Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Letter 2014

Season's greetings from the Tatro Family!

It has been another crazy year for the Tatros.  After spending the first half of the year in Bainbridge Island, WA, the death of Lincoln's grandmother this summer caused us to prayerfully reconsider our decision to live so far away from family.  Only Lincoln was able to attend her memorial service.  Although the circumstances were less than ideal, Lincoln was able to spend some quality time with his family and was even in town for the birth of his great-niece.  Right at this same time, a friend from Wisconsin approached Lincoln about returning to work at Lands End.  He began the interview process in the middle of hosting company, (my cousin Jessica and her family came from Las Vegas), an exchange student from Japan, and our friends, the Daines from Portland.  By the end of the summer, we had accepted a job back at Lands End, and everyone but Lincoln moved back right before school started.  Lincoln began work the first week of October and we were very happy to all be reunited.  Right before Thanksgiving we closed on our house, a 100 year old farmhouse on the edge of town with a few acres.  We have been settling in and are looking forward to getting started on home improvement projects after the holidays and getting a few animals in the spring.

So, here is the run-down:

Lincoln- Happy to be back at Lands End.  Enjoying the benefits of the fitness facility, running or playing racquetball most days after work.  He is serving in the Young Men's youth program at church.

Molly- Also enjoying the benefits of the fitness facility and loving being in our own home again.  Anxious to get the projects started and looking forward to having a big garden again.  She is serving in the Relief Society Presidency (women's group) at church.

Kennedy-15  A sophomore this year.  Enjoying playing flute in the band at school and learning the piccolo as well.  She missed volleyball tryouts this year, but is looking forward to soccer in the spring.

Julia-13  8th grade.  This year Julia tried cheerleading for the first time and she LOVES it.  She just finished cheering season for boys basketball and after winter break will cheer for girls basketball.  After a rough couple of years in WA, we were very proud of her for making honor roll first quarter. 

Devon- 10 5th grade  This year Devon began learning the cello.  He is also looking forward to beginning piano lessons again.  He is almost done with Webelos in the cub scout program.  He is having a hard time being as motivated about cub scouts here in WI, so we're trying to push him through to completion.

Irene-9 4th grade.  Renie is also learning cello this year.  The cello is almost as big as she is, which has caused her to have second thoughts from time to time, but hopefully she will stick it out.  She loves stuffed animals and her collection is taking over her queen-sized bed.

Jesse-7 2nd grade.  Jesse had a lot of fun playing flag football this fall and is now having even more fun playing basketball.  He is quite the comedian and is known in his class for his sense of humor and his sweet dance moves.

I have been thinking a lot this holiday season about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I truly believe that everything Christ taught boils down to one thing: Love.  The greatest way to show love to one another is to serve, and if we serve others, we will discover our love for them.  My goal, and challenge I would share with you, is to look for ways to serve others in small and every day interactions and in so doing, you will find true happiness and joy.

Much love to you and yours in the coming year,

The Tatros
Lincoln, Molly, Kennedy, Julia, Devon, Irene, Jesse

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013, a Year in Review

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  We are in the final days of 2013 and winding down our first complete calendar year living in Washington.  I thought it might be fun to highlight each month, mostly for my own enjoyment.  Feel free to jump to the end for a Christmas message.

January:  January was rough, I'm not gonna lie.  We were paying folks for the completion of work on our home in Wisconsin.  Not a big deal, we had budgeted for that.  But then we had a string of bad luck that month.  Our car was broken into.  The window was smashed and $150 was stolen.  ($250 to replace the window)  Our oil tank was refilled.  This may seem like good luck, but it was the first time it was done and it caught us unawares.  They refilled and charged it to our bank account.  I had not expected them to come without warning and didn't realize they were set up for auto pay from our account.  $600.  I took the Mountaineer in for a brake job and was told that the tires were in dire need of replacement.  They wouldn't even let me leave with one of the tires still on the car.  They put on my spare and ordered new tires for me.  $750 tires, $200 brakes.  Lincoln's car kept dying and we didn't have time to keep jumping it one night and left it in the Ace Hardware parking lot.  For a long time.  It got towed to impound.  Getting the car out of impound, towed to a garage, and repaired: $500.  Lesson learned in January:  We are grateful that even when frustrating, unexpected things come up, Lincoln has a good job and we know another paycheck is coming at the end of the month.  Not everyone is so lucky.

