From our family to yours:

I am shocked to look at the calendar and see "December" at the top.
Okay, full disclosure: My calendar actually still says "October" at the top because that just seems to be how things go around here. So imagine my surprise when pictures of people's Christmas trees started popping up on Instagram?!  And then Christmas cards started coming in the mail [thank you! thank you! They are my FAVORITE part of holiday "decorations". The tree can go but I want to see all your faces in my house! ]
So here we are, at the end of another year, and this one was packed to the brim of good, hard, beautiful things for our family. As always, my Christmas card is relegated to this blog post [until I return to "real work" and budget in that postage ;)]. So imagine you just skipped to your mailbox [or if there is ice, please walk carefully], and found this card enveloped in a beautiful cranberry red envelope, your name embossed in gold on the front:
And of course, tucked against this picture you would find this Christmas letter, because my English teacher heart will ALWAYS look for an excuse to put pen to paper:

Friends and family,

Merry Christmas! If you didn't notice, we added one more person to our photo-in-front-of-the-tree this year... and this biggest news of all: HE doesn't have pigtails! We will start with Sloan and work our way up. Brent also has written a little song he sings each of our kids, and I will wrap up their update with his song for them, as each one seems very appropriate to who they are.

Sloan Lee, age 4 months:


 Sloan made his appearance on August 24th of this year after another incredibly quick labor and delivery. However, he was different from the start, weighing almost two pounds more than any of our tiny girls...and he hasn't slowed down! At four months he weighs roughly 18 pounds [I can't get him to stand on the scale for me]. He is incredibly happy, well loved by all his sisters, and usually completely content to just hang out on the floor and watch the girls play. However, if no one is in the room he lets us know he prefers company. We think he is incredibly cute, his hair has a red tint, and he has added so much to our family already. If you haven't met him, you should. I can almost guarantee he will smile at you.

I'll be with you Sloan Lee
whenever I can,
I'm your daddy
and your my little man,
My beloved son,
my only one,
Sloan Lee
my baby
Sloan Lee
the one and only

Nan Louise, 2 years and 8 month: 

Oh this girl. This girl hit two this year and never looked back! We are big fans of age two in this house, and Nanny Lou has not disappointed us in hilarity and shenanigans. If her mind is set on something, it can take hours to talk her into something else. If she knows she has an audience this girl will perform perform perform. She is long and lean, generally happy, and probably our loudest child. She is not afraid to get dirty-- whether while eating or playing outside, and she is beginning to really enjoy tagging along in imaginative play with her sisters. She thinks she knows how to write her name [she doesn't]. She an frequently be found coloring, dancing, not being potty-trained, and asking "where the girls" are. You cannot be around Nan without belly laughing at least once at something she says or does. And if you're ever having a bad day, just let me know and I'll send you a video of her dancing. She often informs me she needs "a whole much" of something, and that is how this girl lives-- in a "whole much" kind of way!
Nanny Lou
I love you
She's my red headed girl
and she rocks my world
Nanny Lou
I love you

Becks Lynae, 4 years and 7 months: 

Becks has grown leaps and bounds this year [of course, not physically]. She is still stubborn and determined, but rarely does she argue anymore, and when she does it does not take two hours to "break through". She is incredibly compassionate: once Blythe got a bloody nose and Becks cried way more than Blythe did. She absolutely cannot get enough of Sloan. She and Nan have found their rhythm together as well, but she and Blythe are the very best of friends right now and can play for hours on end with the smallest of things. She currently loves dried mangos, dreams of owning a cat, and loves to hear stories about when she was "little". She reminds me every night that she wants to do preschool the next day, and she and I both are enjoying that time together [something I wasn't so sure would happen a year ago! See! She's grown so much!]. She loves her nature days with Papa, too, and loves to be outside, as long as she doesn't have to wear a coat or shoes. She's cuddly and introverted, wild and free. She's such a fun girl to be around.

Becks Lynae
Born in May
is the one I love today
love today.

If I had
just one wish
I'd wish for a Becksy Kiss
Becksy kiss 

Blythe Kathleen, age 6 and 9 months: 

There is not a year that has gone by with this girl that isn't simply wonderful. She continues to blow us away with her kindness and joy, and her consideration for her siblings. It cannot be easy being the oldest in such a large family, but she handles it with grace and fun. She finished up Kindergarten in the spring, and enjoyed a summer of tball and swimming [she became quite the swimmer!] and her dreams came true when a neighbor invited the girls over to spend time with her horses. She suffered her first minor injury, and had to wear a walking boot for awhile this summer [never complained]. She attended art camp and continues to love drawing. She started first grade this fall. Her first day of school was two days before we welcomed Sloan, and 2 months before we moved, and none of those big transitions phased her. She is an incredible reader, a generous friend, and still has a deep joy that spills out. My pregnancy with Sloan was incredibly difficult this time, but Blythe was my little helper and I honestly don't know how I would have gotten through the summer without her. She takes her roll as a big sister seriously though-- the other day I heard her say, "Becks, I have to go to the bathroom. You boss Nan around until I get back." She's a treat know and a joy to parent.

