Merry Christmas Everyone!!

2008 has been a very exciting, yet crazy year!  If you’re up for a good read, follow along as I take you through each member of our family’s fun-filled year!
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If you’ll remember, Mary was invited to China last December with The North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble (NCYTE) to tap dance at the Beijing International Dance Festival.  It was an amazing experience!  She even climbed to the top of The Great Wall!  On another invitation, she danced in Stuttgart Germany in March!  She definitely has been the world traveler!  In addition, Mary tried out and was awarded the honor of “Lieutenant” for her dance team at Wakeland High School.  So her Junior year started off with a bang only to be derailed by an injury.  On October 3rd Mary tore her ACL during a pep rally.  On October 30th she had surgery to replace the torn ACL.  Unfortunately, this meant the temporary end to her dance career.  She’ll be sidelined until April 30th, six months from the time of surgery.  Although she’s miserable and complains a lot about not dancing, she’s doing amazingly well!  I think getting her driver’s license has helped take her mind of it somewhat as well as keeping busy with theatre in school.  Brian and I keep reminding her, “At least it didn’t happen your senior year!”  Her boyfriend, Sean, keeps her busy too.  At least they were able to go to Homecoming before she was injured!
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Mitchell (13) has kept just as busy!  He’s in his last year of Middle School and doesn’t have a free moment in his schedule.  He earned a spot for the second year in a row on both the Griffin Middle School football and basketball teams.  He’s very excited!  It was just icing on the cake after an amazing fall semester.  Mitchell got the lead in the school musical playing Daddy Warbucks in ANNIE.  In addition he made it to phase 2 of the All Region competition for saxophone.  He was just one of 5 people in the entire band to make it this far.  We were extremely proud!  All this while he was playing football and making all A’s in school!  Mitchell amazes us that he can manage to do so well at so many different things!  And guess what else?  He went to Homecoming this year too with a lovely girl named Becky!  I guess he likes his women older just like his dad!  Becky is a Freshman in High School.  Mitchell won’t be in High School until next year!  
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Madeline (12) started to follow in her sister’s footprints traveling with NCYTE to far off locations.  In March Madeline went to Puebla Mexico for a dance festival.  Brian joined her and they both had a great time!  However, this fall Madeline decided that traveling back and forth to North Carolina wasn’t what she wanted to do anymore.  She felt she was missing out on too much at home and at school.  So she decided to say good bye to NCYTE and take dance classes closer to home.  This has freed her up to get more involved in school.  In fact, she joined her brother on stage in ANNIE playing the part of Lily St. Regis (Rooster’s crazy girlfriend). Madeline feels like the theatre is her second home and has decided this is her calling!  You should have heard her Jersey accent!!!  Even though she played a “ding bat” on stage, she continues to be smart as a whip at school taking all honor’s classes!
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Mason (10) is quite the smart and talented guy!  He continues to play basketball, get all A’s, sing in the Honor Choir and All City Choir, and now he’s added dancing to his repertoir!  After auditioning for the Frisco All-City Choir and making it, he decided he wanted to give hip hop dance a whirl!  Well, after his first class, his teacher pulled me aside and said, “He’s REALLY good!  In fact, it’s rare to see kids this young, especially boys, have this kind of rhythm.  Mason is a natural, the best in my class!”  I couldn’t believe it!  Mason has never had a dance class in his life! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  He comes from a very talented family!  In addition to all this, Mason just got back from his fifth grade camping trip.  Lucky Brian!  He got to accompany Mason as a chaperone.  Three days at Camp Jolt!  They had a great time trying out waders and riding the zip line, but ask Brian how glad he was to be home!
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Mark (9) continues to be the “good” boy!  He is so sweet!  He always tries his best and follows all the rules.  And if he doesn’t?  Well, then he tells on himself or gives himself a time-out!  He cracks us up!  Never ask Mark how you look unless you really want to know the truth!  I can promise you this, he won’t lie!!!  His teacher adores him and so do we!  On his first report card he got all “A’s” and one “B” and the only thing he could focus on was the one “B”.  Crazy kid!  We were so very proud of him!!  He decided to give soccer a shot this year and absolutely loved it!  He wasn’t very aggressive at first, but by the end of the season, he was really getting in there with the best of them. Once soccer ended, Mark started another season of basketball.  He really seems to enjoy sports!  I guess he’s taking after his older brothers.  
