It was such a lovely day of celebrating 12!   


We had a nice morning of skating and making gingerbread cookies.


And of course opened gifts. As always is she was so appreciative of her gifts.  And as they always are, her siblings were so excited to give them to her.


We will have her official party sometime in January.  Today was just a relaxing day with some family visitors- Grandma Lee and Papa, Kris and Katie.  Perfect really.



I can never believe it when one of my children turn a year older, but especially with Grace it seems.  12 is just so old.  But I'm so proud of the beautiful person she has become.




I found this pretty little Christmas mess yesterday.  It seemed document worthy.


Skating Season


{Nora's first year on one blade skates}

{Putting on a skating show}


Iyla and I walked down to see the skaters today.  She wasn't too thrilled with the temperature.  The skaters on the other hand thought it was just lovely (even complained about being hot).

They've been coming down here everyday since the pond froze over.  They take turns holding Iyla as I help tighten their skates.  Then excitedly they trek down the hill to our sweet little skating rink.  It's one of those things I never knew I always wanted for my kids until we landed here.  Now I wouldn't have it any other way.  I am certain as grown ups they will recall the pond as some of their happiest winter memories.



What I recently realized I really love about this space, is that it somehow creates the feeling (illusion) of time slowing down.  Somehow stopping to reflect on life creates the feeling of an actual pause as well.  I need that more than ever right now.  A pause.  There is nothing like a baby to make you feel like time is moving at record speed.  I'm really going to make an effort to come here.  Once a week?  Could I write once a week?  I will try.

{Christmas card outtake}

Grace offered to write a Christmas letter this year and I couldn't be more proud of her- for both the letter she wrote and for taking that on.  It is so sweet and simple, and yet encompasses very nicely the true highlights of our year.  I am hoping to finish addressing the cards this weekend and finally get them out.

{Making some glitter play dough for the littlest cousins}

 We celebrated our first Christmas last weekend.  One out of five.  Good thing we like Christmas.

{Presenting their "person of history" for homeschool group}

The kids spent so much time over the last month working hard on their homeschool presentations.  Grace did Sarah Edmonds, Jackson did Crazy Horse and Nora did Maria Merrian.  Those projects represent what I think all of us would consider our favorite type of learning, project based.  It is very hands off for me (which I love) and very hands on for them (which I also love).  Plus they ended up doing a lot of reading together to learn about each of their people so we all learned so much.  There are some homeschool families who do all their homeschooling through project based learning.  I'd really like to try and incorporate more of that into our year.

{Making pomanders with our dear friends)

I wasn't sure how this Christmas season would go given little Iyla's arrival.  But I feel like we have still been able to do many of the traditions we love, maybe just scaled down a bit.  This weekend is our making weekend where we sneak around making each other gifts.  It is my favorite.  We tried to keep that simple too this year, given that our first priority is to enjoy ourselves.  Iyla told me she is most happy because she doesn't have to go anywhere this weekend.  She's not a big fan of the car these days.  I'm really looking forward to that part too (being home) and some Christmasing with my people.



The Christmas Tree and Santa

{Photo by Katie}




{Here's what Iyla thought of Santa}

{Brother and sisters rescuing Iyla from Santa}





Our co-op tradition is the most unexpected of holiday traditions, but it has become one of my favorites.  Several weeks before Thanksgiving on a random shopping trip, one of the kids will notice the three ring binder with a turkey on the front is sitting out by the deli section.  There will be a few cheers about how close Thanksgiving is and then I'll turn the book to the very last page and add my name under the 24 to 25 pound turkey list.

This year went just like that.  And as Thanksgiving approached there was a lot of talk and anticipation about the Tuesday before Thanksgiving shopping trip.  It's the kick off to our holiday celebration and I love that the kids see it that way too (and remember it each year before I bring it up).


I'm so aware these days of how fast life goes.  For the most part that is a good thing because it keeps me in the moment and appreciating what I have.  Sometimes though it leaves me too aware.  It stings just a bit to know that I won't always have these little troopers around to do life with on a daily basis. That is what I was thinking about this year as they posed with the turkey on their head for a picture.  But then I remembered that traditions die hard and maybe, just maybe, I'll be lucky enough to have teenagers who still want to shop with me and pose for silly pictures.

{They did all of their baking without me.  I only came in the kitchen to take the picture.}

On Wednesday we spent the day cleaning and baking.  Cornbread for Jackson and pumpkin bars for Grace.  I made some venison summer sausage and precooked my delicata squash.  It was a wonderful day of preparations and thankfully spirits were high for most of the day which always makes cleaning and cooking more fun.


As for the actual day of Thanksgiving this year it was another really good one, minus the snow that I wanted.  Also I had a real crabby hour right before everyone came but then all was good after that.





{Maya watching the squirrels while we finish getting dinner ready}

{Katie's beautiful place settings}

It was a nice relaxing day.  There was a cozy fire, and puzzling, and appetizers, and a lot of passing around a sleepy Iyla.  We are trying to teach Grace and Jackson 500, the card game I grew up playing at every holiday.  Grace is really enjoying it and it was fun to get in some rounds of that.


Dinner was SO, SO good.  We are all running on autopilot for the most part.  My mom making her potatoes, stuffing and gravy, Katie with cream cheese corn, green beans and cranberries and Ryan with the turkey.  Jackson has made cornbread for several years now and Grace her pumpkin bars.  I always make some sort of squash and the last few years I've gone with delicata which I've been happy with.  I was also able to make some venison summer sausage for appetizers this year which I'd like to make a tradition.  I changed up my pumpkin pie recipe this year too which I liked way better (sorry Mark Bittman, I do love you but it turns out pumpkin pie needs condensed milk).  Anyway, dinner was delicious.  Iyla even pulled off a Thanksgiving miracle and slept through the whole meal.


