This time of year is upon us again and when I think back to January 2011, it seems like it was a lifetime ago. One year ago, we were living through the nightmare of poor Tate's ear tube fiasco, not sleeping and in the middle of the whitest Christmas we'd seen in a long time. This year, we're waiting for Max's mouth surgery (minor), not sleeping for a whole other reason, and playing outside without coats on Dec. 29! What an amazing amount of change can take place in just 12 months.
Here's a recap of our year, month by month. And I'm sorry, dear friends, but this is WAY more for my own benefit than for your reading pleasure. :) But read along if you like!
January: We started out our year with Tate's second round of ear tubes and his adenoid removal. Although it was a long road to eventual recovery, it was well worth it! We got our happy go lucky boy back! January also brought several snow days for our kids. We had a lot of fun snowboarding and sledding in the back yard, along with jammie/movie days inside. Fun times!
February: Zoe's 5th birthday happened on 2/2 and we celebrated with a party at Chuck E Cheese! More snow, and we survived Daddy's crazy travel schedule.
March: The hardest and most memorable thing of 2011...the death of my beautiful aunt on March 3. It rocked our family to the core. Although any death is hard and sad, losing someone SO suddenly like in this tragic car accident was horrible. My heart has expanded immensely for anyone who has lost a loved one in this way. We survived this as well and honored Leslie's life in many ways over the week our extended family spent together. Spring break was overshadowed by her loss but the kids enjoyed the time off school!
April: The start of all things spring! Little league for the boys and softball for the girl! We spent A LOT of time at the ball fields and Buck got his initiation into the world of little league coaching with Charlie's Blue Jays team. We celebrated Easter at my mom's and found ourselves ever more thankful for the gift of new life made possible through the Jesus' death and resurrection from the grave.
May: Busy, busy! End of the school year, family reunion, dance recitals...oh my! My grandpa's 90th birthday happened on May 9 and we had a wonderful though quiet celebration at my mom's. We also enjoyed Zoe's rockin dance recital...her first one in tap shoes! The boys continued to play baseball game after baseball game. We couldn't escape the month injury-free...Zoe took a nose-dive off our swingset and wound up with the first round of stitches for the Olsen kids. Not surprising that it was our little daredevil girl! The kids finished up second grade, kindergarten, and pre-K!
June: We enjoyed our first taste of summer by heading to the Blank Park Zoo and enjoying LOTS of pool time. All three "bigs" loved their first experience with junior golf! I am 100% in favor of encouraging my children to pursue non-contact sports. :) We took our first of 3 trips to the lake this month as well. We wound up the month with Charlie's birthday at...you guessed it...Chuck E Cheese. Chars took his first spin around the neighborhood on his new skateboard and was a natural...he could be found on the board for the rest of the summer! We also celebrated the birth of our second nephew, Jack Elliott Olsen. He is a joy to our whole family!
July: Lake, lake, lake! We made 2 weeklong trips to our heaven on earth and had amazing weather and wonderful times. We celebrated the 4th of July with some great friends and the traditional Urbandale parade. The kids enjoyed more pool time as well! Tate potty-trained in record time and our family was free of diapers for the first time in like 9 years!!!
August: The last of our family trips to the lake...again, God smiled on us and blessed us with amazing weather and special lake memories with Nama, Papa, Aunt G, Uncle Jeffery, Katelyn and Madison! We celebrated Max's 9th birthday at Incredible Pizza (thank goodness we escaped Chuck E Cheese for at least one kid!!) Zoe had her second medical adventure of the year and had successful surgery to repair her lazy eyes. She did great! I had to suck it up and send the kids off to school...Max to third grade, Charlie to first grade and my girl to kindergarten. Sad day for Mommy but the kids were very excited and ready to go. Thankfully two of my best friends from high school came to visit with their babies and we had a wonderful time reconnecting! Tate and I found our new normal and LOVED our days with just the two of us...even though it wouldn't last long...
