Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

(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 or see my Facebook posts, some of these stories will sound familiar...)

I thought I was busy this year, but when I went back to see previous Christmas posts, I don't think I wrote one in 2014!!  Now I feel pretty smug about getting this one done, even if it is later than I would like.  Normally, I would come up with some sort of special theme for our Christmas letter, but this year my brain feels too old and tired to think of something unique!  So this is an ordinary top ten list, which doesn't mean there were the only 10 important things that happened, just 10 that I'd like to highlight here...remember that you can click on any of the photos to see them larger =)
TOP TEN of 2015
(in chronological order)
1) Team Chran wedding - 
In February, I was a bridesmaid in the wedding of a good friend.  It was a beautiful day and the wedding was so much fun!  More importantly, two God loving people were united in marriage and they began a journey together that will never end.

2) Moses' gymnastics season - 
This year Moses was able to participate in the State Gymnastics meet for boys!  It was held in Sheboygan and it was a great way to end the season.  Since then, a new season has begun and Mo was very excited in February when he won his first medal!  Slowly his strength and flexibility are improving and he is beginning to make the connection between all the practices and the results at the meets.  We are looking forward to his first boys only meet in January of 2016!

3) Spring Break in TN w/good friends - 
There is absolutely nothing like going to see some of your best friends and using their location as a vacation destination!  In fact, we've done it for quite a few spring breaks in the past!  This time we parked our camper close to our friends' home and shared conversations, meals and even tears.  We miss them so much!!  (Side note - we need to take more pics when we get together!)

4) Colleen's dance recital - 
This past year Colleen chose to try dance instead of gymnastics.  She was very excited to get a new leo and some ballet shoes =)  Her recital was a new experience for all of us!  How my tiny ballerina shined!  The focus it took to complete the dance steps was a challenge and she rose to it.  Afterwards she was adorned with a medal and the hugest smile appeared on her face.  She smiled for pictures with us and didn't shy away from being the star of the show.  If you know her (or any child who suffers from attachment issues), you know that this is RARE.  I just kept hugging her but I made sure to take thousands of photos too!!  I want that moment to live in my brain, front and center, so I can just bask in it when there are difficult days.

5) We CLOSED on the sale of our previous home - 
In 2014 we packed up our lives and in the first week of Dec we moved into a new home.  In spring of 2015, we were finally ready to put our previous home up for sale.  We started the process with prayer - we were warned that a 4 bedroom house could be either a blessing or a curse - many people desire it but cannot afford it...we felt some pressure to lower the price we wanted but in the end, I think the realtor helped us choose just the right asking price.  Within the first week, there were many showings and much interest!  In a short time, an offer was made and accepted.  And just like that - the SOLD sign was up and we were free of the 2nd mortgage!  We truly believe this is a miracle - God did this, not us.  The 'stats' and 'trends' predicted we would be sitting on the house for a while...but when God shows up, the stats and trends are thrown to the wind!  It was a bittersweet time for us, one we will never forget.

6) Ninja mud run - 
In July, Moses participated in a Dirty Ninja Mud Run!  It was right up his alley - obstacles, mud and showing off his skills!  I was that crazed parent trying to keep up and run alongside the course, getting photos and videos but trying to stay dry and clean =)  It was so much fun to watch and Moses had a blast!  It's on our calendar for next year - if you know of a kid who likes that kind of stuff and wants to join - let us know!

7) Building a chicken coop - 
One of the biggest summer projects we decided to undertake was to build a predator proof chicken coop.  We lost a chicken to a raccoon in our old coop, but that was definitely not predator proof.  Then a friend loaned us some live traps and we caught many (over 10!) over the course of a month or 2.  It was clear that it was time to build a serious structure.  My handy husband made a plan and we looked at the materials we had available in our collection.  Together we worked (but mostly he did) in the backyard and driveway.  There was nail gun use, hammer use, ladder use and even painting!  I am very proud of Dave for designing and building a structure that is predator proof and will withstand time and elements of nature!

