2016 in Review

It’s that time of year again, when I look back over the past 12 months, and try to summarize all of our family’s activities. There’s no denying that 2016 was a difficult year for many people in various ways, but there were also many good times for our family.

January began with the first of many trips to the St. Louis Zoo, where we had a membership for the year. We also visited the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park, to see the St. Louis Modern exhibit before it closed. The day we took down all the Christmas decorations turned into something much bigger, and resulted in massive furniture rearranging across almost all rooms of the house, and the purchase of some new pieces of furniture, as well.

In February, I completely lost my mind, and decided to paint the children’s bathroom while Ryan was out-of-town. We also painted Ryan’s new office, and finished rearranging the furniture…that one bookshelf that sparked the decision to move things around when we took the Christmas tree down in January certainly had a domino effect!  We celebrated the Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras back-to-back. I got my first new pair of glasses in several years…I fell in love with their vintage vibe! We made several trips to visit the Orchid Show at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

As is usually the case, March was a busy month. Ryan and I finally finished building my Christmas present from the children…my dream Lego set, the Brick Bank. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, and then the following day, woke up to discover we had a teenager living in our house! Ladybug was confirmed on Palm Sunday, and two days after that, Chickadee turned four. The following week, we celebrated Easter.

April was, mercifully, a fairly quiet month. A new season of Cardinals baseball began, and we enjoyed our standard Opening Day baseball dinner. We visited Forest Park to see all the beautiful spring flowers. The Missouri History Museum debuted a new exhibit about the history of the Little Black Dress, and we toured it for the first of several times. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 90th birthday, and we had a tea party in her honor.

May was a very busy month. Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug received choir awards on Ascension Day. Ladybug turned nine. We attended Zoo Friends Day for the first time. Art on the Square was fun, as always. Ryan and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. Moose completed fourth grade. We took a Memorial Day weekend trip to Chicago for Combo Breaker. While we were there, we visited the Shedd Aquarium and the Art Institute, rode the escalators all the way to the top of Marshall Field’s (of blessed memory), and took in all the sights…the Tribune Tower, the “Bean,” Buckingham Fountain, the lakefront, and all of the architecture.

Our busyness continued throughout the month of June. Turkey and Bunny completed seventh grade, and Ladybug completed fourth. Bunny attended a volleyball camp at Western Kentucky University. While we were in Bowling Green, we also visited the Historic Railpark at the former L&N Depot, Aviation Heritage Park, and Chaney’s Dairy Barn. When we got home, “The Bigs” attended Kantorei Kamp at Hope Lutheran Church in St. Louis for the second summer.

July was a bit less crazy. We celebrated Independence Day. The new Route 66 exhibit at the Missouri History Museum opened, and we toured it for the first of many times. Bunny turned 12. We spent a busy week at church for Vacation Bible School. Turkey spent a week at an RSCM choir camp, and even got to sing at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis!

In August, we visited the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library for the very first time, to tour the building and see the Fantasy Maps on display there. After that, it was all Olympics, all the time, for over two weeks, as we watched as many of the events from Rio as we could. We also ate Brazilian food, held our once-every-four-years family Olympics, and sat on the edges of our seats for Michael Phelps’ final race. Moose began fifth grade, and a few days later, we had our first day of the homeschool year, with Turkey and Bunny beginning eighth grade, Ladybug starting fourth, and Chickadee entering the world of Pre-K! I took a morning for myself at the end of the month to visit the traveling Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit, which stopped at Ballpark Village across from Busch Stadium.

September was very quiet, possibly in part due to a bad streak of car trouble. We were also busy with school and trying to get back into our regular routines. We did visit the Flags of Valor installation on Art Hill in Forest Park, which was a sobering sight indeed. We picked apples and pumpkins at Eckert’s. Mostly, we just waited and hoped for cooler weather to arrive!

We continued to wait for fall to arrive in October. While we were waiting, the children and I took a walk across the Eads Bridge. We celebrated 10 years living in our house. The Missouri History Museum had a “Homeschool Day” that focused on the Route 66 exhibit. We reached the breaking point with our car problems, and said goodbye to our Volkswagen, and hello to a new Dodge Grand Caravan. Historic St. Charles, MO held their inaugural “Legends and Lanterns” festival, and we were there. We finally made our yearly visit to Grant’s Farm…just before they closed for the season!