September: Tate started his "preschool" going to The Bridge 2 mornings a week so I could volunteer in the kids' classrooms. He has been a champ! We got into the swing of things with football practice and games, soccer practice and games, music lessons and Awana. One of the biggest things that happened in September was our move to our new church home to Lutheran Church of Hope in Johnston. We had been looking for a new church home closer to home and God provided! A new church branch right in our backyard. We continued to survive Buck's crazy travel schedule. :) I tiptoed back into labor and delivery and helped a friend as her doula as she and her husband welcomed a sweet baby boy. September also brought the amazing news that we would be parents again, and SOON! A baby girl was on the way via domestic adoption!
October: Travel! I tagged along on a business trip with Buck and spent a few fun days in Washington DC. It was a fun but quick getaway. I attended my second (and final I think, but who knows!) birth of the year as a doula...on my birthday! A new friend welcomed her first baby, a boy. It was wonderful! We surprised the kids on my birthday as well by telling them that a Disney World vacation was coming soon. Our "party of 9" traveled to Orlando the end of October and had the time of our lives. The kids were amazing and it was so fun to have Buck's parents and my mom along to share in the fun.
November: Time to get ready for baby! Making travel plans and scouring Craigslist for baby gear took up some of the time while we impatiently waited to meet our baby. We traveled to Utah late on Nov. 21 and met Selah Faith Olsen on Nov. 23. She is an absolute joy and delight. We officially became her parents on Nov. 24...Thanksgiving day. Although we were sad to miss Thanksgiving with our families, we couldn't be happier to have a new little girl to love.
December: Here we are again! What a year it has been. Christmas parties at school and finding the perfect presents (although we must say the Disney World trip and a new baby sister made this Christmas not quite as exciting as others have been. :) ). We spend Christmas this year with my mom's side of the family, missing Auntie Les and making new memories...and enjoying Selah's first Christmas! Although traveling and sleeping in a hotel room with a newborn and 4 other kids was interesting, we were happy to be with family. Sadly, Buck's grandpa, Merrill Shaw, passed away on Dec. 27 of this year at the wonderful age of 96. He was a great man with a GREAT smile and a huge heart for his four daughters. We will miss him greatly but are so thankful for his long and productive life!
Buck: Professionally, he continues to be happy and fulfilled in his position as a partner at Foster Group. This is the first year (I think) in the 11 years he's been there that he used all his vacation time for the year! Woo hoo!! Let's hope that continues into 2012. While his travel schedule can be crazy, we make the most of the other family time we have together and love our weekends! Buck continues to love his workouts at Farrell's after a minor knee surgery in March...he had a good recovery and was able to get back on the wakeboard this summer. He is the BEST daddy I've ever known and is our rock and my biggest cheerleader. So blessed!
Laura: Professionally, I continue to be happy at home...most of the time. :) I am so fortunate to have a small professional outlet by working as a nurse practitioner 2 days per month (yes...per MONTH). It's the best gig ever! I love my friends and co-workers at the clinic and the patients always manage to keep me on my toes. I've taken the month of December off and will jump back into my PRN position here in just a week or so...leaving Tate and Selah with my sister-in-law makes heading off to work as easy as it can be. I love teaching KQ (Sunday School) to kindergartners and first-graders at our new church and enjoyed my women's Bible study this fall. Mostly I just try to make sure my five kids have clean clothes and that I remembered to feed them all sometime during the day...anything more than that (i.e. baths, brushed teeth, beds made, etc.) is just a bonus! :) In reality, the transition from 4 to 5 kids hasn't been overwhelmingly crazy although it has its moments. But we are blessed with 4 amazing older kids who have LOVED baby Selah and have welcomed her with open arms. It's nice to have a 9-, 7-, and 5-year-old willing to give a bottle, grab a diaper or hold a baby when I need a moment (to you know, change the laundry or something fun like that!). We are so blessed and thankful.
2011 has been quite a year...whew! Cannot wait to see what God has in store for us in 2012. We are so grateful for His faithfulness. One of my very favorite life verses, which I think applies in the good times and the hard times is from Lamentations 3: "The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies are new every morning. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in Him!" v. 22-23 A very happy new year to you and yours. May you know the peace and joy of the Lord now and in the year to come!