I love Christmas cards. Love, love, love them!
I love designing them, picking up my order, writing them out, thinking of each of you as I address them, receiving them….
In the interest of paring down in order to maintain my sanity, I’m trying something different.
Thank you, beloved family and friends, for giving me grace by visiting here in lieu of receiving the photo and sometimes-letter that I normally send you.
Please feel free to read as little or as much as you want. Truly, scrolling through just for pictures or highlights will not hurt my feelings. If this is your first visit to my online space, please also know that my posts are rarely this long!
It’s been a year. An amazing, awful, incredible, terrible, wonderful, unbelievable year.
May I fill you in?
Mark and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. Isn’t he hunky? Here he is indulging me in an almost-squishy-face photo at Olive Garden. He enjoys neither Olive Garden nor photos. (Hence the non-smile.) God bless him! Through the end of the 2011-2012 school year, Mark taught special education in Holly, splitting his work day between an elementary school and the high school. In May, we found ourselves on the losing end of a budget slashing in the Holly school district.
Enter the terrible/awful portion of the year. My brave, diligent man polished his resume, placed phone call after phone call, searched, and prayed. Lots of praying. I did that and had one big, ugly cry or two at the thought of a possible move across the state. But, God is good and faithful. He opened a door in Lapeer, where Mark currently works as a special education teacher for 3rd-5th graders in a newly opened year-round school.
His filled evenings deciphering the realm of online courses. Mark began his classes in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) certification. He spent his “spare time” shooting hoops at 2 local church gyms.
I must tell you this too: Mark cleans the kitchen and dining room every night. Yes, I know. How lucky am I?
The miniature Mianeckis: Our homeschooled darlings. (A big thanks to Grandma, Grammy and Miss Ameena for their substitute teacher services.) We have Anna (10 1/2), Clare (9), Grace (5 1/2, which is not the same as 5, trust me) and Anthony (2).
This was our year to learn that change can be good. That we need to seek out God’s plan for our family, no matter how different that looks from what anyone else is doing. Anna, Clare and Grace participated in dance, Little Flowers Girls Club, and a weekly Bible study. Miss Kristin Archambeau led Anna and Clare in their first year of mini-Rockettes. Yes, just like the ones at Radio City Music Hall. Gracie opted for jazz-pom. Seeing her class of 5 year olds shake themselves silly was about the cutest thing ever.
By fall, we limited the kids to dance and choir, most of which falls on our Wednesday flex day. This leaves four days that are not booked up with appointments and extra outside activities.
Anthony spent most days honing his monkey abilities. That means I spent much of my time just trying to keep him alive. Climbing and general mess making are his things. We actually do need every gate, child-proofing item, and blocking device that we have implemented in our home.
The kids developed a fascination with all things Food Network. Chopped, Cupcake Wars, and Iron Chef America competitions were all replicated in our own “kitchen stadium”. The Game Show Network is a close second. We’d love for you to stop in and play Minute to Win It with us.
No year is complete without the coveted summer trip up north to Crystal Mountain. Though Mark had to stay at home to start his new job, we were blessed to spend 5 days with Grandma, Grandpa, and all of Mark’s siblings and their children. There was swimming, swimming, ice cream, and more swimming.
Anna ventured into the world of orthodontics. Expanders and retainers and braces, oh my! Her teeth are looking pretty, and mommy and daddy have learned a lot. Anna is our project girl. She can sit for hours and color, cut, paste, sew, and create. That carries over into cooking and baking creations. She often concocts her own delicious recipes.
Clare’s excitement this year was getting her ears pierced, a reward for a great school year. She is the only one of the three girls to have pierced ears, so that makes it particularly special for her. Clare is also our fashionista. Aware of trends, colors, styles, and more, you will find her sporting (faux) Uggs, leggings with over-sized shirts, layers, animal prints, etc. I drew the line at fingerless mesh gloves. (think Madonna…) Clare Bear is also a nurturer, patiently and gently caring for her little brother and all babies we are blessed to visit. She joins Anna in the cooking and baking, too.
Our spunky Gracie. If you are on Facebook, you may have read some Grace-isms. Oh, the hilarity that issues from this child. She has sass to spare, this one. She is also the one who will be sure to ask how a particular meeting or appointment went for me or to tell me “I love you with all my heart.” She is my constant cuddler. We are also awaiting the loss of her first tooth any day.
And Mr. Anthony…why play with the myriad of items on the Zany Zoo when you can flip it over and climb in it? Note the double-gated desk barricade–which helped until he pulled a riding toy over to the desk and climbed over the barricade. It’s a good thing he’s so stinking cute. In true boy fashion, Anthony eats. And eats. And eats. But, he does his share of snuggling, too. He is fond of repeating the following words, in no particular order: baba (bottle) bebe (binky), buh-bye, gaga (graham cracker), no, and mama.
I began the year blogging my 1000 gifts (thank yous), and that exploded into full-fledged blogging. This year’s triumphs lie in God’s amazing love and goodness in showing me Who He is, who He created me to be, and Who He did not create me to be. Through blogging and amazing women in my life, He started me on a journey to learn what freedom means. I don’t need to paralyzed or even hindered by fear, anxiety, insecurity, and discouragement…so He slowly and gently showed me how to leave those things behind. He revealed that I don’t have to “do it all”, just what He asks of me. As turbulent as this year was, rife with the struggles of the job loss and extreme personal trials for dear loved ones, the year was equally blessed.
Blogging introduced me to an indescribably wonderful online family. I built relationships as deep and real as the ones right here at home. My family: Mom, Dad, Josh, Heather, and Tim sent me Allume, a Christian women bloggers’ conference in Pennsylvania. There, I was blessed to meet some of these phenomenal online friends, plus a hero of mine: Ann Voskamp.
I recently launched my Etsy shop, also called Hearts Undaunted. I love being able to offer art that can inspire and encourage others. You can check it out here:
If you have to read all the way to this point, then you are simply amazing!
I am grateful for each one of you and the blessing you are in my life. You each teach me so much. It is my prayer this Advent and Christmas season that you each know the peace and joy that the love of the Lord brings. When He was born, our redemption truly began. May He fill you to overflowing!