I have an annual tradition since we have been married. At Christmas time I have sent out Christmas cards accompanied by a newsletter about our year as a couple, and then in later years, as a family. I actually love Christmas cards. I love buying attractive cards, I like writing on them and as much as possible adding a personal little note. I also love receiving them and stringing them up on display. I like drafting and printing the newsletter also. There’s something nice about reflecting on all the nicest parts of your year and laughing at a few of the more embarrassing moments or the catastrophes that you made it through. Alex and I always discuss what goes into the newsletter, but I’m always the one who writes it and adds the pictures. Alex’s job is normally to print it.
That was until 2013. And then 2014. For two years in a row I have had massive Christmas card fail. No cards were sent out from our family. In 2013 I just couldn’t find the energy to find the time and complete the project. I must say I was very disheartened by the fact that we hardly receive any Christmas cards. It seems to be a dying tradition in Australia. Within our circle of family and friends anyway. Either that or they just like us less then I thought… There’s also the fact that I have this blog, so throughout the year, you can now keep up with our family antics, so it seems funny to write it out in condensed version again.
Anyway, for all those reasons, and plus a few more, I didn’t get a card and newsletter out in 2013. But then we did receive some cards, I was so ashamed that I hadn’t reciprocated. I also just missed the whole process. So I decided that I would certainly do better in 2014. I didn’t. I must say, we were just so extraordinarily busy most of 2014, and the year just galloped to a close. I could see how busy the year was, so I blocked out one Saturday to write the Christmas newsletter. I lined up Alex to be on kid duties, I turned down invitations. I was going to get them done. Then the night before.
I didn’t feel so well.
The next day.
I spent three days in bed. When I emerged, I jumped right back on silly season carousel finishing up the school and kindy year (I hang my head and admit that my child was the only child to not give out Christmas cards to his Kindy friends also. But, I had to let it go, because seriously, the kids can’t read to begin with…) and plunging into the school holidays while wrapping up employment odd jobs. I just couldn’t find the time to write. Do you know it’s really busy with five kids? Do you know that two and three year old triplets can suck energy from your very being and the aura surrounding you?
Once again, the cards arrived. I hung my head in shame again and crossed my fingers in hope that I was not struck off the few Christmas card lists we have remained on!
I’ve already told you about my expectations for 2015. So I thought perhaps I would send out a New Year greeting to some of our friends, and I count you, my wonderful blog readers, among that number.
So here, in the style of a family newsletter, is 2014 in review.
Happy New Year, from our family to yours!
We trust that you had a blessed Christmas full of special moments. We celebrated Christmas this year with Caitlin’s family at her parents and sister’s home on their property, “Bantry” one hour from our house. We decided to maximise the festivities on the day we would stay over Christmas Eve and Christmas night. The kids happily stayed an extra day beforehand with Grandma, they love their special “Grandma days”. They don’t get them as often now my parents live further away, which probably makes them even more special.
2014 was a year when our children continued to grow and flourish. It’s amazing when you look at photos from the beginning of the year and realise just how much they have grown and how they have developed. Alex and I have also grown spiritually and emotionally this year. It has been a year that has been often challenging for us, but challenges are often the events that make your roots dig deeper and develop character and strength.
Highlights of 2014 for our Family.
1. Family holidays in Bargara.
As much as we are able, we take advantage and use my parent’s beach house in Bargara. It is a base for them and my sister to use when they visit the Bundaberg farms, but we make the most of using them for recreation. The children are very well acquainted with beaches in Bargara. Their particular favourite (and Alex’s!) is Kelly’s Beach because it has waves that they can surf. The big boys are becoming very good at catching waves on their boogie boards and the triplets delight in playing in the shallow waters. Another big attraction about Kelly’s Beach is the food van parked there every day. The lady now knows our family and she is popular with the kids thanks to her yummy hot chips and ice blocks!
2. Alex, Trent and Jonty travelling to PNG.
In July Alex took Jonty and Trent to Papua New Guinea. It was a return trip for Alex to the village of Kiru where they stayed with missionaries and former mission pastors of TCC, Walo and Namana Ani. They were originally travelling with another family, but pleasantly their visit coincided with a team from Crosshands and they assisted where possible erecting wind turbines to generate electricity for the village. In the Crosshands team was Adrian and Brenton, so the boys loved hanging out with their cousin during the day. It was a wonderful way for the boys to develop global awareness and particularly to be exposed to a Polynesian culture and the joys and limitations of living a village life with less services and facilities compared to our western culture. The boys gained such valuable perspectives and constantly talk about their trip to PNG.
