Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Year in Review: 2010

I have been writing about the past year every New Year since we were married and I have noticed a pattern. It probably seems obvious to most of you, but I think I naively thought that there would be some years in which I didn't wax philosophically about joys AND sorrows. I think I assumed that some years would be all joy....and probably some all sorrow. But... it hasn't happened yet. 
And here we are again..reflecting on 2010 and recalling the joys and the sorrows.  

And so we began 2010 in Aberdeen, Scotland. 
In January my Dad's failing health failed more. He really did slip away so quickly.  Around January 3rd or 4th came the urgent call "You better talk to Dad." So I did. I cried. He tried to say something. I cried some more and tried to say helpful and important things. He tried to speak more, but I couldn't understand him. And that was it.  Within a day or two came the middle of the night message. He had died in my night. My brain remembered the day as January 6th. It was actually January 5th.

A week later we had flown home (thanks to the expat benefits that Chevron offers---last minute plane reservations for 5 would be very pricey!).  It was a very beautiful funeral Mass. At the reception afterward my siblings and I were able to say a few words about my Dad. I spoke about how his death gave me hope....he really did die well. He died with the sacraments, with his family by his side. He knew it was coming. He chose Jesus even in his suffering. I admire him.

But, what I wasn't able to share at that time, and I am not sure I have ever shared, is my admiration for my siblings and my mother. They were there. They stood vigil. I will be eternally grateful for the gift of their courage and fortitude. It was very difficult to be far away, but I knew at the time, that the far more difficult task was to be there and watch it all first hand.

This video was taken in 2008 when Dad was going through chemo. He actually felt awful and it seemed we had little quality time with him that visit. But, I caught on tape a classic Dad game---he played catch with all of us and all of his grandkids, I think. 

February was when the speculation of when and where we might go next began in earnest. On the outside life was quite normal. The kids continued to take weekly swim lessons and go the Tae Kwon Do twice a week. We enjoyed following the World Cup and any number of teams we could root for. Once the U.S. was eliminated we could choose from any of the countries we all or Jim alone had visited. 

The month ended with our little A. turning four amongst horse decorations and horse toys. For the first time in her young life she remains attached to a toy longer than a few days. She still loves all things horse to this day. It is a wholesome, yet expensive, hobby, so right now it is all about toys, books and imagination.
In March we THOUGHT we were going to know where we were going. But instead we were told that most likely....almost positively...we were going home to California...but we didn't know to what job yet, so we couldn't be sure.

In the mean time, M. turned 8 in the midst of more wild horses. Her affection for horses is closely connected to a favorite movie for the year (The Man From Snowy River) and a new interest in the American Girl books (Felicity). 

in April Jim’s brother Tom and his family visited from Chicago. It was quite the Kennedy family gathering with a house full of Kennedy kids ranging in age from 4 to 17. 

We had a Seder Supper....
and spent a day together in Edinburgh. 

Later in the month we took yet another day trip St Andrews, the home of golf and the beach from Chariots of Fire. 

Since we knew we were leaving the UK soon we decided to plan one last trip to Rome. We were excited to visit St. Peter’s Basilica again, and we even planned an overnight trip to Assisi. The day arrived for the trip and our taxi arrived early in the morning, in the dark. As we navigated the traffic between our house and the airport, our driver gets a phone call. Something about a cancelled flight and a volcano?!? By the time we had arrived at the airport it was closed and we were turned away at the door. The next day and half our suitcases sat in the doorway and were on teh phone and the internet trying to reschedule, trying to predict what the volcano would do. Finally we gave up on Rome and planned a road trip south to the Yorkshire Dales. We had become fans of the James Herriot story and the TV show called “All Creatures Great and Small” so it was another perfect last chance trip. 
And what a trip it was! 

In May we took a day trip to Balmoral Castle, where the Queen spends her summers. It was a beuatiful setting, and it is obvious why she chooses to be there for so long each year. 

We also took another one of those “we-must-do-this-before-we-leave” trips to Loch Ness. What a beautiful place!! Though we didn't take in much of the usual Nessie tourist spots, we loved our boat ride and the drive along the coast. But a real highlight was one we didn’t really know about before--Urquhart Castle. An incredible location, very well done museum presentation including a fascinating video. 
The month ended with a graduation. M. went from yellow belt to orange belt. And D. went from orange to green belt. Both had to work hard to reach the next level and were very proud of their accomplishments. 
One weekend late in May we FINALLY visited the famous castle just down the road in Stonehaven. It is the location used to film Mel Gibson's Hamlet and is called Dunnottar Castle.

