Monday, April 25, 2016

Baby #5

Our family is expecting a new little one in October, one of the reasons I lost all energy to keep this blog to up date. Today I have a blinding headache and overwhelming nausea. I'll be 15 weeks tomorrow, it's amazing how 15 weeks feels like 15 months when your pregnant. I try not to think about the number that still lays ahead. 

One of my favorite things about this pregnancy has been the nurse’s faces when they ask “Is this your first?” I smile back and say “Oh no, it is my fifth” Then I watch as they try not to look shocked and recollect themselves before continuing on with the conversation, usually something along the lines of “Oh, well you’re a pro!”  I have been to the hospital/doctors office many times in these first few months and each time it happens almost exactly the same. In the ER it happens several times per visit as there is always a different nurse coming in and that seems to be the popular question to ask.

Another question I get, though not as often, isn’t as easy to respond to because the answer is personal and complex and hard to sum up in a 5 word sentence.  The question is this “Your pregnancies are so awful, why did you get pregnant 5 times?”  It isn’t always in those exact words but the sentiment is the same. It doesn’t hurt my feelings when people ask, I get it. Pregnancy almost kills me, in fact last week if there hadn’t been a hospital and an IV I probably would have died.  I struggle to function at all let alone function and take care of my kids. It’s hard, and awful, and I really really hate it. So I get why people look at me and think “WHY DOES SHE KEEP DOING IT?”

My closest friends and family know that the majority of my pregnancies weren’t by choice. I mean I guess I chose to do the thing that got me pregnant, so there is that but I had one (or more) birth control options in place at the time and fully expected them to work. Brielle beating out the IUD was probably the biggest surprise.  While that is true, it is also true that I always knew there would be another one. I knew I would have kids (or wanted to at least) I knew after Kaden a little girl was going to come. I dreamed about her before I even got pregnant, I dreamed about curling her long blond hair into ringlets, a thing I have done hundreds of times since she was born. So when we surprisingly got pregnant only 10 months after Kaden was born I wasn’t all that surprised. I felt like I knew her already. After Taycee, I knew there was another one. I felt her presence so closely at times I would look over my shoulder. We decided to take things into our own hands and get pregnant on purpose. That proved to be my scariest pregnancy to date, Addi had complications before she was even born and when my water broke at 34 weeks I drove myself to the hospital in tears. It was too early, she needed so much more time.  After Addi I needed time to heal emotionally. We weren’t sure exactly what we would be dealing with when it came to her and I needed some time to breath and adjust and process. Add to it the fact that Chris was finishing up his PH.D. program and we would soon be uprooted and moved who knew where to start fresh. Yes, I needed so much time. But even then I KNEW there was another one. A far off distant one, sure, but I knew our family wasn’t complete. When I started feeling sick in December of 2012 and it never went away, I knew.  I took a test at 5 am in the morning and found out Miss Brielle wasn’t waiting for my time, she wanted to come now.  Pregnancy was never easy, but I felt so strongly that each little spirit belonged to our family that it made the horrible pregnancies live-able. The IV’s and medications and constant vomiting were just the price I had to pay to get that little person here, and I always felt so strongly that they were mine that it made it somehow not as bad.

Brielle’s pregnancy was probably the worst of the four. I remember laying on the floor near the bathroom sobbing because I was certain I might die, which sound ridiculously dramatic in hindsight but felt so real then. Perhaps it is age that makes each pregnancy a little worse.  Regardless after Brielle came we were done. Our family felt complete. There were no more little whispers or telling dreams.  I had just made it through the most grueling pregnancy yet we had moved across country to start a new life in Virginia.  We felt content and complete and I was 100% sure there would be no more babies in our future. 

