Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stephens' Family Christmas Letter 2013

SLEEP (Or Lack Thereof

This year has been one of probably the least amount of sleep I have ever encountered for many reasons...some of which I will divulge in this letter. Our lives have been full of activities, events and family time, and most end in the desperate need for a good nights sleep. I thought it would be great to let you all know what events have caused us to sleep more...or less this past year. We'll start from the youngest to the oldest...
David, our foster child, (almost 2) has been with us for a little over a year. He has enough energy to almost put a parent into a coma at the end of the day. David sleeps like a log for most of the night and enjoys waking up with the rooster crow before the sun has even fully come up.  He loves to attempt to ride anything with wheels, skateboards, tricycles, bicycles, scooters and even barbie corvettes. From the very beginning of David coming into our home, it was evident that he had a tremendous ability to take apart anything that is technology or electronic. If there was a preschool that accepted child computer engineers, David would be Valedictorian. So if you leave your phone anywhere around this little guy, don't be surprised if you have five new alarms to wake you up in the middle of the night disrupting your sleep.
 David's case has been one that we have prayerfully and anxiously lived through for the year and the possibility of him heading back home is quickly becoming a reality. We are so happy we got to have him if for only a year of his life. We know God has big plans for this boy with the captivating smile. If you have a moment where you are awake at night, perhaps God wants you to pray for this little boy. 

Next up is Zeke (2.5 yrs) who has a small obsession with rubbing my arm when trying to go to sleep. Instead of saying, I just love you so much mommy, he says, 'I just love your arm so much mommy.' Zeke is of the mellow mentality, but learned to ride a 2 wheeler just a couple months ago.  He takes after his dad with skateboarding and mountain biking.  Zeke took a while to start talking, but now mentions things like ice cream and race cars in his sleep.  Zeke loves to sing at the top of his lungs in the car and right before bed. He is turning into a true little boy as he approaches 3 years old. Just hoping that by his 3rd birthday, he will be sleeping the entire night in his own bed. 
As for Claire, (5 yrs)  she has begun Kindergarten this year with me homeschooling her.  She is truly excelling at math and quite possibly falls asleep at the table when I mention handwriting or reading assignments. Claire lives and dreams about ballet and dance. If she could live in a leotard and tutus, she would. I love Claire's ability to live much of her life in her imagination.  Claire has a sensitive spirit about her and would do anything for her family when it comes down to it.  Her favorite subject is Latin and she loves to do crafts and art.  Claire is one of our best sleepers...most of the time.
 Lily (7 yrs) is my aspiring pre-teen and mother's helper. She has a heart of gold and is the best big sister any sibling could ask for. Lily enjoys starting her nights in her own bed, and then finishing them off on the living room couch so she is surrounded by family when she wakes up. I think she also likes sleeping on the couch because it has become a bit of her home gymnastics practice area. I spend more time looking at Lily upside down doing gymnastics poses than looking at her beautiful face upright.  She has started gymnastics this year and has really come alive in her abilities and self esteem. She was also asked to help out in Claire's dance class as a teacher's assistant to corral the youngest in the class. She does an amazing job at this.  Lily was born to teach and be a leader to others...just not in the sleep arena. We are hoping that by the time she heads to college she will be sleeping in one bed the whole night. 

As for me, (age undisclosed) big news is that we are expecting again! Yes, child number 4 is set to arrive May, 2014 and we are excited for his/her arrival. My sleepless nights have involved much of Zeke wanting to caress my arm, much nausea and vomiting and of course the hormonal insomnia. I have never been more prepared to have sleepless nights with an infant.  Zeke's prayer for me every night is 'Dear Jesus, help mama not throw up the baby' Amen. That about sums it up for my nights of sleep... just trying to not throw up the baby. I am currently 18 weeks and finally feel like I can make it through the day without having to lay stationary on the couch for a given amount of time to regain energy and the ability to eat. 
In other news, one of my dreams of photography is really coming true. My business has been steadily growing for the past year and I am coming up with ideas all the time for how to take it to the next level. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement in this endeavor.  
Brian and I  celebrated our 10 year anniversary this year and were able to see old friends at a destination wedding in Charleston, NC. It was our first vacation alone in 7 years... and much needed.   We hope to not go as long till our next vacation as I am already dreaming about more time alone with my hubby. 

