Tuesday, December 20, 2016

DPP 2016 - Day 16 - Let It Be

Today was a hard day.  Perhaps why this post has taken me so long to finally sit down and write.  I feel like I would be doing 2016 a disservice to not write this post but finding the right words will be  a challenge.  Feel free to stop here and move to the next post which will likely be a bit lighter or scroll down to the first photo.

Today was graduation day for my students.  The class of 2016 walked across the stage after so much blood, sweat and tears.  There is such a sense of pride I have for them knowing the transformation that occurred from uncertain student to polished professional.  They worked so hard to achieve that.  I considered my small role in that process to be such a privilege.  Hard work but a job that is fulfilling and satisfying.  It was bittersweet but I am so glad I could be there for their day.  It was also a joy to have lunch with all my former coworkers too.  Hearing about all of their new jobs and catching up on their families. 

Today's song choice was picked for its message that sometimes you can't change the world but only your reaction to it.  2016 presented me with some hard choices.  For the first time in my life, at least to this magnitude, I was faced with doing what was right, resulting in personal and professional sacrifice, or doing what was easier.   Making that choice was long deliberated and a hard choice but at the end of the day, it was the right one.  I continue to feel the sacrifice I made but I do not regret it.   But as the song says, I doubt I changed anything for the better but it was important that I change how I reacted to it.  Don't we all wonder how we would react in times of stress?  Would we run into the burning building or stand in harms way to help others?  I am still not sure I would do either of those though I would like to believe I would.  There is pride knowing that, in this time of stress, the choice was made for principle over selfish ambition.  Now, onto 2017, where I can tackle the results of turning to chocolate for stress instead of exercise.  No one said I handled the above perfectly - far from it -  and chocolate is always there for you.  ;)

There is good news in this.  While I loved education, returning to clinical practice has been a complete joy.  I am working for a wonderful organization committed to the the well being of  their patients, always looking to improve, and committed to quality.  So refreshing.  I have such a heart for pediatrics and for working with families.  Working with a new group of amazing people is just the icing on the cake.

Speaking of icing. . . . we had a Christmas party get cancelled tonight due to the icy weather and had to miss out on some graduation parties as well.  So to ease our disappointment, we had a serious gingerbread house decorating contest.  It was nice way to end on a sweet and happy note.  My pic for the photo today was only because I love everything about it.  You have to smooth out your spackle somehow. . . . The girl just can't resist. . . .

Here they are, working away.  K is ahead because she started with a pre-assembled house. E has a furrowed brow because one side of the roof won't stay up.  If you look in the first picture, I bet you can guess which side!  Big and Lil B surprised me.  I thought they would eat more than they worked but they were both all in. This was a really fun Friday night unwind.

 Detail work is not usually his thing but he made it his thing tonight.  He was taking great care to get everything together and lined up just so.

Yes - this is more what I expected.  But don't get me wrong, they were all on a pretty big sugar high by the time the project was done.  Two candies for the house, one for the kid was the standard ratio.  Perhaps that explains the crazed look in his eye?

I am in love with this picture.  Rich's face though.  Oh that big 'ol belly laugh of his is infectious.  Even E who is majorly annoyed because the roof just fell off again, can't help but start to smile at her dad's amusement of the situation.  I love that laugh.  It is really annoying when I want to be irritated with him for saying something inappropriate but he cracks himself up.  Then, I can't help but laugh.  Admittedly, one of my favorite things about us.

Here is little miss last woman standing.  Look at that focus.  I think her house may have also been the most neatly decorated.  I think Rich may have helped a little with some roof frosting, but not all of it.  She did the rest.  Slow and deliberate.  She was at the table almost a full hour after everyone else had gone off to watch a movie.    My hope is that this blog post will remind me how much I loved this so that we do it again next year.  Worth every penny of those $10 kits. 