Summer of 2014 came and I was seriously considering homeschooling the kids. I had so many reasons, lists of them. I had done the research and found a program I liked. I was excited about it although a little nervous. I was just so sure it was what I should do except I never felt like I was getting a thumbs up from the Big Guy upstairs.  Surly he had an opinion on the matter, these are after all His kids. Public school vs. home school would have huge impact on their life.  I studied it all out, I had a plan I was just waiting for that confirmation that I wasn’t screwing it all up. August approached and a decision had to be made. I prayed and fasted and asked Chris for a blessing. I had decided to homeschool I just needed a little affirmation. I was so sure when he laid his hands on my head that answers were going to come. I can’t tell you now what words were said other than 3 sentences in when I heard these words “Jill, Heavenly Father wants you to know there is another spirit that is waiting to join our family.”  My heart dropped. My body went into a sort of pregnancy PTSD and nausea overtook me.  I wish I could say I handled it well, that I obediently rose up to that occasion and put my faith in His will but I didn’t.  I cried, so many tears. I was angry and upset and completely unwilling to accept any of it.  I begged Chris to take it back. I tried to find ways around it, another child in the next life perhaps, adoption, foster kids… I just couldn’t imagine being pregnant again.

There are a few things I am absolutely sure of and one of them is that Chris was meant for me. Heavenly Father created him to perfectly compliment and control all the crazy that is me. After many tearful nights he was able to calm my heart a little. He assured me he never felt during the blessing that that spirit had to come right now. We had time, I just needed to be aware. Here is the problem, remember my track record with birth control? Every month after that for the next little while I was in a panic sure I had gotten pregnant. Our life was all sorts of crazy back then. Brielle was just over one, Addi had just started therapies through the school system and that brought with it a whole new level of stress and concern, we were in a new place without any family and very few friends, life was good but also a bit overwhelming. I knew there was no way I could handle another baby, let alone the pregnancy.  Time has a way of dulling things, and slowly my concern over another baby faded. It just wasn’t going to happen. There was always that tiny little nagging at the back of my mind that I was completely ignoring counsel I had been directly given, but it was a tiny nagging. I sold most of my baby items including bins and bins of baby clothes. We were done having babies, no question about it. 

 Summer of 2015 came and all of the sudden it looked like we might be moving again.  A job in Washington had come up and it looked like it might be a really good move for our family.  We prayed, oh how we prayed. Chris loved his job in Virginia and wasn’t nearly as excited about the job in Washington. But there were many other factors that were far more appealing about Washington.  We were tied up in knots and unsure what the right move was.  We fasted and prayed and studied out every detail we could but still nothing was clear. Then one night while on my knees again pouring out my heart about this huge decision we needed to make I felt a very distinct answer. “You will move to Washington and you will have a baby.” Well shoot. I told Chris I felt like Washington was the right move and secretly despaired over the rest. I was not having any more babies, babies try to kill me, I had four kids who needed a healthy strong fun mom. Our family was complete.

We did move to Washington and that little nagging turned into a big nagging. I agonized over it again and again, I told Chris all the reasons why it was a terrible terrible idea.  Chris was a saint through it all and just quietly nodded and said “Honey, whatever you chose I will support” I spent so much time trying to talk Heavenly Father out of this idea.  Didn’t he know how awful pregnancy was for me? Didn’t he know how it almost killed me? Didn’t he know I had 4 small children who demand all of my time and love.? Didn’t he know that it would require so much help and support from these people around us who we barely even knew? Didn’t he know that I would do it in an instant if it wasn’t SO HARD?  Well of course he did.  Then there was a moment during my scripture study that I came across the scripture in Mosiah 3:19. A scripture I had memorized when I was in High School.