February:  Jesse turned 6 and Devon turned 9.  We hosted our annual Valentine's party and burned significant calories laughing 'til we cried, with new friends and dear old friends (Joe and Anita Daines came for the party.)  Over midwinter break, the kids and I went on a few local adventures.  We spent a fun day at the Olympic Game Farm with friends.  The kids screamed and giggled and guffawed as the elk and bison ate bread out of their hands.  Lesson learned in February: Friends make the world a better place.

March:  In mid-March we traveled to Shaw Island, in the San Juan Islands, with other members of our ward, or congregation, to participate in a service project at Our Lady of the Rock monastery.  We helped with everything from cleaning out the chicken houses, to cleaning the chapel, to gathering beach rocks, to moving the Priest's belongings from one place to another.  Everyone worked hard and much work was accomplished for the nuns that day.  Lesson learned in March:  When you serve your fellow man, you serve God.

April:  I began digging around in the flower garden, getting my hands in the dirt once again.  The apple trees blossomed and we began to have some really warm days.  We even went to the beach a few times this month, including on my birthday.  Lesson learned in April: Life goes on, but we are truly living when we are connected with the earth.  I just wish my body would renew itself like the earth does in spring. ;)

May: We had some absolutely gorgeous weather early in May.  We spent some time at our local beaches and also made a trip to Portland to see the Daines family.  We spent a lovely day at Multnomah Falls.  Time seemed to fly by this month, as the last few weeks of the school year are always incredibly overscheduled.  Lesson learned in May:  When life gets crazy, don't forget to stop and soak up the sunshine.

June:  Kennedy attended 8th grade banquet and said goodbye to middle school.  I helped her register for high school and suddenly felt very old.  The kids finished up their final school projects and somehow we survived the school year.  After having an offer on our house since December, a new offer came through in May and we finally closed on our house in Wisconsin!  Despite it costing us money to sell our home, it was a huge stress relief to have closure on that part of our lives. Lesson learned in June:  Stay the course and this too shall pass. 

July: After months of planning, we made an epic trip east to spend time with our family.  The kids and I (and the annoying dog) drove to NY.  We stopped in WI to pick up Kennedy's friend Drew.  We spent a night in Buffalo, NY, visiting some dear friends from waaaaaay back, and went to Niagara Falls with them. We then continued on to my parents'.  We settled in at my brother Jonathan's house for the next few weeks, and got to work on preparations for the family reunion.  It was so fun to be at home, with family arriving from all over the country every few days.  We worked together and played together and my heart was full.  Lesson learned in July:  Life takes us many places on many adventures, but nothing beats the feeling of being home with loved ones.

August: The family reunion was a lot of fun and a great success.  I think the highlight was the barn dance at Jonathan's.  The family reunion was a celebration of the life of my paternal grandmother, Esther, honoring what would have been her 100th birthday.  I have always felt very close to her, even since her passing when I was a teenager.  It was lovely to hear stories and memories of her from those who spent many more days on this earth with her than I did.  I also attended my 20 year high school reunion.  It was a delight to spend some time with my childhood friends.  I was in the middle of family reunion festivities, so my class reunion time was quite limited, but I was reminded how lucky I am to have shared my formative years with such awesome people.  Lincoln joined us in NY for all the reunion fun and other North Country adventures.  We dropped him off at the airport and then the kids and I began our journey home.  This included a stay of several days in WI, visiting friends there, and a quick tour of Glacier National Park.  My Facebook status upon reaching home; "1 month, 7300 miles, 1 driver, 12 states, 5 (sometimes 6) kids, 1 dog, 3 National parks, 1 National monument, 2 family reunions, 2 birthdays (Renie turned 8 in July, Julia turned 12 in August), 1 baptism in a swimming pool, 1 advancement to Young Women, hanging with all my siblings and numerous cousins, Niagara Falls, Adirondack park.  An amazing and fun vacation.  It feels good to be home."  That barely scrapes the surface.  Kennedy immediately started volleyball upon our reaching home and back to school preparations began with gusto.  Lesson learned in August:  Who we love and associate with in our formative years truly shapes who we become.  Also, see July's lesson.  It applies to our return to Washington as well.

