We finished 2021 well - enjoying the Advent season, celebrating Christmas, skiing, and spending time with good friends.
"I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass."
Welcome to “Moments” here on JoyFoodSunshine. At the end of every month I share a recap of our family's favorite moments! Here's a snapshot of our life from December 2021!
2021 will go down as one of the best most wonderful years of our lives. From welcoming baby Z and completing our family, to watching our church grow and thrive and realizing we were made to live in such a time in history as this.
This month was truly wonderful. I cannot express how much we enjoyed just being together as a family and celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Baby Z - 11 Months
Zach is a totally different baby this month than he was in November. Here are a few milestones:
Crawling. He went from inchworm crawling to regular crawling very quickly. He now gets into everything. I can't sit down for a minute before I have to see where he has wandered off to or what kind of trouble he has gotten himself into. This makes homeschool especially challenging - but fun!
He is also in the phase where he will crawl to find me. If I go into my bedroom for anything he's always right on my heels. I play a game where I go into a different room and call his name and he crawls to find me. I love hearing his little pitter patter get closer and closer and the squeal of delight he lets out when our eyes meet just melts my heart.
He's loving this new-found freedom so much that he has started arching his back to get out of our arms so we will put him down and he can explore. I'm not as much of a fan of this little development, but he still loves snuggling his mama so there's that.
Open mouth smile. When this kid smiles he does it with his entire body and soul. I love that giant open-mouth grin so much.
Eating finger foods. Z went fro 0 to 60 when it comes to finger foods. He went from choking on puffs to literally crying when I tried to feed him purees while the rest of the family was eating normal food. Since he wants to eat everything, it's been hard to find the balance of slowly introducing him to new healthy foods and just giving him tastes of whatever we're eating.
"Talking." Z has specific grunting or babbling sounds that mean different things. I swear he has a sound that means "I love you!" He "talks" the most to Keilah! It's so cute. He'll look at her and grunt, she'll reply, he'll grunt back, and it'll go on like they're having a conversation. It's so cute.
This little two-finger, lovie snuggling nugget is just the best. I love
Eye Doctor Appointments
This month we had eye doctor appointments for Zach and Naomi. Zach has routine checkups for his nystagmus every 6 months. I keep hoping the doctor will say that there's some type of cure- but of course there isn't. The good news is that his null point (where he can hold his head to steady his eyes), appears to be straight forward which is the best possible case scenario for someone with nystagmus. And while it can change as he grows, for now this is great news because he will develop normally (he's not rotating his head to be able to see clearly).
Naomi has been complaining about her vision for over a year. I made an appointment for her just to check. Since we homeschool, we are responsible for their eye screenings. Turns out she has better than perfect vision. It may have been a little middle child attention seeking, but either way I'm glad we were able to get her eyes checked.
December kicked off ski season! In the beginning it was a little dicey due to the lack of snow, but thankfully it got better as the month went on! Ritch started by taking the two big kids overnight to Deer Valley with their best friends. They skied for two days, which Bethany dubbed "the best days of her life!" haha!
We bought a home near another area in UT with new-to-us ski resorts (Powder Mountain, Nordic Valley, & Snowbasin). The week after Christmas we went up and explored Nordic Valley - very different than our usual resort - Deer Valley - but still great.
We're looking forward to exploring more the rest of the season too! We had friends come up and ski with us (same friends from before) and it was such a great day! The power ended up going out and they had to rescue many people off of the lifts, and we were just SO grateful that none of the 10 people in our party that were skiing were stuck! But the power came back on in the afternoon and they all got to go out again!
I even got back on my skis for the first time since before I got pregnant with Z! I had only skied ONE day in my life - February 2020 when I had an all-day private lesson at Deer Valley. I was able to go down a run on my own then, but then 2020 happened and everything shut down and then I got pregnant with Z.
So I had a private lesson for an hour and I was so nervous I felt like I was going to throw up before the lesson! Gabe came with me and skied circles around me during my lesson! I had a sweet 15 year old girl teach me (haha) but really I picked the skill right back up (like riding a bike) I just did a few runs and went home to be with the family, but it was a good couple hours to get me used to skiing again!
This was Naomi's first semester in piano lessons and she loved it. She played "Silent Night" at her recital, and unlike my other two kids who were nervous at their first recital, she walked up full of confidence with zero fear and played her song so well.
Gabe played "O Come All Ye Faithful" and also did very well. He doesn't have the same deep love for the piano as Bethany, but he worked hard and learned his song well.
Bethany was assigned an incredibly difficult piece of music to learn and play for the recital this year, a version of "O Come Emmanuel." It was so hard that at first she thought she wouldn't be able to learn it.
She is a very bright young girl (she's currently completing a 7th grade math course at age 10), and things come very easy for her. And when something isn't easy, she just decides not to do it and focus on the things she is good at. This becomes problematic sometimes, so I decided she needed to learn a lesson about dedication and perseverance. She needed to learn she can do and accomplish hard tasks!