November saw things ramping up, as the holidays approached. First, though, we participated in Extra Life 2016. Moose celebrated his 11th birthday. After another field trip to the Missouri History Museum, we spent a beautiful fall afternoon in Forest Park. We attended the Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Our annual Thanksgiving feast was enjoyed by everyone. We participated in one of our very favorite events of the year…Christmas Traditions in St. Charles, MO.

And finally, December. We visited the Gingerbread Walk in downtown Belleville more than once. I was worried that we might miss our annual Santa Lucia celebration, as Chickadee was sick the day before, but she felt better the morning of the 13th, and none of her siblings fell ill. We went to see the holiday lights at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis. I upped my Christmas fashion game. And we had our traditional family Christmas celebration.

There are other things about this year I’d rather forget (or pretend never happened in the first place!), and those are best left in the past. Mostly, I’m looking forward to a fresh start in 2017, and excited to see what kind of adventures our family will have in the coming year!

2015 in Review

I can’t believe we’ve come to the end of 2015 already!

January, mercifully, was a quiet month. I finally had the courage to do something wild with my hair that I’d wanted to do for years. We put our membership to the Missouri Botanical Garden to good use with the first of several visits to the Orchid Show, which was a lovely bright spot in the middle of winter.

In February, I enjoyed the first of many meals from Belleville’s new BBQ restaurant, Beast Craft BBQ…it didn’t take long for word to spread and everyone to learn what I had realized at first bite…it’s an awesome place to eat! We celebrated Mardi Gras. I wrote the first of about two dozen articles for the Sisters of Katie Luther, something I hope to keep doing in the new year. We went with our church on a field trip to the LC-MS International Center.

March is always a busy month, and this year, it came in like a lion. We celebrated an epic Pi Day, and three days later, celebrated one of our favorite holidays, St. Patrick’s Day. The day after that was Turkey’s 12th birthday, and a few days later, Chickadee turned three. Spring arrived at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

In April we celebrated Easter. We had a lovely walk through the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden during cherry blossom time. We visited Forest Park and marveled at how beautiful the tulips were. We had our traditional Opening Day dinner, and a few days later went to our first game of the season at Busch Stadium. I met KSDK news anchor Nichole Berlie for lunch at my favorite restaurant, Seamus McDaniel’s.

As always seems to be the case, life got even busier in May. We had a fun Cinco de Mayo dinner, followed the next day with a tea party to celebrate the birth of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Ladybug turned eight. We went to Art on the Square. Ryan and I celebrated our 14th anniversary with a family trip to the zoo and lunch at Seamus McDaniel’s. I went with Moose on a school field trip to Willoughby Farm. We were blown away by the Lantern Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

We went to the St. Louis Zoo to visit its newest resident, Kali the polar bear, in June. We celebrated my birthday. The oldest four children attended a choir camp, which included a few field trips, like one to see an organ being built. While they were singing, Chickadee and I got to hang out and have fun. We didn’t go to many of Turkey’s baseball games, because almost half of them were rained out. We celebrated the beginning of Ryan’s 11-week sabbatical with a Grand Opening visit to St. Louis’s first Tim Horton’s. We went on the first of many summer school field trips.

July was the highlight of our year, without a doubt. We celebrated the Fourth of July, and the day after Bunny got home from a week at camp, we celebrated her 11th birthday. A few days later, we left on our first-ever family vacation! We started in Bowling Green, KY, where we visited the National Corvette Museum. We then drove to Atlanta, Georgia, where we took in a Braves game at Turner Field. After that, we headed to our main destination of Charleston, SC, where we got to visit historic locations like Fort Sumter, see amazing architecture, eat fantastic seafood, meet great people, and, most importantly, see the ocean! Back home, we went on the second of our summer school field trips when we visited the first location of the Illinois’ State Capital.

In August, we wrapped up summer school with even more field trips. We visited the oldest standing Capitol Building in Vandalia, the Old State Capitol Building in Springfield, and the Illinois State Capitol Building. We also toured the Illinois Museum, and saw some Lincoln sites, including the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and Lincoln’s Tomb. On our way back home, we visited a Route 66 attraction, the Cozy Dog Drive In. Moose started fourth grade, and a few days later, I became the teacher of a pre-schooler, a third grader, and two seventh graders!

