Saturday, January 1, 2011

Merry Christmas 2010

(Once again, we are not sending Christmas cards out in the traditional way - see the end of this post for more on that...We hope you enjoy this online version! If you regularly read my blog, some of these stories will sound familiar...)

How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?
Psalm 116:12

When I tried to come up with some sort of neat-o theme for this year, I was stumped.  But one thing I wanted to point out was how our summary of this year includes new stuff, but also updates on stories from past years...which also made me think of a tree.  (Sometimes ya can't cedar wood for the trees!  Sorry, I'm in a punny tree mood!)  Back to the tree - there's the trunk, which has been there all along, but then new branches grow out of it!  This year we've enjoyed many new things and people, as well as those that have been a part of our lives for a while.  So without further adieu - I give you our year in review...

2010 Branching Out

We started the year by getting new carpet upstairs!  That was a big deal for us since we haven't done much home improvement lately.  It was fun for Mo to see what was under the old carpet as we tore it out, not to mention following the carpet guy around, talking tools and superheroes!  

In late January we received into our home 2 new foster children.  For blogging purposes we are using the names Leah and Ray.  Leah is a 17 year old mom to Ray, who is now a year old.  It's been amazing to see how these 2 have grown into our family!  Fabi (who is almost 3 and a half now!) LOVES having both a big sister AND a baby in the house!

Can't believe this is on MY blog...yuck!
That's more like it!!
If you know us (or at least read about us here), you know we do plenty of 'branching out' in the travel department each year.  This year was no different - to begin, we spent Spring Break in North Carolina.   We visited with one of my high school friends, bantered about college basketball as we visited Duke University and UNC (in the middle of March madness!  Dave is a Heel fan, while I have been a Duke fan since Christian Laettner), hit the beach and saw lighthouses.

While in North Carolina, my grandfather passed away...I ached - it was so difficult to be gone when it happened, difficult to come home to a funeral, but that feeling of fullness I get from all the branches of my big family being together dulled the pain.  During this time, I was reminded of some verses from Luke chaper 12, about how much we are worth in God's eyes.  If you have a moment, please go read the first 12 verses...

The official park sign
Creation Museum
 In late spring, we hitched Dave's mom's camper to the back of the van and all 6 of us hit the road for Ohio and Kentucky.  We drove through Indianapolis, camped at Mammoth Cave National Park and visited the Creation Museum with my best friend from college and his family.  At the time we didn't know it was going to be our last visit to see them in Ohio!  We have prayed for him to get a job back in our home state of WI and as of November, they are here and settled!  We are looking forward making many more memories together now that we live closer to each other.

Goodbye Breese Hall!
I know this may sound odd, but I was sad to hear they were tearing down the residence hall in which I had lived for 2 years while in college.  The university was interested in building a certified green, sustainable type of dormitory, which is commendable, but found it necessary to tear down 3 of the current dorms.  So Dave humored me and we went back for a little 'res hall alumni' reunion of sorts.  It was funny to show Moses the small rooms and the paintings on the walls...I have so many memories there!!  Most of them good, but a few that were just plain nasty.  Either way, it was refreshing to hug some of my former neighbors and friends, not to mention thinking about how far I've come from that time period in my life.  Breese Hall will always be the place in my mind where I was blessed to know and be a part of a huge family-like community of friends, as well as the place I first accepted Jesus and entered into a whole new sense of family-like community.  It was just bricks and cheap carpet, but it was an epic castle to me.

In May, Moses 'graduated' from preschool!  Grandma got to come and celebrate with us =)  He had an awesome teacher who loved music almost as much as he does!  There was a really nice program and I couldn't help but feel like we are just beginning to see this kid grow.

With summer looming, we were feeling the need to stretch into new territory...w/more kids in our house, we knew longer trips would not be possible in our van.  Between the kids and all the camping equipment, we needed something bigger.  So Dave didn't need to say much to convince me to buy a Recreational Vehicle!

Our home on wheels

The Most Fun Ever Under a Tent!

