Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: A Year in Review

Oh 2011, how I will miss you.

This year has been very good to us, and very cruel to us, sometimes at the same time.

We started the year off in a very rough way, with our van breaking down in downtown Orlando in the afternoon on New Year's Eve. I had multiple migraine headaches over that. You can read all about that fiasco in one of my blog entries from earlier this year.

That same van later broke down during a rain storm, and with the warranty running out, and so many issues with it, Jenn and I decided to trade it in for a new Nissan Sentra and somehow make the difference in size work for us.The gas savings alone has been a blessing.

My grandmother, Ellen Jane Van Vorhis, died Feb. 20, 2011, at age 87.

My great-aunt, Eileen Becker, died March 30, 2011, at age 92.

On October 9, 2011, Jenn's grandfather, Ralph Bruns passed away at age 89. His death inspired us to "raid" Jenn's grandparents' house and scan as many pictures as we could find and share them with the family. The grand total of photos was 6,308. And I hear Grandma and Aunt Judy just found some more.

As a family, we did a LOT of camping this summer. A couple of the nights were so hot that we bought fans for the tent, but still suffered. We learned that to get Kaleb to sleep while camping, we would drive around and look at wildlife at twilight. All of the deer come out at twilight when we camp, and it was fun to watch.

The biggest thing that happened in our family was that we began attending Cedar Creek Church in Perrysburg. It has been a life-changer for us. We volunteer there in the book store. We are in a Bible study. We have taken several classes and have made many friends, and we willingly give to the church. We have participated in Operation Christmas Child, providing Christmas gifts for children in need. We provided backpacks full of school supplies at the beginning of the year, and in 2012, we plan to "adopt" a child from a foreign country. Think Sally Struthers infomercial at 3 a.m. That's what we plan to do. We just need to pick a program, choose a child, and commit.

Me and my amazing and beautiful wife Jenn.
Jenn took a brave step and got a new job as a scheduler for a company in Toledo that assists the elderly. She misses her personal visits with clients, but overall, this is a much better situation and she truly likes her co-workers.

She is such an amazing cook. I have put on several pounds just because of her cooking. I joked with her throughout the year that she should "forget helping old people. Open a restaurant and serve THIS!" I have said that for her homemade mac and cheese (really) and her unbelievable Philly cheese steak open-face sammich. As I write this blog entry, one of her cookbooks is sitting in front of me awaiting a new binding. One of her co-workers broke the comb binding in her exuberance to copy all of Jenn's delicious recipes. One weekend during the Christmas months, I literally ate 3 bags of her Chex mix it was so good. We're almost out. I'll have to ask her to make some more. I could eat that all year.

Evan and Papa Van Vorhis. While he didn't win the race, Evan did win
best design for his Pinewood Derby car.
Evan is doing extremely well. He is a smart, caring second grader who is reading near third-grade levels. He is doing so well that for Christmas, we gave him a Nook e-book reader from Barnes and Noble. He is into Beyblades, Bakugan, Zhu Zhu Pets, Pokemon, and pretty much anything else that has a Japanese name and/or animation.

He plays soccer, basketball, and baseball. He is a blue belt in karate, and a wolf in Cub Scouts. He has made it very clear that he intends to play football this year, as well. This kid is good at every sport he attempts. He can even switch-hit in baseball, and will bunt and slide into bases without the coach's approval. It has gotten him in trouble a couple of times, but after the coach yells at him for doing it, he will tell the assistant coach "wow, I can't believe how well he did that." That has happened several times. One time when he bunted, a coach from the other team said to Evan's coach, "Wow. Did you teach him that?" It blows my mind how good he is, and how easy it comes to him.

Currently, he is in CCD, preparing for his First Communion this spring. Evan is always concerned about other people, and while that causes him some unneeded anxiety, I adore that about him. I can totally see him becoming a doctor or a psychologist, based on his concern for others.

Kaleb is our outgoing and precocious 3-year-old. I think we are out of the Terrible Twos, which lasted for-freaking-ever. Maybe we're not out of it. Every time I think we are, something happens that tells me that we aren't quite through the woods yet.

Kaleb is our musical child, and I am SO looking forward to watching that develop. Currently, he runs around in public singing (at the top of his lungs) C and C Music Factory's "Everybody Dance Now." It has turned many, many heads and gotten a lot of smiles. I can't wait to watch him learn an instrument (if he chooses to), to introduce him to my favorite music at the appropriate ages, and take him to concerts.

We moved Kaleb from a private babysitter to a Christian-based daycare. While Kaleb learned and grew so much during more than two years with his private babysitter, his language development took off at the daycare. People can't believe that he is speaking in complete sentences. Personally, I can tell you how very, very grateful I am for these sentences. I understand what he wants so much better with words than I did with grunts and whines.

