Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011

It's been a few years since I have sat down and written an actual Christmas letter. We decided that we would just update everyone through our blog and post our picture instead of mailing it out to each of you. Hopefully you won't strike us from your mailing lists and we promise to get a picture out next Christmas!

In June, Ryan was able to go on a trip to Israel through Youth Unlimited. He was gone for 2 weeks and had an amazing time! It's hard to capture in words all that he saw and experienced during that time. He says that it was incredible to see the Bible come alive and to get an entirely different perspective on scripture, kind of like watching TV in Black & White and then experiencing it in Hi-Definition! While he was in the Land he visited all the major regions from the Negev Desert/Wilderness all the way to the Northern Borders of Israel and Lebanon. They spent time at the Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee, and Mediterranean Sea. They visited sites such as the battlefield where David fought Goliath, the Shepherd's Field outside of Bethlehem, Capernaum, Caesarea, and much more! Their time in Israel was finalized by spending a few days in Jerusalem walking the Passion walk of Christ. Ryan definitely felt that the trip was spiritually refreshing and he returned with some amazing stories and new ideas to use for the next school year. We definitely missed daddy those few weeks and tried to keep ourselves busy with VBS and day trips with friends.
Ryan returned from Israel and was barely home when he had to finalize plans for the SERVE group arriving at our church in July. 70 adults and high school students arrived for a week of serving the community and being challenged to fulfill our call as Christians to go into all the world. Ryan loves the SERVE experience and really enjoyed hosting a project here after having done it numerous times with our church in CA.
Ryan continues to stay busy with high school and junior high youth groups and all the extra's that go along with each. We praise God for the wonderful staff he works with and the support they are for each other. He continues to love his job and it is definitely fulfilling to see the relationships that have been established and God working in the lives of these students!

I continue to stay busy with a variety of church activities and trying to keep one step ahead of our 3 kids. I still play piano for the praise team once a month, help out with Children's church, and am the craft coordinator for our Story Hour (Coffee Break) kids every Wednesday morning. It's enough to keep me involved and yet I don't feel overwhelmed with all that being a stay-at-home-mom requires.
In July, the kids and I were able to fly to WA for 3 weeks to spend time with my family. It was so much fun to be in WA in the summer and get some sightseeing in and visit with friends and family. My Grandparents celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary so we were able to be there for the De Groot family reunion. We really enjoyed spending time with family and creating great memories with my family! Ryan was able to join us for the last week and of course we were spoiled by my parents! It was a wonderful family vacation!
About 2 weeks after I returned from WA, we received a phone call that my dad had been having seizures. After a number of these episodes, it was determined that he had a stroke. He lost the use of most of his left side and was having incredible difficulty swallowing. In about 3 weeks time, he was out of the hospital and at home recovering. He was back to work about a week later. I was able to fly out in October by myself for a week to help him at work as he is self-employed and spend some time with him. It was so good to be able to be home with him and see for myself the progress he had made. We had quite the fun time at work together and I really enjoyed spending time with both my parents alone and being the favorite aunt for a week to my nieces there! We definitely praise God that my dad is almost 100% recovered and only has minimal issues swallowing. He is back at work full time, walking on his own, finished with therapies, and waiting for the go- ahead to drive! Praise God!!!

Kiera entered the world of "real" school as she calls it. She started Kindergarten at Christian Center School. We LOVE her school and her teacher! She attends mornings 5 days a week. She absolutely LOVES school. She is always full of information and wanting to stay all day. It has been so much fun to see her make new friends, embrace learning, and enjoy all that school has to offer. She continues to be quite the helper at home with the boys and they have really started playing together so well! She is definitely our social butterfly and always wants someone to play with her. She has quite the active imagination and can bring to drama to any and every situation!

Caleb & Joel:
I lump them together because they are never apart and pretty much continue to be identical in most ways. It's hard to believe that we have survived 3 years with twins! These two boys have definitely pushed us to the limits of our parenting knowledge, tested our patience in every way, and brought us incredible joy through it all! The 2's were definitely terrible...the 3's are looking much better! We still aren't potty-trained, but who really wants to train 2 at once? These boys have quite the relationship and we love to see them interact with each other and with Kiera. You will have to read my previous posts about each of them to truly understand how these two boys operate together and independently of each other. Sometimes it can be quite unbelievable!
The boys most favorite thing to do (next to playing and eating snacks, of course) is to attend Story Hour. They love to go with me on Wed. mornings to play and be with other kids. They think they are pretty hot stuff going to class all by themselves. They started attending Children's church on Sunday mornings as well since they decided nursery was not acceptable. Thankfully we only have to have them in church with us occasionally.

