Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas - Letter 2011

Well, I cannot believe another year has passed.  The older I get the faster they go.  It amazes me every single year.  We seemed to have another eventful year for 2011.  Lots of fun stuff to share with you.  We started the year with the decision to send Ethan back to school.  We loved homeschooling and he was doing great with it, but emotionally he started going very down hill.  He missed home so much and I just couldn't get him out of a funk.  When my mom and sister visited last year it seemed to make him feel worse and not better.  So finally one day when he was just so sad I decided it was time to send him back to school.  He was very upset about it and really wanted to stay home but Derek and I decided going back to school would be the best for him.  He took a trip to Washington and when my mom brought him back he started school.  It took a couple of weeks for him to get into the groove of things and to make some friends but before long he was going to school happily every morning.  His teacher was ready to send him to the gifted program within a couple of weeks, but we decided to wait until he could start at the beginning of the next year.  Sending him back to school was a very hard decision for all of us but in the end it was definitely the best decision for him.

In March my sister, Alisha, came to visit us.  We decided to head out to Myrtle Beach and had a blast.  We ate great food, hung out at the aquarium and watched dolphins play in the waves at our hotel.  It was a little chilly but a great time.  We also found out that a possible marriage engagement might be on its way.  That was exciting.  The next week after she left we got the news that she had gotten engaged to Marlo.  We had met him in October before and he is a very sweet guy and love Alisha very much.  They decided on a shorter engagement and made plans to get married in August while me and the kids were already planning on coming out.  So there was a lot to plan in a fairly short amount of time.  Addie went back with Alisha to Washington and a couple of weeks later my mom returned to NC with Addie.  I am so thankful that being so far away from home my family finds ways to visit.  It means so much to us.  While my mom was in town we talked wedding and let Ethan skip a day of school to go to the zoo.  Plus my mom helped me rearrange my kitchen...which was amazing.  Moms are always so good with that type of thing.

Soon after my mom left tragedy struck Fayetteville, NC along with several other areas of NC.  We were hit with tornadoes.  I had heard of tornadoes, of course, but had no idea what it was really like.  They touched down about 5 miles from where we lived and the destruction was unreal.  It really affected me emotionally as it did Derek.  My church made huge efforts to help out, not only the church members who had been affected, but the community as a whole and it was so amazing to see all the humanitarian efforts and good deeds that people did.  Watching people help strangers was just amazing.  The day after the tornado hit we took the kids into the affected areas and joined other people from my church in handing out water and snacks to anyone who needed it.  What amazed me most were people who had only half a house and were still feeling blessed and finding joy in what they had.  It was amazing.  It touched all of us.  Of course after that, every time the wind would blow Addie thought a tornado was coming.

In May Derek's parents came down to visit us.  It was right around Derek's mom's (Darlene) birthday so we had a fight night BBQ since she loves to watch boxing.  It was great having them down and able to see where we lived.  Within a few days of them leaving, Addie and I hopped into the car and headed to Michigan to see my dad.  He was visiting his family (also my family of course) so I thought I would surprise all of them with a visit.  It is always so great to get up there and I have loved being able to visit so frequently over the past couple of years.  We had a great time hanging out with everyone and surprising them.  Along the way I stopped in Flint, MI to visit our friend Emily.  Her and her husband Jeremiah lived in the upstairs apartment of our duplex in Italy.  We became very close with them and while we don't chat much in between every time we see each other it is as if no time has passed although our families keep growing.  When I left Italy Emily had a 6 month old and Ethan was 2 months and now she has 5 amazing kids and we have our two.  Unfortunately her husband was deployed so we didn't get to visit with him, but we filled him and Derek in with photos from our visit.  Our trip to Michigan was definitely a great time.

In June Ethan finished the school year (with lots of A's) and Addie had her very first dance recital.  If you have not yet seen it be sure to check out both of her dance videos on Facebook.  They are the best.  She barely knew the routine but she was following along the best she could and it was just great.  Definitely adorable.

Washington was great.  There was lots of visiting with friends and family, along with lots of wedding stuff.  Most of the wedding stuff was already done but we had to do the fun stuff...bridal showers, bachelorette parties, etc.  My mom and I also decided we needed some time to decompress so we headed out to Ocean Shores for a weekend.

The trip pretty ended soon after the wedding, which was awesome.  It was a very sweet and personal wedding.  It was officiated by one of Alisha's best friends and my family seemed to provide all of the entertainment.  Addie refused to wear shoes so she was barefoot for the wedding.  Then Ethan had a plan to do a ring magic trick and pull the ring out at the end of some scarves...but of course the ring got caught up in his jacket and so it didn't come out at the end of the scarf.  The timing was perfect but caused some slight panic.  And of course I wore an exploding dress that decided to fall apart moments before the wedding was to begin.  Thank goodness for people wearing shawls.  But aside from all of that the wedding was gorgeous and Alisha and Marlo were the cutest bride and groom.

