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today, we skied.

The older boys had the day off school. The little ones did not. What’s a mom to do with a 10 year old and an 8 year old on a random january monday? Hang out on the mountain and ski, that’s what.

skiday

We’ve been up skiing as a family a handful of times, but this was the first for just a mom + boys ski day.

SO MUCH FUN.

It’s strange and wonderful all at once to be in this new phase of parenting. I went skiing with my children. Not to library storytime or the bouncy house or the zoo, but skiing. On a mountain. In less-than-ideal-icy-snow conditions. And they did awesome (minus that one run-in with the tree as seen above). These boys are great. I’m happy to be their mom.

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getting personal

First of all,  G O   S E A H A W K S !

girls-seahawks

The excitement in this city, this household, this girl is out of control.  We love our Superbowl-bound football team!

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ryan added a new feature to the blog last week – a link to every post on one page in chronological order {you can access it over there to the right on the ‘all posts’ image}.

You know when you find an old box of notes and photos from high school and you don’t mean to but you end up sitting for hours reading through them all, reminiscing, smiling, maybe crying a little? That’s what happened when he showed me the new post archive page. I read those very first posts – back when my babies were babies, when I had no idea how blogging would impact my life – reminiscing, smiling, crying a little.

It sort of put me in a funk.

All last week, I was melancholy, contemplative, creatively dry. It may have been due to the weather because it was dreary, foggy, gray all week and any time you go days without seeing sunshine it makes you slightly crazy.

But I think I was also deeply impacted by those first posts; by how simple they were, how unprofessional and unpolished and pure they were. I blogged because it seemed fun, because I needed a creative outlet, because it was new.  Most of all, what I noticed from those early blog posts is that they felt personal.

I was really hard on myself all week. Have I lost that personal feeling here? Have I become too complicated, too professional, too polished? Because that’s not really who I am and I hate feeling like a fraud.

On Friday afternoon Ryan finally got to the bottom of my pity-party-issues.  We realized that this blog actually has become less personal.  I’ll always be honest about my deepest thoughts and share them freely, I love doing a good craft project and showing you how to do it as well, our house will continue to be a canvas for decorating and the blog will be full of these things.  But they miss about 80% of my regular life – our family, the kids, learning how to parent, what we do over our weekends, vacations, that space between dinner and bedtime. This is what makes up our regular life. And it doesn’t often make it on the blog.

All of this was bothering me until Ryan reminded me that that’s what instagram has become. I may not document our family’s daily comings and goings on the blog anymore, but I do snap photos and post to instagram throughout each day that act like mini blog posts in photo and caption form.

Things like finding Audrey in the refrigerator getting herself a snack:

audrey-in-the-fridge

Or this sweet moment between No.3 and his great-grandpa:

great-gpa

Or that time when I said “smile!” and this is what I got:

smile-in-the-car

Or any of this:

instagram-collage

Our life. Moments I look back on reminiscing, smiling and maybe even crying a little.

As it turns out, it’s still personal. It just looks different than it did in those early days. I’m thankful for tools that make capturing our everydays a little easier.

If you’re curious, you can always follow along on instagram {my name is jonesdesigncompany}.

Now if the sun could just show it’s bright and beautiful face …

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family photos 2014

A few weeks ago, the super talented, very wise, fashionable, kind and sweetly southern Paige came for a visit and photographed our family. I’ve long admired her talent and was so thankful to have her capture our family just being us {a coordinated-outfit version of us, at least}.

The photos – every single one – turned out beautifully. She was fun and made us feel comfortable, even though it was 30* out and we were freezing. The kids did well, Atlas made it into a few and we now have cherished images we can’t wait to hang on our walls and give to our family.

Want to see a few of my favorites?

family-on-grass

Sometimes I look at us and think, ‘wow, that’s a big family’. Okay, all the time I think that.

bw-laughing

This one is just too good for words. It totally captured the kids and their cuteness.

bw-singing

And this one. It was almost our christmas card {see below} but instead will be made into a gigantic canvas.

bw-family-bench

Another card contender.

bw-soccer

Even though we can’t see everyone’s face, I like that she had the kids play and captured this moment.

We picked up Atlas and took just a couple more photos, but by this time it was suuuuper cold and the kids were feeling done.

 

walking-atlas

Yet, Paige managed to snap a shot that is another favorite of ours. I especially love No. 3’s hat.

walking-with-atlas

We wanted to have great pictures to document our family at this stage, and also to use for christmas cards. Did you know that Jones Design Company was started as a custom stationery business about 11 years ago? I did wedding invitations and baby announcements and lots and lots of christmas cards. Half the time I made our cards and the other half was too burnt out to get our family cards put together in time.  A stationery designer not sending out holiday cards? I know.

christmas-card-2014

This is the first year that I have not done a single christmas card order. It’s a new stage of business for me and while I’m so very thankful for the past years of orders, I’m also thankful for a holiday season where I can focus on other projects and clear out more space for family time.  It’s also the first year I did not design or make our own cards. This year, we ordered from Minted.

There were so many great pictures to choose from, but we ended up doing a full family shot for the front

christmas-card-front

and this darling photo for the back

back-of-card

I could not be happier with the Minted experience. There are a million designs to choose from, you can customize fonts and colors, there are add-ons like extra thick paper, gold foil printing {yes!}, envelope liners {I choose gold glitter} and even free addressing. The order came quickly and the quality is excellent.

