The other night, as Mabel and I were celebrating our 15th Anniversary (!!), I asked her whether she thought this had been a good year or a not-so-good year for us. We couldn’t land on either, so we’re just grateful that we have so much to be thankful for, and that we’ve come through the typical trials relatively unscathed and a little wiser.
The year began with the passing of my grandfather. Obviously, we miss his cheer and boundless love. I was glad that I was able to attend the funeral and get acquainted with relatives that distance had unfortunately made… well, distant. I came home to a ceremony of a very different sort: Rebekah was baptized. It was great to see her SO excited to take that step, which she took as seriously as Rebekah takes anything 🙂
June brought a visit from Grandma Eleanore and Uncle Bruce. Lots of quality chatting and puzzle time. Of course we had the annual 4th of July picnic at mom and dad’s, including an impromptu and quite messy "chubby bunny" contest.
August was The Great European Vacation. We decided that after 15 years of marriage, it was about time that we made a Scotland trip in the summer. Mabel found a screaming deal on air fare, so we also invited a friend for Alec (a strategy designed to keep the warring factions at a distance) and another friend from our church who hadn’t been to Europe to come along. The logistics of getting 7 of us from place to place were a bit challenging, even for relatively seasoned British travelers like us. We probably would’ve come home with all our marbles intact if we hadn’t decided that while we were overseas, we might as well give the kids the experience of a new country. We chose Tuscany, Italy and added my mother-in-law, sis-in-law, and her companion. I think in retrospect it was a great experience for everyone. We certainly learned a lot about another culture–and about each other 🙂 I just can’t recommend doing Italy with such a large crowd, especially including children, nor in August, which is their Holiday month when many of the shops are shut. I loved the art and the food and the sights. The kids preferred Scotland. Three weeks and 20,000 miles later, we were enjoying the comforts of home all the more, and enjoying the hundreds of photos of our trip. Next year, we will keep it much simpler: a road trip to Disneyland.
In September, Mabel got some new found freedom, since Fiona started full-time school (1st grade) this year. However, at the same time, we received the news that Mabel’s mum had been diagnosed with cancer. We’re all facing this with prayers of hope of course, with Gran being more positive than any of us. Still, it’s a worry and we may need to be without Mabel for a while while she goes home to care for Gran during an expected procedure next year. In the meantime, Gran’s treatments seem to be going very well. It’s tough being so far away and unable to help very much, but thank heaven for Vonage, which lets us call every day and talk as long as we like for free.
Another big storm came through in December, flooding much of the state. Our backyard was flooded by the underground stream that burst to the surface. It carried away the hazelnuts from our side yard path, but that’s about all the damage we saw, thankfully. So many people were devastated by this storm and are spending Christmas without a home. I’m determined that one of our next big purchases is a generator. It’s only a matter of time before Monroe really gets hit.
I was wondering what Mabel was going to do this year with her extra time. Well, Mabel has found a new friend in the YMCA. We got a family membership to the new Y that was built here in Monroe. She’s loving it and goes nearly every day, sometimes twice a day: water aerobics, treadmill, yoga… the girls will be starting karate lessons there next month. That membership is one of the best things we’ve done for our family in a long time. Even I was able to lose 25 pounds this year with a combination of exercise and cutting down on portions. Of course, I’ve just put 6 back on this week with all the Christmas partying 😦 Mabel has also picked back up work on a children’s fantasy book she started for Rebekah a few years ago.
Fiona is enjoying school, especially making several more friends, and is getting great marks from her teachers. She recently learned a little lesson about peer pressure, when she took a dare to swing on a forbidden fence at recess and got caught. Normally one of the best behaved kids in class, staying in from recess for a few days was a new experience for her that she doesn’t want to repeat 🙂 She’s also continuing to develop her artistic talent, drawing and painting all the time.
Rebekah had a great birthday party at the Everett Ice Center. She loves ice skating. She’s also doing very well in school, though she’s as excited about homework as any 8 year old could be… one thing she is excited about is her new bedroom furniture, having finally got a new bed after sleeping on the same $10 used bed for 8 years. She’s also still passionate about music, but we need to find the right channel for that – not sure if it’s singing or an instrument yet. We need to try something this year.
Alec is nearly 14, going on 25. He’s certainly changed more than anyone this year, becoming more interesting in a variety of ways 🙂 Alec is well-liked at school, and his grades are (finally) improving a bit. His interests have shifted from video games to pop-punk music. For example, his fav game now is Guitar Hero. It’s amazing to me how teens instinctively pick musical tastes that are diametrically opposite to their parent’s. Well it could be worse… at least I don’t have to endure rap or hip-hop coming from his bedroom. He’s also developed a taste for pranks, and girls have lost their cooties. Both spell more gray hair for mom and dad… Fortunately, he’s still generally a good kid, and the president of his deacon’s quorum at church. Life will never be dull or boring with our Alec around.
Our church congregation was recently divided since we’d grown so large (700!), so that necessitated a change in leadership and I was called into the bishopric. This is my second time, so some of the "ropes" were familiar, but putting an entirely new organizational structure into place has been interesting, and a little time consuming. The dust is largely settled now, and I’m enjoying the work. While I miss teaching and being with the youth every day as a seminary teacher (and I was enjoying the Old Testament!), it’s also fun to work with all the different aspects of the church again too. Microsoft is as challenging as ever. If you’ve got your ear to the technology world at all, you’ll know that Apple and Google are definitely making things competitive, and that hits every department in the company. My department is trying to drastically reinvent the technical websites we own. Big bold visions are fun to create, but man they’re a lot of complicated work.
Enough of this novel… I keep hoping that one day soon I’ll develop a habit of writing these kinds of things more often so that I don’t forget all the other funny things that happen day to day. This year, the "social" nature of the internet went mainstream (link to shameless ad). You can’t listen to the news for a few days without hearing about somebody’s blog or photo-sharing site. So maybe this is the year that all of US will stay more connected.
Well, a vigorously politically incorrect "Merry Christmas!" from the Slemps.