Friday, January 3, 2014

A Year in the Life

Happy New Year! I didn't get around to doing a Christmas letter this year, so I thought I would try something new and create a photographic summary of the year here on my blog and just send a link to friends and family. I had a blast putting this together, but I think only my mother and Brandon's mother will make it to the very end. :D (And that's perfectly fine with me. I did this for myself more than anyone!) The long and the short of our year is that we had a lot of fun and were very blessed in every way imaginable. I still contend that everyone should start a blog or keep some sort of journal that highlights, well, the highlights of your life, because just when you feel like your life is 95% work/drudgery and 5% joy, you look back at that 5% and realize your life is really quite rosy. And here's our rosy life in 2013 . . .

In January 2013, we were lucky enough to have my parents here with us from Iowa as well as my sister, Elizabeth, and her family (who were in town visiting family on both sides) to celebrate both Christmas and New Year's.  Since all of us used to live in Iowa City together back in the day (even my sister's husband's family), it was fun to have a reunion of sorts for the baptism of Liz and Jason's son, Andrew:

We all had a blast sledding in our own backyard:

We hosted some other family gatherings in January as well. A few of the Petersen clan (Brandon's mother's side):
And more Reynolds. It's been fun having Brandon's youngest brother, Brent, nearby at BYU, and Brandon's brother, Damon, and his family who moved to Utah permanently last November. We don't feel so alone in Utah anymore! 
I also conquered a huge fear of mine in January and made it through the first of what turned out to be five interviews this past year for a local daytime TV show called Studio 5. (Because I'm sure you have nothing else to do, you can watch all five of the interviews HERE.) 
Also in Power of Moms news, I spent a short weekend back in La Canada presenting at a retreat with a bonus of sharing Sunday dinner with family:

Trent and Laura's newest addition to the Reynolds family, Eden:
In February, we still didn't mind the beauty of winter:
 Will and Elizabeth worked on their culinary skills:
He made pancakes almost every Saturday morning for months:
Her first omelet:

We celebrated Valentine's Day . . .

and Will had his first cello recital in our home with some special visitors:
His awesome teacher, Kayson Brown:
In March, Brandon and I celebrated 18 years of marital bliss with a trip to Mexico (at least, that's what trips alone make you feel like, and I think that's the point!):

Back at home, we got our Irish on for St. Patrick's Day:
Anything to spice up the long, cold winters of Utah!

At the very end of March going into April, we celebrated the two William's birthdays (only one day apart). It was a very special weekend with Will turning twelve on Easter Sunday and receiving a level of the priesthood (as is customory in our church), and Grandpa Reynolds being released during General Conference from a five year assignment to which he was very dedicated. No, we didn't have the right candles for his birthday, but we had some laughs with the ones we had:
Our little pyro:
That same weekend we got all three Reynolds siblings and their spouses together:
And the California cousins were reunited as Todd and Shauna's family came up to Utah for their (and our!) spring break. We might have wanted to go somewhere warm for spring break (:D), but we couldn't pass up the chance to spend some time with them on the slopes after Easter weekend since our spring breaks don't usually match up. Good times with these cute cousins:
Love seeing them together again:

And we love getting together with their parents, too:

Also in April, Kate's braces finally came off. Isn't she a beauty?
And she started playing with the high school golf team. (Had to take this picture without her knowing!) 
We also thoroughly enjoyed nearby Thanksgiving Point's Tulip Festival. It's always a welcome relief when spring finally arrives, and our local Tulip Festival is the best way to take it all in:

In May, we celebrated Mother's Day and Elizabeth's 9th Birthday:

Her birthday party was at a bakery called "Simply Sweet" which was all too perfect on so many levels:

I got to attend one day of the annual Power of Moms retreat in Park City:
With April and Saren, my dear friends who co-founded the website:
We hit "May Madness" about mid-month with all the end of school year stuff. Like Elizabeth's student created class opera I accompanied on the piano:
Will's end of school year orchestra concert with the Lyceum Orchestra Program:

His 6th grade play, Romeo and Juliet: 
(That's called Guyliner. Doesn't he look threatening?) 
One of many scout advancements of the year (Brandon should definitely get the parent pin, not me):
And finally, his 6th grade graduation:
Rachael's end of school year school dance program and pre-school graduation:

Yes, Rachael is full of personality. Here she is pictured with one of several fianc├ęs she's had during the last few years:
And we loved having Brandon's youngest brother, Brent, move in to our basement to record music for several weeks of the summer starting in May. We really do miss having him around and hearing his awesome live music down there:
Also beginning in May, Brandon's fourth brother, Marc, and his family moved from Texas to Utah for two months so he could direct BYU's spring opera. Four brothers all living in Utah for a little while was a real treat:  

It was a great excuse for more extended family get togethers:
Utah is incredibly beautiful in May when there is still snow on the mountains and everything down in the valley is blooming and turning green:
Lastly, here we are at the "Hot Pots" (natural hot springs) in Spanish Fork canyon over Memorial Day weekend. Ready for summer to begin!
Once school let out in June, we floated down the natural lazy river in our backyard more than once:

And loved hanging out with all the extra cousins in town:

Rachael was as cute as ever:

We watched movies in the park:

Kate learned TO DRIVE (license still pending):
Elizabeth got so into sewing that I signed her up for a summer class:
Both little girls took some swimming lessons:
I cut my hair . . .
 . . . and took Kate to get her first pedicure before sending her off to EFY for a week. She was a busy girl over the summer with two weeks of Driver's Ed, one week of EFY, one week of girls camp, and several days of Youth Conference on top of the two weeks we spent for our own reunions/vacations. And you can see from her arm that we also repainted/redecorated her room over the summer. She's decided she wants next summer to move a little slower:
Will is one of the funniest kids I know. Who does this with a t-shirt?
We celebrated Father's Day with the best dad on the planet:
Our congregation's boundaries were realigned and I got a new assignment as the person who "gets" to plan the monthly activities for the women at church (with the help of the cute ladies below). This was our first activity, a getting to know you Tea Party:

Near the end of June going into July, we had a Reynolds reunion at Brian Head in southern Utah:

All the grandkids, minus Damon and Angie's baby born in October:
The Original Recipe:
The brudders (Brandon and Brent both turned 40 and 20 that month):
The women:
All the boys:
All the girls:
The funny pre-teens:

Good times making s'mores:
Playing games (no pictures, but some of us grown ups played the card game SCUM pretty much every night):
Enjoying the natural beauty of the area:
And just being with family:

A highlight of that trip was celebrating Brandon's 40th birthday (the 4th of July) by hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park with our two oldest:

Back at home, we did the usual cake and ice cream thing. And he got a hammock. Because what 40-year-old guy wouldn't want a hammock for his birthday?

 I'm pretty sure the kids used it more than he did:
In July, we also enjoyed campfires up the canyon:
Kate spent a ton of time drawing and getting familiar with a variety of digital art programs:

My best friend from college moved to Oxford, England with her family and needed a home for her maltese, so we increased our family by one this year:
Bunny and Yuki (which means "Snow" in Japanese):
Poor Rachael had her tonsils and adenoids out and had a pretty rough recovery. Giving me the "I love you" sign before:
Totally tuckered out after:
But even when she wasn't feeling good, she was usually pretending to be an animal of some kind. Most of this past year was spent either as a cat, a dog, a cheetah (that was a big one), or a fire ferret. She also spent some time being infatuated with Sonic the Hedgehog and My Little Pony. I think she may become a vet or a zoo keeper when she grows up:

The last week in July, the three oldest kids worked their tails off to execute a very successful week-long day camp to earn some money:

In August, we drove to Mesa, AZ for the funeral of Brandon's maternal grandfather, Philip Petersen. While he will be greatly missed, it was a joyful occasion as family and friends reflected on his good life and the positive influence he had on everyone he met. We were so grateful as a family that we decided to drive down to Arizona last Thanksgiving break to spend with Grandma and Grandpa as it turned out to be the last time we saw him. Incidentally, what I DON'T have any pictures of are the many scout campouts Will went on over the year (yes, they even do campouts in the winter months), the biggest being a 50-miler down in southern Utah. Brandon often tries to go with him on these campouts, and he met up with the group for the last few days of the 50-miler. On the drive home, Brandon and Will went on a little hunt together to find Grandpa's childhood home knowing they were in the general area. After looking at maps and talking to several older locals, they finally found the house just a day or two after hearing Grandpa had passed. It was just one more way to connect with and honor this man we have been lucky enough to call Grandpa:

 A large group of family celebrated Great-Grandma's birthday with her after the funeral:

Following the funeral we drove to California for the last "wahoo" of summer. After a little Disney and beach time, I surprised the little girls and stopped by the American Girl doll store before heading to La Canada to see family:

Before school started, Kate and I went to get our hair done together. (No, this doesn't happen very often which is why I took a picture):

We enjoyed "Annie Get Your Gun" at Sundance's Summer Theater the last weekend before school:
The boys started wearing bow ties to church frequently. Aren't they cute?
And at the very tail end of August going into September, I went by myself for a long weekend to see some of my Iowa family and go to the Nauvoo temple:

Then it was back to school. High school for Kate:
Middle school for Will:
4th grade for Elizabeth:

(I really bombed on the back to school pictures this year.)

And Kindergarten for Rachael (who is always willing to pose for a picture):
(I may have shed a tear or two, especially because they are all at four different schools this year.)