3. Alex’s 40th Birthday at Peregian Beach
Alex turned 40 in April! What a blessing this man is! We were honoured to celebrate all the wisdom, integrity, faithfulness and humour of Alex at this 40 year mark. We were very grateful for Alex’s family and friends who travelled to the Coast to celebrate the event with him. We rented an enormous house at Peregian Beach and enjoyed going to the beach each day and relaxing. Alex’s father, his wife and step-daughter stayed with us, so it was good to spend time together, something that is difficult to do as Alex’s Dad is still living in UAE. We also had friends stay in the house over the birthday weekend. The birthday party was a wonderful evening at Peregian Springs golf club enjoying a BBQ buffet in relaxed surroundings.
4. Aunty Julienne’s Wedding.
Caitlin’s sister Julienne was married in a sultry hot day in October to her beloved Matt. We all think they are a wonderful match and it’s been refreshing to see Matt fit into our family just as easily as Adrian and Alex once did. Matt has four children, so when they are with their Dad, our family functions are huge! 14 kids in total combined with Katrina and my own children! Julienne and Matt’s wedding day was at Bantry. A true bush wedding, they married under the shade of trees in God’s cathedral. Afterwards there was a fun fair with roving entertainers as well as stalls laden with delectables. This was followed by an evening meal. Caitlin was honoured to be a bridesmaid, which left Alex with the arduous task of dressing the five children and getting them to the ceremony on his own. He did an amazing job, although we won’t mention the child who wore shoes four sizes too large!
Sadness in 2014
Earlier in the week before Julienne was married, we farewelled my grandfather, Clarence Joseph Youngberry. (Trent shares his Great Grandad’s middle name.) Caitlin’s paternal grandfather passed away at 96 years of age after declining health following a stroke earlier in the year. We feel blessed that Grandad was such an active part of our lives and we loved him dearly.
Family Members Updates
Alex has completed another year as Senior Accountant at Arch Roggeveen & Assoc. Alex has really enjoyed working with this firm and is flourishing as he helps individuals and business with tax.
Alex received a Yamaha WR450 motorbike for his birthday. The children love riding on the motorbike with Daddy and is a favourite Saturday afternoon activity. He has really enjoyed how smoothly it rides, although it has been difficult for him to find the time to go out and enjoy it with a busy family life and an increase in church and school commitments this year.
Alex is now a member of our church’s management committee. This has not been an easy job to walk into and Alex is prayerfully working with the committee to solve some issues that have surfaced in the past 18 months. It has been a very challenging journey, and if you look with natural eyes, the task seems insurmountable. However, we have a strong sense of calling to this church family and believe that God is at work despite the hardship and that his name will continue to be glorified in this House and from here to our city and world. Alex also has begun service on the school board of the school Jonty attends. This has also been a lot of work learning how schools function, government policies and effective administration of a school community. Despite the workload, Alex is enjoying his role in creating a secure place for quality Christian education of the next generation.
As a Daddy, Alex enjoys reading bedtime stories to the children every evening. It is such a special time that the children look forward to each night. With our extensive gardens and land surrounding our house, Alex spends a great deal of time on Saturdays doing yard work. He constantly has shadows as he works as the children traipse after him. He almost always is accompanied by small helpers and they particularly enjoy rides on the lawn mower. Alex also keeps our pool in order and has enjoyed the challenge working out the PH and balance of the water and keeping it maintained. The pool has looked a lot better in the latter half of the year once he purchased a new sand filtration unit.
Altogether Alex has an enormous year and well and truly enjoyed our beach holiday at the conclusion of the year.
Caitlin has been busy this year continuing to be a SAH for the five children. She has really enjoyed finding moments to have one on one time with each moment. These special moments of connecting has been some of the highlights of her year!
She has enjoyed continuing to work for USQ as a Professional Experience Liaison as it’s a flexible job that allows her to use her education skills.
