Christmas Letter 2015

Hello, friends and family!

I am so proud of myself for actually sitting down to write this letter before Christmas has come and gone – especially when I consider that I didn’t even do a Christmas letter last year. 2015 has brought many big changes to our household, and I can’t wait to tell you all about them.

Most of you already know about the biggest change – our household consists of one less person than it did last year, while our family is one member larger. On December 12th, Natalie became Mrs. Ben Gronewold. She met Ben during the summer of 2014, and we knew almost instantly that he was going to be a permanent part of our family. He is everything we could have asked for in a son-in-law: a man who puts God first, who treats our daughter with love and respect, who is a hard worker, and who is a genuinely kind and nice person. In case you couldn’t tell, we love him! The wedding was absolutely beautiful (pics will go up on Facebook soon), in spite of some hiccups like stomach flu, a church electrical breaker tripping, and the lady who was doing the bouquets falling and breaking her hip. It was memorable and lovely and the newlyweds couldn’t be happier. My brother-in-law Hans performed the wedding ceremony, which was made even more special by the fact that it was his first wedding as a licensed Presbyterian minister, and Natalie was the flower girl in his and Marni’s wedding! The other best thing about the wedding was that all three of my sisters were able to come. The four of us hadn’t been in the same place for five years! It was a whirlwind visit, but so wonderful to see them all.

Another big change is that I have gone back to working outside the home for the first time in eighteen years. In April, our church’s office manager and bookkeeper retired, and I took over her position. It is only twelve hours a week, which is perfect, because I am still homeschooling the younger two boys. I love my job – the variety keeps it interesting. It is a bit lonely at the moment, however, because our pastor, Dale, moved back to California in October. We miss him and his family very much, and are anxiously waiting for the conference to send us a new pastor. Dale was a fun boss – we enjoyed reminiscing about our pasts as drama geeks; I’m hoping the next pastor will be easy to get used to!

Kevin is still working for Medstar Cabulance. He has been working lots of hours the past few months, as one of the other drivers was let go. He’s hoping to get back to a more normal, 40-hour week sometime very soon. He gets frustrated with the politics and bureaucracy in management, but truly enjoys his patients. The other news from him is that, after nineteen years in remission, his Crohn’s disease is back. After a trip to the ER in May, lots of lab work, a CT scan and an MRI, we are now closely acquainted with a new gastroenterologist and have a plan for treatment. The plan includes regular IV infusions of an immunosuppressant drug. As we begin this new process, we would greatly appreciate prayers for the medication to work with a minimum of side effects.

Aside from becoming a married woman, Natalie also became a high school and college graduate in 2015. She graduated from Spokane Community College in June with her high school diploma and an Associate of Applied Sciences Degree in General Business. She missed the graduation ceremony because she was volunteering at Royal Family Kids Camp, but we threw her an impromptu ceremony at camp that night, complete with a borrowed cap and gown and a recording of Pomp and Circumstance. She is currently working toward a second AAS degree at SCC, this one in Pharmacy Tech. She will complete that in December of next year. Her husband, Ben, is working on a pre-engineering transfer degree at Spokane Falls Community College. They are still living in Chewelah, as they both work part time in town and Natalie’s classes are online. Ben is commuting for his classes. As you can imagine, full-time college and part-time work make for busy, busy lives!

Noah is a junior, and has started Running Start through Spokane Community College, working toward his high school diploma as well as an AA General Transfer Degree. He has a 3.8 gpa after his first quarter of classes. He also works part time at Zips here in town, and saved enough to buy his first car, a Dodge Intrepid. He hangs out with friends, plays his guitar, works on his YouTube channels, and games in his spare time. He is also the resident expert on all things Tolkien-esque. He is currently single, but hoping that doesn’t last very long!

Jonathan is a sophomore, and is now the tallest one in the family, looking down on everyone. He is working toward his high school diploma through an accredited, correspondence course high school program. He is NOT interested in Running Start, and wants to finish school as soon as possible and get out into the real world. His current plans are to become a police officer. He would like to just start at entry level as soon as he’s out of high school, but his mother is pushing toward an AAS degree in Criminal Justice first. We’ll see who wins out. He has started singing on the worship team at church, and has a wonderful, deep bass sound. When not doing schoolwork, listening to music, or playing video games, you can find him absorbed in works of zombie fiction. He doesn’t have a part-time job yet, but is hoping to work toward that in 2016.

Josiah is in 8th grade, and must have grown six inches in the past year! He is almost as tall as Noah, and loves looking down on his older sister, who is only 5’2”. He is still homeschooled, and will be through his sophomore year, when the plan is to do Running Start. He had his heart set on becoming a pilot until he discovered this year that his color-blindness disqualifies him. Not sure what his backup plan will be, but in the meantime I am trying to keep him from growing up too fast – my baby! (He loves it when I call him that.) He is still our most introverted family member, but loves to break out his wry sense of humor around the family. His favorite thing to do is play and talk online with his cousin, Peter. Peter stayed with us for two weeks this summer, and the boys had so much fun together. If only Marni and Hans lived closer!

