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. ; )

Friday, September 23, 2011

it is what it is

Those of you who read my last post and who gave sympathetic comments on this blog or on my email might want to stop reading this post immediately. Stopping now means you can stay in the warm, fuzzy haze of the bittersweet emotions you felt by reading that post. If you read on, you will join me in the startling jolt of my new reality. Which isn’t warm or fuzzy. Simply summarized, I miss Kristi more than she misses me. Here is the sum total of our relationship since the evening we left her and her new life in Rexburg:

Unless otherwise stated, these are texting conversations.

Thursday, Sept. 8th (about a half an hour after we left her teary face):

Me: “I miss you already. Have a fun night and know that we love and cherish you, and that we will be cheering you on from back home. Great times await at BYUI!!! Just keep being your beautiful sweet self and you will be just fine.”

K: “Okay! I’m already feeling good!”

Me: “I’m glad. I think I am on the feel-good-later plan, haha. But I feel really good about your surroundings and I know you will be happy as a college girl! I won’t bug you anymore now, but maybe later!”

3 hours later: (they had had I-Group activities in the stadium all evening)

Me: We are almost at Grandma’s so just tell me quick how the night was. Fun? Lame? Are you ready to get some sleep?”

K: “Fun. There are four boys in the dorm with me. No joke. One of them is my i-team leader. Cute.”

Me: “Wow, perhaps all bets on your accelerated social life are ON.  So what activities were there tonight and how did 4 boys end up at your place? What about the curfew?”

K: no response.

Friday, Sept. 9th mid-morning:

K: “Do you remember unpacking my camera? There are 7000 kids in our freshman class!”

Me: “I don’t remember your camera. 7000, seriously? How was your first night on your bunk bed? And I’m still needing a few more details about how those boys ended up in your room. ”

K: no response.

Later same day:

Me: “Your camera is in the seat pocket of the Suburban and your floral skirt was in the dryer at Grandma’s. I guess I will be sending a package soon! Are you having a happy day? Did you go to all your orientation activities?”

K: Nothing for a few hours, but then: “Yes, happy day!! I really like it. I went to most of the stuff. This afternoon I hung out with Shannon, Patrick, Josh (people from Carson), and their roommate Gabe. Good time. I laughed a lot. Send me a package!”

Me: “I am glad to hear you had a good day! Seen your roommates much? Happy to hear you are laughing!”

K: no response.

Saturday, Sept. 10th:

K: “Where did you put the gum I got?”

Me: In the pantry with your other food I think.”

K: no response.

Several hours and a few attempted phone calls later:

Me: It’s weird not having talked to you on the phone since we left. How about tomorrow?”

K: no response.

Later that night before bed:

Me: “Hey! I need an update! I am starving for information!”

K: no response.

Glad to know she had the gum.

Sunday we talked on the phone, but only after several attempts (from me) to set up a time that would work for her. We finally agreed on 4:30, but when I called, she didn’t pick up her phone. She sent a text a minute later saying she was in the middle of dinner and would call back in a few minutes. She did, and we had a good talk for about 15 minutes (maybe) but then she had to go. Things to do, people to meet, classes to find in preparation for the first day of school the next day.

By this time, Kristi was probably wishing she had gone on a mission instead of off to school so that her mom would quit bugging her. But by this time, I was feeling sorry for myself that already Kristi didn’t need me for anything. Except the gum and the camera.

Classes began on the 12th, and since then our communication has been more of the same, or maybe even less of the same. She doesn’t answer phone calls. If she answers texts, it’s usually much later, and she almost always exits the ‘conversation’ without saying goodbye. I hate being left hanging there in cyberspace all alone.

I have two close friends who also sent their daughters off to college. One was skyping her daughter DAILY and having several conversations in between. The other was skyping occasionally and having daily conversations. Hm.

Thursday the 15th began happily for me; a spontaneous text from Kristi after her first once-a-week 7 a.m. class:

K: Whoa. So sleepy. I am in the library doing homework, and the way the soft morning light is streaming in the window and gently caressing the side of my face urges me to close my eyes. Also, I have a crush on a boy in my Comm100 class. We got lost together this morning and were late. . .”

Me: “Oh my goodness, that was the best way to begin my day!”

K: nothing for the rest of the day.

In fact I didn’t hear from her again (and yes, I tried) until Saturday night when she apologized for being so busy, and said she would call Sunday after church. She ended that text with “I love you Mommy!” Mmm-hmmm. Sure you do.

