Yes, I am taking the easy way out again this year by sending out a Christmas letter via email, facebook, and the blog. If it weren’t for these mediums, I wouldn’t get any Christmas greetings out at all!
This year has been pretty amazing. It’s been very hard, but through it we’ve seen God’s hand in our lives in very material ways. As most of you know, we lost Kelly’s mom to breast cancer last year. We’ve been dealing with learning to live without her this year. It’s been tough on all of us. It’s been hard on the girls who miss their grandmother, and hard on Kelly, of course. She was also a close friend of mine, and is greatly missed. My father-in-law has had the hardest time of all, of course. He had some health issues of his own to deal with after her death, and since then has been working on his masters degree in history. An avid military history enthusiast, he decided to turn it into a career. He has just completed all his requirements for the masters degree in just 8 months. He starts work on his doctorate in January at UNT.
Health and job challenges have dominated our family this year as well. Kelly’s desire for the last couple of years has been to leave the military contracting field that he had worked in since 2001. He really wanted to go into the civilian field. We started a computer repair business last year, which has remained very part time. However, he did receive an offer for a reverse engineering job back in May. He took it, even though it would still be government contracting, though not with the military. While they got his clearances and such done for this new job, they put him in an Air Force networking job that required shift work. He did this until October. The shift work was hard – my hats off to policemen and others who do this routinely. I know it is necessary, but very hard on families. This “temporary” job was looking like a permanent one: i.e. they didn’t seem to be moving to get things in place to move him in to the RE job they had hired him to do. So we started looking for yet another job. Then we got the word that this new company had lost the contract he was currently working on. He had a month to find a new job.
That was a VERY hard month. But of course, that was when God showed us that He is in control. After weeks of searching, resume submitting, etc., he had two interviews back to back, and was offered both jobs (though how all that came about is a long story). One of them is nearly his dream job, so of course that is the one he took in the end. It is with a company that does not do military contracting, but does supply chain management. He is the Quality Assurance Manager for the IT department of Operational Technologies here in San Antonio. They are growing like crazy and are in the process of a major expansion of their IT department, so this is a great time to have gotten on board. He loves his job, and I love having a husband who loves going to work every day!
He’s also had some health challenges this year, and we are still doing testing to see what he needs to do. We thought he had an ulcer but the test for that was negative. So that is on the agenda for the new year. I also lost my grandmother in September, so it has been a difficult time in my family.
In spite of a year when it seems we’ve all had our share of illnesses, the kids are doing great! I had a major foot injury last year, but it is holding steady this year, and I have no immediate need for surgery on it. I am staying VERY busy homeschooling the kids. I now have 5 kids studying in our “Smith Academy for Girls,” grades K, 2, 4, 7, and 9. The house, our church, our home school group, all keep my very busy. I’ve also been doing some proofing of my father-in-law’s papers for his masters – including his thesis – which I actually enjoyed. But I don’t know if I enjoy it enough to ever go back and do it myself.
Kora is almost 14 and started high school in August. We are still homeschooling, but this year, we tried a couple of online classes which are going great! She’s in a literature class that discusses the ancient literature she’s reading to go along with our history focus for the year, and I have REALLY enjoyed not having to discuss Confucius or the Odyssey with her! She is still taking piano and doing a great job at that as well. Her primary love is still horses. Though we live in the city, we had been praying for a way to allow her to explore this passion for horses. Then in June we found out about Triple H Equitherapy just outside SA. They use horses for handicapped kids and others and need lots of volunteers. So she’s been going out there about once a week and helping groom, tack, and lead the horses. She’s even been able to ride a little bit! She loves it, and has decided she wants to study horses in college. So she is hoping to get into A&M’s equine science department in a few years. She has also caught up to me in height and will soon pass me. And let’s not even talk about her feet! She also got braces this year, and she’d really rather not talk about those.
Aubrey (12) is still her father’s daughter. If you know Kelly, she’s pretty much a female version, smart mouth and all. Actually I think she got a double dose of that particular quality. She is also taking a co-op class this year, but it is a class here that we have to drive to. It is a writing class and she’s enjoying it as well. Her biggest accomplishment is that she is “moving up” to a different piano teacher. She’s been taking from one lovely lady who has decided she’s ready for the teacher who teaches Kora. She’s made big strides in her music and her teachers see a lot of potential there. She’s doing well in school, though I wouldn’t mention that to her right now. She’s in a hate/hate relationship with pre-algebra right now. Math has always come so easily to her that she gets frustrated now that she’s up in the higher level stuff and is actually having to work at it. Aubrey got her braces off this year, but will need them again, probably in 2011.
Brynna will be 10 soon. She started taking piano lessons this year, but that is just until she learns enough music to move onto the violin. She has been wanting to take violin for years, but her father and I said she needed a year or two of piano first. She started a few months ago and is doing very well at it and enjoys it. But we just bought her a violin – she cried when she saw it – and we’ll be looking for a teacher soon. She’s also still our bookworm – devours books and remembers nearly everything in them. About every month she changes what she wants to be when she grows up. I think the latest was a baker, but next month it will probably be an astronaut or something.
Hailey (8) is in 2nd grade and really learned to read this year and can pick up any book now. It took her a bit but she has caught up now. She had a very interesting summer. She and Brynna both learned how to ride bikes this summer. Hailey celebrated the fact by falling a week later and breaking her right leg – in two places. This was on July 6th – probably the worst day of my life - so she spent most of the summer in a cast. She actually had to go to a day surgical suite and be put under general anesthesia in order for the doctor to set it and cast her. She was in a leg cast for 5 weeks, a below-the-knee cast for another 4 weeks, and then a boot for 4 weeks. And no, she hasn’t been back on the bike yet. In fact all the girls are a little squeamish about doing that after seeing what Hailey went through.
Lauryn is six and started school this year. She’s learning to read and doing a great job. She’s still our little fairy, flitting around in a world of her own most of the time. We think she’ll be our tallest child, and is still built like a string bean, so if she keeps going like this, she’ll be built like a supermodel by 15. Her primary interests are princesses, mermaids, fairies, and barbies, though not necessarily in that order. She is very proud of just getting her ears pierced. Such is the life of a six year old. She was finally old enough to join the children’s choir at our church and just performed with her older sisters in the Christmas recital.
Ashlynn is, well, she’s TWO! She’s also our Dr. Jekyll and Miss Hyde. At home, she is quite precocious and downright bossy. She thinks she runs our house. When we get around anyone else – including grandparents – she’s incredibly shy. She clings to us and won’t talk to anyone else. She thinks she is as old as any of her sisters and gets quite frustrated when she can’t do something they can or when they don’t appreciate her helpful scribbles on their school work. She cracks us up all the time with her antics – and her singing! She sings great for a two year old! Too bad she won’t sing for anybody but us. My first new year’s project is potty training, which I always dread. But at least this is the LAST TIME! Yes, the LAST.
Well, that’s been our year in a nutshell. We are so thankful for God’s guidance and how He sustained us through the dark times. We are also looking forward to a better year! (Please, God?) We hope all of you and your have a blessed Christmas, a safe New Year, and wonderful 2011!
Kelly, Tami, Kora, Aubrey, Brynna, Hailey, Lauryn, and Ashlynn Smith