The coolest thing that has happened with Kaleb this year is that he has started to put himself to bed. When we started 2011, bedtime was a horrid, awful, ugly, nasty fight with him. Now, we send him to bed at around 8:30 with his Fisher-Price iXL (which he calls his DS). He plays it for about 10 minutes, then brings it to the living room, puts it on the book shelf, and announces that it is time for prayers. We pray, and each of us says something we are thankful for that day. He then chooses either mommy or daddy to sing him a song (I pretty much only sing a highly obnoxious version of "Little Red Caboose," while mom sings stuff like "Twinkle Twinkle" and "This Little Light of Mine" and "Bushel and a Peck.") And that's the end of it. No kicking, screaming, fighting, "yes you are/no I'm not." He goes to bed and sleeps through the night.
Kaleb shown sleeping, feet not touching the floor.
Just to prove it wasn't a fluke...Kaleb shown sleeping, feet not touching the floor.

Somehow, he found this to be comfortable. Whatever.
He's almost completely potty-trained, too (yeah!!!)

As for me, I continue to teach a class called "The Parent Project." I trained for it during summer of 2010, and have taught the adult component twice and the teen component once. I love it. I am looking into getting my license to be an Ohio Certified Prevention Specialist.

I got my first filling due to a cracked or crushed tooth the day before I wrote this blog entry. And they didn't use anesthetic. That's how I roll. My new glasses come the first week of January.

I began reading the Bible purposefully from cover-to-cover, and I am almost 2/3 through. What an amazing story.

I had an emergency appendectomy in June. The outpouring of concern from family, friends and co-workers was mind-blowing. It really made me re-evaluate how I look at my relationships with others.

Teaching Evan what little I knew in November, 2010.
The coolest thing to happen to me actually occurred on Christmas, when Jenn and the boys gave me the gift of guitar lessons. At face value, the idea is pretty crazy. I mean it was a check written to my teacher out of our joint checking account, for 1 lesson. You don't learn anything from 1 half-hour lesson. But Jenn and the boys didn't give me one lesson. They gave me permission to leave the house and pursue something I am passionate about on a regular basis for an undetermined amount of time, and permission to take as many lessons per month as I want. The amount of love and understanding and freedom that gives me is indescribable. I am so grateful.

I'm pretty sure the idea came from this fall when an "open mic" was announced for all musicians at church for the Cedar Creek Church band. This isn't just one band, but four, with extras in the wings to take over in case someone can't perform due to illness or other reason. Cedar Creek has an amazing wellspring of musical talent. I thought about trying out and floated the idea past Jenn. Ultimately, I put the kibosh on the idea myself, with the determination that "I suck." I'm pretty sure Jenn saw that twinkle in my eye when I was thinking about trying out and wanted to push me to not suck anymore. These lessons are something I have wanted to do for a long, long time, but it was never something I was willing to allow myself to do.

I hadn't had a guitar lesson in more than 20 years. It was so weird to take that first lesson the day after Christmas. I am learning new ways to form chords, and I'm actually learning arpeggios and scales other than the pentatonic scale. I have entered these lessons with focus and purpose. My goal is to learn theory and technique, not to learn just enough so that I can sit with a CD player and figure out the latest songs because they all sound the same. Heck, that's how I learned how to play AC/DC songs. I want more than that.

Some other highlights and events for 2011 include:
  • The Pinewood Derby featuring a car Papa Van Vorhis helped Evan build.
  • Many, many Easter egg hunts.
  • A one-on-one quality-time day with Evan, during which we went bowling and played some card and board games.
  • Kaleb's many funny sleeping positions (partially illustrated above).
  • Awesome water gun fights.
  • Getting serious about this blog.
  • Water balloon fights.
  • Kaleb's funny words like "pahcoin" for "popcorn," and "booferries" for "blueberries."
  • My pride in Evan as he helped to tell the story of Christmas during their school performance this year.
  • Finding the snake at Maumee Bay State Park with Evan.
  • Kaleb's fascination with firefighters.
  • Evan mastering riding the bicycle without training wheels.
  • Backyard picnics, fireworks and concerts with dear friends.
  • My Father's Day hammock.
  • Being asked if I am a Jesus Freak, and deciding that in fact, I may well be.
  • Seeing Poison in concert for the 15th time or so.
  • Evan losing his first two teeth...which took forever.
  • The Amazing Failure called Kaleb playing organized soccer.
  • Evan's first model rocket launch.
  • Family pictures
  • Greeting Honor Flight on their return home from the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
  • Evan and "Seniorville."
There have been other good things that have happened this year that I am not willing to mention in this blog. Suffice it to say that they are game-changers for our family, and for that, we are grateful.

While I can't speak for Jenn or the boys, my personal goals for myself and my family in 2012 include:
  • Adopting a child Sally Struthers-Style.
  • Remove clutter and reduce the need for "stuff" in our home.
  • Finish reading the Bible.
  • Join a men's Bible Study/accountability group.
  • Replace our computers.
  • Pay off more debt.
  • Possibly start our own Life Group (which is another name for a Bible study).
  • Get a used pickup truck to better facilitate camping.
  • Tithe.
  • Find more ways to help people in need.
  • Continue my guitar lessons with dedication and a focus on theory and technique.
  • Get serious about publishing my book about It's a Wonderful Life.
I usually end the year glad to see it go away. Thanks to this exercise (inspired by something Jenn read and told me about), I find myself thankful for all this year has given me. 2011 has been very good to our family.


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