Mom and Dad are still doing well. Mom is enjoying retirement, staying busy with church activities – and helping administrate things until the new pastor comes. Dad works almost as hard in his retirement as he did when he worked full time – Royal Family Kids Camp, working as the church custodian, and lots of other projects around town. We are still so blessed to share their home. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but we all still love each other, so what more could I ask for? Plus, Dad and I get to indulge our Jeopardy addiction together.
Well, this has been long – that’s what happens when you skip a year, I guess! As you can see, we have much to be grateful for in 2015. I hope this letter finds you all happy and healthy and surrounded by loved ones for the Christmas season. Thank you for being a part of my life, whether in person or in your encouragement and friendship online. I love you all!


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Get Competitive With Spectre Bingo

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In a few more weeks, we’ll be seeing the sequel to the highly successful Skyfall: Spectre, Daniel Craig’s fourth performance as the iconic James Bond and Sam Mendes’s second James Bond film. After nearly two dozen films in the James Bond franchise, we’ve all come to develop our own expectations for Spectre, and as we gear up for the world premiere on 26 October 2015, why not take the time to make a fun game in preparation for the movie?

Spectre Bingo is best played with fellow fans of the James Bond franchise, as the more knowledgeable you are about James Bond films, the easier it will be to play the game. Themed bingo games have become quite popular in recent years, with the Hollywood Theatre even hosting a game called B Movie Bingo.

Spectre Bingo will work in much the same way, but rather than creating a bingo card of certain clichés and tropes one might see in movies, you and your friends can create a bingo card of the scenes you expect to encounter in Spectre. We’ve seen several different trailers be released in the months leading up to the premiere, and we’re sure to see a few more promotional materials as the date draws ever closer. Simply gather your movie buff friends and come up with a list of 25 things you’re likely to see, and use a bingo card creator online to generate sets of bingo cards that you can all use when watching the movie.

The aim is to mark off each item on the card as soon as it happens on screen, with the first to be able to get a bingo pattern winning the game. Take a cue from Gala Bingo and set prizes like free movie tickets or signed movie posters to the winners of the game. If you’re not sure where to start, the BBC ran an article on what to expect from the producers of the film, and of course, we would be glad to toss a few ideas around as well. Share your Spectre Bingo cards with us and let’s start playing!

Written in collaboration with James Brown.

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Anticipating: Natalie’s wedding on December 12th! We are busy planning, shopping, etc. I can hardly believe my little girl is getting married. They are young, but responsible and hard-working – they are both full-time college students and working part-time. They love each other fiercely, and put God first in all things. What more could a parent want? And, in much less important news, I’m anticipating the first Seahawks game tonight. 🙂

Feeling: Anxious. Health continues to be a struggle. Good news – I don’t need a CPAP, as the supplemental oxygen at nighttime has resolved those issues. But I’ve been having some other symptoms and pain and my doctor thinks I have spinal stenosis. He wanted to do an MRI, but my stupid insurance company won’t cover one without an X-ray and four sessions of physical therapy first, so we’re playing the waiting game. I’m really tired of being in pain. Also feeling very emotional and nostalgic over my kids growing up so quickly!

Reading: I just started A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, and it’s really good so far. I’m also trying to get into The Brothers Karamazov. It’s been on my shelf for years and I decided I needed to just give it a try. I’ll give it a hundred pages or so, then see if I want to keep going. This is my first Dostoevsky, and I’m finding him not quite as engaging as Tolstoy – I loved Anna Karenina. I finally finished the Mortal Instruments series, and although book five annoyed me, book six ended the series really well. I also read Mind Games by Kiersten White, which was great, and listened to the sequel on audio – also good. Which brings me to…

Listening: I listened to The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – the book is awesome, but I didn’t love the narrator. I’m currently listening to Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe, which is really good and full of 80s fangirl awesomeness, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which is read by the amazing Jim Dale.

Watching: I finally finished the final season of Leverage on Netflix – one of my favorite shows of all time. The Last Ship has been entertaining again this summer, and the second season of Extant has been much better than the first. I also finished the first season of Luther – loved it! – and am starting The Fall. In movie-watching news, I FINALLY got the chance to see Guardians of the Galaxy, which the boys and I all adored, and Unbroken, which was good, but I missed the second half of the story.

Posting on Facebook: This was today’s post: “I’m sad that politics turns people who are usually kind and loving into people who seem to thrive on divisiveness. I’ve voted both sides of the aisle, and been disappointed in each candidate for various reasons. I’ve also lost friends because I voted for a party they don’t agree with. To my very conservative friends: every time you post something that likens food stamps to “feeding animals in the park,” you’re missing the fact that there are friends on your timeline who have been on – or may still be on – food stamps. Not because they are lazy or feel entitled, but because they’re working their butts off and still not making enough money to feed their family! Or because they’ve been unemployed for a year and then took the only job they could get and it only pays minimum wage. Republicans have become known as merciless toward the poor. Don’t believe the lies that food stamp fraud is rampant (latest statistics say less than 3%) or that illegal immigrants get food stamps – they don’t. If we are pro-life for the pre-born we must be pro-standard of living for the already born. And to my very liberal friends: every time you state that anyone who is pro-choice hates women, or insinuate that all Christians are science-hating, ignorant rednecks, you are insulting friends on your timeline who in other situations you laugh with and commiserate with and “send good thoughts” to. Our nation is more divided and hate-filled than ever, and it seems like Facebook only makes it worse. I don’t want to unfriend people, but I’m tired of feeling sad every time I scroll through my feed.”

Well, that’s really all that’s going on here at our house. Hope you’re all having a fantastic summer!

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