Dual Birthday Pool Party

After watching the forecasts and worrying about the weather all week (the forecast varied from thunderstorms to 60% chance of rain to light rain all day)…we decided to go ahead with the party and it ended up absolutely perfect!! It was overcast at the start and gradually got sunnier and warmer throughout the party—enough so that I had Tom grab my suit when he went back to get the cake!

We had 60 guests (kids and adults!!) and the pool was probably the busiest it will be all season (aside from the days they have cookouts with free food or night swims with free ice cream). But it all went smoothly, everyone had a blast, and there was plenty of pizza and cake for multiple helpings (once I started cutting the serves 48 cake and realized my small pieces were still not small enough to get me close to 60 pieces, I started halving those…and then ended up having half the cake left so kids got seconds and thirds).

The gaggle of dads. They didn’t move from this spot the whole time. 😂

Us moms:


The kids were fairly patient about opening gifts once we got home…and they LOVED everything. They got Bop It (thank heavens I found the volume control!) and Owen picked up on it right away, Katie dug right into the glitter glue and construction paper, Owen picked out his favorite baseball cards from a new pack, Katie put together her Disney Lego, we’ve been shot multiple times by Owen’s new nerf gun, and both kids were OVER THE MOON about all the gift cards and getting to go shopping once we move! They both said it was a great birthday!

2016 USMC Birthday Ball

Lunch with friends beforehand at Succotash in National Harbor. It was DELICIOUS and we highly recommend it. (We had fried green tomatoes; pimento cheese fundido; bacon mac and cheese; collards, kimchi, and country ham; Belle’s punch and a gochujang infused bloody mary.)


My super fancy home manicure (yeah, it’s just glitter polish):


Us, before:


Before & After


And this is what it takes to get ready for the ball. :p


A few fun pics trying to get THE PERFECT shot:


And the best shot:


And my favorite fun shot:


So as we were starting to get dressed, Tom had a uniform snafu—he realized he forgot a major piece. The exchange was closest (about 45 minutes round trip)…but they were out. Home was next closest (about an hour round trip) but that wasn’t appealing, either. A few furious texts found a buddy who lived somewhat close that had extras and could bring them to him…but that took almost an hour as well! So, while he was downstairs waiting for the delivery, I was finishing getting ready and hanging out with our friends in their room and then we came back to our room to wait for Tom. Our friend Tom was having a FIT because Tom’s uniform wasn’t even prepped to start dressing…so he got everything ready for him.


Waiting longingly for his buddy:


The group shot without Tom:



It was getting to be time to be seated for dinner (we’d already missed the entire cocktail hour) so Karen and I headed down while Tom waited for Tom. They made it with a few minutes to spare.

After the ceremony was over, we booked it out to the photo line while it was still short:




Random shots of us:





And the official photo which was emailed to us before we even left the event:


We actually had other friends at the table (plus her parents!), but we somehow managed to go the entire night without taking a big group photo OR a photo of us with them! So, here’s one I snagged off Facebook (that I actually took on her phone):


And lastly, to give you an idea of the scope of the event, here’s the seating chart: 288 tables of 10.


Overall, it was a fun evening, but unfortunately, it was once again a big ol’ waste of money—we should NOT have spent the night again. Last year we had decided it had been a mistake because we didn’t NEED to spend the night—we didn’t drink enough to need to stay and we were tired and wanting to head out by 10 so we could have easily just came home. But this year we thought we’d all stay (all three couples) and have this epic night…but we were all petering out come 10:00 so we all just went our separate ways LOL. We could have actually been home by 11 and saved the $350 we spent on the room and sitter! Lesson REALLY learned. :)

Saturday Night Dinner…with surprise guests!

Well, we knew about it ahead of time but the visit in general was a surprise this weekend! Roger and the girls were up visiting his other daughter Amanda for the weekend and she lives about an hour away…so they all came over for dinner! I haven’t seen them since we left Jacksonville in 2014!