In June we took a trip south to the Isle of Mull and Iona, islands in the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. We stayed near the seaside town of Oban and took the ferry to Mull. From there we took a bus ride to the other side of the island. The views were incredible, but photos seemed futile from the inside of a huge tour bus that winds along narrow mountain roads. At the other end of the Isle of Mull we took another short ferry ride to Iona, which was the center of the evangelizing mission of St. Columba (an irish monk who brought Christianity to Scotland around 563). 

We spent an hour or two walking the island and then the bus ride back to the ferry to Oban. The next day we took our car to the Isle of Mull and drove north to the picturesque town of Tobermory, well known in the UK because of a popular children's show that our kids watched some when we lived in England. 
The colored houses you see in the background are the hallmark of "Balamory".
This was our last road trip in Scotland and it left us with some wonderful memories of the beauty we found during our time there. 
July was a big month for the Kennedy family. After years of preparation and wondering when and where M would finally receive her First Holy Communion, the day finally came, but with an added and very unexpected surprise. Read about it here. 
This was the month of lots of "lasts" since we finally had our date for moving home. You can read about and see those days here
After lots of boxing up and moving out and living temporarily, we flew to LA to live temporarily some more. 

One of the perks of expat life is flying first class when you arrive and when you finally leave (in between you fly coach with all the regular folk). This particular flight was a really cushy one...those seats lay out flat for cozy sleeping! 
"Look Mama, I can press here and watch ANY MOVIE I WANT!"

By August we were here: 

We got to relax....for what felt like a few hours...then started the getting-up-and-going-again-tasks like buying a car. With that task done we were free to enjoy a week of hanging out with Grandma and the California Cousins. 

Finally we took the old familiar drive north, only this time we weren't going to be there on vacation, and we weren't going to be living in our own house (yet) either. Instead, we spent a good six weeks or so in an apartment near our neighborhood, until mid September when the truck arrived. 

This day seemed a long time coming. We spent so many other days waiting for workmen, or watching them do their jobs. We were so happy to be finally moving out of the apartment. 

The only picture from our time in the apartment was from Jim's birthday early in the month. 

By October we were ready to begin school and one of the first things we did was join some new homeschool friends at the pumpkin patch

We also attended our first political event as a familywatched the World Series, and went trick or treating.

The month of November began with my birthday, 

followed by the best birthday present I ever got...a new homeschool room finally finished.  

Finally, we had our first house guests with which to share the blessing of our new home. My family (with the exception of my youngest brother) were able to come up and celebrate Thanksgiving with us. 
The cast of the semi-annual Thanksgiving play. 
It took three large round tables to seat us all. 

In December we ended the year with the season of Advent and Christmas. Thankfully, I have already blogged about those days, because this post is waayyyytooooloooong.

Monday, January 10, 2011

An Accounting of Christmas 2010

Christmas is over. The tree is down. The lights are put away. The wreaths and ornaments and other decorations organized in boxes and put up high. It seems fitting to look back and recall the beauty, the joys, and even the sorrows of the season.

Christmas was bittersweet this year. It was the first Christmas without my dad and the anniversary of his passing came within the Christmas season. It was ironic that after at least two years of my dad openly wondering when we were coming home and why we would even want to be overseas, we are finally here...and he isn't.

Yet, there was so much joy at spending Christmas with my family for the first time in four years. We used to drive down to Southern California a day or two after Christmas, but this year Christmas fell on Saturday and it just made sense to drive down on Saturday, Christmas Day. It meant that getting all the siblings together would be easier and getting to Mass for both Christmas and Sunday would be more convenient.
It looks like we have upholstered furniture on the ceiling. We don't.
I just needed to take the picture from an odd angle.
And don't be fooled by the dates on the pictures. Our camera is having time issues. 

So those last days leading up to Christmas were a whirlwind of baking, packing, wrapping, etc. We went to the first Mass on Christmas Eve. The down side was that it felt really we were cheating Christmas. The up side? We were there for the procession down the aisle with the Baby Jesus which was placed in the large nativity scene that was right in front of us! The kids were thrilled and it really brought our Advent preparation to a fitting conclusion.