It is becoming crystal clear to me that Kristi is moving on and I am just standing here. Who gave her permission to leave me in the dust so fast??? I am pathetic. I have even sunk to the point of setting Facebook as my home page in hopes of catching a glimpse of her. Last night Austin (who misses her tons) finally tricked her into calling him by texting her to say he had done something that day at school that would have made her very proud. Curiosity got the best of her and she called him. After a few minutes she told him she had to go because she was going out on a date. Austin said something like, “Ooh, your first college date?” To which she replied that this was her FIFTH date. Excuse me????? I didn’t know there had been a first, second, third or fourth. I am the mother!! I am in the circle of trust!! Or at least I used to be. Now I just have boys and nightcrawlers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

nightcrawlers in my 'fridge

 A couple of weeks ago, I voluntarily participated in loading many of Kristi's worldly possessions into our Suburban.  I watched her say her final goodbyes, and then we drove away.  Away from our house, her friends' houses, away from our neighborhood.  Away from her brothers and the town she called home for 15 years.  We did this on purpose.  We meant to.  And then we just drove and drove, and drove. 

Her trip was one-way.  Mine was round-trip.  When I pulled back into our driveway a week later, the Suburban was almost empty.  I grabbed my one suitcase and went inside.  Back to my life.  Except it didn't feel that way.  My life may look much the same on the outside, but it feels altered forever now that my little girl has moved away.  Yes, she'll be back now and then, but it will never be the same.  When she was a cute and precocious toddler, her dad and I used to comment to each other about how we were just so excited to watch her grow up to see who she would become.  It seemed like it would take forever (in a good way!).  Well, after coming home, it's hit me like a ton of bricks that "watching her grow up" has been completed. .  We can cross that off our list now.   Sure, she's not done "becoming" yet, but we won't really be watching it now that her life isn't unfolding in front of us anymore. 

 I will admit that it's been awhile now since I feel like I've done any real parenting with Kristi.  She's a smart, talented, independant spirit who hasn't really needed my help or guidance for what feels like a long time.  I still tried to parent her from time to time, but mostly it was unnecessary and of little use.  She makes good choices and does good things.  And so I just felt like mostly we were friends.  She had lots of other friends too, but every now and then I got to be the one she would laugh and talk and share secrets with.  I hope that part of our relationship will continue.  And I am so grateful for who she has become, and so happy that she has had such a good start to this new and important phase in her life.  But I will forever cherish and miss my little girl.  And I hope we told her and showed her enough times how much we love and adore her.

 And why the title of this post?  Well, as I was unpacking my little cooler from the trip home, I opened the refrigerator to put something away, and sitting front and center was a tub of nightcrawlers.  I thought it an appropriate greeting to my new all-male environment, and it has become representative to me of this current phase of my life.   Kristi would have shared my feelings about having the worms reside so close to the yogurt, but no one else here seems to care.

 One battle Kristi and I fought over the years was the condition of her bedroom.  She told me once that I cared too much about it, and she cared too little.  And the former was what caused the latter.  A few times over the years she has told me that I would miss her messy room when she was gone, and I adamantly insisted I would not.  Guess who was right?  Sniff!!  Maybe if I close her door I can still imagine it having the "lived-in" look.

Love and enjoy your children!  Missions and college may be great things, but they are hard on dear old Mom.

Friday, August 12, 2011

winding down summer

Big sigh.

Another summer has come and almost gone.

Goodbye backyard pool.

Goodbye summer visitors (in the backyard pool).

We loved the family reunion:

And the staying up late. And the sleeping in. And the barbecuing. And the trips to the lake. And we loved having Kristi home, sniff sniff. We leave for Rexburg in 3 weeks where she will begin a new and wonderful chapter in her life.

Austin and Dallin return to school on August 22nd. The alarm clocks will be set for seminary time. Dallin will be off to middle school and Austin will be playing football under the lights every week. I will not be returning to work at the elementary school, but will instead be handling the books, the billing, and the errand-running for Keith (as he tries to keep his consulting business going on the side while working full-time for the school district managing the construction projects financed by last year's school bond).

The end of summer also brings our wedding anniversary, which was yesterday! Keith and I went to see "The Help" (which was GREAT, go see it!), and then came home to a fancy and fabulous dinner prepared by Kristi, Kelly (Vaughn - here visiting!), Austin and Dallin. We had menus, which no doubt you can't read but were VERY clever and sweet: There was mood music playing in the background and fresh flowers in a cowboy boot (a memory from long ago that the kids know about). It was a wonderful way to commemorate our 23 years together. What started out looking like this:

Has turned into something more like this:

But we still think we look the same. (wink, wink)

I always love the hint of fall in the air, and the feeling of a new season, new school year, etc. But it's still hard to say goodbye to summer.