September:  Kennedy turned 14 and started high school. Julia started middle school and Devon 4th grade, Renie 3rd, and Jesse 1st.  Suddenly all of my children were in school for the entire day. I was canning like crazy, jams and jellies, peaches, applesauce, tomato sauce, salsa, carrots, peppers, chicken.  We harvested a bag of apples from our little backyard tree.  Kennedy began putting in long days of seminary (starting at 6:30 every school day), school, volleyball.  Despite the craziness, it felt really good to feel our roots taking hold.  The school year was off to a much better start than the previous year, and everyone was happy to be returning to school with friends and familiar faces and places after the struggle of being new the year before.  Lesson learned in September:  It is possible, and fun, to bloom where you are planted, or transplanted. 

October:  We took a weekend trip to the tip of the Olympic peninsula, Cape Flattery.  We took in the beautiful mountains, lakes, the Pacific Ocean, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  We beachcombed and hiked, and watched whales from the overlook at the Cape.  Lesson learned in October:  We have been blessed to live in many beautiful places, and we are indeed blessed once again in our latest move. 

November:  Lincoln turned 40.  What the wha?  Yup, it's true.  He's still as handsome and funny as ever, so what's another year and a new decade?  We spent Thanksgiving running the turkey trot and then having dinner with Lincoln's Uncle Ron and Aunt Sherry, just like we did last year.  It has been so fun to get to know them and spend time with them.  That evening we made a quick stop to see the Daines family, then headed home.  Saturday we went with a group of friends to the mountains to cut our Christmas trees, just like we did last year.   Lesson learned in November:  It only takes one repeat of an event to make it a tradition, and new traditions are just as fun, and grounding, as old traditions. 

December:  December has been a month of reflection and contemplation.  We have sought out opportunities to serve and give as a family.  As always, I have enjoyed the opportunity to sing Christmas carols and reflect on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our ward put on a living nativity, and it was breathtaking and moving to walk through it.  As I sang with the ward choir in church yesterday, I felt the Spirit testify of Christ's holy birth.  I am so grateful for the hope and comfort this knowledge gives me.  Our lesson in relief society (our women's group at church) yesterday was Come Unto Me.  That is my goal and my hope for each of you.  I know many of you don't share my beliefs, but I hope that you will have love toward your fellow man, give selfless service, embrace those with differences, be compassionate, and be thoughtful in how you speak to one another, because, lesson learned in December: What is really meant by "Coming unto Christ", is doing those things.

Merry Christmas,

The Tatro Family

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

One Year Later...

Well, it's been just over a year since we moved from our beloved WI to our newly beloved WA.  The first five months were really hard.  Like, REALLY hard.  Lincoln and I knew we had made the right decision, and we were excited to be here, ready for the new adventure.  But it was difficult for the kids.  That made it difficult for us.  It is not easy or fun in any way to watch your children struggle and be sad.  I think the transition would have been a little easier if we had moved during the summer, but moving in when the school year was already underway was hard.  I felt like the first few months were a whirlwind of registering kids in school, attending meet and greets, parent nights, open houses, and parent teacher conferences at 3 different schools, unpacking, trying to establish routines, overseeing the homework hour, running kids to youth night activities, and trying to keep everyone's morale up while feeling completely overwhelmed myself.  Not to mention the stress of Lincoln learning a new job and the emotional toll of trying to make friends and feel a part of the social circle.  Every time I move I have to remind myself that it takes time- years- to really establish friendships like the ones I've collected in places we've lived before.  And I have to confess that there are still times when I feel like it's just too hard to break into the social circle, but I remind myself again. 

