For our regular readers, you probably know all this stuff, but for the newbies or those who only check in when they get our Christmas card, I will recap.
2011 has been a different kind of year for us. It's been good, but we've been thrown some curve balls too. Maybe the best way to put it is that we are starting to see what "getting older"feels like!
Tom continues to work as an engineer for Diagnostica Stago, troubleshooting, repairing, and maintaining blood analyzers (at least that is the extent that I know what my brainiac does). How he manages to excel in his career and keep up with all that he does at home is beyond me. I am a very blessed wife. He absolutely takes care of me and treats me better than I deserve!
Tom travels part of most weeks, which I think makes us appreciate our time together more. We work hard at keeping our family connected. Sometimes we get to go on trips with him, but this has become trickier now that the boys are in martial arts and music lessons.
Tom still enjoys computers, techy things, and, of course, sports. He helps out with sound at church, but we have scaled back working with the youth because of Tom's work schedule and little family time. We have always agreed that ministry can never take precedence over our own kids. We don't want our boys to grow up resenting "church." We want to find ways to serve together as a family in this season of life.
So, altogether, Tom is doing well, but the hours of driving and travel take their toll on his injured back and he puts up with a lot of pain on a daily basis.
As for me, I am still homeschooling the boys. We just take it year by year and ask God what His plans for our guys are. We have no hatred against public schools or other alternatives, we just believe for our family, God is using homeschooling to prepare them for their specific futures.
I truly enjoy having my boys home with me. I have been present for all their "first" everything, and I don't want to stop now. I am blessed to have amazing conversations with my children, that I don't think would come up if they weren't with me the amount of time they are. I can truly say that we talk about everything. Of course, I know that can change, but I also know families who have maintained those relationships and that it is possible to be close with my children as they move to adulthood!
Every Tuesday, we have two friends who come to do school with us, as well as my niece, Adalee. This has been a blessing to all families involved. I take the boys to band each week, as well as marital arts classes two nights per week.
I have dropped back from many commitments and groups right now, as the top vertebra in my neck is turned and almost touching my skull, which causes severe migraines that sometimes last two days! I am also continuing to deal with a chemical imbalance in my brain which causes my body to react physiologically to situations that surprise even me. This has all taken its toll on our family, but I have great doctors working with me.
I am determined to remain joyful throughout the hardships of life. It's not always easy, as chronic pain can make me quite irritable inside, but I know with God all things are possible. I cling to Him and His Word and inevitably peace comes.
I am also still determined and believing in faith that I will feel great by the time my annual trip to Nicaragua comes around in February. I have been busy with children making handmade cards to raise the funds necessary. This will be my third year to travel with the team of Project Educate to take hope and aid to children in need. My heart has become connected to these children and their families and I am so excited to return!
Garrison is 13 now, just grew to an inch taller than me, and can now share shoes with his dad! He would technically be in 8th grade this year, but has decided he would like to graduate early and is about to finish Algebra 2 and is halfway through his freshman level science. His vocabulary and ability to converse above his years has never been a problem, but we have really watched his writing ability take off...which has been a great relief considering the tears that used to come.
Last year, Garrison was talking about politics and law school. This year he keeps getting more focused on engineering and has mentioned Purdue, along with Stanford and MIT. Who knows but God where this unique child is headed! Most days I don't have a clue what to do with him! Good thing he is so self-motivated and has a natural love of learning. He pretty much teaches himself whatever he needs to learn!
Garrison continues to seek God diligently. He has had a special love for the Lord since he was very little, and he disciplines himself to read the Word and other books, like biographies to keep his character in check. He is learning that his gift of intelligence and easy comprehension can cause him to act and sound condescending to others. I am so thankful he notices that about himself and is willing to bring correction to it now so it doesn't land him in trouble in the future. He also enjoys anything football and video games.
Alex is 10 and with his mo-hawk, is almost my height. He has slimmed down so much from that chubby lil baby we had. He continues to crack us up and exasperate us within minutes of each other!
Alex is so creative and definitely thinks outside of the box. Traditional learning methods don't engage him much, and if it isn't something he is interested in learning about, he can get very frustrated with schoolwork. Many subjects don't come easy to him, but when he sets his mind and will to learn the concepts he does well.
We have seen so much maturity in Alex this year. From choosing to fast his iPod when he sees himself spending too much time on it to helping out with babies, he has risen to the occasion and exceeded expectations we have of him many times over. His humor can wear me out, but the heart behind it, to make people laugh and spread joy, cannot help but make me smile.
Alex enjoys hanging out with friends, running around mimicking military battles, building Legoes, watching movies, and drawing. His hands need to constantly be fidgeting with something to help his brain focus. Understanding this...and that there is NOTHING wrong with it...has helped us to understand our son more. We know that though he rarely fits a traditional mold, he has been gifted to do great things others wouldn't necessarily think of!
Now we come to the "baby" of the family, who frankly shows little sign of baby anything anymore. I can no longer lift him. I can barely hold him on my lap! He has filled out and grown tall. He has developed an even quicker wit and makes us laugh when we least expect it without trying.
Trey is a quick learner, but easily distracted. Both he and Alex school at fifth grade level together, which works out well most days. I think the friendly competition is good for them, but I have learned the hard way that Garrison is a much different student than Alex or Trey! They require greater amounts of my time and energy to complete lessons...and with my health issues, I can say this has been our hardest year of homeschooling!
Trey also really enjoys playing with his buddies. He likes to build Legoes like Alex, but shares the love of football and video games with Garrison. The difference in Trey's personality compared to his brothers is that he is laid back like Tom. Everything rolls off of Trey, but he is also somewhat forgetful, which can be frustrating.
A bit shorter than Alex still, Trey has caught up with Alex in pants. This has caused our passing down of clothing to not work so well. I can only rejoice that all my guys are healthy and growing and that is most important.
So that's a bit of a wrap-up about us. We are just trucking on, taking each day as it comes and realizing there is no use worrying about tomorrow and what it will bring. We certainly aren't the "perfect" family (not that it exists anyway, right), but we are sticking together. That takes work in this time and culture! God is showing us the steps, and we believe that one day it will all pay off.
As I finish this, I am sitting in the children's hospital with Alex. In a crazy string of events, he went from what seemed to be a bit of a cold and scratchy throat to a severely infected trachea that could have completely closed up and cut off his air supply overnight in a matter of three days.
We never know what a day my bring and that is why I have chosen to make the most of each day...forgiving what is behind, enjoying what is, and looking forward with joy for what will be...the good, the bad, and even the ugly.
I truly believe God's hand of sovereignty is over my family and that just because I am in Christ, that doesn't exempt me from trials and tribulations. It only makes me able to stand up as I walk through them and know for certain that His love and faithfulness will see me to the other side. I choose to learn and to excel through the fiery times, not become bitter and blame because I don't understand the whole picture.
I pray that your 2012 will be full of learning and loving...peace and joy...faith and strength. I'm sure ours will be!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Tom, Mindy, Garrison, Alex, & Trey