Friday, January 3, 2014

Good News

Very happy about some book reviews I received in Deseret News. "Return Unto Me" was described as "Powerful and Profound," and, while I can't find it online, yesterday's "Mormon Times" had my "Essential Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament," on its front page. Happy day.

Year in Review

For the first time in years we wrote a family newsletter. Here it is:

Our dear friends and family,
What a year we have had. We are so grateful to be able to keep having amazing experiences and opportunities as a family. The best part is doing them together. We just wanted to share a little bit of our year with our friends.
This year we: went tubing down a river in Oregon where we also caught crawdads and salamanders and picked wild blackberries. We lost a few kids for a while on the river, but we found them again (these were the teenagers, so it may have been an acceptable loss). We also saw seals and starfish and puffins and flew kites on the beach. On another trip we went to the Wizard of Oz Museum in KS, and to Independence MO, Liberty Jail, Nashville, Yogi Bear Resort in the Smoky Mountain Range, Jamestown, Yorktown, Chesapeake Bay (where we caught crabs, but not as many as we thought), Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Philadelphia (saw Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and left behind a souvenir RV bumper), New York City, New Jersey, Boston, Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Washington DC, Harmony PA, Fayette NY, Palmyra, Niagra Falls, Akron OH (where LeBron James is from), Kirtland OH, Nauvoo IL, Casper WY, and Martin’s Cove WY. This trip was wonderful as we got to know our country, and its history better, and also our Church and its history better, and spent time with wonderful friends who made the whole trip better. We also went RV’ing to Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef, and Lake Powell. We bought a motorhome, drove it over 9,000 miles, and then sold it. We camped in tents and on boats and in motorhomes. BJ (16) was ordained as a priest (blessed the sacrament for the first time in Palmyra), Kaleb (12) was ordained a deacon, and Sabrina (8) was baptized  by BJ. Tashara (15) was made the Mia Maid president. Jacob (6) went to first grade and goes to school all day, so Julianne became a substitute teacher at their school. BJ and Kerry both had surgery (BJ on his jaw to remove a cyst and get wisdom teeth pulled out while they were at it, Kerry to have tumors removed from his parathyroid glands, which means they took out 2.5 of the 4 glands). Tashara rocked in the Shakespeare competition as Cleopatra (making her Egyptologist dad quite happy). She was also fabulous as the Scarecrow in her school’s production of the Wiz. Alexia (10) became a super soccer star. Sabrina won first place for her music composition in the Reflections contest. Kaleb performed in “Hope of America,” and was awarded a trophy for memorizing the preamble to the constitution, Gettysburg address, the states and capitals, an excerpt from the “I have a dream speech,” the Star Spangled Banner, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the presidents of the U.S. in order and including their middle names. Alexia is now doing the same thing and is almost done already. Kerry wrote two books (you can find them on Amazon), several articles, excavated 44 mummies, had a series of lectures come out on cd, led a group of friends around Israel, and decided that motorhome bumpers are overrated. He also did a series of lectures in Hawaii which brought him and Julianne back to one of their favorite places. Julianne continues to dedicate herself in service. Besides countless hours in helping with homework and shuttling to various activities, she is enjoying her second year in the relief society presidency. In the last year and few months, she has helped a sister-in-law move to Texas, helped her mother through cancer treatment, watched people’s children, hosted family reunions and work events at our house, has spent hours with our nephew at the hospital or watching his siblings, volunteered countless hours at the kids’ schools, chaperoned drama groups at the Shakespeare festival, has overseen moving into a new house and redoing much of that house after a large flood, and has coordinated all the events written about in this letter plus plenty of others.
Memorable quips and assundries: After someone called Jacob a baby he informed us that he is not a baby, he is just a cute man. One morning Kerry told Tashara that she had a beautiful smile. She said “What’s that supposed to mean?” Kerry then knew he had a teenage girl on his hands. We bought and killed off several goldfish. We got puppies for Christmas, and so far they are alive. Jacob paid his mother a compliment by saying that she “borned me well,” but then asked when she would love him enough to take him to the zoo. We also wrote a family Christmas letter for the first time in years (you are reading it now). Kaleb decided that spiders were made to catch flies and that flies were here for spiders, so let’s just get rid of both. AMEN!
We feel like we have been blessed all along the way. There have been so many little miracles, some of which kept the motorhome working on our epic trip across America, some of which seem to have spared us huge medical problems, and some of which just kept the family in harmony. We are amazed at the blessings we have had. We are grateful for all the Lord has done for us and are just happy to keep chugging along with each other.
When Kaleb ended an autobiography for school he wrote a summary of our family we all agree with: “In my family we are close in age and friendship. We are religious, we are patriotic, we are hard-working, we are a team family, we are educated, we like to travel and get new experiences, and we like to serve together. I hope that we live long lives, I dream that we will be together again after we die, I fear spiders. We’ve all had challenges and we are all ready for more.”
We wish all our friends and family great blessings and pray for the watchful care of the Lord over you as you celebrate this season and begin a new year.    ------The Muhlesteins