Moose got to miss a day of school in September to go with us on a field trip to the Magic House. We had a tea party to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s historic reign. A new exhibit opened at the Missouri History Museum, and we enjoyed walking through it. We attended the St. Louis Scottish Games at their new location in Chesterfield.

We went to Eckert’s in October to pick pumpkins and apples. We had to replace our washer and dryer. Bunny’s volleyball team came in second place! Lego announced an upcoming set for which I have waited years (and which I will be purchasing tomorrow, thanks to my children’s generosity at Christmas!). Ladybug and I went on a Clydesdale tour at Grant’s Farm. We helped the Gateway Arch celebrate its 50th birthday.

At the beginning of November, I dyed my hair another wild color, but this time for a purpose. We spent a beautiful fall morning in Forest Park. The children got hooked on Bob Ross. Seamus McDaniel’s celebrated its birthday, and the next day, Moose turned ten. We went to the Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden. We had our traditional Markel-family Thanksgiving. We visited the St. Charles Christmas Traditions festival and the Holiday Lights at the Brewery in the same day.

December was a whirlwind of activity. Moose got to really enjoy Tuba Christmas for the first time. We celebrated St. Lucia Day. All seven of us (and a friend) went to Star Wars opening night, and had an amazing time! My blog hit a milestone. We had a very merry Christmas, and enjoyed a delicious Christmas feast (even I agreed that the turkey wasn’t dry!). I finally picked my favorite photos from the year.

As always, I’m left wondering how next year can possibly top this one, but I am also excited to see what 2016 has in store for us. God’s blessings on your coming year!

More 2014 in Review

What a year this has been! We learned much, laughed a lot, and made a lot of great memories!

January seems like a very long time ago, and it was a pretty quiet month. We started the year with the biggest snowstorm St. Louis has seen since we’ve lived here, plus some wickedly cold temperatures, which resulted in a cracked window in our house. Chickadee helped bake Christmas cookies for the first time…yes, after Christmas Day, but still within the 12 Days of Christmas! Ryan celebrated his 4th anniversary working for Automattic with a brand-new, customized laptop. Every member of our family got to visit the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up for the first time.

February was even more quiet. We spent a lot of time watching the Olympics and learning about Russia…we even had a Russian/winter-themed tea party. We also said “Happy Birthday!” to St. Louis and joined in the kick-off weekend at the Missouri History Museum for the 250 in 250 exhibit, part of the larger Stl250 celebration.

March was when things really started to get busy. We began our epic Stl250: Cakeway to the West cake hunt on the 5th at one of our favorite local places–Eckert’s. At the time we didn’t realize that it was just the beginning of a journey that would take us all over the St. Louis metro area (and a little beyond), to find every single one of the more than 250 cakes. St. Louis wasn’t the only city celebrating a milestone year, however…our home town of Belleville celebrated its 200th birthday, as well. And Schnucks, our favorite local grocery store, celebrated 75 years in business, and even had a special birthday event for customers. We began another year’s Lenten observance, including another appearance on KFUO’s Faith ‘n’ Family for me. The Missouri History Museum had a fun St. Patrick’s Day event planned for homeschoolers. The following day, Turkey turned 11, and a few days later, Chickadee turned two. We got to be part of a cake unveiling at Concordia Seminary. And at the end of the month, we rejoiced at the beginning of another season of Cardinals baseball!

Things remained busy in April. We took a day off of our regular schoolwork to go to the “Weather Bash at Busch,” and take in a Cardinals game in the bargain. We celebrated Easter. Fredbird’s “Facebook Friday” finally made it to a metro-east location we could get to. The Belleville200 events continued with a parade. Bunny finished another session of parks and rec volleyball. We said goodbye to our old pastor.

In May we visited Grant’s Farm. Did I mention that they celebrated their 60th anniversary this year? It was a big year in the St. Louis area! Bunny and Ladybug got their ears pierced. Ladybug turned seven, and finally got the American Girl doll I had purchased and put away for her almost a year earlier. We wrapped up another school year. Ryan and I celebrated our 13th anniversary with the children at Busch Stadium. I put together a book list for our latest summer school unit–all about baseball. Speaking of baseball, Turkey started a new season with our parks & rec.