Can’t you see us with a daughter this age?! We’d take her in a minute. :) (We could have had one this age if we had a kid two years before we got married…or two years after we met.)

One of the best things to come out of tonight? Getting to recreate one of our favorite Virginia photos!

2004-2016 Tom Virginia Cake

The photo Virginia wanted to take—showcasing the two big guys that she can threaten boys with (a running joke for many, many years):

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And just for comparison, the same trio back in 2007:

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The Three Musketeers, together again!

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2016-05-28 roger-tom-tom-silly

And a selfie for the road!

Date night with friends!

We had Owen take the picture and of course Katie had to follow us out…so Owen told her to get in the picture! :) (I’m also wearing a “borrowed” Le Tote dress!)

Love these guys!

Just out of curiosity, I looked up our last couples selfie (minus the 2015 USMC Birthday Ball) and was shocked to see how close the dates were 11 years apart! (See that post.)

The boys being boys…eating their truffles. :)

And pics of the dress after we got home because I forgot to take them before:

2015 USMC Birthday Ball

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The evening didn’t start off on the right foot—Tom had requested a King room and we didn’t get it, even though we reserved the room way back in June. And no one along the way let us know, either, so it was QUITE the shock walking into a room with two Queen beds. ESPECIALLY at the price we were paying…

We had been planning on going out with friends for a quick bite at a nearby restaurant before the ball since we knew dinner wasn’t going to be until probably 8 or 8:30 (it comes at the end of the program)…but that got nixed when A) both guys realized they forgot their cover (which meant they couldn’t walk outside in their uniform) and B) the other couple was stuck in traffic (it only took us 25 minutes to get there because it was earlier in the day). So…Tom and I just hung out, stewed a bit about the room, and then we started getting ready.



We clean up well!




Going back to watching football. :)


Wearing Marsha’s jewelry!


And then our friends arrived! As I said on Facebook: Fourteen years in the Corps, best friends with these guys for 12…FINALLY getting to attend a ball together! Priceless!





The list of events:


The walkway in:


As luck (?) would have it, the National Harbor Tree Lighting ceremony was the same evening right down the street (with many events, booths, live music, movie screenings, etc., on the waterfront). It was bad for us because it created the traffic jam…but we got to watch the fireworks during happy hour! Happy Jenny!



We typically get photos done beforehand (when my makeup is still fresh!) but by the time we made it down to happy hour, the line was CRAZY long. So we were just wandering around, and stopped to take a picture with two of the “olden day” marines.





The event was supposed to officially start at 7:30, but as people were starting to file in to take their seats, they announced that there would be a 45-minute delay. We didn’t get a reason, but we were all pretty sure one of the guests of honor was late due to traffic. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but that also meant dinner was pushed back another 45 minutes. Egads. Remember how we were going to eat but didn’t? Yeah. BUT! Since everyone had started walking in to the ballroom, the photo line was almost empty so we made a beeline! WOOHOO!

Since we don’t really ever display our ball photos (where we’d want just US in the picture) we decided we wanted to take them with our good friends! They thought it was a great idea, too! The bonus is that technology has advanced a lot since our first ball…and we got to pick the two best pictures and then the digital files were emailed and in my inbox before bed! LOVE IT!


So we were discussing how huge the ball was and how we couldn’t believe that we hadn’t seen anyone we knew…and that it was way too crowded for us (we’re guessing about 3000 people—the highest table number I saw was 268 and there were 10 people to a table) but it was the Commandant’s Ball and you never know who you’re going to run into…so while James L. Jones, Jr. (former Commandant of the USMC and United States National Security Advisor) was speaking, he introduced a marine congressman—the Honorable Seth Moulton. WAIT. WHAT?! Tom and I looked at each other. WE KNOW HIM! Tom went to TBS with him! We knew he had become a congressman, but of course we had no idea he was going to be here! And then yep, there he was, right next to the speaker! We knew that as soon as we had the chance, we’d beeline over there to see him!