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, WILLING TO SUBMIT TO ALL THINGS WHICH THE FATHER SEETH FIT TO INFLICT UPON HIM, even as a child doth submit to his father. “

And it hit me like a ton of bricks, Heavenly Father asks us to do hard things. There would be no test of faith no trial no growth if we were never asked to do hard things. How many times had I sat with my kids reading scriptures at night as I spoke these very words? How many times had we read about Nephi building a ship or Abinidi teaching king Noah or Joseph Smith giving everything he had for this gospel and I had born testimony to these sweet little spirits that in this life Heavenly Father will ask us to do hard things, things we don’t think we can do or we don’t want to do but if we have faith He will always help us do them.  I felt so ashamed, I had been telling Heavenly Father for months that if it was just easier for me I would do it. If it wasn’t so hard, if it didn’t require so much, if I could do it on my own… if it required no faith and no struggle and, and, and…. I hadn’t been doing any of the things I tried so hard to teach my children to do. 

It still wasn’t an easy decision. Being willing to submit to all the things which the Father seeth fit to inflict upon you, yeah that is hard. But my heart had been softened and 7 weeks later that spirit that wants so desperately to be here on earth was on the way.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope that maybe my obedience (however slow it was) might be rewarded with an easier pregnancy. Surly it has not, this pregnancy is proving to be the most difficult of them all. But through all of the ups and downs and ER visits and possible miscarriage scares there has been a deep underlying wave of peace. There are still many moments I lay on the couch begging for a reprieve from the misery, sometimes that comes, most times it doesn’t. But doing hard things isn’t easy, if it were we wouldn’t grow.

Heavenly Father moved us to Washington into the most wonderful ward. That was an answer to prayers we hadn’t even said yet. They have been so kind and loving and willing to help in any way.  Accepting service has never been easy for me I am the girl who takes the dinners not the girl who gets them. I am learning, it has been a humbling process. Chris reminds me often that Heavenly Father moved us here because he knew we would need this kind of help, and I am always a little weepy when I think about how aware He is of every need present and future.

So there it is, my 2,000 word answer to that one line question.  I do it because these babies are mine, and because I have been asked to, and because sometimes in order to become more than what we are we do hard things.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Just to document

I have lost my love for this blog. I keep hoping it will resurface but it just isn't happening. I do have a love of looking back and reminiscing on the past. I also understand that in order to do that I have to document the present so it can one day be looked back on. So here I am.

The name of the game around our house the past couple of months have been projects. For my birthday I told Chris I wanted to decorate the bedrooms which turned in to crown molding throughout the house, a laundry room make-over and some furniture up-cycling. Chris is my favorite human and usually jumps on board with my schemes. We are still putting on a few finishing touches but we are almost done with all the projects I set out to do. We have, however, added a few more to the list since then that have yet to be started. I tried to take pictures along the way and will do a total before and after post of all the projects soon.

Kaden participated in his first Blue and Gold banquet. They had a cake boss competition and Kaden opted for a volcano cake.

Kaden also had his first pinewood derby this month. Surprisingly I didn't get a picture of that. Sadly his car wasn't the fastest...or even close to it. Chris vowed next time around he is going to really figure out the tricks and make a car that wins. Kaden didn't seem to care one tiny bit about winning or not, he was just thrilled to be there and when the night ended with twinkie cars, well, it was just the best in his books. 

Kaden finished up his first season of basketball. He ended the season far better than he began, and always had so much fun playing. There is still a lot of room for learning but I think it was a good experience for him and he will be eager to play again next year. Baseball has already started and he is so excited to be playing that again.

Cookies!! I have been making SO many of them. For almost any occasion I find myself whipping up another batch of these delicious cookies. I have even sold a few dozen. 

For my birthday we had some of the Clayton family up to visit. They helped put up crown molding downstairs and were excellent shopping companions for my bedroom makeover. The kids adore them and it is always so hard to say goodbye. We are so happy that we live close enough now that the time between visits is much shorter. 

My cute Valentines this year

Chris made me a delicious raspberry lemon bunt cake for my birthday and gave me a beautiful boquet of roses and lilies. 

