Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ and Blessings to your household in the Christmas Season!
It's been an exciting year for us (do we ever have a boring one?!) with lots of new adventures. This year we'd like to share with you the Top Twelve Exciting Things in 2006:
The Big Move After nearly a whole year in exile, we were able to move back into our completely made-over and renovated home! We moved in on Memorial Day weekend and Mairs hasn't been out of her newly expanded kitchen since. She needs to prepare lots of food to be served in the newly expanded dining room which now houses two 6-foot tables and enough chairs for a couple of guests in addition to the usual household occupants.
The Birth of Nathan Lee Nathan was born au natural (yay Mairs – first drug-free delivery for us!) on July 30th. He was also the only child to ever show up on his due date. He was baptized by his dad in September and has been growing like a trooper and spoiled rotten by all 8 of his bigger siblings.
We Lose Some, We Win Some You might remember last year we added a young lady from a local home for unwed pregnant girls to our household. Tiffany and her new-born Ava were with us for about a month, and they are now happily living in a mother-child home. While we were on vacation in the Outer Banks (see #4), another resident of the same maternity home, Adora, gave birth to her son Nehemiah. The two of them moved in with us upon our return home from vacation. Adora plans to attend Community College and work toward her A.A degree while living with us. Nathan and Nehemiah are just 6 weeks apart and have become the “twins”.
Seventeen to Five This was the kid to adult ratio on our Outer Banks vacation this year. We joined another Christian, homeschooling family with 8 children in a house right on the beach, and everyone had a fantastic time. The real adventure was getting to know their family while at the beach since our acquaintance with them began with Mairs and Terri on a Yahoo e-group several years ago. We made “In Real Life” friends out of cyberfriends in a hurry! God was truly gracious to work it all out for us.
Riding For Ribbons After 5 years of lessons, the kids finally entered in their very first riding competition. Everyone rode except Ben (who's decided riding isn't his “thing”) and Nathan – this includes 2 yo David and 3 yo John Michael – and everyone received ribbons. JT won a first prize in the jumping competition for his division, Betsy won 2 first place ribbons as well, and the rest brought home an array of colored ribbons now proudly displayed in their rooms. Miriam and Ruth and John Michael and David particularly enjoyed their ribbons and the whole experience.
Getting a Kick out of Soccer The big boys (JT, Philip and Ben) wound up on a winning soccer team this year. We were blessed with a Christian coach and many Christian families on the team as well as lots of boys with a real gift for the game. It was truly a joy to watch them play together on the field and off and it was fun to travel with them to the boys' first ever tournament. JT made an outstanding performance throughout the whole season as one of his team's high scorers, and his performance at the tournament was no different. Ben again proved to be a solid utility player, and Philip displayed an amazing grasp of the defensive end of the field. They ended up losing their tournament games but gained a lot in experience.
This Is My Body In February, Betsy celebrated her first Eucharist along with several other friends at church. It was a sweet time of fellowship with the Lord, and we are proud of Betsy's continuing walk with Him.
Sickle Cell Scare Ruth has been blessed with very few symptoms of her sickle cell disease, but in the Spring she had a series of tests which showed her as a high risk for stroke. After much prayer, God was faithful to bring her some healing, and the numbers came down to a comfortable level. She narrowly avoided having to receive blood transfusions every 6 weeks indefinitely! We are praising the Lord again for His faithfulness!
Reading, Writing and 'Rithmetic We've flooded the Nile, mummified a chicken, recreated statues of Alfred the Great, mapped out Africa's topography, begun to master Latin and burned 2 Viking chieftans at sea. It's been a great year of schooling and we're only halfway through this school year! We are officially schooling six children this year, as Betsy and Ruth have entered kindergarten and are whipping their way through K-1 work. The girls have all mastered reading as well (our first year since starting this adventure that we aren't teaching phonics – YAY!). John Michael is a schooling wanna-be, and he spends a lot of time soaking it all up while David finds new things to take apart daily. School also includes an array of activities such as the Homeschool Choir, weekly soccer skills class, art classes, Latin class and story-telling.
Play Ball! The Spring brought an interesting baseball season. JT got bumped up to the “big leagues” where for the first time he had to face down pitchers his size and was only allowed the official 3 outs. His struggle built....character...and...he'll be trying out lacrosse this Spring. Ben and Philip enjoyed being the oldest on their team where Ben made a strong standing. Baseball seems to be his game and he is a delight to watch on the field. Philip showed lots of strength in the outfield where his coach declared he has a “magnetic glove”.
Pet-astrophes While we were still waiting to move back home, somebody dumped two puppies on the farm property where the children ride. They quickly fell in love with one in particular, and we were promised ownership as soon as we moved home. Well, we moved back in, brought home “Strider” – and a turf war promptly ensued between said puppy and Pooka, the Geriatric Queen of Everything. Pooka won, the puppy was carted back to the farm where he is now making Robyn's husband a very happy man, and he was promptly replaced with Pippin the hamster and Pumpkin the guinea pig – the rodent consolation prizes. Don't tell the kids, but Sydney the cockatiel will also be joining the family on Christmas Day.
Miscellaneous Joys Then there are those things which won't make the headlines but which contributed to the life of our family none-the-less. Miriam began a dance class through the therapeutic Rec program and is making friends with other folks w/disabilities – and she is proving to be quite a cute little dancer! Philip had his braces removed, and he is now preparing for the next phase of the bone graft preparation which will repair the final hole left in his palate by his congenital cleft. Mairs has begun a support group for parents who homeschool children with special needs, and this is helping to provide important spiritual and moral support for folks in tough situations. Fr. Joel has been invited to help teach in the CEC's seminary program and also to take on a role on the liturgy committee which will set the liturgical vision for the CEC. He is now celebrating Mass every Thursday evening at 7:00 for anyone who wants to join him for a mid-week time with our Lord.
We hope you have been as blessed as we have with a year full of God's presence. May this season of Christmas bring the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit into your hearts, minds and spirits, and may you grow ever closer to our Lord, Jesus Christ – to whom we desire to give all the glory!