Family Update--Our family, not yours, although I am typing it out for your family, not mine

Hi! Welcome to my blog! Some of you (likely the ones who will read this first) are here all the time and wondering "Why is Talena welcoming us to her blog?" The reason is, this is the media-of-choice for our family update newsletter of 2006. (I know. Only 38 days late. Coulda been worse. I didn't get the last birth announcement for Jabin sent out until he was almost 8 months old!)

So, for those of you who have not been here before, or are here only rarely, feel free to hang out, browse, bookmark the page, and come visit whenever you like. I keep regular updates on here, so you do not have to wonder what we've been doing all year long until the next time I send you an e-mail with a little link in it!

So, here we are, still in Peace River. Remember when we moved here, and we were all "Yeah, this is just for the short-term, we'll be back in Sylvan Lake within 5 years?"

Well, I guess the plan has changed. (As far as we know. "To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.") We have thoroughly enjoyed living here. The town is full of very friendly people, and still retains the "small-town" flavour that Sylvan Lake lost long ago (somewhere around the point that it passed a winter-time population of 4000.) We have really been able to connect and make the beginnings of what could become great friendships; our kids have good buddies here; and Jason and I have both gotten involved with various groups and activities that we enjoy.

Jason plays basketball with a great group of guys every Thursday night, and has started informally spearheading an effort to head up a Men's Ministry for the church we attend. A good chunk of that so far has been organizing squash and X-Box fellowship times. (He has just started playing squash, but really enjoys it.) Unfortunately, he is just now getting very busy with the project he is doing at work, and will be having to work extra hours for the next few months until the project is completed. The good news: at the end of February, Jason will be filling a permanent position in the IT department of DMI, the pulp mill he works at. Up until now, he has been on a temporary contract, filling in for a maternity leave. This is good news, and has had significant impact on our decision to stay in this community for a while.

I have been teaching piano from our home three nights a week. Last spring, my mom and her husband Mike gave me this, which made it possible for me to earn some extra income for our family by teaching. I was really surprised by how quickly I was able to get students--with very little advertising over a matter of only a few weeks I had a roster of 13, which is as busy as I want to be. Apparently, there has been somewhat of a shortage of piano teachers up here for the last several years (well, that and everything else. It's boom time in Alberta--anyone not working, get here quick!) I am also still maintaining my eBay store.

Besides this, I have been involved in a ladies' Bible study out in Grimshaw (about a 15-minute drive from here) on Tuesday mornings that supplies free babysitting. I have been helping out on the worship team and in the nursery at church, as well as attending the scrapbooking day the church hosts once a month. (As well as doing plenty of scrapbooking in my "down time" at home. I have recently discovered a love of digital scrapbooking. You can check out a few of my layouts in my online gallery.)

Last fall, I was honoured to teach at the church's Scrapaway weekend retreat. That was loads of fun. My husband was thrilled that I finally earned a little money back from the hobby that is usually just a money-sucking black hole. I used my earnings to buy him new golf clubs for his birthday--now he can hardly wait for the warm weather, so he can go and break them in!

We have also been kept plenty busy with doing renovation and maintenance projects on our older home. Hopefully, we will see a good return on investment of time and money when it comes time to sell!

Our children continue to grow and learn, as children have a way of doing. Jude (age 4 1/4) loves hanging out with his buddies David, Bailey, and Dawson, as well as some new friends he's been making. He is doing very well with the "schoolwork" we work on almost every day; today, he sang me the Alphabet Song and only stumbled over a few of the letters. ("L-M-N-O" sounded more like "ellei-oh".) What's more, he can recognize most of them, too.

This last year, he has really started taking off with using his imagination, and role-playing. His favourite characters to "be" over the last year have been pirates, especially Captain Hook, and also Peter Pan. Also, every time he watches a movie now he has to pretend to "be" one of the characters, and he assigns characters to anyone else present, too. (I think he picked this one up from the Burdick kids, whom I babysit regularly.) Anyway, for his fourth birthday party , he got to dress up as Captain Hook--and now he wears that costume anytime he watches anything remotely to do with pirates or Peter Pan. It's so fun. (And nice to know that the hours I put into the costume have not gone to waste.)

Noah (almost 3) has astounded us with his ability to pick up on patterns and rhythm. Though he cannot recognize all the numbers, he can count to twenty, and he is starting to do pretty good with the Alphabet Song, himself! He still says very few other intelligible words, but talks non-stop--in his own little language that he alone speaks! However, he is adding more words all the time. I can hardly wait until he learns English, so I can find out all the fascinating things that go through his goofy little head! He is also singing all the time--we predict he will be the "artsy" one. I guess we'll have to wait and see how that goes.

Jabin (14 1/2 months) is just a little spot of sunshine most of the time. His current favourite thing to do is to pull himself up on a piece of furniture and stand there, beaming--until his legs get tired. It has only been within the last two days he has figured out how to sit down again--before this, he would start fussing until someone came and saved him! He also climbs up stairs, but not down them, yet. It's so fun listening to him try to imitate our words, and watching every new stage in development. I find I am savouring each moment with this baby more, since he is to be our last one.

Our home has also expanded by four more feet this past year--we got a new puppy in August, a husky/black lab cross we christened Suri. She is just now getting to a point where I am enjoying having her around. (My regular readers will remember a rant I went on not long ago about her. She's kind of starting to grow on me. She hasn't wrecked anything lately!) I think she thinks she's a cat, because she loves to sit or stand on our fence and watch the birds up in the tree!

When we first moved up here, we were dreading not being able to visit our families as often. Although it has, indeed, been difficult to live so far from our loved ones, we have greatly enjoyed a surprising number of visits with them this year. We sincerely appreciate the effort made by those who came and visited us at our home this year. Every trip seems too short, but it makes us appreciate each moment spent together that much more.

This upcoming year, we are facing a few major decisions:

1. Whether to put Jude into Kindergarten. If so, whether he should be home-schooled or not. There is not a private Christian school in this community, surprisingly, leaving only the Catholic or Public school systems. I am not really excited about the idea of our children going through either of these systems, especially with the recent moral decisions that our government has made and how those may affect the curriculum being taught. So, we are looking into home-schooling as an option.

2. Whether to purchase a piece of land in the country, build a house and move out there. Land here is fairly cheap, and lumber prices are good, so we are definitely looking at this. Hopefully, it all pans out--I would much prefer to raise my kids in the country than in town. Plus, then I can get my own cow so we can drink real milk.

3. I am sure there will be something else. Those two things are fairly big on their own.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this! I would LOVE it if you would leave a comment and let me know you stopped by! (You can leave a comment anonymously, rather than sign up for a Google account, if you wish.) Just click on the little "Comments" link at the bottom of this post and say a quick "Hi!" (It doesn't have to be long--that's what e-mails or telephone conversations are for.)

Happy New Year!

(P.S. You can click on any photo to see it larger.)