Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Year of Memories

Happy New Year 2012

Over a year has passed since I last blogged. I'm not sure exactly why, other than it was a pressure that needed to be let go of for a while. I needed a year of simplicity (not that it was...) a year to not be constantly thinking of how I would share every event, every moment of beauty, sadness, joy, excitement. I needed a year to live in each moment - fully in it and not stepping out to see how it would look from an observer's eyes. I wonder what I have learned from my year of blogging silence.  I don't know, really, if I will now be able to pick up the threads again and cast my little moments out into the web. I think I might. I do, after all, miss the sweet friends I made, the glimpses into other lives, the connection felt across the continents. So, I will begin anew, with a post reviewing the past year and some of it's most precious memories. Perhaps this new year will be a time to reconnect, and find a balance between living and sharing...

Happy 18th Birthday, Lucy!
The year began with a birthday, and as we will soon see, Lucy is really the star of 2012! She turned 18 in January, surrounded by friends and family, she created a gypsy camp complete with music, fire, and dancing to celebrate.

Valentines and a message from Mom and Dad
Lucy and Aaron

February brought lots of baby goats! A visit from Gramie and Grandaddy, a Valentine's formal dinner and dance for Lucy and her sweetheart, and, by the end of the month, the arrival of spring blooms.
In March, I completed the only swap project of the year. It was actually a 2011 project that had become an almost overwhelming task to complete - not because it was hard, but because I had begun to feel this need to pull inwards, to let go of all the extra tasks I had put upon myself. Fortunately, my sweet Bits of Goodness partner was exceptionally patient with me, and I finished the little fairy tale dolls with joy and love. I knew then, though, that it was time for a little reprieve, so I refrained from participating in any other swaps for the rest of the year...


Of course, March also brought an overwhelming return of flowers, green grass, and rainbows! Home was filled with beauty and new growth.
April began with a bang - literally - as poor little Elsa fell off a pogo stick and cut open her chin! A few stitches didn't slow her down much, and she was at the head of the Easter Egg Brigade just a few days later.

 April saw the miracle of our own little edible mushroom patch, growing in the shade of our front porch.
April was also the beginning of a summer-ful of roses...

And another Birthday! Jesse's 16th, with German Chocolate Cake and a very fun group of friends.


 May day came at last - celebrated at our local Waldorf school with cousins and friends. Elsa and her cousin Felicity dressed in traditional white and danced the Maypole, made flower crowns, painted flower pots, climbed trees, nibbled cookies, and watched a shadow puppet play put on by cousin Allyson's class.

 May was a very full month! Elsa performed her first ballet solo, La Esmeralda, at her recital early in the month.

In the middle of the month was Mother's Day with the most charming Mother's Day gift ever! A new cruiser bike, and an adorable photo shoot in our side yard with fluffy baby bunnies, our funny little terrier, Piper, and more roses from our garden.

On the 15th, we stood at the end of our driveway and gazed in wonder and anticipation as we watched the Angel Moroni statue carefully placed on the peak of the Gilbert Arizona LDS Temple.

Jesse made us all proud by achieving the rank of "Centurion" in his LDS Seminary class. He and his friend, Scott, challenged each other to the accomplishment of memorizing 100 scriptures and thier references by the end of the school year. They celebrated by attending school that day in suits, carrying briefcases, truly the distinguished young men!
Lucy's Senior Prom!
And then, at last, it was time for Lucy's high school graduation. Wearing the beautiful, heirloom dress made by my Oma for my own graduation, copied after my great-grandmother's 1913 graduation dress, also worn by Jill in 2010, Lucy glided through the day with grace and glory. She wore the white sash of the Thespian Society members, and a "Best of the Nest" medal for her contributions in time and talents to the school.
One final May achievement
Robin's 12th Birthday!
Free at last! Senior Trip
to California!

 June came and went like a dream. We took a little trip to Las Vegas for a cousin's baptism and said farewell to Gramie and Grandaddy as they left for a mission to Omaha, Nebraska. Lucy and Jesse went on a Pioneer Trek, Robin spent a week adventuring at scout camp, but mostly, we whiled away our summer days relaxing and enjoying the warmth of long, lazy days.
I just couldn't bring myself to buy a plastic "rag doll" (lalaloopsy, haha!) So Elsa and I had great fun designing and sewing these LalaLoopsy Lookalikes for her cousins!