DPP2016 Day 15 - Music Man

Ok, so despite the fact that it is actually day 19, this will catch me up.  I would not allow myself to take any more pictures until I got this blog posted.  We had some technical difficulties over here.  A computer that wasn't working correctly.  Photo editing software that was on the fritz.  Fortunately, I know a computer guy.  He got things all straightened out for me.  But with Christmas coming in less than a week, the computer fix was hardly at the top of either of our lists.  So let's take a trip back to Days 15 and 16.   (Day 16 will follow this one)

Day 15

Today was a full day.  A full, full day.  I spent the morning helping both grandparents get organized and helping them with their online shopping.  Then Rich and I took Katie on lunch date to Runza.  She loves Runza and today she was able to get the oranges AND the applesauce.  It is always such a hard choice for her and what an easy thing to say yes to once in awhile.  She ate every last bite of fruit and most of her hamburger.  Must be growing.  We then ran to Costco for a quick errand and dropped Rich at home.  This year, I have been taking the kiddos out one by one for a lunch or dinner with just mom and shopping for their siblings.  I think the crazy of the season can make a kid's focus easily be on the getting not the giving.  We are blessed with many family and loved ones that want to buy things for the kiddos but I feel like if all we do is ask for ideas, how do we teach them that the season is actually about giving.  I am not sure that we are there or anywhere close for that matter.  But we are taking steps towards where their focus needs to be.  Some moments of pride learned from these trips:  E was the last one to go (on Day 18).  She insisted on spending her own money for her gifts this year.  She is miserly like her mama and so this is a HUGE thing.  I am SO proud of her for realizing the importance that sacrifice plays in the satisfaction of giving.  I think she will be rewarded richly come Christmas morning.  She did well shopping.  Big B was the first to go shopping.  He struggled at first to focus on looking for things for others.  He is easily lured in by the bright and shiny and new.  But when he found something he knew one of his siblings would like, he was adamant.  There was one I tried to talk him out of but my subsequent shopping trips told me that he was right and I was wrong.  I should have known he would know.  Lil b was efficient.  He walked right into the store, announced who he was looking for, and went straight for that section.  Nothing drew him off course.  He even included his Daddy.  He really wanted something Simpsons but settled for something else.  And Little K - well she barely grasped the concept but when push came to shove showed some knowledge of what her brothers and sister might like.  What I love most about these dates, beyond the lessons in giving, is that the children come alive when they get one on one time.  We need to make these times more frequent.  And the one of the four that is hardest to get out of the house for some one on one time, needs it the most.
The evening was Choir and Orchestra concert night.  I wasn't looking closely at my shots and many of my settings were off. - so the pictures are not what I would want them to be - but somehow, I think a year from now when I come back to read this, the memory will be far more valuable than the focus.  Lil B has been having a rough several days and this day was no exception.  I think he is tired and the excitement of the coming holiday is about all his brain can handle.  He is tired and impulsive and finding himself getting corrected quite often.  This is what he thinks of that.
His little heart breaks when he does something wrong.  He wants to do it right but sometimes his body gets away from him especially when he feels an injustice.   Love that mom look on my good friend, Jessica in the back ground.  She is such a good mommy, obviously, she has perfected /that/ look.  ;)

Big B plays in the orchestra and he sings in the choir.  I was surprised that he wanted to play the cello but I do not tell my children no to trying new instruments and experiences.  I want them to find their passions on their own terms.  While all arrows point to cello not being his passion, he is sticking with it and finding his way.  When singing, B came alive on songs with actions and movement and would really ham it up.  The slower songs looked a bit more like he was tolerating their existence.  He is an absolute delight to watch in these settings because he is so expressive - even if it isn't always the desired expression.  Here are a few pictures.  Photo creds to my neighbor T. Wilson for the close ups on the risers!

 The Cellist.

Songs with movement

Slower songs

 And here are two of the photographers.  K was busy taking and studying on pictures on of B during the show.  She was obsessed with getting just the right picture.  Her Pawee claims to be an "arteest" and was trying to show her the ways.  However, my brother asked him the other night when he might be able to take a photo in under an hour.  Anyone who has had my dad take their picture likely knows exactly what we are talking about. We giggled and giggled.  Well, at least, Kevin and I did.  The arteest may have been busy playing as though he was wounded.

