Zach's grandma said it best when she told us, "You have a beautiful family. Kinda loud, but a beautiful family." How right she was! And we sure love our loud, crazy, fun, active, silly, loving, chaotic, beautiful family.
The other night at bedtime, I was saying bedtime prayers with the girls. In my prayer, I thanked God for our house and our food and our clothes. After I was done, Adelie responded, "Well, everybody has a house." I explained that there are people who do not have a house or food to eat or enough clothes to wear. Thinking about this, Adelie said, "Well if they don't have a house, where do they sleep?" I told her that some people have to sleep outside on benches or sidewalks or on the ground. Then I explained about homeless shelters, telling her that homeless shelters are big buildings with lots of beds where people can go to sleep when they don't have a house. After explaining this, Adelie exclaimed, "Uncle Ethan lives in one of those!"
Nope, Adelie. He lives in an apartment.
Big building? Yes. Lots of beds? Presumably. Homeless? Not so much.
Love this girl and how she's always making me look at things in a new way.
Here is our Christmas letter for 2017. Many of you have already received it, but I like to archive it here on our family blog.
The 12 Days of
Christmas (Our family style)
On the first day of Christmas, my family gave to me a fun
trip to Disney.(Our November Disney trip
was a highlight, but we also enjoyed our annual week in Pentwater and a few
shorter trips to St. Louis and Wisconsin Dells.)
On the second day of Christmas, my family gave to me 2
sleeping cats and a fun trip to Disney.
On the third day of Christmas, my family gave to me 3 sports
seasons, 2 sleeping cats, and a fun trip to Disney.(Adelie played soccer and Staley played
t-ball and basketball.Briggs played
trucks, cars, and trains every season.)
On the fourth day of Christmas, my family gave to me 4
Staley plays, 3 sports seasons, 2 sleeping cats, and a fun trip to Disney.(Staley was in 3 performances with her acting
class and 1 church musical.I can’t
number the countless performances she and Adelie have put on at home.)
On the fifth day of Christmas, my family gave to me 5 a.m.
runs, 4 Staley plays, 3 sports seasons, 2 sleeping cats, and a fun trip to Disney.(Zach runs at 5:00 a.m. 4 days/week, no
matter the weather.Me?Not so much.)
On the sixth day of Christmas, my family gave to me 6(00)
loads of laundry, 5 a.m. runs, 4 Staley plays, 3 sports seasons, 2 sleeping
cats, and a fun trip to Disney.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my family gave to me 7 days
of school, 600 loads of laundry, 5 a.m. runs, 4 Staley plays, 3 sports seasons,
2 sleeping cats, and a fun trip to Disney.(Staley is in first grade 5 days/week, and Adelie has 2 afternoons/week
of 4 year old pre-school.When they both
line up together with Briggs’s nap time, it’s magically quiet at our house.)
On the eighth day of Christmas, my family gave to me 8 hours
of running, 7 days of school, 600 loads of laundry, 5 a.m. runs, 4 Staley plays,
3 sports seasons, 2 sleeping cats, and a fun trip to Disney.(Zach co-coordinated the day long Eureka to
Peoria St. Jude Run for the 3rd straight year.Zach, my dad, and I were 3 of the 68 runners
that helped raise $121,500 for the kids of St. Jude.)
On the ninth day of Christmas, my family gave to me 9,000
tantrums, 8 hours of running, 7 days of school, 600 loads of laundry, 5 a.m.
runs, 4 Staley plays, 3 sports seasons, 2 sleeping cats, and a fun trip to Disney.(We do have a 2 year old and a dramatic 4
year old so…)
On the tenth day of Christmas, my family gave to me 10 years
at State Farm, 9,000 tantrums, 8 hours of running, 7 days of school, 600 loads
of laundry, 5 a.m. runs, 4 Staley plays, 3 sports seasons, 2 sleeping cats, and
a fun trip to Disney.(I’m still working
2 days/week at the Children’s Hospital and 7 days/week at home.)
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my family gave to me 11
Bear’s losses, 10 years at State Farm, 9,000 tantrums, 8 hours of running, 7
days at school, 600 loads of laundry, 5 a.m. runs, 4 Staley plays, 3 sports
seasons, 2 sleeping cats, and a fun trip to Disney.(The Bears are currently 4-10 with 2 games
left to play in the season.You might
think that it’s my eternal optimism and faith in the Bears that makes me believe
they’ll win one more game this season.However, it has more to do with the fact that I needed something to go
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my family gave to me 12
months of joy, 11 Bear’s losses, 10
years at State Farm, 9,000 tantrums, 8 hours of running, 7 days of school, 600
loads of laundry, 5 a.m. runs, 4 Staley plays, 3 sports seasons, 2 sleeping
cats, and a fun trip to Disney.
