Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas !

I thought I would share our Christmas Card and Letter today since, for the most part, everyone has recieved them.  So, Merry Christmas from Our Family to yours!

I couldn't get our actual card to load but this is the main picture :-)

Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas!  Isn’t it great that it is once again time to catch up with all of our family and friends – some we see often and many that we do not!  Our year has been filled with excitement, unexpected changes, and lots of laughs!

When I sent out our letter last year, we were awaiting the birth of our second little boy!  Nathan Adam Koll arrived on December 22, 2010.  He is quickly approaching his first birthday and it is so hard to believe!  He was our “stocking stuffer” last year and this year, he just wants to eat the stockings J  Nathan is our bundle of e.n.e.r.g.y.  He never stops when his eyes are open – he always has to be moving, chewing, grabbing, crawling, climbing . . . . you name it!  He is taking all those teetering steps and is just itching to be able to race after his big brother!  Nate always has a smile on his face and loves to play with anything his brother doesn’t want him too!!!  Joshua turned 2 on October 22.  He is our thinker.  He can sit and play with his cars or look at books for hours.  He is also the one that will line up all of his cars across the living room floor, step back to take a look before moving one or two just slightly so that they are perfectly spaced.  He is very neat and likes things to be in their place.  He doesn’t enjoy having anything on his hands (like sticky food!) and cleans off the table for me J  Josh is also extremely happy and content and loves music, both playing and listening to it.

With the birth of Nate, we made the decision that I would stay home full time and it has been the absolute best decision we could have made.  I love being able to be with the boys all day – playing, reading and teaching them each day.  Josh and I have “Mommy Time” each day where we work on flashcards, read books, color, sing songs and more.  So, I resigned from Independent Bank in January after working there for 7 years.  This decision was one of true faith and God has provided – Darryl was able to take on a second job doing something that he has done on and off for 25 years (wow!).  What is he doing?  He drives a cab in Grand Rapids!  It is something he really enjoys because he is technically his own boss and he has met some interesting people along the way.  This sacrifice has meant long hours for him – between the two jobs he often put in 80 hours a week, working 6 days a week.  He was still working at Clothing Care here in Ionia as a Route Salesman but this has also recently changed.  After 8 years, he was laid off on December 2, 2010.  We knew that this was more than likely going to happen but we had not expected it quite yet.  The good news is that he was able to switch to full time at the cab company for the time being which will help us meet all of our needs.  God works that way, doesn’t He?
So, lots of changes for both of us over this past year with jobs!  I was able to start babysitting for a friend in November who returned to work after having her first baby.  I enjoy watching the little guy and he is well entertained by my boys too!

Our animals are still doing well.  China has learned to enjoy the boys as they have gotten older but she still likes her couch potato life.  Misty would prefer to not have any children in the house J but she has adjusted well and knows how to keep away.  Ironically, her favorite place to sleep is on the floor in Josh’s room which is right where the boys can get her.  Don’t really understand that one but, she’s a cat, what do you expect?  Strat’s favorite activity is still to sleep.  So we let her to do!!!  She does enjoy the boys which is a little surprising. 

Darryl is still playing guitar in the group Alive!  With the two jobs, it has been more stressful this year especially on weekends where concerts often fall on his only day off, Sunday.  But, it is still a great pastime for him and keeps him playing.  He has also started recording some of his own arrangements which is a hobby he loves even more.  I enjoy listening to his creations!  I still love to Scrapbook and spend as much time as I can trying to get current with my photos.  I also sell Creative Memories on the side but do most of it online so it is slow growing!!  Otherwise, I have gotten into writing my own blog and really enjoy it.  It gives me an outlet to write and share things.  Along with that, I also love to read blogs J  It is fun to find ideas, recipes, crafts, and teaching helps out there in blogland.  Both Darryl and I have gotten involved  in our church Praise Band once again and it feels good to be back plus it gives me a night out every few weeks for practice!  I’m also back to playing piano there as well – I wish I had more time to practice but what can you do?

We did accomplish one house project out of necessity.  When we moved in, there was a slight crack in the bathtub.  Over 7 years, it slowly got bigger until it needed to be replaced.  In March we stepped into a small bathroom redo with putting in a new bathtub, painting and redecorating.  If I say so myself, it looks very nice J  I think (those of you that have read my letters all of these years will laugh at this) my kitchen may actually get its small make-over this next year!  Remember?  That was the room that was supposed to be done FIRST when we moved in so long ago!!!   We are also hoping to be able to get the house painted next summer too (we had planned to do it this year but that pesky crack in the bathtub took its place) so, as always, lots and lots of plans but who knows what the next year will bring. 

Along the way, we also enjoyed some fun times throughout the year.  In May, we took our first family vacation and rented a small condo in the Upper Peninsula near Marquette.  We thought it would be cool in the North . . . but instead, they broke records and it was pushing 100 degrees most of the week.  Who would have thought that we would have stepped foot into Lake Superior at the end of May?  Well, we did!!  It was a very relaxing time with lots of afternoons spent on the beaches playing in the sand.  I will confess that making an eight hour drive with two kids under 2 was a little bit of an adventure in itself but we learned quickly that Darryl fit very well in the back seat between two car seats and is a fantastic entertainer J   From home, we also enjoyed a trip to Frederick Meijer Gardens – we had no idea they had such a fantastic Children’s area and we look forward to returning often in the years to come.  Of course, we visited the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids to see all of the animals (who were sleeping because it was so hot the day we went!) and we found a fantastic Splash Park!  On a very hot Sunday (this summer was EXTREMELY hot) we drove to Millennium Park in Grand Rapids planning on getting in the Lake there but instead, we found this (very neat and clean) Splash Park.  If you have never been to a Splash Park– it is a big cement pad with all kinds of water “things” (for lack of a better word) that shoot water everywhere – out of the ground, through spray guns, and even buckets dumping water as you run under them.  We spent hours there and the boys loved it. (Mom loved it because there was no sand, dirt, weeds, or bugs crawling on me!)  Along the way we also visited several local parks and, of course, went to a huge Pumpkin Patch to run through corn mazes, pick pumpkins, drink cider and get our wagon stolen. What? Yup!  We came out of the Cedar Mill to find out wagon stolen.  Apparently, the thief heard my wailing (seriously – I was so mad, I was very loud!) about how anyone could steal from children, and turned around.  They did return it after making up a not very good story but at least we have a story to tell now J  and yes, our wagon will be clearly labeled as belonging to The Koll’s before we take it out again!

We are looking forward to what this next year brings us; it is exciting to be starting some new things and see where it all leads us over the course of the year.  Some of those exciting things are:  My brother Kel and family will be returning to the states in the spring from Brazil; The McMaster Family reunion that will be coming up this summer; our big family Christmas with all of my brothers and their families this year and, of course, lots of fun activities with our boys!   More than anything, we enjoy our little family and are trying to take in every moment with the two little boys that have blessed our lives. 

May you and your family enjoy the True Meaning of the Christmas Season and make time for each other throughout this very busy season!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Darryl, Jackie, Joshua and Nathan Koll
(China, Misty and Strat  too!)