Later during his speech, he mentioned Kyle Carpenter and I was like HEY! I KNOW THAT NAME, TOO! (He is the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient.) I saw him as we were approaching the congressman, so I surreptitiously snapped a photo.


And Seth (the congressman) and Tom…


And then I had to do this when we got home—if only we had them standing on opposite sides! Then (2002) and now:


And then as we were walking back to our table, I got a text from a neighbor, Christi, saying “I just saw you and Tom walk by! I didn’t know you were going to be here!” So we went back during dinner and chatted for a few minutes!


We finally got to eat dinner around 9:30 (!) so by the time all the courses were done, it was after 10:30! I had wanted to at least dance to one slow song, but there were SO many people and the dance floor was SO small we couldn’t even make it there (people were even dancing between the tables!). :( We had thought we’d have a night of dancing and partying with our friends, but since we were at two different tables half a room apart, we didn’t get to do any of that. At least we got to hang out beforehand and got our pictures taken together!

So overall, while this ball was nice, we agreed that it was NOT worth the cost ($200 room, $200 tickets, $150 sitter, $200 dress/our alterations/hair, and $50 for four stupid drinks)—and while a nice gesture, the token gift we received was not our favorite—a paperweight that didn’t even look like 240 (Owen even looked at it and asked why it said “210”):


We’re currently unsure what we’ll do next year.

Katie’s 3rd Birthday Party!

Daddy and Owen went to pick up the cupcake cake and the pizza before the party!



We surprised the kids with a bounce house borrowed from friends!


Owen testing out the Frozen stick-on earrings!








Everyone had a good time and the bounce house was a success!! I’m losing my mind, though—I didn’t take a picture of the decorated table OR the food table! :)

I finally got my cammie quilt!

I have wanted a quilt made out of Tom’s old cammies for a long time now—a friend had one made and I thought it was the greatest idea. And I’m not kidding when I say a long time—I’m talking seven or so years ago (the last time we lived here) and it took me this long to get off my butt and actually find someone to do it (I posted a want ad on a local Craigslist-type site).

Tom picked it up today… He knew I was getting it done, but I think he was surprised at the results. :)


And lest you think it’s just a generic quilt…the name tapes are on there (including a few actual pockets)!



I love it!!

Until We Meet Again Party

We decided to have a going away party before we left—but I called it an “Until We Meet Again” party because I HATE goodbyes. It was also a perfect excuse to rent a huge waterslide for Owen because he loves them and our new house has zero place for one.

As it was being set up, the kids were VERY excited watching out the window. Katie was saying “Slide! Katie slide! Katie slide please!” :) I was busy getting the last few things ready for the party and Tom was running our last errands so I made the kids wait until he got home…but then it was game on! Owen had no issues with it, of course, but Katie was a poop. She loves climbing on things but put her on the slide where she HAS to climb (and can pretty much climb without much caution) and she wanted NONE of it. This is where she’d stop:




Even after Owen went down a few times, this is the farthest she’d go:


Finally I had enough of trying to verbally coerce her into climbing up, so I got on the slide with her and basically pushed her up each rung of the ladder. Once we got to the top, she didn’t want to go down…so I put my arm around her and we went down together—AND SHE LOVED IT! And immediately went to the ladder…and climbed up all on her own (the little shit!)! I did go up again behind her to make sure she didn’t slip backwards, but she did it just fine!

And then at the top of the slide…I realized my phone was still in my pocket!!! @$&#%! I obviously hadn’t planned on going on the slide (I was still wearing clothes, too) but got caught up in the moment of being frustrated with Katie. :( I yelled at Tom to come get it and instead of coming up the ladder calmly, he was a bit upset and wasn’t being careful…and instead tried to come up over the side of the slide and pulled a leg muscle while getting back off. Like pulled it badly enough that he was limping. :( But the slide was a blast and I knew I’d be on it more throughout the day…so I just gave in and put my suit on right then. And since Katie was still going up and down, I put her in her suit, too.



