Sunday, 7 January 2018

** IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the post for last year. 2018's post follows this one so don't miss it! **

Greetings to our friends and family as we head into 2017!

Another year has swept past and we hope it's been a blessed one for you whether in ups or downs.

We headed north this year through Missouri and on to Michigan. We drove through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.  Over 3000 miles. We visited family and friends. We ate lunch at the restaurant Tartan's mom had her first job and then visited with extended family.  In Michigan we spent New Year's Eve with a sweet family we visited last year- in California! And we spent a (too) short time with a friend of Naomi's from junior high who recently moved from Houston to Michigan. (And  I waited until now to get together with her!)

Previously this year, Tartan Alex graduated with honors from HBU with a double degree in English and Creative Writing. He's taken a short term job as a tutor with the Houston school district.  Kyrie took classes at Lone Star College and is preparing to transfer to The University of Texas at Dallas in the fall. For two weeks in the summer, Kyrie, Abigail and Tartan went to Poland and the Czech Republic with Ballet Excelsior to perform a ballet of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in a variety of venues including a small theatre that had never had a Christian group perform before and where they had to turn people away because it was completely full. Another performance was in a large square in front of a church where many people stopped to watch.  Tartan spent his first couple of days there figuring out how to build the "stone" table and a frame for hanging prop curtains.

Aidan has continued with Boy Scouts and has until September to become Eagle. He completed his project and has just a few merit badges to finish. He is making progress in taekwondo. Though he has his black belt, there are degrees of black belt so he's working towards the next degree. His favorite class is weapons class. They don't fight each other with weapons but learn sequences of moves.

Kayleigh moved up to level 5 in ballet. She's a little young for pointe shoes; that'll likely come next year. However she danced in the annual Dance with a Purpose fundraiser for Ballet Excelsior. She loves ballet and hip hop, but her favorite is tap. Ballet Excelsior and the Excelsior Trainees perform in a Christmas show at Market Street almost every year. Kyrie is in the company and Abigail is in the trainee program. This year was special because Kayleigh got to dance with her tap class at the beginning of the show so all three girls participated. It was an interesting two days. The first night the temperatures were in the low 70s, high 60s. The second night the temperature was hovering around freezing.

Naomi learned a lot about the frustrations of gardening last spring. This year we're going to build an enclosed walk in garden box and hope for better success. She's also enjoyed loom knitting and plans to finish a small blanket and make a hat for Abigail (so she'll give back the one Naomi made for herself).

And now the photos…

 Tartan receives a scouting award in January

About to head to the Father Daughter Dance

T. Alex enjoying the love on his birthday 

Aidan officially receiving his black belt

Kayleigh after her grade 4 and Abi and friends after their level 7 exams

Kayleigh IS the fox (from the Christmas dinner scene in The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, though this photo was in our back garden)

Mission trip to Poland & the Czech Republic with Ballet Excelsior

Kyrie depicting Edmund as he makes the decision to obey the White Witch

Tormented by the Queen's crones when she comes to claim Edmund

Charging into battle

 Abigail IS the butterfly

Aidan arranged for the children's wing at church to be painted for his Eagle project

Our annual visit to Renaissance Festival

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Dear Family and Friends,

I actually did have a letter for 2017 but my editor did not get back to me with whether it needed any changes, I forgot about it and then it was February! I'll post it with this one anyway, though that'll be in a couple of days. I want to post photos with that one that I don't have access to at the moment.

2017 - what happened this year? The good thing about these posts is that it causes me to look back on the events of the year.

In February, Kayleigh got her braces and Abigail got her driver's permit. Hopefully, she'll get her license in the next month.

March brought a trip to Bulgaria for Tartan, myself, Kyrie and Abigail with Ballet Excelsior. The girls performed in an extended version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in Sofia, Stara Zagora, and Varna. Tartan was the sound tech again and I was the photographer. Kyrie and Abigail reprised their roles as Edmund and the butterfly. Tartan also built a garden box for me. I had better success, especially since I was able to put my blueberry bush containers inside the box. My best harvest was from those!

