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

1 comment:

Joy said...

What a lovely Christmas letter. Thanks for sharing!