We have had a full, fun, crazy, loud, busy, healthy, happy
2017.Hope your last 12 months have been
the same…maybe with a little less loud and crazy.Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a
blessed New Year.
Ellen, Zach, Staley, Adelie, and Briggs…and a partridge in a
Christmas week-end was full of joy and family and giving and playing. We started out our Christmas celebration on Saturday (the 23rd) with Zach's family. I love that the cousins had so much fun playing together that they didn't pester us at all about opening gifts. They rehearsed hard to put together a little play and song and dance performance instead. Loved it!!
We love spending time with family. This picture was pretty successful, but the process to get this picture had me laughing so hard I cried.
Cousin pictures continue to get better, but we still haven't achieved perfection yet.
I love that my kids and their cousins like to buy things for each other. Olivia gave Briggs this blanket, which he loved and has insisted on sleeping with every night. My kids had the best time picking out gifts for their cousins at the dollar store.
They saw these gross fake teeth and insisted that they just HAD to get them for Cade. Merry Christmas??
The kids all got gifts they were so excited about. Adelie got this art set that was a big as she was, along with some Wellie Wisher clothes and boots. Briggs got a remote control car, a garbage truck, and a fork lift. Things with wheels = awesome!
Staley got a magic set, which has already provided her (and Zach) hours of entertainment. She is planning a big magic show in the near future. She also got an American Girl kitty cat.
Christmas Eve was a quiet family day. We went to church, watched some football, delivered some goodies to family, and drove around town looking at Christmas lights. This is one of the kids' favorite activities and they now have specific requests for the lights they want to see. It also snowed on Christmas Eve. Staley woke up, looked out the window, and exclaimed, "My Christmas wish has come true!!"
All the kids slept in on Christmas morning, but Briggs and Staley were up first. We snuggled in bed and read books while we waited for Adelie to wake up. Then we read the Christmas story together and headed downstairs for presents.
The kids all bought or made things for each other and for us. They loved giving their gifts. Even Briggs. He initially wanted to get his sisters a Lightening McQueen and Mater set, but eventually settled on some glitter glue for Adelie and a rubber snake for Staley. Keeping it a secret was a little tough, as he told both girls what he got for them before or as they were opening their gifts.
Adelie worked very hard and made Staley a perler bead picture frame with a picture of the 2 of them in it. Staley had decided that she wanted to build Adelie a doll bed. She worked with Zach to build the bed and with Zach's Aunt Sandi to sew the mattress and pillow. She was SO excited to give it to Adelie, and Adelie was so excited to get it.
When I initially asked Briggs what he wanted for Christmas, he said, "A tanker car and a big bulldozer." He never wavered, which was great since that's what he got.
At the top of Adelie's Christmas list was a Wellie Wisher (a smaller American Girl doll). After she got Wellie Wisher clothes and boots at the first Christmas get-together, then she REALLY wanted to get her Wellie Wisher. Winner, winner!!
Staley had 2 requests for Christmas. A magic set and an American Girl doll that looked like her. She was quick to point out that she probably wasn't going to get the American Girl doll because they are really expensive. She was thrilled to get it!!! She initially named her Staley, then Pixie, then Pinskey, and then finally settled on Haley. However, she did ask how much money I spent on the doll. We talked about etiquette and how that's not really an appropriate question to ask about a gift, but I did also inform her that I had a coupon so I got a good deal. (It's important to teach etiquette, but also to teach the importance of sales and coupons.)
We spent the rest of Christmas morning in our pajamas eating cinnamon rolls, playing with Christmas toys, doing glitter glue projects, and perfecting magic tricks.
After Briggs' nap time, we then headed over to my parent's house for one more Christmas get together.
We had more cousin pictures that are a work in progress.
More gifts to give--like this book that Staley wrote for Grandpa. She insisted on typing it herself and then illustrated it.
More presents to open, like comfy bathrobes, spy kits, books, big blocks, and Wellie Wisher accessories.
It's always fun hanging out with my brothers...
We are so blessed!! What a wonderful Christmas we had!!