This is where she liked playing the most. And she was pretty good about moving out of the way when you said “Katie, watch out!” She’d go wait on the side until Owen came down, then she’d go back in the water. :)






Even though the slide was fun, I thought it might be out to kill me. After the kids had been playing for a bit (while I was working on party prep), Katie refused to come down (it was her naptime but she didn’t know that—she was just being stubborn). I told Owen this was his one chance to push his sister down the slide—and he tried but he said she was too strong and he couldn’t do it…so I had to go up the slide again to get her down. So I climbed up and we came down together—and I smashed right through the end buffer and landed on the ground with Katie on top of me! HOLY CRAP. I knew it was possible (other adults have done it before) but I had already gone down “successfully” a handful of times so definitely wasn’t expecting it. Katie wasn’t hurt (or crying) so that was good, and for the most part I was okay, but I had actually smacked my head on the ground. Ugh—instant headache. Then Katie was trying to get back onto the slide so I had to grab her…and I slipped on the wet tarp while carrying her! Thankfully she wasn’t hurt and I wasn’t really, either, though my butt and back hurt. Good times, right? I handed her off to Tom and took some pain pills. AND THEN…I was going down the slide with Owen and we were having a blast…and he was excited and wasn’t following the rules (waiting for the area to be clear before sliding down) and just rammed his feet straight into my side. Needless to say it was time for me to take a break.





Once the other kids arrived, things got a little more hectic. Pool toys came out and were part of the slide and kids were going down together (as you can see here)…and the “rules” kind of went out the window. :)



The girls loved Katie and basically thought she was their own little doll. :)



Ursula was the first adult to go down and she went tandem with Virginia! She agreed it was a blast!





Everyone had fun and the slide was (of course) a hit. There were a few minor bumps and bruises once all eight kids were on the slide at the same time and Owen ended up with a sure-to-be bruised eye. But it was super fun and it all went really well. The only minor bummer was the weather—in the middle of the party we had a downpour just long enough and with just enough thunder and lightning to send everyone inside…for 15 minutes! So then it was back outside! It started to threaten a storm again about 7:00 which sucked because all the adults were going to get on the slide (and I had planned on being able to use the slide most of the evening)…so we just sent the kids inside and a few of us went down a few times in the rain. There’s even video of me catapulting over the end (which may get posted privately) but I’ll gladly post the one of Tom! :)

Once it started storming and we were all inside, the kids were watching a movie and the adults were visiting and snacking…and Jacqueline was doing my dishes. There was plenty of room in the dishwasher but she actually LIKES doing dishes so who am I to stop her? :)


It was a really great time and I am so glad we did it…and it wasn’t until everyone was gone that I got really sad thinking about how much we’re going to miss everyone. (It’s always sad leaving, but the last time we left, we were just going to be missing two families…this time, we have more friends that we’ll be missing so it will be even harder.) But at least we have some great memories!

Jumping Birthday Party

We had a birthday party for one of our best friend’s kids at the bounce house place today.


Being goofy on the bounce house:

How she eats pizza:



And how she eats a cupcake:

Around the time we wanted to leave, we couldn’t find Owen anywhere. Tom and I each took a turn looking (and there’s only so much you can see without actually going into the bounce houses yourself) and neither of us could find him in the throng of kids. Turns out, he was in the under four area playing with blocks. Yep, it was time to leave! But a great time was has by both kids!

Happy 5th birthday, Owen!

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We had Owen’s 5th birthday party at one of the local gymnastics places. We invited his entire class (16 kids) as well as our friends. Half of his class RSVPed (of which two asked to bring other siblings, which was fine) and I was annoyed but honestly pretty impressed that we got a 50% response rate. However, of those eight that RSVPed, four didn’t show…two of which were the ones that asked to bring extra kids. :| So that cost me extra because I opted to go with the 25+ kids plan (which allowed for another employee to be scheduled) because we were right on the line with RSVPs and I figured we’d likely get some that would show up without having RSVPed. So we ended up with 15 kids total instead of 23. Oh well, it’s only money, right? And Owen had fun so that’s what matters, right? But he did have fun so it’s all good!