Abigail participated in the homeschool science fair for her biology class in April. She created a model of a butterfly wing and called it ”Layers of Beauty." In May we went down to Corpus Christi for a short but sweet visit with my dad and his wife that included a visit to the beach. At the beginning of June was Kyrie's last performances with Excelsior. I'm not sure how many times between rehearsals and shows she performed as Edmund but she did it each time with energy and emotion that the audience could connect with. Abigail's butterfly was graceful dancing alongside Lucy and Kayleigh's fox led a dance at the Christmas dinner.

At the end of June, another child got braces! Abigail is hoping she won't have to have them for a full 18 months, but we'll just have to see. In July, Aidan traveled without us with the contingent from BSA Sam Houston Area Council to the national jamboree in West Virginia. He had a great time and brought home one of the official tents. I insisted he take pictures so he averaged about one a day that he sent to his dad. His favorite area was the OA Circle where he found his OA lodge name in the brickwork. Finding places where he could charge his electronics was a challenge but he discovered a spot outside the bathrooms near the sinks. So, he'd let his phone charge and he'd help people dump pots of water. He lived up to the Colonneh lodge motto of "cheerful service."

August was a busy month! We got Kyrie settled in to her on-campus apartment, school started for everyone and the following weekend Tartan and I spent a few days in Hamilton, Texas at a vacation house for our anniversary. It was very nice and relaxing but we returned to heavy rainfall from hurricane Harvey and a very busy week helping out families in the neighborhood next to our church who got flooded. We pulled out wet furniture and household items, removed drywall and insulation, and shop-vacuumed a lot of water. Our church served meals and handed out donated clothes, food, personal items, and bottled water.

September was memorable in that Aidan earned his Eagle Scout rank and turned 18! We will have his Court of Honor at the end of January. Tartan Alex was informed that he had a job in Mito, Japan in the spring. He'll be going at the end of March or early April to teach English for at least a year. In October, we visited Kyrie at UTD during Family Day, though we didn't participate in any of the official activities. Her major is Arts and Technology with a focus in Design & Production. She really enjoyed her classes and has made many new friends. She found time to become very involved with UTD TV where she became part of the production crew, doing things like set up and take down and working camera and audio. And she even had the opportunity to do some editing at the end of the
semester and hopes to do more.

November was busy with a lot of rehearsals for DWAP (Dance with a Purpose) and Christmas performances. Abigail is a trainee senior this year and was able to dance with the Ballet Excelsior company. Each year, Excelsior teams with Lifepointe church to do a Christmas show for the public. A dance with three small dancers was requested to perform both at the church (which had limited room) and at Market Street. Since Kayleigh is small, an intermediate level dancer and has a sister who was already going to be involved with the Christmas dances, she was asked to be one of the three. The three girls persevered through many rehearsals and did a superb job at all three performances in December. Abigail danced a duet at the church, performed in several of the dances at Market Street, and danced with company at Faith Bible church on two different weekends. It was an unusually full dance schedule this December!

While two of our vehicles were getting maintenance work done at the same time, Tartan Alex volunteered to go to the ExxonMobil campus to pick up his dad. He was asked by two different security guards if he was an Uber driver and so was born an idea for a temporary career. He soon became a Lyft driver, which has been an interesting experience for him. He's helped people load and unload their groceries. He's driven very talkative passengers and some that are on their phones the entire time. He drove someone from the airport to the hospital- a sobering experience. He's even created Spotify playlists that he tries to match to different passengers. Hopefully by the time he's off to Japan he'll be so sick of driving that he won't mind not having a car in Japan.

Our end of year trip was to Duck Creek Village, Utah. We rented a wonderful cabin where we just hung out together for a week. We made one day trip to Zion National Park where we hiked the Emerald Pools trail. On the way to Utah we stopped by Petrified Forest National Park which seemed like a great place to go to on another trip. Since T. Alex will be in Japan next Christmas, this year’s trip is likely the last time (for a while, at least) that we’ll all be together, traveling and making memories. As a “finale” of sorts, it’s been a really good one.

As always, we hope for a wonderful 2018 for you all! We don't know what the new year holds for us but we know Who holds us in everything.