Caitlin continues to take much joy investing a lot of time and energy into her blog. It was her aim to increase readership, move from blogger to wordpress and to have her own domain name, she just scraped in achieving her goals with her blog rolling over to www.caitlinshappyheart.com on Christmas Eve. She is really praying that the blog will become more well known and that stories and tips from her happy heart is infectious and that she brings joy to others who read it.
As a step in the direction of making her blog more professional, Caitlin attended one of the largest blogging conferences in Australia in August. Problogger was a highlight of her year and very inspiring time for her, even if it was a little bit overwhelming also. It was held at the very funky QT hotel at the Gold Coast. Apart from the great information during the conference she particular enjoyed eating a lot of delicious food – the included meals were amazing and as for the in-house restaurant Bazaar – yummo!
As much as Caitlin loves time with the children, she also adores getaways with Alex. They were able to getaway twice this year. Once to Brisbane, dinner at Eagle St. Wharf and staying at Stamford for their anniversary in January. A bit later in the year they also had a quick trip with an overnight stay to celebrate a friends 40th birthday.
In September Caitlin had her first speaking gig. She spoke to a group of ladies about “Pursuing Your Passion and Being Purposeful” at a craft retreat at Ravensbourne. She also loved hanging out with some friends at the retreat and doing a lot of crocheting. She almost finished a UFO (unfinished object) of a single bed blanket. Unfortunately on returning home she hasn’t picked it up again… Maybe a resolution to finish it in 2015 is in order?
Jonty completed Year 2 this year and had a wonderful year at school. He was truly blessed to have had a wonderful teacher who understood him and his little personality quirks and worked with him gently guiding and inspiring him throughout the year. He started learning the piano this year. Practice is a bit of a bore for him, but he is actually persisting with it so he can play another instrument, but we have said he needs to prove that he can stick with the piano first!
For Jonty’s birthday this year we gave him a trip to Australia Zoo with the family. Just to make it extra special for him he got to choose an animal to have an experience with. It was so special seeing Jonty bond with an echidna. It was a lovely 8th birthday tradition to start, but the day was very difficult with three over tired two year olds. Luckily at the end of the day, after we had retrieved a lost child from the gift shop, Jonty remarked what a wonderful day it was. It seemed the public meltdowns didn’t phase him at all. Crocs rule over cranky triplets apparently!
During the winter months Jonty played soccer for our local team. He has had the same coach for three years now, and it’s good to see his skill continue to improve. Jonty is extremely talkative and will constantly plaster us with questions or explain in great detail little schemes and inventions he is planning. His favourite activities are climbing trees, playing with Hot Wheels cars, and riding his Yamaha 50cc motorbike. He has become passionate about becoming a farmer. Almost every library book he loans is about farms or tractors and when he goes out to Bantry and during a trip to Moolin Downs out west, he is Grandad’s shadow ‘doing farm work’ as much possible. It has been beautiful to watch Jonty’s hunger for Spiritual elements of life as well.
Trent’s formal education began this year with an amazing year of Kindy. His delightful teacher (who also taught Jonty) ensured that his year was one full of play, learning and just a little fairy magic. (Trent was infatuated with the Kindy fairies Sunshine and Martin!) He would come home covered in dirt and full of stories, quoting little rhymes and catchphrases and singing little ditties. Trent is our little superhero and is obsessed with all things heroic. Most days he is donned in superhero clothes and costumes. He is full of energy and testosterone, often running around roaring for no apparent reason. He has also developed an obsession for Lego after receiving several boxes for his birthday. He can follow the instructions and put the pieces together remarkably well for his five years of age. Trent flourishes with kind words and encouragement and in return will also come out with many loving words of his own. He has been a great big brother to the triplets and they will miss him greatly next year as he heads off to school. During the days he was at home, he would have them organised in creative play and be doting and encouraging to them. (Breaking for regular fights, as is the custom of sibling relationships.) Trent’s favourite colour is green, and will normally wear (if it’s not superhero related) paint, write and eat all things green. Have you picked up that he has a slightly obsessive personality when he likes something? He is a true little extrovert he loves connecting with people and spending time with his friends.