Ursula made the awesome Ninjago cake!


When I called Owen over to see it (he was out playing) he said “It’s Jay!” (Of course, he was right, Jay is the blue ninja.)



Owen with two of his classmates, Tanner and Braxton (who I’ve posted pics of before). You see that Owen really isn’t the same size as the rest of his class. :)


Katie having fun running around:

Katie was very interested in what was going on in the bounce house—but we put her in with the kids and she screamed. So she was content to just peek in for a bit.






I showed Katie how to hang on the bar and she loved it! She’d hang and swing then drop off—over and over.



And then she got in the bounce house because it was fairly empty:












Back at the bar showing daddy her tricks!



The birthday boy in the middle of the parachute!


And here’s a 6 minute video of the parachute fun (pretty much for the grandparents). :)





Each kid got to do their own thing in the middle of the parachute balloon. Owen did a spinning twist.




A few last runs before leaving…

The last pic of our best friends for quite some time—our friend Tom is deploying next week and we’ll be moving this summer…


As Ursula was getting the cake packed up to go, Owen saw that the head was off to the side and was VERY concerned that it wasn’t coming home and kept asking about it. We assured him Jay was coming home. Then he saw Ursula carrying it to her car (to bring to our house) and he was concerned that the cake itself wasn’t coming home at all!

Overall, it was a great party for Owen’s first REAL birthday party (not just something at our house with a few friends or family). :)

Previous Throwback Thursdays

Getting ready for s’mores at our house on Valley Ridge Lane (during Tom’s first deployment in 2005) with Ursula Mitchell.


One of my favorite pictures from our wedding day—Jessica was our flower girl and she DID NOT want to take a picture with me no matter what.


In Traverse City at my apartment before heading out camping and to Mackinac Island in September 1997.


Circa 1991 at Tim Hough (now Nolan)’s graduation party. Who would have guessed we’d someday become cousins?


Trip to Baltimore in 2005 with our good friends Tom and Karen Trimble.


A somewhat recent Throwback Thursday (11/25/10)—with Kelly King.


Just a few years ago (2007—seems like yesterday)…one of my all-time favorite pictures with good friends Nancy and Kelly.


Camping with cousins Lisa and Lori in high school—I’m guessing ’89 or ’90?


I had completely forgotten about the trip to Toronto we took with Sue McLaughlin and Pam Williams—maybe 1988? 89?


Things about me you might not know.

This game has been going around Facebook whereby you are given a number and you are then required to tell that many unique or fun things about yourself that most people wouldn’t know. I’ve really enjoyed reading the answers from all my friends, and while I didn’t officially get a number I thought it would be fun to play along.