 Brian (needs more beauty sleep before disclosing his age) is still hoping to fully experience what a full nights sleep is. Ever since Brian swaddled an invisible baby in midair when I asked him to swaddle Lily in the middle of the night when she was a newborn, I have known that Brian functions less than top notch when tired.
Brian spends his nights 'sleepless-walking' around the house, catering to whichever child has decided to grace us with their midnight presence. We are convinced that the children draw straws not just to see who will get up first, but exactly what order they will each enter into the living room or our bedroom. They all have their individual and highly specific needs that must be met or the entire house will be awoken within minutes. Brian caters to these needs while 'sleep-less walking' with wonderful accuracy. 
  Brian is still trying to figure out a way to partake in the activities he enjoys so much like skateboarding, watching football and basketball, and hanging with his buddies while awake in the middle of the night. But for now, he will just have to be happy with sitting on staring at the moon. 

So from this sleep deprived young family to your 'hopefully better rested than us family', Merry Christmas!!! (Yawn, now time to go to bed:)   

Matthew 2:10- 'When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.' 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stephens' Family Christmas Letter 2012

Cherries and Pits
    A little over a year ago, a dear friend of mine and her daughter came over for dinner. They introduced us to a fun little game they play over dinner. It's called Cherry and the Pit. The 'Cherry' is the good part of your day, and the 'Pit' is the part of your day that you would want to 'spit' out or get rid of. Every person gets a chance to say their cherry and pit, and then they call on someone else. We have been playing this game every night since.  I thought that doing a Cherry and Pit for the current 2012 year might be a good way to let you see into what we've been up to these past 12 months.  We'll go from oldest to youngest...

    Brian has been hard at work with his business, but does find that he needs to be intellectually challenged while on the job.  Therefore, his Cherry of the Year would be iTunes U... While Brian is laying tile, cutting wood and doing demolition, he is going to Oxford, Harvard and different seminaries through his earbuds. He listens to many lectures or sermons a day by professors and pastors. His pit goes hand in hand with his cherry in that when he comes home, he is ready to talk on a highly intellectual and philosophical level when meanwhile, his wife has been listening to the philosophies and thoughts of professors ages 6 and under. Somehow the gap has become too far to bridge.

    Kristen has had a busy year homeschooling Lily and driving children all over the town. As a way of documenting her family's life, she has taken up photography, and has that as her Cherry of the Year. She recently purchased her first professional grade camera and lens, and is looking forward to honing her skills as she is learning from one of the best
 She has been privileged to be a second shooter for a wedding, and is practicing doing family photos with friends. Her 'Pit of the Year' would be the constant juggle to find balance between getting it all done and stopping to take photos smell the roses:)

    Lily(6) is now of the elementary school age. She enjoys being homeschooled and all of the 'activities' that go along with it. She recently played the role of 'Cindy Rella' in the homeschool play for our county and continues to amaze us with her poise and maturity at such a young age. When I asked Lily what her 'Cherry of the Year' was, she replied that it was learning to roll her tongue.

 I have to admit I was looking for something a little more 'eventful', but I guess in the eyes of a 6 year old, that is a pretty big achievement. She also lost her first tooth this year, the day before her birthday and accomplished a successful Cowboy/Cowgirl party for her birthday. Lily never ceases to surprise me with her creativity and imaginative skills.  
   As for Lily's 'Pit', it would have to be that her best friend, Michael, moved around the block and they don't get to see each other every day anymore. She was excited that he included her on his guest list for his school Christmas play last night, and she came home with the biggest gleam in her eye. I am making it a priority as a mom to make sure I am more intentional about inviting Michael over. Not sure what the future holds with these two, but for now its precious.