Staley's Stage Kids class this semester culminated in their production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever". If you are not familiar with this Christmas story, it is the story of 6 rough-around-the-edges bullies in a town who inadvertently come to church and take all the main roles in the church Christmas pageant, bringing a new perspective to the Christmas story. It has always been one of my favorite books, and the play was fabulous.
Staley was cast as Gladys Herdman, the youngest of the bully family. It was a big part. She had about 15 lines and cues to memorize, which was by far her biggest role in any production so far. She nailed it!!
I helped Staley learn her lines. I knew she had them memorized. I knew she had lots of funny lines and big lines in the play. I knew she would do well, but she surpassed my high expectations. She truly stole the show. She projected. She was easy to understand. She hit all her lines and cues. At the first performance, the girl playing the pageant narrator mixed up a few of her lines which caused confusion for Staley as the cues were wrong, but she went with it and it worked out fine. The next performance was flawless.
Gladys as the angel of the Lord in the pageant
After the play, many people had glowing things to say about Staley's performance. Several people who didn't know her asked if she's really ornery at home. She must have been a good actress since loud, mean, and ornery are very different than our Staley.
Staley had so many people come to watch her perform. She had cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, teachers. It was so fun for her to have so many supporters in the audience.
I had gotten 2 extra tickets and told Staley she could invite whoever she wanted. She wanted to invite her first grade teacher and his wife.
Staley's Kindergarten teacher also came with her daughter. Staley has been so blessed with wonderful teachers!
She had grandparents in the audience...
Zach's aunts and cousin came
as well as my aunt and 2 of my cousin's kids.
Staley always loves having her cousins in the audience.
And friends too.
My friend from work even came with her son.
Stage kids has been such a blessing for Staley. She LOVES to perform, and her director has continued to trust her with bigger roles. Staley was the youngest kid in this production, but she has made so many friends. The older kids truly look out for her, and she always looks forward to going to class. It's like a family.
Staley with Miss Kelleen, her director/teacher
Two of Staley's good friends from class, Anna and Mady.
Seeing Staley shine on stage was a Christmas highlight for the whole family. It truly was the Best Christmas Pageant Ever!!
We have had a fun and festive December. It has been a nice mix of Christmas activities and events, as well as plenty of cozy time at home reading Christmas books, making gifts, baking, and enjoying family time.
We enjoyed choosing our Christmas tree and decorating it together as a family. However, the highlight this Christmas was the Christmas train I found on a Black Friday sale. HOURS of entertainment playing with this train, primarily by one specific member of the family. Best. purchase. ever.
We attended the Christmas pajama party fundraiser for Adelie's pre-school. The kids enjoyed meeting Santa, decorating a cookie, listening to stories, and choosing which raffle prizes they wanted to put their tickets in for. Each kid put in 4 raffle tickets. Of her 4 tickets, Adelie won TWICE, including a free bouncy house rental which was the hot ticket item of the auction. Had I known it was going to be her lucky day, I'd have sent her in to the gas station for a lottery ticket too.
After our Disney trip, Briggs was pretty accustomed to hanging out with strangers in costume so he had no qualms about Santa. Even though we don't "do" Santa and Staley is quick to point out that Santa isn't real, the kids still enjoyed meeting him. Staley and Briggs told Santa what they wanted for Christmas, but Adelie informed him it was a secret and refused to tell him. Guess it's a good thing she's not counting on any presents from Santa.
Staley had her school Christmas concert. She was one of 3 first graders chosen to introduce one of their songs. It was SO crowded in the gym and even though I arrived 50 minutes before the concert to get a seat, we still couldn't see Staley. We could hear her, though, as she said her line confidently and loudly.
Adelie performed in the church Christmas program. She sang a song and recited a poem. She knew all the words and was a very active participant. So cute!!
Staley was in the church Christmas musical. She sang in the choir and was also narrator #1. My little gal has no stage fright and did a great job, as always.
And while I am posting about performances, Staley also performed with her Rising Stars show choir group for a local retirement home, bringing Christmas cheer to the residents who live there.
We also made Christmas cookies. Briggs and Adelie helped make the dough and cut out the cookies, and all 3 kids helped decorate.
Briggs quickly lost interest in decorating the cookies when he realized that he was not, in fact, allowed to eat each cookie he decorated.
Staley and Adelie both had their class Christmas parties at school. I helped at both, but since I was in charge of reading stories to Adelie's class, I didn't get any pictures at her party.
We've shared time with special people, shopped, wrapped, delivered goodies, driven around town looking at Christmas lights, and enjoyed the festivities of the season.
We have enjoyed our December and are ready for Christmas.