Thanksgiving notes:
~ Jackson's new cornbread recipe
~ Grace's new pumpkin bar recipe
~ My new pumpkin pie recipe
~ The turkey was 23 and 3/4 pound and it took about 4 hours and 15 minutes at 350.
~ It worked well to cook the squash the night before.  I baked it until it was done.  Then on Thanksgiving I warmed it in an electric fryer for 30 to 45 minutes.
~ We didn't have a salad this year and I missed that.  We always have so many vegetables that I didn't think we would miss it but I did.
~ Katie and Kris slept over in the camper again which is such a fun way to end the day.  Hoping that tradition continues.

{Grace and Nora made menus for all of the dessert selections.  Grandma Sam and Grandpa Scott joined us for dessert too Grandma brought all of her pies.}

{Happy Birthday Grandma Lee!}


Today after a morning of towing the kids up to the rental for a few hours to clean it and show it, we took them out to lunch.  It was the first time we've gone out for a meal since we had Iyla.  Nothing fancy, we just went to Eichten's, a small casual bistro near our rental property, but it usually has pretty good food.  On our way there I could feel all of us, spirits lifted after checking that two hour job off our to-do list, anticipating lunch out.  Actually I was excited for the whole day.  We had decided to make the rest of the day a family day, something we don't do enough of, and something about that felt very liberating.  

{a very quick stop at the river on our way home}

At the resturant 4 different people complemented us on our family.  "You have a really beautiful family" one couple said on their way out.  Three of the waitresses came over separately to tell us how great our kids were, "they are all so well behaved" they kept saying.  In fairness, had any of these people seen some of the moments getting our kids out the door this morning, or bouncing around at the apartment waiting to be done there, they may have had other things to say about us.  So I don't think it's as much a reflection of our parenting (although I do think it's something to be proud of as a family) but more of a reflection of our moods.  We were all just happy and enjoying each other's company.  Again partly (I think) because it was a treat to have dedicated the rest of the day to each other.  

After lunch we made a stop at the co-op to pick up a few things for Ryan's venison dinner he was making and then off to get Ryan and the big kids haircuts.  These are silly, mundane things but I just had this good feeling all day.  As the one who usually has to run errands solo with the kids it felt like a treat to be running errands with all 6 of us.  Plus they were both quick stops and then it was back home for a movie and popcorn (Despicable Me), followed by Ryan's venison dinner, and charades (using the new game/app on my phone).  

I'm realizing tonight as I reflect on our day that I just want more of this.  It doesn't need to be anything extravagant, but intentional time spent with each other is so good for all of us.  I'm going to work on working that in...


Approximately 789 times a day I think of this space.  I compose posts in my head pertaining to one moment or another.  High moments- today, carrying Iyla around in the sling, finally tired out of crying, she suddenly got really quiet, looked up right into my eyes, and smiled, over and over.  Low moments- today carrying Iyla around trying hard to keep her happy or asleep, but being unsuccessful at neither (aside from the sling moment above and our bath).  The moments come and go so quickly and vary so drastically.  Completely exhausted I carve out an hour and a half to nap with Iyla on my chest- sweet bliss.  Completely exhausted I try and pull off the same stunt a day later only to repeatedly have her wake up, again and again after I lay down- nap not happening, continuing on with my day as is, half asleep.

{6 days old}

Overall- I'd say life with baby number four has been the easiest transition for me.  But I think it has less to do with the number and more to do with the ages of my older kids.  They are the best helpers and so completely in love with their little sister.

{4 days old}

{7 days old}

{9 days old}

That being said it of course is a transition and with that comes moments of being overwhelmed and discouraged.  The hardest times are when I decide I'm going to do something.  You know, like make a plan.  This post for example.  I'm going to finish writing my blog post today is just the sort of thing that invites the universe to say, errr, okay we will just see about that.  Then the universe has a good laugh at me as everything one can and can't imagine intervines in my plan.  For example within the last hour of writing this (which by the way, this blog post has taken two days so far), Iyla has woken up and needed rocking back to sleep (make that twice), there have been three fights between the bigger kids, the Fedex guy delivered a package, two children wondered in the kitchen claiming they were hungry (and then proceeded to eat chips loud enough to wake Iyla who is asleep on another floor), the laundry had to be put in the dryer, the dishwasher needed to be started, and right now there is a new mess in the living room that I'm going to have to direct someone to clean up.  Oh also, I just yelled for the 11th time to pleeeeease walk with quiet feet.



So I am forced to let go, again and again and again.  Let go of plans and ideas about how things will go.  How life will go from moment to moment.  In the mean time, life does keep going.  Moments keep happening.  And if I don't let go of how I think it's suppose to go, I miss the ones that I'm actually in.

{Nora, studying butterflies in the garden}

{Jackson about to eat one of the mini quiches he made us all for lunch}

{apple picking}

{Grace, rocking Iyla to sleep}

{Nora on the tree swing}

{her hand on mine...}

{laundry- family of 6. also can you find Iyla?}

There are so many things I want to post that I'm behind on.  Apple picking, Halloween, homeschooling.  I hope I actually do.  But in the mean time I'm trying my best to live into these moments.

Current moment, happening as I type- fort building...