  On the first few trips we felt like we had added another kid to the family - we were so proud to show it off!  It is so convenient to put the kids to bed and keep driving, not to set up anything when we arrive and to be able to sleep on actual mattresses w/sheets and such.  (Dave says it doesn't really feel like camping at all!)  Being our first year, we didn't go too far, but just rambled around WI.  We visited the Circus Museum, The International Crane Foundation, Wisconsin Dells, Door County and the Waupaca Chain of Lakes.

On the lake again...
What would a visit to the Chain of Lakes be like without a boat?  In previous years we have rented one, but not this year!  Dave saved up all his money from teaching piano lessons and bought a boat this year too.  (The neighbors thought we won the lottery!)  Dave has some really special memories from boating with his dad, so this year he really enjoyed sharing his love for boating with Mo and anyone who was willing to come along.  Fabi and I are not as keen on boating, but we are growing used to it as the year goes on.

Since we are on the topic of vehicles, I should mention that we were able to experience a local thrill at the Road America race track.  It was Toyota Sienna day, which meant anyone arriving in a Sienna (like us) was granted FREE entrance!  The usual admission price is over $50 per person, so this was an awesome savings!!!  The cars were fast, loud and colorful!  Mo kept yelling that it was awesome!  We saw a crash, got to sit in a race car and walked all over to see different turns.  If you own a Sienna or want to join us next year, I highly recommend it!!

This year we were able to celebrate a foster sibling's birthday!  Since our first foster child's birthday was 2 days from Mo's, he had been looking forward to celebrating together.  As it turned out, the little guy moved on before his birthday.  Ever since then, Mo has been anticipating ANY foster sibling's birthday!  It happened this year =)  There was cake, presents and a lakeside party.  We are so blessed to have an extended family who treats our foster children well and is willing to share in celebrations like that with us!

Back in the day, Pickles was the first teenager we had in the house.  She was pregnant and 17, and unbeknownst to us, friends with Leah.  Now Pickles is moved out to a nearby big city and we all miss her very much.  She has since had her baby (he needs a blog name!  I shall call him Alfredo!) and we have tried to stay in touch.  It helps that the girls are friends and use their cell phones or facebook to keep up with each other.  In the early fall of this year, we were able to meet up with Pickles and Alfredo.  It felt like a full circle moment, being there with them and Leah and Ray.  The babies are less than a month apart so it's cool to see them together too!  This is one proud foster momma/grandma!

The arrival of fall meant the beginning of school for Leah, Moses and Fabi, as it does for most kids.  Leah went off to high school, Moses and Fabi to pre-kindergarten and preschool respectively.  Ray and I spent a few mornings together, him sleeping and me cleaning.  After a while, Ray's father assumed primary placement of him so now I spend my mornings catching up on a few years of unorganized living!  I also host a women's fellowship and prayer group at church.  Each day I am grateful for the chance to be there when they all come home, making lunches and dinners so we can share meals together.  I am amazed how everyone is growing, learning and how our family is becoming rooted in the community.  The kids have friends at school, go on field trips, and we have met a few more families with kids our age.

Horse apples...?  Osage Oranges!
An arch in an arch!
During fall break we loaded up the van and headed out for St. Louis.  They have a super awesome museum that was a huge hit with us!  We also spent a beautiful sunny (almost hot!) fall day at the Missouri Botanical Garden.  Since it was the last day the Children's Garden would be open, there were some nature themed fall activities and free gifts.  Overall the trip was a sweet little vacation, just what we needed!

Our year wasn't all play and no work...Fabi and I were scheduled for feeding team therapy in late summer, but it was postponed until mid-fall.  For a whole week we ate every meal at the Children's Hospital.  (I was planning to write a whole post about it and it hasn't happened yet.)  During the week, Fabi worked really hard and seems to have made some significant progress.  We are looking forward to the next step...both in feeding and in her life in general.  Shortly after the therapy week, Fabi's parents' rights were terminated, meaning she is available for adoption.  We have begun the process and due to some state budget cuts, our original caseworker will no longer be working with us after the first of the new year - which is why she would like to finish this adoption as soon as possible.  Our court date is January 14, 2011 and you better believe we will be dancing for joy on that day!!!

