This year we thought we would do an electronic Christmas letter in conjunction with our Christmas card. I love Christmas cards and letters. I love catching up with people and what is going on in their lives. I hope you enjoy our letter and the card you received.
There are advantages to this type of Christmas letter.
First, we were able to use Heritage Makers direct shipping, saving us time and money! It was so easy. I just input the address, pick the card I wanted to send to you (of course designed by Jessie, Steve and Doreen) and then they did all the hard work! It was so easy! I just love working with this company.
Second, we are saving trees by not using paper for our Christmas letter, stamps, and extra envelopes.
Third, there is no limit to length. We can use as many words as we want. (Ok, so for some of you that is a disadvantage.)
Fourth, we get to add lots and lots of pictures.
Fifth, if we ever find an editing error, we can come back and change it and only a few will know.
But there is one huge disadvantage of this type of letter: no personal notes sent to you. Please know that if you receive a Christmas card from the Blanding family it is because you are our friend and you mean something to our family. You have smiled at us, lifted us up, touched our lives in some way, prayed for us, shared our happiness and our sorrows. We thank you for your friendship through the years and we wish that we could hand deliver our card with a hug and a huge thank you, but traveling across the country is just not possible. Please know that we are thinking of you and the impact you have had on our family at this time of year. Thanksgiving at our house lasts a whole year as we are most thankful for our friends.
Hope you enjoy,
A Blanding Year in Review
Cast of Characters:
Steve: He is about as old as dirt, short for his weight, happy that his family is well, and worried to death because he has teenagers. He still is serving in the ward scouting program as the committee chairman, advancement chair and whatever else they may need him to do. Still runs a game store out of our house and on the web. He wishes he could keep more of that hard earn cash in his pocket instead of watching it fly out. Recently Steve made the difficult decision to leave Microsoft after 18 years. He still hasn't decided what he'll do after he leaves but there are some options in the works. If you know of anything you think he should consider, please let him know.
Kray: Just turned 17, attending college already (boy how time flies) and working hard to earn a living (is it three or four jobs now?) and growing taller by the minute. Earned his 42nd merit badge this year and has one more year to add more.
Mike: Turned 13 in the middle of the year, misses playing soccer. Refereed his sister's games. Keeps his hair very short, explores friendships and is waiting for his Eagle project.
Matt: Turned 11 this year and grew an inch or two. Loves to play soccer. Tries hard not to do his school work, but has a steel trap for a mind, so it really doesn’t work. He is a Tenderfoot and can't wait for his first merit badge. His best friend is his younger brother.
Chris: Will be 10 in a few short weeks. Loves playing, reading and being right. When in the mood is a great helper around the house. Loves to play the piano, like the rest of his siblings. His soccer team won the Year End Tournament. Can't wait to earn his WEBELOS badge and Arrow of Light. He has it all planned out for January 11th, when he turns 10. He is best friends with his older brother.
Jessie: Turned 8 and was baptized this past August. She loves to play house and help Doreen with all her motherly chores. Discovered friends this summer and the phone. "Mom can I call…." is often heard around noon. Took to reading these past few months and loves to write stories.
February: Happy news: Kray used the new car to pass his drivers license test. Now he can help run errands for Doreen! Sad news from Doreen's family. Her nephew Ryan and his lovely wife Ashley lost their newborn baby girl. It was pretty heart wrenching for the family. Doreen has a special place in her heart for Ryan as she often babysat Ryan when he was a little boy. Time sure does fly.
March: Kray isn't so happy anymore. He learned the hard way about rain, slick roads and watching at red lights. The light turned green and everyone started to go through the light, but just as quick as you can blink the light turned yellow and everyone stopped, but Kray couldn't stop fast enough. Six thousand dollars and a week later we have a new front end on our Ford Escape. While the car was in the shop, Doreen, Kray, Jason and Mike headed on down to Aspen Grove to attend the LDS-NHA teen conference. It was such a wonderful experience.
April: Spring soccer season is fast on the Blandings and everyone participates. Kray is earning big bucks as a referee. Jason also joins him as he is now a referee as well. Jason and Mike are playing on the same team and it looks as if it is a great team. The second game of the season they win 9-0. Mike and Jason both score. For Mike it ends a three season drought and for Jason, who usually plays goalie, it reminds him how much fun offence is--especially when you score three goals in one game. Matt and Chris are on the same team as well. They both moved up to a larger size field and learned that passing is what the game is all about. They both get plenty of opportunities to score and put the ball in the back of the "net" or more accurately through the sticks. Jessie won't be left out and is playing again. She loves the game and is finally getting the hang of passing and trusting her teammates. She doesn’t like to play goalie and loves to play "scorer". Steve is the faithful cheerleader and tries to make the games as often as he can. Doreen is coaching all the kids (minus Kray who isn't on a team this year). It was easy since Jason and Mike are on the same team as well as Matt and Chris. Only three teams this season. Kray went on his first date. He took a lovely young lady to the LDS Prom. Matt earned his WEBELOS badge and Chris earned his Bear.