Jill's 20th Birthday almost slipped by us.
Fortunately, her sweet boyfriend, Dylan,
took her out for dinner,and David and I made her
 a seriously to-die-for Dulce de Leche cake.

July was filled with so many joys and sorrows.

We spent Independence day in Snowflake with my sister and her family. It was such a fun week! We ate nonstop, stayed up all night talking about personality types, hiked, swam in the lake, shopped for antiques, set off fireworks, took nightly walks up the hill to see the temple and pick bouquets of lavender, and found the most gorgeous hydrangeas at the Jesse N. Smith historical home.

When we returned home, it was to sultry hot days and stormy evenings, and an abundance of ripe apples on the neighbors' trees. We picked basketloads of apples and mashed and juiced until we had quarts of applesauce and apple cider stored up for the winter. We also ate our fill of apple crisp with ice cream!


Elsa's 9th birthday was a joyful day of friends and family gathered for a Smurf - themed party. She had cupcakes and a pinata at noon with her friends, then family dinner at our favorite local restaurant and German bee-sting cake brought from home. Of course, the highlight of the day was her new go-cart! I think it's obvious that she liked that gift best of all!

 The day after Elsa's birthday we were hit with a terrible sadness... My dear, sweet Oma, such a part of my life and so beloved by all of us, had a serious decline and was admitted to hospice care for the last few days of her 93 years. All of my siblings came to town, and for a week, our home was filled every day with laughter and tears and lots of hugs. My sisters and I came and went to the hospice for visits, sometimes taking the children with us, sometimes leaving them at home to play. It was such a sweet time, those twilight days, as we sat with Oma and held her hand, reminiscing and laughing at her fun, full life. But it was oh, so hard to let her go. How do you say goodbye when you know that this time, you won't see her again in this life? No more sharing adventures, stories, jokes, ideas, testimonies...So many times in the months since, I have caught myself thinking "I need to show this to Oma!" or "I can't wait to tell Oma! She'll laugh!" Only to remember...     

 August arrived with new hope and new joys. Early on the morning of the 4th, Lucy's sweetheart, Aaron, took her up in a hot air balloon and asked her to be his eternal companion. He presented her with a ring inherited from her great-grandfather, Leonard Sevey, purchased in 1941 and held safe all these years until the perfect couple came along to give it new meaning.

Plans for the future were begun, wishes made...

 ...and the wedding preparations were set in motion. Lucy created the sweetest boxes for her bridesmaids, complete with treats, jewelry for the reception, her colors, and contacts to assist with the bridal shower. Each girl answered with excitement, and all 7 accepted!
At the end of the month, summer storms had brought down this immense limb from our pine tree. Robin and Elsa had so much fun playing on it that they begged us to leave it there, but down it must come to save the tree. David enlisted the help of a friend and they bravely brought the branch down.

 By September, school was back in session for all 5 children. Lucy began her first year at university and discovered that her time-management skills learned in high school were crucial to survival at college. Jill, as a Junior in college, was required to declare her field of study for her art degree. As she prepared her painting portfolio she began to wonder if this was truly the path for her. Meanwhile, she found herself drawn to her fiber-arts classes, something she had never imagined! She decided to postpone her decision, and by the end of the semester was clear - she would double major in fiber arts and German.    

David's birthday was celebrated with pie and presents!
Jesse began his junior year of high school, and his 3rd year in the marching band. He practiced his French horn for hours after school and finally auditioned and was accepted in to the school's Wind Ensemble - the highest concert band - thus earning the use of his first Tuxedo! By the end of the semester he also auditioned for and was accepted to the school's Symphony Orchestra - a prestigious ensemble of wind and string instruments.

Elsa started a new adventure with 4-H. She was lucky enough to find and purchase an adorable and very nice quality Holland Lop bunny from a little girl who shows rabbits extensively. "Mater" (as in "Tuh-mater, but without the Tuh") is already well on his way to become a champion bunny and Elsa is so excited to help him finish. She is the youngest girl in her bunny 4-H club and is definitely the darling of the group!

September also brought a new batch of baby goats, and a surprising number of people wanting to add goats to their backyard homesteads! We made so many new friends this fall, and learned that there are a great many families who are learning to be self-sufficient right in the middle of the city. Our little Nigerian Dwarf goats fit in so well with their small, cute size, pretty colors, and really, really good milk in a manageable amount for a small family. Hearing about how much food other families are learning to grow in their small quarter or half acre yards, or sometimes even smaller, has really opened our eyes to how much more we could be doing here on our acre - and how blessed we are to have such a beautiful piece of irrigated land.

