Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Happy Christmas 2016

December 18, 2016

    Happy Christmas!

           It’s Sunday evening. We have just said goodbye to most of our guests of the day...a few are happily lingering, playing games in the basement. Bryan is on an airplane on his way to Wisconsin for a 2-day business trip. And I’ve been trying to do some kitchen cleanup after feeding more people than I can even count. This morning many friends and family gathered to hear Rebekah speak in church and welcome her home from her recently completed mission to London, England. After the meeting, everyone congregated in our home for some goodies, and lots and lots of talking. It was crowded and loud...and absolutely wonderful! In a year that had multiple big events, this is the most recent. After spending the great majority of 2016 in London, Rebekah returned to us on the last day of November after completing her 18 month mission. It’s been bittersweet for our new RM. As excited as she was to see her family again, her heart broke to not only leave behind so many friends in England, but also to see this most amazing part of her life come to a conclusion. She will always carry with her the memories and the growth that came from it, of course. But I think part of her heart will always be British from here on out. We are hoping to go back for a visit next summer so Rebekah can show us around London and Canterbury and introduce us to her British mum and dad and the various other wonderful people she came to love there. Obviously the main highlights of her mission were wrapped up in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, serving the people in England, and the spiritual growth and personal maturity that came from it all. But as for living in London...some highlights included seeing Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip (who waved at them as they drove by), watching “Wicked” on the West End, visiting the beautiful London Temple out in the countryside, checking out such famous landmarks as the Tower Bridge, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, riding those famous red double decker buses, and “minding the gap” while taking the Tube all over the city. Living in London truly was a treat. London is quite a melting pot and she met people from all over the world. On any given day she was interacting with and teaching lessons to people from the Philippines, Italy, Russia, Poland, Denmark, Thailand, China, Sweden, America, and more. Her last four companions were all Mandarin Chinese speakers from Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and mainland China. Between that and the many Chinese people she taught in London, she thinks that maybe it’s a sign that she should be learning the language and is considering taking Mandarin classes at “Uni.” (She may not have come home with an accent but has most definitely adopted British phrases and slang. Julianne claims that Rebekah can go to “Uni” while she goes to “college.”)

           Speaking of Julianne, she does indeed go to college now! But let me back up a bit. In June Julianne graduated with high honors from Davis High School. The only thing that made this event a little easier to deal with the second time around was that at least I knew what to expect. So when the tears came, it wasn’t as big of a surprise. Her senior year kept her busy with multiple AP and CE classes that were fascinating, if time consuming, but also rehearsals for the various school theatre productions she was involved in, Seminary Council and a boyfriend. All the same, she was very ready to graduate and move past high school and onto college. She debated (agonized, really) between Utah State University in Logan and Utah Valley University in Provo. Her head told her USU, but her heart said UVU so down to Provo she went, with a full ride academic scholarship in her back pocket. Julianne has been not only my daughter but also my confidant and my friend during some difficult times these past few years so moving her out of our home and into her own apartment was hard for me. But she is enjoying living with her roommates and learning how to do that whole “adulting” thing. She finds her classes interesting and she is the Relief Society president in her student ward which keeps her very busy as she tries her hardest to take care of all the college girls under her stewardship. She just finished her first experience with finals and is home for the Christmas break. With Rebekah not moving back to Logan until January, we are a full family of six for a few weeks anyhow.

            And if all that weren’t big enough news...are you sitting down? We adopted a puppy. I know, shocking right? With Bryan’s and Brandon’s allergies, we’ve never owned any pet of the furry variety. But when the opportunity to adopt a mini goldendoodle kind of dropped into our laps in what seemed almost a meant-to-be sort of way, I was amazed at the puppy longing that came over me. Goldendoodles are hypoallergenic so I had high hopes. And when Bryan and Brandon both passed the rub-the-puppy-all-over-your-face-and-eyes allergy test, we decided (after much pestering, coaxing and persuading from me) to take the leap and welcome this little puppy into our family. We brought him home as a birthday surprise for Lilian and named him Oscar. (Which means that I find myself frequently singing those old Oscar Mayer commercial jingles to him...something that brings much confusion and annoyance to my children). People told me the first few months with a puppy would be really hard. I heard stories of sleep deprivation, potty training, destruction of house and home, etc. They said it was like having a new baby all over again. And while I believed them, I still didn’t quite understand just how hard it really would be. And I have to say, it did take me a couple months to stop thinking, “What the hell have we done???” Yes, there were swears. Especially when he decided his favorite place to go potty was under my baby grand piano. But along with the naughty language that came out of my mouth, he also made me laugh every day. And he loved us all so unconditionally, it was hard to stay mad at him for too long. Little Oscar is now 8.5 months old. We’ve made it through the toughest of the puppy phases and everyone adores him. (Well, with the exception of Julianne who has never been much of a dog person and claims that while she doesn’t love him, she dislikes him the least of all dogs.) I’ve joined the neighborhood morning dog walking group...social for Oscar and social for me. He follows me around wherever I go and at present is taking a nap at my feet while I type this. I have gone from swearing at and about him to cuddling with him and marveling over this fairly intense feeling of love and joy that comes into my heart when I look at him. Well, at least when he isn’t chewing on my shoes.

