I LOVE Christmas cards. Every year I look forward to seeing pictures of family and friends and pouring over the details of their lives if they are doubly ambitious and including a letter. (I guess I'm kind of nosy like that.) In return, I want to share my own life. (I know I'm an oversharer like that.) Never mind that we do this daily through social media. Isn't it fun seeing it all summed up and packaged up in pretty paper and beautiful photos?
So to all those who were thoughtful enough to include us on their mailing list this year: thank you! It means a lot to me. (And Clayton too though he probably wouldn't gush about it like I do.) And in response, may I send out a virtual Christmas card/end of the year summary to you in the form of a blog post? Tacky? Probably. But tacky with all the best wishes stuck to it.
While every year seems bigger and crazier than the preceding, 2013 really was a rather monumental year for us. After ten years of marriage, our little family is moving on to the next exciting and busy (in a different way) stage of life. We're trading in diapers, strollers, and baby blessings for pierced ears, family hikes, and baptisms.
She will be turning three in January and wants so badly to join the big girls in school and dance. I imagine we'll blink and she'll be doing those things in no time. NO MORE BLINKING! Our "baby" still loves to cuddle as often as she can, sing lullabies at bedtime, and says "I love you!" more than any child I've ever met. Now if she could just learn how to stick with one outfit a day...
It's been especially amazing to watch the non-physical changes in Lydia this year. She is getting braver and more confident in herself. We were so proud of her for dancing on stage this year at her Spring dance recital and December Nutcracker performance. I marvel (sometimes with fear and surprise, but mostly with awe and amazement) at how this child looks at the world. She is unpredictable and spontaneous and hilarious and artistic. We continue to make progress with her gluten-free diet trying new foods and recipes and I'm thankful she goes along with it so willingly.
Eliza has grown musically this year. She decided to give dance another go and performed in her dance studio's performance of The Nutcracker. She and I sang our first mommy/daughter duet in our ward talent show. She had zero fear and ate up the limelight while I was, literally, shaking in my boots. Since then we have been asked to sing together a couple of times. Eliza even sang her first public solo in our ward primary program. (We are treated to solos daily here at home.) She has a beautiful voice and it's so fun seeing her love of music in action. She also lost several teeth, got her ears pierced for her birthday, and had to get glasses (which she can never seem to remember to wear). It's fun watching her start these growing pain years and we already admire the beautiful girl she already is.
This year he played soccer again and is also giving basketball a go. While he isn't exactly athletic or aggressive, he has a true love for team sports. He's just happy to be out there, running around with his buddies. And no bird poop on the shoulder or ball to the face (TWO bloody noses in one game!) is going to keep him away. At least not when there are treats at the end. While we question his obsession with Skylanders we see that our son is growing into a fantastic, responsible, little man. He has learned how to clean his room the first time mom asks, that reading is for fun and not just for homework, and that helping others makes him feel good inside. He's just a good kid through and through and we sure appreciate and love him.
He's actually had the opportunity to use his Spanish a lot this year as we have gained a new Chilean sister-in-law (my brother Colin married Massiel in June this year). He used it again when we traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico where he served his mission to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. With all that work traveling Clayton has done he was able to accrue enough air and hotel points to cover our trip!
Returning to his mission has been a dream of Clayton's for years. Actually we've seen several of our dreams come true this year. When our minivan's slow decline began to look fatal, we had to go shopping for a new family vehicle. Now Clayton finally has that pickup truck he has been fantasizing about for who knows how long. We're still a one-car family, but now we have somewhere to load all these kids and their stuff and four-wheel drive to get us there.
Singing in a "real" performance with my children has always been a dream of mine. I'm grateful Eliza was up for it. Running with my kids was another. This fall, Deacon and Eliza joined me for their very first 5K race! We had a blast running through the Color Me Rad course and the kids were still smiling by the end. I was very proud of both of them!
Seeing my children and their talents, personalities, and senses of responsibility growing is a dream come true too. I find myself almost daily saying aloud how awesome it is to be starting this stage of life. It was really hard to let that baby stage go, but it's a huge relief as well. It's liberating to have everyone walking, talking, dressing, pottying, and feeding themselves. While they may not do it well sometimes I'm just happy we're making progress. The future is looking pretty bright!
As painful and lonely as long distance running is, it doesn't really compare to having to be a "single married" all the time. In fact I run to deal with being "on duty" all the time. It's gotten a lot easier to have Clayton gone so much, but we sure do miss him when he is. I continue to serve in the primary presidency in our ward and Clayton is the assistant pack leader. And when we're together we try to squeeze in a few family adventures whether it be going for mountain drives and hikes or trying new recipes in the kitchen. This year we made some traditional Yucatacan food, homemade corn dogs, canned applesauce, and homemade vanilla.
Right now our life is homework, Tooth Fairy visits, Saturday ball games, being lucky to get through only ten verses of scripture a night, coloring books, hanging up coats for the hundredth time, hotel rooms, phone calls goodnight, sticky fingers, and animated movies. But we love it. It's funny how one second it feels like everything is broken and a mess when the next second I find myself thinking "Life is good" and meaning it.
Life IS good. And we appreciate the friends and family that help make it that way. Along with our Heavenly Father and Savior who bless us more than we deserve. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours from us! Much love and well wishes!