There were more Belleville200 events in June, including a street fair in one of the town’s historic neighborhoods and a classic car show. We spent my birthday doing the perfect birthday activity…cake hunting! We also got to go to a Gateway Grizzlies game with Moose for his school’s honor roll night. Our baseball-themed summer school got started.

July was an especially busy month. We finally had the somewhat ironic Independence Day tea party I’ve been wanting to have for a few years. Chickadee ran into her pal Fredbird at Busch Stadium. We visited the Schmidt Art Center to see the Belleville Bicentennial: 200 exhibit. Turkey and Ladybug entered Lego creations in a contest at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Ladybug came in third in her age group! While we were at the Garden, we also got to view the Nature Connects Lego exhibit. As part of summer school, we took the children on a tour of Busch Stadium and then a tour of the new Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum. Bunny turned ten. After all these years of living in St. Louis, we finally journeyed to the top of the Gateway Arch. We had a fun week at Vacation Bible School. The children and I went to our first vintage base ball game, and discovered how different, and how much fun, that game is.

The busyness continued in August, starting with a trip to Chesterfield Mall for a Play Nintendo event, where Turkey got to compete in his first video game tournament…he came in second! We wrapped up our cake hunt at Lafayette Square…it was amazing to look back and see all the places we had visited…our local newspaper even had a story about our journey! The children got to visit a Big Boy restaurant for the first time, on the way to our epic summer school field trip at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.  At the end of the month, everyone started a new school year.

The highlight of September was the big Belleville200 weekend. We had the privilege of attending a Naturalization ceremony, went to a Beach Boys concert on the town square, danced to German polkas, attended another vintage base ball game, and watched the grilling of a record-breaking 200-foot-long brat.It was a great time! Bunny played in her first season of competitive parks & rec volleyball. We attended the St. Louis Scottish Games for the second time, and this year, Ryan was able to go with us! And, lest you thought that finding our 250th cake in August meant that our cake hunt was complete, we found a bonus cake (one to grow on?).

In October we visited Eckert’s for our annual pumpkin picking trip. Bunny had the game-winning serve in the first round of her volleyball tournament! We also welcomed a new pastor to our church, after a fairly short vacancy. I went on a Busch Family Estate Walk at Grant’s Farm, and finally saw (and photographed!) the elusive Busch family mansion from all sides. The cake hunt continued when we went to the unveiling of another bonus cake.

November meant a lot of fun in school, including the return of our Thankful Tree, the reading of some of our favorite Thanksgiving books, and building a Lego: The Hobbit set to celebrate having finished reading the book. We had another tea party, this time to celebrate St. Louis’ 250th birthday, and Moose’s golden birthday…the first one of those we’ve celebrated! We visited Belleville’s new Bicentennial Park and admired the beautiful fall colors, and then returned less than two weeks later to see it covered in snow. Ryan and I went to the Three Sixty rooftop bar for a spectacular view of St. Louis. We celebrated Thanksgiving with a record seven pies (in addition to all of the other Thanksgiving foods)! The following day, we went downtown for Belleville’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony and the annual gingerbread walk. We also visited St. Charles Christmas Traditions on opening weekend for the first time, and even got to eat lunch in a bank vault!

December was, as always, insanely busy, and insanely fun. I got to see a “cake in progress” when I dropped off my entry for the Soulard Art Market “Everywhere there’s Cake” exhibit. I had a moment of insanity when I decided we should rearrange the furniture in our schoolroom (and den!), but it turned out really well, so it was worth it. We celebrated an Italian Christmas at Christmas on the Hill, and then drove immediately to Cahokia, where we learned about French Colonial Christmas celebrations. The brewery opened their Christmas lights display to foot traffic again this year, so of course we went. We also got to see nativity scenes from all over the world at Belleville’s cathedral. The children enjoyed playing their roles on Santa Lucia morning. After not making it last year, we got back to Tuba Christmas. We also returned to the Old Courthouse, this time to see what an 1864 Christmas ball would have been like. The first-ever Belleville Christmas Market had us visiting the town square several times over the course of the month. Of course, all of our celebrations culminated on Christmas Eve and Day, and again on Boxing Day, when we enjoyed our English Christmas feast. And there was one more cake visit (our way of saying goodbye), before the end of the year!

