A Christmas letter.... A Christmas letter. Always one of those things that I expect I'll have time for this year. Always one of those things that gets put on the back burner, only to get burned in the end. A yearly blog? Now maybe THAT is something I can do! :) If you want a good look into the lives of the Ryan Nelson Family, I invite you to read on.
Most of you know that November 2010 marked the official beginning of 33Church, so it makes sense that this would define much of our year. I can tell you that we have learned so much about the exceeding riches of God's grace in this journey. Because of our responsibility at 33 in its early days, we stuck close to home for most of the year. Our church changed meeting locations in the summer, moving to a school that was much more interested in our partnering with them to meet needs in the community. It has been a great move for us, not without challenges or questions, but deeply enriching. One lesson we have learned, and continue to learn, is to put our trust in God, not man. It is amazing that we can daily be made even more aware of how without God we are nothing, yet with him we can be more than we imagine.
Ryan had the opportunity to coach Reed's basketball and soccer teams early in the year. While it didn't make sense with the amount of pressure he felt with his new role as lead minister, it was an opportunity to get into the community in a way that he couldn't pass up. We also decided if he could lead a group of first and second graders to play the game, he would be able to lead people in a journey of starting a church!
Sledding during February Blizzard
The Blizzard of February '11 was fun for all. Daddy was able to go out the morning it started for emergency supplies of donuts and hot chocolate. Then we were all able to hunker down a few days and enjoy the slow down. You see the kids sledding down our neighbor's hill, which I could watch warmly from the back door! We discussed our "snow day policy" and decided that if the snow caused the roof to cave in, making it impossible to get to school, we would in fact cancel school. However, we did enjoy a few days of doing nothing, then got back at it. I kept telling the kids it would pay off in the spring. When I found out our local school district was not making up the snow days, we ended school a week early!! That was a good pay off!
One great institution we have made this year is coffee time for Mom & Dad. Since our move, Ryan had started drinking coffee, a bond that was really exciting for me! So I was extremely delighted when he started making coffee every morning and bringing it to me in bed! And for his birthday in September we took it to a new level, getting a mini fridge for the bedroom (for the creamer, of course) and moving the coffee pot upstairs. We enjoy starting most of our days with this time just talking and being together. It is a our time for discussing, regrouping, planning, reflecting, praying, and encouraging, though there is no set plan or agenda for the time. Every morning is different, and that is part of its beauty.
First Day of School 2011-2012
Ashton, K; Landis, PreK; Reed, 3rd
Last school year was our first--and I've decided probably our last--normal school year. (Reed's K year we had Landis, and in 1st grade we moved.) It has been an adjustment this year teaching two at the same time and accounting for their different learning styles, but they are patient with me! While I love homeschooling our kids, I do not think that I am "thriving," as I read so many other homeschool moms described. I do approach almost all weeks with a lesson plan and almost always get up and dressed before school time (except on our once-a-semester Pajama Day). The moments of understanding are sweet, but the times when all three kids (& sometimes the dog) are all vying for my attention are overwhelming. The days where every task is met with a whine+shoulder drop cause me to really examine my calling. I am hanging on to the idea that "The days are long, but the years are short." I know my time is precious with the kids, and I want to spend that time teaching them grace. I also struggle with household upkeep, and I am finding that teaching the kids to do these jobs does not lighten my load! But I am learning in God's grace (again!) that these things do not matter as much as "Watch this, mom" "Can we read..." and " I need help with...." However, we have regular "zone cleaning" so I don't go completely off the deep end. I have also recently had the epiphany that a family that stays home all day puts loads of more housework on me. It makes sense, I know, but I haven't always given myself this allowance.
Ashton has been able to conquer a new frontier for us. We were able to get her into a one-day-a-week Homeschool Academy in Kindergarten. This is a school we have tried to get Reed into for 2 years, but his grade is extremely full and unmoving!! However, because she got in this year, her siblings will be able to get in starting next year. The waiting is hard on him, but he is usually gracious.
One of the things we love about homeschooling is the flexible schedule it allows our family. While we still find ourselves getting into a rut, we do make efforts to break the norm! Shortly after school started this fall, we made a special announcement to the kids about a fall vacation. They didn't believe us at first, but we were finally able to convince them that we were in fact going to Disney World the end of September. Much screaming ensued, and even a few tears of joy!
We will all tell you that it truly was a magical experience. While it was hot and tiring, no one complained or whined. That time of year was perfect--not too hot, and the lines were incredibly short at the parks. We had planned to camp on the way down, but rain prevented that the first night, and then gave us a very "camping" experience the second night complete with wet bedding, pending thunder & lightning, a noisy neighbor, and a NOAA weather radio alert (which turned out to be nothing). We spent the first day at Epcot, 2 days at Magic Kingdom, & the last at Animal Kingdom.