And guess what? She did amazing. I can't say there wasn't frustration and tears along the way - but I was able to teach her some really important lessons. First, she is used to mastering her songs easily with only 30 minutes of practice a day. So when I told her it would take 1-2 hours of practice a day to master this song she was not happy. But as she saw improvement with practice she kept at it!
Second, I taught her to visualize the outcomes of her decisions. For example, I had her walk through what would happen if she didn't practice or know her song well. How would the recital go? How would she feel getting off the stage? Then I had her talk through what would happen if she did put in the work, learned that hard song, etc. How would she feel then walking off the stage then? She decided she'd prefer to feel like she did her best and gave it her all and she practiced her heart out every day - and it showed! She's almost 11 and I'm finding myself having to teach her more and more "adult-level" life skills.
We start with chocolate calendars, and I went big this year and bought the Lindt calendars from Costco! I always let the kids eat their candy first thing in the morning, and they loved that every day had a different candy (rather than the same little chocolate square). Plus they were huge. Some days I would let them take a bite or two in the AM and save the rest for after lunch!
We love the city at Christmas. While we've chosen not to go downtown since 2020 (would rather spend our money at local, freedom-loving businesses), we decided it was time to test it out for the sake of Christmas. It was totally worth it. Everything was basically back to normal and we enjoyed the windows both at the Grand America Hotel and at Macy's. Then we walked around the mall for a while. It was so fun and great to get to do one of our favorite traditions again.
Every year our town holds a gloriously underwhelming (in the best possible way) tree lighting ceremony. One year the lights didn't go on after the count down, and one year only half of the tree lit up! hahaha! Well this year we missed the actual lighting but we enjoyed the rest of the festivities. And I enjoyed snuggling with Z.
I love Christmas Eve. We always spend the day enjoying each other's company, and then go to church in the evening. On my way out the door, I load the kids into the van and when they're all out of sight I put their wrapped Christmas jammies under the tree.
We order Chinese takeout and pick it up on our way home from church for dinner. When we get home the kids open their jammies, we have dinner, read our advent book, and then go to sleep!
I can't believe this was Z's first Christams in our arms - it feels like he has been part of our family for much longer than that. I felt so many emotions reminiscing about last year waiting for him to make his way into the world.
Ritch and I set up the tree and stockings the night before. (No, we don't do Santa with our kids, and I love this article from John Piper). My mother-in-law hand-knit stockings with all of our with our names on them, they are my favorite thing and I will cherish them for my whole life!
We let the kids open their stockings, then exchange secret santa gifts, then they take turns opening the rest.
After presents we have breakfast and read our advent book (the last day is Christmas Day). Then the kids spent the rest of the day playing with their toys (mostly building LEGO sets).
At night we had our good friends over for dinner. We played a family game of charades and just had the best time together. I'm so grateful for friends who feel like family.
I have been on a year's long journey of replacing our household items with non-toxic products. This led me to essential oils! I hope to share this process more with you all in the New year - but here are a few pages I created to get started:
- Essential Oils Landing Page
- Getting Started with Essential Oils
- Essential Oil Diffuser Blends
- Essential Oil Roller Blends
I have been greatly helped already by these products, and look forward to sharing them with you!
If you want to purchase oils please sign up using this link: Young Living Essential Oils and enter my number #31270904.
You can also shop my Young Living Website where I share my favorite products and bundles: https://www.myyl.com/joyfoodsunshine
Things I'm Loving
- Silicone baking mats. These are a must-have for holiday baking this year! I love them so much more than parchment paper!
- Dryer balls. as part of my quest to rid our home of toxic products, I ditched the dryer sheets and switch to organic, wool dryer balls. They're great!
- Advent Book. We have been reading this series of books for the last 5 years. They start right after Thanksgiving and go through Christmas day. The stories are absolutely captivating and center around the birth of Christ. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for an awesome family tradition that keeps the focus of Christmas on Jesus. There are 4 books, so this was our first time coming back around to Jotham's Journey, which is my favorite of them all. And really only Bethany and Gabe remember the first year we read it, so it was new to everyone else. The other books are Bartholomew's Passage, Tabitha's Travels, and Ishtar's Odyssey.
Here are some of our favorite recipes that we've made in December. I made many from this Best Christmas Cookies list!
- Waffles - Ritch created this recipe and makes it on the weekends!
- Top 10 recipes! We make most of these top 10 recipes on repeat. I included the top 10 recipes of all time, as well as 2021.
G looking so old and dapper after his haircut this month!
B being the best big sister.
These girls are always holding hands. We love watching Christmas movies during December as a family.
Keilah reciting our family's verse for our church's Christmas concert. So stinking cute.
I still snuggle K but she doesn't always fall asleep with me. When she does, I treasure it.
Every year we get the kids an ornament. We get the girls ornaments from Glass Eye Studio and the boys get a little ornament that represents their year!
If you make and love our recipes, it would mean so much to me if you would leave a comment and rating! And don't forget to follow along with us on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Youtube - be sure to tag @joyfoodsunshine and use the hashtag #joyfoodsunshine so we can your creations!
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