This is just a glimpse into the fun we had throughout this amazing year. Much of our fun was tied to both St. Louis’ and Belleville’s birthday celebrations. While those festivities may be over, I can’t wait to see what kind of adventures the next year holds for our family!

Happy New Year!

2014 in Review

Ryan moved my website to a new host in March, so this isn’t even the full year’s worth of stats, but I’m proud to say that I published at least one post every day, including at least one picture every day, this year, and this has been the best year for blog traffic that I’ve had yet!

Your 2014 year in blogging.

This Year in St. Louis

With apologies to Charles Dickens and everyone else I quote in this post.

I tend to think in quotes. Movies quotes, book quotes, TV quotes…it doesn’t matter. My brain seems to search for some quote to fit any situation. It should come as no surprise, then, that this 250th birthday year in St. Louis can be described by me through a variety of quotes.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. A Tale of Two Cities

This is the overarching theme for this year in St. Louis. It should have been the best of times, celebrating St. Louis’ 250th birthday, cheering the Blues and Cardinals in their respective playoffs, so many festivals and events and fun things to look forward to.

But life sometimes has other plans. There has been so much violence and unrest in the city (and surrounding area this year).

I think of my beautiful city in flames, Lennier. The streets where I walked, the temples, the great crystal spires .. that sighed music whenever the wind touched them. I think of it, and I cry, Lennier. Babylon 5

The city of St. Louis proper didn’t burn this year. But there were flames in surrounding communities, and it breaks my heart to remember those images. They are a part of our city’s story and history now though, and it’s impossible to forget them.

If there’s one thing you learn in my job, it’s that nothing is certain. Nothing that seems very bad, and nothing that seems very good. Nothing is certain. Nothing. E.R.

Along with the general unrest, we spent a lot of time this year wondering what would happen. There were times when we assumed it would be the worst, but then again, as this quote so aptly says, nothing is certain…not the good or the bad, and we certainly saw both, often when we least expected them.

Although I have long loved the words and music of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” I have never before understand Longfellow’s Christmas poem (written during the Civil War), better than I do this year:

And in despair, I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said
“For hate is strong
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men!”

Hate has been strong here, and at times it seemed as though there would never be peace.

But Longfellow’s poem has a concluding verse, and he, as we all should, remembered that God is in control, and never dead or asleep, no matter what is going on, wether it be war or protests or violence of any kind:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth He sleep!
The wrong shall fail,
The right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men!”

There have been many profound quotes that apply to this year, but none more so than the Word of God:

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”

Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in.

Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD! Psalm 27

And so this is where I end the year. No matter what happens, or where it happens, good or bad, I know I have, and will, seen the goodness of the Lord, here, and in eternity.

More 2013 in Review

2013 was a much calmer year than 2012 was, but we were still plenty busy!

In January, I started the new year by rearranging the school room again. This has become a fairly regular occurrence, and I’m not sure that it will ever really be “done.” I had one of my worst kitchen disasters ever, but corrected it a few days later. We enjoyed our final feast of the holiday season. In school, we made an Alleluia banner to (kind of) match the one at church. The entire city of St. Louis mourned the passing of Stan Musial in January, as well.

In February, we celebrated our 100th day of school. I made a big deal out of it, as I always do for a student (this time, Ladybug), in kindergarten. Chickadee celebrated one of her last remaining first holidays…Valentine’s Day. We had a tea party to celebrate. How I love all of my valentines! Our school received a wonderful gift of a microscope, and we had a great time playing with it. I got hooked on Downton Abbey, and the children got hooked on Jem. Chickadee entertained all of us by learning to say “uh-oh,” as well as dropping things intentionally so she could try her new word out!