In other news...Dave continues to attend the men's prayer breakfast and play piano at our church's traditional (early morning!) service each week.  You might not believe me, but due to Mo's good behavior, he has become a regular attender to both the practices and the early services.  Everyone on the worship team loves having him there and he has learned many of the hymns they sing!  On the weeks when Fabi and I are able to make it out the door early enough, we attend that service.  All the sweet 'ladies-with-more-wisdom-than-I' seek me out each week to tell me how it is a joy to have Mo come and how well-behaved he is.

Moses and Fabi are both enjoying school...Fabi knocks our socks off as her verbal skills are going through the roof!  That girl can talk your ear off!  She has gained a few pounds for the first time in a year, which shows we are on the right track for this feeding business.  I am still practicing girly hair styles - honestly, I am all thumbs when it comes to my own, I don't know how I manage to send her out the door looking decent every day!  She has started to identify colors, like pink and orange, which of course means she must wear a pink something every day!!  She's like a headband dictator - if I get it wrong, I hear about it!  She is very patient with me as I slowly attempt side pony tails, pig tails and crooked braids.  After our week at feeding therapy, I noticed her bond to me has become much stronger. She freely hugs and kisses me now and even calls for me when she wakes up sad.  She has learned a new trick though - when I don't pick her up or let her get out of something she doesn't like, she looks at me and says, "Pwease?  I wove you...Pwease?"  I try not to giggle or collapse in silly mommy-hood guilt, but I will admit that it is difficult!

You know you are a piano mom when you have heard the same halting melody over and over and over again...that's right - Mo started piano lessons!  At first he told us he didn't need them since he already knew how to play.  I'm biased of course, but he is doing well.  He just wants to play with both hands right now, so he is trying to get to the more advanced stuff =)  Another first for him is that he is reading.  My aunt sent him a post card from Maui and he read the whole thing by himself!!  He reads signs, easy to read books from the library and cereal boxes at the breakfast table.  I am constantly amazed by how he sounds things out.  As English language teachers, Dave and I were content to let him get to it whenever it happened.  Well, it happened!  We didn't do too much...a little Hooked on Phonics here, a few pronunciation pointers there...and BAM!  Reading.  It is cool to hear him auto-correct, which is something English language learners struggle with.  Mo knows when the words are wrong...I'm sorry - I'm a language/reading nerd...I digress...

As for me, I had a garden again this year, did a little biking, and hit a deer with the van.  (More on that in a future post - we're all ok, but the van is not!)  Nothing else really exciting happened in my corner...there was plenty of action to be had with everyone else!

On that note, I will leaf you with this...(yes, another tree joke!)

Merry Christmas!
May God bless you in the New Year!
Love, Mel, Dave, Moses, Fabi, Leah and Ray

We hope you enjoyed this green version of our Christmas card! (If you still wish to receive a paper copy, leave a comment.) There are lots of reasons we decided to do things differently this year (again!)'s a few:

1) Save postage. We love you, but we're cheap!
2) Save paper. You just recycle those cards after you read do recycle them eventually, don't you??
3) Save printing costs. See reason #1!
4) Save stress. Nothing to print, sign, stuff, address...
5) Expand our options! Now you can see a practically limitless amount of photos.
6) Our greeting to you is saved in cyber-space for posterity! Yes, we can be that vain sometimes!
7) It went so well the past years...we heard a lot of positive responses, and even some people who said they'd try it themselves. Welcome to the dark (green) side! (Sorry that was a goofy Star Wars joke...)


preschooldevotions said...

You inspired us to go green with our Christmas letter. Sending you our Love!

Revka said...

Love the update. Sounds like quite a year. Rejoicing that some things have gone well. Praying for others. Hope you all had a great Christmas. :)

Kellie said...

Mel, You won the copy of River House on my blog. I know (think?) I had your contact info at one time, but can't seem to find it. Can you email me at greenhab(dot)goods@gmail(dot)com? I'll get it sent out to you soon!