Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas, Wherever You Are

So this year's Christmas letter will not exactly be traditional. For starters, it's obviously not an actual letter. But hey, this year hasn't exactly been normal, so why not roll with it?

I think I'll branch out with an old-fashioned acrostic, using words to describe our past 12 months with a smattering of year-in-review photos to illustrate.

Move! 2013 was definitely "The Year of the Big Move." Just in case you didn't know, Uncle Sam kicked us out of America and booted us across the ocean to Europe. After four wonderful years in Salem, Oregon, we made the big jump to RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom.

With the aid of a Scripture Caterpillar (and the reward of a visit to Chuck E. Cheese), Jack memorized almost 30 verses this year.
Expansion. This year, our little family grew by one with the arrival of Avinly Dawn on April 3. She is now 8.5 months old and one wonderful wild-haired, blue-eyed addition to our nest. She looks just like Nick's mother, is totally in love with her daddy and would rather be held than dressed or clean.

Jude learned how to ride a bike at the advanced age of two this year.
Roundabout. The move from America to Europe has been full of little quirks, twists and turns...literally. We are learning how to drive on the left, navigate roundabouts, shop with pounds and decipher British slang, among other fun learning experiences. As to whether the kids (especially Avinly) will develop an accent, only the next four years will tell.

Just a few weeks before Avinly showed up
Roller coaster. Even though Nick was very ready to leave the world of Air Force recruiting and return to working on his beloved jets, it was hard to leave Salem. We made amazing, lifelong friendships during our four years there. And with only one grandparent left between the two of us, we know our time spent with loved ones in America is precious and oh-so fleeting.

Nick and Jude
Yahoo! With three small children, the Kupper house is never quiet, especially when Nick walks through the door. Most nights feature discussions on "What was the best part of your day?" (where, strangely enough, Avinly always says "Milk!"), wrestling matches, story books, songs and always prayers to God, thanking Him for our many blessings. I often get comments from strangers in public like, "My, your hands are full!" No matter how much spit-up my outfit features or how little sleep I got the night before, I try to smile and say, "Yes, full of good things!"

Avinly, one day old and ready to go home
 Change. 2013 has been full of it. In addition to Avinly, we gained a new sister-in-law when my youngest brother married and two new cousins (pictured below, born right before and after Avinly). Jack started kindergarten at Salem Academy in the States and is now in "Year 1" at Gayton Church of England Primary School in the UK. Jude conquered potty-training and training wheels. Nick switched jobs and we switched continents. Time marches on.

Three generations!
Happening. The Kuppers had a jam-packed year, even without the move. We took several trips to Sunriver and the Coast with both friends and family, hosted our exchange student Celia for another five fun-filled weeks, vacationed at Disneyland in September and traipsed all over Oregon trying to fit in our "to-do" list before we jetted over the Pond.

Bedtime with Jude and Daddy
Run. Of course, it wouldn't be Nick and Crystal without running and racing. Nick trained hard and PRed (ran a personal best) at the annual 4th of July "Butte to Butte" 10k in Eugene. And I ran several fun competitions, including a sub-27-minute 5k at 34.5 weeks pregnant and the same half-marathon in October that I ran while 17 weeks pregnant with Avinly last year.

36 weeks pregnant
Individuals. 2013 was definitely a year for each of my kids to show a little bit more of their personalities. Six-year-old Jack is quite the student who loves to read, decorate, plan our social calendar, engineer the next big invention and talk to anyone who will listen. Three-year-old Jude, meanwhile, just wants to play ball; any sport will do. He's also quite goofy and hammy, much more so than Jack ever is. And Avinly appears to be taking after her oldest brother -- she loves people, chattering and interacting!

May Day stealth mission!
 Service. As the boys get older, it's been so fun to teach them about giving to others. This year, we've studied about the global orphan crisis (especially those with special needs), hurricane relief in the Philippines, packing shoeboxes for impoverished kids worldwide and a host of other creative ways to give back.

Going for a 28th birthday walk in the Oregon rain
 Tech Sergeant. On January 1st, Nick sewed on the rank of Technical Sergeant (E6). He reached this milestone fairly young, simply because he is fantastic at his Air Force job and works very hard to provide for us. Woo-hoo and we were/are so proud!

ilestones. Jack now has lost four teeth and is learning to add and subtract. He loves to read and rides his bike to and from school every day. Jude learns new words constantly and is developing his sense of humor, which in turn makes us laugh. He can count to 20, knows all his letters and loves to weigh himself on the bathroom scale. Avinly, meanwhile, quickly learned that the best way to get someone to pick her up is to scream her head off. Works like a charm. She also is thisclose to crawling and pulling herself to standing!

 Anniversary. Nick and I have now been married nine educational years. We are still novices at this marriage business, but it certainly is a fun classroom!

Mother's Day
Success. We may not be the richest, fastest, smartest, tallest or most well-known, well-connected family in the universe (although I still maintain that Nickolas IS the best-looking man around!). But we are together, we are alive, we are growing every year, we are loved. And that, to us, is success.

Father's Day at the ball park
This year, more than ever, the Kuppers have realized how special our friends and family are. And we have vowed to not take them for granted from now on.

Early summer in Central Oregon
So to that end, thank you for whatever role you have played in our lives. We are so grateful for each and every one of you. 

The whole family
Hugs and kisses to you all across the miles. 

May your friendships be rich...

Jack and his best cousin Josh at summer camp
May your milestones be worth remembering...

May your memories be colorful and rich with meaning...

May your weekends be filled with people and things you love...

Runaway Pumpkin Half Marathon with my mom, dad and uncle
May the joy of a child born for us all bring you peace and lasting contentment.

Much love from the Kuppers, and best wishes for a wonderful 2014!