Happy 2015! Hard to believe I started this blog over five years ago. Harder to believe I still remember the password, considering how few entries I've written during that time.
I heard an "expert" on public radio a few days ago talking about resolutions and what you can do to make those desires a reality. One of the tips she mentioned was documenting, in a public way if you wish, what you would like to work on in the coming year. Because one of my resolutions is to write more, I thought I'd jump-start the ol' blog and see how it goes.
But before I reveal my resolution manifesto, I thought I'd share my Christmas letter for this year...or for any year, for that matter. Here we go!
Ah, the Christmas letter. Like fruitcake, it often gets a bad rap, which is why I’ve always shied away from sending one. This year, however, I’m throwing caution to the wind, fully realizing that my Facebook friend count will likely take a nosedive approximately three to five days after these babies leave the post office.
I believe the intent of a Christmas letter is to update everyone on the major events of the year as it comes to a close (or at least the ones you want people to know about.) For some, it is also an opportunity to let everyone know that your family is made up of some incredibly amazing, wildly successful, picture-perfect people. I hate to blow the ending to this letter only two paragraphs in, but we aren’t those people. Shocker, I know.
As most of you know, we blended our families in May of this year. Under sunny skies and with baggy eyes, we catered and created our own backyard wedding. Would we do it again? Of course. Would we do all the cooking for 110 people ourselves? Probably. Would we remember to label things correctly instead of finding out that we really hadn’t run out chicken, but had 20 more pounds that were labeled as green beans? I would hope so.
Joining families with many kids means a lot of jokes from well-meaning folks who think that they are the first person on the planet to compare you to The Brady Bunch. While it was my very favorite show growing up, I like to point out to said jokesters that we have out-produced Mike and Carol Brady by a whole two kids. And let’s not forget that Mike Brady brought Alice the housekeeper to the union. That’s pretty impressive! On the other hand, Frank doesn’t wear white leather belts, have his hair permed, or wish he could call me Steve instead of Steph, so there’s that.
The other comment we hear happens to also be TV sitcom-related. It goes a little something like this:
Unnamed Person: So, how many kids do you folks have?
Unnamed Person: Oh, my! Well, is eight REALLY enough or –-
Before anyone gets any ideas, YES. Eight IS enough. If by some strange (and not funny) twist of fate we would have an announcement to make, it would either be made by The Guinness Book of World Records or by Anderson Cooper on CNN, as he is stationed under the Golden Gate Bridge while negotiators beg Frank and I not to jump.
Summer brought us the opportunity to spend ten days in Europe. It truly was a terrific experience for us with the five youngest kids. We traveled 1700 miles through Germany and Austria, renting private homes and enjoying the breathtaking alpine landscape. We also got to spend a few days visiting my family in southern Austria, which is always so special. Frank and I have such a love of travel, which we hope to pass on to all of our children. Not only is it exciting to see new places and meet new people, we hope it gives them an appreciation for all the things we take for granted.
All seven of us, crammed in our smaller-than-an-American-minivan began in Frankfurt and made our way through Nuremberg, Tirol, Salzburg, and Munich. Like many families on road trips, we played games to pass the time – and not just the usual license plate game or I Spy. Because our van had a manual transmission, our game was called “Don’t stall, don’t stall, don’t stall!” Whenever I was stopped on a hill, weaving through small cobbled streets, or paying a toll, we’d chant that vacation mantra and hope not to feel the resulting whiplash that comes with letting up on the clutch a little too fast. Hermit crabs die and t-shirts fade, but vacation memories like that? They last FOREVER.
The kids were incredibly good throughout the entire trip. They really, really were. I can’t emphasize that enough. Despite the fact that European restaurants don’t give free refills on sodas and some areas had spotty WiFi, they struggled through with courage and dignity. And then there was that little incident where I dashed in a store for drinks and came out with three two-liter bottles of vinegar instead of apple juice. Even at the end, when our eight-hour flight home turned into three flights and an unplanned overnight stay in Minneapolis because we were rerouted, only to have our next flight cancelled, they were wonderful.
So 2014 was a pretty awesome year. There were those couple of speed camera tickets but, barring any unforeseen circumstances over the next two weeks, we managed to make it through 365 days without a single member of our ten-person family landing in jail or, even worse, pictured in a “People of Walmart” photo-montage. That, my friends, is what I call success.
Our wish to you is that 2015 brings all the things that really matter: good health, making new memories with family and friends, lots of delicious food, and a little bit of time each day to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and feel grateful.