Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas 2009 - Ascha's First Christmas

We had a great Christmas as a family of 5.

Here's a picture of the boys with their "Cuddle Buddies" - blankets that have hoods, paws, and tails. All the Christmas morning pictures look about the same, just swap out which present they're smiling about. :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Preparations and "Real" Snow

We've had almost two weeks of snow. It started out with about an inch and a half...and we were so excited we managed to build a snowman even though there wasn't much snow. Then it REALLY snowed - we had about 18 inches or so when all was said and done. I didn't get any pictures of the maximum amount, but did get some a few days in...our trees were so beautiful coated in white! We got an ice layer which made the branches quite heavy, but we only lost one scrubby tree we didn't like very well anyway. Our massive Douglas Fir lost three large branches...thankfully, that was the only real damage our out-of-its-element foliage sustained. 

We've all been struggling with never-ending colds (I'm not being overly-dramatic, unfortunately. Taylor's had it for over seven weeks and still isn't completely over it! The rest of us are about four weeks behind). Because we'd break into coughing fits whenever our lungs hit cold air, we didn't enjoy the snow nearly as much as we would've liked. We went out for five or ten-minute spurts here and there. Mostly, though, we enjoyed the snow through the windows and did lots of inside Christmas activities.

Here are the boys with the gingerbread men and angels they made:

...and here are the boys helping Dad crack open pecans. I needed them for baklava and was reminded by Grandma Janet that they'd enjoyed cracking nuts with her this summer. What I view as a mundane chore ended up being a really fun time for the boys (and Dad was game enough, although he's definitely not ready to declare it a favorite pastime).

...And here's the obligatory baby pic - who could resist posting those giant dimples whenever possible?

The prelude to lots of snow: Aric's turn with the shovel. After we had a lot of snow, the kids didn't want to shovel anymore for some reason. I wonder why????

Here's our little snow guy. The boys were ready to be done rolling him when he was about a foot high, but I insisted that we "finish the job!" I came outside to help during Ascha's naptime and I figured I'd better make sure he was complete before I went back in the house, or he'd never get done. (Can you tell I'm projecting my procrastinator's nature onto my kids? Poor guys...they probably would have had more fun making him slowly over a longer period of time, but at least the boys were still smiling after he was finished!)

Here he is a few days into the snow.  He looks rather shocked, eh? :-) 

Beautiful trees:

Tree Hunting in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

These days, at least in Washington, tree hunting really does have quite a bit in common with hunting: you pay for a permit, then you must "IMMEDIATELY" tag your tree with the day, month, and year upon cutting it, and that tag must remain conspicuous the entire time the tree is in transit to your home. Mildly amusing to us Montanans (although the same system may be in place back there now... it's just a lot different than when we were growing up). 

Jeremy's figured out a new way to get out of the despised chore of having his picture taken: he takes the picture! :-)

Ascha isn't nearly so cold as she looks. It was a mild day, but I guess she wasn't too sure about this hunting business. Doesn't she have an expressive (and prominently muscled) forehead? :-)

Jeremy let each of the boys have a few whacks with the hatchet as he cleared the lower branches off the tree. It was a scary time for this mama, but no one was injured. :-) (In all fairness, they did just fine and learned during the process, so I can't really complain.)

After the tree was felled, it was time for a science project... Our tree was about 15 years old.

The victors...

...the spoils. (hot cocoa and candy canes)

Homeward Bound...

I don't know why, but this is the only picture I took of the boys decorating the tree.

This year we started a new "count." In the past, both boys have been able to jointly put on the star, but they are getting a bit too heavy (note Daddy's strained face with just one boy above his head). Taylor took a turn this year, so next year, it'll be Aric's job.

Taylor's Sixth Birthday

It's hard to believe that our Baby Tay-Tay has grown into a big six-year-old! He doesn't like cake anymore, so we made him this special peppermint ice cream cake. (Good thing he was born in December!)

He had three friends over (plus himself & Aric makes five) for a nice little party. All the boys decorated "mini-pinatas" and enjoyed a few hours of sugared-up playtime.

In the evening, Taylor opened his family gifts. This face occured when he realized Grandma and Grandpa had given him a transformer that was a tank (he'd been asking everyone for a tank and a transformer, so to have them combined was thrilling, apparently).

The afterglow:

We got him Battleship, so this is how he's spent a lot of his time off from school:

Happy Birthday, Buddy!  We love you so much and are so thankful for each year we have gotten to spend with you in our family! We look forward to many more!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

November Update

November was a month of playing "catch-up." 

