the obligatory Christmas letter, 2014 style

Merry Christmas!                                               {all photos taken by ivy & tweed photography}

2014 is almost over and while I can't point to anything that made it a bad year, it was a hard year. Lots of changes; some good and some difficult, and it felt long.
Most years feel like they flew by, but 2014 has had moments where it feels like its dragging on and on.
Our family had good health all year. No terrible sicknesses or hospital visits (woo-hoo!) and we did some traveling which is always fun.

Jason had a business trip with Amazon in November and I got to tag along with him, which was awesome. We enjoyed the alone time and enjoyed a few things about Vegas. Its a fun place with weird people :)

We took a month long trip to California in June and while the visit went amazingly well, we decided a month is way too long to be away. We were all a hot mess when we got home and it felt like it took us several months to recover and get back to normal life. But we loved the time with our families and enjoyed seeing some friends.

We left our only church here in Washington back in April and began the search for a new church home. Its rarely an exciting endeavor, but I have to say I am extremely thankful that the process was smooth and we enjoyed visiting lots of churches and meeting a ton of new people. It was exciting to see what God is doing in the greater Seattle area.
We felt called to one church in particular and have been blessed there and are enjoying making some new friends and finding new areas we can serve God and our community.

We moved in October into our first home we're BUYING here in Washington! This felt like a long time coming, but its finally here and we couldn't be happier. There are so many fun and interesting details wrapped up in this news. If you haven't already heard or read the long version, go here.
The super short version is, God provides. He shows us in the most amazing ways that He's taking care of us and this home sale was nothing short of His amazing grace and provision.
We're feeling settled in the new home and definitely enjoying our first holiday season here.

When people ask Jason and I what we "enjoy doing" we usually both stare and probably look a little confused. We enjoy being together. We have 4 kids, he works full time and I homeschool, so its hard to pull out these random, exciting hobbies we have. Right now our "hobbies" are,

serving God.
raising our kids.
being involved with our church.
spending time with friends.
keeping in contact with family.
watching movies, going on walks, playing board games, visiting new places, trying new recipes, working around the house and yard, talking (our family loves to talk) and just being together, the six of us. We're all most happy when we're all in the same place at the same time.
We both have a "core group" of couples that we enjoy spending time with on nights when we want to get out and enjoy guys' nights or girls night.

Ethan is almost 10 and just typing that made my heart race a little bit. 
He's in the 4th grade and with that comes a much different school schedule. He's still doing the Foundations class with Classical Conversations but has also begun the Essentials program which has been as fun for me as it is for him. And I'm not joking, we both love it! We've enjoyed reading, writing papers, coming up with interesting vocabulary words and learning as we read.

 He loves football and was so excited that his team went to and won their first Super Bowl! He got to go to their post Super Bowl parade with Jason and said its a day he'll never forget.
He enjoys being outside, playing with friends, playing Legos, Minecraft, reading, and having one-on-one dates with Dad or Mom. Out of all our kids he is the one who most enjoys being one on one with us.
Ethan has a sweet personality and is super friendly. He has no fear of meeting new people, finding random kids to play with him at the park and truly likes everyone. 
 This year we focused on some character issues that definitely pop out more at home and while some days are harder than others, we're really thankful for such a kind, outgoing son.

Rachel is 8 1/2 and has had the most noticeable growth spurt this year. In looks and personality she just seems to have aged overnight. 
She's in the 3rd grade and says her favorite subjects are History and Art. She is very artistic and has great plans of designing and creating many things when she gets older.
She likes to be busy with projects and enjoys playing dress-ups and make-believe with Kara.
The two of them are so fun to watch because they start playing and enter this amazing world that is their own and they totally forget anyone is watching them. It takes me back to my own childhood and makes me long for being a kid again.
Rachel also likes to read and enjoys when I read aloud to them. The kids said their favorite book this year that we've read are The Land of Stories and The Bronze Bow. Two very different books, but both excellent.

