Little bakers

I've cut back on yearly traditions. We know this, though, right? I've written about this before. A few have stuck around, and one of my favorites is decorating sugar cookies. I've spent a lot of my time finding good recipes, techniques, and even tools to do a decent job without a lot of frustration. This year, we didn't do a cookie exchange with anyone and we don't really have a reason to have dozens and dozens of them, so I just made one batch. I grabbed a few for me to decorate and then handed the frosting over to the girls and let them do their child magic. 

She's cute, but she didn't decorate. She's more like our comic relief.

I love them. Imperfect, beautiful, touched with their love cookies. I learned while watching them that they are very neat, almost to a fault. They didn't get any on their clothes and hardly any frosting got on the table. In fact, I had to keep reminding them to put more frosting on each cookie because I hate throwing it away and we all know it's more fun when the cookie is loaded down with sugar. 

We didn't do the white base because of lack of time (that's a whole additional step that takes time to dry) but again, they are just for us. It doesn't matter! 

Also, the girls have already requested heart cookies, so we will be baking and decorating again come February. I'm already excited about it.

My imperfect few, blurry and all

Josie's on the left, Audrey's on the right

The one time of year that dirty dishes are kind of pretty.


Birthdays and snow days

Audrey Joy had her 4th birthday a few weeks ago and we celebrated her exactly how she wanted. In the morning, we went to our favorite place, Sandy's Donuts for breakfast. It snowed that day so the big girls went outside during quiet time. When they came in, I had hot chocolate ready in their tea cups. I got the meal ready for her party, and we had our close family over for some pasta, cake, and play time on that evening. It was not a long get-together but it was exactly perfect for our girl that doesn't necessarily love having a lot of attention aimed at her. Can I just say that this girl is such a delight? She had been building excitement for weeks about her upcoming birthday but it was so innocent and sweet. {sweet -- the word forever tied to this girl, it seems} She so happily shared her birthday treats with her sisters and it just didn't go to her head at all that it was her special day. 


Just one week later, we headed to the lake to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. We had so much fun with everyone that I didn't even think to get photos of it. Puzzles were made, naps were had, food was consumed. What more can you ask for? I did snag a few family photos. The first is us, the second is my aunt Shary's family. 

The rest of the weekend involved us going to a horse and light's parade in a nearby town and going on long walks through the woods and field. The snow was melting rapidly but we managed to hunt down some that had managed to stick around. It was a beautiful weekend.


Pretty close to perfect

The other day ended up being an almost perfect day. We were in the middle of a Blizzard watch and the wind was howling outside. Hubby was out of town and our small group was canceled. I realize that doesn't sound like the makings of an almost perfect day, but somehow it was.

We worked our way through school in the morning. Audrey and Amelia have really gotten good at playing together away from the table which means Josie can focus a little better and I can help her more one on one. We had lunch, nothing special, and quiet time like always. I figured after quiet time we could go outside and shovel the drifts on the driveway. We have a huge driveway so I know it'd take quite a while. We hadn't left the house in two days and I was itching for some exercise, so I was pretty determined to get us out there. Surprisingly, the girls were happy to go out. They'd been looking out the window at the snowy conditions all day and were excited to go and play. 

We bundled up excessively. That North Dakota wind is no joke and I knew we'd need the extra scarves and warmer mittens. Jo and Audrey grabbed their mini shovels and I dug through the shed to find one I could use. Amelia was happy to just walk around. We (I) got most of the shoveling done before the girls were shivering from the wind and dropping temps. We grabbed our Christmas cards for our neighbors and hand delivered them. The girls were happy to be coming inside afterwards but they kept a great attitude the whole time we were out. 

After we warmed up, I got out all the ingredients for gingerbread cookies and all three girls helped me make them. Somehow, that worked. I honestly don't know how, because most of the time I freak out from the mess and chaos or one girl feels left out or something goes awry. This time worked. I threw together a quick dinner while the cookies were baking and the Christmas music was playing. The girls set the table while dancing and singing along. It was kind of magical. 

