Tuesday, December 24, 2013

                                                                                    Tis the Season ……..

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
                                                                                                                               Ecclesiastes 3:1

It’s time once again to share with our friends and far-away family a little bit about the season of life our family is in!   I hardly know how to characterize this season, to be honest – maybe the best word would be ‘changing’!  When compared to ten or even five years ago, in some ways we are almost unrecognizable!  I have seen other families go through this season, and it always seemed so far away for us … but our turn has come!

The year began by sending Brennan (now 22) off to his first semester of college after he returned home from his missionary service.  Eager to find his place in the “real world” again, off he went to BYU-Idaho to enjoy college life.  I’m not sure Rexburg, Idaho qualifies as the real world, but enjoy it he did!  He stayed for a spring semester as well before coming home in the fall to work in preparation for transferring to BYU-Provo in January ’14.  Since being home, he’s worked full-time as a landscaper.  Thanks to that job, he can add “trailer backer-upper” to his resume, which we can all agree is no small achievement.  He also worked evenings at GNC (the vitamin place!), and loved it.  It’s been so wonderful having him home – at least for us – but it wouldn’t surprise me if it didn’t happen again …

Kristi (20) spent the winter semester at home working full-time for an insurance company.  She made some great friends there before heading back to college for the spring semester with Brennan.  While at school, she made her  decision to serve a mission and thought it would be a fun little secret to keep from her family!  So she began the application process, had her interviews with ecclesiastical leaders, and made the required medical and dental appointments, all without telling us anything.   What a funny joke to play on Mom!   At the end of July she received her Associates Degree as well as her mission call to the Mexico Oaxaca mission, departing December 11th.  She then came home, was re-hired by the same company, and has spent the last 4 ½ months preparing to serve.  She is now in the Provo Missionary Training Center, learning Spanish and getting eager to leave winter behind and head to the warmer climate of Oaxaca!  It was hard to say goodbye to our precious girl, but we couldn't be more honored and proud to have another missionary serving in the Lord’s vineyard.

Austin (17) has always been the child who hated to see things change.  He used to lament about how sad it would be when his siblings all started leaving because life would certainly never be as good!   Well, all of a sudden, he’s a senior in high school and not only has he survived his older siblings leaving home, but he’s getting increasingly eager to launch himself!  This year has been another busy one for him between academics and athletics and extracurriculars.   High points included a rigorous week at Nevada Boys State, where he was a top ten finalist for Boys Nation, and making it to the regional finals in football.  He is hoping for acceptance to BYU-Provo in the fall, but plans to defer for two years to serve a mission.  Until that acceptance letter comes, however, Austin is keeping a high level of daily stress between his AP classes, his senior project about wilderness survival (which will soon include a 3-day wilderness experience), and the rigors of varsity basketball. 

Gratefully we still plan to hang on to Dallin (14) for a while longer.  This year has seen him grow taller than his mother AND his father, and while that may not be saying as much in our family as in others, it is still a big deal!  He is in 8th grade and looking forward to high school when he won’t have to wear a uniform to school every day.  He’s on the 8th grade basketball team, is almost done with the merit badges needed for his Eagle Scout rank, and tells us this will be his last year playing trumpet in the band.  He loves card tricks, tech gadgets, and watching movies with the family.  When I feel sad about Kristi being gone, he puts his arm around my shoulders and says, “She’s just in her room, Mom.  She’s just in her room.”  Dallin is a very r-e-l-a-x-e-d kind of guy.  He almost never feels the need to hurry and he doesn’t get too stressed out about anything, so he’s usually the perfect ingredient in our otherwise hectic household.

Keith and Karen celebrated 25 years of marriage in 2013!  To celebrate, we left the kids to fend for themselves for several days while we ventured to the Pacific Northwest.  Sigh, it was wonderful!  On the home front, Keith is still the Capitol Projects Manager for the school district, with six sites currently under some sort of construction.  He still wears his PEAK hat now and then, doing some consulting work in his spare time.  I’m still enjoying my job as a reading tutor, and especially enjoy having summers off – such a great schedule!