8) Losing Pippa -
One of the first chickens Dave ever hatched (back when he was a 4K teacher and hatched eggs in his classroom), was Pippa.  She was so unique!  She had a mohawk, was more than one color and was amazingly friendly.  She was the tiniest chicken we have had to date, but she was always the #1 in the pecking order.  Her tiny self kept all the others in line!  This December, we put a light in the new coop to see if we could get the new chickens back on track, laying eggs again.  Within days, Pippa started to look not well.  She hasn't laid eggs in a while and we don't expect her to since she is of 'advanced age'.  However, the light seemed to trigger something in her body and she began to stand like a penguin.  Her head was back, her tail was pointed down and she often stood in the middle of the fray, looking asleep.  She moved slow and appeared to be in pain.  After reading about her penguin stance, we decided she was probably egg bound (not with a real egg, but a liquid one or maybe elements of a shell had broken inside...).  Either way, we gave her a nice warm bath to make her feel more comfortable and then Dave ended her misery.  We sent her to chicken heaven....I feel like I am writing more about this than any other part of our year!!
But you have to understand two things...1) Pippa grew up alongside Moses and Colleen, almost literally since as a chick she was in a box inside our house.  Then she often was at our sides outside in the yard and became like any other pet - much loved.  That being said...2) In our family, we love our pets but they are still pets.  Not people.  We would rather spend time, money and energy on nursing sick or hurt people than on pets.  We loved Pippa but not enough to take her to a vet.  Our love for our animals has limits and boundaries.  We consider the chickens friends, but they are still farm animals.  The whole situation was a wonderful opportunity for our kids to express their emotion and yet learn about the difference between caring for people and caring for animals.  We have since decided to name the new chicken coop after our sweet Pippa - we're planning to make a sign!

9) Meeting one of Colleen's birth sisters - 
We added a special chapter to our personal 'book of adoption' this year.  We have never kept the fact that she has a birth family from Colleen - we've told her their names, their approximate ages and what they look like (to the best of our knowledge).  Colleen is the 7th born to her birth mother (all girls!).  When we were going through the adoption process, we found out that the 5th born was also adopted.  The interesting part (to us!) was the fact that her birth sister's adopted family was a friend of one of our we agreed to exchange info, make contact and maybe meet.  It's been 5 years and for various reasons we have only sent messages but never met.  This December, Colleen's birth sister and her (adoptive) mom were in a nearby town and we took the opportunity to get together.  It was new and maybe awkward at first, but I think it went well!  We hope to stay in contact of course and maybe meet again sooner rather than later.  

10) Adoption profiles - 
Can I pack a little more adoption news in this post?  YES I can!  So in case you didn't already know, we are on the adoption wait list.  We receive child(ren) descriptions, decide if we want to send our home study and be considered for a match.  If the child(ren)'s case worker thinks we are a match, she/he would then 'present' the child(ren) to us and at that point, we would officially say yes or no.  Over time we have seen a number of profiles, sent our home study in to a bunch and had 4-5 child presentations.  The latest one was last week.  When we started this chapter of our adoption journey, we said we are interested in both siblings and 'singletons'.  The latest child presentation was for 2 brothers =)  Please pray for us as we go forward in the process and meet the boys!  More importantly, pray for the children, regardless of what the outcome is.  It's no secret that children waiting in the state adoption system have most likely lived through their fair share of grief and pain.  Recently I saw a graphic called the trauma tree - I think it accurately shows how children like Colleen and those who are adopted can be affected by trauma at any age, even in the womb.  We are grateful for the struggles we have experienced because it means we are a unique family, bonded through love and grace even if we don't share DNA.  The joy we have overflows and that is part of the reason we'd love to adopt again!

As this year comes to a close, we've been enjoying looking at photos and talking about our plans for 2016.  In this past year, we have settled into a new community, a new church, and for Colleen a new school...we've had some highs and some lows adjusting.  In almost everything though, we are reminded that we are blessed.  Just today some new friends and neighbors came by with some Christmas cookies!  So many people have stepped up and made us feel welcome and loved.  It's our prayer for you, dear reader, that those feelings are present in your life too!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours!

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...)

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