Taycee and Kaden both did an educational extravaganza at school this month. They spent all month learning about a chosen subject (and Kaden had to write a report) Then they had a presentation night at school.  Kaden chose to do his project on Albert Einstein and Taycee chose to do hers on lipstick. (are we surprised?... no)  Both kids did such a great job learning about their topics and doing different experiments. On the day of the actual presentation I was quite sick so we didn't go to the open house that night. I felt terrible after all the work they had done. They didn't seem to mind though, their poster boards were there and they had shown their friends and teachers at school that morning. 

Taycee actually made her own lipstick for her project and we put together a little film.


Taycee has also started gymnastics about a month and a half ago and she LOVES it. Of course I have a feeling she would LOVE anything. She is just that kind of girl. She is quite good and I get frustrated that they don't push her to do more during class. The gym has a competitive team that Taycee wants to be a part of but that requires A LOT more time and money and I am not sure we are in a place to be able to do that right now. It kills me though because I am sure she could go quite far. 

We bred Phoebe this last heat cycle. We are hoping for pups next month. We can't tell yet if she is pregnant and I don't know that we will be able to tell for a few more weeks. Which is funny considering if she is pregnant she will be having pups in about 5 weeks. I will be a little frustrated if she is not pregnant seeing as we had to drive her down to Portland for the stud and the stud fee was $300. Here is to hoping we have a few pups to sell in the next few months to make up for that. :D

Brielle gave herself a full frontal chop a couple of weeks ago. When I found the pile of hair on the floor and her stubbled head I wavered between tears and nausea. The tears won and I sat on the floor and cried. So silly, it is just hair but man on man she had a cute head of hair. We we a lot of hats and headbands now and maybe in 2 more years it will look normal again. In the meantime all scissors  have been relocated to the top of the fridge. 

And that just about wraps of February. Hopefully I will have all of our projects finished and pictured soon! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Basketball Kaden

I have a confession. I do not put my kids into organized sports as soon as they turn three. (GASP) It's true, I don't see the need for it. Perhaps if they showed an amazing ability in said sport an were begging to play it would be a different story. But so far with my kids, they are perfectly content just being 3 and playing at home with the family and friends. Another confession... I don't believe in putting your kids in any sport they don't really want to play. There are many things that kids can be doing and while I do believe they should be involved in something, I think it is silly to insist they play a sport (or anything like it) that they don't really want to play. Besides, it is expensive, sheesh! 

Which brings me to my favorite little guy Kaden. When he was 5 he wanted to play soccer. He played for a season and decided it wasn't really something he liked. Last year he played baseball, he loved it and will be playing again this year. When the sign up paper came home this year for basketball he decided he wanted to give it a try. Chris was so excited. We had mentioned basketball in past years but he didn't have much interest at the time. This was it, the basketball playing dad would finally have a basketball playing son. Chris drove to the city rec center got him signed up and eagerly (probably more eagerly than Kaden) awaited the first practice Tuesday night. 

In case you are wondering if Kaden is a natural at basketball, no. Is Kaden very good at all in basketball? No. Much to his father's dismay he did not walk on the court and become the next Michael Jordan. He has A LOT to learn. He is also playing with a team full of boys who probably have moms who put them in basketball when they were three. It has been a frustrating learning process for him but he says he still is happy to be playing. He has had 4 practices and 2 games and he is getting a little better each time. I might have leaked a few tears when I saw him walk to the bench totally dejected and say  "I am terrible at this!". Sometimes I think it is harder to be the mom watching your child struggle than it is to be the child struggling. I am so proud of how he sticks to it though, never once has he asked to quit and every night he asks his dad what he can do to practice.  Most of the time when he is out on the court he is happy as can be and full of excitment. He is always yelling something, "I'm open!" or "Over here!" (even when he really isn't that open or ready for a shot). His coach (who is the sweetest lady ever!) commented on his determination and refusal to give up. It is such a great quality to have and it just might make a basketball player out of him yet.

One thing Kaden is fairly decent at is defense. His very first game, whenever the player he was guarding had the ball Kaden would get right up in his face and start swinging his arms and jumping up and down. It was comical to watch but effective. I think the other player was shocked and didn't know what to do with such a scene. We lovingly refer to this tactic as "monkey defense" because he looks just like an angry age who lost his banana. 

