Four months ago, I experienced quite possibly one of the largest changes in motherhood as I sent all my kids out the door to school for the first time.
The question I kept getting from everyone was: What will you do with all your extra time? It was a valid question. I appeared to be gaining an extra 5 hours in my day of uninterrupted time – what would I do with it? Years ago, when people asked what I planned to do when all my kids went to school, I always just assumed I’d pick up more graphic design clients and do some more projects on the house. But the reality is I didn’t do either of those things.
Instead, I made a shift. I used to spend my evening hours working late into the night, while my kids were sleeping. But the funny thing about kids is the older they get, the later they stay up and I found myself not being able to complete work projects at night anymore. So I shifted my working hours to the daytime while they were in school. (Although I still stay up far later than I should – most of it is for fun.) This shift was important and came at a critical time in my kids’ lives as they were needing me at night. They needed help with homework. They needed a carpool driver. They needed someone to just listen to them. They needed me. And I was happy to make the shift.
So my daytime consists of connecting with Steve (he works from home too), working, a few projects, managing a home and serving in different capacities. My evenings are centered on kids and their activities and their needs. I call it the great shift of 2021.
Even months in, I’m still making adjustments, trying to find the best balance for all I’m trying to accomplish – and life is hard to keep up with sometimes!
Just today, I recognized a paradigm I needed to shift. For so many years, my daytime schedule revolved around preschool (8:30-11am) and Nap time (1-3pm). Which meant, I would get errands done with a child on my hip while one was at preschool and once they were home from preschool, we were home for the afternoon; having lunch and going down for naps until kids got home from school.
This morning, I started working and by 11, I was in a good place and thought I should run to Sam’s Club to stock up on food. I looked at the clock and saw it was just after 11 and my first thought was that I had run out of time for the day and I would go tomorrow. I still have it engrained in my head that by 11, I need to be home – which is crazy since my kids don’t get home until 3! I’m working to shift those thoughts but I can’t count how many times I’ve told myself it’s too late to go run an errand. An errand that at most would take an hour. Clearly, I’ve still got some work to do in my great shift!
But I love where I’m at.
We visited the ocean over Christmas break and it was shockingly cold and windy and rained on and off the whole time we were there. But that didn’t stop us from making a visit to the beach. I watched as Briggs tried escaping the waves, over and over again. The bottom of his pants started to get wet so I helped him roll them up in an effort to keep him as dry as possible. I was bundled in my warmest winter jacket and he was trying to escape waves. 🙂
It wasn’t too long after this picture that he started getting fancy and tried beating the wave by running backwards. I’ll give you one guess as to how that ended up. Its as if it happened in slow motion – I watched him tumble to the ground and the wave slowly rolled over him. He looked at me in complete shock but he never wiped the smile off his face. We trudged back to the top of the sandy hill where we attempted to remove all his wet clothes and bundled him in his dry jacket and the extra pants that Bennett brought and then sat him next to the fire where we were cooking lunch.
He’s a tough cookie. He was cold, but he didn’t whine, or shed a tear. He was just wishing that he was warm enough to go back down to waves and try another round of chicken!
Christmas cards might be one of my favorite Christmas traditions – sending them and receiving them. Some years, we have a plan in advance – other times, we are fighting against time to get it printed before Christmas. This year, we were lucky to get them done!
Let me give you a little background info on how this card came to be – because I’m often asked how we come up with these. I had hoped to use our Halloween costumes on our card (if you’ve been around for some time, you’ll remember we’ve done this many times) but there were some in the family that weren’t loving the idea of being in spandex and masks for our card this year. I was busy with the Turkey Trot and didn’t leave much time for any creative process. Steve sat down with me one evening as we brainstormed what represented our family this year. And he came up with the phrase. With the phrase/theme of the card nailed down, I immediately knew I could make it fun and base it around candy. I spent the next morning running around town picking up candy/treats.
We had already created a spinning card a few years back when we wrapped our kids in lights so I knew I had a template that the printer was familiar with – so we decided a spinning card was the winner. That evening, in a matter of one hour, I ransacked the kids closets to find clothing in the colors of the rainbow and I shot each kid individually and Hallie shot my photos. (Believe it or not, I picked the colors of the card before I went through their closets and by some small miracle, we had clothing that matched every color – except one, in which we photoshopped it to match, and even when I’ve had people guess which one was photoshopped, they don’t guess correctly!) Steve was gone for the evening so we caught him the next morning before he flew out for a work trip and by that evening the card was done and ready to send to print. So within 72 hours we had gone from no ideas, to a completed card. It rarely works like that – but the stars aligned for us this year.