Rachel is my helper girl. She is always willing to serve her family and does it with a great attitude. I'm often amazed at how often she's already doing something to help out, even before I ask. Its definitely a huge blessing on days when I'm pressed for time and feeling overwhelmed.
She isn't a born leader and feels comfortable following, but does a great job being a big sister and is very trustworthy and responsible.

Kara is 6 and the life of the party. She has endless amounts of energy, never runs out of the things to talk about, likes to make people laugh, has a hard time turning off her silly side and when she's done for the day she crashes in a major way. 
She's in the 1st grade and is a happy early reader. She was beyond thrilled when she learned how to make sense of all those letters on the page :) It amazes me how much Kara and Miles pick up from hearing me teach Ethan and Rachel. I've been really impressed with math facts that she already knows, simply from hearing them being taught when she was little.

She said her favorite subject is Geography and is most excited that she learned ALL the U.S. states and capitals, can point to each one and is learning how to draw the United States map by herself.
Kara is driven and determined. I always tell her she can conquer the world someday because she definitely has that "I'm going to try and not give up" mentality.
She is outgoing when she's comfortable, but definitely shy at first. She likes to follow closely behind Rachel and when the situation seems safe, she opens up :) 

Miles is 2 1/2 going on 12. He has the most elaborate vocabulary and makes us laugh often. He reminds me of a mix of Rachel and Kara's personalities, with Ethan's fondness for books.
He sings all the time, but mostly in the car. His new thing is to take a common tune and then add his own words. The other day it was the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star but he was singing "I like the sun and I like the rain. I like God and I like Mommy..." :)
He is passionate in every sense of the word. Passionately happy and passionately sad. If the older kids take a toy he was using, he is not passive about it. We heard loud cries and I've often panicked thinking he's had a bad fall, only to find out he is just completely broken over someone not being nice to him. I think when you're the youngest of 4 you find creative ways to be heard :) 

 He struggled a lot this year with sharing. I would have a little friend over for him to play with and he would gather all his toys up into a pile and inform the child they were HIS toys and not to be touched.
I was so happy the last time someone came to play with him and he handed his friend a toy and said "you can play with this... but when you go home, just put it on my bed." ... Progress :) 
He loves Curious George, being outside, playing with his train table, talking on the phone, and doing crafts. Rachel is his 2nd Mommy and if Jason or I am not around when he gets a boo-boo, only Rachel is allowed to console him. Out of all our kids, Miles is the one who enjoys it the most when the whole family is together. He cheers when Jason walks through the door at night and says "yay! everybody is home now! Everyone is here!" and we even notice his mood improve on the evenings and weekends. He's a major cuddler and is always worried if someone is hurt or sad.

Its hard to wrap up our kids growth and changes into one letter and I always feel like I need to shorten what I write. Because this is being posted on the blog and not sent out in an actual LONG letter for you all to read, I worry a lot less about its length :)

We hope you each had a wonderful year. I'm praying 2015 is a year full of good changes and fun times for our family, but I know that whatever comes, it is first known by God and He will take care of us and provide our every need.

We love you all,
Jason, Stef, Ethan, Rachel, Kara and Miles

6 {comments}:

Nicola said...

Hey Stef, I didn't have time to read the whole post, but I can't believe how big the kids are getting! I miss you. Hope you're doing well. Love you.

Nicola said...

This is beautiful!

Charlotte said...

Loved this! Your family is beautiful and you are very blessed. Have a Merry Christmas!

Stef said...

thank you so much, Ladies!

Jen Cortez said...

Thanks so much for your Christmas card! Loved reading about your family and your growing kids! May God bless you guys in this coming year!

Gina said...

How sad is it that I just got to read this? But I'm happy it's here and I could. Great pictures and summations of the kids. Miles seems like a mix of Riley and Hannah. 😊. So happy for your big milestones. Praying 2015 doesn't drag and is at least as blessed


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