 Claire(4) continues to be our spitfire and marches to her own drumbeat....which I believe is now techno. She goes a mile a minute and yet has a sincerity and empathy that is unparalleled in our family. She too can roll her tongue, but that was not her 'Cherry of the Year'. 

Every night while playing 'Cherry and the Pit', Claire would first tell us that she 'deferred to Lily' and would not share her cherry and pit until everyone else had gone. Then, when the time came for her to share, she would say without fail, 'My cherry is right now, and I had a pitless day.' Oh what I would give to have 365 pitless days. At least she is consistent. As far as her 'Cherry of the Year', I would have to say that it was tonight's dinner. And for her 'Pit', well...she's had a pitless year.

Zeke(19 months) has really come into his own this year. His 'Cherry of the Year' has been going outside with dad to feed the fish in the pond. Mom does not go out with them as she has too many anxiety attacks for fear that Zeke will fall in and become fish food.

 Zeke cherishes his time with his dad, mostly because he gets to do things mom would never allow like skateboarding down the driveway by himself without shoes or helmet on...the kid just learned how to walk 5 months ago! 

 But alas, that is what fathers are for- dare I say it? To push their children to their physical best, and do things that make them say ' Don't tell mom'. 

 Zeke's 'Pit of the Year' would be that no one speaks 'Zeke' language. He refuses to use any words except signing please and more for everything.  He points to outside and then over and over again signs 'please more please more please more' which in Zeke language means 'Please mom, will you come outside with me so I can feed the fish again?' We can't wait till he realizes that he has vocal chords and they are not just for screaming. 

And we couldn't finish this letter without sharing our
  Two weeks ago, we welcomed baby David into our home as a foster child. He is our angel baby and we couldn't be happier that he is with us. He is 11 months and smiles more than any baby I have ever met. 

Though we don't know the length or duration of his stay with us, we love David as if he is our own, and pray that perhaps one day he will be. God has a hand over this boy, and we can't wait to see what is in store for him.

So that about sums up our 'Cherries and Pits' for the year. I hope you enjoyed reading a small glimpse into our lives and pray you will continue down the road of life with us.

Plus, we love to hear about your lives, so keep those Christmas letters coming!! 

Be blessed this Christmas and upcoming Holiday and New Year season!! 

Much Love, 
Brian, Kristen, Lily, Claire, Zeke and Baby David.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Stephens Family Christmas Letter 2011...


The Stephens' Year of Prime Numbers...

This past year has been pretty amazing. To start, 2011 is a Prime Number, which I didn't think about until after I already began writing this, but is nevertheless neat in and of itself.  I always try to think of a 'topic' or 'theme' to write about and make our Christmas Letter more cohesive and perhaps a little bit more interesting. So this year, I chose Prime Numbers...I know, I questioned myself when I thought of it too. But I think once you finish the letter, you'll see how Prime Numbers help our 2011 family story to 'add up'.

Note: All RED writing is about Prime Numbers... All GREEN writing are links to learn more!
I'll start with Lily, child #1... FYI, 1 is NOT a Prime Number but is often mistaken for one. Lily did however, turn 5 this year which is a Prime Number! For her birthday, Lily had a baking party which was a huge success...and an even bigger mess. 
Lily is an amazing child, and I thank God everyday that He chose her to be our oldest...I think perhaps, that if the order was changed around,  I'd be in trouble.  Lily started school this year and absolutely loves it. There are 13 children in her class, and has a natural love for learning.  She has even begun to read, and together, we read about 2 books every day.  Next year, Lily is going to be home schooled as she starts Kindergarten when she is 5. We are very excited to start this new endeavor together, and can't wait to start. 