Whether basketball is in his future or not I am so proud to call this sweet happy boy mine.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

On learning to read, and other educational matters

Every time I see a "look what my kids can do" video I cringe a little. Not because I don't love to watch what all my friends cute little kids can do, I do. I smile and giggle and congratulate along with all the rest. I cringe a little because I know somewhere there is a mommy watching that video who feels like she is not enough. Maybe she has a 3 year old who can't name a single letter and has no interest in learning them. Maybe she has noticed at the weekly play dates that her little 4 year old is not nearly as articulate as the other children. Maybe she has already seen two other "My 3 year old can read!!" posts and her 5 year old can't or perhaps no matter what the color her child always emphatically says "BROWN!".  Regardless of the reason, somewhere along the way she has decided it must be something she is doing wrong. Somehow she didn't teach enough, or maybe she isn't monitoring screen time closely enough. Perhaps she should have invested in some early learning materials and started the moment her baby could speak. Whatever the case, her child is different and it is her fault.

To you mommy I say, it's a lie. I have 4 kids, I have a daughter who was reading by 3 and another daughter who is currently 4 and has no interested in letters or words or the sounds that they make. Same mom, same learning environment, just different kids. That is the beauty of kids, they are different. They learn things differently and at different speeds. Not because you did 3 hours of preschool work a day with them from the age of 2 up, just because we are all divinely designed to be different, and that is ok. Actually, it's not just ok, it is wonderful! It is absolutely no indication of the quality of parent you are or your child's future potential. Did you know Thomas Edison  was pulled out of school as a young child because his teacher found him difficult? The precise word she used was "addled" (confused, or having lost the power of development). Yet I currently am typing on my electric powered computer with lights on in my house. Thanks Thomas.  These kids are just that, kids! They deserve time to play and learn at their own pace. I don't mean to say that parents shouldn't attempt to teach at all. As you can see from the video above we do lots of teaching and learning in our house but most of it comes through play. My perfect sweet little 4 year old who has no interest in sit down learning, usually quietly observes and I don't push it. I know when she is ready she will learn all the things she needs to know, in her own way, on her own time. In fact, there are many studies that suggest that pushing education so early is having negative long term effects. (GASP!) But that is another topic for another day.

My main point is this, yes, my two year old knows all the letters in and can recognize her name, but if your two (or three or four or five) year old can't. That's totally okay, he just might invent the worlds first flying car.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Christmas Card 2015

    Chris enjoyed his job at Afton Chemical in Virginia as a Sr. Research Engineer. He also enjoyed scrubbing the bathrooms on weekends and watching his Utes play football. He spent a glorious week in Hawaii with his beautiful wife and got to do some surfing for the first time. He enjoyed Hawaii so much he decided to take a job on the west coast so flying there wouldn’t have to be an all day affair. He has been working at PNNL in Washington for a month and has enjoyed the lack of spiders.  Jill continued running her craft boutique and driving her family batty with her unending picture taking.  She turned the big 30 and found herself slightly more wrinkled and saggy by doing so. She packed approximately 297 school lunches and continues to cook the most delicious broccoli.  Kaden is now in 3rd grade. He started his first year of baseball. He loved playing and found left field to be a place of quiet serenity. He was also baptized on June 13th and tore the knee open in his brand new suit while running in the gym. It was a very hole-y day indeed.  Taycee started 1st grade. She has approximately 17 boyfriends and is already turning her dad’s hair grey.  She loves any footwear that has a heel, lipstick, monkey bars, and pogo sticks. The only thing that matches the beauty of her face is the stench of her feet. She lost 4 teeth this year 2 of them being her front teeth, which has helped calm down the boyfriend situation.  Addison started her first year of preschool and got to take her first school bus ride.  She continues to be the loudest eater on the block. She loves Dora the explorer and it is quite possible she is more fluent in Spanish than English. Brielle spends her days at home playing in mom’s makeup and eating cheese. She mastered the toilet in October and rewards herself by changing her pants and underwear 8 times a day. She loves to sing songs, especially when her sister is telling her to be quiet.
We are loving our new home and neighborhood in Washington and feel so blessed to have each of you in our lives even from far away. It has been a year full of laughs mingled with tears, ripped pants and stinky feet. Sending our love to you and yours this year,

