Sunday, December 11, 2016

2016 Year in Review - Christmas Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

This year my Christmas letter will come to you via my blog.  When I think about this year, I feel a little sad, a little overwhelmed and a lot excited.  2016 will definitely go down in the books as a growth year.  So let me tell you a little about it.

Last year was epic, one for the books.  We went to Hawaii as a family, I went to Scotland with my sister, life was carefree and good, worries were few.  As the year was coming to a close, I saw ripples of discomfort: little things breaking downs and wearing out, we were approaching some big changes for our family as two foster children were transitioning out of our home, and Travis's employment was becoming more tenuous as his employer and his goals didn't align as well as they once  had.  I'm someone who tends to feel really blessed, but as I ended the year, I felt a little "whoa is me" pity partyish.  I thought I can't wait for 2016, it's going to be so much better - at least that is what I had hoped.

The year started with both of our car's transmissions on the fritz one going out entirely.  We replaced the one on my car which I loved and decided to trade in Travis's car for a new one.  At the dealership, they suggested we sell privately as it was an older car, decent miles, and manual.  They didn't feel like they would make much selling it and would just send it straight to Auction, but that we could get more privately.  We Kelly Blue booked it and concurred.  We bought a car straight out expecting to sell our car and recover at least 2/3 the cost, leaving us paying only a small amount of our savings for the new car.  Once we listed our car publically, we got many calls, but quickly learned from the first serious buyer after he had Carfaxed it with the VIN, that the miles had been illegally turned back.  We had purchased it privately and clearly had not done as much due diligence.  As we considered what to do, we found/felt that morally and legally we needed to disclose our recent and unwanted information, rendering the car worthless, we took a huge loss in the cars department initially and even more so when the new car ended up needing a new engine later this year.

Then in February Travis lost his job.  There is a whole story there, but suffice to say, the company ended up realizing that they could not afford to keep Travis with the amount of business they were currently doing.  After moving him from salary to hourly, from hourly to no overtime, then requesting he go back to salary - which he denied, they let him go.  We had been dually running our own company, but it looked like there was no better time to depend on that income 100% and grow it into its full potential than now.  Clearly it was a little scary, but Travis and I have always been stronger in a crisis. 

March the transitions of foster children was complete and what is normally stressful become exponentially so when, one of them had a change of heart, unfriended me on facebook and cut off the relationship in its entirety with no rhyme or reason.  My kids voiced their concerns over their desire to continue to foster and the toll it was taking on our family and so we decided to take a break from fostering for a while.

Through the summer things stayed steady even in their stressful state.  Determining how much money to use or save as we adjusted to living solely on the one income, feeling out the family dynamics without extra children around, cutting back on vacations in case we would need the money later.  At the end of summer our family made the decision to foster again, but instead with babies in the hope that where they had more physical demands they would have less emotional ones.  We were told not to expect a placement anytime soon as babies were in the highest demand.  We thought we would have a continued break.

Then in the fall, we started having trouble with our HOA, we got a premature infant placement, were forced to make a million hard business choices including the need to hire more people and not being able to afford enough new hires and so making the hard decision for me to take a more active role in the company as office manager.  Just as we started to settle into one of those major changes, we were thrown a life curve ball and one of our foster children that we had years ago had a father who died and him having found him, with no real family to step in.  His request to be with us vs. a group home made our choice for us essentially and we found ourselves with another child, totally overwhelmed and wondering what more could happen this year.

Now lest you fear, there have been sad times and days, but I have recognized the Lord's hand in my life, the million of things I can be grateful for and a remembered knowledge that other years that have felt like this and seemed hard to bare have turned into great years of learning that further down the road were appreciated because I saw that Heavenly Father had been preparing me for something else.  So although I'm hoping 2017 is better, I can't wait to see what this year was all about and all I learned that I will use later.

In the meantime, on a lighter note:

Travis is the owner, operator, and driller in our company.  He works endlessly from sun up to sun down.  He is still the greatest husband, trying to amidst an obscene amount of demands on his time and energy always to take care of me and the kids.  He has helped with the infant filled sleepless nights like a champ.  He will be 40 next month, but I still think he is sexy as ever.

Mary is still trying to conquer the world one volunteer opportunity at a time.  She tries to serve anyone with a need and struggles daily to balance the fine line in determining good, better, best and choosing best.  She finally feels all the excess energy that she's always had reached to it's maximum use.  Someday she dreams of sleeping endlessly and feeling restless from so much down time.

Isabella, 14, is the Jack of all Trades and is like a butterfly trying to follow and pursue her every interest.  She does sports, music, student government, clubs, academics and is dying to learn fluent Spanish and go to Spain - which is likely to happen summer 2017.  She is hard working and so reasonably successful at everything she does.  She is a sight to behold. 

Wyatt, 12, is "scumbag Joe".  Basically it is his teen alter ego that developed this year, named by him  It is the anger filled, testosterone Wyatt who isn't in a sports season trying to manage the influx of hostile hormones.  Physical activities, soccer this year and quite good for his first year, help take the edge of Joe.  When he is not Joe he is still the sweetest, kindest, most mellow, loving, affectionate, touchy feely heartbreaker of a son.  He will make the best husband someday.

Issac, 11, is growing leaps and bounds.  Both physically and mentally.  He may still talk like a baby occasionally, but he is mastering new skills rapidly and excitedly.  It turns out he has lots of musical talent, can sing like an angel, but refuses to join the middle school chorus.  He is picking up cello and piano quickly and he loves it.  He is excited for Boy Scouts and joining Young Men's next year.  He loves stuffed animals and Legos though.  It's the perfect mix of boy and man.

Kody, 9, has grown also a ton this year.  He has been deemed "the judge: in our house since his wisdom and empathy make him a good source for advice.  He has jumped leaps and bounds academically and started piano and violin.  He loves the dog and the foster kids with more depth than any of us and helps our family keep the peace.  He is the perfect finish to our family.

As for our foster kids...Jonathin has suffered a huge loss and a lot of trauma, as such he is adjusting, changing, refinding his way.  He will start therapy after Christmas and we will work to find him his forever family but in the meantime it is fun to relive having him here with us.  He despite being two days older than Wyatt has developed some real man characteristics.  It's crazy to have the start contrast of what a 12 year old should look like. 

Cian, pronounced key in, has been a bundle of joy, like a doll.  We have endless fun and snuggles with him.  It is fun to watch the innocence again of  a newborn learning the world for the first time.  All of these things just eek us into the I guess we'll keep him category despite the sleepless nights, the millions of Dr.'s appointments-which are finally decreasing, and the mountain of self care that has slowed my productivity by half.

We feel super blessed, extremely enriched and constantly supported and uplifted but the Savior, Jesus Christ.  As each year passes, I see both my children and my testimonies growing.  I see a larger dependence on him and his atonement and know that despite the million ways I question my parenting this may be the one thing Travis and I have going for us.  We are raising kids who love him and try to honor him and Heavenly Father, and want to be obedient even when they aren't.

We hope you have had a year with every happiness you desire.  We love you all. 
The Whitings

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