As we enter the Advent Season, we had our family Christmas card photo shoot last week. Our photographer, Julie Heisey, got some amazing photos of us. But then when it came time to sit down and get the cards ordered and update our address list, I started to feel extremely stressed. After talking about the reasons behind my stress, (I had just reviewed our calendar for the next two weeks and it is jammed packed) we came to the decision that we were going to discontinue sending out Christmas cards. This may be temporary, but in this season of our lives, it is just not feasible to get it done. So, instead, we decided that we would post our annual update letter along with a photograph of our family. (Due to confidentiality rules for our foster baby, we are unable to show her face at this time on the Internet.)
This has been a year where we have grown in our faith as we faced the challenges in our lives. It was discovered after Cathy’s mom surgery in December that she has Stage IV Colon Cancer. This was a devastating blow to her parents but we knew that it was in God’s hands. She spent this year undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. We helped them have a huge party in June to celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary at which time they renewed their vows. She continues to work on getting her strength back and we are praying for a clean scan in a few weeks.
Mark & Cathy celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in January. Mark continues his role as an elementary school principal in the Tempe School District and is also an adjunct faculty member at Grand Canyon University. Cathy began teaching training foster parenting classes for future foster parents at their licensing agency.
Vanessa turned 18 in February and subsequently made some decisions that did not mix with our family values and she was asked to move out and figure out life on her own. We sought counsel from our pastors as this decision was very hard for us but we will not support her current choices. She has free will and we pray daily that her heart will soften.
Suzy is 15 and a sophomore and she continues to play trumpet in the high school marching band and she has also joined the church’s youth band as one of the vocalists. She continues to work hard in school, even though it is very difficult for her. Her perseverance is truly admirable.
Pablo is 13 and in 8th grade and he continues to be an excelling student and, along with being an great clarinet player, we have discovered that he is a very talented pianist. Both he and Suzy performed in the high school talent show last month. Pablo played Fur Elise on the piano and Suzy sang a duet with one of her close friends.
Tyler is 9 and in 4th grade. He is doing very well in school and loves singing in the church KIDZ Choir and AWANA at church. He is becoming quite the artist.
Issac is 7 and in 2nd grade. He is (finally!) in a regular education classroom. He still receives services for his learning disability but he is making great strides and is reading! His stuttering is very minimal now.
Adrian is 5 and in Kindergarten. He was named an excelling SOAR student this first trimester in school. Only one child in each class was awarded this. He loves school and he is beginning to read.
Chase is 4 and has become Mr Bossy Pants. He loves attending church and especially AWANA. We still call him Smiley as his smile still lights up a room.
Laura is 3 and is a huge trouble maker. Her cuteness just melts our hearts but her knack for destroying everything can be downright annoying. She loves being a big sister to Sweetie.
Sweetie is now almost 17 months old. She is still considered medically fragile and we spend time at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and with other specialists having tests run to see how she is doing. She walked at 12 months, which amazed her physical therapist. She finally started saying dada and momma this past month. We had hoped to announce her adoption in the newsletter as it was scheduled to be held on November 21st, but we hit a technical bump that is being resolved.
Jessica spent a couple of months in Arizona over the summer and we were so blessed to have some time with her and Bear. We were sad when she made the decision to move back to California.
As you have read, this has definitely been the year of challenges yet we have much to be thankful for! We have seen God do amazing things through these challenges and our family is much stronger because of it. We pray that as we enter this Advent season where we are reminded of Christ’s sacrifice of giving up his heavenly form to become human to save us, that we will continue to remember what is truly important. Merry Christmas!
Mark, Cathy, Suzy, Pablo, Tyler, Isaac, Adrian, Chase, Laura, & Sweetie