These three plus B have been friends for a long time.  The outside two had the same KG teacher and they became fast friends.  The gal in the middle is in B's grade.  We are grateful for these types of friendships, that form easily and last over time. 

There is SO much I love about this picture.  A group of really great kids.  They take me seriously when I say take a crazy picture!  I love that E can't control her giggles over sweet Jessica's funny daughter!

And it is official - we are card holding members.  A deep discount got me to finally give in.  I am a bit terrified for my checking account from the stories I hear.   So help me out - comment below or on Facebook - what are the must try items from Costco.  I have not even looked around yet.  We were in a hurry so we applied, bought the gift we came for, and left.  So guide me, oh wise ones!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

DPP2016 Days 13 and 14 - The Luckiest

I always have the best of intentions.  But this week a variety of things have kept me from working on my blog.  Late night Christmas shopping, a date night with my sweet hubby, meeting a couple of long lost friends for a quick get together.   My apologies for my tardiness.  But I took time to enjoy people in my life which is always worth it. It was made clear to me in no uncertain terms by a few friends that they were missing their daily dose of Hoffman crazy.  It is often entertaining.  Sometimes I just skip days during this photo season to keep myself sane but I have continued to take pictures so I might as well tell their stories.

Day 13

I had taken some time off this week to help me get prepared for Christmas.  I am always amazed how fast the hours go between dropping children off at school and time to pick them up.  An errand and an at home project is about all there is time for. So naturally, I haven't gotten nearly as much done as I had thought I would.  However, on Sunday I realized Christmas was two weeks away and I had done nothing.  That isn't a "nothing" where I really mean I have only done a few things.  Literally nothing. No lists made or ideas solicited.  No baking, no shopping, no planning, no getting ideas to the grandparents.  Nothing.  Well, I take that back.  We do have the tree up and the lights out front but those are really November items, not December.   I am starting to worry about what I am going to forget in this process.  Making my lists and checking them twice.  So my Tuesday morning was spent beginning that process.  I got to have lunch with Rich two days in a row.  I love little unexpected dates.  They are always filled with good conversation and laughter.  Lots of laughter.  Have you met my husband?  Tuesday afternoon, I had a hair appointment.  I have decided that getting my hair washed with a head massage has to be one of the best things ever.  I think I almost fell asleep.  No, seriously, hoping I didn't snore.  The evening was supposed to be more check marks on the to do list but I got distracted by those crazy kiddos.  Our only evening activity got cancelled at the last minute so we had friends over, hot chocolate, dance parties, and space.  Unexpected free evenings have to be one of my favorite things.

Today's post:   Pure Joy

K is such a little performer.  Not uncommon for a youngest child or someone related to me.  But I have a series of pictures from this little dance party of one.  She is in the stage where she dances with all of her.  Sometimes I dance around like she does because it looks like so much fun.  Cool?  No.  But SO. MUCH. FUN!
When did we lose that?  And why doesn't it ever come back?  Or maybe it does when we are old and wise enough to not care what others think anymore. 
Big B had some friends over too.  These two live close by and travel between the three houses as much as they are allowed.  We are the central location and they land here much of the time.  You can tell from the picture how serious they are all the time.   We should really try to get them to loosen up a bit.  ;)
 I was trying to get a picture of them chatting and negotiating what activity they were going to do while they had time together.  They insisted on posing.  

E and her friend decided to make hot chocolate.  Lil b is supporting them by dancing around and being silly behind him.  This is his face when he first turned to face me.  I can't stop laughing.  Talk about candid.  He had no idea I was there.  If that isn't the face of a little brother being a little brother, I don't know what is. 

Enjoying the fruits of their labor.  These two have been buds for a long time.  They bring out lots of fun and silly in one another.  But they also  encourage each other's kind side.  Together, they are a force for good; looking out for the little guy probably while composing some skit along the way.  Feeling pretty lucky about the kiddos my kids surround themselves with. 

Someone else enjoyed that hot chocolate too.  Here she is about to dunk her hand in there on the hunt for marshmallows.  Good thing we don't make our hot cocoa too hot!  Sometimes the impulses driven by a delightful marshmallow just trumps the 10,000 times you have been asked to quit sticking your hands in your drink.  Happens to the best of us.

