Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s not really a secret that I am pretty terrible at sending out Christmas cards.  I actually love Christmas cards.  I love to read the notes and letters and read about all the braggable things everyone has been up to.  I love to hang the pictures on my bulletin board and think about the wonderful friendships we have made along the way.  I wish I were better at sending cards myself but I am not.  So instead, here I am again writing an electronic Christmas letter. 

It has been a pretty eventful year for our family.  We got the surprising and wonderful news that Mike’s deployment was canceled months before he was supposed to leave.  We were so grateful he was able to stay home.  In February, the boys started piano lessons.  I imagined having to bribe and nag to get them to practice their songs but they love it!  Each of them practice with little prompting on my part.  They had their first recital and all did a great job!  Will was asked to play “He Sent His Son” in sacrament meeting for the Primary program.  He is way more brave than I am—I shake in my shoes when asked to perform in front of people.  We loved our piano teacher in Colorado and were disappointed to find that the rates for piano lessons is almost double in Tennessee so Mike decided to teach piano himself.  Each Sunday we all (including me) get our piano lesson from Mike.  We will eventually need to fork out the money for a real piano teacher but his knowledge is sufficient for us all right now.

In March I started taking photography lessons with Mike’s encouragement.  I have a lot to learn still but I’ve enjoyed being able to take better pictures of the kids and find I really enjoy this new hobby.  Will got to participate in his first Pine Wood derby and got his Wolf and started Bears in scouts.  Our Spring Break was in March and we all headed to Kentucky so Mike could participate in a cheese internship.  He spent the week making cheese with a professional cheese-maker while the boys and I found some fun things to do during the day.  While in Kentucky we received some sad news.  Our sweet dog Diamond passed away at the kennel from bloat.  He has been a part of our family since Eli was a newborn and we miss him very much. 

Mike got accepted to a number of schools for his PhD program, namely Texas A&M, and MIT!  After a lot of thought and prayer we decided to go to neither of these schools and instead go to Tennessee.  It didn’t seem like the obvious decision (who wouldn’t go to MIT if they got accepted?!) but knowing he needed to complete a five year degree in three years, we felt the stress it would cause our family was ultimately not what we wanted.  That, and the fact that his boss did not want him to get a degree in Nuclear engineering made us looking for other programs and schools to attend.  Mike took a trip to Tennessee and was impressed with the National Laboratory in Oak Ridge and decided he would enjoy Energy Engineering.  He sent me to Tennessee with his sister Jessie to find a house. 

The boys finished their year at Imagine Indigo Ranch on a high note.  Eli graduated from Kindergarten and lost his first tooth!  Isaac’s class went rollerskating on the last day of school and Isaac had an unfortunate run in with the wall, splitting his head open and needing stitches.  He definitely ended second grade with a bang!

In June Mike had a two week work class (systems engineering course) so we all decided to go home and visit family one last time before we moved.  We had a great time in Utah, riding horses, playing with cousins, watching movies outside in the dark, and just having a good time. 

July found us packing up and moving across the country to Tennessee.  Leaving Colorado was difficult for all of us but we feel blessed to have the opportunity to experience so many different places and meet so many different people.  We began our move with a stop of my sister’s house in Kansas.  Our house was still not available so we stayed in a cabin in the Smokey Mountains.  It was a nice “vacation” where we took a brief break from moving and just hung out together as a family.  We celebrated Isaac’s eighth birthday at Ober Gattlinburg on a perfect day in the mountains.  We went swimming, hiking, played games, went water tubing, and saw a black bear (well, Mike saw a black bear). 

We moved into our house the first week in August and the boys started school that month as well.  Piper misses her brothers while they are at school and I’m afraid I’m not a good replacement for them.  Mike also started school at UTK and had a great semester, receiving all A’s.  We were proud of Isaac’s decision to be baptized and thankful for the family that came into town to celebrate this special day with us.  The last six months have found us getting used to a new house, school and state.  We haven’t enjoyed the humidity or the bugs but Tennessee is beautiful and wild and we have had fun discovering a new place. 

The boys have enjoyed playing with their new friends in the neighborhood and are enjoying scouts.  The two older boys decided they wanted to try out basketball for the first time.  This is their first time playing a team sport and they are loving it so far.  They have really never played basketball at all until recently and so they have a lot of catching up to do but they are sincere about getting better and I find them out in the freezing cold almost on a daily basis doing drills and practicing.  It has been fun for all of us to play together and I think it will be a good experience for them overall.

After a lot of discussion and prayer, Mike and I decided to throw caution to the wind and start a business.  It is so out of character for us and we regularly go to bed asking each other what we were thinking but we are excited to see what the future holds.  Our business consists of personalized wooden decorations.  If you would like to see more you can find our store at https://www.etsy.com/shop/LilacHarvestLLC?ref=unav_listing-r .  After a successful month we decided to delist the majority of our items until we get back in January. 

Our family wants to say thank you for your friendship.  We feel so thankful for the blessings we have in our lives but most especially for the blessing or our Savior Jesus Christ and His birth, Atonement, and Resurrection.  We feel tremendously grateful for the guidance and direction we receive in our lives and for the opportunity we have to change and become better.  We hope you each have a wonderful Christmas and want to share our love and appreciation to each of you.

Love,

The Richards Family    


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