We sent our our Christmas Cards with the saying “Best.Year.Ever.” and oh, boy, was it true! 2015 was the year of adventures, of getting out of our comfort zone, of trying new things, of friends and family, travels, joining the league of homeschoolers, and so much more. It was a year filled with many, many wonderful memories and moments, and here are a few of my favorites.
January was cold. Like bitterly, don’t dare go outside with wearing five layers, kind of cold. Yet, it was strangely void of snow. We had a big dumping over Christmas, enough to go sledding in near blizzard conditions, and then one warm week melted everything off just in time for temperatures to plummet again. It limited our outside activities, but we managed to to make our own adventures indoors just the same. One day, after watching a LEGO superhero movie, the kids decided to become superheroes themselves. And so they did.
We also were gifted with tickets to a Hockey Game featuring our very own Alaska Aces… “Let’s go, Aces, let’s go!” It was probably the first game that we’ve attended where the kids actually paid attention throughout the whole game instead of getting bored halfway through the first period. I mean, come on! Who gets bored watching hockey?!
But the most exciting moment of the month came at the very end when we (finally) decided to give my office a much-needed makeover. When we had first moved into he house, the walls were painted a soft green color that we had used in another house and loved. Unfortunately, we remembered the name incorrectly and it came out much more neon green than subtle green and I hated it all year long.
Thankfully, January is a time for new beginnings and honey-do lists. 48 hours, two gallons of paint, and a billion screws later and my office was done. A year later, it is probably my favorite room of the house and has proven to be that calming “retreat” that I needed- and I have the increased productivity and decreased stress to prove it.
Ah, February. The month that broke our fence. Literally. One of the very few not-so-great aspects of Palmer (seriously, we love it here!) is that it has severe winds that come in off the river. Most of the time the wind is strong, but it just means I need to wear a long skirt or risk a Marilyn Monroe moment. But apparently during the winter when the natural buffer of trees and foliage is gone, the winds get even more powerful and intense, garnering enough strength to take out entire fences and rob our neighbor of their trampoline. (And yes, it’s happened again this year, too)
That’s pretty much all that happened that month. Woohoo.
March was better than February, by far. For starters, Caleb turned five years old that month. Of course, I was a complete ditz and didn’t take a single picture for the birthday party. But it was a Lego themed birthday party (do you notice a trend yet?) and we had a blast. Of course, since there are no pictures or video from said event, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
The little snow we had received during February was almost gone by then and the trails were clear enough for us to go on our first hike of the season. We’re blessed to have a trail system close to our house, and we spend many a summer evening walking along the river.
March was also the month where I felt myself coming into my role as a work-from-home/homeschooling mom of two. Up until then, I had worn so many hats and juggled so many tasks that I never felt able to do my best at any of it. My house was always messy, my son weeks behind in his schoolwork, my business unorganized and stressful, and I had no time for “me”, much less the time to actually enjoy my family. But something had begun to change in my heart and my perspectives, a subtle shifting in my priorities. This was the moment when I felt myself fully deserving of the title of “Mom” – and finding joy in that role.
I think that we can safely put this next one down as one of my least favorite moments of 2015 and one of my all-time biggest “mom fails”.
Caleb’s teeth were bad. There, I said it. Somehow we had been brushing his teeth wrong (how can there be a wrong way of brushing teeth?) for over a year and given him entirely too much apple juice, even though it was watered-down. The result was cavities galore and teeth desperately in need of repair. In fact, the procedure would be so in depth that Caleb needed to be put under so they could do the extensive dental work needed. Oh, my poor baby.
Of course, now he’s quite proud of his metal teeth. Meanwhile, my momma’s heart aches a little bit every time I see those teeth glean. And you’d better believe that we’re the poster family for properly brushed teeth now.
With the weather getting nicer by the day, we found ourselves spending more and more time outside. Now, I’m one of those people that hates going somewhere alone (unless it’s to the grocery store!) and I especially hate hiking by myself as I haven’t felt capable of keeping up with the kids by myself. But I was determined to make a conscious change to my physical activity level, and especially to my endurance. I was tired of feeling tired. Having started a workshop regime back in December, I added weekly solo + kids hikes to my routine. Needless to say, the kids were thrilled with that choice.
In May we went on our first “big adventure” of the season and hiked the McHugh Creek trail along the Seward Highway. We’ve visited McHugh Creek dozens of times over the years but for some reason never tried the South Trail. But one sunny Sunday afternoon we decided to turn left instead of right, and although we didn’t make it the whole way, it was the epitome of a perfect day.