March was arguably one of the busiest months of 2013, filled with big events. Bunny attended a park district volleyball clinic and loved it. I received a piece of mail from Buckingham Palace. We celebrated Chickadee’s first St. Patrick’s Day with a tea party…my favorite one of the year! Turkey turned ten…we could hardly believe it! We finally tracked down some zeppole for St. Joseph’s Day. Chickadee turned one…it was a big day! We had a snowstorm that will always be remembered as the “Palm Sunday Snowstorm.” We made a Paschal candle on Holy Saturday and (hopefully) started a new family tradition. We had a very blessed Easter, complete with a new Easter bonnet for me.

We started April still celebrating Easter with another tea party. The Cardinals started another awesome season of baseball. We didn’t make it to Opening Day, but we did take the children on their first train ride to Stan Musial Night at Busch Stadium. The blossoming trees were especially beautiful this year! We took lots of pictures and did lots of tree identification. Chickadee started walking unassisted…watch out world! She also had her first ride in a swing. She wasn’t too sure about it at first, but it turned out to be a lot of fun! St. Louis finally got a Lego store, much to our excitement (and to the dismay of our checking account)! We went on a farm tour at Eckert’s, and learned a lot. I finished planning the year’s summer school. We watched with interest as Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated the throne to her son, Willem-Alexander (one of several abdications this year).

In May, Ladybug turned six, although we had to wait for her big birthday celebration, because Ryan was gone on one of his many business trips (almost two months’ worth!) on her actual birthday. Our Lego store celebrated its grand opening, and we stood in line to be a part of it. It was a lot of fun, and the wait was worth it…unfortunately, it didn’t take the children too long to put all of their sets together! As we do every year, we went to Art on the Square, and this time, bought a print of our town’s beautiful fountain from our favorite artist. I took the big girls strawberry picking for the first time. We had our last day of school for the 2012-13 school year. We used some of the strawberries we picked for our Pentecost tea party. Memorial Day weekend, we made the trip to Kansas City to see the Cardinals play the Royals. Ryan and I started building the Lego Tower Bridge. We finished making a full set of church year banners for our school room.

June began with our biannual (apparently) “Park Day.” We had a lot of fun visiting different playgrounds and splash pads. Turkey started another season of parks and rec baseball. Ladybug lost a tooth for the first time. Ryan and I continued working on the Lego Tower Bridge. I took the children to a “Dock Dogs” competition at Eckert’s, which was definitely a first for us! We also went to Grant’s Farm. We celebrated the Queen’s birthday with another tea party. To celebrate “Beer Stein Night” at the ballpark, Ryan and I went to the Flying Saucer for the first time with a friend. The children and I (minus Chickadee) went to the International Center for the service of blessing for the new KFUO studios. Ladybug was very disappointed to learn that the American Girl doll she’s always wanted was going to be retired by the end of the year (stay tuned…). We went blackberry picking for the first time, and really enjoyed the fruits of our labor!

We were very happy that this July had much cooler weather than last July did. We were able to be outside doing things a whole lot more! We went to Six Flags St. Louis for the first time, and the children had their first experiences with roller coasters. And I remembered why I hate roller coasters! Moose took us with him to “Honor Roll Night” at the Gateway Grizzlies game. We had a fun Fourth of July, and celebrated with an adorable little patriot and a big feast. Bunny and I went out for a Mother-Daughter sushi lunch. Twinkies made a comeback! We went to the zoo, and got to see the very cool new sea-lion exhibit for the first time. Turkey’s baseball team had an unexpected victory in the playoffs, which allowed them to play one more game. Bunny celebrated her ninth birthday. We had all-inclusive tickets to a Cardinals game…a rare, but very appreciated, treat! While we were there, Turkey got beaked! I volunteered at the LCMS convention, and then took the children back to see it in action. We also finally visited the Gateway Arch (although we didn’t take the ride to the top). We celebrated the birth of Prince George with yet another tea party (I’m getting to be a professional at putting those together!).

In August, we went peach picking at Eckert’s. There’s no end of things to do there! We added Lego Big Ben to our architecture collection. Bunny and I went to Star Wars Night at Busch Stadium, and even got to sit in the Champion’s Club. We took another road trip, this time to see the Cardinals AA affiliate, the Springfield Cardinals, play. Ryan and I repainted and redecorated our den/his office. The whole family (but especially Chickadee!), got hooked on Dinosaur Office. We visited the St. Louis Art Museum. All of the older children went back to school, and I made schultüte for them again…I guess it’s a tradition now! We took a field trip to the St. Louis Science Center. Fredbird celebrated his birthday, so we went to Busch Stadium to help him.