October!  A month of crazy busy-ness as we prepared our home for a wedding and carried on with all the normal events. This was Marching Band season for Jesse, with a competition every single weekend. Lucy and Aaron took their formal engagement photos and began to work on their announcement. Jill plugged away at school, thoroughly enjoying her fiber arts classes, her Haitian culture class, and happily challenged by German literature. Robin began a new homeschool adventure with an online curriculum that would cause some serious growth - mostly with managing time and realizing that learning takes a lot of work. Elsa delved in to caring for new bunnies and goats, helping plant our garden, and training her new cockatiel, Wheatly. 
 An exceptionally exciting accomplishment here was the painting of our home! We completely changed it's look - going from a dreary grey and maroon, to cheerful green and cream. Our back doors were now bright, grass green and I still smile every time I see them.

The big question on the minds of our friends and family was "Will the Miller's still have a Halloween party??" Well, we did have to question our sanity, but yes, we had our party! Not as elaborate as in past years, but still lots of fun. Our theme was "Retro Sci-Fi" but we were pretty loose with that. Jill and Dylan came as a little girl with her under-the-bed monster, and Dylan's monster costume was amazing! Like something out of a dream, he had stilts and arm extensions, a ragged coat, and mystical mask. Lucy pulled off some face painting genius and came as Mystique from X-Men. Aaron's costume was simple but creepy-Dexter. Jesse was so fun as Spaceman Spiff from Calvin and Hobbes, and I think at least two of his friends came as Dr. Who (different Doctors, of course!) Robin had the craziest costume - blue morph suit with red crazy wig and cape - he ran around in a pack of morph-suited 12 year olds who then all congregated at our house for the annual candy swap. Elsa was an incredibly convincing Princess Leah. Our decorations were minimal - eerie green lighting, and our skeleton man in disguise as a rather creepily realistic alien - but the food was just as good as always, and we really had a fun time visiting with friends and family.

By the beginning of November we had accumulated a very large pile of wood trimmed from our huge mulberry tree. All during October we had spent every spare weekend trimming the trees and bushes to make our yard ready for a wedding, and Guy Fawke's night, November 5th, was the perfect time for a bonfire.

Towards the middle of the month we had a surprise and unwelcome guest - a young skunk somehow found it's way into the little yard we keep our silkie chickens and our rabbits in. It's right up next to the house, under the girls' bedroom windows. That evening the girls and I were having a lovely heart-to-heart chat about life when we heard the hens outside begin to twitter and squawk. Knowing the dogs were already in for the night, we peeked out the window to see what all the drama was about. What a shock to see a little skunk! The poor thing didn't seem to know how to get back out, so we cautiously went outside and opened the gate to give him a clear path. It took a few minutes, but he finally made his way out of our yard and off to wherever skunks go in this neighborhood. Now, mind you, we don't have too much sympathy for the stinky little egg-thief, but it was so young and cute that Elsa and Robin indignantly declared that we should have caught it and kept it as a pet! Um, no!

Thanksgiving Day was probably the most elegant and calm Thanksgiving dinner we have ever had. It was "Miller Year", so David's in-town family all gathered at our house. Elsa was the youngest person, and besides her and Robin, there were no other children. Now, I love the fun energy and chaos that comes with a house full of cousins, but having a more grown-up dinner was actually kind of nice. We set the table with china and candles, and place cards with gourmet chocolate pumpkins at each setting. Everyone got to sit together at one long table - another rarity at our family parties! It was peaceful and beautiful, everyone felt warm and welcome and full of gratitude for the bounty before us and the love we share as a family.

That peaceful, quiet day was the last for a while....That weekend we began the serious business of wedding invitations and gathering wedding decor. Our dining room was taken over and became Grand Wedding Central. For the next few weeks, if you wanted to do homework or eat a meal you had to carve a little space for yourself out of the beautiful rubble piled there.

In just a week, all the invitations were assembled and addressed, and loaded in to the mailbox. (Elsa often leaves tangerines for our sweet mailman, and thought he definitely needed some extras for a mailbox full of envelopes!) The doilies, wax, scraps of paper, twine and feathers, pens, stamps, and glue, were finally cleared away, but flowers, vases, ribbon, candlesticks, lace, banners, and more would remain until after the new year...