Blythe Kathleen,
Blythe Kathleen,
She's my beautiful, wonderful, silliest girl

Anyone can see-eee,
This girl she is so swee-eet,
Cute from head to fee-eet
She's my beautiful, wonderful, silliest girl. 


This was also our first year since we lost our baby, Jordan, to miscarriage. We decided to release a lantern to remember Jordan, and then had some donuts together by the lake.
 It was simple and perfect. The girls still talk about Jordan often, and Brent even wrote a song for him/her:

I can't wait to meet in heaven
Will you have your mother's smile
Ask to "get-you" for awhile?

I can't wait to play in heaven
We'll run the streets of gold
But for now whose hand you hold
is all you need.

It was such a kind and generous gift to welcome Sloan one week to the year after we said goodbye to Jordan. 

In May Brent and I were able to take our first big trip together for our TEN year anniversary. We traveled to Estes Park, Colorado, where we had gone on our honeymoon. The weather was perfect and we got to rent a Jeep and make Brent's dreams come true. I couldn't do much hiking, but I waddled here and there and did what I could and it was such a refreshing and fun trip for us and we can't wait to bring our whole crew back. Colorado is such a special place to us.  

We also had one other big event this summer: our PAIGE got married in June! Paige is like a sister to me [Blythe is named after her family], and it was such a beautiful day [Brent got to be the wedding singer], and so fun to watch our girls be flower girls [Nan was born for that moment!].

Brent is still rocking the dad gig. Watching him love his newborn children is the reason he convinced me to have four children ;). He adores them. He is eager to help, fun to tag team with, and it's no secret he's the favorite for our children. He is still at the bank here in town, working as the compliance officer. He enjoys his work and where he works, for which we are both grateful. He still loves to run, and added some longer, harder triathlons to his resume this year. After Sloan was born he pumped the breaks on his training a bit to help out [I told you: he's the best], but hopes to jump back in and complete an Olympic triathlon next summer. He was so good to all of us through our move across town to our new house in November-- steady is a word I often use to describe him. He's a good man, our Brent. 

 And then there is me. I'm still home with the kids, doing preschool with Becks, putting out fires, keeping up with laundry, changing diapers, preparing snacks every five seconds, and smothered in so many kisses. I still love to read and write when I have time, love to be creative and make things, and enjoy the opportunities I get to be a photographer. This year was a hard one for me: physically for the first half because of my pregnancy and pelvic issues, and emotionally for the second half as the move was a lot. When I was little I sang a song called "Kids under construction" and there was a line that said, "The Lord might not be finished yet..." And this year was a reminder to me that the Lord is never finished working in us.


 And that is where our year brought us...right here to week number two of sick kids and sick Brent and my hands have been washed so many times they are cracking and scabbed. It's not how we'd planned on spending Advent, but today I posted a picture and wrote something I would like to end this year's Christmas letter with:

My house is one big "where-do-I-even-being." But maybe that's what Advent is-- a question of where to begin; a knowing in our soul that is' more than we can tackle. Because the baby in the manger, born unto us, is the answer to that question, and a calming in our soul. Right now, just when I get a minute to "dig into" the mess somewhere another fever rises, another little bottom needs a lap to be comforted upon, and my cool hands need to be calming a hot forehead instead of sweeping a floor. And so during this Advent I will begin with the baby who one day would tell us His burden is light. And I will think of His mother, who most likely didn't want to begin in the much of a stable, but who leaned into the birth of the Savior of the world even when nothing was perfect. And so I will lean into what that Savior is birthing in me this season. A weary world rejoices.

Thank you friends. Thank you family. Thank you church-family. For loving us well this year through a tough pregnancy and so many changes. It's because of you our kids didn't miss a beat and our bellies were fed. We are forever grateful for all of you and love living this life alongside you.

And finally: Merry Christmas! May you lean into what the Savior is birthing in you this season as we worship and celebrate the One who made this life worth living.

The Irwins
Brent, Kelsey, Blythe, Becks, Nan, and Sloan 

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn


Torrie said...

Hope you had a merry Christmas! What a busy year for your beautiful family, and as always, you just capture your lives and your children so perfectly.

dikshalee said...

Christmas are my favorite festival i hope your Christmas festival going nice
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