Our First Magical Day
Reed especially loved the "Future World" part of Epcot, where he could create his own roller coaster & video game, and interact with some of the video characters. Landis called this icon "the big golf ball." When we rode the history of the earth ride inside of it, Ashton did NOT like the dark (even though it was slow and kinda like just seeing museum) and declared in the first 30 seconds, in her shakiest voice, "So far I'm hating it!!!"
Ashton DELIGHTED in Meeting the "Big 5" Characters
Fortunately, she was later able to stand in line and meet Micky, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, & Goofy. The child-like delight she had truly brought tears to my eyes.
Landis Was Glad Tigger & Pooh Did Not Bite Us
Landis, however, did not want to meet any character or ride any rides! We did convince him to pose here with Tigger & Pooh (his current Disney favorites) and afterwards he declared, "See, they didn't bite us!!"
Riding the Magic Carpets
Here is one of the rides Landis decided he didn't want to ride while we were in line. We were able to convince him in most instances, but he would not put up with anymore 3D movies by the end. Disney adds sprays of water, air puffs, and other tactile experiences that we finally had to shield him from just to get him to stay with us.
A Little Silliness on our Way Out the Last Day
Maybe because it was our last day, Animal Kingdom was our least favorite park. It had great animal displays, but the rides are more zoo-like than amusement-like. However, the Lion King show was completely worth the price of admission!! Great costuming, singing, & pageantry!
Enjoying Daytona Beach
We capped off the vacation with two days at Daytona with Grandpa Dallas & Grandma Pat. We stayed on the beach to maximize our time in the sand & sea. The kids were able to learn sand castle building from the best, my dad. All of us relished the time together with Grandpa & Grandma just relaxing for a couple days.
Landis & Grandpa Return from a Walk Down the Beach
Landis did not really want anything to do with the water, but he did enjoy digging & digging in the sand. Reed & Ashton, however, spent most of their time in the water, even using their life jackets as boogie boards for a while.
Reed Showing Off a Christmas Gift & a Missing Tooth
Reed continues to delight us with his sense of humor and quick thinking. He has always impressed us with his math mind, and now he has gotten to the point where we can't keep enough books around. He especially loves a good mystery. He is always amazing us with his new creations, whether with blocks or cardboard and tape. For Ashton's birthday he made her a cardboard box city that she could use to play with her dollhouse.
A Self Portrait of Ashton
Ashton loves going to school on Wednesdays. We have seen she is a much quieter leader in that environment, but we can still see glimpses of our little mommy even there. At home she is taking to reading much faster than I was teaching her! She is a great caretaker to us all. She knows where things are, brings us things we might need (before we know we need it!), and loves to serve us. She is quite the giver, wrapping up things from around her room to give away on birthdays or "just because." Ashton loves to take pictures (as you see above) and got her first camera for Christmas.
Landis' First Black Eye--Likely Not the Last
Landis is a delightful challenge. We love hearing him use new words, and he loves to make us all laugh. He is a very physical little boy. This black eye was a run-in with the entertainment center. One of the things he learned last year was what can and cannot be thrown in the house. Squishy balls are approved; hard balls, toys, butter knives, books, game pieces, pencils, crayons, food, shoes, and fits are not. He is quite grown up these days. He makes me toast for breakfast nearly every morning. He toasts the bread in the toaster oven, sets the timer, gets it out with some wooden tongs, butters it, and delivers it to the table. (Sometimes I request a knife to spread the butter glob out a bit more.) Then he sits on my lap and waits for me to "eat it down" (to the top crust) so that he can eat the rest of it.
28 Weeks Pregnant
Our biggest change in 2012 will be the addition of another kiddo to the mix. Right now we don't even know if God has blessed us with a boy or a girl, but we are all excited! Ashton was particularly wanting a a sister, but then someone commented that she wouldn't be the only princess in the family. Now I think she will be happy either way! The kids are dying to know the names we have picked out, but they will have to wait, just like the rest of you. Until then Ryan keeps throwing out names like Bubba (a girl) and Buford. March 10 is the due date, but if baby decides to come 10 days early, we will have a Leap Day birthday!
Baby Nelson 28.5 Weeks Along
We think s/he is pretty beautiful. Since Christmas, we have moved our focus to getting ready for this arrival. Reed and Ashton have moved into bunk beds, and Landis has moved into a big boy bed down the hall. (His big lesson of 2012 might just be how to play/talk/close doors more quietly!) Baby will be sharing a room with our guest bed, so if you come to visit, you will get a chance to heat up a bottle and change a diaper or two.... ;)
I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into our lives. We love to keep up with all of you and hear what is going on with you. If I don't write again until next year, please accept my apologies.
Until then, Love,