Of course, it was as busy as December ever is, with festivities every weekend, during the week too. December 1st was Elsa's ballet recital. She danced a beautiful white swan in a piece from Swan Lake.

Later that week, Jesse performed in two Christmas band concerts - one the normal end-of-semester show with all the concert bands, the other - a special Wind Ensemble Night at the Pops concert - all Christmas and patriotic music!

Then it was time for our church Christmas party - a huge break from tradition this year. For as long as we have lived in this neighborhood - and for a good many years before that, our ward has gathered in the evening for a dinner under the stars and a live Nativity program - complete with real animals. This year it was much more simple. A gathering at the church building for breakfast with Santa, Reindeer games, and lots of ugly sweaters and pajamas! I have to admit a sadness to turn away from the peace and gentle spirit of the old tradition. Though honestly, it had become such a large gathering that some of the peace and reverence had been lost anyway. The breakfast turned out to be very fun, and we were surprised to find that there was a photo booth! We truly hadn't planned on a Christmas card this year, but our picture turned out so cute (ugly sweaters, pajamas and all!)

It was right around this time that  I began to feel some panic. I was totally focused on the Wedding and things were going very well there, the Christmas tree was up and so were the icicle lights around the outside of our home, school was wrapping up quite nicely...wrapping...presents...oh no!!! That's what was missing!! I spent about three days badgering the kids for Christmas lists, then glued to the computer on Amazon and Think Geek, then running around town to World Market, Target, even the Mall, and finally I could breath again! Christmas would be fine, we would all be together, the wedding would be beautiful...
Right around the middle of the month, it was time for a Bridal Shower! Thrown by Lucy's Young Women leaders and some good friends, it had a "Tea Party" theme and everyone was encouraged to wear a favorite hat. The decor was adorable and Lucy had a huge crowd of friends and family come to wish her well and "shower" her with gifts! She had a really fun mix of practical things for her new home, and frilly fluffies for the honeymoon. Her cute bridesmaids had so much fun with the present opening! Lucy was so honored to receive a hand-embroidered gingham tablecloth from her great-grandmother, Margaret Sevey. Grandma will be 93 years old soon, and her sweet hands shake, but she stitched each little x with love and excitement for Lucy's marriage.

Christmas came, Christmas Eve pajamas opened with shouts of mock surprise...the stockings were hung by the chimney with care...then opened early Christmas morning before the sun was up! We had an extra "kid" for Christmas eve, Uncle Jared decided Christmas alone in an apartment just wouldn't be Christmas, so he spent the night at our house, hoping Santa would know where to find him. I think Santa thinks Jared is part of our family anyway, so it wasn't too confusing for him ;)  Gramie and Grandaddy Bielefeldt were given a vacation away from their mission to come home for Christmas and the wedding, so they joined us for Christmas morning and brought dear Grandma Sevey with them.  We spent the entire day at home, in our pajamas, just enjoying each other and the peace that is Christmas. We ate locally grown, grass-fed ham, roast beef, maple-roasted winter vegetables, scalloped potatoes, hot chocolate, an of course, the traditional Christmas Stollen.


The next few days were a whirlwind of family parties and wedding preparations. Elsa was in heaven with her cousins from both sides of the family in town, and they all wanted to be here with Elsa - I think the new baby bunnies might have been a major attraction (if you look closely at the picture to the left, you will see each little girl has a furry little bunny tucked in to her jacket!) The girls had great fun playing with the animals until it was too cold to be outside, then warming up inside playing with...well, I'm honestly not sure what else they were doing as I was so busy with the wedding!!

And then, at last, on December 29th, this starry-eyed little girl of mine was married!
Sealed for time and all eternity to the love of her life in a beautiful ceremony in the LDS Mesa, Arizona Temple. It was a lovely wedding, a perfect day, and the reception at our home that evening was absolutely magical.
(I promise I will do a post all about the wedding just as soon as we have all the pictures! You see, our photographer was my very talented sister in law, Susie Bielefeldt, and knowing that she would do an excellent job of documenting the day, I didn't take a single picture myself. No, not even with my cell phone!) And so the year came to an end. 2012. Full of love and joy, tears and laughter, and exceptional changes for our family. Lucy and Aaron left for their Honeymoon, and the rest of us hibernated at home, relishing in the feeling of having "nothing to do" for a few days (well, besides feeding animals and milking goats - there's no escaping that!) Now a new year has begun and I wonder what beautiful moments will come with it.