Our year has definitely had it's high's and low's and through it all we have seen God's faithfulness to our family, our extended family, and our friend's. We thank God for each of you and the role you have played and continue to play in our lives. We wish you and each of yours a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

To my youngest: Joel

When I think about what to write for Joel, his little dimple and quick smile come to mind. Joel is always quick to smile and definitely shows his emotions a lot quicker than Caleb. You are very giving with your hugs and kisses and will just come up to me and say "I love you mommy!" You make us so happy! Lately, you have learned to cry on command as soon as someone takes something of yours and you are quite effective with this method!

You, Joel, are my little chatterbox. I thought that Kiera would take the cake in our family, but you are definitely giving her a run for her money! You are always asking questions and stating the obvious just to be heard. I love to hear you and Caleb chat in the car. You are always asking him questions or pointing things out to him. The funniest part is that you always say his name when talking to him. You definitely talk more than Caleb and I love hearing your high pitch voices chatting away behind me!

You are definitely more needy than Caleb. You need much more attention from mommy and prefer to spend time around people than by yourself. You are quite hesitant to go anywhere alone and have quite the separation anxiety for story hour and children's church. We started taking you to church because you HATE the nursery.

You are quite the leader and tend to be the organizer between you and Caleb. You generally decide what is played, where it's played, and how long. Caleb is quite content to just follow you around...except when you dictate that whatever you are doing is over!

You are my little snacker. Every morning when you and Caleb watch Caillou, you always come upstairs midway with a silly grin on your face and say "can I have a fruit snack...and one for Caleb"? Its so hard to resist that little grin and generous nature. You always share and want to make sure that whatever you get, Caleb will get as well. We took you to the Dr. recently because you had pneumonia, and we were there for 3 hours without Caleb. You received a sticker from the Dr. and asked if you could get one for Caleb & Kiera as well. And when we stopped at the pharmacy, you were quite upset that you only got one sucker and said to me that "Caleb will be so sad he didn't get a sucker". Your concern for others already at such a young age just warms my heart. I hope that you continue to be this caring and sensitive to others needs! The best part of that Dr. visit was coming home and hearing you and Caleb "catch up" on the 3 hours you were apart...I don't think either of you stopped talking for over an hour! It was so precious! You wore your Dr. visit like a badge of honor!

Joel, you love Lightning McQueen, cars, trains, legos, and GeoTracks. You like to play outside, but don't have quite the attention span that Caleb has. You prefer to do more things for less amount a time than stick with one thing forever. You love playing with Kiera as well, but get sick of pretending after awhile. You usually come to find mommy and see if you can help or just to give me a hug and a snuggle. I love your silly grins and your funny faces. You can make the funniest expressions and KNOW you are being funny!

You love ice cream, pancakes, spaghetti, corn, salisbury steak, and meat potatoes & vegetables! You are generally the one who will ask what's for supper and then just say "I'll go to my room"...knowing that you don't like it and have to go to your room if you don't eat it. You are a little stinker sometimes!

You are much more attached to your binky and need at least 4 when you go to bed. Every morning you come to tell me that Caleb is ready to get down from his bunk. Sometimes he isn't even awake, but because you are, then he needs to be. You love routine and don't like things to change too much. You love spending time with daddy and always ask to go in his shop to play with his tractors. You love to wrestle and play games.

Joel, you are such a precious part of our family and we love your generous personality, loving nature, and ready smile. We love you so much and are so very proud of you!!!

To my Firstborn son: Caleb

To celebrate their 3rd birthday, I wanted to write a little something about each of my boys that was to them specifically. So often we lump them together as "the boys" or "the twins" that we forget they are two special individuals! This post is for Caleb my firstborn son by about half a minute!

Caleb Dean, you bring so much joy and laughter to our home! You are definitely our goofy clown! You have the silliest faces and are always doing something funny to make us laugh! Just the other day when I finished vacuuming, you asked me "are you done mowing mommy?" I love your happy attitude and laid back view of life! You definitely have your daddy's personality.

Along with your goofy nature, you are also my very stubborn little boy. When you want something, you will NOT let it go. You would rather go in time-out 50 times before acknowledging that mommy is the winner! You are slowly learning that mom can be even more stubborn than you and picks her battles with you very carefully. We are also seeing that your stubbornness gives you a fierce determination to accomplish anything in your way. You will not give up when faced with a task and keep trying until you succeed. This attitude will definitely take you very far in life! You faced roller-skating and ice-skating with this attitude this winter, and were able to do both all by yourself! We are so proud of you!