Whatever season of life your family is in, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and the best of everything in 2014!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!!

For those of you who did not receive a Christmas New Year's letter in their mailbox this year, here it is!

Happy New Year 2013!!

Catching up with friends and family around the globe is one of the reasons
this is the most wonderful time of the year! So better late than never, here’s our part!

Back from his 2-year LDS mission the night before Thanksgiving! Could there be a better way,
Really, to kick off the holidays? I certainly can’t think of any! It has been wonderful,
Exciting, and simply awesome having him home, but after his amazing years in KY, he wasn’t
Nearly ready to come home, and is missing the places and faces he came to love. But he knows the
Next phase (BYUI in January) will be great too. In the meantime, he’s been back in the gym, learning
About the other side of basketball – from the bleachers – as he cheers his brothers on! His list for St.
Nick included good roommates, cute co-eds, and a car that starts during the Rexburg winter!

Kicking back this holiday season is exactly what the doctor ordered for this busy girl. She
Really loves her life at BYUI, but needed a break from balancing classes, a job, and a social life
In-between. Winter semester is her “off-track” so she will be at home, no doubt missing that
Social life, as she did last winter! She is enjoying her classes as a Math Education major and
TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) minor, and her favorite class this semester
Involved tutoring at a local middle school. We have no trouble imagining Kristi as a very
N-ergetic and fun teacher, making math enjoyable for her students! On her Santa wish list was
A job, a Disneyland trip with friends early in 2013, and new faces at our Singles’ Branch!

As always, this kid has it all together. He succeeds in school, on the sports fields, and is
Unusually sweet for a 16-year-old. He can juggle, do handstands, play the piano, eat sushi,
Strum the guitar, whittle, solve riddles and build potato guns. He’s just one of those guys
That’s fun to have around. From leading the state in solo tackles to being a friend to all,
It seems there is little he can’t do. On the top of his Santa list this year was a ukulele, because he
Needed one more quirky hobby in his bag of tricks.

Defy imagination though it does, we no longer have any ‘children’ in the house! Instead,
Another teenager was added to the mix this year. He continues to be the house comedian with
Lots of funny voices, card tricks at the ready, and a clever sense of humor. He has grown up a
Lot this past year, and is becoming a confident and independent young man who really is not
Interested in me babying him! He actually did make a Santa list this year, and then told me
Nicely that he expected me to use it only as a jumping-off point!




(Austin sat down to read this letter, which only talked about the kids. He filled in the rest for me to discover the next time I sat down at the computer. It made me laugh out loud so I decided to keep it in! I THINK he was joking . . .)

More seriously, “Mom & Dad” are doing just fine, ever-grateful for our wonderful children and the joy they bring to our lives. We send our love to each of you, and wish you a happy and prosperous New Year!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

t i m e w a r p

Whew, it's been f-o-r-e-v-e-r since I've posted anything. I won't try for too many details in catching up - I'm just checking in to report that the wildwestshaffers are still alive and kicking!

Summer came and went in a flash. Both boys had lots of things occupying their time, Keith was extremely busy at work, and my 'summer vacation' was cut a bit short by taking a job at a year-round elementary school!

I was hired in May, so I finished out the '11-'12 school year and then returned to work for the new year in mid-July. I am a full-time SFA (Success for All) Tutor. As such, I work one-on-one with 12 students a day from all grade levels, plus do all of the reading assessments and testing for all new students, all first-graders, and all remedial readers of higher grades. The full-time tutor positions don't come open very often in the district (each school only has about 2), so I feel very fortunate to have been hired. My biggest hesitation was the year-round schedule, but on the day of my interview, the newspaper reported that the school board had decided to make it a traditional school beginning next year - so this was our only summer of me going back to school before the boys. Yay!! Here's my school:

Keith, as you may or may not remember, also works for the school district - as the project manager for all the construction projects that were financed by a school bond passed last year. He's had construction projects at five different schools this summer, which has been a little nuts. Most days he never even made it to his office - he just went from site to site, putting out fires and answering questions - or sometimes even helping to move playground equipment, pour concrete, or fix clogged plumbing! Can-do-Keith can do it all. He really enjoys all of it because he's just that kind of guy. He consults on the side for some previous clients, including an old business colleague from Pennsylvania doing some ongoing railroad bridge work.