Kate continued on the harp and Will on the cello:
Elizabeth and Rachael traded in gymnastics for dance (and roller blading in the house while carrying small animals):

And all three of the older kids are doing acclerated programs at school which causes us both pride and great angst as parents due to all the homework and projects. (More in particular, the procrastinating of all the homework and projects). We have mixed feelings about having smart kids. Mostly we just want to go back 100 years in time and work on a farm together all day long. (As long as we can still have wifi and a shower every day.) Here's Elizabeth reading some very important literature:
We also embarrassed ourselves in September by having a birthday party--complete with doggy cakes--for Yuki and her mom and sisters since the original owner's children (who still have Yuki's mom and sisters) called up and asked to come see her that day:
Kind of cute, right?
I celebrated my forty-something birthday with a date night at Sundance and a 34 mile bike ride (not in that order or on the same day):

And a little chocolate never hurt someone on their birthday (or any day of the year for that matter):

In September, we also held several special events for the launch of our newly published Power of Moms book, Deliberate Motherhood. It's been a couple of years now, but I was thrilled to contribute by writing the first chapter and also being part of the conceptualizing and editing:
September is also one of the most beautiful months of the year in Utah when we like to be up in the mountains:
A gorgeous moonset one early school morning:
A big highlight of the whole year happened in September when Brandon and I surprised Kate by picking her up at school to take her on a long weekend to Seattle for her 16th birthday. She's been saying she wants to live in the Northwest when she grows up, and since we could see the clock ticking toward that day when she will leave home, we jumped at the chance to have this special time alone with her:

In October, Mimi and Papa came to Utah for Rachael's 6th birthday and to attend General Conference. (First time ever for my dad and first time for my mom since the 60's!) We were all so happy to see them again, and Rachael felt extra special since they were there for her big day:

 (Kate and Will also have a slight obsession with a variety of Japanese anime manga and shows, as evidenced by these hoodies they purchased with their own money.)

Our mutual favorite, Japanese food:
General Conference:

We also turned into "color chasers" during October, going up into the mountains several times during the month to see how the landscape was changing. This year we found a new trail that has one of the best views I've ever seen. We love living so close to so much beauty! This canyon is less than a ten minute drive from our home:

Love the Aspens in the fall:
And of course, there was Halloween. The kids are big Dr. Who fans so they convinced Brandon to dress the part, complete with Will's (or I should say, the Doctor's) Sonic Screwdriver:
But he just did it "for the kids", right? He didn't get into it or anything:
A homeless person and a little witch. Yes, Elizabeth's sign says, "Will work for candy. Every little bit helps" and no, I had nothing to do with her costume:

Will painted his own mask and went Trick-or-Treating with his friend. Creepy!

We visited Cornbelly's more than once during October:

And I found myself in the kitchen making things like pumpkin donuts and mummy dogs:

In November, we had our family pictures taken and I got to do a book signing and a TV promotion for the book I mentioned earlier. One time when I was dressed up and ready to go to one of these events, Elizabeth asked me where I was going. When I told her I was going to a book signing and that I was one of the authors of the book, she paused and said, "Really, Mom, where are you going?" I do enjoy my other "secret" life being involved with Power of Moms! (Speaking of which, I am still writing weekly posts for the Motherhood Matters blog on Deseret News if you'd ever like to read and make a comment--I would love it!)

Eating at Fong's after our family pictures:
They turned out awesome thanks to my friend, Holly who took them:
7am live TV feels mighty early when you stay up talking past midnight:
With Saren after the TV segment:
First a Studio 5 event and then a book signing. I felt like such a mini celebrity! Pretty fun when most of your life is just cooking, cleaning house, running errands, and managing the lives of four children:

Speaking of real celebrities, I went with a group of women to hear from Ann Romney (and others) at the Time Out for Women event in Salt Lake City:
We hosted some of Brandon's family for Thanksgiving:

Tenley, the newest adorable baby on the Reynolds side:
Per tradition, we got our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving:

And then it was December, and all too quickly the holiday season was upon us again. We attended school and other performances . . .

Kate and Will both performed their instruments in church. Kate did a solo on the harp, and Will played the cello while I accompanied the choir on the piano:
We went to work parties . . . 
Speaking of work, Brandon worked even harder than usual during December (which is saying something!) trying to meet the demands of his patients who wanted to meet their deductibles before the end of the calendar year and also have their surgeries done so they could recuperate over the break. He is the reason we all have so many opportunities for both fun and learning throughout the year and I couldn't be more grateful for this handsome mug:
I helped put on the church "Cowboy Christmas" party (with those same super fun ladies):
We visited Santa . . .
And Buddy the Elf . . .

We went back over 150 years to a Candlelight Christmas . . .

We danced: 
We played in the snow:

We cooked and baked (and ate and ate). . .

We slept under the tree . . .
And thoroughly enjoyed all of our usual Christmas traditions:
And we were especially grateful for several opportunities to give to a variety of organizations during the Christmas season since we feel so grateful for all that we have. It feels good to share the love a little bit! 

Sometimes this past year we were naughty:
Other times we were nice . . . 
But through it all we looked to our Savior and Friend for help along the way:
Looking back over this past year we feel so incredibly blessed to have all the best things in life in such great abundance: family, friends, love, health, natural beauty, freedom, peace, opportunity, education, and prosperity. We are so very grateful for these blessings, and count each of you among them. Here's to a wonderful New Year! Welcome 2014!!

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