When lil b was done pestering his sister and showing off for her friend, he settled in for a little screen time snuggled up to his Uncle Tev.  The facial expressions in this picture are priceless.  This man makes a lot of investments in my kiddos for which we are grateful.  He is rewarded with four kiddos that think he is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Not sure what they are looking at here but I can tell by Kev's expression, it is funny and he is waiting for lil b to realize it.

A lot of love and fun fits into an evening that has become unexpectedly free of obligation.

Day 14

Day 14 is pretty short and sweet as far as pictures go.  Part of my day 13 was spent working with two other moms to put together an impromptu bridal shower for B's teacher.  She is getting married this week and we couldn't let that go without a proper send off.  In true Hoffman form (and perhaps the form of my partners in crime as well), we put it together in record time - but that is how little time we had.  Today, we spent the morning leading fourth graders through a bridal shower.  Very entertaining.

Then this evening, my sweet mom in law came up to watch the kiddos.  I never seem to have my camera out at family gatherings anymore.  Could have something to do with how many little beings I am chasing around, getting rations for, and making sure they haven't completely dismantled the home of whatever sweet family member was foolish enough to invite us.  Or it could be that people around to distract my kids gives my mom brain just a moment of reprieve.  And it doesn't want to take pictures.  It doesn't want to do anything except maybe nap.   So before Rich and I went out on a date, I snapped a quick picture of her with the kids.  It was my only picture taken.   Winner by default.  I love it so much, it would have likely been the winner anyway.  :)

Little did I know that my husband was surprising me with an early Christmas surprise.  My parents and brother were at the restaurant which was weird.  So, instead of greeting them kindly, I said something to the effect of "What is going on, this is weird."   They said Merry Christmas a few times which was still weird.

You will have to stay tuned to find out more about the surprise and why I can't share anything about it now.  But this was something my husband did for me in recognition of the work I do to try to keep our immediate and extended families organized for holidays and birthdays.  At least I think that is what he said.  He had some pretty kind words for me that I can't remember now because my brain was stuck on the "this is weird" loop.   But it doesn't matter.  His actions were speaking a message that I will never forget.  He loves me, he sees me, he appreciates my role in our relationship and in our family, and he spoils me.  None of this is necessary because I don't do anything anything special.  But that is Rich, he goes above and beyond with thoughtfulness for those he cares about.  He is better than I am in so many ways and showing love through action is one of them.  I am so glad to be partnered with someone who makes me a better person every day by just being who he is. 

My parents, Kevin, and Rich's mom all played a big part in this.  They took time orchestrate it and surprise me with it.  They were exceptionally generous.  I was so surprised.  I am so grateful.  So humbled because I know that I don't deserve this surprise but they can't take it back.  I am too excited about it.  :)   I am surrounded by such kind and loving people.  I am not entirely sure how I got so lucky.

Days 15 and 16 are coming. . . .maybe in the morning.   Maybe...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

DPP2016 Day 11 and Day 12 - Love Me Two Times or Lollipop.

Couldn't decide whether to choose to pick the song based on Day 11's photos or the fact that I am combining two days into one!   So, I picked two titles for the two day post.  :)

Day 11:
Today's photo was from the work of the day.  Someday when time erases some of the hard and the struggle and the crazy busy from my mind and I am left with all the best parts, I owe it to my current self to remind myself that it wasn't always rainbows and unicorns.  So I share with you my least favorite never ending chore.  The laundry.  I posted this to the photo project page last night and one of the girls called it Mount Washmore.  I will be using that phrase again, so perfect and so funny.  This is the laundry for the three youngest Hoffmans.  Only 3 of the 6 of us.   Big B had some choices that zapped the family of energy and so here he is putting energy back into the family.  Without complaint, I might add.  The kid really rose to the occasion and accepted his many jobs with a positive attitude.  I do not like it when my kids misbehave but when I can make a natural consequence of laundry.  Well, that my friends, is what I call win-win.