When we got back from Montana, the first order of business was butchering Jeremy's elk. We got it all done, and the kids even got in on the fun. They helped us label the ground burger "Ham 08." They were both very proud to be helping out (and getting to use PERMANENT markers! That's big stuff around here. :-)

I spent November figuring out how to parent three kiddos without backup from a grandma. :-) It was the first time we'd been a family of five, living in this house, for any length of time "by ourselves." Jeremy went upriver a number of times, so I definitely got initiated. Between taking Taylor to school in the morning, doing reading lessons with Aric, having lunch, doing homework with Taylor, and nursing and caring for Ascha, I've found that I don't have much of a "day" until rest time comes. Taylor informed me that his friends don't have to take a rest every day...I reminded him that lots of his mommy's rules are different from other mommies'. :-) Truth be told, it's really MOMMY who needs rest time. Being more scheduled has been a good change for me, though. I have always had a love/hate relationship with organization, lists, and scheduling. They are very good for me, but I do enjoy throwing them out the window whenever possible. I think that rebellious phase has to disappear for a while (at least until the summer), because in addition to school, Taylor's going to start wrestling 2 nights a week in January.

With all this scheduling, I've been finding time for the necessary (time with the kiddos, keeping up the house, paying the bills, and playing where we can when Jeremy is home), and leaving the less necessary (emailing and blogging) for later. (You knew the excuse was coming, didn't you? Sorry I haven't been posting...I'll try to get all caught up before Taylor heads back to school and my routine takes over again. :-)

Enough about me...let's talk about baby!

Ascha keeps growing and growing. Here's an early November shot:

She discovered her toes:

She's becoming more and more fun for every member of the family as she grows and interacts.

Check out her personality! (And the handsome big boys, too!)

I particularly love this picture because it reminds me of the many pictures of Taylor half-strangling Aric. Aric often had an expression very similar to this one. :-)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

October Update

We had a nice visit from Grandpa Lyn at the beginning of October. These boys sure love hanging out with Grandpa and his dog, "Whifford." Her name is "Whiff," but the kids have adapted it to sound more like "Clifford, the big red dog," I guess. Grandpa likes it just fine, so around here, her name is "Whifford." :-)

We spent some fun down-time as a family at our favorite area park. 

(Ascha loves to be toted around this way.)

This isn't a very clear picture, but I have to include it because I love Taylor's expression so much. This is the moment after he rode his bicycle off the curb for the first time. He had no problem staying on, and he loved the adrenaline of "jumping" (can't you tell?). Aric started doing the same thing, which wasn't so good for his training wheels. The day after these pictures were taken, he and Daddy removed the bent-backward training wheels, and both boys have been "two-wheeling" together ever since!

Of course, we always love playground equipment. At this particular park, Aric ends up leaving his bike helmet on so he can easily switch between playing and riding. For Aric, a helmet is prudent playground garb because on a couple of occasions, he's hit his head fairly hard. With the helmet on, he just laughs. :-)

We didn't ever end up going camping this summer, so we decided to cap "the end of summer" (or "when the camping dream finally died," since summer had already been over for a while) with a s'mores night out on our back deck.

Ascha got to hang out inside, but she didn't mind too much. 

After these few days of "recuperation time," we headed to Montana, where we spent the bulk of October. Thankfully, our earlier trip to Idaho had apparently used up all of Ascha's allotted "car screaming time" ... this trip was much less painful in that regard. 

Jeremy did plenty of bow hunting and bagged his largest bull elk yet on opening day of rifle season. 

I am pretty excited to have relatively TENDER meat in the freezer after a few years of tough game. For whatever reason, this big bull is tasty, not at all gamey, and less tough than his smaller counterparts from previous years. Hooray! I've been trying to use up all the meat from previous years before getting around to the "new meat," but I can't resist pulling out some great steaks about every other week.

While Jeremy was out hunting, the kids and I LOVED hanging out at Grammy and Grumpy's, spending time with family and friends at a more leisurely pace. Usually, our trips are a whirlwind of just trying to see a glimpse of everyone, but this time, we got to spend more time with people and we got to do more fun things. We are so thankful for the great memories! 

Grammy and the boys made a scarecrow with leaves from the yard.

We went to Bozeman and saw the Museum of the Rockies with cousins Connor and Kaylee.

The kids got to go for a thrilling ride up, up, up in Grumpy's bucket truck.

A little perspective:

We helped Aunt Pat feed the calves and climbed the climbing tree with Uncle "Brucer."

Of course we rode motorcycles.

We went to a few Friday night football games to cheer on Uncle Spencer's team (Go Big Blue! They made it to the playoffs after a great season and some very exciting play while we were there. I love the atmosphere at high school football games and haven't been to a game in many years! It was fun!) The kids had a blast, as usual, at Grammy and Grumpy's church with all their little "Montana friends." At the end of our stay, we had a fun Halloween. Grrreat Grama & Grrreat Papa came and helped the kids get ready, then we went around to all the relatives' houses for more visiting!

We had lots of great times with Grandparents...

...Great Grandparents...

(Four Generations of Girls! :-)

...Aunts and uncles.

We love our family! (...and books, too, if the pictures are any indication. :-)