If you’re finding this page, you most likely received our Christmas card and were curious enough to follow the link to see what’s been going on in our lives this year. I’m happy to report 2016 has been a blessed year. Not without challenges, hard decisions, and lots of prayer – but blessed for sure.
I must confess, I struggled with the idea of putting together a Christmas card at all this year, much less a letter. Not because I didn’t feel we had worthy things to share but because I ask myself… why? As much as I love all of you, do you really care about the details of our year? What grades the kids are in and what family vacations we took? How is that important and pertinent in the grand scheme of things? But, I’m here writing to you much for the same reason I write my blog. Because, I think we can all find common ground and warmth knowing each others’ stories. Stories about what fun, weird, crazy, inspiring, sad, interesting things that happened to us in the course of a year. I know reading through your cards stirs all kinds of emotion for me; love, warmth, happiness, awe, and yes sometimes even jealously and envy. No matter what, I love connecting with all of you. So much so that I’ve even been told I’m a ‘people collector’. So forgive me if I put you on my shelf of cherished ‘collected people’ in our lives.
So here goes – a few of our little stories from 2016.
I sometimes wonder if my memory is going because I have to sit down and really think about all the things that happened over these last 365 days. I chalk it up to the fact that we are just so busy doing life that the digestion of these days doesn’t come until I take the time to reflect. [yet another good reason to write this letter, for my benefit as well]. So I found the best way for me to reminisce about the days of 2016 is to go through my photos on my phone. Sadly, yet somewhat thankfully, I seem to always have my phone on hand and capturing life’s moments tends to be a little obsession of mine at times.
First lets talk music….
Music continues to be an inherent part of the Smith family. It was awesome to see Chris behind his set again this year joining a few old friends and some new. It is a beautiful thing to watch him play (especially when he is making music behind his real set rather than just tapping away on the steering wheel or my leg). We both continue to enjoy playing with the contemporary music group at our church and this year, Charlie joined in the rotation of the group as a bass player. Charlie has also grown musically playing with both the Orchestra and Jazz groups at his new school, Uni High in Champaign, IL. (more about that later). Lewis continues to beat to his own drum both literally and figuratively. He has an amazing sense of rhythm and we pray he continues to pursue his musical talents. Regardless, he is a kid who always has a song in his head and in his heart. I had my musical abilities tested this past year when I was volunteered (by my son) to fill in as the band /orchestra teacher at St. Teresa High School for a month. Wow, I not only have a deepened respect for teachers but I also was reminded how much I had forgotten from my music theory and conducting classes. I also was honored to sing again with the Decatur Muni Band – singing tunes from Mary Poppins to How Great Thou Art. And Ms. Ellie is proving that she’s got the music in her as well. She’s a proud singer during class programs (now that she’s conquered her stage fright), is known to put on a show in the living room and even likes to stand with mom while the contemporary music plays.
Our kids keep us hopping for sure. (This parenting thing continues to get more interesting by the minute). But we love every stage and with our gap in ages we are reminded to stop and enjoy every part of it, as we know how fast it all goes.
Ellie is a 5 year old with a personality as big as any room she walks into. She is smart, stubborn and smiley! She is enjoying her last year of PreSchool and has a real talent for arts and crafts. She played soccer this summer (ok let’s be honest – at least she got the shirt and got on the field.) She loves to swim and dress up and had a great time with her Daddy at the fairy tale ball.
Lewis is our super smart sports dude. He is turning into quite the left handed pitcher and played his second year of travel baseball this summer. He also enjoy shooting hoops anytime on the driveway and with his 8th grade team (co-coached by the famous Coach Chris Smith). The highlight of his summer, once again, was his trip to University of Wisconsin at Madison for basketball camp. Although he begrudgingly did a report requiring 100 notecards last semester, he continues to achieve at school and is taking Freshman math and science at the high school in the mornings. He has had fun participating in the Scholastic Bowl Team and he’s looking forward to graduation from 8th grade and moving on to the big time in High School.
It’s been a big year for Charlie. In addition to turning 16 recently and taking to the road with his new little red car affectionately known as the “Ginger Snap” – he also decided to tackle a new school. He applied and was accepted to the 2019 graduating class at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School in Champaign (aka Uni High). So he’s not only learning the ropes of a whole new school and new way to think, he is living away from home with aunts and uncles during the week. (Big shout out to the Bush and Vetter families for taking on a 16 year old young man! – we couldn’t do it without them). In addition to his studies, Charlie has taken to the stage twice in the past year. Once as Pugsley in The Addams Family at St. T and this fall as Officer Brophy in Arsenic and Old Lace.
The boys still tolerate one another and every once and a while you can even catch them in a game of chess, basketball or pool. They love their sister and are great play mates who help us in keeping her active and entertained (because that’s a full time job these days.)
Chris and I celebrated our 20th anniversary this year. And in true Chris Smith style, we took an amazing trip to Sonoma, California that perfectly blended our two personalities and loves – fast cars and fantastic wine.
And now we must talk Cubs. Our beloved Cubbies finally did it. And we had the awesome opportunity to attend a regular season game as a family and then, with BIG THANKS to my cousin Emily, Chris and the boys got to be at Wrigley for the World Series games 5 and 7. It was a truly amazing experience and if you want to hear the whole story, check out my blog post Holy Cow.
As I feel this little Christmas ditty is turning into more of a sleepy bedtime tale, I’ll wrap it up with the miscellaneous bits of Smithness.
The kids and I took a mid-winter trip to see my Dad and just happened to meet Larry Bird in the airport. (I was proud the boys knew who he was and how awesome it was to see him.)
Fun concerts are part of our memory trunk for the year. Seeing James Taylor (and getting a signed hat thanks to our friend Molly!), and Chris helped arrange a surprise Snarky Puppy birthday concert for brother John Garvey .
And so much more, including Charlie and I helping with Vacation Bible School; my new ventures into the volunteer life and being the Emcee at the our pregnancy center banquet; Chris building me a garden and my novice garden later resulted in “garden-geddon”; a trip to San Diego; the annual Sisterhood (and brotherhood auxiliary) trip to Brown County; stand up paddle boarding; my third half marathon (and my sister Sarah’s first); and food, food and more food – as we are known to have Sunday dinner and guests at the table as often as we can.