             And because of the wanderlust that tends to make an appearance somewhat regularly, 2016 saw a bit of travel...
             We flew to Seattle as a family this past August and after a few days of exploring that fascinating city, we made our way down the coast of Oregon. We stopped at various beaches along the way and took time to do some hiking in the Redwood Forest before arriving in San Francisco where we spent a few more days introducing our children to the City by the Bay. The Pacific Northwest is incredibly beautiful!             
            In October, I accompanied Bryan on a business trip to Honolulu. I spent much of my daytime exploring the island on my own, but our hotel was right across the street from Waikiki Beach and we had a glorious time. I think the highlight was our hike up Koko Head Volcano. 1,050 railroad tie steps to the top...I think it may be one of the hardest things I have ever done. I joked that on the way up I felt like maybe I’d like to die, at one point on the way down I slipped and thought I was about to, and then when the sore muscles set in I thought I had! But in all actuality I’d do it again. The view from the top was nothing short of spectacular and the bragging rights were pretty cool too.
              Brandon, as usual, had some out of state gymnastic meets which necessitated trips to Palo Alto, Las Vegas and two trips to Colorado Springs. Brandon also took a road trip to Yellowstone to do some camping and hiking with his coaches and other level 10 teammates right before school started.
              As a senior trip of sorts, Julianne went to Belize in July with the HEFY program...a humanitarian trip where they spent two weeks building a school. They worked long and hard, but also made time for some adventures. I saw pictures of snorkeling with sharks, catamaran rides, ziplining through the jungle and cave tubing. She made friends with the locals and left a whole lot of her clothing and shoes behind when the trip was done, as gifts for the people who needed them more than she did. I think she considers the trip one of the best things she has ever done.

            In other odds and ends:
               Brandon got his first job this year and now works at his gym coaching some of the younger kids in rec classes. Which means that if you do a little math and add his regular workouts to his coaching hours you come up with a good 27 hours a week he is at the gym. The kid practically lives there. He has his learner’s permit and we are both counting down the days until he can officially drive himself to the gym. But when all is said and done, gymnastics still means the world to him and his team is his second family.

               Lilian is in her 4th year of soccer and has become quite the little dynamo on the field. Like her older sister before her, she plays a strong defense and has a kick that can send the ball halfway down the field. She also continues to take acting classes at CentreStage Theatre and played the part of Kaa the Snake in their recent performance of Jungle Book. She’s in the 4th grade and seems so grown up! Although when I accidentally spilled the beans that the elf on the shelf wasn’t real a week or so ago, she was devastated and dramatically claimed that I had ruined Christmas forever. So I suppose that means she’s not fully ready to leave childhood behind quite yet.

               Bryan has seen a lot more business travelling this year. In fact, he was out of town the week Rebekah came home from her mission and it took a bit of doing to arrange an earlier departure which would get him to the airport right around the time Rebekah’s flight was due to land. (Which meant that the lucky guy got to wait at her gate and get the first hug!) In hiring some new employees, we’re hoping to see his travel time maybe decrease a bit this next year, but I suppose time will tell.

               In other end of year news, I feel I should inform you that Bryan has grown out his hair. He now proudly sports a ponytail (or man bun depending on the day). I’m still unsure as to whether or not this is just a phase. But in the meantime Julianne and I told him that in order to really rock the look correctly he needed to dump the wire frames he was wearing and get himself a new pair of hipster glasses. He has recently taken our advice. At Rebekah’s homecoming earlier today, some friends of hers were overheard discussing her Dad’s outfit and hair...and it was apparently decided that he was “ridiculously stylish.” It gave us a pretty good chuckle.

      It was a good year, 2016. We hope the same was true for you. And as we all wait to see what the next year brings, we wish for you a holiday filled with love, happiness, family, and a big dose of that special Christmas spirit.

                    Love from the Crofts,
                    Bryan, Sarah, Rebekah (20), Julianne (18), Brandon (15), and Lilian (9)