  1. At a very young age I knew I didn’t want children and actually asked my mom if I could get a hysterectomy. Wisely, she assured me I should wait.
  2. I still didn’t want kids until a few years after getting married… But that changed during the few days after finding out my Grandpa Len had died and I was with all my extended family back in Michigan and I realized how much I loved my family and didn’t want it to end with me. It’s a good thing Tom was on board.
  3. From that moment, it took three years to get pregnant and involved both of us being tested (no issues), though one of those years Tom was deployed. :)
  4. We are currently on our third deployment: ~9 months, ~13 months, and hopefully this one with kids will be the shortest at ~6 months. When you dream about falling in love with a military man (Oh! Those uniforms!) you never think about the sucky parts.
  5. In college I made a list of the top 25 or so things I was looking for in a partner. The top 5 were CRITICAL. When I met Tom? He had none of the top 5 but I still knew from the first night he was the one. Yes, I knew the very first night that we would get married. It took four years but we did it!
  6. I loved every part of my wedding and would do it all over again in a hot second. I loved all the unique touches (trumpeter, writing our own vows, one of the groomsmen barfing in the bushes during the ceremony, reception on a dinner train, personalized cake topper, and a horse and carriage) and to this day people still tell me how awesome it was.
  7. For someone who is a homebody and doesn’t like change, the military is not really the best thing for me. I always said I would wait to have kids until we were settled so they wouldn’t have to move schools…but life just doesn’t work that way (I got old too fast and Tom had decided to stay in for 20). But, we have met the greatest people and can’t imagine life without having met our best friends Roger & Ursula Mitchell and Tom & Karen Trimble).
  8. I :heart: Amazon. If I never had to leave my house to shop I would be just fine. I have my fingers crossed that someday we move somewhere that Amazon delivers fresh groceries. If you ask me where I got something, chances are probably 90% it was from Amazon, 5% it was from another online source, and 5% it was local. :)
  9. If I never had another job again I would be just fine. I am NOT someone who has to work to feel validated.
  10. I don’t consider myself a hoarder, but my pantry has been referred to as Dharma. Yes, I also :heart: Costco and Sam’s Club.
  11. I hate being late. For anything. Even with two kids on a hectic morning, I still make it to Pre-K (with a 15 minute drive) at least five minutes early.
  12. This was the first year since we got married that we didn’t have Chinese for our anniversary dinner (it started as luck then we planned it and even managed during his past deployments). We changed it to steak and shrimp this year so we’d be eating the same thing on the same day!

Deckwarming & Katie’s Third First Birthday

Today was the big day of our Deckwarming party (and Tom’s going away party) as well as a mini celebration of Katie’s first birthday (technically her third first birthday as we already celebrated in Michigan, then she had her actual birthday on the 10th, and then today’s gathering). It was a long, hot, tiring—yet fun—day.

Party-prep is so much work—it never seems like stuff will take that long…but it always does. I was VERY thankful to have hired Virginia to come watch the kids while we did the prep because then I didn’t have to listen to Katie screaming because I wasn’t paying attention to her…and I was actually able to get stuff done! I loved what Virginia posted on Facebook—it’s classic Owen:


As usual, we had too much food (or maybe just not enough people?!) but then, I’m a Len and we apparently don’t know how to cook for less than 40 people (or are paranoid about not having enough food regardless of the number of people). :) But everything was delicious.

The weather actually held out—it was touch and go for awhile with intermittent thunderstorms pretty much all morning and early afternoon—but it cleared up about 4 and was sunny and gorgeous (though the humidity was right at about 99%).

We had a good blend of old (Mitchells and Trimbles) and new friends (from my mommy group) and the kids had a blast in the playroom and in the pool.

Then it was time for the birthday cake. I had wanted to do something special for Katie so she didn’t fall into that “second kid gets squat compared to the first kid” thing PLUS after Owen’s Lego cake debacle I had decided I was never attempting to bake a cake again…so I asked our friend Ursula to make a cake. She has recently started making and decorating cakes and she’s ABSOLUTELY AMAZING (as opposed to my first attempt—see above Lego debacle post). Here’s the picture I sent her (that I found on Pinterest) along with her version on the right (I asked for the 1 on top instead of the ladybug and only two layers):


[ Find the original cake here: Ladybug Birthday Cake from PinkCakeBox ]


Amazing, right?

Also a big thanks to mommy-group friend Jacqueline who helped with my last-minute ice cream request (Doh! How could we have forgotten ice cream on our three trips to town?!) and pre-party kitchen cleanup (she arrived during the last 15-minute rush to get everything done, saw I was a bit overwhelmed, and jumped in to wash the sink full of dishes).

Some of the kids playing dress up:


Having a blast in the pool:


















She made such a mess that we had to hose off the deck (thanks, Roger!) and give her a quick bath in the sink with Dawn detergent (I hadn’t planned ahead to have baby soap downstairs). Here she is somewhat cleaned up, back with Virginia again.


Since Owen was having so much fun in the pool and with the kids, we let him stay up late. This is about 9:30 right before he finally went to bed.


Thanks to everyone who shared the day with me and Tom!! And you can tell we’re all getting older…everyone had gone home by 10:15!! :)