Another big sigh.

Monday, July 18, 2011

summertime and mission news

We are having a great summer. The weather's been beautiful, we have been busy but not crazy. It's hard to believe July is half-over already!

Kristi was laid off of her job at the college day care but has been fortunate to pick up several odd jobs here and there (house sitting, pet care, child care-type stuff), and she has also been going into work with her dad helping him with lots of things he's gotten behind on while he's been wearing all the hats. She is SOO excited (and a little nervous) to begin college in a few weeks!

Austin was invited to play on the varsity summer basketball league, which meant some tournaments in the Sacramento area, but that's over and now he's giving his full attention to football practice (7-10:45 a.m. almost daily). He also has several lawn mowing clients, so he is making lots of money, building big muscles, and getting very blond and tan.

Dallin has been playing with friends, swimming in the backyard pool, and working on his first summer homework assignment, a 25-page packet for 6th grade advanced math. 25 pages, really?????? Austin also has summer assignments for math, history and english which he hasn't made much time for yet. I am really NOT a fan of summer assignments. And that would be an understatement.

Brennan was just transferred to a new area, into an area that hasn't had missionaries since '09, with a companion he had never met before. It's a small town (6,000 people) with a small branch as you will see in the letter I am including. Remember the story of the sons of Mosiah being sent to teach the Lamanite nation? Well, this is like Elders Shaffer and Christensen being sent to teach the Baptist nation. I think they have their work cut out for them. But gratefully he sounds excited and optimistic!

By the way, you will see that Brennan references a job that Keith got. We are feeling extremely blessed this week that Keith did take a job which for many reasons seems perfect for him. We definitely feel the Lord's hand in this, and know that even though it's been a stressful 2-3 years for us, the Lord has been mindful of our situation and has guided us to this position. He is hopeful that he can keep his consulting business alive on some level as well, but only time will tell how feasible that will be.

And now, here's today's email from my handsome missionary son (who turns twenty today!):

Shaffer Family and Friends!

Thank you all for all the birthday wishes! That really did make my day. I actually forgot it was my birthday this morning until a member in the Radcliff ward sent me a text saying happy birthday, we love you and miss you dearly. That felt good, but I did totally forget about what day it was. Thank you for the letter and the cookies, and the money; I really didn’t need anything but thank you anyways!

I'm so glad to hear Dad got the job. I'm so happy to hear that, I really, really am! I'm sure that will take a little bit of a burden off of your shoulders mom. So i'm very glad to hear that -- the Lord works in mysterious ways, so we will see what plans he has for dad in this new job.

Okay on to the good stuff. Monticello, Kentucky. Hmmm I really don't even know where to start. We are the most southern area in the mission, I've actually been to the Tennessee border so that was cool. The people here talk so different. I'm not kidding, I've never heard people talk like this before its unreal. It makes me laugh so so so much!!! Everybody down here seems pretty set in their ways, 98% of the community are baptists and pretty active ones at that. There are 63 churches here in the county and a lot of them are bigger than our community center in Carson. There are huge signs on almost every street and on the highway warning us about Christ’s second coming, and huge 10 Commandement billboards, and how we are all sinners and we need Jesus Christ. I'll take some pictures, its unreal. It’s a different world down here without a doubt, unlike anywhere I've ever been in my life. Let’s see, our apartment address is 45 Sycamore Dr. #11 Monticello KY 42633. Its a nice little condo that’s a lot bigger than my last apartment so that’s nice. No dishwasher though, so that stinks! But we do have a washer and dryer which I did not have before. It’s such a small community - everybody knows everybody here, and its just really different. It's cool though and I'm going to enjoy it a lot.