Pouring concrete at 4 a.m. recently:

Austin stayed busy all summer with football, basketball, football, mowing lawns, football, EFY, football, scout high-adventure caving trip, football, and Pioneer Trek. Oh, and did I mention football? Number 12 is mostly playing defense this year so far. 

Way to hold on, Austin! 
[after the first two games of the season, our little Austin was number one in tackles in the STATE]:

Sometimes he has to go in as the backup quarterback:

Caving was hard, but he loved it:

Then there was EFY with Evan Church - which he REALLY loved:

That trip also included visits with some special people:

"Special people" for Austin definitely included Kyle Van Noy, Austin's favorite BYU football player, who just happened to be on the same flight back to Reno Van Noy is from Reno). Austin screwed up ALL his courage to strike up a conversation with him, and as you can see, they became best friends.

And finally, Pioneer Trek was the highlight of late summer. He and his dad got to spend some time together:

Whew, that was a lot about Austin. Dallin's summer was a bit more low-key than Austin's, but he was busy with swim team and basketball 'open gym' for middle schoolers, and his first scout camp. I don't have any pictures of scout camp, but Dallin LOVED it, and I couldn't believe my baby was old enough to leave me for a whole week - crazy! But here are a couple of pictures from his first swim meet:

Kristi was home for a month between Spring and Fall semesters at BYUI. Not long enough to get a job, just long enough to do a whole lot of nothing. She enjoyed seeing lots of friends, hanging out at Lake Tahoe, and being Dallin's mom when his real mom went back to work. We loved having her here . . . and now she's gone again. She has a tough semester of math classes (her major is now Secondary Math Education), as well as a job as a Peer Advisor in the College of Language and Letters.  This has been a stressful week for her, but she is always positive and optimistic. She texted yesterday to tell me that she was 'lost' in her Calculus II class. I suggested she not wait too long before talking to her prof or going to the math lab, but she assured me, "I got this, Mom. No worries".  And I'm sure she does.

A late summer evening at our favorite Tahoe beach:

Last but not least, Elder Shaffer. The release date is official -- he arrives home November 21st at 9 pm, the night before Thanksgiving! We. can. hardly. wait.

Brennan was called to be an Assistant to the President in July, and the very night he was called he was whisked away to the mission home in Louisville, where he will finish out his mission. He has said several times in letters how difficult it's been, but how much he's learned and how grateful he has been for the opportunity. He and his companion have been traveling all over the mission, doing lots of trainings, working closely with the mission president, and it's been amazing for him. Last month he and his companion put over 4,000 miles on their car - can you imagine?? Some training:

Welcoming new missionaries fresh from the MTC (why do I love this one so much?):

A skit for the newbies:

Working in the office ("I'm getting really good at Excel!"):

And fun on the road:

We can't wait to see him, but we suspect it will be a bittersweet experience for him to come home. His mission has meant the world to him!

WELL. That little update turned out to be huge. I'll sign off for another six months or so . . .

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Mellowness

It may be March Madness for some, but we, the Shaffers, are mellowing out.

Keith is into a pretty good rhythm balancing his school district job with his consulting business, and now that Dallin's 6th grade basketball season is over, he may have coached his last community team! He has coached all of our children in various sports for multiple years each (until school sports have taken over in 7th grade), so it's a bittersweet concept for sure! Keith is also very politically-minded, so he was a bit busier in the days and weeks leading up to the Nevada Caucus. But now that's over too, and we have a break until we are closer to the general election. [GO ROMNEY]

I have been mellowed out since last fall when I decided not to return to my job as a reading tutor with the school district. Dallin would have come home to an empty house every day now that he's in middle school, and that was something none of us felt good about quite yet. Instead I go in as a substitute tutor from time to time, which I enjoy, and I also try to keep PEAK Engineering & Design's books and billing up to date. Being home again has been so nice - I am back to walking most every morning with friends, I can go to the temple more frequently, and I can read a book now and then! It's been lovely.