It was fun to see the finished card hanging in the homes of friends and family and to see who was being featured! Of course, I had a few children (I won’t name any names) who liked to rotate the image to them in every house they visited.
Every year I don’t think Christmas can top the year before – and every year I’m shocked it does! It just keeps getting better as our family has grown. I watched in awe Christmas morning at just how content and happy I was in that moment, knowing very well these moments don’t last. Hands down, my favorite day of the year.
Cannon received his 8-year-old baptism journal that I’ve made for each kid. He was so surprised because when he asked about it the week prior I said I would try and get it made for him after Christmas.
A packers shirt for our packers fan…
And Suns shirts all around!
Every Christmas there seems to be an unforgettable moment – this year was no exception.
Side note: When opening presents, the kids choose gifts from under the tree, and we don’t dictate what order they open them.
Bennett watched his sister open a gift that he wanted so badly – concert tickets. And yet he held it together pretty well and seemed genuinely happy for her. A while later he watched Hunter open the same gift. In an effort to not spoil Bennett’s surprise, we said it was just the two of them going. He was visibly devastated. Part of me wanted to tell him immediately that he was going too – but part of me wanted him to sit with that emotion. I pulled him over to me and reminded him that I work so hard to make sure everyone is happy on Christmas and I have a pretty good track record – he just needed to trust that I would find the gifts just right for him, although that may be different from his siblings. We had a little moment and it was a beautiful. Meanwhile, Hunter went searching under the tree feeling all the presents and realized there was another gift under the tree with what felt like a paper taped to the package under the wrapping. And as everyone grabbed their next round present, Hunter nonchalantly handed him the package. (I love that Hunter was so concerned for him that he wanted him to be happy too.)
This was his face when he opened it.
He was more than a little surprised and then quite emotional about it.
He immediately came over to me and gave me a hug and we had another tender moment. I underestimated just how excited he would be for that gift – but given he knows the album better than his siblings, I should have known. He had a 1 in 3 chance of opening that gift first and it didn’t work out that way – and I think it worked out just right.
It was such a good reminder that it is sometimes so hard to be happy for people, even when you know you should be. It’s something we all have to be aware of and work at in one form or another. That idea was something I couldn’t shake the rest of the day – that moment replayed in my head.
I couldn’t help but put myself in Bennett’s shoes and remember times where I’ve been seriously disappointed with something in my life. Sure, I should have been happy for people when I could see it was working out for them. But instead I sat in my frustration and/or pity. It’s not a fun place to be.
I can’t help but think of the parallel to our Father in Heaven in this situation. I know he reassures us the same way I was trying to reassure Bennett in his despair. “Can’t you see that I know you so well – but you’re going to have to trust that I know what’s best for you and I’m looking out for your best interest, regardless of the outcome.”
I think Bennett learned a lot of in this moment and I think I learned even more. Not to mention all the kids that witnessed it and the pain they felt for Bennett when he was so disappointed. And I love that Hunter sprung to action so quickly trying to solve the problem and make him feel better. It was my Christmas moment of the day for sure.
We had a beautiful, lazy, family-focused day – smiles all around!
Kids are fun on Christmas morning because they are genuinely excited and they are not afraid to show it! As I scrolled through the pictures I took, I saw a common theme – the open mouth look of surprise. Each of the kids had their moment of surprise for their own gifts – and then equally surprised for their siblings’ gifts. (They don’t know any of their siblings’ gifts prior to watching them open, so it’s a surprise for every one.)
Even on the most basic of gifts – when Briggs opened a Pop-it – you would have thought by Cannon’s face that he got a TV for his room! It’s really one of my favorite things about Christmas morning, there is so much genuine happiness and excitement and on top of it all – gratitude. Cannon is our hugger and after each gift, he was coming over to give us bear hugs telling us thank you. (He’s also one of the most animated as everyone else is opening gifts.) Bennett is animated as well, but is also very vocal – loudly proclaiming that something is awesome!!
I’m fully aware that this excitement will probably fade. They won’t always give the open mouth surprised face – or perhaps even care what their siblings received. But they did this year and I wanted to capture it!
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