"Wow! He is here!!"
Thankfully, all three of the kids are still awe struck by the appearance of the baby in each of our nativity scenes. It is most apparent with A who coos and cuddles the baby doll placed in our little manger basket at the foot of the tree. One minute you find her kneeling in childlike prayer next to the basket, the next she is asking you to wrap him in his swaddling clothes because he is crying (it is often hard to tell if the crying noise is supposed to be Baby Jesus, or if it is A getting upset over something!)

Though she isn't always this serious about her devotion to the Child Jesus she has really impressed us with her desire to live the story of the nativity. 
Back to the blow by blow....After Mass we came home to the traditional pizza dinner and the already decorated Christmas tree and the kids unwrapped their Christmas Eve presents which were pajamas (that are still in desperate need of hemming). Bright and early Christmas morning the kids were up and itching to get downstairs. We opened our presents, grabbed a snack, and dragged the kids out the door with a promise of breakfast at Denny's. Yes, Denny's is open on Christmas Morning. We stopped about an hour south on the 5, and had an unhurried Grand Slam morning. The staff and customers were cheery and everyone greeted each other with a smile and a Merry Christmas. It was very pleasant! The drive was a breeze since traffic was low and the weather was good. The only down side? In N' Out Burgers was not open. Drat! McDonald's again.

We spent a whirlwind two nights and three days at my Mom's with a family Christmas celebration on Sunday, which was not only the Feast of the Holy Family, but also my dad's name day and the anniversary of our engagement. We have two anniversaries for our engagement, one liturgical (the Feast of the Holy Family) and one by the calendar (December 31st).
Just a little taste of the craziness at Grandma's house.

In addition to the joy of being together for Christmas was the brand new pleasure of the presence of my youngest brother's fiance and her son at our Christmas table. We are very happy for them and look forward to the news about plans for the future. Keep them in your prayers!

We came home on Monday and spent Tuesday unwinding. The kids also finally got their Christmas stockings on that day.
The stockings we hung laid out by the chimney with care...since they were too heavy to hang.

Wednesday was our traditional (for the first time since 2006 when we lost our camera and have no pictures to show for it) trip to Our Lady of Peace shrine in Santa Clara, followed by lunch at Half Moon Bay. This was the itinerary the day we were engaged.
Our Lady of Peace Shrine. It really is THAT big, right along side a major highway.

Half Moon Bay 2010

Half Moon Bay 2005
The rest of the week was taken with cleaning, organizing and planning for the New Year. I am still doing this even today.

New Year's Day brought my sister and her family for a little over-nighter. As always, it was great to get together with the K Family, and especially with my eldest niece (also my God-daughter) who is in her freshman year at University of Dallas.

The Solemnity of the Epiphany took us by surprise and I didn't have my act together enough to give the planned gifts for that day. So, we celebrated Epiphany twice, Sunday and Thursday January, 6.

Wednesday January 5th, was the first anniversary of my dad's death. The kids and I were able to make it to morning Mass and pray for Grandpa. My mom and brothers were also at our home parish where the Mass was said for Dad. It is hard to believe it has been a whole year. It seems like yesterday. We miss him so much.

For the remainder of the Christmas season we enjoyed the lights, the decorations, the lighted candles, the stories and all the nativity scenes. It took a few days of warnings to get the kids ready for the change of liturgical season, but they came through like champs....well except for the crying and really, they did great! Everyone helped take down the tree this morning and pack away all the Advent and Christmas decor.  I miss it, but.... is nice to have a cleared out house. Simplicity is the theme of this season.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Final Dalmation

A. in tears because someone dared to give her something that WASN'T a horse. You can see my hand ready to drag her to the privacy of a back bedroom to, ahem....get herself together. 
4yo at Mass this morning...almost whispering...from the front row...just before the Consecration: Why did the priest say "Dalmatian"?

In my head: Huh?...pause...OH!!!

Me: No, he said "final damnation". (desperately hoping that this would be a satisfactory answer)

4yo: What is "final damnation"? 

Me...pulling out my handy dandy theology degree...then slipping it back in my pocket: Ummm, it means that if someone doesn't love God...umm... at the end of their life...ummm... they don't go to heaven. 

4yo: (long pause)

In my head: Please God, let her be quiet for the rest of the Eucharistic prayer! sad voice: I want you to change your mind. 

In my head: Oh no!! I have upset her. She's afraid of "final damnation". Drat! Now what do I do!

Me...casually: Change my mind about what? 

4yo: About presents! (now in full whining mode) I want more presents!!

The end of Christmas can be hard to stomach when you are four!