I was at the school substituting on the day after my birthday last week - and a 3rd grader asked me how old I was, not knowing of course that I was trying to make the adjustment to 45, so I told him to guess. He said, "26?" I told him I was a little older than that, so he said, "27?" Sweet. We finally got to the correct answer, though, and his eyes widened and he said, "So you are a grandmother?!?" Sigh. Here's my yearbook picture from last year. Somewhere between 26 and a grandmother, perhaps?

Kristi has been home from school since Christmas. She began working full-time on January 3rd, but this week she has gone to part-time, so she is mellowing out as well. Her position is funded by a grant, and is supposed to be part-time, but since they hadn't had anyone in the position for awhile, they had some leftover funding, so she was able to work full-time until that money had been used. So her bank account is pretty plump and she has been grateful for that opportunity, but now working part-time just feels so mellow and delightful!

Kristi began attending our singles' branch as soon as she came home, and was soon called to be the FHE Coordinator, meaning she has to give a lesson each week and plan the activity. It's a pretty small group of people, and a rather eclectic mix of personalities. The only callings she's ever had have been associated with music, and therefore have required no preparation on her part. So this has stretched her! But she is into the groove now - this week they did some tie-dying and had chocolate fondue for refreshments (see family cookbook, so delish). She is excited about registering for her Spring classes in a couple of weeks, and is greatly looking forward to her return to Rexburg!

Since last summer, Austin has been continuously in a sport. Football went from June to late October, and basketball went from October to February. He briefly considered signing up for a Spring sport, such as golf or track. But instead he now comes home after school like a regular person! [I guess I will insert that his first practice for club/traveling basketball is later today, but that is less intense and more fun] Austin plans to complete his Eagle Scout project between now and when football begins again - in MAY - heaven help us, we better get moving.

Austin was unexpectedly brought up from his JV basketball team to the Varsity team mid-season. It was a compliment, but one he didn't really want because all his friends that he's played with for years are on JV and he was having a great time. But up he went, and although some games he played very little, most games he played far more than we expected, and did very well. The highlight was probably playing against our rival high school where his cousin (a senior) plays. We never expected the two of them to be on the same court outside of church ball, so it was pretty fun. Austin played most of that game, and we took them to overtime. Austin and Trevor gave each other a hug as the teams walked by each other at the end, and it was nice to see that blood was thicker than team pride.

Playing against the rivals!

#12 on the line while cousin Trevor is shooting:

And Dallin. His community basketball season began last November (I think?), and so from then until mid-February he had bball on Mondays and Wednesdays, and swim team on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But now bball is over, so it's just swimming. He was sad about the season being over, but now I think he is enjoying a couple of more mellow afternoons each week. He came home from swimming on Tuesday with a 'report card' from his coach saying that they want to evaluate him at the end of March for the competitive league - moving up would mean three days a week plus the meets would no longer be optional, I'm pretty sure. He seems fine with that, but I am stifling some low-grade anxiety.

Only 3 kids showed up from his team on picture day:

In some of our mellow moments, we can be found watching "American Idol" or "The Middle" - two shows that gather the whole family, which is my favorite part about them; or playing ping-pong since Keith and Austin recently cleaned out the garage and made a place for the table again; or going Geocaching for treasure; or going driving with Austin so he can get all of his required hours in before his 16th birthday next month!
Our most recent geo-caching trip - pretty Nevada skies!

And the treasure!

