Hopefully you came prepared with a cup of cocoa and a few minutes to spare, its been a wild ride at the Brander house again this year! A few times I thought to myself that if we were a reality show it would be called Four Teens and a Toddler! This year was filled with a lot of changes at our house....we will start right off with the kids!
Caila started off this year with turning 16 in February! We have a driver YEA! It been great to have one less child to chauffeur around! She is pretty busy and this year was no exception. She finished off her sophmore year at Cornerstone with a performance in Madrigals and a good season for track. She spent the summer helping with the driving when she wasnt at various youth conferences or missions trips. She got a shock when she found out at the very last minute that she and Nick were accepted into University High School. They both had applied in the spring but werent accepted. U-High is the labratory school for Illinois State University, and only takes a certain number of students from each school district based a combination of a lot of factors including your race and gender...so its really tough to get in! It was especially tough for Caila because someone had to leave UHigh for her to get in as a transfer. She dove right in head first and was running varsity for Cross Country and made the Varsity Cheer Squad. She is planning a trip to New York City with the Choir in the spring as well. I'm sure there will be many more good things to come as she finishes her junior year...prom is right around the corner!
Nick had an exciting year as well! He decided last fall to apply to the People to People program's trip to Europe and went to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in June. The picture is him scaling a castle wall. He learned a lot about Europe, living away from home and had a ball shopping with different currencies (and his own credit card!). He was really excited to get into U-high and immediately signed up for Engineering classes and got himself to football practice with the Pioneers! He had a great freshman year in football and is currently working on his football skill in Wrestling. Its definitely not his favorite sport but his coach assures him it will make him a better football player. Drivers ed starts in January...and in October we will have two drivers! So far U high has been a great fit for Nick and theres no end to the opportunities that he has there.
This year Ben tried out soccer in place of football. Last season he took a lot of hard hits and with Ben's track record of injuries we didnt need one that would take him out of sports for good. He took to soccer easily and although the team had a rough season he really learned a lot about teamwork and soccer. He currently is playing basketball for the 6th grade boys team at Cornerstone and enjoys it. He will go back to soccer again in the spring. He is also playing french horn with the band again this year and although he isnt crazy about it, his teacher says hes doing well! This coming year should give him a lot of opportunities to get involved in missions trips and youth conferences with the church, including the trip that he is taking with his Dad and Maren to Haiti this spring break. Surprisingly Ben will be involved with helping in a soccer camp for kids....funny how God worked that out!
Maren has become our resident photographer and substitute Mom to Eliana when I'm not home. Both seem to come naturally to her and she enjoys both of them! As you can see in the photos of our family posted here she has a great eye, and there are so many more that I cant post here. She has been busy this past year with volleyball, cheerleading, youth group leadership team, and maintaining a constant presence on facebook (any of you who are her friend on facebook know what I mean!). She also is looking forward to her trip to Haiti in March and I know she will be like a magnet to the children there.
Eliana has transformed this family into jabbering goofballs who will do anything for a laugh. Curious, independant and fearless are words that describe her everyday antics. Her pace is fast forward and loud is her volume. She loves to laugh, to imitate videos, to play on the ipad (yes she really is only 2..I'm not describing a 12 year old). She has recently discovered dress up, and high heels, and is real sight when she tries to run in them! She keeps us all laughing and tired! This year we hope she learns how to use the potty and increases her vocabulary. Especially with Please and Thank you! Its hard to imagine this family without her!
Other than that....Tom and I celebrated our 20th anniversary in Kiawah Island, SC. It was a great week without kids and an agenda! If you havent been to Kiawah..its on my list of must visit places. We also were able to go to Maui for a meeting in February with Eliana and loved it. I could pack my bags and move to either place permanently! We dont have any big plans yet for the next year, but we are learning that nothing stays still for very long in this family so there should be plenty of things to post next year! Have a blessed Christmas with your loved ones!