Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

Dear Friends and Family,

What a year!  It has truly been one of our most eventful and emotional years as a family and we are grateful for the support we have had from you through it all.

Chad is still working with Bank of America, and we were beyond grateful for their generous paternity leave and for his supportive colleagues.  He was able to take the entire summer off when Elysée and Simone joined our family.  Having him there by my side for our incredibly intense bonding period was a blessing that I will never forget.  Chad’s humor, patience, and energy continually lifts everyone in the family.  He also teaches early morning seminary with me (a scripture study class for high schoolers, at 5:55 in the morning!) and he coached Gabe’s soccer team in the fall.

I am in the thick of motherhood and loving it.  It can be overwhelming to care for six kids with varying difficulties and challenges, but it keeps me (relatively) humble and prayerful.  With all the kids in school during the day, I have found how much I truly don’t mind being alone.  I am taking a weekly church class as well as a ballet class.  My flexibility may be shot after 17 years off, but I still have “beautiful feet” (my teacher said so!).  I have greatly enjoyed my 2016 goal of attending the temple once a month.  The hardest part of my year was the death of my wonderful mother.  While it is hard to be without her, I am relieved for her that her long battle with Primary Progressive Aphasia is over and that I will see her again in the next life, whole and healed.  

Colin is in 8th grade.  He is still learning Mandarin, as well as Spanish.  I love hearing him play the piano and his musicality is also being developed through his handbells class at school.  He was the goalie for his soccer team in the fall, a sport he greatly missed the year before.  Right now Colin is busy with rehearsals for his school’s spring production of The Lion King - he is Simba!  When he isn’t busy singing “Hakuna Matata” and doing homework, he is the perfect blend of compassionate older brother and surly, sleepy teenager.

Gabe is in 5th grade and still learning Mandarin.  His love for sports only grows every year (although the Panthers sure aren’t helping it out this year).  He played midfield on his soccer team in the fall and assisted and scored goal after goal.  His piano playing is growing by leaps and bounds and he is also advancing quickly in the recorder at school.  His goal is to finish all the requirements for music class so that he can move onto the next instrument - the ukulele.  Gabe’s subtle sense of humor and calm nature have a way of placating his younger sisters, but he is still a typical middle brother with the ability to push all the buttons that “need” pushing.

Oliver is in the 3rd grade.  He turned 8 at the end of summer, which brought about two exciting events.  The first was his baptism as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The second was his birthday gift - an adorable white Lab-husky puppy that we brought home with us from Spokane.  Her name is Lemon Sugar and she is a joy to the whole family.  Oliver loves taking her on walks and playing rough with her. They are a good pair - endless amounts of energy. Oliver also played soccer in the fall.  His favorite place to be is at home with his family, and he was the happiest boy in the world during the summer when he got a break from Mandarin.

Elysée is 7 years old.  Since she had very little schooling in the Congo and has a fall birthday, we decided to start her in kindergarten here.  She and Carina are in the same French immersion class, and her teacher tells me that Elysée is always watching out for her.  She is the perfect student - attentive and persistent, with a great advantage of already speaking French.  She played soccer this fall, where her long stride paid off with many a breakaway goal.  Elysée loves drawing, writing, and singing.  As you can imagine, it isn’t easy for for a little girl like her to leave the life she knew behind, learn a new language, and become a member of a new family, but she has amazed us with her desire to adjust and help the people around her.

Carina started kindergarten this year and if you thought her little voice was cute before, you should hear her speak French!  She could not love her sisters more.  They play from the minute they finish their homework until they are laying in their beds and told to shush over and over again.  Carina has embraced learning and, combined with her efforts to always please the adults in her life, she is an excellent student.  She loves to sing and wows us with her memorization of any and all songs - from The Living Christ to Stressed Out.  She also played soccer this year and enthusiastically ran her short little legs up and down the field.  

Simone is also 5 and in kindergarten.  She is in the other French class and her teacher tells me she is smart, persistent, very social, and….pretty darn stubborn. Of course, we knew all this. Simone loves to make the people around her laugh, and her dimples are amazing.  She was a force on the soccer field - a powerful runner with a powerful kick.  She approaches everything she does with strength and determination - whether it is riding or bike or standing up to her big brothers.

As this year closes, we are thankful for the lessons it brought, and happy it is ending on a high note.  At the end of the month we will take Simone and Elysée to the Columbia, South Carolina temple to be “sealed” to us - a ceremony that signifies our desire to be with them eternally and be the best family we can for them.  We are so grateful for this privilege ,and above all, grateful to our Savior whose atonement makes everything possible.  If you see light and beauty in our lives, please know it all comes from Him!  Merry Christmas!

With love,

Our beautiful pictures were taken by Amber McDowell Photography
As a part of
Thank Amber - these photos are so cherished!