   Next comes Claire, who is our 2nd child.  Sometimes I think Claire is a Prime Number as I feel that she is only divisible by herself...she's one tough cookie.  She loves to be around others, and is very passionate about justice and being heard. I think in a previous Christmas Letter, I wrote that Claire has upper management written all over her...I still agree with this statement. 
   Claire turned 3 this year, and for her birthday party, she had a 'Pink Panther' theme (see Claire's shirt).  Claire has seen all 124 episodes of the original Pink Panther,  and all 27 episodes of Pink Panther and Pals ( 124+ 27= 151) and can tell you what will happen within the first scene of each show. 'Pink Panther' also contains 11 letters.  Claire started Preschool this year as well. She is in the Pre-K3 class.  Her teacher's name is Mrs. Smiley in which it took about 2 months for me to get Claire to stop calling her 'Mrs Smiley-Face'. Claire has 5 children is her class with only 1 boy.  Claire's favorite thing to do is smother her brother with kisses... (see pictures below)

Our newest addition is Ezekiel Robert, who came into the world on Easter Sunday, April 24th...he is our 3rd child...and we are so happy to have him as a part of our family. 

Zeke was born on the same day and within hours of his cousin, Olivia...and their mothers were in labor at the same time. They are forever Twousins...Twin Cousins. Kristen was in Active Labor for about 7 hours. 
Zeke and Olivia- Twousins
We were able to take a trip to NY for a Bob Joyce's Birthday Party (aka Joyce Family Reunion), and the cousins got to meet!  Zeke is absolutely adored by his 2 sisters, and Lily is chomping at the bit to babysit him (we just have to get her to stop putting pink headbands on him when we're not looking.) 
Birthday Photo Joyce Family Photo- August 2011
Counting all the family members
 {including Jazzy and Cha Cha the dogs},
there were 29 'Joyce's' in attendance

Next up is Brian, who continues to amaze us as to how wonderful of a father and husband he can be. Brian loves to involve the girls and make things. He continues to knit...yes, knit...mostly on size 17 round needles, and has made a number of amazing gifts for the nieces and nephews.

Nephew Ezra wearing a 'Brian Original'

Nissi showing off Uncle Brian's knittin'
     Brian's most memorable part of the year was when he went to California to be present for the adoption of his sister Mikayla and brother in law Russell's son. Brian surprised everyone out there, and hanging out with family and friends felt like he never left. We continue to think about our friends and family out in Tahoe (and those who have moved) everyday. 
Mikayla and Brian in Tahoe- Sept 2011
     Brian has also become very excited about sermon podcasts. He has listened to at least 109 sermons specifically from a man named Tim Keller . If you happen to listen to any, Brian is ready and waiting to talk philosophically about it. Brian is certainly growing in his love for God, and we are all so happy for him.

   And finally, Kristen has been enjoying the craziness of adjusting to life with 3 children, a part time job as an editor with Craft Gossip, her MOPS group, and anything else that fits into those extra few minutes in the week. Kristen had many great experiences this year, but 2 really stand out; the birth of Zeke at home on Easter the same time as her sister, Meghan,  and covering 'Prime Time' The Martha Stewart Show for Craft Gossip

Zeke-May 2011

Kristen and Zeke right after he was born- April 24, 2011
 Martha, Kristen and some other bloggers... Oct 2011

We continue to work on growing together as a family, making lasting friendships here in Florida, and trying to stay in touch with our long-time friends. We love each and every one of you, and hope that your Christmas season is one of quality time with family, friends, laughter, spiritual growth and love. God Bless you all and we'll be back on this blog sometime next year!

Love, Brian, Kristen, Lily, Claire and Zeke

Matthew 2:10- 'When they saw the star,
they were overjoyed.'

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stephens' Family Christmas Letter 2010...

These Are the Colors of Our Lives....