Okay check this out. So this Sunday we went to church and there are 8-10 active members that show up every week! That’s right - 8-10!!!!!!!!!!! I've never experienced anything like this before. We have one young women and that’s President Shoemake’s (Branch President) daughter. And no young men, not a one. Our Branch President is awesome, he's a truck driver with only 3 top teeth!! No joke! He's straight Kentucky, but he is such a great humble spiritual man I already love him a lot. The first counselor in the branch is brother Barton who is my favorite. He reminds me of dad a lot and i really like him. Those are 2 of the 4 priesthood holders in the branch. The other one is an 80 year old man who has polio so he cannot walk or move well, and the other is a 39 year old man, not married, who lives with his mom, and acts like he still lives at home. So this branch is unlike anything i've ever experienced! But i'm so excited to be here. This branch is awesome and takes care of us missionaries well! But the work here in the past has been non existent. So I'm just excited to work my hardest and baptize the heck out of Monticello! Its going to be extremely hard in the next upcoming weeks. But i know that there are people here ready and prepared, we just need to find them because the branch needs them so much! Dull months are for Dull missionaries, so we're not going to have any Dull months, only productive, energetic, exciting months here in Monticello! I feel very overwhelmed though, to be completly honest. Not because the area is new, but just the urgency in finding new people to help this branch. I feel like there is a lot weighing on our shoulders. I guess I've asked for this though, because i have not wanted my mission to get easy ever, and I don’t know if it will ever be easy here. So i'm very excited for the potential in this area, and that the Lord has trusted Elder Christensen and I to be here at this time to help this area explode. I'll send pictures here shortly but i want to take some more in this area before i send it. P-Day will be weird; we’re 25 miles away from the closest elders so there will be no hanging out with other missionaries while I'm down here. That will be hard because i'm used to playing basketball or football, but not for awhile!

Thanks for all you guys writing me birthday stuff, i really appreciate it. Well i'm going to respond to the other emails now, but I love you guys so much. Keep being great, and setting that example for me. I love you all so much!

Elder Shaffer

Thursday, June 30, 2011

it's coming . . .

It's not done yet, but I just wanted to update all my Lowe relatives that the family cookbook volume 2 is in production and our mouths are watering. Kristi has been typing like a mad woman, and if I remember correctly, I think there are 270-ish recipes in 9 categories. We will let you know the cost as soon as we have it, and you can pay for how many you want. It's time to get excited, people.

Second, we were in Sacramento last Saturday watching Austin play in a basketball tournament, and we had some time to kill in between his four games (the first of which began at 10:00 am and the last at 8:00 pm). SO, there wasn't quite enough time between games to go to the Sacramento Zoo, or to a movie, or to find a mini-golf course. But there was enough to time to find a yummy barbecue joint to eat lunch at, and to throw some rocks into the American River, and to track down a certain missionary and take him and his companion out for dinner.

Doesn't he look great?? It was so wonderful to see him and it made me feel just a teeny bit closer to Elder Shaffer somehow. It warmed my heart!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

extended family fun

Well it seems things have slowed down a little for me (not being at work every day) because here I am, posting again! I just saw some pictures on Keith's camera that I had forgotten he had taken and they need to be shared!

Over Memorial Day weekend we had a visit from Steve and Becky and some of their wonderful kids: Nathan, Jeannine & Jon, Michelle, and David. We were so happy to have them come, and appreciated their l-o-n-g drive across the desert to make it happen. We especially appreciated Michelle's extra long drive that began in Rexburg, ID that same morning!

We had planned a few things to do and see while they were here, and assumed the weather would cooperate since we are known here in northwestern NV for our blue skies and lack of precipitation. Well . . .

The day dawned unseasonably cold, but the skies were fairly blue. We drove up to Lake Tahoe, around the south shore, to a beautiful spot called Emerald Bay. It had been cold in Carson City, but 1500 feet higher it was even nippier. And windy.

But did it dampen our spirits? No way.

However, nobody wanted to stand still and pose for a picture for very long!

Hoping to get out of the wind, we walked a mile-long trail that took us down to lake level. We had our picnic in backpacks and were planning a nice lunch by the shore. We saw some pretty mountain blue jays on the way down that were very willing to have their picture taken.

By the time we got to lake level, the sky was getting grey. The wind was better but it was still cold! Michelle and Kristi are still having fun . . .

This current BYU-I student, and the one who will be joining her in the fall had some time to catch up and talk about seeing each other at school in the fall!

Michelle, Jon and Jeannine decided to be brave and take a dip . . . notice the worsening weather.

Oh charming. Is it really snowing on May 28th?

The storm did not pass through quickly, as Keith had suggested it might.

and although smiles were still being given for the camera,

the fun was beginning to wane.

So we drove around the rest of the lake and over to Virginia City, one of our other tourist attractions here, just in time for Dallin and Austin to ride in the camel races.

Safe and sound at home later, it was game time.

And then the fun turned a little giddy . . .

But Michelle and Austin were mere amateurs. Look what Jon can do.

Well, Kristi couldn't do that, but she does have some sweet skills of her own:

44, was it? Ouch.

In addition to the craziness, we also had a nice Sunday together where I actually got to introduce MY relatives in Sunday School (when does that ever happen to me?), and then the Lowes were nice enough to join us for Kristi's seminary graduation that evening.

It was such a fun weekend! Thanks for coming, Lowes!!!!!!!!!!!!