After a fun day at the bowling alley with their Daddy (who didn't take pictures!), while mom and sister were supporting the basketball team, the kids had come home with all too much candy.  I think they do this to us parents on purpose as a way to get us to spend more money to get more tickets so they can buy anything. . . .ANYTHING other than candy!  But alas, we always seem to fall in that sweet spot where we are just short for buying anything else.  Instead, gobs and gobs of candy comes home.  Candy that I wouldn't buy otherwise.  Like this lollipop. . . .

The look I get when he is SO over me taking his picture at every turn.  These were the last pictures I took of the day.  There are often posts that go by with no pictures of him but lately he has been in lots. I think that is because I am intentional in seeking him out.  He is more likely to disappear into his own world and play alone in his room.   He is also the most likely to have neighborhood friends over and be far too busy for his photo happy mama.  So if I am not intentional, he isn't captured.

It was another great weekend for Elizabeth's basketball team.  It is so hard for her to sit the bench and just watch.  But she is proud of her team and I am proud of her for wanting to be there to support them.  So far, her attitude about her broken arm has been unbelievable.  I think I would have pouted at least 10-20 times by this point.  And by "think", I mean I know.  

 Naps can be hard to find time for when you are the youngest.  So you improvise.

While K was napping, lil b got to help his Dad.  Rich spends every year on a holy quest to replace all dead light bulbs.  I love this little obsession of his because we have had our pre-lit tree now for years and it keeps truckin' along and looking great!   He has been known to offer a dime for each discovered light bulb that is out.  A motivation tool learned from his father in law. 

 My dad has been known to call the children to tell them there are dimes all over his yard and he needs someone to come pick them up.  When the children arrive, there are no dimes.  Only walnuts.  Walnuts for days.  It only took one time of getting paid for pick up that they will start picking up walnuts at every turn.  Now, I think he does a little pre-pick up before they come.  Many years ago, that first year, E worked all afternoon and wouldn't quit.  She took him for $150.  Plus she had an ipod touch she wanted to buy herself because we wouldn't buy it.  She got it.

 After K's nap, the light fixing, and the birthday party, it was time for some negotiations.  Little miss knows she holds all the cards here.  As you see from Brandon's expression, he is pulling out his extra sweet charm to try and extract something he is dying to have from that bag.  I think these are great opportunities for siblings to learn the art of negotiation.  I tend to only help them think it through when it looks like they might get swindled.  Not today though, K held her own.  She is one tough cookie.

The final story from Day 11 happened at the end of the day when we were cleaning up after the kids went to bed.  Our sweet pup has such a personality of his own.  One of the things he does that we find adorable and hilarious is he carries his blanket around.  This blanket began folded at the bottom of his kennel for padding when he sleeps.  Somehow, he untied all the knots and separated the two sides into two blankies.  Every night, I throw them into his kennel and he sleeps snuggled in like this.  And every morning, he brings them out.  One in the kitchen, one in the family room.  That way, both places he likes to lie down and rest have a blanket to snuggle.  If we put the blankets away in the middle of the day, he will wait until we turn our back, go and get the blankets and put them back where he had them.  One day, to mess with him, I kept putting them away.  He kept bringing them back out.  He won.   Of course, you can't really blame the guy.  This is what our family room looks like most of the time.  No matter how many times we fold and put away, they always come back out.  You will see Teddy's blanket in there too.

 Day 12

I didn't take too many pictures today.  I worked on a project from home today that kept my focus beyond typical working hours.  I did take time to take a lunch with my hubby and a good friend from my UNMC days.  Ryan and I marveled at the rate at which Rich consumed salsa today.  We ate at California Taco which is SOOOO good.  And their salsa is delicious and served in margarita machines.  As with most things involving a food he loves, Rich took it to a new level.   If you look closely, you can see the line from where the salsa was before Rich got to it.  No joke.  He barely sat down for the first 20 minutes we were there.  He just kept refilling his salsa.  It was hilarious.

Two times the salsa for a day with two times the posts.  :)

But look how happy he is.  :)  That was until the car ride home when he kept complaining about how full he was.