This past year has been such a whirlwind. Perhaps it is the fact that we have settled into Florida living, which means we are busy doing what people who are plugged into their community do....or perhaps it is the fact that we have a 4 and a 2 year old who have enough energy to possibly push time to move faster (quite possible).

So this year, I wanted to express the colorful aspects of our lives....

I'll start with the girls

Lily(4) is bursting at the seams with her warm smile and colorful apparel. She truly has a future in fashion as she tends to let everyone know whether or not she approves of their outfit (its usually mine she doesn't approve of).When I asked her what her favorite color is, she proceeded to tell me, "Bright Blue, Bright Pink, Bright Red, oh and Bright Purple."All of these colors now make sense to me since she changes her outfit 4 times a day just to accommodate for this exten
sive color palette.
She usually wants her hair just perfect, and we have been
working on growing out to pony tail length for about 2 years now. She is an excellent big sister to a sometimes demanding younger sister, and for that, she gets a Bright
Red Star in my book!

After asking Claire(2) five continuous times what her favorite color was, she finally looked at me like I had ten heads and said "um,purple mommy". Then she proceeded to tell Lily her favorite color was purple. Claire also has a flare for the dramatic when it comes to her outfits, the colors are usually just dramatically
clashing. Claire is also
changing her outfit 4 times a day, but usually because she
has some random food spillage or has covered herself in lotion (on the outside of her clothing) or soaked herself while washing her hands...
She has been washing her hands a lot because she is now potty trained! This is why I am giving her a Bright Yellow Star...
(brown seemed a little awkward)! Claire has become more and more verbal...and in turn has realized that she is pretty funny. Her favorite thing to do when asked is to say... "Ok Boody", which translated into English is "Ok Buddy" and then she waits for you to laugh. We can't wait tosee what kind of jokes her expanding vocabulary will present to us. She is a truly caring child and is always right there to take care of me when I don't feel well...then she asks for a cup of milk.

Brian is continually adorning the color Tan as he is always covered in sawdust. I think we have more sawdust in our dryer lint collector than we actually do lint... perhaps one day I'll come up with a sawdust/lint craft. Brian is an awesome father, and just as much as he loves to play and wrestle
with the kids, he enjoys knitting and watching a football game...what could be a better combination right? Who knows, you just might be the recipient of one of his knitting creations!

As for me, I'd have to say my color for this year was GREEN. This was because my face was Green for half of the year. In March, I found myself in the hospital for 5 days with Shingles and Viral Meningitis...I came out of that time grateful for my life and family. In July, I found out I was pregnant again, and have been battling all-day sickness up until very recently. My main goal was to try to be a good mom and wife while feeling so ill...many days I felt like I failed, but the girls were so supportive and would always remind me that it's just because of the baby that you are so 'pukey' mommy. Now that I am feeling better, I can't wait to get back into a good 'mommy' schedule and begin our 52 Week Preschool Again!

But our favorite color of the YEAR has to be BLUE! This is because in April of 2011, we will be expecting baby #3 and it is a BOY! The ultrasound technician had to show us about 12 times that it really was a boy, and I think we were both still stunned after we left. Lily and Claire are both happy about having a little brother, and Claire has actually shed a few tears about how she wants the baby to come out of my belly button right now! Lily is looking forward to exercising her mothering skills which often times are more honed than mine!

Overall, 2010 has brought us many blessings that we are looking forward to in 2011. We hope to have our home in Tahoe sold in early January which will be a bitter sweet chapter closing in our lives. We look forward to welcoming baby boy in April, and starting up Preschool again with Lily. We are excited about all the milestones and memories our family will have and can't wait to share about them with you next year! We hope you have enjoyed your Rainbow Connection to us, and we want to leave you with an Irish Quote:

“May you always have work for your hands to do.
May your pockets hold always a coin or two.
May the sun shine bright on your windowpane.
May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.”

God Bless you all this upcoming year,
and have an amazing family-filled Christmas!

Love, The Stephens'