Speaking of "The Middle", and since I haven't mentioned Brennan yet, one of the reasons I personally enjoy the show so much is that the oldest son reminds me so much of Brennan. Certainly not in every way, but possibly quite a lot. Here's a clip from youtube that has lots of good Axl moments. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EKAHVrAqiQ (sorry, I may never learn how to embed links!) It's 9 minutes long, but at least watch the first minute and a half; so funny (now) and so relatable to me. I can't wait to introduce Brennan to Axl when he gets home from his mission. (if you watch, sorry about some of the language - my one complaint about the show)

Take a look at Brennan's missionary countdown! Can you believe we're on the "S"??? So awesome.

Elder Shaffer is currently a Zone Leader in Elizabethtown, KY, working hard, learning a lot about leadership responsibilities, and continuing to have amazing faith-building experiences. Yesterday morning we were watching the Weather Channel, and there was a tornado warning for Elizabethtown specifically! Brennan has wanted to see a tornado since he got there, and knowing him, he might just run towards one instead of away from one just so he could say he's really EXPERIENCED it. But no news is good news, right?? We continue to be grateful that his mission has been so fantastic for him. I think he will come home with a whole lot of reluctance in November. But we are getting so excited to be on a single-digit month countdown!

Can you find Waldo? First row, second from left.

I will finish this l-o-n-g post by quoting from his last letter:

This is our time to be a standard for the nations, there has been no greater need than now in the world for us to be better than we've ever been before. The world is getting farther and farther away from the Truth, but the Lord has blessed us with the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, restored by Joseph Smith. He has trusted us to be the bearers of light and be a standard to where people can't help but notice a difference. We must live so that it is impossible for the world to think we are one of them. We all have to be better and be that example so we can bring others closer to Christ. I'm so grateful for him and his example on how we should live and how we should love everybody as ourselves, and because of his love for everyone and sacrifice for all, we can all become who we were born to be! And live with him forever!! Nothing brings greater joy in this life.

Brennan has come a long way from his Axl days.

May March brings more mellow than mad into your lives!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 Merry Christmas Letter

It's time for our annual Christmas letter. For some reason this year I was feeling a bit Grinchy about doing it, but after eating some holiday cookies and toffee and playing carols in the background, my heart grew 3 sizes bigger and I got it done. I still mail it out to close friends and immediate family, but for the rest of you who are interested enough to stop by on the blog, here it is!

(Imagine cute holiday stationary)

'Twas the close of the year and all through the house,
All the creatures were stirring (except not a mouse).
The tree was put up by the window with care
In hopes that from college, KRISTI soon would be there.
The boys wished for more time to nestle in their beds,

While visions of vacation danced in their heads.
And mama in her apron and I in my cap,

Had little time to dream about a long winter’s nap.

When from the home office there arose such a clatter,

I ran in from the kitchen to see what was the matter.
Away to the computer I flew like a flash,

Tripped over the dog, and arrived with a crash.
The light from the window shone in on the screen,

Making a glare so it was hard to be seen!
Then what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a weekly email from our missionary dear.

I gathered the family and sat right down,

To read BRENNAN’s (20) report from his favorite Kentucky town.
He is busy and happy, just all full of smiles,

Although his shoes are worn out from hard work and miles.
A backpack of scriptures he has flung on his back;

They show us the way to stay on the right track.
He passed his year mark so we’re counting down,

Which does nothing except make Elder Shaffer frown.

Now that the oldest kids have started to roam,

Thank heavens we still have two boys at home.
AUSTIN (15) loves sports and has a great GPA.

He is funny and charming in most every way.
JV football had an undefeated season!

And you can bet Number 8 was part of the reason.
Now back to basketball so no time to pout,

And by early next year he’ll be an Eagle Scout.

DALLIN (12) of course has his own tale to tell;

He’s a Tigersharks swimmer and a basketball player as well.
He plays trumpet in the school band and gets all A’s;

These are the things that make up his days.
His big sis’ (18) enjoyed her first semester in college,

Meeting great people and of course gaining knowledge.
She’s independent now, but we know that it’s true –

When she comes home she’ll bring laundry to do!