You also take after your sister with your creative imagination and creativity. You love to play Barbies and House with your sister. You LOVE it when she plays with you and you both can have so much fun together when you put your minds to it. You are always talking your cars and giving everything a personality. You get quite sad when Joel decides he doesn't want to play that way anymore. You love to color, paint, and cut. You will sit a long time at the table doing projects with Joel.

Right now your favorite toys are Lightning McQueen and anything from the original CARS movie, airplanes, Little People, matchbox cars, trains, and GeoTrax trains. You love playing outside and following daddy everywhere. You love to figure out how things work and definitely have daddy's handyman gene in you! I am constantly amazed at what you have figured out to do without any help. Now if you will just figure out potty-training....

Your relationship with Joel is one of my favorite things about you. You and Joel are two peas in a pod! Every morning you get woken up by Joel telling you it's time to come down from the top bunk. Every minute is spent by Joel's side playing, eating, and talking. There is NOTHING you do apart from Joel. If he wakes up in the night, you always get up with him and follow him to make sure you aren't missing out on anything. If Joel gets something, you think you need it too. If one of you gets hurt and needs a binky, the other one gets a binky just to sympathize with whoever is hurt. One time you were sick and fell asleep and poor Joel was so lost without you. He wandered aimlessly until you woke up feeling better. Usually if one of you is sick, the other is as well. You are definitely the more brave of the two. You rarely cry when I leave and always look at Joel like he's crazy for crying about us leaving.

Your favorite foods are ice cream, pizza, candy, pancakes, salisbury steak, and good ole meat potatoes and vegetables! You don't really care for corn and really do not like spaghetti.

We are so proud of our precious Caleb and cannot believe we have had you in our family for 3 years now! It has been quite a journey and you have challenged us in so many ways, but we wouldn't trade you for anything! We love you so much and you bring so much happiness to our family!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Party Day 2!

We are continuing to celebrate the boys birthdays today. Yesterday we were able to skype with my parents so the boys could open their presents with Opa & Oma looking on. They were SOOOO excited! I think the best gift by far were the snow shovels! As soon as the skype date was over, the kids bundled up and headed outside to shovel the dusting of snow on the sidewalks. It almost looks like child labor when all 3 are out there shoveling! I told Ryan he won't need his snow blower much this year and we should really hire them out to the neighbors!

Once again, the theme for this year is Lightning McQueen...can you tell how much they like it???

Awesome slippers from Uncle Randy & Aunt Juli...everytime I see them walk it cracks me up!

Pajamas from Opa & Oma as well as sheets for their new bunk beds!

Here are the costumes Grandpa & Grandma got them...they have been wearing them non-stop!

Our snow crew

Monday, December 5, 2011

Party Time!!!

I absolutely cannot believe that our boys are turning 3!!! We have officially begun the 12 days of Birthday (not really, but seems like it)! Since it's always more fun to spread out the presents and the cake, we thought we would start out with a birthday party with our family on the Link side. The boys have been requesting Lightning McQueen and Mater cakes for the past 3 months, so that's the theme we went with. This was the first year we decided to do 2 cakes since they both requested different cakes. My family is not huge fans of cake, so we went with ice cream cakes instead. They were definitely a hit! I was a little disappointed with the ability to decorate the cakes as I love to do this, but it was much more relaxing and the boys were thrilled! The word I would use to describe my little birthday boys would be giddy. From the start of decorations going up, to watching the cakes being decorated, to seeing the presents arrive, they were jumping around and giggling! They were SOOO excited to be the center of attention.
I had heard from other twins and done reading on celebrating birthdays with twins and it all pointed me to the importance of celebrating their individuality. This is why we had 2 cakes and then also sang to each of them separately. I'm so glad we did, because the look on each face as they were the center of attention was priceless! Just an idea for all of you parents of twins....
The boys received lots of great presents from Grandpa & Grandma and cousins/aunts/uncles! They have definitely been kept busy today playing with all of it. We are looking forward to a Skype date today with Opa & Oma to open the gifts they sent. Overall day 1 of celebrating was a success!!!

Caleb's face while he is being sang to...
Joel's response to being sang to...
Blowing out their candles

Joel was so excited here...
Joel wearing his Mater costume (I still need to get one of Caleb in his Mater one)

After our party, our church had their annual Christmas program. Caleb & Joel were in it for the first time and I wasn't sure they would come through for us. Turned out they did fine. All we wanted was for them to stand up there (they had sat down the entire practice) and blend in. They certainly fulfilled our expectations and made us proud with their nose-picking abilities as well...makes for some great pictures later on in life! Kiera did fabulous as well and sang and did the actions so well. We are so proud of her and her active participation! She is definitely growing up on us and as you may notice in the pictures we cut 6 inches of her hair! She looks so much older! It was a great evening and the kids had fun!