(For those of you that didn't get it in the mail, I thought you might like to read our Christmas letter.)
Greetings and Merry Christmas! We hope this finds you all well as you prepare for special times with friends and family during this wonderful time of year. I just love Christmas - not because of the cold weather or the presents, but because of the warm times with those we love.
This year has gone by especially fast, it seems. I wonder why? We have loved every minute of being parents to our incredible little boy. (Okay, so there were a few screaming fits we would have rather done without. But still….) Where to begin? We’ll start with things Nathan likes: being outside, books, milk, pretzels, being naked, Brutus (our cat), any “KEEee” (kitty), wheels, the dishwasher, the fridge, Hercules (our dog), and ice cream. Things he doesn’t like: …………(had to think) vegetables and being told “no.” That’s about it.
Nathan got his first teeth in February, took his first step in July, said his first words in September, and got his first molars in October. He’s a handful, always getting into things and trying to figure out how they work. He babbles incessantly, talking and pointing, like we should know what he’s talking about, but does have several words he says now you can actually understand (at least we can) - Daddy (his first word), tractor (his second word), hot, light, out, kitty, Herc (“Esh”), down, truck, hi, bye, dog, cow (actually, that one is usually just “MOOOooo” and applies to anything with hooves), thanks, ball, car - but has yet to say “Mommy” definitely. Go figure. We found out in October that Nathan has an eye condition called “Duane’s syndrome” which is when the nerve that controls one of the muscles to turn one of his eyes never developed properly. Basically, his left eye can’t look left, but there is no problem with the actual vision. He just compensates for the lack of eye movement by turning his head further to the left when he’s looking at something to that side. We thought it was a lazy eye, but we were so glad to find out otherwise, because we did not want the constant fight of trying to keep glasses on a toddler.
Probably the grossest thing we’ve had to deal with in regards to Nathan was what he puts in his mouth. (Not diapers, which is what most would say.) Things I’ve dug out of his mouth include: a dirt clod, a beetle, a wad of dog fur, and the winner: a chunk of dead mouse…. That the cat had eaten, then thrown up behind the couch where I didn’t see it. And why our son thought it looked like something that should go into his mouth is beyond me! I tell everyone that story so that they have to be grossed out as much as we were. (We still gag at the thought.)
Paul will begin his 10th year at the glass plant here soon. He actually got a promotion over the summer. He had applied for other departments within his shift, but after doing lots of fill-in work for his department supervisor, he was asked by the plant manager if he would be interested in being an actual supervisor. When we first talked about it, he said he didn’t want it, because there was too many hassles and not enough compensation. But a few months later when there was an opening on another shift, so we talked about it again. He decided he was ready for a new challenge, so he applied. After over a month of waiting, we finally got word that they had chosen Paul for the job! His actual title is Cold End Supervisor, and the easiest way to describe what he does is that he oversees everything in regards to the glass once it comes out of the furnace. He says he enjoys the challenges of figuring out the best way to do things or solve problems, but hates the days where he feels like he’s babysitting a bunch of grown men. The recent quest for “alternative energy” has actually helped the company; they are producing huge orders of TCO, which is the glass that is used in solar panels. Their plant has one of the most efficient means of production for this product.
I actually did start a babysitting job myself. It’s a pretty nice set-up, because they bring the boys out here when I watch them (two mornings a week), so it doesn’t take much effort other than making sure they don’t kill each other. J Dallas turned 3 in July and Andrew turned 1 in November, so having them plus Nathan tumbling all around the house makes it kind of interesting some days; it feels like all morning I‘m saying “share“ or “don‘t throw“ or “let‘s go potty!” I clean house for the same family once a week, also. Three partial days a week is just enough work it keeps me busy (and not wanting to clean my own house), but it gives us some “fun money” to go on dates and things like that. (And when gas was $4 a gallon for a while, it helped pay for a $70 tank of gas on occasion - we are SO glad it’s back down!!) I thought once I was a stay-at-home mommy, I’d have time to do all sorts of stuff: that my house would be immaculate, I’d have gorgeous flower beds and a vibrant vegetable garden, and with all my leftover time, I’d have time for reading, sewing, and other artsy stuff I enjoy. HA!
Paul and I are both still on the praise team at church. We love the ministry. I use Paul to give me feedback as to how the congregation seems to receive new songs - where I sit at the piano, I actually face away from the congregation, which helps with nerves, but makes it hard to tell how people are responding. Nathan loves the music, but hates being separated from us, so we’re working on teaching him he can sit in the pew with one of the grandparents. Nathan loves watching Paul play the violin, and has recently started showing interest in the piano - probably just because he can bang on it, but sometimes he sits on my lap while I play at home and grooves to the music.
In March, Paul and I will celebrate 5 years of marriage. It definitely does not seem like it has been that long. Our 15-year friendship prior to marriage was a wonderful foundation. And now we have a beautiful son (I can get by with calling him beautiful for while longer, can’t I?), and a great house in the country. We feel so blessed.
We had another bad year for the garden. It was a combination of several things - an unusually cool spring, a hail storm in June with 80 mph winds that pretty much destroyed the garden, and then the dog…. Always the dog….. I’m guessing he probably ate half of our corn. (How his digestive system survived, I have no idea.) After we found the first chewed-up watermelon in the yard, we threw up a fence around that end of the garden to save those at least, and ended up having a fairly good crop. Next year we’ll have to put a fence around the corn as well. Stupid dog. I did manage to put up some green beans, corn, pickles, spaghetti sauce, pears, and plum sauce and jelly - all from what we grew here.
I love working outside, but it was fall before Nathan would let me do anything outside without having to hold him with one arm while trying to weed or water with the other. Once he could walk around on his own, THEN he was happy to let me weed while he went to investigate that stick, leaf, or rock. That’s part of why the garden suffered, I’m sure - the only time I could weed was once a week (if that) when my friend Carrie came over to help me. We’d leave her older kids in the house with the babies and go work out in the garden and have some mommy gab time. Maybe next summer I’ll be able to get everything I want to done…..
We were able to take several vacations this year: In June, we took a weekend trip to southern Oklahoma to see our friends the Esbenshade’s and DeLong’s at the Golden Harvest Day - a wheat harvest, baling, and plowing done completely with antique farm machinery. On the way home we stopped by for a couple days with Paul’s family that lives west of Wichita. In July we went to Springfield, MO, for our long-time friend Caleb’s wedding. Then in October, we went to Colorado for a family reunion of Paul’s Rhodes grandparents - their children, grand-children, and three great-grandchildren - 14 of us in all. It was a really good time of relaxing and getting to know each other better. On the way home we spent a night in Colorado Springs to see the sights and visit Paul’s best friend Seth, and then spent the next night in Ness City, KS, to see my sister Carlsie, where she is the English teacher at the county high school.
Well, I look at this letter, and apparently I’m rambling - on and on, just like I talk. Now you have an idea of what’s going on with us. We hope you have had as abundant of a year as we have, and we wish you all the best for the coming year.
All blessings and peace to you!
Love - Paul, Rachel, and Nathan