January 1, 2016

Five Things That Shaped Our Year [2015]

For about 15 years, I wrote an annual Christmas letter.  I stopped last year, but it's still a time I like to reflect, and I have been.
A year.  365 days.  525,600 minutes.  What shaped them?  What really mattered to us? 
Our days, weeks, and months are pretty full.  But these five things came to me clearly as the highlights, milestones, changes, and challenges that shaped our 2015. 

1.  Mitch and I visited Yosemite / Kings Canyon / Sequoia National Parks.
The first book we bought as a young married couple was a book on National Parks.  I had dreamed of visiting Yosemite ever since.
Yosemite was just one of the highlights on our 2015 adventure.  Mitch especially appreciated the Giant Sequoias. We cruised down Big Sur, where we spotted gray whales swimming below us from a cliff.  We saw (smelled, and heard) the Piedras Blancas elephant seals near San Simeon.  These were fantastic experiences to add to our life's collection.

2.  Wookie joined our family. 
8 months old, she's currently on her first pheasant hunting trip.  Those of us who stayed home feel like home is a little incomplete without her.  A certain 8 year old boy can't wait to hug her when she gets back.  Wookie has left her paw print on our 2015, and no doubt, our lives from here on out.  The level of adoration for her in this family is through the roof.  So is her character.

3.  Mason and Eric are in their senior year.  We gained adult children.
Since their 18th birthday, I've been asked a lot what it's like to have adult kids.  For now it's the same.  They go to school and basketball practice, haul firewood, help out, and make it home by their same old curfew.  But times are changing for our family.  I felt it Christmas morning, as I did throughout the year, the value of the here and now in 2015.  It mattered a great deal to me to focus on our family of seven before these two are off to take on their future. 
(They've both zeroed in on pursuing education in the electrical field after high school.)   

4.  Doing what's best for each of our kids involved changes this year.
They've been kind of big, sometimes challenging, and a little scary.  But we did it.  And we're so glad! 

Lilly (11) marched into a new school with ten times as many kids in her grade as her old one.. with a sureness I was in awe and admiration of.  She is so happy.  I am so happy for her. 
She ran her first 5k and played in her first band performance (alto sax).  Those six graders and their instructor knocked my socks off.
What I wanted most for my daughter was that she be able to soar confidently in her own sky, whatever that may be. - Helen Claes 

Beau and Johnathan are attending 3rd and 7th grades right here at home, with me as their primary educator.  It's challenging, but I respect the academy and curriculum they're a part of, and I'm amazed at all we're learning and accomplishing together.  We're being rewarded with the sure knowledge that they're learning, gaining, and happy. 
We like being happy around here.   
Bonus: While they're learning better than ever, they're also getting to spend much more time outdoors.  We like fresh air, too!

(Johnathan, 13, has grown over 5 inches this year.)

5.  Every year has its ups and downs.
A challenge for us this year was worrying about the health of one of our kids.  Beau had episodes of fainting / severe drops in blood pressure throughout 2015.  We don't know what's caused this, but he had a boatload of tests and procedures that all let us know (after first putting me through the wringer) that Beau's heart is strong and healthy, and all is well inside his thinking cap.  What have we gained from this?  Beau has kept my focus pretty sharp on what matters.  I'm an extremely thankful mom as we wrap up 2015.

"I think this is how we're supposed to be in the world - present and in awe." - Ann Lamott

I started writing this New Year's Eve.  It's now well past midnight.
Peace, Love, and Happy 2016!


  1. FABULOUS PHOTOS, your family is too GORGEOUS :-) Happy New Year Amanda, to you and your family....who have all grown so including Wookie.

  2. Your children, your family, your life are all such blessings to me in my own life. With no living children and now being old enough to have escaped the fate of an early death, I take each day as it comes and enjoy to the fullest the beauty and love of my friends, family, and blogging family. May 2016 bring you all good things, Amanda. I truly am blessed to have watched your kids grow through the years. :-)

  3. Happy New Year. You have a lovely family.

  4. So many beautiful things happened to be thankful for. I visited Yosemite as well last year. It was amazing!

    Mersad Donko Photography

  5. Hello Amanda, I was happy to see a post from you as we begin 2016. You portraits of your young people are fantastic (I don't think I can say "children" anymore - your twins have grown into men). Hold you family and your dreams for them close, Amanda. I've enjoyed watching your family grow and reading about your hopes and aspiration over these years. May 2016 bring you much happiness adventure, and good health!

  6. What an awesome family. There is no way those boys are only seniors in high school. They look so much older. Love Wookie :)

  7. So good to hear from you! How cool you made it to Yosemite. It's high on my list for next year. :) Your kids are so beautiful! I enjoyed the photos of each of them. Happy 2016! Wishing your family all the best.

  8. Beautiful. In words and photos. In soul and in the faces of your babies (who some are nearly now grown!). May more of us find the peace you see in the world, Amanda. Happy New Year!

  9. Oh my . . . FABULOUS . . .
    Lily, and a bit of pink . . .
    Homeschooling, decision made . . .
    Turning out wonderfully . . .
    Wookie . . .
    Oh my, I see mischief in that face.
    Beau coming out positive on the health scare . . .
    Wonderful post Amanda . . .
    Happy days . . .

  10. Hi Amanda,
    Such an experience the Yosemite Park has been for you two! Your photos show the huge, high trees ... It must be a very special experience to see the vastness of the nature in that scale!
    And having two grown up (almost all of a sudden) - and making decisions on the schools for Lilly, Jonathan and beau - trusting that the choices are the right ones - and to see later, that it was the best thing to be decided. Yes - ups and downs are a part of our journey - is is heartwarming to see the fellowship and care your family has ... Having that as an foundation is the best thing ever, one could give to the children!
    Wishing you & your family the best of health and strength, glimpses of joy and moments together to each day in 2016!

  11. Happy New Year, Amanda! Sounds and looks like 2015 was a good one. I wish you and your family health, love and happiness in 2016 and beyond. I hope things continue to go well for your kiddos and Beau's health remains strong.

    Enjoy the changes and challenges in life. You are growing and changing as a family and individuals, beautiful!

    1. Happy New Year to you and your wonderful family. Mrs. T and I were particularly glad to see you family post on the Christmas card. Our youngest son and his family were far away this Christmas and somehow your joy as a family seemed to compensate for our missing ones. We lost our eldest son over Christmas in 1997....

  12. such a strong and beautiful family. i hope that continues well into 2016 and beyond. blessings and adventures wished for all. :)

  13. Wonderful shots and experiences.

  14. What I great set of pictures. No question that those young people are all brothers and sisters!

    Believe it or not, 81000 people turned out to watch the cricket a couple of days before I went with H. 81000!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  15. They have grown a lot during the last year. Congratulations on your lovely family.
    Yosemite is high on my list, I almost made it there once but became ill and had to go straight back to LA. What a pity. It looks amazing.

  16. What an awesome family... Amazing to see them all growing up so fast... You and your hubby have and are obviously GREAT parents... Kids can present all kinds of situations that we handle...

    So glad that you and Mitch got to Yosemite... That is STILL on our list of places we want to visit someday... Beautiful area of the country.

    Happy 2016.

  17. You have an absolutely beautiful family. Yosemite, it's on my bucket list......I am enjoying my visits here!!