Apparently we kept up the trend of perfect days and so for Mother’s Day (which often marks among the first of our long, warm, summer days) we spent the afternoon cooking out moose burgers and playing football along the banks of the Knik River. And yes, I find it wonderfully ironic that I spend the day set aside for celebrating my motherhood by being “one of the guys” and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On a productive note, we got exasperated with Remington slowly taking over the yard and decided to enclose a section just for him. This corner gets good sun while still having shade for most of the day, is right next to his best friend aka canine buddy so they can “chat” through the fence, and can see right into the living room so we can check on him when he’s outside. Of course, we neglected to do a sufficient enough job with pulling up the grass roots so the mulch lasted barely a week before the weeds started to grow and overtake the area once again, but hey, at least it looked good for a little while.
May was also filled with that beautiful, spontaneous moments that just “happen” – one such moment coming on a warm afternoon while Micah was working in the garage. The kids went into our side yard and I think the golden light streaming down had a little magic mixed in with it. Next thing I know, Caleb was asking me to take their picture and I was more than happy to oblige. Dancing, tumbling, hugging, and laughing. Childhood at its best.
A few days later we had our own beautifully spontaneous moment. One evening Micah said he wanted to go to the river to collect driftwood and asked if the kids and I wanted to go along. So we did. What followed was hours spent playing, exploring, and making these beautiful memories together. That day went down as one of my favorite moments of the year, and probably of my life. No cell phones, no distractions, no deadlines. Just us, being a family.
Come summertime, Alaska is green from head to two and pretty much every waking moment is spent outside, especially once fishing season starts up. The first months of June were spent checking out new fishing spots up in Hatcher Pass, one of the prettiest and most beloved spots in the MatSu Valley.
Micah’s mom and youngest brother came for a visit and we had the chance to visit the Museum of Transportation which housed vintage airplanes, trucks, cars, and farm equipment. But the pride and joy of the collection was an original train that you could go in and explore to your heart’s content. Oh, I loved that train.
The big event of the month was that MY LITTLE BROTHER GOT MARRIED! We welcomed Auntie Kristen and I finally got a sister to join me in the Shaw family.
The trip down there was probably the smoothest traveling experience we’ve had with kids. Flying with two little ones, five and three years old, is no light matter and kids get antsy after the first two hours. We tried to take all this into account when booking tickets and purposely chose long layovers in kid-friendly airports that had playgrounds and plenty of room to run and get those wiggles out. Additionally, I packed new magazines and books, small toys and treats that we doled out every few hours of our trip. I also packed food and snacks.. apparently way too many as we also used the snacks for the return trip and still had some left over. But better to be over-prepared than not at all, right?
Once the wedding was over, we stayed another two weeks visiting with family. Our first stop was the Adventure Science Museum. This place was huge! One of the largest museums that we’ve been to as of yet- there were whole sections that we never even got to see during our visit. Oh, and those animatronic dinosaurs? Yeah… the kids were terrified of them.
Another unique place we visited was Cannonsburg Village, a recreation of the original townsite from when Murfreesboro, TN was founded. It’s one of those places that we always overlooked while I lived there and during every trip back, too. Yet, it seems that it was worth my wait since I got to experience it with my parents and kids for our very first time. We explored cabins, witnessed life in the 1800’s, saw original farm equipment from nearly every century, and really get a sense for what it was like in this small, country town.
My sister and brother in-law, Rebekah & Jacob, and their family just so happened to be passing through Nashville during our last few days there and we were able to see them. It’s amazing how much kids can grow in just two years! Jacob had always wanted to see the Nashville Parthenon and once we picked our jaws up from gapping at it’s sheer size (it’s a full-scale replica of the original building), we then visited the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. While their main exhibit of the evolution of fashion was, ahem, not quite suited to our tastes, their hands-on art center was! The kids had such fun painting, building, and sculpting. We have quite a few budding artists!
And the fun kept on coming… this time we went to the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring with “Auntie Katie” and she got to experience the never-ending energy kids have when it comes to children’s museums.
Let’s see… we also visited the Nashville Zoo, one of my absolute favorite places. Of course, we had the distinct pleasure of visiting on what seemed like the hottest day of the summer and filled up our special-edition Icee cups no less than a dozen times each. My brother, Brandon, earned the title of “most awesome uncle” that day and was up for anything, including taking the kids into the petting zoo and being Sam’s personal mode of transportation.