I am happy to report that this year is off to a great start.  It is always so much easier for the kids to be returning to a school they have attended before.  They know the routines, the teachers, the traditions, the classmates.  Kennedy and Julia are both at new schools, just because Julia moved up to middle school and Kennedy moved up to the high school.  Kennedy also started seminary this year, so she leaves the house at 6:15 and returns home after volleyball practice or games in the evening.  When she has away games she is often not home until nearly 10 pm.  She is loving both seminary and volleyball, however, though she will enjoy having her afternoons and evenings back when volleyball is over in 2 1/2 weeks. 

Julia was dreading school this year and had begged me to homeschool her.  We had the letter of intent filled out and we were at the school prepared to turn it in when she decided she would attend school after all.  Though she continues to loathe homework, I think she is enjoying school for the most part.  She seems to really be enjoying Spanish, Science, and Family and Consumer Studies in particular. 

I am happy to know my way around the schools a bit this year so it isn't as overwhelming for me either.  It's enough to be learning the high school this year. 

I didn't even get a back to school picture last year.  (We also didn't carve jack o lanterns or make donuts thanks to the insanity of the first few months.)   But this year I managed it:

                                                Devon 4th, Renie 3rd, Jesse 1st

                                                  Julia 7th, Kennedy 9th

Monday, May 27, 2013

Point No Point

Today after church we decided to drive up to Point No Point Lighthouse.  It is one of my favorite beaches here because it is sandy and covered with driftwood.  I also just really love its location, on an open part of the Sound.  Today we got a special treat.  As we arrived we discovered a baby seal on the beach!

 He was alive, apparently just resting.  A lady there said that often the mother seals will push their babies up onto the beach to rest while the mother fishes nearby.

So sleepy.

 He did get back into the water a couple times but then returned to the beach.  We spotted the mama just off shore occasionally, keeping an eye on junior.
A large ship had passed through before we arrived, so we got to enjoy some pretty big waves for a few minutes.  I'm always amazed at how long it takes the waves to reach shore, and how far they will travel without dying out.

As usual, the kids had a blast playing in the driftwood forts.

Driftwood teeter-totter.

And Lincoln had fun spotting birds...

 ...like this bald eagle.

 We even bumped into Jesse's teacher at the beach.  Jesse was really funny about seeing her out of context like that.  He was very shy with her.



A beautiful fun afternoon.

My Birthday and Mother's Day

So it happened again.  I turned another year older.  But I'm totally OK with that, given the alternative.  Lincoln made me my requested dinner of chicken salad sandwiches, and Kennedy made me a lemonade pie.  In the picture below it appears to be en flambĂ©, which makes me feel really old. ;)

Julia and Renie picked me some beautiful bouquets.  The kids were pretty amused by their card selection, which featured a dancing pickle. 

I sure am grateful for these five amazing blessings, and the awesome blessing behind the camera!
And speaking of the five little blessings, here I am with them on Mother's Day.
Lincoln is so great about helping the kids plan an awesome breakfast in bed for me on Mother's Day.  It has become a tradition that I love!  They wake me with a yummy breakfast and a pile of home made cards and gifts.  I always love seeing how excited they are to do this for me.  Blessed, I tell ya. 

Julia picked me a beautiful flower.  I love how it looks in this jar!
I can't believe how old my kids are getting.  I really enjoy them at this stage.  They are so independent, but still need me, if that makes any sense.  I am certainly proud of what they are becoming.

Beach Bums

I've been really lousy at keeping up with blogging, so I thought with the month drawing to a close, I would share some highlights from May.

Early May brought beautiful weather to our little island, and I never like to miss an opportunity to get out and soak up some sun.  So while the sun shined, we ditched everything else and got out to enjoy it as much as possible.

  We went to Old Man House Beach, just across the pass from the island on two occassions.  In the picture below, we are looking back toward Bainbridge Island.  My friend Lindsey is always game for loading up the kids to go do something, which is a lot of fun.

Lily loves to hang out with the big girls.
The next pictures are actually from my birthday, in April.  We went to Point No Point Lighthouse.  When we first arrived it was pretty chilly, but we stuck it out and finally the sun came out and warmed us right up!