There is still time to order your cards! Use discount code HAPPY2014 to take 15% off your order at minted.com.

Thank you, dear Paige, for sharing your talent with us. These photos will be cherished.

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how we do christmas gifts in our family

Last year we tried something different with our gift-giving.

Usually, we call Christmas an excuse to buy our kids a whole load of things they want and things we want them to have. We don’t go completely overboard, but with four kids and a handful of gifts each, our tree is usually overflowing with festively-wrapped presents. Christmas morning is a whirl of torn paper and squeals of delight and new clothes tossed to the side – because, who am I kidding – no six year old boy cares about a new tshirt.

We have really great kids who are {mostly} kind and thoughtful.

But they are not always grateful.

I don’t blame them; it’s hard to be grateful when you have no idea what it means to do without.

Jami wrote about it so beautifully and convicting-ly a few years ago after Christmas. I remember laying in bed reading her post and just crying because even though she was writing about her family, she was writing about mine, too.

We are spoiled beyond measure and yet we still want more.

So, last year, we gave something new a try with the hope that by reducing the number of presents, we would be more grateful for ones we received.

Here’s what we did: each of the kids woke on Christmas morning to four gifts under the tree.

We prepped the kids ahead of time, created wish lists and they seemed surprisingly excited about the idea.

The most difficult part, I will readily admit, was the restraint it took me in my gift-purchasing. I love buying things for my kids. There are a million fun gifts they would be happy to open but this system forced us to be intentional – only buying four things for each child.

Last Christmas morning was the best we’ve ever had. Without fail, every single present was opened with wide smiles and excited oohs and ahhs. Each of the kids received four gifts that were thought-out and purposeful and they were grateful.

We’re doing the four gifts again this year. No modifications. The kids just wrote out their wish lists with multiple items for each category. Ryan and I will choose from the list or come up with a special gift on our own. We don’t really pay close attention to spending equally on each child, but we do try to give items that will make them equally excited.

To be fair, I must admit that our kids receive more than four gifts for christmas. Between grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts & uncles and cousins, they open plenty of gifts. I’m sure you could ask your family members to refrain from gift-giving to keep the gifts at four total, but some people {like my mom} find such joy in giving gifts that we didn’t want to take that away.

If you’re wanting to try something new, simplify and be intentional about your gift-giving this year, this system might be great for you.

 To get you started, print out this fun printable for your little ones to jot down their wish lists.

wish-list

And then if you want to label your gifts, feel free to use these tags.

four-gifts-tags

To download the files, I invite you to join our library of freebies, templates and digital files. archive-free-access

It’s our best way to organize all of the favorite downloads and make it easier for you to find and access them. Simply click on the image above to join.

Enjoy!

Any other questions about how we do gifts? Let’s chat …

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what we’ll wear for family photos

We’re having family photos taken this week for the first time in way too long. We’ll use one for our Christmas card, but we also just hope to capture us being us during this slightly chaotic, but also really fun time in our family’s life.

What it means for me is that I get to choose coordinating {but not too matchy} outfits for our whole crew and they’ll actually wear them. Love this.

So here’s what I’m thinking:

family-photo-outfits

With three boys {plus dad}, navy is a pretty obvious choice, but it also works well because of its timelessness and the fact that it is sort of season-neutral. Plus, everyone in my family except for me have really striking blue eyes and they look good in blue. We’ll add in a few hints of orange just for fun.

Most of these items are the actual clothes the kids will wear. Some we already had, some were purchased especially for photos.

Here’s a close-up of each outfit:

no-1-outfit

Our oldest is almost 10, not a fan of anything but athletic shorts and hooded sweatshirts, so he’ll probably not love me for making him wear a button-up or jeans, but he’ll look cute and preppy like his mama likes. {sources: jcrew factory, abercrombie, gap, crocs shoes}.

no-2-outfit

No. 2 is eight and has a thing for dressing up. He doesn’t do it often, but he likes to look nice and so I thought a tie would be fun to show a little bit of his personality. Still sporty, but a little bit fancier. {sources: jcrew factory, gap, old navy}

no-3-outfit

No. 3 is six and would wear shorts, no shirt and flip flops every day of his life if he could {and if it was not 40 outside}. I would have loved to put him in a cute chunky knit fisherman sweater, but my baby would have been terribly uncomfortable and I think we would miss his super sweet/spunky personality in the photos if he was pulling at his sweater the whole time. {sources: gap, old navy, target}

no-4-outfit

Audrey is happy in anything that spins or is sparkly. It may be too cold outside to go without tights, so her outfit may change a little – maybe her navy rain boots instead of the sweet striped shoes. {sources: joyfolie, target, old navy, jcrew}

So, obviously, I’m a little crazy to create a design board for what my kids will wear for photos. But I was sick in bed and it was fun. And now I don’t have to think about it on the day of photos.

But here’s one thing we need to decide: since this is the first year we’ve had a dog … are we a family that includes Atlas in our photos? {we’re thinking probably yes – at least for some}. And then, when we send our christmas cards, do we include our pup’s name on it? Is that what you do? Or is that super dorky? Advice, please …

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