Let's start out with the obvious...I have been a lousy blogger this year.
OK. Moving on.
This year has been a year of settling in. 2011 was a year of change, but thankfully we spent most of 2012 just settling in to the new normal of Kimmelhood. The new normal is very different than the old normal, but it is just as pleasant. Different and pleasant. Yes. Those two words sum up 2012 very, very well.
One of the bigger changes from 2011 that feels normal now is our decision to continue home schooling. There are lots of things I like about home schooling - the time with my kids, really knowing what is going on with them academically and otherwise (which is more a reflection on my public school parenting skills than the public school themselves), and having near full control of our family's time. While there is a huge workload that has been dropped in my lap, I actually value the freedom we have with our time. We work almost all of our life around our schedule and not the 7 hours the kids were gone. There are trade offs, of course. The things I used to get done during the school day are now taken up with, well...school. I do not have this whole time management thing down pat and some things had to go by the wayside so I could focus on the kids' schooling. Personally, I enjoy all the learning I am doing alongside the kids, I love seeing their curiosity and interests grow and change, and quite honestly, I just really like my kids and time with them is 99% enjoyable. But it is a lot of work. Hats off to all teachers out there. Hard. Work.
Mark is still working at P&G and still thoroughly enjoying his work. While he may not be the stereotypical corporate fellow, he is brilliant at what he does and enjoys making a contribution to his company. His true love (besides me, of course) is paintball. He played several big events this year from Alabama to Chicago and then had some day events at a nearby field. He won some awards for his play and also had his picture a few paintball magazines. He's like a paintball rock star of some sort. One of these years he hopes to try out for a pro team for a season. Think of all the fun road trips we would make as a family!
Alina is flourishing. From the day we met her on April 15, 2011 she has grown leaps and bounds! She is nearly as tall as I am and I swear growing every day. I have to say she is a delight. There are unique aspects to an older child adoption, and we have highs and lows some days with regards to that, but there isn't a moment I can imagine life without this child. People often wonder if you can love an adopted child as much as a biological child you carried and birthed. Yes. You can. I wish I had those first 13 years with her, but it doesn't for a moment change the fierce mama love I have for Alina. Yesterday we celebrated her 15th birthday - 15! She is not your stereotypical 15 year old teen though - she still enjoys playing all kinds of games with her brothers and she is not remotely interested in boys. (That whooooosh you just heard is Mark's giant sigh of relief...) Alina loves her family, animals, music, and strongly dislikes math. Strongly. (I cannot emphasize that enough. D-I-S-L-I-K-E-S.) She has tried her hand at Tai Chi, horse back riding, and is now taking ballet classes with some awesome friends. Last night she and I snuggled up under a blanket and watched The Sound of Music together.
Jude is growing into such a young man! I can't believe he will be 11 next month! How is that possible? He is such a gift from God. He is kind, intuitive, and so naturally athletic it scares me! I doubt there is any sport he couldn't play successfully. Of course, right now he is focused on martial arts and is passionate about earning his black belt. His heart, passion, and determination serve him very well in his MA classes. I am so proud of him. Jude enjoys home school, especially this year when he began a large, one day a week co-op where he takes classes and hangs out with some great kids. He is studying Latin, writing, pre-algebra, and is most excited about the Red Cross training class he takes on Tuesdays, as well as math, history, and Bible at home. I see him trying out his "man" wings now and again (with varying degrees of success and consequences), and I can't wait to see what his future holds.
Cal Henry is our fascinating, hard working young man. He has continued to blow me away with his academics. We were most concerned about the decision to home school for Calvin, as he was very successful in school for kindergarten, but he has loved home schooling and done a great job of staying committed to doing his very best. He is always asking for a math challenge, and is able to do way more than I assume! He is also taking martial arts, and I love seeing his skills and confidence growing. He started helping out with the Little Dragons classes at our MA school, and it blesses the fire out of me to see these 4 and 5 years olds say hello to him with such awe. He takes his job as role model very seriously, and makes it a personal mission to know the names of all "his" Little Dragons and speak to them whenever he sees them. I love this kid's heart. He is brave and courageous and imaginative and certain that one day the world will recognize his superpowers. He also has an amazingly tender heart for God. Parenting Calvin has been one of my biggest challenges and delights. My favorite Calvin quote from this year was, "The Human Torch does not need to zip his pants." That's the best way to sum up Cal Henry!
All three kids went to church camp this summer and all three loved it! Alina and Jude are attending youth group on Wednesday nights, and all three of them have a few really, really great friends with whom to share lots of laughter and adventures. They are also loving our newest Kimmel - Mojo. He is a Boston Terrier mixed with some sort of fast dog breed and he is the kids' baby. You really have to meet Mojo to appreciate his quirkiness, but needless to say, we all love that guy. Mojo has brought out Marshall's playful side once again and helped Marshall lose 7 pounds! Holla!
As for me, I am well. This fall I recommitted to eating well and taking the supplements that Dr Holistic has recommended and I have been feeling better than ever. (Until December's bout with the Flu Strain A...and the subsequent emotional eating...) It's a good thing because suddenly my life requires more emotional and physical energy than ever before. I really enjoy all that is on my plate for the most part (Minus the math with Alina. Love that girl. Not a big fan of the math lessons, though.). I am still taking martial arts classes and will test with Jude (and possibly Cal) in 2014 for my black belt! After putting in several years of really hard work, I can't believe it is that close. The boys and I are going to go through the black belt training with this year's black belt class just to help prepare us physically and mentally for what we'll face in 18 short months. I LOVE martial arts, and I love the folks I have gotten to know through our school. We have amazing instructors and it has been life changing for me, not only to feel strong but to see that I am capable to more than I ever imagined. I also found another passion this year - the musical Billy Elliot. (See previous post...) My friend, Eli, introduced me to this show and the theater major in me fell in love. We have become classy, well behaved, respectful groupies of sorts traveling to Indianapolis, Memphis, and Louisville to see the touring show. In Indianapolis we finally realized that you shouldn't have to drive all that way for just one show...so we saw three that weekend. In our defense, there were three boys rotating through the role of Billy and we wanted to see all three of them. Now there are four boys playing the lead role, so when we go see the show in Birmingham in February we will see four shows. (Don't judge us.) It is a wonderful story with great music and we have had our pictures taken with the "Dad" in the show twice. (He plays my favorite role.) You know, everybody has some sort of quirk, and I am OK with mine being a love of a musical. Eli and I have the weekend traveling down to a science (Olive Garden before the first show, hotel not too far from the theater, sleeping in Sunday, leftover Olive Garden for lunch before the Sunday matinee, and if there is a Melting Pot in the vicinity, well - all the better!), and we have a great time talking and being grown ups who love a musical.
Probably the highlight of our year as a family was a week at the beach in Destin, Florida in October. It was just what we needed right when we needed it, and I am fairly certain we will head back that way in the fall of 2013. It was great to get away from the homeschooling, work, and responsibilities to just be together.
So, that is our year in review. We have had good days, hard days, but all in all - we are a happy family, and I don't think you can ask for much more than that. I am going to try and use this blog to help me get back on track in some other areas of my life, so hopefully (possibly) there won't be as many crickets chirping here as there has been recently. I don't make any promises though - I am awfully busy living this life God gave me. How lucky am I?