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Matthew (6) is still his little crazy self!  Everyone adores him because he’s such a crack up!  He definitely marches to the beat of his own drum.  For his Thanksgiving play at school, guess what part he got?  The turkey!  Imagine that?  He was perfect for the part!  The funniest turkey ever!  In addition to his outgoing personality,  he’s super smart too!  He’s reading like crazy and he’s a whiz at spelling.  It’s rare that he doesn’t come home with the “challenge” spelling list because he gets 100% on his pretest.  He’s reading at a beginning 2nd grade level!   It’s hard to believe our little baby boy is growing up!  Oh…and one important update…Matthew just got glasses!
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Maisie (4) is growing up!  She’s going to preschool all day now!  She decided she was missing out on way too much going home at 11:45.  She kept begging me to bring her lunch and stay all day.  So now she does!  I miss her though.  We used to have lunch together and then cozy up and take a nap together.  No more of that!  I’ve been replaced!  But I’m happy for her.  She loves school!  She’s not the youngest in her class, but she’s definitely the smallest.  No one believes that she’s 4!  There are kids in her class that just turned 3 that tower over her.  Since she’s in Montessori, her class is comprised of 3-5 year olds.  So she’s smack in the middle as far as age goes.  Maisie started tap and ballet this fall and she absolutely loves every minute of it!  She asks me everyday, “Is today dance day?”  She’s always so disappointed when I say “No, not until Tuesday.”

Brian just started a new job in August at Community Hospital Corporation (CHC) where he is their first Vice President of IT.  He seems pretty happy and looks forward to going to work every day.  Of course, there’s always too much to do and not enough time to do it all.  But that’s always the way, isn’t it?  And when he comes home at the end of each day, I send him running here and there.  He doesn’t ask too many questions.  I tell him where he needs to go or what he needs to do, and he gets it done! (like taking pictures at middle school dances, building websites for Mary’s dance team, working at Pizza Hut Park… -ed)  What a great husband and father!  We’re so lucky!   {rokzoom album=|Christmas 2008|}images/stories/08xmas/22.jpg{/rokzoom}
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This summer we told him “Drive to MI” and he drove. 🙂  Well, actually I did most of the driving!  But I had a great time at my surprise 40th birthday party!  Everyone loved seeing all our old friends and family.  We saw a lot of people in our seven days and the kids even got to ride in a Combine when we visited Brian’s Aunt Shirley and Grandma Kuehn on the farm!
 {rokzoom album=|Christmas 2008|}images/stories/08xmas/7.jpg{/rokzoom}  This year I added to the fun of having a big family by flying to Pennsylvania to pick up my new kitty cat for Mother’s Day.  She is a Korat and I named her Willow.  The kids and I love to play with her.   She fits right in!  In fact, I’m trying to talk Brian into letting me get one more!
I’m still doing well as the mother of seven yet I’m busier than ever!   You’d think having “big” kids would be helpful right?  Not so much!  I’m driving around constantly (no, I won’t let Mary drive her siblings around just yet) and I’m forever forgetting something.  At least it’s a some“thing” and not a some“one” right?  And then there’s homework….I thought I was done with that when I graduated college!  Boy was I wrong!  I have more homework now!  Not only do I have things I need to read, sign, date, and send back (times 7), but then I’m tutor extraordinaire!  And when it’s too hard for me, I send the kids to Brian and hope he can help.  Sometimes neither one of us has a clue!  Brian and I are up every night until at least 11 or 12 doing homework or laundry!  It’s crazy, but we love it (most of the time) and wouldn’t change a thing.
We hope your year has been as blessed as ours has been!  And we hope 2009 proves to bring more blessings to us all!  Hopefully, we’ll see a stronger economy soon!  Even as we worry about the uncertainties of the future, let us take a moment out of our hectic lives to remember all that we have to be grateful for.  Remember, we’ve all been given the ultimate gift in our Lord Jesus Christ!
Merry Christmas!
Love, Cheryl (Brian, and gang!)