It’s hard to believe the triplets turned three in October. They had a small ice-cream party with the extended family and a friend. Unfortunately we survived the “terrible twos” and all the mischief that their united forces showered upon us, but as soon as the triplets turned three they descended into the dark hole of three year old tantrums and have taken their in-house bickering and sibling combat up a ferocious notch! At any one time one of the trio is normally sporting a bruise or a bite mark they have received from the other. Throughout the year they have also (almost) conquered potty training! If you are imagining that this would be a mess, tiring and sometimes down what gross job. You would be absolutely correct. There are still accidents during the day on occasions and they are not quite there during the nights, but we are very proud of their progress. It is just a delightful gift watching multiples grow up together. Despite the fights, they are one another’s best mates. They always hang out together and it is amusing to listen in as they chatter with one another. They are wonderful talkers and their conversations are a constant source of joy and amusement.
Toby is a little dynamo. He talks the least of the triplets and is the most introverted. Jayden and Toby seem to have a connection, perhaps it is the identical factor. However Toby will happily play on his own for extended periods of time. He also talks the least of the children, but to make up for it he has perfected a posed smile leaning his head to his shoulders, squinting his eyes and doing a contorted smile. It’s very funny. While he might be introverted, he is by no means reclusive. In fact he is quite the bully of the trio and is quick to manhandle others to get his own way. Teaching him gracefulness is still a work in progress! Toby loves to cuddle and when he wraps his arms around you and snuggles into your neck, it’s just about one of the best feelings in the world!
Jayden is the strongest extrovert of all our children. He is constantly looking to gain eye contact with others and engage in conversation and have a laugh with. He is consistently the mischief maker and can create havoc in ten seconds flat. He is normally the common denominator when things are ‘triplet trashed’, probably because of his inquisitive nature and his reluctance to play on his own. He also has a beautiful sensitive nature. He is quick to respond to correction and apologises quickly and (mostly) sincerely. It’s been amazing to see his personality develop and along with it his love and concern for people. He is a true ‘people person’.
People often say Imogen will be very protected having four brothers. While we think that is true and we are training our young men to be gentleman and caring to girls and women, it is also safe to assume that Immy is well adept in protecting herself in most situations to begin with. With four brothers, she is one tough chick! Nevertheless, she is completely female from her higher pitched girly voice, to her love of salad (which may well be a saving grace considering her insatiable desire for chocolate and cheese) and her absolute passion for shopping. She is a bright little thing, and if she senses that a shopping trip may be on the cards, her handbag will be ready and she will watch any movements toward the car like a hawk and beg to go shopping. Once she is on the expedition, she will repeatedly plead, “Just one more shop?”
Imogen is also mad keen at drawing and crafting. She will happily sit for extended periods of time with her paints, textas or pencils – something our boys have never been as keen to do.
Imogen talks with absolute clarity and uses her words to boss the boys around continually. (To her chagrin, they normally ignore her) She knows she is as cute as a button and has a giggle designed to charm and literally knows how to bat her eyelashes. Perhaps our boys will need to be on her guard after all!
Our labrador Bronco continues to be a beloved part of our family. Although his roaming had stopped in his previous days, when he returned to the house we now lived he remembered roaming free and wild in the days of his youth and began the project of introducing us to our neighbours. Unfortunately this project meant that he consistently would cross the busy highway opposite our house. In the last several months he has ceased playing in traffic and now when he has the chance will head several kilometres down the back paddock and visits his doggy mates living at a house backing onto the our property. If he tires of this friends, he will trot up the road to another house with dogs. This has turned out to be a great convenience for us as Caitlin always knows where to find him when he goes missing now. Luckily for Bronco, his mate’s humans are wonderfully nice people and have our phone number on speed dial and are quite indulgent in letting him stay for a play.
The children adore Bronco and he is as good natured as ever with them, although he is quite happy to gently steal food from the children and for the most part they now have protective behaviour when eating food outdoors. (The triplets generally put their food on their heads in between bites if Bronco is around.) Alex bought a trailer this year, so now Bronco is included on family holidays, it appears that he thinks the bumpy trip is worth the extra time with the family.
So that was 2014 for our family in a nutshell. What were some of the highlights of your 2014? Tell me! I’d love to know!
Joining with Sarah from Creating Contentment today because I am Thankful this Thursday.