XOXO- The Claytons

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Short years

The days are long but the years are short. Someone said that to me once, before I was a mom. I thought I understood it then, I didn't. As with most things in my life I didn't really grasp the full meaning of that phrase until I became a mother. It wasn't until my days were stretched out with dirty diapers, and tantrums, perpetual messes, and middle of the night visits that I understood how long the days could be and then my first little baby turned 8 and was baptized and I felt a little cheated at how short the years had been.

Life right now is so good, 2015 picked us up and whirled us around but it landed us right back on our feet and it is all just so good. Washington has quickly felt like home to us. More than once Chris and I have looked at each other and said "this was right" and after the painful process of debating and deciding and doing that brought us here I can't begin to say how good that feels.

I think that in 20 years from now I will look back at this time and say "That was the best time" because it truly feels like it is. This stage, the kids ages, it is the most golden of times.

Kaden is still such a kind hearted kid full of so much joy. He is smart and witty and makes us laugh constantly. At the age of 8 he thinks he knows a whole lot about everything and to be honest, he kind of does. He will still talk to anyone and everyone and quickly made a classroom of friends the first week at school. He is always willing to help out and has finally come of age to be on trash duty. Chris is especially happy about that part. (and to be honest so am I, because Chris forgot about the garbages at least 65% of the time) He is always the first to rise at our house and we have had to set a 6:00am rule before he can come out of his bedroom in the morning. Sometimes I worry that he isn't getting enough sleep at night but he still has boundless energy through the day. When he started class here we quickly realized his VA class was quite a ways behind. He didn't seem to mind though and has quickly caught up without much effort at all. He is always up for a game of anything and still jumps up and down with pure glee over the smallest of things. He is the happy in every situation. (unless he is losing to dad at Skylanders)

Taycee is the best big sister anyone could ask for.  She is nurturing and so sweet with her sisters. She is also full of spunk and sass which is almost always directed at her brother and dad. Chris and Taycee are constantly teasing each other and it only occasionally ends in tears on her part. She is so smart, she picks up on anything within minutes. She starts her first gymnastics class next week and I am sure she will be a natural. She loves school, and learning. She has a new best friend Keyne who she makes sure to tell me is NOT a boyfriend just a friend that's a boy. She is so beautiful, inside and out. She is my best little friend, which I wasn't sure would ever happen when she was 3, but it did and I am ever so glad. We paint toes and put on face masks and watch dancing shows, and because she is 7 she thinks being with me is the greatest thing in the world. I am certain that won't always be true so I am trying to hold on to these long days that are making up such short years.

Addison melts my heart on the daily. There is something so pure and innocent about that little one. She is about half way through her first year of pre-school and I think it has been a good experience for her. She is starting to express herself more with words and carried on at least a 5 minute conversation last night at the dinner table all about Axel, and Victoria and the fun they have a school. I still question myself when it comes to her and what is best, but I also feel a peace and I am ever aware that Heavenly Father knows her best and will guide us in the decisions we make. She is sweet and gentle and has a smile that lights up her whole face. She loves to color and draw, we go through a lot of paper with all of her artwork. She has a few phrases that always make me laugh like whenever we are asking her to do something she doesn't like and she holds her palm out to us and says "calm down, calm down" It is impossible to hear her say the word "slippery" without smiling. Because is sounds more like "swip-der-lee" Chris puts footie jammies on her and tells her to run around the kitchen just so he can hear her say "woah it's slippery" over and over. Whenever she is relieved over something she wipes her hand over her forehead and says "oh FLEW, that was close". The other day after running and flapping her arms up and down she said in a most annoyed voice "I CAN'T FLY"