After dinner, the girls got their Christmas jammies on and we sang some Christmas song favorites that we haven't heard on the radio much (Go Tell it on the Mountain, Away in the Manger, Do you Hear what I Hear, and Oh Christmas Tree). Afterwards, we read a few Christmas books and then Amelia went happily to bed. (Seriously, she's so easy to put to bed so that was nothing special. I just appreciated it particularly that night.) Since hubby wasn't home and I had a long evening alone ahead of me, I let the big girls stay up and play beauty salon with my hair. They will do anything to stay up later so there was no complaining on their part! Plus, it was fun to visit with them without any distractions.

They went to bed quietly which doesn't always happen. I watched an episode or two of something insignificant on Netflix and went to bed. End scene. 

I feel like that needed to be documented for my memory's sake. So many days find me frustrated or counting down the minutes to bed time. I've found myself wishing away the days until hubby is home too many times and not enjoying the gift of being home with all my girls every day. Days like this make me much more aware of these blessings that are no coincidence. It's amazing to me how God can use little details throughout a day to remind me of this. I don't want to forget to be thankful, even on the hard days. I do have to say that we've had a particularly good week which followed a particularly hard week. The cycle will continue I'm sure, but I'm thankful for being able to enjoy the good days when I get them.

{these pictures posted were not from that day in particular}


The new normal

I love Jo's face here.
I think we've found our groove. It's been an adjustment to our schedules, mind frames, friendships, and goals. For one, we continue to be less social than we were before. Before you feel worried, I assure you that we were abnormally social before, and that cutting back to a more reasonable amount does not put us anywhere near "antisocial" (a fear a few have expressed to us when lovingly talking about homeschooling). 

When I was a new stay at home mom with a sixteen month old and a newborn, the thought of being home alone with nobody to talk to and many physical needs to fill completely overwhelmed me. I learned to fill up part of each day with some kind of social event, anything to keep me from going crazy. We met with other friends, went grocery shopping, went to the bank, visited parks, and joined a moms group. It soon became the "norm" for us and the kids adjusted and did well with out daily outings. I give a lot of credit to how well the girls do in public to that time I powered through with them being so little. They learned how to obey me even with an audience and temptations all around. They learned to be patient if we couldn't leave right away or do what they wanted. They learned how to interact with strangers. They learned to enjoy the little things, like the sun shining or running into a friend while running errands.

Then the girls got older. They started talking a lot. They could hold decent conversations and could do much more for themselves physically. My days shifted, even with another baby to take care of, and I found myself not needing to talk to others out of desperation. Of course I still appreciated time with friends and other people, but it wasn't as needed.

Then we reached school age. We started homeschooling. Suddenly, our schedules and routines had to shift to fit in this new stage. I feared that we'd go crazy and drive each other up the wall. Instead, the girls are closer than ever. They can play together with minimal arguing for hours on end. They happily (most of the time) sit at the table to do their lessons. We read a lot, sing a lot, and discuss what is happening around us all the time. They are learning. It's working. 

You can imagine my relief. I had no idea if I could really do this. I've read and heard from many how it's different for everyone and that you just have to find your rhythm. Yet I've also heard so many tell me that they could never do it, that teaching their own child would never work. I understand this, and it definitely stuck around in the back of my mind. 

I'm thankful for the few months we've had at home. I continue to pray that the year goes well and that I can keep my endurance up along with us all keeping positive attitudes. I also pray that our social interactions can be intentional with good conversations and opportunities to grow and learn how to be kind friends with those that may be different than us.

Amelia has adapted to our  new normal pretty well. She has  her little activities she finds to do while we sit at the table. She loves when we read and sing, and she joins in happily to any new activity we start.

Audrey's school is very much led by her. If she wants to work on a workbook, I help her with it. If she wants to do a puzzle instead, that's just fine. I'm happy to have her sit by me at the table, but she doesn't have any required school to do.

We try to do the Pledge of Allegiance every day. They take it seriously and it's hard not to laugh at these three little ladies acting so stoic.