What a wonderful time of year! The house smells like warm pumpkin bread and the children are scurrying around, secretly working on mysterious Christmas presents for eachother. The house is full of cheerful Christmas lights and sounds of small voices singing Christmas carols as they go about their days. We hope that, for our family and yours, this Christmas season as we focus on families and friends, we can also focus more singularly on the Savior. Christmas is our celebration of the Savior's birth and all that that humble event meant to the future of mankind.
Last year was the first year in the last ten that we haven't sent
yearly family letter. Things were pretty crazy (and amazing)
during the holidays last year for us (sometimes it's a real circus around here!), so we apologize for our
negligence! This letter will give you a brief look
into our lives over the past two
found us taking a fun
camping trip to
Ensign Ranch, a church-sponsored camp complete
with horseback riding,
boating, cabins and lots of fun!
In August 2010, Charles and Michele took a “trip of a lifetime” to China to adopt Jonathan, who became our eighth child.
Following our return home, we had a whirlwind of doctor's visits and hospital exams that culminated in December of last year in an outpatient surgery where Jonathan received cochlear implants. After the incisions healed, the implants were turned on in January 2011. What followed next were weekly, then monthly, trips to Portland to gradually “turn up” the devices so that Jonathan could slowly expand his hearing range. In October, following a long struggle to find a new Cochlear specialist (ours quit) we began taking trips to Seattle for the same purpose. For all practical purposes Jonathan has fairly 'normal' hearing now and his vocabulary is just exploding! He now says two and occasionally three word sentences and is using words all the time to express his feelings and needs. He even says “ummm...” when he's thinking of what to say.
In February of this year, we took a fairly spontaneous trip to Great Wolf Lodge with several other families for two days of splashing and swimming in their wonderful indoor water park. We also participated in a Stake “Road Show” for church. Our family did our own skit – “There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” – with Shana singing while all the other children paraded across the stage, dressed as animals. They had a blast!
May 2011 brought the addition of the ninth Boling child to our family. Kayliana Mae was born on May 10th, at home, like 4 of her previous siblings. She is now 7 months old and a cute little red-head! Our summer this year was full of small outings – many parks, BBQ's, and one-day activities like the fair and the river. And, of course, there are the swimming lessons organized by our community that have become a summer tradition for our kids. The older kids also enjoyed a camping trip (in the motorhome) with grandma and grandpa Cooke down on the Columbia River in Woodland.
August 2011 spurred a desire for vehicle larger than our long-loved 15 passenger van, as we were taking more trips out as a family (more people also means more “stuff” to haul!). As we searched for a vehicle (just going to look made for some great family fun), we finally found the ideal one! However, as we tallied the expenses of owning such a nice ride and examined our finances, we realized that making such a purchase at this time went against the basic principles of frugality and prudence that we have tried so hard to teach our children. So, though painful – because the coach we found was SO perfect – we decided that doing such a thing when we still owed money on our house wasn't a wise choice. After discussing the matter as a family, we instead took the cash we had saved (we don't buy vehicles on credit) and applied it to our mortgage. We then made a family goal to exercise extreme frugality and pay off the house as quickly as we could. This has become a full family effort, and the kids are excited at the prospect. We are making progress towards our goal and have promised the children a big party when it finally happens! It will, if nothing drastic changes, take several years to realize this goal, but it is well worth the sacrifice for the lesson it is teaching the children – not to mention the financial peace this sort of accomplishment will bring!
September 2011 marked a significant event in our family: we were all able to go into the Portland temple, where Jonathan was sealed to our family. It was a very special day, having our children and parents all there together.
Our family has a tradition where each child, upon turning eight, gets to take a special trip with Daddy to help celebrate their birthday. Though his birthday was in June, Matthew opted to wait until December so he could see Temple Square all lit up for Christmas. They stayed with friends and toured Salt Lake City and surrounding areas. This year, through the generosity of friends in the ward, they were able to attend a live Mormon Tabernacle Choir “Music and the Spoken Word” concert. This trip has been a highlight for each child, and has given them some special “one-on-one” time with their dad.
Since we know that most of you, even those in our own ward, have a hard time keeping our children straight :-), here is a run-down in age order:
Alexander turned 11 in November. Alexander is fascinated with electronics, and spends hours upon hours creating things in his “workshop” (half of our utility room). He enjoys anything he can do with his hands, and he still loves riding his bike!
Miriana will turn 10 in December. Miriana loves to read, write, draw, and swing. She spends hours doing all of these things! She is also learning, along with her other siblings, what it takes to run a large household smoothly.
Matthew turned 8 in June. Matthew also loves to read, spend time in the kitchen helping and watching mom, run, and ride his bike.
Shana turned 7 in November. Shana loves to read (huge understatement!), sing, play the piano, draw, catch wild animals, and play imaginative games with her siblings.
Liliana will turn 5 in Jan 2012. Liliana learned to read this year and is thrilled about it! She also loves playing “mommy” with her dolls and her baby sister.
Steven turned 3 in July. Steven is ALL BOY. He loves rough-n-tumble games as well as anything with wheels! He loves books and carries around his favorites in a small Barney suitcase. He is learning to read because he wants to be able to read his books by himself!
William turned 2 in September. William is an inquisitive child who was talking in complete sentences at 15 months. He too is “all boy” and usually has the bruises to prove it. He is constantly getting into trouble as he tries to get into and explore everything in the house... argh!!!
Kayliana was born in May. Kayliana is small and cute. She loves real food, and giggles and babbles a lot. She learned to sit up early (a great help to mom!) and is adored by all of her siblings.
We have now been in our house for 10 ½ wonderful years, and feel privileged to live in such a beautiful area, far from the stresses of city-life, and to be surrounded by friends and family. Michele's parents have lived next door for 8 years, and provide such services as taking garbage and picking things up at the store! This fall they also started helping by providing piano and history/geography lessons.Charles has filled much of his time outside of normal work and church callings with his usual "geeky" pursuits, from managing the local ham radio emergency communications net and improving his own radio station, to upgrading our C-band equipment, to wiring buildings for the church and helping the world manage their computer woes. Apartment? Oh yes, that too – a little....
Michele stays in “high gear” pretty constantly with the challenges of raising a large, young family. Homeschooling, cooking and cleaning are jobs made easier with the help of many hands! Michele is currently serving in the church as the ward Music Chairman and is on the Relief Society Activities Committee. We still have chickens, and everyone loves them. Early in 2010 we sold our milking goats, but have plans to “do” goats again when the children are a little bigger and can handle more of the responsibilities themselves. This year has definitely been a test of Michele's organizational skills; trying to keep track of everyone's educational pursuits and interests, as well as keeping the house running smoothly is no easy task!
We continue to be a bit “different” than the average suburban American family. We tend toward the more home-centered quieter life. Charles is able to work from home all but one day a week, and never has to be away from the family on business trips that are hard on so many other families today. We feel so blessed to be able to be interconnected as a family in a way that is becoming increasingly rare in our fast-paced world. We purposely choose not to participate in sports and drama activities, much to the surprise of most families, because we desire to have our children home, with us, more.
We love you all and hope you have the best and merriest of Christmas seasons! That this may find you all well and happy is our Christmas wish!