Brielle is equal parts adorable and exasperating. She rules my life, and she knows it. She has me laughing one moment and clenching my jaw the next. She is TWO in full force and she is taking the world by storm. We went to the library yesterday and between her fur boots, jean jacket, pink purse and green binoculars she has most everyone smiling. There is something so refreshing about little kids and their unabashed determination to be just exactly who they are. She has the BEST kissy lips and isn't afraid to lay a kiss (or 5) on your cheek, or lips, depending on her mood. She talks constantly and the majority of it is understandable. She LOVE to eat and sometimes clenches her fists and squeals in excitement when she sees food on the table. Her new favorite thing is to tell knock jokes, and not matter what the joke is she ends it with "don't cry it's just a joke." Usually it is something along the lines of knock knock...who's there... banana...banana who... don't cry it's just a joke! After which she fake laughs for a few seconds and then says "I'm funny" She is full of personality, and naughty, but she is quick to say "sorry mom" and she is pretty good at cleaning up her own messes. Actually a lot of times she comes to tell me she made a mess, and then cleans it up. I can live with that.

My days are still long, and the hours during which I sleep never seem to be quite long enough, but they are just so full of good. I wish I could bottle up the giggles in the morning and the kisses on the cheek, the nights playing games around the table and the "tricky" dancing in the living room, so that when I am 60 and my kids are gone I could pull them back out and relive these days. We have so much fun. Of course it is intermixed with tears, and tantrums and spilled cups of milk but the happy moments far outweigh the sad and they make my life so full.

The days are long but the years are short so I am doing my best to hold on and take it all in.

Friday, January 8, 2016

That's Christmas to me

Christmas came in a blur. I guess that happens when you spend most of November and December unpacking boxes and setting up house. Luckily I have kids who make sure the important things happen, like putting up a Christmas tree and carrying out all of our family Christmas traditions.
Christmas Eve started bright and early with our North Pole breakfast made by our little elf Jimmy. He made us delicious red and green apple french toast and the highly requested snowman milk. Kids at our house are early risers so Jimmy has to be up before the sun to have his breakfast ready. I'm guessing that leaves Jimmy fairly tired for the rest of the day. (Actually I am not guessing. It does. Very tired.)
Chris and I really try keep our family's focus on Christ through the Christmas season. When the kids wanted to throw Jesus a birthday party I was more than happy to oblige. The kids did all the planning. They made invitations and decorated a special birthday chair. We made and decorated birthday cupcakes and each wrote down our special gifts for the Savior this year then wrapped them. I spent a lot of time asking the kids what it would be like if the Savior was really coming to His party. What would they wear? What would they want to be doing, or saying? It let us all reflect on what we want our home to be. I came to the realization that if the Savior was going to walk into my home I would care a lot more about what it felt like than what it looked like. (Although the clean OCD side of me would take care of that as well I am sure)

After the birthday party we played our traditional Christmas Olympics. I think the kids like that part of Christmas Eve just as much as they like opening presents on Christmas day. We ended Christmas Eve with a special birthday dinner and made sure to set a place for the Savior. After opening new Christmas jammies and whipping up a batch of Santa cookies the kids were off to bed.

We told the kids they couldn't wake us up until 6:00am however at 5:00 they were all awake and walking around upstairs which meant we were up as well so Christmas morning also started bright and early. I was tired, like can't see straight tired, but I would do it all again (and I will in about 12 months). Watching these little people that I love burst with happiness at each new surprise makes my heart so happy.  These are the best years. I know it. So I'll take early mornings, late nights, and too tired to see days because they come with excited squeals, and beaming faces and so many happy memories.

Brielle playing our hang the ornament game. She has THE BEST kissy lips.

Clayton Christmas from Jill Clayton on Vimeo.