September was a big baseball month. I went to Social Media Night, and even won an autographed Jason Motte photo! We also got to see a walk-off victory the night we went to Busch Stadium with Moose’s school. We went downtown to see the fountain at Kiener Plaza dyed red in honor of the Cardinals going to the playoffs. We celebrated Oktoberfest. We took another trip to Eckert’s, this time to pick apples. While Ryan was out of town (again!), the children and I went to the St. Louis Scottish games for the first time. We celebrated Michaelmas with an angelic feast.

Moose brought home a really cool piece of art he made in October. We were back at Eckert’s…this time for pumpkin picking. Even the Lego store caught Redbird Fever. I shared what a day in the life our homeschool looks like. I also rearranged the schoolroomagain…which allowed Chickadee to move in with her big sisters. Red October really started to heat up in St. Louis (before it fell flat in the World Series). I put together one last tea party for the year (number seven!), for Reformation Day.

Things got really busy in November. The children and I (minus Chickadee, again), spent a fun day in Forest Park, looking for leaves and seeds and any other nature items we could find. We even looked at some of it under the microscope! Moose turned eight. Ryan took me to my first-ever hockey game. Chickadee was very excited when we put up the Christmas tree! Ryan and I finally finished the Lego Tower Bridge, complete with mini vehicles assembled by the children. I made my radio debut on KFUO. I also baked a lot of pies for our Thanksgiving dinner. We finished our Thankful Tree for the year. The day after Thanksgiving, we started what I hope will become a new tradition…we spent a few hours as a family, putting together a Lego Christmas Market. I already can’t wait to see what next year’s Christmas set will be! When we finished that, we went down to main street for our town’s tree lighting.

December was, as it is every year, crazy. Due to an illness that we couldn’t shake for several weeks, we had to cross a few things off of my to-do list, and Christmas school fell a bit flat. We did get around to all of the important stuff, though, even if it didn’t all quite happen as planned (our Christmas baking this year, for example, got spread out over several weeks, and was still happening after Christmas was over!). Other than the illness, there was one low point in December…Turkey had to have some baby teeth pulled. He was very brave, though, and it was soon forgotten. We went to Christmas on the Hill…it was very cold! That meant that we didn’t walk around as much as usual, but we still saw La Befana, looked at the nativity scenes, and ate salamites!  For the first time, we got to walk the Anheuser-Busch brewery at nighttime, and see all of their beautiful Christmas lights. We celebrated Santa Lucia Day, with Bunny playing the title role, and handing out Lussekattes for breakfast. Even though we had looked at Belleville’s gingerbread houses at night after the tree lighting, we went back to see them a little better in the daylight. Of course, we made it to our favorite event, St. Charles Christmas Traditions. We all fell in love with this sweet video of Sweden’s adorable Princess Estelle baking cookies, and Ryan even bought Chickadee her own tiny rolling-pin just like the Princess. To kick off his Christmas vacation, Ryan played video games for 25 hours straight (with some help from the children), to raise money for the children’s hospitals in St. Louis. The children worked hard to prepare for their roles in the Sunday School Christmas program. Ladybug lost a tooth right before we left for church on Christmas Eve! We had a very merry Christmas. For the first time ever, each member of our family received a Lego set (well, Chickadee’s was a Duplo set, but it counts!), but mine was the best…the now-retired Lego Winter Village Cottage. Now I don’t have to worry about what we’ll build the day after Thanksgiving next year! We continued our celebration the day after Christmas, when I made a pork crown roast for the first time for our fancy Christmas dinner. Ryan’s mom and I went on the “Beermaster Tour” at Anheuser-Busch…it was both fun and informative!

Writing this up is always a huge undertaking, but I love the chance to look back at all of the fun things we’ve done over the last year, and wonder what the next year has in store for us! It has been a busy, fun, crazy year, and I am so Thankful for all of the moments with which God has blessed us. I pray that He also blesses your days with joyful, noisy moments!

Happy New Year!

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.