And mama in her apron just goes with the flow,

Feeding and driving her boys-on-the-go.
Dad with his briefcase carries two cell phones now,

For he is managing two careers, wow!
He still designs roadways and houses and more,

But 9 to 5 finds him behind a different door
In the school district office or out on a site,

Managing their projects – it’s quite a delight.

As we roll out the old year and ring in the new,

We wish nothing but health and happiness for you.
On the eve of a new year we look forward with hope,

Knowing good or bad we’ll be able to cope
Through the gospel of our Savior, his peace and his love –

We know we can ask for help from above.
So we want to exclaim as we wave out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

We spent Thanksgiving in Utah, meeting Kristi there and enjoying a trip to Temple Square!

That's Elder Shaffer and his companion Elder Quick, looking sharp!

And this is from the Christmas card he sent to us, as "2 of the 52,000 Stripling Missionaries". Yikes.

On that note, we wish you a safe holiday season and a very Merry Christmas! May you spend it with those you love!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

falling for fall

I have fallen for fall. I fall for fall every year. I love everything about it. The new school year, chilly mornings, replacing zucchini bread with pumpkin bread, watching BYU football on TV, falling leaves, raking leaves, eating soup, wearing slippers, drinking hot chocolate. Really, what's not to like??

Not only do we like watching BYU football, we are also huge Carson High School fans. Austin's JV team is undefeated this year, and with only two games to go, they might just go all the way! Here are some pictures of our Awesome Austin #8:

Now watch this series as he runs, breaks through a bunch of defenders, and gets into the endzone. TD!!

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. This next one is after he caught a long pass in the endzone in a different game:

And this is a shot from the game against their biggest rivals (whom they beat 48-0):

And here he is on the other side of the ball:

We have had so much fun watching him and his teammates play. Football is exhausting and takes up a LOT of time, but Austin has had a great season and felt a wonderful team camraderie with the other boys.

Here's a picture we sent to Brennan, with Austin and Keith wearing shirts that Brennan had sent them from Kentucky:

You may ask why we send him pictures that look like that, and it's because Brennan sends us pictures that look like this:

Some things apparently never change!

Brennan took one step out of his mission recently so he could say he'd been across the border. Here he is in Tennessee!

Elder Shaffer is continuing to have some amazing experiences in KY, and is loving his mission more than anything else in his life. He did say recently however, that after having guys for roommates for a year now, the idea of marriage is starting to be appealing in a whole new way! Oh my, I can't even wrap my mind around that yet.

Kristi is doing great at school. She has made lots of friends and is staying very busy between her classes and her social life. So again, some things apparently never change. Here's a glimpse or two:

Her dorm:

Some friends:

She went to Salt Lake for conference weekend, and attended the BYU game. Look who she ran into there!

And speaking of running into, here she is in Salt Lake for all-you-can-eat pancake night at Denny's, and she saw some of the Kid History guys in line in front of her. So my shy, demure daughter just had to go make friends.

(if you are unfamiliar with the Kid History videos on YouTube, you just might want to check them out.)

Although there is no photographic evidence of this, Kristi has done her fair share of dating since she left home. She protests a little when I say that, but that's because this generation doesn't really know what dating is. When you go places with a boy, or with an even number of boys and girls, and the boy pays for a meal or for the entertainment, that's a date. She's not dating anyone exclusively, but it's fair to say she's dating. And fair to say she's enjoying it.

I should throw a couple of pictures of Dallin in here too, but I have no pictures of the things he spends most of his time doing - school, trumpet, scouts, and swimming with the community swim team. Note to self: quit ignoring your youngest child. Thank heavens he's a good sport.

A good quote from Dallin the other day as he was pondering the difference between happiness and joy. He said, "Happiness would be going to Disneyland. Joy would be when Kristi comes home from college." Aw . . . sweet.

That's it for now. Gotta start thinking about dinner -- the missionaries are coming over. I'm actually serving leftovers from the JV football team dinner we had a couple of weeks ago. We had a huge taco bar and the leftover meat has been in the freezer ever since. I still have lots of shells, nacho sauce and chips too, so we just won't tell them it's the second time around. ; )