A couple shots from this evening:

Hard at work for homework time.   Lil b can hardly stand to stay quiet so Big B can concentrate.

The last tournament had "Champion" water bottles to give for the winners.   Yesterday's tournament had medals which they got at practice tonight.  She didn't mind the water bottle but her quote before this pic was, "You just can't beat a medal.  All that work sitting the bench and cheering has really paid off."  Ha!  Well, at least she knew her role in that!  Love her sense of humor.

I know that it bugs her that this tournament she didn't get to contribute to that win but I respect that she manages that disappointment with humor. 
 And now, it is time for this mama to get some sleep. . . .

Sunday, December 11, 2016

DPP2016 Day 10 - Yesterday. . .

So the song title is chosen because I am writing this on the 11th!  I am so far behind.  I had charts still to finish last night so I wasn't able to get to these pictures.  Now, here it is the night of the 11th and I am just getting to the pictures. 

Today was full of basketball, as our Saturdays often are.  Since I was able to snag some pictures of E last weekend, this weekend we tried to get some of the boys. But first, we were able to start off a little slowly.  The boys enjoying a game of Monopoly, again.  What is funny is that they haven't played much Monopoly over the course of a year but last year at this time they played it a lot too.  Must be something about the holiday season that puts them into to the mood for being real estate moguls.  I love this picture because K is so cleverly playing with toys that the boys would probably yank away if they noticed.  But she is hiding in plain sight, using her coat and her body to give her every advantage.  It worked too.  She grew tired of playing long before they realized she had been playing.  4th kids have to be clever. 
E woke up early in the morning feeling badly.  She was the start of the strep bug and is still on antibiotics so this created a bit of a panic about what was coming next.  It is stomach flu season after all.  Fortunately, it passed uneventfully and she was begging for friends and going places by 10am.  Part of me wondered if she thought it was a school day and began to feel better when she realized it was a Saturday.  It wouldn't be out of the possibility for her.  Reminds me of a certain Peggy Ann McKay from a Shel Silverstein poem.

Daddy had to take both cars for gas this morning.  I like to tease him and call it the gas fairy.  I am so cared for and spoiled that I have been known to completely ignore my gas gauge.  The gas fairy just always seems to know when to come and I only have to put gas in the car once or twice every couple of months.  I'd like to say that this embarrasses me or to apologize for this indulgence.  But I can't.  I love it. . . .especially in the winter!  Sooooooo spoiled.

But so are the kiddos.  This little lady knows to get dressed and get her shoes on quickly when Daddy is headed to the gas station.  The kids are allowed $1 to spend at the gas station if they come with him.  Chocolate in one hand, ring pop in the other.   She looks pretty pleased with herself.

B is ready for basketball - coat and all.  But thought he would take a few moments of screen time before it was time to leave.  In this picture, he can't seem to decide which screen he would like to look at.  E was watching a movie on the TV and he was playing a game.  It was clearly a struggle to know where to put his attention.

Here are a few shots from the boys games.

 He uses his whole body when he plays basketball.  He is small but mighty.  He is fast and can stay really low to the ground while dribbling.  It comes in really handy because he just walks right through the defense because no matter what they try it results in a foul.  He made a couple baskets today which was where he chose to put his focus.  Always looking for the bright side.  His team didn't win today.  But every time he was in the game, the team closed the gap.  This was great for his confidence because his coach doesn't give him as much play time when they are behind.  I didn't notice at first but he did.  The difference in playing time isn't major so I wouldn't get involved anyway but he was explicit in saying he wants to handle it on his own.  For that, I am very proud.  He wants to prove to his coach that he can do it.  He wants to use hard work and preparation to find his way to being the kind of player he wants to utilize.  The kid has grit.
For me, that is going to be a far more valuable lesson than really anything else he is going to learn on the court this year anyway.  Some times my kiddos surprise me.

To be clear, I like B's coach very much and hold no hard feelings toward him.  He is committed to helping these boys learn basketball and meeting them where they are.  He has a lot more to think about in those games beyond play time.  And Ben has a lot to learn about the strategy of the game, positioning, plays, and more.  But he is motivated.

