Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas 2006

December 22, 2006

Dear family and friends,

We thought we would do something different this year and create this blog update instead of the newsletter we usually send out. If all goes as planned, we will try to update it regularly with pictures and news of the comings and goings of our family. At first I thought I would try to give a month-by-month review of this past year, but my memory is too short to go back that far. I have a hard enough time keeping track of each week, let alone to try to remember the past year. A review of the highlights of 2006 will suffice.

This year in Oklahoma started off with a blaze of fire and ended with a snowstorm. One evening in January we were surprised to look out the window to see the fields across the road ablaze with flames. From our front porch we watched the flames come closer and closer and even carried a few things out to the van just in case we needed to evacuate (we didn't). A few weeks later the pasture 1/4 mile to the south of us was flaming with fire. Although many homes and buildings across the state were damaged during the dry spell, nothing was damaged in either of the fires near us.

How thankful we are to God for protecting our family this year and for His abundant blessing on our lives. We have had good health and many happy times together. This has been a year of change as the children are growing up, but through it all the Lord has remained faithful and merciful. We stand amazed at His goodness toward us.

The biggest change to our family this year was the addition of a new member. We gained a son! On March 18th, 2006, Jessica (22) married our wonderful son-in-law, Justin Cockroft. As the saying goes, we did not lose a daughter, but we gained a son. Justin comes from a loving Christian family of 10, and we could not ask for a better husband for our daughter. It was remarkable to see how the Lord brought the two together and how He remained the center of their courtship and engagement and is now the center of their marriage.

Another change will take place in mid-February when Mark and I will become grandparents for the first time! Yes, you may call us Grandpa and Grandma. Jessica and Justin are expecting their firstborn son on Valentine's Day and we couldn't be more thrilled and excited! At first I wasn't sure that I was old enough to become a grandma, but now I can hardly wait! Jessica has been blessed with a great pregnancy thus far and is as cute as can be. We pray that she will have a safe delivery and a healthy baby come February.

Keeping busy helped make the adjustment of Jessica being gone a little easier. By order of age I will write a bit about each of us. This past summer Mark, with Matthew's help, framed and roofed a house about 1 hour away. Mark also built several sets of adjustable bookshelves in two rooms of our house. It's great to have a place for all the books we've collected over the years. Along with the never-ending home projects, Mark continues to teach special education classes at a nearby elementary school.

For me, this year has flown by in a whirl of activity. Planning Jessica's wedding with her provided a wonderful time for us to spend many precious hours together. Jessica sewed her own wedding dress and we chronicled the dress progress on our joint-effort sewing blog. Since the wedding, the normal jobs of being a mother along with homeschooling consume most of my days. I do manage to find snatches of time to sew, knit, crochet, read, or practice my oboe. Playing in our church orchestra and in the homeschool band with Katie, Matthew, and Ellen has also been quite enjoyable for me.

For her 20th birthday this year, Heather received a kitten. His name is Poe; he's black; he's cute; and he meows. After a stressful and often-overwhelming semester, Heather has just finished the first half of her junior year of college. She claims that Poe was a great stress reliever. Heather took 19 credit hours this semester, 21 if you count the extra classes she took for no credit. Hopefully next semester will be a bit easier on her since she has enrolled for only 18 credit hours. Heather is working on a music degree with a minor in English and enjoys her studies tremendously. As part of the Honors Program requirement at her school, Heather will be going to Vienna, Austria for the month of January. Pray for Heather's safety and my peace of mind.

In addition to getting her driver's license, one highlight of the past year for Katie (17) was getting to travel with a Generation Joshua political action team to help campaign at a key senate race in Iowa. Katie thoroughly enjoyed her time in Iowa where she and her team members were kept busy from morning till night. Along with politicking, playing her clarinet, and trying to keep up with her high school studies, Katie has developed an interest in computer web design. On her own she learned a lot about web design using HTML and CSS and also took some classes at a local technology school. Her next goal is to teach herself PHP. Don't worry if those acronyms are foreign to you. They're a foreign language to me as well. Katie is the web designer of the Central Oklahoma Homeschool Band website.

At 14, Matthew has spent the most of this past year growing taller. He has passed everyone except for Mark in height, and it doesn't look like he's going to stop anytime soon. Matthew is in 9th grade and continues to do well in his schoolwork, especially in biology and algebra. Matthew also continues to excel at his trumpet playing. He placed 1st chair in two different honor bands and is also the lead trumpet player in the homeschool band.

Ellen (10) is in 5th grade and has been such a blessing to me this past year by being extra helpful with taking care of Emily and doing things that need done around the house. I tend to think of Ellen as my little girl still, but she is growing up into such a sweet young lady. Some of her interests include playing her trumpet in band, playing outside, baking desserts, writing letters, and being creative with various crafts. Ellen brings much joy to our family with her infectious smiles and happy giggles.

Jacob (6) lost his first tooth this year! He is in kindergarten and is slowly learning to read. His favorite part of school is coloring, pasting, and creating notebook pages. Jacob also loves to spend time outside in the sandbox with his cars and trucks. He works intensely at everything he does and asks a hundred questions a day. I so enjoy having this little boy in our home!

My baby Emily is already 20 months old and is quickly becoming a toddler. Emily is a delightful little girl, and we have all fallen in love with her. Her specialties include seeing how quickly she can make a mess of a clean room and how fast she can run while being chased. Emily has a mischievous smile and a sparkle in her eyes that make her irresistible. She is attached to her orange stuffed cat which joins her in her many adventures.

A few weeks ago we were blessed with a winter snow. Snow does not come very often in Oklahoma and I doubt that we will have a white Christmas this year.

When I was a child in Colorado I always thought that Christmas was synonymous with snow. I don't really miss the snow, but every once in awhile I think that it would be rather lovely to have a snow-white Christmas this year, even a blizzard like the one happening now in Colorado. Even without the snow, I love the Christmas season. I love the decorations, the lights, the excitement of the children, the opportunity to gather with family and friends, and most importantly, the special day to celebrate the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. As the New Year will soon dawn upon us, my prayer is that the Lord will find us faithful to Him. With the flurry of activity that is almost unavoidable in a large family, my desire is that we keep our focus on the One who is our Savior, the One who was born to give us life that we might live for Him.

Merry Christmas from the Smiths!
Mark, Ruth, Heather, Katie, Matthew, Ellen, Jacob, and Emily

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Victory Hill Farm

The graphic above was sketched by Katie on the computer when she was ten years old.
It was the prototype for a potential logo for our family.

Six and one-half years ago when we moved to Oklahoma we found out that our property had once been home to a one-room schoolhouse called Victory Hill School. The old original hand-pump from the school is still in our backyard. Because of it's history and also because of the victory we have as Christians in Jesus, we thought it fitting to name our home Victory Hill Farm.

Over the past years we have also found that we are not farmers. Yes, we have owned many varieties of farm animals and even milked a Jersey cow for several years. We currently have about 20 chickens, 2 goats, 3 dogs, countless cats, and 5 beef cows. But we really are not true country people but rather city folks living in the country. We jokingly say that we should rename our home Victory Hill Farmette.

The Lord had blessed our lives on our little farm, and we are happy here. We miss all our family and friends back in Colorado, but we are content knowing that we are where God wants us to be. If any of you are ever out this way, please stop in for a visit and stay awhile! We'd love to see you.

Mark and Ruth

two of our beef cows

the old well pump