Fall with four

It's our first fall with four kids, and it's been a good one! Kate turned 9 months today. 

I've tried to take it easy, resisting the pressure to do ALL THE FALL THINGS. 

Instead, my aim has been simply to spend time together (outside, when possible). Picnics, the playground and multiple trips to Afton Apple Orchard to enjoy the huge play area, feed the goats and pick apples.

One trip yielded 10 pounds of apples, so we baked a pie and mini apple pies, which Maria brought to school for snacktime.

My driving force is a desire to help the girls re-charge after school and on weekends. I think that's best achieved through PLAY and downtime as a family: books, baths, popcorn and movies.

I'm grateful that my first grader does not have homework. (In this superb New York Times Magazine feature, Minnesota native Peggy Orenstein writes that "a flotilla of research shows homework confers no benefit -- enhancing neither retention nor study habits -- until middle school.)

Our only extracurricular has been karate for Maria. It's just an hour a week, and Grandpa takes her. We considered signing her up for soccer but held off. Instead we've played some soccer as a family -- adults against kids. I like to think that has had the same benefit on her skill set while feeling far more leisurely.

She's only 6 after all. 

My favorite memories this fall have been the times we explored the woods. Hand a kid a basket and let her wander in the woods. It's a glorious thing: a pathway to wonder, an antidote to the iPad, a timeless experience.

There's been plenty of playing in the dirt this season, and I take that as a good thing. 

Some of my favorite mom bloggers seem to share my thinking. (They also happen to have bigger families, which might necessitate a less-is-more approach.) Anna Liesemeyer is giving herself grace as she adapts to a new baby this season, she wrote in her latest Instagram post. And Naomi Davis is trying to be a little less rushed, she wrote in a recent blog post.

 I'll wrap this up with a quote from Laura Ingalls Wilder that I stumbled upon this morning. It encouraged me in my quest: 

"It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."


 Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and four children in Inver Grove Heights. Read all her posts at mnparent.com/charmed