On our return trip home we flew out of St. Louis, arriving a few hours early so we could tour the city a bit and visit two important landmarks: the St. Louis Arch and the St. Louis Cardinals Stadium. Of course, we’re not Cardinals fan ourselves, but Micah’s brother is a huge fan and we certainly couldn’t go to St. Louis without seeing the Stadium in person and rubbing it in his face just a little.
As soon as we got back home, salmon season was going full-swing and we were out fishing most days… afternoons… evenings… nights… By the end of the season we had gotten so much fish and game meat that we had to get a second stand-alone freezer for all the bounty. To this date, a good 80% of our meat comes from our freezer and I’m so thankful for the healthy provisions and blessing to our finances. We also managed to find a few untapped places for picking berries and picked enough that Micah was able to make another year’s worth of jelly. That’s another blessing- we haven’t purchased store-bought jelly since 2014!
One big thing that September held was the official start of Caleb’s schooling! We followed in Micah’s footsteps and enrolled in IDEA, a homeschool umbrella school here in the state of Alaska. While officially enrolled in Kindergarten, he is doing both K and 1st Grade work. With both Micah and I having been homeschooled, the learning curve was easier than most but adjusting our daily schedule to accommodate schoolwork and making sure we covered every topic properly has not been easy. But Caleb is learning and enjoys learning, which is the best part of all.
Even though Samantha’s birthday is at the end of October, we hold her party as early in the month as possible. Not only is late October a very busy time for church events, but there are also several other birthdays that take place then among our friends and we try to keep the parties from overlapping. Personally, I like have Sam’s birthday celebrated as early in the month as possible so we have the best weather possible and can overflow to the outside for the party. The same rule is followed for Caleb’s birthday as we hold his party as late in March as possible so the snow has a chance to melt and our cabin-fevered kids can round around outside like banshees.
Thankfully I learned from my Caleb’s birthday-fail and actually picked up my camera to snap a few pictures during Sam’s “Enchanted Woodland” themed party. Samantha was, of course, a fairy, as was I. Meanwhile, Caleb and Micah grew their best beards and went in full lumberjack mode after shooting down my gnome idea. Oh well, at least the costumes were easier.
But before the birthday party we “remodeled” our living room, making some pretty big changes and getting rid of the Builder’s Blah Beige (its official title) and painting the entire living room- sans our blue accent wall- our beloved Gray Ghost color. We also added a rug (that will need to be replaced since it did NOT hold up to both a dog and kids, but a more neutral tone and pattern this time), new chair, new side bookcase, curtains, accents, you name it. The transformation was pretty incredible, but was still only step 1 of our long-term plan.
Later that month, the remodeling continued as we decided to redo our master bathroom by painting and getting a real sink + cabinet. Oh, my! Counter space, how I’ve missed you.
November, like February, was a relatively quiet month. It snowed, we went sledding, or as much sledding as can be done in an inch and a half. Micah and I celebrated eight years of marriage and went out for the evening. We ate way too much for Thanksgiving. Installed a new floor in the Studio. It was boringly nice, if that’s a thing?
Ah, December. The month of Christmas and holiday celebrations. Like most Decembers, it was a bit of a whirlwind but we tried to set aside dedicated time for family and friends, celebrating, and sometimes, staying home and doing absolutely nothing.
One celebration that we hope will become a yearly tradition was decorating cookies and gingerbread houses with our good friends and next door neighbors, a fellow “P” family. Caleb and Samantha were mirror opposites in their decorating styles as Samantha was borderline minimalist while Caleb put frosting on top of frosting. They loved the resulting creations (which was a good thing because the boxed cookies tasted awful). Meanwhile, the graham cracker “a la” gingerbread houses were proudly displayed for the entire season on top of our kitchen cabinet- and may or may not still be on display a month later. But hey, at least our Christmas lights are down?
Other holiday activities included an Ugly Sweater Party, watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the library (popcorn and cocoa provided!), making brown bag reindeers at Storytime, and taking Christmas Day pictures in front of the tree. Maybe next year we’ll try to actually have them wear Christmas PJ’s or at least red & green.
All in all, it was a truly wonderful year and probably one of my favorite and most-enjoyed years to date.
What were your favorite memories of 2015?