kids from school. 

Straight after school on Wednesdays Isla has ballet. Since she had been looking forward to costume day at ballet since they announced it a couple weeks ago, I knew we couldn't miss, even though I would have loved a little reprieve in our schedule. She had lots of fun. Then it was home for dinner and wrangling everyone in their costumes to go trick or treating. I literally had to shove Callum in his costume while he screamed hysterically. Then we showed him people give him candy and he gets to put it in his bag and he was totally cool with the situation. 

Trick or treating was a lot of fun. Callum could easily do it this year and would come running back to the street after yelling, "I got candy!!!" He also did a status check of his candy after every house. He was REALLY, REALLY into the candy. He is also the only child that has asked for his candy constantly all day every day since. 

Once we were done trick or treating, we came back home to pass out candy. Well, Connor and Isla excitedly did from our front porch. The 400 pieces of candy I got only lasted about an hour...we get a lot of people coming into our neighborhood. Which really, that was good because we could then turn off the lights and put the kids to bed at a normal time. So, talk about a win! 


^^ I told you she gets excited! 




^^ This was the picture from right before we headed out to go trick or treating. Everyone full of hope and not all crazy yet, haha! 



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Pumpkin Carving


We carved our pumpkins on Monday evening in what I will say was the most calm and successful pumpkin carving attempt we've ever had. Of course, I do realize that as the kids get older, things like this will just get easier and easier. But, for instance, Connor did pretty much all of his on his own. He cleaned it out, came up with the design and cut out most of the design all on his own. It's Darth Vader, in case you are wondering. Now, Isla's creation, though successful, wasn't without a few bumps in the road. She wanted to do a cat and drew on what she wanted. The problem was, there would be no space for light to come through anywhere except the nose. I convinced her to make the whiskers larger, so light would come through, and after she did the first one, she declared her pumpkin ruined and ran off. I continued to finish the whiskers and she came back just as I was starting on making the nose larger. And that's when she said it actually looked good...haha! She then got back in the spirit and helped with the eyes. So, all was well in the end. Now Callum, he had a zest for anything sharp and I had a great fear that the sharp object in his hand would somehow end up cutting me. We settled on him enjoying himself with a poker and his pumpkin has about 500 micro holes all over it that you cannot see. But when my brother came over on Tuesday, Callum proudly declared to him "I make holes!" so I will call that a win. 

Now for a bunch of photos of the actual pumpkin carving. 




^^ I tried getting Callum to hold the pumpkin piece up to his mouth, but all he was actually doing was biting the back!


^^ He kept going back for more, so it must not have tasted bad. 


^^ If you look close, you can see her original drawing that she wanted to do. 





^^ Happier now that the cat pumpkin is back on track.





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A Day Out with Thomas


Over the weekend we went and did a day out with Thomas. It's basically a train ride with Thomas and Percy pulling the train and a bunch of activities to go along with it. Think meeting the characters, toy trains to play with, bounce houses, coloring, face painting, etc. I booked the tickets like two months ago and Callum has been consistently talking about it for several days now. He was very excited. The other two acted like they thought it was lame, but enjoyed it once we were there. Maybe that's their grown up, cool kid attitudes coming through. 

On the train ride itself, we booked the car that was closest to Thomas. Because it took so long to get our picture taken with Thomas, we were one of the last people on the train and our car was super full. We managed to awkwardly squeeze in places...I say awkwardly because we asked one lady if she could scoot down to make more space for us and she flat out said no and most people just stared at us, rather thank helping make room by moving their bags or scooting closer to other people. But the train started and all was good. A few minutes into the train ride, I realized two cars up was virtually empty. Like there were literally maybe 10 people on it, so we moved to that car and the rest of the train ride was MUCH more enjoyable. Some other people followed suit too because a practically empty car is just way better than a jam packed one, no matter how close to Thomas the full one is! The kids spent most of the train ride dancing along to the music and just having fun. 

After the train ride, we went and met Percy. Then we went and met Sir Topham Hatt, who Callum refused to get anywhere near, even when he tried interacting with Callum. Then we did a bunch of the activities before calling it a day and heading home. The biggest hit was the temporary tattoo station. The older two at first acted too cool to get some train tattoos, but once Callum went for it, all three of them went back for more, before I finally cut them off. Callum was definitely very excited for his train tattoos. It was really cute. 

Now be prepared for a bit of a photo overload. But at least I warmed you, right?







^^ Callum was super into collecting rocks the whole time. He stored them in his pocket and would repeatedly pull them out and line them up before putting them back in his pocket again. 



^^ Proudly showing off one of his tattoos





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