I love living where we are surrounded by beaches!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Weekend in Beaverton

As I have mentioned before, a big part of our decision to move to the Pacific Northwest was that we haven't had the opportunity before to really explore this part of the country.  Our intention, upon making the decision to move here, was to take full advantage of our location and take frequent trips to the surrounding areas.  Another big bonus to moving to this area was the proximity to our dear friends, the Daines, who live in the Portland area.  A couple weekends ago, we made the 3 1/2 hour drive down to Beaverton to spend a few days with them.  Let me take a minute here and say it is so fun to be close enough to them to do that!  Some of our kids have said that when they were younger they thought they were their cousins.  I love that.  Living away from our families for most of our adult lives, it is nice to know that our kids have still had friendships with people that were so close they felt like family. 

The weather was absolutely perfect when we took off early Friday morning.  Our intention was to take our time traveling down there, making a detour over to Mount St Helens along the way.  Texting with Anita after we left, however, I found out that Joe had taken a 1/2 day and that they were expecting us by early afternoon.  We took a family vote and decided to skip Mount St Helens this time and just take a camping trip there another time. 

Friday afternoon and evening were spent hanging out together grilling, playing kickball, and sitting by the campfire telling stories.  It never takes long for the stories to devolve to bathroom/poop tales, but we never claimed to be the classiest bunch.

Saturday morning we packed a picnic lunch and drove to Multnomah Falls.  I've wanted to go there ever since I first heard about them some time ago.  The drive there was lovely.  Perfect weather and views of the great mountains (St Helens and Hood) made it delightful.  Having spent five years in rural Dodgeville WI, and now living on a relatively small, quiet island, I have gotten pretty soft when it comes to traffic and the congestion of being in/near a larger city.  I felt like I could breathe again when we left Portland behind and the Columbia River valley opened up in front of us.  It is absolutely breathtaking and I couldn't take it all in fast enough. 

Since the weather was so perfect and it was a Saturday and the falls are easily accessible and awe-inspiring, it was kind of crowded when we arrived.  The parking lot was full, so we had to drive on a little further and park beside the road.  This wasn't a big deal, except that in order to get back to the falls, we had to cross a bridge.  Which wasn't a big deal, except for the signs prohibiting foot traffic across it.  We would have done it anyway if we didn't have four adults and 10 kids to get across.  Instead, we decided to climb down and walk under the bridge, next  to the railroad tracks.  This worked out fine, though it took us a little longer to get there.

I was really surprised how close the falls were to the road.  Just driving by you can get a pretty good view of them.  At the base of the falls there is a cafĂ© and restrooms and gift shop, also quite unexpected.  We had already determined that we would hike to the top of the falls, a one mile hike one way.  A one mile hike is pretty easy, except when it is up a cliff.  The trail was great, many people we encountered pushed baby strollers (!) up it, but it was definitely uphill.  I believe the sign said there were 11 switchbacks.  From time to time we would stop to rest and I would take those opportunities to drink in the view of the Columbia River gorge dropping away from us as we climbed ever upward. 

The kids were awesome hikers.  Of course, most of our kids are Big Kids now, but even the littler ones did great.

 Upon reaching the top, we OOoooed and Ahhhhhhed for a while from the overlook, snapping pictures and resting our tired legs, then we found a spot upstream from the falls where we could sit on the rocks and eat our lunch.  

The trek back down the hill was much easier, aside from littlest Daines tripping, scraping up elbows and knees, and almost bouncing off the trail and down the side of the mountain. 


The drive back to Beaverton was pretty quiet, as everyone was tuckered out from the adventure.  It also made for a quiet evening of playing games and watching funny video clips online. 

Sunday morning we went to church in Beaverton, but had to cut out early, right after sacrament meeting, so we could make it back to Bainbridge Island in time for Kennedy's flute recital.  Driving home I was again struck by how lucky we are to be able to see Mt Hood, Mount St Helens, and Mt Rainier on that drive.  Such majesty and power in those mountains!

As always, each time we see the Daines it just leaves me excited for our next get together.