Here is the constant spectator.  She has style and a fourth of her belongings.

Today was Brandon's last game of Fall ball.  Onto Winter ball in January.  This age group of basketball is such a hoot! They do keep score this year which is an upgrade from last year.  But it does still have a distinct feel of herding kittens while trying to move a ball.  I also love his two teammates in this picture who are surely calling his name for the pass.  Brandon is a bit of a baller though.  Perhaps from watching his siblings.  The lessons we will have to work with him on is not being such a ball hog.  He just loves to score.  Stinker.
  Here is his adorable team.  I have so much respect for his coach because I know that I couldn't do what he does. So patient with these kiddos while still managing to teach them basketball.  He is really fantastic.

Photo credit for Brandon's pics:  Daddy Rich

Our Saturday night ended with quite the party.  The grocery store party.  It was "lit", as the kids say.  Here is my fellow party companion.  We really know how to do a Saturday night right!  The penguin gets a bit unruly, so K is keeping him buckled and in line.  We all have that friend. . .

DPP2016 Day 9 - These Are The Days. . .

Day 9 at the Hoffman household was without pictures.  I had a long work day so Rich took the kiddos to Valentinos.  We met at home just in time to tuck everyone in.  So I thought I would take this opportunity to write something that would resemble a Christmas Letter or at least a few highlights.  I think 2010 or 2011 is the last time I sent out Christmas cards and letters.  I always have the best intentions.  Sometimes even purchasing all the necessary things and never getting around to it. So this year, I am not even pretending.  I didn't last year either.  So here are just a few highlights from 2016. 

In January, we started the year off strong with a trip to Florida with the entire Riley side of the family.  We were celebrating my Mom and Dad's 50th Wedding anniversary.  50 years!  Whew!  That is worth a big trip to celebrate. We are so grateful for the marriage and love of these two.  They are an example of a perfectly imperfect relationship.  Demonstrating that it doesn't always look like the fairy tale but when all those moments come together, a fairy tale is exactly what it becomes. 
We also appreciate any reason to go to Florida.  We get to visit my good buddy, Mickey.  Rich gets to pretend he lives in Springfield and the whole family gets lost in the magic of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. A great time was had by all.

We had a few other trips as well.  This 6 of us traveled alone to Colorado this year.  It was weird to not have the rest of the Riley family with us.  We missed them and it resulted in a lot less hiking for Rich and me.  But it allowed for a laid back and relaxing vacation.  Everyone had a chance to pick the activities and our schedule was quite spontaneous.  It was fun to see what each child wanted to do most.  Throwing rocks at the lake was a favorite for all.  It was a joy to strengthen the bond of the Hoffman 6 with beautiful mountain scenery all around.

We also had several trips to "Billie's Cabin".   This was such a fun place for the Hoffman side of the family to come together and spend some time fishing, swimming, and playing in the sand. The kiddos love every minute of lake time.   For us grown ups, it allows time to talk and laugh. 
We had several birthday parties out there, spent the fourth of July enjoying the sun and sand with Rich's extended family, and even a few spontaneous trips.  We learned that B catches a fish nearly every time he throws a line in, that E can't stand that he catches more than she does, that lil b will do what he can to keep up, and that K's got a special ability for getting her clothes and body caked in sand.
Lake time is good for the soul.  Slowing down and getting away from that never ending to do list that waits for you at home.  We also cherish the time to build and grow our relationship with family.

A whirlwind trip to St. Louis occurred in September.  It is the countdown to my Dad's retirement and we all wanted to see his chambers in St. Louis.  It was hard to convince ourselves that we wanted to drive 8 hours on Sunday followed by 8 hours back the very next day.  But it was worth it.  It was such a neat experience.  The kiddos got dressed up and learned how to conduct themselves well in this more formal setting.  The St. Louis Courthouse is gorgeous and HUGE with great views of the ballpark and the arch.  Plus, it always makes me proud to see my Dad at work.  He has built a strong career and with character and integrity.  He is such a role model for me.

All dressed up and ready to go!

While these are not current December happenings, I know that these are moments that I will want to remember along the way.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.