Once we returned from Washington we had to get our butts in gear to get moved.  We have become very spoiled with the military moving us and moving ourselves was not very much fun...but we managed thanks to lots of help from friends to include borrowing a trailer.  We got moved just in time for Ethan to start school.  The school situation couldn't have been any better.  The school he goes to had just been reformatted and switched from being 5th and 6th grade to 3-5 grade.  So every single student at the school was new to that school.  Not just Ethan.  His teacher is great and was a Department of Defense Teacher of the Year a few years back.  Ethan is really liking her.  He quickly got placed into the Gifted program which he is loving.  Right now they are putting together Lego robots, which is right up his alley.  Unfortunately they are having a hard time getting the robots programmed but Ethan is still loving.  He is always so bummed anytime the class gets cancelled.  He has always joined the History Club which meets one day a week after school where they learn about the history of North Carolina.  He has really enjoyed that.  He is definitely leaning towards a love for school which makes me so happy.  I just hope it sticks.  I have talked to him many times about how kids decide to hate school and he says that even though other kids say they hate school he really likes it.  He just brought home a report card filled with A's and we are so proud of him.

A couple of weeks after he started school Addie started Pre-K.  It took me awhile to warm up to her teacher but now I think she's great.  We had a conference not long ago and she absolutely raved about Addie.  Addie is one of the older kids in her classroom since her birthday is in November and I think it will definitely work in her favor.  While Ethan is one of the smallest kids in his class, Addie is one of the bigger ones.  At least for now.  She has been working very hard at teaching herself how to read an write.  We help her along but she just sees words all over the place.  It has really started making me realize how hard the English language is to teach.  So many strange rules.  She's getting it though and loves to learn, as long as it isn't her mom who is teaching her.  She is far too much like me sometimes.

After school started we had a few visitors.  My mom came out again.  She again helped me with some of those moving odd and ends and we made a fun trip up to Raleigh.  The Natural Science museum was having an event called Bug Fest and so we thought we would check it out.  It was thoroughly disgusting, but was also amazing.  The kids loved it.  They had all sorts of hands on booths outside the museum and then even more inside.  The best part was that everything was free.  The whole day was just amazing.  The kids were good and we ended it with a trip to Trader Joe's (maybe not a big deal to most but when the nearest one is 90 minutes away...it is amazing) and The Melting Pot.  The kids were even good at the Melting Pot.  I was never concerned about them burning themselves or causing any issues.  It was fabulous.  While my mom was visiting, Derek's brother also visited.  He had a fishing trip planned not far from Myrtle Beach and so he invited Derek to join him and some friends and they went off for a weekend fishing trip.  Derek definitely enjoyed going off on a trip with his brother.  It sounds like they had a blast.  About 2 weeks later I also got to see my dad.  He was on a business trip to Florida and got to make a stop in NC.  I got Addie a bike while he was there and he got to help teach her how to ride.  It was great...too short but great.

For Thanksgiving we got to head up to Cleveland to spend the holiday with Derek's family.  Both of his brothers were able to come up for the long weekend also.  Not very often do all three of the brothers get to be in the same place at the same time.  It was really nice.  Ethan and Addie got to spend a lot of time with their cousin Henry which was quite entertaining.  Henry and Ethan live very different lives.  Henry lives a very rustic life in Alaska which doesn't include things like cable TV...so him and Ethan battled it out a couple of times simply because they didn't understand how the other lived.  I found it quite entertaining.  They still had a blast together and definitely shared their love of Legos.

Addie has been continuing dance classes, although we switched to a different studio.  She is really enjoying it.   Ethan is still climbing, although next year he will possibly switching to a team environment.  Unfortunately that means he might have to give up his boy scout troop and switch to another troop since both programs fall on Mondays.  That is sad because the troop he is in, is really great.  He is also continuing with piano lessons...although he's not always so great at practicing.  I think the better he gets the more he likes practicing.

Derek is still the NCOIC of Nuc Med (he's in charge).  He gets along pretty well there and the doctors like him there.  Unfortunately the Army has made is very hard for him to get promoted which has been very frustrating.  We just keep hoping to find an answer soon.  He's taking classes to get his Bachelors degree but he still has a year or two of classes left.  He keeps plugging away though so hopefully it will be done before we know it.  He recently put on a Nuclear Medicine conference at Womack.  They had amazing speakers that were pioneers in the field.  I got to attend some of the lectures myself.  For the first year it was amazing and they are already thinking of ways to improve it for next year.

I have been doing pretty well.  I still do that scrapbooking thing and love it.  I have also decided that it is time to get back to work.  With both of the kids in school now it is time...plus I miss it.  I have started volunteering at the hospital to get my skills back on track.  But it is hard to motivate myself to go in when I don't have an actual job.  Unfortunately there are no position available in the area.  I may end up just continuing to volunteer and find a different job doing something random.  We'll see what happens.  I am also looking forward to leading a small group at my church.  The group is for wives of soldiers and I really love the group.  It should be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to learn and grow.

So, that has been our year.  We get to finish it up here in Washington, which is amazing.  There is nothing quite like spending Christmas at home.  It is cold, wet and rainy...but it is home and that is amazing.  I hope that all of you have an amazingly blessed Christmas and don't forget the reason for the season.  As I do every year, I encourage all of you to pray for our deployed soldiers.  We generally always know someone who is deployed and so it is always on our hearts.  They can use all the prayer they can get, especially those not spending the holidays with their loved ones.

Merry Christmas to all of you!!

The Riggle Family