May: Crisis! In an attempt to turn on a circuit breaker, Steve accidently flipped the computer room circuit and fried Doreen's hard drive. Everything is lost! Thousands of photos that were just about ready to be burnt onto CD's. A couple of books she was working on. Family history, journals, homeschooling data, and the list goes one. Thankfully there is a company who will retrieve it but for a price. Soccer season is over and Jason and Mike's team go undefeated. What a season! To top it off they are able to go see a Seattle Sounder game at Qwest field. Even better is that Jason, Kray and Doreen get to go early and participate in a referee clinic with the professional refs. Truly a night that won't be forgotten soon.
June: Jason starts his Eagle project. He is making toy wood block sets for the LDS Church Humanitarian Center. He is going to use a teen homeschool conference to help him get started. The kids are at the kitchen table now dissecting worms, perch, crayfish and frogs. Doreen tries really hard not to faint this time around. (In 10th grade she hit the floor in biology class.) It works because she doesn't watch the gross stuff. She will admit that she threw up during the perch dissecting. Thankfully the kids were kind to her and let her teach and explain from behind a laptop screen.
July: Kray plays the Star Spangle Banner on guitar at our ward's 4th of July breakfast and does a fantastic job. Cub camp! One of the highlights for Doreen all summer is going to cub camp with her cubs. She is almost out of cubs (only one more cub camp) so she is relishing it all the more. As soon as cub camp is over they family heads to Utah for an Ostler Family Reunion. It was a GREAT reunion. All of Doreen's siblings and their families were there. Well, expect for three people and of course the few that have passed on. It was hot, sweaty and so much fun! We are so thankful to be part of a great family! We stay a few extra days to do all the Utah things we never do because we only go to Utah every five years or so. On the way home we stop in Richland to see the dentist and visit with Doreen's mother. Within 12 hours of us getting home, we get the call that Doreen's mother has had a heart attack and isn't expected to live. Doreen rushes to her bedside and spends the weekend with her. She had to come home because she had shoulder surgery scheduled for the next week. The very next day, the night before her surgery, she got the dreaded phone call that her wonderful mother had passed away. Nellie Nadine Olsen Ostler had lived a wonderful live and in the last week of her life she was able to see all of her living descendents. What a blessed woman she is!
August: On Matt's birthday his Grandma Ostler was buried. It was a bitter sweet day for all. Matt was such a trooper for sharing the day with his Grandma. The boys head off to scout camp where they all rack up 6-7 merit badges each! Kray and Jason are barely home when they head off to a super activity full of go kart racing, white water rafting, Fear Factor, paint balling and more. They return just in time for Jessie's big day. Jessie is baptized by her dad and Kray was one of the witnesses. He even noticed that Jessie's hand didn't make it all the way under. Jessie remember that her mother promised her a baptism dress so she was extra beautiful in a white dress made for her by her mother. After the baptism she wore a new pink dress that Doreen had made for her as well. Doreen had forgotten how fun it was to sew--really sew, not just mend or sew on merit badges. After Jessie is baptized the family head to Long Beach, Washington, for their annual family camping trip. Grandma and Grandpa Blanding meet us there and we have a lovely time. It is so much fun relaxing on the beach doing absolutely nothing. Doreen needs the down time to process all that has happened as well as give her shoulder time to heal. The surgery went very well and the prognosis looks promising.
September: School is in full session. The Blandings are studying ancient history this year and trying their luck with chemistry. They hope there are no explosions. Math and reading are always on the list as well. Kray starts college at Bellevue Community College. He is taking an English class, a French class, guitar class and three PE classes: pickle ball, tennis and rock climbing. He and Jason are signed up to ref a bunch of soccer games this soccer season while Jessie, Matt and Chris are playing. Mike will be Jessie's ref. Doreen is head coach of Jessie's team, assistant coach of Matt's and substitute coach for Chris' team. And just so Steve doesn't feel left out, he comes and cheers his kids on as well in his wonderful recliner lawn chair.
October: School is going full force and no explosions have happened. WHEW! If the Blandings are not exploring Rome, figuring out chemicals, doing math, or reading then they are at the soccer fields. Soccer is six days a week. Thankfully there is Sunday that we get don't have to lace up our cleats. Doreen also is fitting in more therapy as she rehabs her shoulder. She is ahead of schedule and can thank soccer for helping her use her arm more than she should. She is also finding herself doing the many things she saw her mother do. She is trying her hand at bread baking, picked up crocheting and still loves learning.
November: Soccer finally comes to an end with Chris' team taking the championship game 3-1. It was a very wet and muddy tournament, but he had a great time. Jason was invited as a first year ref to ref a couple quarter final games and Kray was honored with the center job of the BU12 game. It looks like Kray will be nominated for the 2008 Washington Youth Referee award this year. He and Jason show such poise and confidence out on the pitch it is scary. Teenagers are supposed to be intimidated by yelling adults, but not Kray nor Jason.
December: The house is all decorated once again for the holiday season. Soccer is finally over and the ski equipment has been pulled out from its resting place. Kray takes a three week break from college work, the rest slow down and take a break. The family gathers to celebrate the birth of the Savior. As they look back on the year--a year filled with physical and emotional pains they also see many blessings. They are blessed with great friends, a super family, the gospel of Jesus Christ in their life, food in the cupboard and a fire in the fire place. They are truly thankful for the adventure of their life that keep them grounded, humble and excited to be alive.