For the first time in years, maybe ever, I didn't write an annual Christmas letter to go with our cards. Aniston missed reading it, so the first day of 2014 is as good as any to write my annual reflection on the happenings of our family.
I entered 2013 with great optimism about things. We had a good rhythm to our household and routines, and I planned to focus on keeping that momentum. It had been more than three years since we said goodbye to Jude, and I genuinely felt peace about our family size. Early in the year, I learned we were expecting our sixth baby!
My business, Trendy Traditions, saw explosive growth in 2013, requiring many hands to help fill all the orders for sacramental celebrations in the spring. It has been affirming to see the business develop during the past four years after pleading in prayer for a way for me to be home with our children. God's providence for our family in such a tangible way!
Joseph continued his service to the state legislature as director of House Bill Drafting. It was our first legislative session with him in that position, and nothing could have prepared any of us for the demands of his new role. From Christmas through May, he is totally unavailable to our family, working all waking hours. It helps to explain why none of the prior directors to hold that position had children. Since the spring is also my busy time, life was very complicated in the first part of the year.
Even with his work schedule, Joseph managed to squeeze in time to volunteer as Miles' Cub Scout den leader and to build a new website for the pack (www.cubscoutpack118.org). From the moment we learned that we were having a boy, Joseph has looked forward to sharing Scouting with his sons, and it is a highlight for them. Joseph also completed a five-year dental treatment plan, and now has a brand new, healthy, and amazing smile! His volunteer work on the pack website also paid dividends for my business, with Joseph building a new website for me (www.trendytraditions.org).
Aniston had a year of remarkable changes. After spending nine years at the same school with the same friends, she completed eighth grade and moved on to high school. She's attended her first homecoming dance, attended a college night (What?!), begun preparation for Confirmation, and received her driving permit after turning fifteen! We are experiencing the natural separation that begins in high school, where she is becoming an adult and no longer a child―needing guidance and advice but eager to make her own decisions. It is new territory, but we are taking it one day at a time.
Miles is still all about Scouts! He attended the pack's trip to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. Since it was during Joseph's busy season, Miles' uncle Floyd chaperoned, and being retired from the U.S. Navy, he especially enjoyed the trip. Miles won first place in his age group at the pack's Pinewood Derby and was excited about moving to the councilwide competition where he placed second. His imagination is as vibrant as ever, and he currently loves reading Greek myths. Now that he is in second grade, Miles is making his First Communion preparations and is a little nervous about his First Reconciliation.
Ander loves to perform! Whether it is dancing for us after dinner or singing in the shower, he isn't worried about doing it right or a perfect performance. He just enjoys putting on a show. He keeps us in stitches with his witty comments and cute descriptions of things. He also has a knack for storytelling, which provides much amusement for Joseph and me. Ander's genuine heart is a shining spot in our family! He turned six the day after Christmas and enjoys kindergarten with the same teacher he had for preschool. They moved up at the same time!
Genevieve definitely provides the spunk in our family! She has a big personality and is not afraid to express it. The only girl in her class with curly hair, she's already asking if she can change it to straight. I hope she grows to embrace her unique bouncy locks! Genevieve's desire for precision has helped her enjoy ballet this year. It's been helpful to have her own activity outside of wrestling with her brothers, which seems to be her favorite right now.
Conrad Anderson Gillespie entered the world on Thursday, September 12 and has breathed air into our family where we didn't know we needed it. It has been something to behold, watching the older children fall in love with their new sibling. Conrad is an absolute joy, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to be home with him, my first child where I didn't have a return date to an office. Much love, much healing, and much peace.
Every year when I finish writing this letter, I'm reminded of all the little moments in between our milestones―play dates with cousins and friends, the first day of school, spring break at the beach, and many more. And then there is the outpouring of love and generosity―birthday parties, meals after having a new baby, and Conrad's baptism. THANK YOU for sharing this incredible journey and walking with us in faith and goodwill. I sincerely love keeping up with so many friends on facebook and other social media and hope to do more catching up in person this year.
God's peace and blessings to you and yours in 2014!